Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (20/03/11)

In a class of his own

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Noel Gallagher, Sir Ian McKellen and Paula Rego have formed an unlikely union in calling for wider recognition of the work of L S Lowry, the Salford-based painter of stick men. The former Oasis songwriter has emerged from obscurity to reveal that seeing his first Lowry was as important as the first time he heard The Beatles, saying: "I find it amazing that an artist that's got such a strong identity is still not accepted." His remarks form part of a documentary released next month to mark the 35th anniversary of Lowry's death. Other fans and the painter's heir, Carol Ann Lowry, have been interviewed by Margy Kinmonth for the film, Looking for Lowry. Rego, a painter taught by Lowry at the Slade school of art, says: "There was a great snobbery against Lowry by the students and the staff. They despised him. I was inspired by him. He was like a magic figure." Rego and Gallagher will be among guests at a private screening next weekend, ahead of the film's nationwide release.

The Foreign Office appears to have boarded up the glass ceiling, if leaked reports of a reshuffle at the highest level are correct. No woman is being given a top job in moves to be carried out in coming weeks. A domino effect will be created when our man in Washington, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, comes home, to be replaced by Sir Peter Westmacott, currently posted in Paris, who is said to have impressed David Cameron by cementing relationships with Nicolas Sarkozy. Filling his shoes in France will be Sir Peter Ricketts, currently National Security Adviser, who will be replaced by Sir Richard Stagg, currently our man in New Delhi, who will become James Bevan. Sir Nigel caused a few red faces early in his tenure when a leaked memo revealed he thought Barack Obama was uninspiring in debates, though there's no suggestion that little episode is connected with him coming home. An FCO spokesman declined to comment.

Martin Amis has revealed he never begins two consecutive paragraphs with the same word, after being rebuked for doing so by a favourite former editor. The author of Experience disclosed this stylistic obsession in a tribute to the late John Gross at a memorial service on Thursday. Gross was an eminent critic and writer, once described as "the best-read man in Britain". He had an astonishing memory despite a weakness for champagne lunches. Amis recalled how Gross, when literary editor of the New Statesman, sent back one of Amis's reviews to question his use of the same word to open two successive paragraphs. "I remember thinking, 'Can you not do that?'," said Amis. "In any case, I've never done it again." A prize to anyone who can prove otherwise.

Charlotte Todd, the creator of that see-through dress that supposedly prompted Prince William to say of Kate Middleton, "Wow, she's hot", joked last week that she should "rustle up some more", after it sold for £78,000 at auction. That must have sent a few alarm bells ringing for the auctioneer, Kerry Taylor, a former Sotheby's director who specialises in high-end vintage clothing. A few years ago, she was the unwitting victim of a scam in which fraudsters were selling fake clothes from the glory days of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. Taylor even gave evidence to Scotland Yard but the charges were eventually dropped. Given that most of Kate's wardrobe currently comes from high-street stores such as Jigsaw, it shouldn't be too hard to flog a few "clothes-worn-by-Kate" on eBay. A new line for the enterprising Middletons, perhaps?

The special relationship is over, according to Sir Christopher "Red socks" Meyer. The smoothy former ambassador to the US announced this troubling news during a lecture at Dartmouth House last week, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the American Museum in Bath. He said he'd like the term to be binned, "but it won't happen". "In only one respect do we have a special relationship," he said. "We share a language. Or, as Ma Ferguson, the first female governor of Texas, put it, 'If the King's English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for the children of Texas!'"

Jim Davidson gave a robust defence of his earthy brand of comedy on Newsnight the other day, responding to questions about racism by saying "If the theatres were empty when I was doing that kind of stuff, I'd have stopped." What, then, to make of the tragic little announcement that has appeared on his website only a week later? He says that after "a great deal of soul searching", he has had to pack up his show, due to, um, "the current economic climate". But of course!

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