Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (09/05/10)

Slicker than the Gulf of Mexico
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The Independent Online

Will the Royal Household start shopping at Harrods again now the Egyptian grocer has sold up? Until 2000, Harrods displayed four Royal warrants, one each from the Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother and Prince Charles. But when the Duke of Edinburgh informed Mohamed Al Fayed he would not be renewing his, perhaps not surprisingly given Al Fayed had by then got in the habit of accusing him of murdering Dodi and Diana, Al Fayed removed all four from his shopfront. A palace spokesman declines to speculate on the Royal family's future shopping habits when I inquire, though is audibly tickled by my suggestion.

An unsettling discovery has been made by independent US film-maker John Williams. According to his new film, about the mysterious Bridgend suicides, many more deaths have taken place in the Welsh town than the reported 28 hangings. Indeed, he claims the figure is closer to 60. The film has yet to be commissioned, although Sky has expressed an interest, and it promises to make for unsettling viewing. One local young man, who lost his best friend to suicide, helped Williams and appears expressing complete bafflement as to the cause of the epidemic. He is seen saying he would never follow in their footsteps, yet after production had finished Williams received a call telling him he too had taken his life. A film, we fear, that deserves to be seen.

He was once named 4th in a list of the 50 worst football fans, but we now put Nick Hornby at number one after saying he will not support England in the World Cup. The author of Fever Pitch, the early 90s football memoir blamed for making football middle-class, told a French TV station he would be supporting Spain this summer, explaining: "I couldn't be for a team that just has United and Liverpool players in it. I'd like Spain to win it. That'd be good for football." Hornby, who supports Arsenal, was recently stranded on Tenerife thanks to the ash cloud. He should have stayed.

The ash cloud continued to disrupt last week preventing Alain de Botton from making it to a cultural evening at the Swiss Embassy on Wednesday. The millionaire philosopher was due to take part in a panel discussion about Switzerland's arts scene (whatever that is), but his plane back from Scotland was cancelled because of billowing ash. The upside was that the dapper Swiss ambassador, His Excellency Alexis Lautenberg, entertained guests by taking them to his basement, the Embassy's underground car park. This unlikely setting boasts an impressive collection of original graffiti by Banksy, including a Mickey Mouse on a concrete pillar. Apparently, the graffiti was already in place when the Lautenbergs arrived in 2004. "Who knows, he may even be here among us tonight!" quipped His Excellency of the elusive spray painter.

My late colleague Alan Watkins conducted much of his journalistic research over lunch, an institution he championed to the last. But during his days at The Observer, the bean-counters were becoming concerned that he was being perhaps a little over-generous, both to his contacts and himself, with his expense claims. On one occasion, Watkins submitted a restaurant bill for a lunch that had clearly been consumed by only one person. Seizing his opportunity, the editor challenged him. Watkins's response contained just four words: "He ate. I drank."

The nautical stripes and boating shoes Twiggy has been wearing in the current Marks and Spencer campaign must have gone to her head, as she is setting forth for Portsmouth next Sunday. Not for the sailing, but to mark the 40 years since she launched her acting career by filming there in the lead role of director Ken Russell's version of the musical The Boyfriend. Twiggy will join Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Ken Russell and friends for a one-off variety show celebrating the great director's achievements at the Theatre Royal, where the film was made. Sadly it was subsequently ruined by a fire, but Twiggy's career emerged from the ashes. And so too did the theatre.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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