Pandora: Norfolk broadside... Coogan heads for narked Norwich

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The Independent Online

A-ha! For the first time since being condemned by Norfolk's civic leaders for presenting their denizens as inbreeding berks, comic star Steve Coogan is to return to the city to perform.

Despite his considerable work in Hollywood, Coogan's most famous creation remains the sour and socially inept Radio Norwich disc jockey Alan Partridge, sole occupant of the Linton Travel Tavern, who started life on BBC radio.

In 2002 councillors turned on Coogan for portraying Norwich as "a backwater populated by yokels", and its businessmen as degenerates. They blamed him for costing Norwich a shot at becoming the 2008 European City of Culture (eventually awarded to Liverpool). He declined a kind offer to go to the Nar-Ouse Regeneration Area. "They are idiots with no sense of humour," he said.

Coogan, 42, announced a week ago that he was to revive the Partridge persona as part of a national stand-up tour, his first in a decade. He will play three nights at Norwich's Theatre Royal near the end of October.

The priapic artist should not hope for screaming comedy groupies. It is probably too much, though, to expect life to imitate the I'm Alan Partridge episode in which the DJ provokes the hatred of Norfolk farmers (incestuous "farmyard animals"), who subsequently crush him with a dead cow that's dropped from a bridge as he films an advertisement for barge holidays.

Ex-veggie Grant now a farmer's best friend

Richard E Grant has changed his lines when it comes to sourcing food. The actor starred in Posh Nosh, a 2003 spoof cooking series skewering the banality of television chefs. The running joke was the absurdity of ingredients. Organic food was roasted, Grant's character insisting: "We only pick the happy hens, they don't have those awful Cliff Richard necks."

REG – who sniffs all food before eating it, a habit resulting from too many whiffy fish meals in Swaziland as a child – gave up meat for a decade, worried he'd get BSE. But he last year forsook vegetarianism and has started campaigning for the farmers' lobby.

"It comes down to a basic thing," Grant explains to Pandora. "If you eat rubbish you have a rubbish life and die early. It is affordable and possible to for ordinary people to eat organic. People just have an unrealistic expectation of what they eat and when they should be able to eat it."

Sam's not so well marked

Oh, rosy glowing cockles: Sir Richard Branson and family friend Natalie Imbruglia held a Venetian masked ball on Friday in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier to raise crucial funds for the charity End Fistula. Almost as stimulating to the ventricles is the burgeoning friendship between Nat and Sir Rich's son, Sam, recently back from exploring the Arctic. Imbruglia, 33, and airline heir Branson Jnr, 22, have allegedly been seen "canoodling".

Their twosome is nothing new. A friend says that a few years back, they necked on Necker, pater's private Caribbean island, when Nat came to visit. "Sam was not so acquainted with the gentler sex then, and he and Natalie emerged late for a boat outing one morning. Sam had a swagger. He looked more of a man than the previous day."

Culture club

China may be feeling the heat of international opinion over Tibet, but its cultural relations with the UK remain healthy. With the Terracotta Army's visit to the British Museum nearly over, the museum's director, Neil MacGregor, has been busy working on a reciprocal arrangement. In his government-bestowed capacity as Britain's "Chairman of World Collections", he's been in Shanghai to announce the loan of sculptures to the city for a big show in 2010.

A female friend of Nicky Clarke's son recently went round for dinner at the coiffeur's St John's Wood home. Nicky told the young woman that she was not going to leave looking like that, whipped out a pair of scissors and reshaped her "lank locks" into a layered bob. No mixing bowl in sight.

Poise must be poise

Even for those of us as prone to crotchety moments as Paul Theroux, traversing the globe is enjoyable for the people you meet. Theroux Snr found this particularly so on a recent trip to Thailand, where he was interviewed by the Bangkok Post's Camilla Russell, 26. Known as "flirty pants" on account of her micro shorts, the calf-flashing Camilla cooed over Paul's tattoos and wrote of his "legendary persona". She told friends that Paul has since emailed her, gushing that she is a woman of "poise, intelligence and beauty". Adds Camilla: "He said that if he was younger he would like to have me as a travel companion." Theroux is 67 next month and still as fruity as a banana! Good boy.