Pandora: Aitken's university challenge

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The Independent Online

Not long after Jonathan Aitken emerged from prison, looking considerably humbled and a few pounds lighter, he decided to return to his studies.

The former Conservative MP, who claimed to have rediscovered Christianity while doing his porridge, enrolled on a two-year theology course at Oxford University.

Now Aitken's leggy daughter, Petrina Khashoggi, pictured left, has decided to follow suit.

"At the moment I've just started taking an Open University course in Humanities and Literature. I never went to university so it's really great," Khashoggi told me at the launch of Blackberry Gold.

"I'm absolutely loving it, I'm the youngest person studying there."

Blunkett's old home is still up for grabs

The downturn in the property market appears to have hit the sale of one of the Government's most notorious grace-and-favour properties.

The house in question is situated on South Eaton Place, which traditionally used to be the quarters of the Home Secretary, and was last occupied by David Blunkett.

Not long after Blunkett left the Pimlico residence in 2006, which he did at the second time of asking, it was reported in this column that the Treasury had decided to place it on the market.

However, two years on, it remains unsold. Back in March, parliamentary answers revealed that the estate agent Savills was handling the sale of the property, which was valued at around £2.4m. Now, locals report that the house is in danger of falling in to disrepair. "It's looking pretty disheveled, it needs a proper old spruce-up," reports one neighbour.

"Most of the paint is peeling off the front of it and the windows are filthy. I'm surprised no one's bought it, as a lot of the cheap hotels catering for Victoria have been put on the market in the past few years and were snapped up in no time."

Previous tenants in the house have included the former Tory leader Michael Howard and the late Mo Mowlam – who once complained that the rooms were "poky". A spokesman for Savills Sloane Street branch refused to comment.

A licence to thrill

Note to Adrian Chiles: Sir Roger Moore is very keen to join you as a guest on The One Show.

According to Sir Roger's daughter Deborah, the former Bond star avidly tunes in to watch the programme every night from his home in Switzerland.

"Dad absolutely loves it, he particularly likes that chap who presents it," she tells me.

"I'm always telling him when he comes to London that he should ring them up, but he's too shy to ask."

Obama makes the list

Organisers of tonight's opening of Cass have extended an invitation to Barack Obama. The film tells the story of Cass Pennant, the former leader of West Ham United's hooligan outfit, the Inter City Firm. Since Mr Obama has been reported to be a devout Hammer, the film's publicists thought it only polite to send an invite. "I was going to wear my 'Obama'' T-shirt, anyway," says the film's producer Stefan Haller.

Poor grade for Oona

Not a lot of people know that Oona King's uncle is playwright Sir Tom Stoppard. Still, it didn't do her much good when she was at school.

King has revealed she dropped out of her English literature course after writing an essay on Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Even after she consulted him for some insight into the work, her paper was still only awarded a D minus.

Jane's career move hits a bum note

Disaster struck Jane Asher's plans to relaunch herself as a classical conductor.

The eternally youthful actress will be appearing next month in the BBC2 show Maestro, an X-Factor style run-off in which she goes head to head with other celebrities in a chance to conduct the BBC Orchestra as part of the Last Night of the Prom's celebrations.

Her baton training has been disrupted, however, after she recently dislocated a finger. "I was playing volleyball with my huge children when the ball came at me and struck the little finger on my left hand," she tells me.

"It was dislocated and bent round a bit – not very nice. Thankfully it wasn't broken, but I was very worried I wouldn't be able to take part.

"I'm now hoping it might help me attract the sympathy vote."

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