Plans in Motion to drink the Poet Laureate's sherry

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* Andrew Motion has become what his friend Philip Larkin rather scornfully (and unfairly) termed "Mr Poetry" - turning the honorary post of Poet Laureate into a job promoting verse about the land.

The busiest man to hold the office, he insisted his modest fee (£5,000pa) be paid in modern currency. He also restored the ancient enticement of "a butt of sack per annum" - 110 gallons of Spanish sherry each year. That is about 630 bottles, or, for those as numerically illiterate as Pandora, almost two bottles a day.

James I started the tradition in 1616 to enhance the royal household poet's inspiration - although one suspects that such quantities are more likely to deaden, than invigorate, the muse. (Motion once speculated it was "a delightful conspiracy to silence me once and for all".)

Good to hear, then, of a jovial ruse for the Laureate to share this inebriating bounty. He intends to throw a party for members of PEN, the writer's society committed to freedom of expression.

"Yes, I have plans to use it for the greater good," Motion tells me. "The sherry hasn't actually arrived yet because I haven't got room to put it anywhere, and there isn't a date for it. But we are sorting out the finer details of when and where it will happen. Then I shall have it delivered all at once.

"As you know, sherry doesn't keep indefinitely in the bottle, and I don't want to drink myself to an early grave."

Join the Poet Laureate to glug his salary? Cheers to that.

* In an inescapably pleasing circuit, modern art has arrived full circle.

We start off in the vague vicinity of Marcel Duchamp's urinal (sorry, Fountain), and travel via flickering bulbs, unmade beds and pickled livestock. Our destination? The latest offering from Young British Artist Gavin Turk, which uncannily resembles a gentleman's receptacle.

"It travels on levels of cynicism and irony but it arrives in a holy place," Turk tells me at The Fine Art Society gallery, where The Font adorns a plinth.

"It becomes a demi- religious experience. A museum is a morgue for art; the piece itself is morbid, related to waste... Successful art is fated to go into an institution. It dies there."

We'll avoid obvious "piss artist" gags and settle for saying Turk's work is pretty bog standard. Now we're back at the start, can we please stop all this nonsense?

* Alan Bennett's The History Boys finished its triumphant run on Broadway on Sunday night, receiving a rapturous 10-minute standing ovation from the 1,100-strong audience.

Sadly, the play's director Nicholas Hytner, top, wasn't witness to it, having been called back to London by the National Theatre. "It was an incredibly emotional evening, but I mustn't neglect my day job," he told me at Monday's royal premiere of the film version.

The cast, including Richard Griffiths, below, just made it to the film premiere - bundled on to a transatlantic flight four hours after coming off stage in New York. "I'm uncomfortable, very worn out, and my knee is sore," Griffiths said. "I'm not sure I can stand up much longer."

Must be all the curtain calls!

* No one can ever accuse David Blunkett of having an easy ride during his ascent up the well-greased political ladder.

Next week, "Blunkers" will appear in the Channel 4 programme Dispatches to plug his soon-to-be-published political diaries, The Blunkett Tapes - recorded over his nine years close to the heart of Blair's government.

Interestingly, Blunkett reveals he found making political speeches in Braille almost impossible due to the poor condition of his fingertips.

"He talks about how terrifying it is to read from the dispatch box from a Braille script," says one of the programme producers. "He says he's not very good at reading Braille because he's burnt his hands so many times while cooking."

* Tony Blair's Paxmanesque grilling on Blue Peter yesterday teatime revealed one area of Blairism where progress has not been made in the past decade: our PM's cooking skills. Presenter Konnie Huq demanded: "Can you cook, even?" Answered Blair: "The best dish I can, I can cook sort of spaghetti bolognese or something like that probably."

Eerie echoes from Pandora's all-time favourite cookbook, Parliamentary Portions: Gourmet Recipes from New MPs (1999). Asked to contribute, Blair submitted "Meatballs and Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti (cooked al dente)".

Pandora has been known, when not ordering a post-party kebab, to knock out a mean fish pie, and I can only hope for many happy afternoons baking scones together, should the idea of the post-leadership lecture circuit prove tiresome.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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