Diary

Say what you like about Mary Ellen Synon, the gimlet-eyed houri in the "Bonk of England" scandal, but she turns a mean phrase. "If you're going to dump, don't dump a financial journalist" has become a handy rule of thumb for the discriminating adulterer. "I'm more Miss Marple than Sharon Stone" conjures a striking image of someone in elastic stockings and fluffy mules provocatively uncrossing her ageing legs. "I don't care how much pain he feels or how long he feels it" carries the authentic ring of the medieval torturer. But there's one piece of her obiter dicta that I've been puzzling over - Ms Synon's claim that the press has sensationalised the physical nature of her affair: "If my life were half as colourful as it appears in the British tabloids, I'd be having a lot more fun than I've had," she told an Irish radio programme. "I mean - he's nearly 50, I'm 44. I get tired. He gets tired ..." Have I got it straight now? Ms Synon and Rupert Pennant-Rea lay down on the floor of the dressing room of the Governor of the Bank of England because they both fancied a little nap?

Anyone who has sat through Heavenly Creatures, the harrowing film about two matricidal schoolgirls in the Fifties, will know that the city in which it is set, Christchurch, New Zealand, has a reputation as the epitome of suburban dullness. Now Christchurch is recovering from the shock waves of a visit from the arch-high-priest of suburbia himself, Terry Major-Ball.

He was attending the first-ever International Garden Gnome Convention; Mr Major-Ball, it seems, cannot shake off a sentimental fascination for the plaster midgets, even though he stopped manufacturing them in 1961. He and 10,000 other gnomophiles milled about an exhibition of the things in a vast art gallery. "It was a great affair," he tells me, voice sleepy with jet lag, "And of course it wasn't just tomfoolery. There was an important message behind it." Strewth. Gnomes have a message? "Of course," said Mr Major-Ball with a surely-everyone-knows-that sniff. "Conservation. Gnomes represent the, er, the ethereal spirits close to Mother Earth. I just wish we could have a similar sort of thing to the convention over here." And had he enjoyed meeting the people? "Treated us exceptionally well, the Kiwis. Couldn't have been nicer. And of course they're a very informal lot." For instance? "Oh, they thought nothing of coming up to me and saying, I saw you on television the other night. You're the brother of that ... prime minister ..."

The motoring page of Saturday's Daily Mail is proving to be quite a testing ground for the Lad Element among the nation's clerics. Last year they popped a mild-mannered vicar into a Citron AX estate for a test drive and he was promptly booked for speeding down the M4. Now, with positively spooky timing, they've plunged the Bishop of London down the Queen's highway.

It was, it seems, some weeks before the Rt Rev David Michael Hope was "outed" by Peter Tatchell and his school-sneak myrmidons, and the bishop's tentative apologies about sexual "ambiguity" and "grey areas" hit the headlines, that the paper's Weekend supplement contacted the episcopal wonder. "We'd heard he was interested in cars," a Mail voice tells me. "He used to drive a VW Corrado VR6, a very fast coup, then swapped it for a Mitsubishi Shogun, one of those huge jeepy things. He was obviously a very cool guy when it came to motors." Gosh. And? "We asked him to test- drive a little Nissan sports number, the 100NX. Lovely job, with the lift- out targa panels in the roof ..."

Hastily I changed the subject. What about the motoring page's stipulation that cars must be tested by a couple, with the woman taking a turn at the wheel? "No problem. He turned up with a very nice woman called Joaquina, an American archivist from his office in Church House, and they roared off together." The bishop's review is due to appear any day. Was it true that several potentially ambiguous references to big ends and tight turning circles had to be excised? "I've heard that stupid rumour," said the voice, "and it's complete baloney."

Well, well. Jeeps, coups, targa panels and a feisty co-driver whose name is pronounced "Whackina" ... I look forward to seeing the bishop's appearance, in the midst of the macho-tearaway "Platinum Rogues", in the next issue of Loaded magazine.

In a recent Kaleidoscope programme about the British Library, the novelist AS Byatt was to be heard rhapsodising about the people one meets there. In particular she remembered an encounter, some years earlier, with a voluble rabbi who talked to her about drainage systems and told her that one day there would be an earthquake in London, and it would be named after him because he was the first to predict it. Fairly understandably, she never forgot him. Well, I've discovered who he is. He isn't a rabbi at all. He's the mayor of Barnet.

His name, Antonia, is Ellis Hillman. He's 66, married, one son, lives in Hendon, and lectures in environmental studies at what used to be East London Poly. His knowledge of drains comes from his book, London Under London (1985), but the earthquake stuff owes more to his role as president of the Flat Earth Society, "which I inherited," he tells me, "when I came to do some research in the archives and the founder suddenly dropped dead." The society is still going? "Very much so. Still out to challenge scientific orthodoxy. Still looking for new members." Let me suggest one. She's called Antonia and she lives in Putney. Send a form today.

The Groucho Club, the famously whizzy London establishment where one goes to eat, drink and watch television stars misbehave, celebrates its 10th anniversary this May. From the start I've been a devoted fan of the place's amenities, from the indefatigably smiling beauties in reception to the amusing displays of public yelling by Mr Keith Allen, the pugilistic actor. I've always admired the club's rules against flourishing mobile telephones over dinner, or narcotic substances in the bar. But I fear a subversive element has somehow got past its stringent membership selection process.

Downstairs in the Gents' this week, one of the WC cubicles has sported the management's stern injunction: "Out of order. Please do not enter. Ceiling collapsing. Sorry." An unknown hand has crossed out the word "Ceiling" and substituted the word "Nose". What can it mean?

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
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing