Reid's solution for the Home Office: witchcraft

Having promised to "work 18 hours a day" to sort out the Home Office, John Reid promptly disappeared to France for a Bank Holiday mini-break.

Back on the front line, his foot-soldiers haven't exactly been working their fingers to the bone, either. For all Home Office employees have just been offered time off to participate in an intriguing event called "adult learners' week".

Throughout the exercise, which ended on Friday, Reid's civil servants were encouraged to take a break from their day jobs in order to attend "educational seminars". A hundred different 90-minute events were scheduled throughout the working week, with titles that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

One of the options offered to Home Office workers in Sheffield was billed "Wicca - a guide to modern witchcraft".

Meanwhile, in Liverpool, classes included "Learning to Waltz", "Painting" and a starter course in "Learning Japanese."

It's enough to get Reid's right-wing critics - who reckon Home Office staff ought to be tracking criminals and looking for illegal immigrants - spluttering words to the effect that you couldn't make it up.

However, the Home Office defended the project yesterday. "The idea is to encourage adults to participate in various activities," said a spokesman.

"There were over a hundred events which staff could attend. Each one lasted about an hour and a half, and most were done over lunchtime, to avoid as much disruption as possible."

Freddy Flintoff in 'stalking' shocker

In a move that can only improve his standing in the league of Greatest Living Englishmen, Andrew Flintoff is about to wind up the animal rights brigade.

Once the summer cricket season is finished, England's stand-in captain is off to Cumbria to take up deer-stalking.

His host will be Ian Botham, a keen shot, who has just given a Q&A interview to Shooting and Conservation magazine. Asked which cricketers enjoy country pursuits, "Beefy" comments: "David Gower is into it, and Lammy (Alan Lamb) too."

"There are quite a few of the boys who enjoy shooting. In fact we're taking Freddy (Flintoff) out with us soon. He wants to come stalking, so I said we'd show him the ropes."

Before embarking on the trip, Flintoff will be required to remove his trademark diamond earring. Apparently, it might "spook" his quarry.

The jury's out for Bryn

Roly-poly opera singer Bryn Terfel recently received a letter summoning him for jury duty, at the end of next month.

Cue a major panic in Henley, where he was supposed to be headlining the town's summer music festival at exactly the same time.

Hoping for a reprieve, Henley's artistic director, Stewart Collins, sent the Jury Central Summoning Bureau a begging letter.

"I explained that tickets had been on sale since November, and that any cancellation of the event would be catastrophic," he says. "Thankfully, they accepted the argument and let him off."

I do hope critics of the JCSB won't decide that its one rule for celebrities, another for the rest of us.

Marital aid

Tessa Jowell could soon be entitled to trade her nickname, "nanny", for a less derogatory alternative. The Culture Minister is about to become an aid worker, and will spend a portion of her summer holiday toiling on a charity project in India.

It has all the makings of a PR coup, but for reasons best known to themselves, Jowell's office refused to discuss the trip when Pandora called.

"She'll be making a visit to India shortly, and yes, she will be going to an aid project," said a spokesman. "But it is a private visit, so there's nothing more to be said."

All of which is a shame: I had hoped to ask about rumours that Jowell's travelling party will include her (supposedly) estranged husband, David Mills.

Asne's night on the tiles ends in the cells

When literary London comes to town, the mean streets of Hay-on-Wye resemble a scene from Police, Camera, Action.

On Sunday morning, Asne Seirstad - the Swedish author of The Bookseller of Kabul - woke up in a cell at the local police station.

"Asne had stayed rather late at a party, and when she returned to her hotel found herself locked out," I'm told. "The only place still open at that hour was the cop shop, so she went in, fluttered her eyelashes, and asked if there was a spare bed. Amazingly, they gave her one."

Other stars of the Hay Festival will have slept more soundly: Al Gore arrived in town yesterday, for a one-night speaking engagement that earned him a fee of close to £130,000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015