Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (13/11/11)

Only 42 gossiping days to Christmas

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The Independent Online

Following a run of untimely deaths, two members of the Guinness family have teamed up with historian Anne Somerset and web designer Tim Hanbury to create a service to help people to organise funerals. Louise Guinness and Catherine Hesketh have set up funeralinfo.co.uk, an online alternative to posting a death announcement in a newspaper, where details such as the time and place of a service can be displayed. The idea came after Jasper Guinness, eldest son and heir of Lord Moyne, died in May, only weeks after the death of his friend, the painter Matthew Carr. "We were bombarded with phone calls from friends wanting to know the time and place of the funerals," says Louise Guinness. "Obviously when someone dies it's a difficult time, and people don't want to bother the close family, but everyone is desperate to make their arrangements." Gossip columnists like to refer to the "curse of the Guinnesses", because of the brewing dynasty's supposedly high death rate. But as Louise says: "There are so many Guinnesses that, statistically, it's ridiculous to talk of a curse."

Lynton Crosby stood lurking in the wings at the launch of Boris Johnson's book, Johnson's Life of London. The hardball Australian strategist is once again gearing up to lead the Mayor of London's campaign for a second term in office next May. When I asked Crosby what he thought of Boris's chances, he said: "He can win". Some analysts may see his choice of words as a less than ringing endorsement – after all, anything can happen. But Crosby had more immediate concerns: his wife had joined him despite being on crutches with a broken ankle, having tripped on a step at home. "I'm in agony," she told me. She wasn't the only wife present who has been through it: a cheer went round the room when Boris thanked his wife Marina for all her support.

Journalist Ben Macintyre gets a nice little dig in at Richard Desmond's Express newspapers in a BBC documentary on Tuesday. The Times hack tells the story of Agent Zigzag, the agent who duped the Germans into paying him large amounts to blow up British targets. To convince the Germans he had destroyed an aircraft factory near Hatfield, MI5 planted a story reporting the explosion in a newspaper. As Macintyre reports, the spooks approached The Times, but the editor, Robert Barrington-Ward, pompously rejected the idea out of hand, saying nothing untrue had ever been printed in his paper, and he wasn't about to start. Macintyre then turns to the camera with a wry smile and says: "The Express, however, was only too happy to oblige." It's lucky for Britain that they did.

Jelly-mongers Sam Bompas and Harry Parr are writing a cook book inspired by Salvador Dali. The bow-tied twentysomethings have become fashionable in foodie circles, thanks to their imaginative use of jelly as an art form, and were among guests at the Evening Standard's party to celebrate London's 1,000 most influential people last week. Having written one book about jelly and another about cocktails, they are branching into ever more ambitious ventures. Their new book, Feast, will take the surrealist's little-known Dali Cookbook as inspiration, with its chapters on aphrodisiacs, snails and frogs. They are also planning an extraordinary stunt in New York next year, when they will tow an iceberg into the harbour, for use as ice in cocktails. "We worked out that it would be more energy efficient than making the ice from scratch," says Parr. "Just."

Tub-thumping film-maker Michael Moore has been supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, encouraging protesters to fight America's rich "one per cent". Trouble is, one of his critics has pointed out that his personal fortune makes him a member of that club, and has posted pictures of his lakeside mansion on the internet. The conservative pundit Andrew Breitbart says the house on Torch Lake in Michigan is worth $2m (£1.3m), and is a secondary home to Moore's "posh Manhattan residence". The house is certainly impressive, but you can't imagine Moore squeezing into a caravan.

The astrophysicist who won this year's Nobel prize says the best thing about winning has been getting a parking space. Apparently parking is a nightmare at Berkeley University in San Francisco, where Saul Perlmutter teaches, and anyone who wins the prize is reserved a space for life. "It's all been worthwhile," he quipped during an address to students. Not even the chancellor is accorded this perk, which is enforced with big bossy signs that say "Reserved for Nobel Laureate at all times".

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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