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

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Followers of Evelyn Waugh have been left puzzled by Paula Byrne's supposedly new revelation that he had three gay lovers. Byrne makes the apparently sensational claim in her new book, Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, but the story has been well known for years.

The identities of the boyfriends were named 15 years ago by Selina Hastings in her definitive biography. "I am a bit mystified," says Hastings,. "Byrne is rather dismissive of previous biographies but it is all in my book. The great weakness of her book is she doesn't give her source notes. I know where she has got this material but new readers don't." Alexander Waugh, the writer's grandson, reveals in a review that Byrne rummaged through his archives, but he stopped her from seeing certain material. He adds: "If Waugh were still alive and had any fuck yous left in his breath, he would be directing them now at Paula Byrne."

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When Roman Abramovich pulled into Corsica this summer, local restaurateurs must have punched the air with excitement. But the presence of the Russian billionaire has had quite the opposite effect in the town of Bonifacio. News reaches me that his entourage has been making reservations for 15 covers at top restaurants, but then failing to turn up. Managers at La Caravelle, Le Capo Bianco and Le Voilier are in a stew, as tables are always in high demand in August. Each is now insisting a deposit upon booking in future, but perhaps it's unwise to make too much fuss – Abramovich could just buy the place and shut it down.



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Garrulous novelist John Mortimer was a dedicated champion of London's literary canapé circuit until his death in January, leaving a big gap at this year's parties. But friends and fans will have a chance to make one last tribute to the Rumpole creator with a memorial service in the autumn. The event, organised by his widow Penny, will be held on 17 November at Southwark Cathedral. Mortimer's daughters Rosie, a model, and Emily, the successful Hollywood actress, right, are expected to attend.



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Labour MP Paul Flynn has been left wide-eyed in amazement after hearing of MPs using the lobby to pick up dates. The 74-year-old member for Newport West was told about it while amassing anecdotes for his updated guide to Parliament, called Commons Knowledge: How to Be a Backbencher. "An MP friend found himself sitting next to a woman in the Central Lobby last week," he explains. "She was waiting to see her Tory MP. My friend chatted to the lady, as you do. The following week he had a letter from her saying that she would like to see him again. She said she hoped he did 'not have a girlfriend'. Gosh!" Flynn also promises to reveal the identity of an MP who lost his seat in 1983 because he spent so much time "pursuing his passions in the Central Lobby". Ooh la la!



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Freddie Starr has been dogged over questions of whether he really ate a hamster ever since The Sun's infamous headline in the 1980s. Now he has suffered the ultimate irony: apparently, he looks like one. The comedian has cancelled a performance in Torquay because of a gum problem which, according to a fellow performer, "has caused his face to swell up like a football". "He's got a terrible abscess which is killing him," explains his wife Donna. "He looks like the Elephant Man. He's on antibiotics, but it's not swine flu." Starr is midway through a golden anniversary tour, celebrating 50 years of gags. But he cancelled last night's gig at the Babbacombe Theatre at only 48 hours' notice. "Hopefully, he'll be back on his feet soon," chirps Donna.



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The likely release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from prison this week will be a poignant moment for friends and relatives of Paul Foot, the investigative journalist who campaigned to protest his innocence. Some years ago, Foot compiled evidence which seemed to prove the Libyans were not guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. It was published in Private Eye, and Foot became increasingly frustrated that Megrahi stayed behind bars. Foot, who died from a heart attack at Stansted airport in 2004, is still sadly missed in Grub Street.



m.bell@ independent .co.uk

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