Diary

`Biographer tells all' shock

Just why did Carol Thatcher write the biography of her father? Easy, confided Lord Deedes at yesterday's Foyles literary lunch, which he chaired to honour Miss T. "My theory", he said, "is that Carol wrote the book because she felt her father ought not to be known only by the Dear Bill letters in Private Eye."

Not an unreasonable assumption. And as the eponymous recipient of the correspondence, he should know. Unfortunately, in the next two hours I watched Miss T and her father destroy his theory. One hundred or so of the Home Counties' best blue rinse had gathered at the Grosvenor House Hotel to learn who the man behind the gin-soaked buffer of the 19th hole really is. His daugher rose in a post-lunch flush to tell all - and when she sat down, we were not one jot the wiser.

"Denis and gin go together like Imelda Marcos and shoes," she declared. "In fact, when he was in Marseilles during the war, he had a go at making the stuff. He mixed it up in the bath, and a mouthful nearly blew his head off! That was easily solved - he turned on the taps and watered it down. You've never watered a drink down since, have you, Dad? Ha-ha-ha."

Carol's abiding memory of Denis in Number 10, we learned, was of him "pouring strong ones for anyone who needed it", and in moments of crisis his voice would boom along the corridors of power: "Let's get relaxed!"

Denis, true to form, sat through this portrait of a benign and befuddled chap, smiling and sipping - and saying not a word. Precisely, in fact, the Denis of Dear Bill letters. Not that the blue rinse brigade seemed to mind, especially the ladies who after seeing Denis Thatcher and Lord Deedes asked me which was which.

Judge a book by...

I fear I must add to the embarrassment of the women-only Orange Prize for fiction after two of the judges, the reviewer Val Hennessy and the novelist Susan Hill, were widely quoted as damning the general standard of entries. Ms Hennessy said: "I have seldom come across so many books that were so bad. Some were just drivel." Ms Hill added: "I have to be a bit careful, but I think I can say I thought the quality of entries was abysmal, terrible." The prize's administrator, Kate Mosse, sees male conspiracy in this. The male journalist who wrote the original piece left out everything positive, she complained yesterday.

I asked the said male journalist whether he was a sexist pig, whether he was one of those who thought it odd and patronising to instigate the prize in a year when women had won both the Booker and the Whitbread. Far from it. "I am not against the prize at all," he told me. "I didn't even ask the two judges whether they thought the general standard was poor. They both came straight out and told me. I was amazed."

It is interesting that both Ms Hennessy and Ms Hill, with exactly the same phrase, regretted "that trees had to be cut down" for some books. Almost as if it was the very phrase used at the judges' meeting.

Presidential seat

A week is a long time in easy-to-assemble furniture. An unlikely confrontation between the Russians and the Swedes is taking place in Paris, on the subject of an advertising campaign by the Swedish furniture store Ikea. To advertise the opening of a new store to the east of Paris - it already had stores to the north, west and south - Ikea used a big photograph of Mikhail Gorbachev, accompanied by the words: "Everything is changing quickly in the east" and the date of the new store's opening. A further poster, also with Gorbachev's photograph, says: "In the east everything is now just the same as in the west."

After approaches from the Russian embassy, Ikea has had to issue a disclaimer, stressing that the posters were not construed in any way as part of the Russian presidential election campaign, in which Mr Gorbachev will be a candidate.

Down Mexico way

Why was Sir James Goldsmith given a happy 20-minute slot on Breakfast with Frost on Sunday? Could it be anything to do with the fact that David Frost had spent the Easter break chez Goldsmith at his Xanadu-style mansion in Mexico?

Money for old coke

I'm pleased to see that the EastEnders actress Daniella Westbrook has rectified the appalling tabloid slur that she spent pounds 100,000 on cocaine. The 22-year-old who plays Sam, a barmaid, tells the May edition of Loaded magazine: "It was my money and not even the pounds 100,000 that was reported, it was closer to pounds 50,000 ... The most I ever spent in an evening was pounds 600." That's a relief. For a moment there I thought the publicly funded BBC might be overpaying its soap opera starlets.

Eagle Eye

Publicists who need the occasional prompt

Something seems to have gone awry with the publicity material for the opening of the Minerva Theatre season at Chichester next month. The opening production will be the world premiere of Simply Disconnected by Simon Gray. The producer will be Duncan Weldon. The leaflets mention Gray's work of yesteryear, Otherwise Engaged, but unusually, there is no mention at all of his last theatrical outing, which also had Weldon as producer. Is it being written out of theatrical history? Just so Chichester patrons are up to speed with Gray's oeuvre, I can remind them what the publicity material forgot: his last work was Cell Mates, starring Stephen Fry (above) - though not, alas, for very long.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Life and Style
i100

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 General

MATHS TEACHER, PERMANENT VACANCY, TONBRIDGE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is currently ...

HR Advisor - HR Officer - Employment Law - East London - £25000

£25000 per annum + 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: *** HR Advisor - HR Office...

ENGLISH TEACHER, FULL TIME SUPPLY ROLE, DOVER SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: TEACHER OF ENGLISH NEEDED for lo...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified and unquali...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week