The wilfully enigmatic Mike Oldfield has been giving a number of interviews, which in itself is a bit of a surprise given that he hates answering questions that start with a "why". He remembers his first interview to promote his early Seventies mega-success Tubular Bells, when his interlocutor asked him why he'd written it. "I pondered my answer for about 20 minutes and I couldn't come up with a reason, which annoyed him." Oldfield calls the encounter "horrible, painful". Just to add to the contrariness, he explains that "he hates music" and that "complete and utter silence is my favourite music". Evidently, though, he takes pride in Tubular Bells, or so he has told Mojo magazine. "The best compliment I ever had was when I was visiting someone in intensive care, and they were playing Tubular Bells in the ward to people on life-support. Now that is what I call an endorsement!" He says he was possessed by some sort of evil spirit when writing the album, which made it an apt choice as the soundtrack for The Exorcist. "It was as if something had invaded me spiritually and made me afraid and uncomfortable."
And talking of contrariness, I learn that Julie Burchill is a fan of Simon Cowell. In a forthcoming biog of Cowell by her sometime literary collaborator Chas Newkey-Burden, she calls him "a sentimental sadist... my very favourite sort of man". But there's more. "The trick is not to be nasty for the sake of it, but because you really don't have a choice – because you are literally incapable of being a hypocrite. It's an unusual and charming quality. I admire his complete and utter honesty about his ambition, in an age of showbusiness hypocrisy. Everybody else pretends they became rich and famous 'accidentally' and would give it all up tomorrow for an ordinary life. They're fooling no one and they show themselves up as being such tragic tools when they say so." He is, she argues, "the female Julie Burchill" – adding: "If I was 30 years younger and three stone lighter ... well, we'd be very compatible." Oo-er.
The BBC has bristled in the face of suggestions that there has been an edict telling journalists not to refer to John Reid's oft-quoted remark about British troops leaving Afghanistan without a shot being fired. The Corporation points out that "Dr Reid has complained that what he said about 'not one shot being fired' by the British has frequently been misquoted or taken out of context... To ensure the accuracy of our reporting, we have set out for our news staff the actual words used by Dr Reid (who made this remark on more than one occasion) and also – and more importantly – the context in which he used them." Perfectly fair; admirable, in fact, in that Reid was expressing a remote, idealised hope, not an expectation, and he's entitled not to be misquoted. What the BBC can't say, though, is that those anything-for-a-quiet-life journos who know Reid and his occasionally muscular approach to the press will regard the memo as having the same effect as a gag.
Julian Bellamy, head of Channel 4, has been recalling the first time he encountered the late Big Brother contestant Jade Goody. "I remember sitting in a casting room and up popped an 18- or 19-year-old dental assistant called Jade Goody, talking 19 to the dozen and jumping up and down on her bed," he told an Edinburgh television festival audience. "There was a fierce debate about whether or not to include her in the house. Jade's story was representative of Big Brother – she was a working-class girl who became a big star. At that point, people like Jade didn't appear on television, and I think her story is hugely significant."
While American billionaire Steve Bing has been doing his bit for US-North Korean relations (by lending Bill Clinton his plane to facilitate the release of two hostages), his former partner Liz Hurley has had more mundane but no less alarming preoccupations. Hurley, whose life nowadays revolves around blameless domesticity in the Cotswolds, had a major shock the other day when her husband, Arun Nayar, was badly burned in a bonfire accident. Mercifully he is now on the mend. Just thought you'd like to know.