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

A man at the top you <i>can</i> trust
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The days of civil servants as quiet, mild-mannered types are clearly long gone. News reaches me that the Whitehall Orchestra, a group of musical civil servants, sparked a riot while on tour in Istanbul. The orchestra had been invited to play at the ancient Topkapi Palace with the esteemed pianist Idil Biret, but up to 100 protesters gathered outside to burn concert posters and chant "Allahu Akbar". News had got out that they planned to serve wine in the interval, which didn't go down well with a group of far-right Islamists, as the palace houses ancient artefacts of the Ottoman Empire and holy relics. An Islamist newspaper had told its readers of the outrage, and many turned out to show their disgust. The show went on, but the cowed amateurs had to escape by a back door, clutching their instruments. "We had to be held back in the venue and got a police escort to the hotel," whispers one, "Then we went drinking!" What would Sir Humphrey say?

Much excitement on the Isles of Scilly, where a vast super-yacht has pulled into harbour, prompting whispers Roman Abramovich is in town. Le Grand Bleu is listed as the sixth biggest yacht in the world, and although it did belong to the Chelsea owner, locals will be disappointed to learn it is now owned by his pal, Eugene Shvidler, another oil billionaire. It was a gift from Roman, who already has three other yachts, and recently ordered a fourth, the £300m Eclipse, which at 557ft is the biggest in the world.

In other billionaire holiday news, one of Abramovich's fleet has been spotted off Corfu, from where Peter Mandelson is this weekend running the country. We hope Mandy will pop in for a retsina, even if he doesn't accept anything more lavish, as he did on Oleg Deripaska's boat last summer. But there's been no sign of Mandy at the Taverna Agni this year, where he allegedly "dripped poison" into George Osborne's ear about Gordon Brown before joining the Government. However, if you look closely at the Agni's webcam, you can see Ken Livingstone wolfing down a plate of kalamari. Plus ça change.

So Tony Blair will at last face questions over his role in the Iraq invasion in the Chilcot inquiry. In the words of David Blunkett, his one time Home Secretary, the innocent have nothing to fear. Surprising, then, that Tony has forbidden his fans from offering their support at this difficult time. His Facebook page, where he has nearly 6,000 supporters, inexplicably doesn't allow anyone to leave comments – not a squeak, Iraq-related or otherwise. What could Tony possibly be afraid of?

Simon de Pury is the pin-striped celebrity auctioneer with the ramrod posture, usually to be found clacking his gavel in London, New York or Moscow. As one half of the smart auction house Phillips de Pury, he is a pillar of the international art world. So there is some tittering among his clients about a YouTube video he has bizarrely recorded, a Euro-pop rendition of the song "If I had a hammer". To the background of a tinny little beat and some sub-Cheeky Girls warbling, De Pury whips an auction room into a bidding frenzy, with punters breaking out into teenage dancing as the bidding reaches £4m. Smartly dressed Sloanes are seen grinding to the music. Is he trying to tell us something?

So farewell, then, Mihir Bose. Only three weeks ago I asked what the point of the BBC's self-aggrandising sports editor was, given how few stories he brought in. Now he has left the Beeb, citing family reasons, although it is known he was dreading the move to Salford. The BBC has now blocked all comments on his blog, so we will have to say it here. Toodle-oo!

The late First World War veteran Henry Allingham put his old age down to "cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women", but just a pint or two was enough for Harry Patch. Now a hotel in Wells, Somerset, where Patch lived, has renamed its bar The Patch Bar. "I can think of no greater honour for The Swan than to have a bar named after him", says landlord Kevin Newton, who will be holding a naming ceremony next month. Perhaps Thom Yorke can do the music.