One of the more eclectic guest lists for an upstairs room at a west London pub features Lord Grade, Michael Caine, the rock star Bryan Adams and the writer Julie Burchill. What links them is a haze of thick, aromatic smoke.

They are all cigar smokers, some closet, some not, and have been asked to be founder members of the Havana Room, a club for cigar smokers above the Cow pub, run by Tom, son of Terence, Conran. The coterie is being started by the Comedy Store founder, Peter Rosenguard. He has discovered the joys of fat cigars after smoking (anything) for the first time in his life earlier this year on the birth of his first child.

His wife, whom he describes as "an aggressive, North American anti-smoker", has ordered him and his Havanas out of the house. "I started the Comedy Store because I wanted somewhere to laugh. I'm starting the Havana Room because I want somewhere to smoke," he says.

Those who think that rugby league is a competitive and dirty sport have clearly never been to a supper quiz. Tempers can fray, egos can be brutally damaged and friendships shattered. Even the soap opera EastEnders has featured a number of supper quizzes recently, complete with fisticuffs.

But the antics of Albert Square pale beside a bruising supper quiz which took place at the weekend to raise money for a centre for underprivileged young people based at Turville Heath, near Henley, the home village of John Mortimer and Jeremy Paxman. The two, along with a host of other celebs, including Sinead Cusack and Peter Mandelson MP, took part in the quiz. Paxman indeed was quizmaster, but found his audience less respectful than University Challenge students. He asked for the longest one-word anagram in the English language: "Carthorse and orchestra, stupid," barked Sir Robin Day, having waited eagerly to put his successor in his place. But such banter was good natured compared with what was to follow.

The winning team turned out to be the one led by the bestselling novelists Robert Harris and Nick Hornby. This provoked a near riot, I am told, when angry losers pointed out an ethical dilemma. The questions had been set by Gill Hornby, wife of Robert Harris and sister of Nick.

One of the more chagrined was the writer Henry Porter who had added to his team of Carmen Callil, Christopher Hitchens and Anthony Holden by finding and signing up a former Mastermind winner. Even the dirty tricks brigade at the Queen Vic hadn't thought of that one.

The one intriguing aspect of the launch of the "new" Beatles album yesterday was the first public appearance in 33 years of the man dubbed the fifth Beatle, Neil Aspinall, boyhood friend of the group, road manager, and now head of Apple Corps. Aspinall has shunned all publicity for three decades, but yesterday, sounding remarkably like George Harrison, he showed he is not short of a quip. Asked if Yoko Ono had any more Lennon songs in her bottom drawer, he leered mischievously and replied nasally: "Who knows what Yoko Ono has in her bottom drawer?"

One factor above all marked Aspinall out as a Sixties rock star manque - he wore a blue woolly hat to cover his baldness. While Nineties pop stars such as Right Said Fred and even Sinead O'Connor flaunt baldness as sexy, the Sixties brigade, including John Lennon in his later years, always cover their pates in shame. That a blue woolly hat indoors in the middle of the day might just draw attention to what fab follicles are or are not underneath never occurs to the true rock veteran.

Breakfasting with Alan Borg, the new director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, he gives his thoughts on the voluntary donations visitors are asked to give. They are "silly" and make people feel "uncomfortable" says the man who clearly prefers compulsory entrance fees. My own alternative to voluntary admission charges is simpler, and has never yet been tried at a museum. Instead of asking people to give money on the way in, ask them to pay on the way out. At least then they can give a verdict on their visit, and presumably will be inspired to give generously if they have had a good time.

One person who might be reluctant to cough up is the chap who told me that "the British art and design galleries are poor; the ceramics galleries are very poorly displayed; the Islamic gallery is appalling". I refer to Dr Borg.

My tale last week about the English National Opera's Carmen in which the diva playing Carmen lost her voice and had to mime to another Carmen on stage, seems to have been trumped since by the Munich Opera. In the murder scene there Don Jose actually caught Carmen with his knife and drew blood. The German press had a field day the next morning with "Don Jose Really Stabs Carmen" headlines.

I am delighted to learn that not only did the diva recover the next day but that she behaved like a true opera star and refused to speak to her leading man despite the blandishments of a dozen red roses. Carmen would have been proud of her.

A new James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, is introduced tomorrow with the premiere of Goldeneye, with audiences still wondering after all these years how he will shape up against Sean Connery and Roger Moore. But I was interested to learn that the first Brit to play Bond was not Connery but Bob Holness, the estimable, avuncular host of the TV quiz show Blockbusters, who played 007 on the radio in the Fifties. It must have been a blow to him when Saltzman and Broccoli overlooked him for the film role.

Holness lives near me in Pinner. I see him in the tea rooms sometimes. He may have missed out on the girls and the glamour, but I suspect that taking elevenses in Betjeman country is how Bond himself would have spent his middle years, the Earl Grey unshaken but stirred.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Life and Style

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
Privately schooled, Oxford educated and a former editor of arguably the world's poshest magazine 'The Lady', it's perhaps unsurprising that Rachel Johnson rarely mixes with ordinary Proles.

The Mayor of London's sister, Rachel Johnson, apologises for shocking tweet about the PM

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 General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager / Invoice Finance £75k OTE

£40000 - £50000 per annum + £75,000 OTE Car+Mobile : h2 Recruit Ltd: Business ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager-Managed Services-£80,000 OTE

£45000 - £80000 per annum + £80,000 OTE + Car,benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Busine...

Langley James : IT Sales Executive;Borehamwood;£40k(neg) uncapped comm£100k+OTE

£40000 per annum + £100k+ OTE: Langley James : IT Sales Executive; connectivit...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Award winning Peterborough base...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital