Early delivery no surprise from Australian spinner

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The Independent Online

The timing of Sir Rod Eddington's recently published report about the future of Britain's transport system raised as many eyebrows as anything included in the 366-page document (more flights; more roads; motorway tariffs; and longer, double-decker trains).

Transport wonks had expected to see the former British Airways chief exec's thesis some time this week - so were surprised by its release last Friday.

Although runway campaigners marked Eddie's last AGM at BA by waking the residents of his Berkshire village at 5am with aircraft noise emitted from industrial speakers, the premature publication this time had nothing to do with fear of such disruption.

The reason lay with Eddington's passion for cricket. In the summers of 1975 and 1976, Roderick Ian Eddington played first-class cricket for Oxford University alongside future Pakistan captain Imran Khan. The West Australian left-arm spinner's first wicket was that of future England skipper Tony Greig.

"He has been at the second Ashes Test match," I'm told. "The report was published early so his weekend was clear to concentrate on the cricket."

The Department for Transport says the release went to plan: "As big a cricket fan as Sir Rod is, the time frame was arranged with various other governmental departments a while back."

After the Aussies' Ashes defeat in England last summer, Eddie admitted he had "copped a bit of flak". So I hope he enjoyed seeing idol Shane Warne tonked all over the park by our batsmen.

An unholy stink on Tom's new estate

The actor Tom Cruise and his new wife, Katie Holmes, were last week reported to have bought a £2.5m, six-bedroom house near East Grinstead, Sussex. Odd - until you see that it is a 10-minute drive from the "Church" of Scientology's British HQ at Saint Hill Castle.

East Grinstead's mayor, James Joyce-Nelson, sounds not the slightest bit starstruck. "We already have a few celebrities," he says. "One of the attractions is the High Street. We have the longest stretch of medieval houses in the country."

An ale-drinking local is more forthright: "The house is on a private, Barratt Homes-style development.

"We are pleased that Cruise is coming here. Especially because there is a cesspit underneath his property. Basically he will be living above a lake of shit. They are working on new sewers at the moment - you can smell them from here."

Serota told to stick his prize

Gotcha! The director of the Tate galleries, Sir Nicholas Serota, was "doorstepped" yesterday morning. The Stuckist alliance of renegade figurative painters opposes the "boring, pretentious and vacuous" modern art honoured by the Turner Prize, announced last night.

This leaflet Serota is angrily waving carries a "health warning" that the Turner Prize exhibits "may cause drowsiness or headaches". It also reproduces the infamous painting by the Stuckist co-founder, Charles Thomson, depicting Sir Nicholas examining a pair of red knickers and asking: "Is it a genuine Emin (£10,000) - or a worthless fake?"

Says Thomson: "We got a visit from the police but it was worth it. The Turner Prize submissions make 1950s wallpaper look like profound works of art."

Flight of fancy

If Prince Charles is serious about his environmentalism, he might care to have a quiet word in the ear of his alma mater - Cheam School in Berkshire. The 361-year-old prep school has applied to its local council for permission to land helicopters on the playing fields during term time.

One of the more extravagant parents wishes to chopper their child to lessons - and special permission is required for more than 28 landings in a year (in case you are gazing ponderously at that muddy lawn in your back garden).

Sadly, the headmaster declines to identify the pupil who will be flown in in such style.

Imagine the tut-tutting at the school gates. Although I hazard a guess that he or she is popular when the bell goes.

Wanted: a spin doctor for Oddjob

In his efforts to make the Home Office "fit for purpose", John Reid has gone a-hunting for a brand new spin doctor. (What else?)

The appointments section in the Sunday Times carries an advertisement for a new departmental Director of Communications, following the departure of the previous incumbent, Julia Simpson, a couple of months ago.

The swanky head-hunters handling the appointment, Russell Reynolds Associates, promise a "competitive package" to compensate for what is sure to be a tricky job gripping the leashes of both Tony Blair's chief attack dog, and those of the rottweilers of the Fourth Estate.

Perhaps Reid - who has something of the "Oddjob" about him, having held seven senior government posts - will stay in this one long enough to meet his appointment.

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