Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (21/11/10)

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Of all the so-called royal experts who scrambled to cash in last week, perhaps the most bogus was Tina Brown. The former Vanity Fair editor, who hasn't lived in England for over 25 years, should have learnt her lesson from her 2007 book The Diana Chronicles, which was widely panned as a recycled cuts job. She concluded her piece in Thursday's Times by describing William's choice of Diana's ring as "a thrilling gesture of confident daring". Apparently this was "the most personal way he knew how that he was determined to bring his mother back". Actually, it was nothing of the sort. Diana left William the ring in her will for the express purpose that he use it for his engagement. He was just doing as his mum had asked.

As a historian, Andrew Roberts has enjoyed critical success and a glittering social life. But, according to a friend, he secretly hankers to be a writer of period dramas, like Julian Fellowes. "Andrew sees the success Julian has enjoyed and wishes he had gone down that road," I'm told. "Of course he likes writing serious books, but Julian's life must be such fun!" Roberts denies the suggestion, when I call. "No, I've never thought it, let alone said it. I haven't got the necessary powers of imagination to write fiction or screenplays, like Julian does so well." Roberts is too modest: we're sure his own Downton Abbey would be a hit. It would certainly be historically accurate and, just think, could lead to a peerage!

The BBC's tribute to The Goodies last weekend, which celebrated 40 years since the surrealist sketch show first aired, was long overdue, say fans. They have been campaigning for the show to be put on video or DVD for years, but have always met with resistance. Now, Bill Oddie, who created the show with Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor, says the BBC has held a grudge against them because they took the show to ITV. Recently the BBC issued a statement saying there were no plans to mark the anniversary, saying, "Our policy is to do contemporary comedy, not nostalgia. And we should point out that the last year The Goodies was for ITV, not the BBC." Responding to this snub, Oddie says: "You do think, 'Have the BBC been holding a grudge for 40 years? The whole process of re-releasing or repeating The Goodies has had a pretty rough deal down the years The BBC have never, never, repeated The Goodies properly. We have no idea why."

Just how did the Middletons make their money? As Andrew Gilligan points out, it's hard to see how Kate Middleton's parents could have made enough money selling party streamers to put three children through public school; find £780,000 in cash to buy Kate a flat in Chelsea; and take £20,000 holidays in Mustique. Kate's biographer, Claudia Joseph, says the money comes from her paternal grandfather, who inherited a quarter of £19,560 in 1951, the equivalent, she says of £1.3m. In fact, that amount is the equivalent of a mere £445,500. The Middletons suffered embarrassment when Carole's brother, Gary Goldsmith, was stung by a tabloid, selling cocaine. No doubt the royal family will have made sure there aren't any other skeletons lurking.

Robert Harris branded V S Naipaul's new book as toxic and racist; now it looks as if it could also be his last. The Nobel prize-winning author of A House for Mr Biswas tells me he has only one book left in him, and he is not even sure he will write it. "I would write one more book and then stop. That's enough," he told me at a party last week. "But I'm very old." It all depends on his agent: last year he dumped Gillon Aitken, his agent of 30 years, in favour of the more ruthless Andrew "the Jackal" Wylie. But the publication of The Masque of Africa this year met with disapproval for its portrayal of black people. Wylie is now pushing for Naipaul to write another, but, at 78, he needs some persuasion. "He certainly wants me to do another," says Sir Vidia. "I would write it if Andrew did it well."

Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler, has had his knuckles rapped for asking friends to invest in the Idler Academy, a new educational institute he is opening in February. After sending a round-robin email encouraging donations, he has been told off by an accountant for blundering into dangerous territory. "He told me sternly that it may have breached rules on money-raising laid down by the Financial Services Authority," says Hodgkinson. "Ooops. Clearly we are ingénues in the world of high finance. We therefore withdraw the offer to invest and would ask you to ignore it." Let's hope the police look kindly upon him. After all, this is the man who founded National Unawareness Day.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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