Pandora: A bird? A plane? No, it's Andy Marr

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The Independent Online

With a little flap of the ears, Andrew Marr takes to the skies. The BBC presenter has been commissioned to front a daring programme from a microlight aeroplane.

"I am doing a show called Britain From Above," he tells me. "It's a brilliant idea and I can say that because it's not mine. I have been sent up in a microlight to film it."

He explains: "It is fascinating to see what you can tell about us from above, from the maths of motorways – you know seeing exactly how traffic jams are created – to massive distribution centres, geology, wildlife, all sorts of stuff."

Marr needs to remember to sit still whilst recording his pieces to camera, lest his famously wavy arms knock any vital controls.

Vatican hounded over Hitler and the monkey business

Quivering popes, concentration camps, monkey glands, Nazis and a domineering nun. If that doesn't make you read on, I might as well head to the bar and get back on the gin.

The Vatican awaits the publication this July of Pius XII: The Hound of Hitler by Gerald Noel, the former editor of The Catholic Herald.

The tome will suggest that Pope Pius XII (1939-58), right, was, as a cardinal, instrumental in helping Hitler come to power in 1933; that he failed to publicly condemn attempts to exterminate Jews; that he had unreported nervous breakdowns; that he was "mother-fixated" and dominated by a German nun, Sister Pasqualina Lehnert, who was the "real" authority behind his papacy; and that she introduced him to a Swiss doctor who persuaded the Pontiff of the rejuvenating powers of monkey gland treatment.

Noel's publisher is Robin Baird-Smith at Continuum. "As a small boy, Gerry met Pius XII," says Baird-Smith. "He has discovered a lot of new stuff."In 1999, John Cornwell released his controversial book Hitler's Pope, about Pius XII's wartime conduct and the charge that he helped legitimise the Nazi regime. "Gerry will not be so contentious," says Baird-Smith. "He is neither pro-nor anti. He thinks Cornwell went a bit too far."

The Vatican has not got near a proof.

Its German incumbent, Pope Benedict XVI, left, himself an "unenthusiastic" member of the Hitler Youth, will not welcome any renewed interest in the Catholic Church's relationship with the Third Reich.

Mayo dusts off his CV and box of Coco Pops

Named Radio Broadcaster of the Year at Friday's Broadcasting Press Guild Awards lunch, for his afternoon current affairs programme on 5Live, Simon Mayo has travelled far since his turn-of-the-90s stint spinning pop on Radio 1's breakfast show.

He seems most amenable to the idea of resetting his alarm clock for an offensively early hour, were he to be offered a television presenting gig on the BBC Breakfast sofa.

"I'm always open to offers, although I haven't signed anything, no contract has been made," says Mayo, of the rumours he is in the running for the handsomely-remunerated job.

Ulsterman Dermot Murnaghan left in January and Mayo doesn't exactly rush to rule himself out: "This week I'm covering for Chris Evans, next week Ken Bruce and then I'm back with 5Live. What can I say? Dermot produced a great show, but I'd definitely consider it, so we'll see."

Rumour rattles Sir Simon

Could the English tabloid journalist loitering on the Berlin doorstep of Sir Simon Rattle, who leads that city's Philharmonic Orchestra, please desist? Pandora fears you may otherwise soon receive a baton in the eyeball.

Sir Simon's publicist yesterday denied, fortissimo, that the fraggle-haired Scouse conductor has moved out of the apartment he shares with his Valkyrie-esque partner, the Czech opera star Magdalena Kozena, 34.

The pair leapt from the classical music columns on to news pages four years ago when Sir Simon left his second wife to set up with the mezzo-soprano, 18 years his junior. The following year they had a son, Jonas, and released a joint album.

"This is completely untrue," said Sir Simon's aide, of any change to living arrangements. "Indeed they are working together in Berlin with a premiere this Thursday." So our hack friend should pack his mack and head down the kneipe for a Weizenbock.

Pitt stop?

Concern at the Labour HQ that the party's supposedly incoming general secretary, the fund manager David Pitt-Watson, may have got lost on the 3.5-mile journey across the City to Westminster.

Rumours abound – broken on the blog LabourHome – that Pitt-Watson has had second thoughts, despite vigorous behind-doors campaigning from the Prime Minister to secure him the post. The remit was to sort out the party's chaotic finances following the resignation of Peter Watt, the man at the centre of Labour's donations row.

The official line is that Pitt-Watson "is making arrangements to move from his existing employment and this is taking some time to resolve". The party admits it has no idea when he can start. The suspicion is that this is a delaying tactic until after the May local elections.