Pandora: And now for the snooze...
Friday 29 February 2008
There have been job cuts at the BBC, but surely sleeping in your boss's office is too much? The corporation's new head of comedy, Mark Freeland, was disturbed to discover, upon his arrival, that a mystery colleague was bedding down each night beside his desk.
"It got ridiculous: the blinds were down, the television was turned round and there were crisp packets on the floor," says Freeland. "Someone was living in my office overnight! I came within a whisker of hiding in the cupboard because I became really obsessed about who it was.
"But then I thought that a month into my tenure here, if someone found me in a cupboard, it could be construed as a nervous breakdown. So I didn't." A human resources task force was summoned to evict the phantom kipper.
Blairs walk with the animals at Branson's safari reserve
Just what every statesman needs to relax: a retreat to a luxury lodge in the African bush. Ah: the days of sunshine punctuated by big game; the raucous night-time soundtrack of mating bullfrogs; the dry wind blowing red dust in your eyes; the pink-bottomed baboons staring you out at meal times.
Tony Blair has taken a short break from earning loadsa money. He and Cherie have just returned from a week holidaying as guests of Sir Richard Branson at his game reserve bordering South Africa's Kruger National Park.
The Virgin boss's secluded Ulusaba five-star lodges and intimate safaris – in open-sided 4x4s or by foot – are known for their viewing of the "Big Five". The actor Christian Slater is a fan.
The all-inclusive stays include waking before dawn for the day's first game drive, hearty meals, swimming in pools and floodlit tennis.
Earlier this week, Cherie looked suntanned and radiant – see left; she must have used the Aroma Boma spa – at a dinner honouring Oya Talat, wife of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat.
Fellow diners at Kensington's Bombay Brasserie curry house included Bianca Jagger and the US television interviewer Daphne Barak. Cherie chattered about the Blairs' holiday.
"She was telling everyone what a magical time she had at the reserve," I'm told. "She was surprised by how much Tony enjoyed the safari because he is so restless. They got up at half four every morning to see the animals, but she was refreshed and had a new hairdo."
Ding, Dong! New Gielgud play steams the specs
The more delicate punters heading to the opening of Plague Over England might pack the ammonium salts. The play, about Sir John Gielgud's persecution following his 1953 arrest in a public convenience, penned by the West End warlord and London Evening Standard critic Nicholas "Ding Dong" de Jongh, has "the most blazing gay sex scene".
Explains a bug-eyed fellow on the front row at Fulham's Finborough Theatre: "These two young men strip each other and make love in their white underpants – snogging and full-on groping. Outrageous!
He adds: "They were intimately grappling three feet away from us; they couldn't fake it. It was as near to the knife as it possibly could be."
The two actors, Leon Ockenden and Robin Whiting could be found after the performance in the bar, each hanging off the arm of a beautiful woman. Perhaps they didn't enjoy it as much as they seemed to.
Gary's own goal?
Might Gary Lineker's pearly grin be slipping slightly? The BBC presenter has good-heartedly agreed to be interviewed at Cancer Research UK's Sporting Turn The Tables lunch on 24 April. The ex-England prop Gareth Chilcott will fill the interviewer's chair.
The organisers have asked Pandora readers to submit questions for Lineker; the best one will be asked, and win a bottle of fizz. My inbox strains.
"Gary, given the choice, what would be your favourite type of ear, sticky-out or cauliflower?" asks Steve Dodding, of Peterborough. "Ask him about the red and blue highlights his ex-wife Michelle wove into his pubes for an England game," suggests Woking's "Denise".
"Have you really led such an innocent life?" asks Tom Saunders, London.
Keep 'em coming! Email at the top.
A steady half
You can't say it's an unglamorous life: David Cameron pops up in Bolton, opening the refurbished Tonge and Breightmet Conservative Club. The Tory leader seems not to share the appetite of his predecessor William Hague, who boasted of drinking 14 pints a day. Dave treated himself to a half pint of John Smith's, which he sipped. The battle-hardened northerners were chuffed; no audible mutters of "southern jessie" spoiled proceedings.
* Tory MP Greg Hands points out: Gordon Brown hasn't uttered the words "Ken Livingstone" in Parliament in 19 years. The PM refuses to endorse his party's candidate for London mayor, says Hands. Fortuitously, Ken stars at Labour's spring conference in Birmingham this afternoon. Brown has a regional visit. No excuse not to share a big hug on stage!
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