Pandora: Servants of the people

While others around you lose their heads, what's the answer to 12 across? That was the question bugging fun-loving environment minister Phil Woolas, when a Pandora mole walked in to his office last week.

Oblivious to the French fishermen protesting outside, Defra's No 2, a genial 48-year-old with the gravitas of a football mascot, was found sitting calmly at his desk with an open world atlas, assisted by two senior public servants, searching the Balkans page for a capital city, five letters long, to help him complete a newspaper crossword. (Sofia.)

Caught in the act, Woolas commented: "It's easy when you have the civil service to help."

Cherie chooses Gielgud mansion over Waugh's

Madame Blair's recent indiscretions helped fund the Blairs' acquisition of Sir John Gielgud's old country stack in Buckinghamshire, 20 miles from Chequers.

Her prurient revelations and remarkable greed remain confusing and will be judged by history. Perhaps some context will help. A source close to the Gielgud house deal – the Blairs' sixth property – tells me that the figure of £4m put around is wrong, and that a sum of £5.75m is near the mark.

Another home viewed by Cherie, I hear, was Evelyn Waugh's secluded Gloucestershire pile, Piers Court, in Stinchcombe, Dursley. Set in 23 acres of gardens, the £3.5m grade II-listed eight-bedroom Georgian house – known to the writer as "Stinkers" – has a tennis court, croquet lawn, mews with two flats (good for the staff), coach house and humungous wine cellar. The grounds contain a bothy (spartan dwelling for farm servants, or Tony).

Waugh bought Piers Court for £3,600 in 1937 and stayed for 19 years, tapping out Scoop, Brideshead Revisited, Men at Arms and Officers and Gentlemen there. The estate was a Royalist safehouse during the Civil War, and rented by nuns in the early 1940s.

The agent, Anthony Coaker of Savills in Cirencester, was unavailable to comment.

A visitor to the mansion tells me that one former owner became irked by the coachloads of travelsick Americans, who turned up to ogle Waugh's former home and upon alighting commonly vomited in the lavender beds.

Princess Profanity puts Pandora pal back in his box

Princess Beatrice is in a crabby mood. Understandable. After daring (!) to wear a bikini on holiday, the voluptuous 19-year-old progeny of Fergie was assaulted by Fleet Street's haggard, green-eyed harpies, who appeared eager to provoke an eating disorder with their risible remarks about biscuit tins. (Please down your foundation and trowels and take a bow, Allison Pearson, Janice Turner and Fiona McIntosh.)

Bea should not let it get to her so. On Thursday night, Pandora's very fat friend Ramin – who readers may recall was recently bitten by Graham Norton's terrier, Madge – found himself in the Cuckoo Club liquor emporium. Walking past the flush-faced princess, who since becoming the first royal in space has found employment at Selfridges and the Financial Times, Ramin greeted her: "Hello. What are you doing out this late, haven't you got work tomorrow?"

Which was met with a rather curt and distinctly unregal "Fuck off". Not sure what Granny thinks, but Mummy will be proud.

Superwomen to the rescue

Pandora exclusive: crime in Britain will soon, Gotham-style, be erased. Two separate initiatives arrive. "Danielle Lloyd to tackle gun and knife crime," declares an exciting press release. Having met Lord Mackenzie in the Palace of Westminster, the former Miss Great Britain and Big Brother participant, right, will become a spokesperson "to alleviate violence among young people which has led to recent deaths". Gangstas beware!

One shouldn't be cynical. Next Tuesday, David "shoot the prisoners" Blunkett and his television presenter friend Natasha Kaplinsky host a drinks reception, to mark his participation in a forthcoming reality telly series in which he heads the "parole board" of a pretend jail that mixes reformed criminals with "juveniles on the cusp of a life of crime". The ack-ack of machine guns cannot be far away.


Rory Keegan, co-owner of Chinawhite – beloved of Wills, Harry and the Chelsea set – is to open a branch in Delhi. How will the locals take to the ravin' lifestyle?

Stephen Twigg, famed for crushing Michael Portillo, is the figurehead for Ed Balls' plot to upset "Magnificent" Bob Wareing in Liverpool West Derby. Protocol obliges ministers to warn MPs of visits to their constituencies. Yet education wallah Lord Adonis and his boss Balls dropped in unannounced. "I was not made aware," grumbles ancient rebel Bob. "I understand they were there on the encouragement of Mr Stephen Twigg, who wishes to unseat me at the next election."

The men in white smocks gather by the door, glancing this way, muttering. One clutches a sleeveless jacket. After two years, I'm off, to news. Thank you for the emails, and for reading. A bientôt.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions