Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary

Always ready for that knock on the door
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The Independent Online

One lucky Briton who escaped unscathed from Mumbai was Princess Eugenie, younger daughter of Prince Andrew. I'm told 18-year-old Eugenie, who is in India as part of her gap year travels, was staying in the Taj hotel, although a palace spokesman denies this when I call. "Princess Eugenie was in Mumbai but is fine and in good health," she says. "There are various rumours about what hotel she was staying in but we do not comment on her personal travel arrangements. She left this morning, but I don't know where she has gone, to be honest." My source claims Eugenie had been staying in the room where the last terrorist was shot. Earlier this month Eugenie was in Turkey with her mother, Sarah Ferguson, but is now travelling with schoolfriends.

Duncan Davidson, the multimillionaire founder of Persimmon homes and a cousin of the Duchess of Cornwall, hit by the credit crunch, has decided to fell an entire forest he owns in Northumberland as a way of raising cash from the timber. If granted permission, the clearing of Threestoneburn Forest, currently home to 70 red squirrels, would be one of the biggest landscape changes in Northumberland National Park since it was formed in 1956. Under proposals from Davidson's Lilburn Estate, the forest would take three years to fell and would yield around 150,000 tons of saleable timber. Three cheers for diversification.

It was the usual orgy of smirking red faces at the Bad Sex Awards, the annual festival of schoolgirl tittering at the In and Out Club (tee hee). But why did Alexander Waugh introduce this year's winner, Rachel Johnson, as Boris's sister? Although that is her relationship to the Mayor of London, Rachel has achieved success independently as a columnist and novelist, starting out as a graduate trainee on the 'FT', and, so I'm told, learning to read before her brother, despite being 18 months his junior. The words pot, kettle and black spring to mind, as Alexander Waugh's chief connection to the awards is that his father, Auberon, founded the 'Literary Review', which hosts them. Could the jibe have been some small form of revenge? Rachel Johnson's appointment as a columnist on 'The Sunday Times' coincided with the departure of Alex's sister, Daisy Waugh.

The Australian beauty Cate Blanchett graces the cover of January's British 'Vogue', with an accompanying interview inside by David Jenkins. He opens his piece by remarking, rather unkindly, that when he meets Blanchett she is "wilting, the nimbus of her almost alien beauty for once a little woebegone, her leather jacket seeming to bear down on her shoulders like a Sisyphean weight". But perhaps Jenkins is wise not to praise her looks too effusively, he would have filed his copy to Alexandra Shulman, the editor – his girlfriend.

After two years' campaigning against draconian TV licence collectors, Charles Moore reveals he has been invited to lunch by the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, "as an olive branch". The pair will make unlikely dining companions; one is a high Tory former editor of 'The Spectator' and 'The Daily Telegraph', whose recreations include hunting, the other is the embodiment of lefty BBC values. But they do have one thing in common – both are devout Catholics. Alas for Moore, who has written scornfully of Thompson's handling of the Sachsgate affair, Catholicism is where Thompson has the upper hand: he was brought up a Catholic, attending the Jesuit-run Stonyhurst College, whereas Moore is a recent convert.

Newly-wed, 19-year-old Peaches Geldof finally launches her own celebrity magazine this week, with the help of the former 'GQ' editor and 'Loaded' founder James Brown. The project got off to a rocky start after an MTV reality show about its creation flopped spectacularly, drawing a mere 8,000 viewers. Peaches' mag has been given the ambiguous title 'Disappear Here'. One can't help wondering whether 'here' refers to up her own bottom.

The first Christmas card of the year plops on to the diary's desk, 27 days ahead of the big day. So who could the hyper-organised wellwisher be? None other than a company called Paperless Christmas. How thoughtful.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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