Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (29/05/11)

In talks with Simon Cowell

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Sir Christopher and Lady Meyer are preparing to go to the police after being told of a death threat against them. The ex-ambassador to Washington tells me he has been forwarded a text message from a person saying he wants his wife "DEAD". "My wife is very anxious about it," he says, "Someone is orchestrating an internet campaign and we are consulting lawyers." Earlier this month, Lady Meyer was criticised when accounts for her charity Pact revealed that half its total income went on paying her and her assistant's salaries. She has defended her pay, though many have expressed anger that money they thought was going to help abducted children was paying her salary. When Sir Christopher published his memoirs in 2005, he gave the money from its serialisation to three children's charities. One of these was Pact. "Our accounts are utterly transparent," says Lady Meyer. "Some people don't like me, but they could do something more useful than set up a hate campaign."

Fans of Prince Charles will have been delighted by his documentary about the great choral composer Hubert Parry, which was shown on BBC Four on Friday. But were editors making mischief? The first thing we saw was the Prince breaking the first rule of the countryside code, by leaving a gate full of livestock wide open. We know he has a man to apply paste to his toothbrush but, as a countryman, he must know you always shut a gate behind you. Happily, later in the programme he remembers to close a gate as an Aberdeen Angus looks on. It's well worth a watch, not least to hear Charles sing a capella and talk of finding in Parry "a complex man, with a mind of his own, who challenged his upbringing, and who, in love, let his heart rule his head".

Where will Simon Heffer pop up next? Fellow hacks might have assumed the Essex-based Tory would be invited back to the Daily Mail now he no longer writes for The Daily Telegraph, but I'm told he has been in talks with Rebekah Brooks, fellow redhead and head honcho at News International. There aren't many vacancies for right-wing ranters on their titles, though at 82, The Times's William Rees-Mogg may be nearing retirement. The Times has shaken off its crusty old image in recent years, thanks in part to comment editor Daniel Finkelstein (yet another redhead), who is Cameron-friendly. Cameron won't be keen to see Heffer – a staunch critic – revived. Perhaps he'd better take Rebekah out riding sometime soon.

Good old Mariella Frostrup knows how to drum up publicity – the throaty Sky Arts broadcaster has been giving titillating interviews to mark the start of the Hay Festival, which began this weekend. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, which has taken over the sponsorship, she claims her ambition as a child was to be an air hostess. In another interview, she says she has packed "an overcoat and a bikini, because the truth is you never know what the weather is going to be like". Quite why anyone would wear a bikini in Herefordshire is unclear, though there have been reports of raucous swimming parties in the Wye. Perhaps she's under orders from the Telegraph picture desk.

Sarah Brown is in Florence and, ever the social media junkie, has been uploading photos of herself on the internet, including one of her standing alone on the Ponte Vecchio looking a little forlorn. But I'm sure any despondency will have evaporated quickly. For also in Florence this weekend is her former next-door neighbour Cherie Booth, who was last night in the front row of a concert given by the London Oratory Choir, of which she is a patron, at the Palazzo Vecchio.



A 43-year-old from Croydon selling his "ex-brother-in-law's shit record collection" on eBay, has created an unexpected internet sensation. Bill Smoker has received more than 28,000 hits on the page, which savages his sister's former husband's clothes, moustache and musical taste. "You are bidding on a collection of 50 (approx) 12-inch singles and LPs of crap music," he begins, going on to ridicule the man who, we learn, left his sister for another woman. "It's now nearly 20 years later and I would still like to take a meat tenderiser to his face," he writes. "But his most horrendous crime, worse than wiring up my granny's shower so it was electrically live... was the fact that he actually liked the abomination known as Jazz Funk." As of last night, the bidding stood at £86, though the winner should beware: "If you want to collect from Croydon, that's OK, but I will look at you with a contemptuous sneer as you stand in my doorway."

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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