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Why Marco Pierre White hit the roof

JUST when Marco Pierre White - that flamboyant half-Italian chef from Yorkshire - seemed to be in danger of losing his reputation as the wild child of British cuisine, news comes of his involvement in yet another acrimonious dispute.

This time the complainant is French-born Helen Avis, 64, proprietor of the Box Tree Restaurant, the famous Yorkshire eaterie responsible for White's training.

Avis claims that earlier this year - during a two-month spell when White was acting as a consultant to the restaurant - he damaged the kitchen ceiling. 'He did not like the ventilation and had a fit (pron. fitte),' she says. 'He started smashing up the suspended ceiling so that we had to write to him asking to replace it. He ignored us; his solicitors ignored us, so eventually we had to send a court summons.'

White, however, in unusually lucid form, claims that he has never received any such missive: 'Madame Avis is a horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible woman,' he says gently. 'Although I haven't received this summons - which she has sent to all the newspapers - I intend to accept it and fight, since all she is doing is shining the torch on her own problems.

'I did not wilfully damage anything. I removed some panels to create a healthier air circulation since it was so bad that the cook had to work with the back door open all the time; other people including British Gas had done some work to the ceiling to increase the gas flow; to say that I damaged that cheap, low ceiling, which even had live wires hanging down, is ludicrous.

'We once saw an unidentifiable rodent there,' he claims (the restaurant denies this). 'We couldn't work out whether it was a mouse or a rat - but, I can assure you that by the time we'd finished with it, it was quite unrecognisable.'

MISSING: one grey fax machine - stolen at the weekend from Auberon Waugh's Beak Street emporium, the Literary Review. 'It's only a year old; we miss it very much,' says the magazine's business manager, Robert Posner. 'Whoever the disgruntled reviewer is, please could they return it.'

Bedroom switch-off

APROPOS the death of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, renowned for a scandalous affair in the Sixties, a Fleet Street colleague recalls his time as her 'researcher' in the late Eighties. 'She treated me like a valet,' he says. 'Before I knew what was happening, I was supposed to be her butler, chauffeur, cook, companion. The final straw was when she summoned me to her bedroom in the middle of the day. As I approached, I heard a strange whirring noise; she was lying there, nightshirt awry, stuck inside an electric Slendertone-type of contraption. She asked if I would turn it off. I did so, and promptly left - for good.'

A LEADING trichologist, Mark Birch of West Drayton, is appealing for the return of a stolen briefcase that contained letters from celebrities thanking him for treating their baldness. He declines to reveal the names of any of his clients - pop, film and television stars, industrialists and diplomats - but says that some 'very famous' people would be deeply embarrassed if the testimonials were made public. Oh, please.

Fairbairn on Fergie

SPECULATION that the Duchess of York could become a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations has provoked a flurry of reports suggesting that the Government and Buckingham Palace are opposed to the appointment. Yesterday the former Conservative minister Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, MP for Perth and Kinross, said he was 'appalled by the original announcement that she might be given this job. She is a lady short on looks, absolutely deprived of any dress sense, has a figure like a Jurassic monster, (seems) very greedy when it comes to loot, no tact and wants to upstage everyone else. I cannot think of anybody I would sooner not appoint to this post than the Duchess of York.' The Duchess of York's previous acts of charity on behalf of refugees include sending 200 teddy bears from Harrods to the displaced children of Bosnia.

AN AMERICAN tourist making the pilgrimage to Karl Marx's grave in Highgate cemetery the other day spotted a new piece of graffiti on the headstone. It reads: 'Nice try, but McDonald's won.'

A STYLE note to newspapers from Railtrack, British Rail's track, signalling and infrastructure division, insists that: 'The name of the company, Railtrack, is all one word with the first R being the only capital. In text it should appear 'Railtrack'. In graphics, ideally, it should appear as shown, on the letter heading above, that is, all capitals in M Gill Sans Regular Pantone 876.'

A GREEN brothel, the Manaus, named after a town in the Brazilian rain-forest, has recently opened in Berlin. It has Greenpeace collecting boxes in every room.


29 July 1815 Lord Ossulton writes to Thomas Creevey in Brussels: 'Bonaparte still remains at Plymouth, but it is expected that the ship which is to convey him will sail very shortly. I believe he is allowed to take three persons (besides servants) with him, excepting those who are named on the list of proscribed. The general feeling, I think, is that he ought to be placed out of the reach of again interfering in the concerns of the world, although it is difficult not to feel for a man who has played such a part, if he is destined to end his days in such a place as St Helena. Seeing the other day a list of some of my intimate friends invited to meet the Prince Regent at Melbourne House, I could not help thinking what a strange fortune it was by which Bonaparte should be at that moment at Torbay, waiting his destiny at the Prince's hands.'