Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (25/04/10)

Like a phoenix from the ashes

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Amy Winehouse can expect a warm welcome when she moves in to her £2.5m townhouse in Camden, north London. Her next-door neighbour will be the leading genetics scientist Professor Steve Jones, who is on standby to lend her a cup of sugar. "I shall be interested to meet her," he tells me from his lab. The five-bedroom house was previously the home of comedian Arabella Weir, author of
Does My Bum Look Big In This?, and according to the prof was also once inhabited by Archbishop Makarios, who led the bid for Cypriot independence. Being a dedicated atheist, Jones says Winehouse will be an improvement on the bish, but does he not dread a paparazzi invasion? "No. I get them already."

Can we ever know too much about Nick Clegg? My latest discovery is his preference for Alsatian dogs. The choice of breed goes back to his mother's childhood, part of which she spent in a Japanese prisoner camp. Hermance van den Wall Blake, who is Dutch, was interned in Jakarta in the Dutch East Indies with her mother, and they only had the guards' Alsatians for company. Having befriended them as a child, the future Mrs Clegg Snr always kept them in later life. If we were a right-wing newspaper, this would explain everything that is wrong with the Lib Dem leader.

The campaign to encourage people to give their vote to people in Bangladesh or Afghanistan has run into a spot of bother with the Electoral Commission. Give Your Vote!, as Brian Brady explains on page 7, argues that uninterested Britons should give their votes to those in countries affected by British foreign policy or climate change as "an act of solidarity with those who do not have a say in the decisions that affect them". But after members of the public queried its legitimacy, the campaigners have had to make some modifications. While the thrust is legal, voters are asked to take a picture of their ballot papers to show how they voted. But this is verboten and the commission has had to quietly tap them on the shoulder.

Lynn Barber had her memoirs, An Education, turned into a memorable film. Now Telegraph journalist Byron Rogers is having the same treatment. The one-time speech-writer to the Prince of Wales is having his acclaimed book, Me, adapted by Hugh Bonneville, who played a young John Bayley in the film Iris. Rogers has been described as "a historian of the quirky and forgotten, of people and places other journalists don't even know exist or ignore if they do". But there was one thing the self-effacing Welshman wanted to clear up before giving the project the green light – sex. Would there be any in the movie? he telephoned to ask. "Yes," mumbled Bonneville. "Do I perform well?" demanded Byron. "Well, not exactly. No," admitted Bonneville. "That's all right then," said Byron, and replaced the receiver.

You might have thought a majority of 52 per cent would be enough to allow Labour MP Chris Bryant to relax, but the poor chap is clearly fretting. Tweeting to mark Shakespeare's birthday on Friday, the MP for Rhondda chose a line from Richard II, "His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last", clearly a reference to Cleggmania. We suggest he takes a tip from Malvolio: "Be not afraid of greatness."

Horace de Vere Cole is famous for having practised one of Cambridge's most successful pranks when, in 1905, he dressed up as the Sultan of Zanzibar and tricked the town mayor Algernon Campkin into giving him an honorary tour of the city. Afterwards Cole told the press, causing lasting humiliation to Campkin, and Cole became a lifelong practical joker. Now Campkin appears to have exacted revenge more than a century later by sabotaging the launch of a new Cole biography. Author Martyn Downer was astonished when the fire alarm went off and lasted the full two hours of the party. The venue, Waterstones in Cambridge, had to be abandoned, and staff said it had never gone off before. Spooky.

In a story last week about the Manic Street Preachers, I called Richey Edwards the lead singer. He was, as any fule kno, the rhythm guitarist. My thanks to readers who pointed out this clanger.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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