Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (02/01/11)

Never knowingly undertold
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sir Richard Eyre is offering a substantial reward for the return of his diary, which he lost on a Virgin Atlantic flight to New York. The leading theatre director, whose production of Feydeau's farce, A Flea in Her Ear, has just opened at the Old Vic, tells me the loss of two years' worth of material, including sketches and reflections on his life and work, have left him devastated. It comes as a particular blow since the material could have contributed towards a book, following the success of National Service, the published diaries of his 10 years heading the National Theatre. "It's really galling," he tells me. "I advertised on the JFK Lost and Found website, and had a few calls from West Africa. But though I offered a substantial amount for just one photocopied page, nothing came of it." The diary, in case anyone should find it, is a lined Ryman's notebook written in blue ink. Not that that narrows the search down much.

News that Norman Fowler plans to relaunch his campaign to stop the spread of HIV/Aids may raise a few smirks. For, as anyone who remembers the Eighties may recall, the former health secretary once showed a touching naivety about what adults get up to behind closed doors. During the first meeting of the parliamentary Aids committee in 1986, he turned and asked the room, "What is oral sex?" When civil servants dutifully filled him in on the details, Fowler spluttered a "Crikey!" and a "Good God", before spending the subsequent two-hour session in contemplative silence.

What will become of the Bishop of Willesden? Pete Broadbent, the republican former Islington councillor and Labour Party member was suspended last month for denouncing the Royal engagement as "nauseating tosh". He enraged his boss, the Bishop of London, who is a friend of Prince Charles, by likening William and Kate to "shallow celebrities", whose marriage would last only seven years. Now, despite his suspension, the bishop has written an intriguing New Year message to parishioners in the Harrow Observer, saying: "The new year brings... great uncertainty in the current social and economic climate.... We fear for our jobs, our health, and our future." His own position remains unclear, and he failed to return my calls. If he does fear for his job, it might have been expedient to wish the bishop and the royals a happy new year in his message.

Novelist Jeanette Winterson says her new year's resolution is to "stalk Michael Gove until he let's me get behind the push to get poorer children to universities". Judging by her eccentric use of the apostrophe, perhaps she should be asking Gove for some help herself.

One surprise of the New Year's Honours list was why this is only Sandy Gall's second decoration. A more clubbable journalist it would be hard to think of. The 83-year-old ITN war reporter is not only a longstanding friend of Prince Charles – he wrote the foreword for one of Sandy's books – he is also a pal of MI6. In his memoir, News From The Front: A Television Reporter's Life, Gall cheerfully revealed how he would meet spooks and be wined, dined and briefed in restaurants in Piccadilly, before heading out to Afghanistan in the 1980s. "I was flattered, of course, and anxious to pass on what I could in terms of first-hand knowledge," he wrote. The spooks knew how to keep connoisseur Sandy happy, always giving him roast beef and Yorkshire pudding "and plenty of wine".

Of the five names who guest edited the Today programme last week, Richard Ingrams clearly had the most fun. The founder of Private Eye took the opportunity to ask why some voices don't work for radio, reigniting the debate over Neil Nunes, Radio 4's sub-woofered continuity announcer. He also teased The Daily Telegraph, requesting a tour of their hub-style newsroom only to express his abject horror. A particular highlight was his encounter with "that bloke Jeff Randall" who suddenly went into turbo-drive praising the Barclay brothers-owned Telegraph. "In my lifetime in journalism, this is the best newspaper newsroom I've ever worked in," he gushed. "It's a fantastic, big, open, airy, dynamic newsroom with lots going on.... I don't have to come in to file my column but I come in simply because I love newspapers and newsrooms." Ingrams, however, was unimpressed: "Having seen the future, I don't really want to be any part of it," he sniffed. One gets the feeling that he knew that all along.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

Comments