Me and my metal detector (and other celebrity pastimes)

Bill Wyman's new book reveals his fixation with treasure hunting. And he's not the only one with an unusual hobby, reports Jonathan Brown
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The Independent Online

Bill Wyman Metal detector

It may only be messing around in a muddy field, but he likes it. During his four decades with the Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman witnessed some of the wildest times in the history of rock'n'roll. The band's exploits are legion; there was the smashing up of hotel rooms, the drink the drugs and, of course, the sex.

Nowadays, however, the 68-year-old is concentrating on metal detecting. Wyman, who was born in Penge, south London, first became interested in archaeology in 1968 after he bought a 15th-century manor house in Suffolk. He purchased his first detector in 1991.

Wyman is so enamoured with his hobby - he even described combing the English countryside for hidden artefacts as more stimulating than gigging with the world's greatest rock band - that he has written a book about it. Bill Wyman's Treasure Islands, co-written with Richard Havers, logs some of the most remarkable finds in recent metal detection.

Wyman himself has unearthed 300 coins, including a gold half-noble from 1361 and a coin minted during the reign of Harold II. "It's not just an old fogey thing," said Wyman, who has given up touring to devote more time to his family. "My little girls are interested."

Dalai Lama Mechanic

When the pressures of leading his people in exile become too much, the Dalai Lama likes to turn to mechanics, which he lists among his recreations in International Who's Who.

When he was installed at Lhasa in Tibet in 1940, he was presented with a set of Meccano by the British agent Sir Basil Gould which Tenzin Gyatso, the boy god-king, cherished. Then, while still a youngster, the 14th temporal and spiritual leader of Tibet astonished his elders by repairing Tibet's three cars.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is also said to particularly enjoy fixing clocks. He still has a Rolex watch given to him by President Franklin Roosevelt, which he maintains himself.

He has also taken apart and repaired an old film projector, without any instructions.When he was first given superglue as a present, he considered it a miracle, his friends say.

Minnie Driver Pop star

Being bumped from singing at this year's Oscars ceremony by Beyoncé appears to have done nothing to dampen Minnie Driver's private determination to pursue a singing career.

Despite miming as an opera singer in the film The Phantom of the Opera, the British actress insists that were it not for her unexpected success in Circle of Friends, she would be a well established singer instead.

She began singing in London clubs as a teenager and landed a development deal with her band from Island Records. There was even talk of a solo deal with EMI.

She kept alive her love of singing by performing for friends and family at dinner parties. Last year, she finally released her own album, the autobiographical pop-folk Everything I've Got In My Pocket. She even completed a live concert tour of the United States in January. "This record began in the back yards and on the front porches of my friends' houses. It was always just a creative endeavour that found it's way to fruition through the relentless support of a few key people," she said.

Jodie Kidd Racing driver

The model Jodie Kidd doesn't take kindly to the suggestion that women make inferior drivers to men. As she stepped up to the podium in Bologna in December after winning her first race, few could disagree with her.

It was only her third outing at the Maserati Trofeo Pro-Am race with co-driver Fabio Babini. The Italian media immediately called her "Queen of the Rain" in reference to the terrible weather conditions.

"I must admit that I was a bit scared when the rain started to fall so heavily but I managed to keep calm and listen to what the car was telling me, and it all worked out in the end. I know I have still a long way to go in the racing world, but what a fantastic way to end my first racing season," she said.

Kidd believes that cars should be featured in women's magazines. "Unless women get the chance to prove themselves they will always seem to be less able, simply through not being given the opportunity to compete," she said recently.

"Women are slowly breaking through in motor racing now, and there's no reason why we shouldn't make it to the top. It's not like rugby where women are at a physical disadvantage."

Mike Tyson Pigeon-fancier

Pigeons have played a central part in the legend of "Iron" Mike Tyson. Growing up in super-tough Brownsville, New York, the future heavyweight champion displayed a peculiar fondness for the birds. When one day a local bully pulled the head off one his pigeons, Tyson exploded with rage and beat the bigger boy to a pulp.

His enduring affection for pigeons continued as Tyson conquered the world of boxing. At the height of his passion he kept at least 1,000 birds. Talking to a reporter on a New York rooftop, he once confided: "I've been doing this my whole life, longer than anything I've ever participated in besides breathing ... This is basically my office from six o'clock in the morning until two o'clock in the morning.

"It's like one of those boyhood diseases that you can't get out of your blood ... I know people think I'm crazy because I'm a black, young, rich millionaire and I'm here flying pigeons, but this is what I've done all my life - I'm gonna die doing this."

Geena Davis Archer

The Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis likes to be good at whatever she turns her hand to. Her electrifying performances in Thelma & Louise and The Accidental Tourist made her one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.

Away from the film set, the 49-year-old has been a model and a cartoonist and relaxes by playing the flute and drums. She is also a member of Mensa. But perhaps her most outstanding achievement is in archery - a passion which became apparent when she only narrowly failed to qualify for the US Olympic team in Sydney in 2000.

She had got as far as the semi-finals in the selection process - just two years after taking her first lesson. Other competitors took her to their hearts, some blamed the rain which fell during her round, while others said she was subjected to unfair media attention. All agreed that she had given the sport a much-needed image boost.

Her interest was fired after seeing a television report on the 1996 Olympic gold medallist Justin Huish and she began practising for between four and six hours a day between film assignments.

"Archery attracted my imagination. My goal continues to be to become as good as I can get. Everything I do, I get intense about," she said.

Russell Crowe Knitter

When the actor Russell Crowe posed for a 1997 edition of Movieline magazine armed with a set of knitting needles, his testosterone-fuelled admirers insisted it was just a joke.

But the world of knitting has taken the New Zealand-born star of Master and Commander and Gladiator to its bosom and he has become a bit of a pin-up for the knit-one, purl-one brigade.

There have been celebrity endorsements of the craft and inevitable jokes about Hollywood's "knitterati". In this glamorous band were Madonna, Goldie Hawn, Cameron Diaz and Brooke Shields, among others. Julia Roberts even posed for a magazine in a sweater she had made.

With big names like this clicking in, the yarn-store La Knitterie Parisienne joined the list of places to be on the Los Angeles celebrity circuit.

The Craft Council touring exhibition, Knit 2 Together, has also helped challenge the image of the craft as one in which ill-fitting garments are worn out of guilt. The exhibits, created by 15 artists, range from knitted sex adverts and subversive toys to giant cobwebs and knitted interiors.

Kylie Minogue Scrabble player

Kylie Minogue may once have dreamed of being lucky in love. Nowadays the diminutive Australian songstress harbours a more prosaic dream - to be the face of the world's most popular board game.

She is said to particularly enjoy playing Scrabble while listening to the Top 40. This obsession makes her one of a growing number of stars who have gone on record to confess their abiding devotion to the game that was invented by Alfred Mosher Butts, an out-of-work architect from Poughkeepsie, New York.

Having staved off the ennui of three generations during rainy afternoons and dreary Christmas Day nights, it is now a favourite of the stars.

Robbie Williams, it is said, likes nothing better than kicking back after a concert with a bag of lettered tiles. Likewise Christina Aguilera, Sting and Avril Lavigne, the Queen, Madonna and Guy Ritchie, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Richard Branson, Coldplay's Chris Martin, Mel Gibson and Joan Collins count themselves fans.

The game has become the subject of two Hollywood movies and a documentary. It has sold more than 100 million copies in 121 countries and 29 languages.

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