The Feral Beast: Will it be nul points, Bonnie?
Eyes up leadership challengers
Sunday 10 March 2013
Cerebral Spectator editor Fraser Nelson has been marking the Beast's card about the Eurovision Song Contest. He admits to, indeed, boasts of, being a Bonnie Tyler fan, and owns a copy of her singing "Total Eclipse" in French, and colleagues speak of his ability to produce an affecting (do you mean "emotional"? Ed) karaoke rendition of the song in the small hours.
"She's the queen of the power ballad," he confides, "but she's wrong for Eurovision, and we'll get nul points again. All this can be blamed on the BBC and its sneering disdain for the Continental culture. This is the most-watched non-sporting television show on the planet, with an incredible calibre of entries for 2013. To have dear old Bonnie croaking away for Britain is a disgrace. It's like sending the Chelsea Pensioners in to bat against Australia."
As you might expect, there's a bit of a political message here. State subsidy, it seems, is the problem, and Britain ("minstrel to the world") ought to hold a vote rather than allow its entry to be decided by a nameless BBC bureaucrat "who obviously regards the contest as a musical version of Eurotrash". "We do music (and musical contests) better than anyone. Yet the BBC has decided that our submission to Eurovision is a Marlboro-voiced pensioner doubtless selected as she once sang 'Lost in France'. She'll be sunk in Sweden."
The return of MasterChef to our screens coincides fortuitously with a happy pic in one newspaper of co-presenter Gregg Wallace, 48, with his new girlfriend, 26-year-old Anne-Marie Sterpini. But, in the interests of disclosure, the Beast has to report les happy news: that in 2007, Wallace was given a police caution for assaulting a man in a row over a taxi.
Five and half years ago Tony O'Ceallaigh, a nurse, and his partner Jordan were heading home to north London after dinner out. They had hailed a cab, when the trouble started. O'Ceallaigh's memory of the event is clear, and I will not distress readers with the details, but the encounter ended up with the police being called. When they arrived, O'Ceallaigh claims that at the time the police were reluctant to press charges, and described it to him as a "handbagging", adding that Wallace claimed he too had been assaulted.
"In the end they very reluctantly agreed to take initial statements and to log it as an assault," he said. The following day, "incredibly bruised", O'Ceallaigh was contacted by Islington police and had photographs taken of his injuries and had to seek medical help. O'Ceallaigh says he was offered a caution but refused to accept it. Eventually he was told that no further action would be taken against him, but that Wallace had been cautioned. A spokeswoman for Wallace said that she had "nothing to add" to the story. Water under the bridge, of course, but I thought you should know.
As the Falkland Islanders hold their referendum on their future, here is something for them to ponder. Scientists have established that it was once possible to walk from Argentina to the Falklands.
When Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1834, he was puzzled to find a lone species of mammal living among the birds and penguins. It was the mysterious Falklands wolf, which had no fear of humans and was therefore, sadly, easily wiped out by the early human inhabitants. Last week, scientists established that Falklands wolves were descended from South American wolves. The species separated during the last ice age, about 16,000 years ago. They deduce that an ice bridge must have existed which the wolves walked across.
Culture of fear
Troubling times for the University of Exeter's highly regarded English department's creative writing course, with some of the best-known writers leaving under a cloud. At the beginning of the year, the department's star name professor, Philip Hensher, left, unhappy with how the institution was run.
"There's a bullying culture," the novelist tells the Beast. "I couldn't stand the total lack of respect for creative writing there. It's a pretty troubled institution," he adds. "There are people there who are completely out of control, to the point where members of the faculty are worried about what is going on." Morale sank further last week when, on Wednesday afternoon, the department fired Sam North, author of the critically acclaimed The Old Country and the Booker-longlisted novel The Unnumbered. North also leaves the department disillusioned. Although his colleagues were "brilliant", he suggested there was a "culture of fear" and "a bullying culture", from management towards academic staff. "People are outraged that I've been fired," he told us over the phone, "and are currently brewing a fairly huge revolution, I think."
The university replied that levels of bullying and harassment were below average, with 14 complaints in the past academic year from 3,900 staff. "We have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and a team of harassment advisers to whom staff can talk in confidence."
Roy Keane's blunt onscreen punditry after his former club Manchester United's defeat at the hands of Real Madrid this week made for absorbing viewing, unless, of course, you are a Man U fan. But it's a surprise that he was even deigning to share his thoughts at all. In 2008, after appearing as a pundit on Sky, Keane said: "Never again … I'd rather go to the dentist. Anytime I watch a game on television, I have to turn the commentators off. My advice to anyone is: don't listen to the experts. Just watch the game and gather your own opinions."
His opinion of these "experts" was, as you might expect, withering. "I wouldn't trust them to walk my dog," he said. "There are ex-players and ex-referees being given airtime who I wouldn't listen to in a pub." He also said he would consider a job in TV only "if I fall on hard times". Have those times come already, Roy?
With his youthful looks and mass appeal, Tom Cruise has proved to be the perfect poster boy for Scientology. And with its recent spate of scandals among its upper echelons, the Catholic Church probably wishes it too could have its own Cruise; it turns out, it very nearly did.
"[Tom] had a very strong Catholic faith," Shane Dempler, his best friend from St Francis Seminary School in Cincinnati, tells the New York Daily News. "We thought the priests had a great lifestyle and we were really interested in the priesthood." But things became unstuck when Dempler and Cruise stole alcohol from the priests, and a group of schoolboys got drunk in the woods. "The school wrote a letter to our parents saying they liked us both, but would prefer if we didn't return," added Dempler.
Rock – but no roll – in the park
Hurry, hurry, hurry... the glacial monoliths in Peter Fischli's latest installation, unveiled on Friday, may date back millions of years, but it can only be days before some bright spark decrees that this great balancing act represents a health hazard, and slaps a fence round Rock on Top of Another Rock, in Kensington Gardens.
Art lovers will recall that Anish Kapoor's polished steel C-Curve was put swiftly out of bounds in the London park in 2010, thus reflecting mostly guards in Day-Glo vests. Best move fast, even if, as Fischli assures us, the boulders definitely won't.
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