Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

Even fresher than the Cabinet


She may be fifth in line to the throne, but Princess Beatrice is as thrifty as the average penniless student. The eldest daughter of Prince Andrew, who is reading history at Goldsmiths College, London, is a regular drinker at a favourite student watering-hole in New Cross, just outside the campus. When the pub landlord was raising money for a 10k marathon last month, Beatrice was among those who coughed up a couple of quid. In fact that was precisely how much she gave – signing herself "Daisy", she gave him £2 towards his run. "Bea was having a drink with some mates as she sometimes does," says one fellow drinker, "Of course she's always got her minders, but they're very good at blending in. After she signed the sponsor sheet, one of them went over to thank the landlord for treating her like any other student. He thought the minder was her history tutor."

Stephen Fry, Martin Amis and Ricky Gervais are among a host of celebrities who have rallied behind Simon Singh, the science writer being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association. They say Singh should be at liberty to question the merits of chiropractic without fear of legal action. But how did the statement of support come to have so disparate a list of so many top people, ranging from Richard Dawkins to Harry Hill? Someone with an impressive contacts book must be behind it. Step forward Peter Florence, the actor and founder of the Hay festival. Florence sent an email to everyone who has spoken at the festival asking them to lend their support, thoughtfully bcc-ing their email addresses to protect their identity. Quite a powerful little network.

The jostling has begun once again for the coveted Oxford Professorship of Poetry, after Ruth Padel stood down within days of her election. Stephen Moss, a Guardian hack, is tossing his beret into the ring, and a few other scribes are thought to be dusting down their portfolios. But one heavyweight who will not put himself forward, contrary to what he told an interviewer, is Clive James. Last month James said it was the only job he wanted, but now he has ruled himself out to friends. "He doesn't want to engage in this sort of schoolboy bunfighting," says one.

From playing Miss Brahms in Are You Being Served? to Pauline in EastEnders, Wendy Richard had a distinguished screen career. Now the actress, who lost a long battle with breast cancer earlier this year, is to be permanently commemorated by a blue plaque. The Heritage Foundation plans to erect the monument at her former home, a converted pub in Mayfair. The foundation's president, the former Bee Gee Robin Gibb, will be among a galaxy of showbiz stars attending the ceremony at the Shepherd Tavern, Hertford Street, next month, to be followed by a lunch in celebration of her life at the Millennium hotel.

The new poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy drew a big crowd at last weekend's Wychwood Festival in Cheltenham, sponsored by The Independent. But while she read a selection of poems, the folk band Bellowhead – who pride themselves on their uplifting cacophony of sound – struck up nearby, forcing Duffy to turn into a bellowhead herself. Not all her audience objected though: "I had wanted to see Bellowhead as well," says one, "this way I could take them both in!"

Hats off to Sol Campbell for announcing his engagement to the Barratt Homes heiress Fiona Barratt, but has the England defender let himself in for more that he expected? Residents of Barratt's home village on the North York Moors have seized the opportunity to write to Campbell, asking him to help out the ailing local football team. As he is now likely to spend more time in the picturesque valley of Farndale, bought by Fiona's grandfather, Sir Lawrie Barratt, in 1982, they figured he could lend a hand. "We couldn't offer Sol much, but perhaps Sir Lawrie might like to chip in," grumbles one local. "The pitch, which is on a tenant farmer's field, is a bit like Epsom – but I'm told they have some very good rollers these days."

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