Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

First-footing every day of the year


It's small fry compared with the billions he made off with, but victims of Bernard Madoff looking to seize some assets may want to head down to Port Galice in Antibes, where I gather his yacht is currently moored. The pristine, white, 27-metre Leopard cruiser, built by top shipbuilder Arno, has been spotted tucked alongside a Sunseeker in the fashionable French port. Registered in Georgetown, Washington, it is called 'Bull', curiously the same name Madoff gave his first yacht, a 55ft fishing boat he bought in 1977. Although fully staffed, his current yacht might be easier to seize than his villa up the road, which is, in any case, registered under his wife Ruth's name.

A mystery of social networking sites is why the threshold for friendship is so much lower than in the real world. So Conservative strategists should be seriously worried that their £500,000 campaign to build an army of 'friends' has drawn only one friend on one of their targeted sites. The Tories had heralded their online campaign as "groundbreaking", as they seek to emulate Barack Obama's highly effective use of the web to generate support, but the figures suggest otherwise. There are only two members of the Conservatives' group on iVillage, one of which is the party itself. iVillage is supposedly aimed at women, a sector the Tories are especially keen to attract. Especially depressing then that their single friend on iVillage is a Mr Jason Smith.

Jonathan Ross's elder brother, Paul, has become an unlikely source of amusement while Wossy is banned from our screens. A giant photo of the lesser-known Ross – a former presenter of daytime gameshow 'No Win No Fee' – printed on a 20in canvas and available on Amazon for a mere £48.93, has become the subject of an internet craze in which viewers leave absurdly effusive reviews. The picture – which its manufacturers boast has been "professionally stretched" – has drawn 95 reviews so far, including the pithy: "If you only buy one 20in canvas print of Paul Ross this year, this is the one to get." As another concludes: "All my heart desires now is a tennis racquet cover adorned with the face of Fenella Fudge off of Radio 2. Here's hoping!"

It's not the first time Harold Pinter has died. When the playwright was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, viewers of Sky News were alarmed to be told he had passed away. Presenter Ginny Buckley, who has since left to join the BBC, misheard the voice shrieking down her earpiece and announced the playwright's death to the nation. She later apologised "for any upset caused", and producers are now especially careful to annunciate the word "prize" not to sound like "dies".

As a punk legend Hugh Cornwell is no stranger to sticking two fingers up at authority. But the former Stranglers front man has found a new way to wind up his local council in Wiltshire, who are furious that the first track of his new album is called 'Please Don't Put Me on a Slow Boat to Trowbridge'. Cornwell, who has a house in a neighbouring village, says he wrote the song after frequently getting stuck in the town's one-way system. But Trowbridge's mayor is incensed: "Maybe he should park his car and come in by bus if he doesn't like the traffic," snorts Cllr John Knight. Another councillor, Glyn Bridges, suspects darker motives: "Maybe it's a class thing – Trowbridge is an easy target but as far as I'm concerned it's a great town."

Is Lord Bath slowing down? The priapic chatelain of Longleat is renowned for his depthless reserves of energy, evidenced by the unusual domestic arrangement of having several "wifelets" living in various cottages on his estate. But his Christmas card this year bears a drawing of the 76-year-old in a wheelchair, with a dachshund on his lap, and no wifelets in sight. For years Lord Bath has designed his own card, but friends are alarmed by this year's geriatric theme, printed on yellowing paper. With so many potential claimants to the Longleat millions, here's to Alex staying in good health for plenty more years to come.

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