A successful publicity campaign ensures a masterpiece by Titian will remain on public display in the UK. Diana And Actaeon, one of a pair of Titians being sold by the Duke of Sutherland, (whose assets are said to be worth around £230m) had been on loan to the National Galleries of Scotland since 1945. The Duke had asked £50m for each picture, and the first instalment has been raised from galleries, the Scottish Parliament, the National Heritage Fund, the Art Fund and individual donations. Both these paintings are great works of art – but not everyone thinks we should be bailing out the Duke of Sutherland. We have other Titians – maybe not of this quality – and wouldn't it be better, as some critics suggest, to learn how to appreciate them instead? And why is Titian considered such a key part of our heritage? I ask because another equally remarkable part of our culture is vanishing into oblivion- the pottery industry. This week saw the third of our iconic brands – Wedgwood – follow Spode and Royal Worcester into administration.
The trouble is, beautiful pottery is always practical – consequently it is never given the status it deserves by the establishment. Modern art ceramics tend to be impractical, are generally one-offs, appealing to a limited section of the public. Our great British achievement has been to build up mass-market ceramics of the highest quality over 250 years. We talk about the need to protect the British fashion industry, to showcase British art, to protect our tailors in Savile Row. But an equally-important national industry needs an inspired supremo to come up with a plan for its survival at a time of cheap imports and financial turbulence.
Years ago I wrote a history of the British teapot, spending time in the V&A, visiting collectors and manufacturers in Worcester and Stoke-on-Trent, examining old pattern books and order ledgers. It's baffling that the Government, and the key arts charities, don't consider our ceramic industry as worthy of sustained investment as they do the visual arts. True, £5.3m (a pittance compared to the £10m they stumped up for the Titian) came from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help fund the new Wedgwood Museum in Stoke, and the town will also be hosting a Biennale showcasing leading British artists. But there's a gap – we should be finding a way to keep our great ceramic trademarks alive producing designs for worldwide collectors. Wedgwood, along with potteries like Chelsea, Minton, Royal Worcester, Longton Hall, Swansea and Leeds, produced beautiful work that stands the test of time. Wedgwood, in the late 18th century and early 19th century epitomised British taste – restrained, austere, timeless and elegant. We're been a hell of a lot better at designing memorable pottery than we ever were at fashion. Our ceramics sold around the world for hundreds of years.
It's time to find a buyer for Wedgwood – supported by government funding – who will go back to the old pattern books and reinterpret the classics. That's what Keith Murray did for the brand in the 1930s with understated pieces that are highly collectable today. The ceramic industry can survive by making catering crockery, tiles and basic fare – but without the prestige of the grand names, the life has gone out of places like Stoke.
Not everyone wants to collect a dinner service in the 21st century – few of us can be bothered to cook dinner. But we love collecting – witness the prices British ceramics command on eBay. I'd rather have a classic piece of Wedgwood than a Titian.
If you must Motivate yourself, do it at home
He's back! The irrepressible Mr Motivator has returned to breakfast television after over a decade away – determined to knock an obese nation back into shape over the next three week as part of a Get Motivated fitness campaign, which includes an interview with the Prime Minister this Friday.
If you do tune in, MM is impossible to ignore, wearing those buttock-clenching trademark rainbow lycra shorts which leave little to the imagination, and boasting that at 56 he still has the same physique as a bloke half his age. I'm glad, because the rest of us certainly haven't, Gordon Brown included.
One of the reasons for the huge increase in sales of home gym equipment, exercise DVD's and the Nintendo Wii Fit, is that you can feebly attempt to emulate the techniques on screen wearing washed-out sweat pants and shapeless T-shirts. You can't commit a fashion crime in your own front room, whereas a gym is somewhere you will just leave finding inadequate – there will always be someone sleeker and better dressed on the next cross-trainer.
Fawlty hotels can still be found in abundance
I'm not surprised that Which? Holiday magazine inspectors found that many of the budget hotels they visited had appalling standards of hygiene, including mould growing on mattresses and filthy toilets.
Filming on location, I've visited a cross-section of British hostelries, and never travel without a few essentials. I take a couple of the shower hats hotels dish out – put one on each foot to ensure that my bare feet never touch the carpet.
Next, I remove the bed cover and place down my own woollen throw before I sit down on it. Don't use a hotel iron – it will vomit filthy water all over your black dress. Finally, if the sheets look dodgy, wear pyjamas. The spirit of Basil Fawlty lives on.
A Labour MP visits her local Tesco in Liverpool and discovers that the offers aren't all they're cracked up to be. Where has she been spending her time? Now that Parliament is in recess, MPs have got the time to rejoin the world the rest of us inhabit and discover that shopping for bargains in supermarkets is at best confusing, and at worst dishonest. The best policy – ignore any purchases that have the word "offer" on their packaging, it's become totally meaningless.Reuse content