Pandora: Hitchens makes a pilgrimage (of sorts)

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The Independent Online

Christopher Hitchens doesn't strike Pandora as the most nostalgic of chaps, but perhaps we had him all wrong.

We're told that the hard-hitting writer – described by George Galloway as a "drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay" – was among an assortment of Leys School alumni to attend a reunion held at the Cambridge institution over the weekend, apparently seeking material for his forthcoming memoirs.

Curiously, given his reputation as a hard-boiled atheist, Hitchens, chose to pay a quick visit to the school's Methodist chapel. "It made quite a change from back in his day," says our man under the pews.

"When he was a pupil, he would refuse to engage in anything to do with religion. He wouldn't even stand up during the prayers like you were supposed to – he just refused to take part in it."

As for the reunion, we're assured it was suitably jovial. We only hope the barman had some Bells to hand – it's said to be the only tipple Hitchens will accept, since, he claims, "they're the only ones who don't give money to the Tory party". Bottoms up!

No favours for Dame Viv's son

"What a load of rubbish!" exclaims Dame Vivienne Westwood of her son Ben's forthcoming "Celebrity Spawn" exhibition, which pleads the case for Peaches Geldof et al's innate, ahem, "disadvantage". "The children of the famous are helped by their parents' fame, not bound by it," insists the designer. Naturally, Pandora couldn't agree with her more, although we can't see Ben being too thrilled with the review. Marks out of 10, Dame Viv?

Clarke rules himself out as Speaker

With all horses rushing to the starting line, Pandora's mind turns to the intriguing prospect of Ken Clarke running for Speaker (we think he'd be rather good). Last year it was rumoured that he might go for it, had Michael Martin stepped down then, following tales of his wife's taxi rides around London. Of course, Clarke is now battling it out with Lord Mandelson as David Cameron's Shadow Business Secretary, but could he be tempted once again into Martin's role? Apparently not, judging from comments to friends. "I couldn't sit there listening to speeches and not argue with them," he is said to have insisted.

Neville sells his 'gaudy' pad – at long last

Tremendous news! Everton's perennially expectation-routing midfielder Phil Neville has finally managed to sell his house, a full year-and-a-bit after putting it on the market.

The development is all the more delightful – as chroniclers of such things may recall – given the humiliation meted out by Channel 4's property "guru" Phil Spencer, who claimed the mansion was "too gaudy" to sell. (He had a point: the dining room was decked out almost entirely in Versace accessories, replete with gold ceiling and fitted bar.)

Apparently, all Phil had to do to convince the buyers was knock an extra £500,000 off the asking price. Now if that's not the clearest sign of green shoots so far, we don't know what is.

Burley takes on her ex – on camera

Lastly, Sky news pulled out all the stops for their coverage of the Michael Martin affair, sending Kay "hurly" Burley out of the studio to cover it (a brave move; last time she ventured out, she ended up with a black eye and rumours of a fight with a cameraman). Even braver, however, was the presenter's lengthy on-air interview with none other than her ex-partner, the Sun's George Pascoe-Watson.