The Feral Beast: Unpaid bar bills, kissing and telling, the great clean-up  trainspotting


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The Independent Online

Reporters on The Daily Telegraph reeled in a scoop after submitting a Freedom of Information request to the Palace of Westminster, asking who had the biggest unpaid bar bills.

Imagine their surprise when the list came back, only to find their own Guy Black, the Telegraph’s executive director, at the top. Lord Black reassures me it was the consequence of an unfortunate “admin glitch”. “I don’t have, and never have had, an unpaid ‘bar bill’,” he sighs. He explains that the sum was for a reception he hosted for the chocolate conglomerate Mars back in July. They were launching a campaign to save the Nepalese tiger. Apparently, the bill wasn’t settled within 30 days, which is why Lord Black got a black mark. Once the “admin glitch” was brought to his attention, “it was settled immediately”. Funnily enough, the Telegraph has yet to publish its scoop.

Book of revelation

George Osborne has been faintly embarrassed by the Paul Flowers scandal, after David Davis said the Treasury had “serious questions to answer” about the Co-op’s colourful chairman. But at least last week’s “coke and prostitutes” headlines had nothing to do with the Chancellor himself. So what to make of Natalie Rowe’s claims that “the truth will be told” when she speaks live on air tomorrow? Rowe is the ex-prostitute with whom Osborne was pictured partying back in the 1990s. Now she has published a kiss’n’tell book, Chief Whip: Memoirs of a Dominatrix, which she is vigorously publicising. The Chancellor has always denied claims they were anything more than acquaintances, and Rowe’s own version of events has not always been quite clear. Downing Street is thought to have seen the book and is braced to respond. On Friday, ahead of tomorrow’s “live and uncensored” interview on, she tweeted: “And as for you David Cameron, your dirty secrets are coming out next, how long did you think you could hide behind George’ skirt tails.” Tin hats at the ready!

Diamond jubilee

Works by Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst and Jasper Johns were among the star lots at an auction in Dallas, Texas, yesterday. Much chatter surrounded the sale as to whom the works belonged to: the collection was billed in auction-house patter as the “property of a distinguished gentleman”. An art world sleuth tells me the man in question is Georges Marciano, co-founder of Guess Jeans, who has been through the mill a bit of late. The one-time tailor’s assistant amassed a £300m fortune, but then lost most of it in 2011, after losing a libel case which left him with a £225m bill. He had accused five employees of stealing his emails and wine. When Marciano had money, he knew how to flaunt it. His Hollywood mansion was infamous for having 11 Ferraris on the drive, and he once paid £10m for the Chloe diamond, one of the world’s biggest. An attempt to become governor of California failed, despite his touching motto: “Putting People First, Not the Rich”.

Off the rails

Julian Fellowes once berated this newspaper for “nitpicking” over historical inaccuracies in Downton Abbey. But it’s not just us. A reader writes to the Radio Times to point out that it would have been jolly difficult for Lady Edith to travel to London and back in a day, and be home in time for dinner, as she did recently. Indeed, Russell Hollowood, associate curator of railways at the National Rail Museum in York, has dug up the timetables. “She might have caught the restaurant car express from Newcastle, which stopped at York at 9.51am,” he says. “The train arrived at King’s Cross at 1.35pm. By the time she had taken a taxi to her appointment, she would have faced a journey back of four to five hours. So like most people in those days, she would probably have chosen to stay overnight. Otherwise, her dinner would have had to be reheated by Mrs Patmore!” It’s the looniness that keeps on giving.

Get your house in order

It’s a victory for the Beast. Three weeks ago, I highlighted how the Mauritian embassy in London had allowed its handsome Kensington HQ to slip into a state of decay. Council officers were in despair, because they are technically unable to interfere with embassies, which are mini countries. This column has more power: after years of neglect, the Mauritians have swung into action and embarked on a full renovation. Desks have been cleared and the whole building is covered in scaffolding. “It’s quite astonishing,” says one local resident. “They must have been embarrassed into action.” Happy to help!

Ivory towers of paper

When Mark Damazer quit as head of Radio 4 to become master of an Oxford college, it was said he wanted to escape the bureaucracy of the BBC’s upper command. Damazer had been tipped as a possible D‑G, though the scathing Hutton report possibly set him off course. Now he says that being master of St Peter’s College, Oxford isn’t without its downsides. “I had been warned (by no less an authority than Lord Mandelson) that Oxford would a more political organisation than the BBC,” he writes in the FT. “I have not yet found that to be the case.” He adds wistfully: “Perhaps we have all been sedated by the copious paperwork that accompanies meetings here.”

To Hull and back

Tory MP Graham Stuart is all worked up about the use of the term Humberside. Apparently, this is wrong; the area should be referred to as East Yorkshire. Well, maybe. But his constituents are wondering why he hasn’t got anything more substantial to get his teeth into, after he launched a campaign urging them to use preprinted stickers to return unwanted mail addressed to Humberside. “It is time to send these incorrectly addressed letters back where they came from,” he fumes. “I’m asking Beverley and Holderness residents to stick it to the Royal Mail and join my campaign by sending back wrongly addressed junk mail.” Readers of the Hull Daily Mail ask why Mr Stuart has nothing better to do than “spout drivel like this”. His timing was certainly unfortunate, coming in the week Hull was named UK City of Culture. Surely a better cause to champion.

Bristling with rage

Michelle Pfeiffer, 55, says she likes to walk round the house naked now that her children have left home. But she admits to having Naomi Campbell-style moments of madness: she recently smashed up her electric toothbrush. “I don’t know what I was mad about, but I was stressed and having a bad day. I just slammed it in the sink.” Watch out!