More dreadful news for Manchester United footballers and their marriages. An entire wing of Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, a 19th-century Gothic mansion that frequently hosts lavish wedding receptions, has been gutted by fire. This throws into chaos not only the plans of civilian couples booked to celebrate their nuptials at the exclusive country house hotel, but also those of Old Trafford footballers and their future spouses.
Two of the team's back four, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown, were married at Peckforton, and both made use of one of the venue's unique services: delivery of the wedding rings by a barn owl, which will – upon request – land on the best man's hand with a pouch containing the crucial jewellery. The castle also boasts its own golden eagle, which greets wedding guests at the gate for a reasonable fee. Sadly, the birds will be perched indefinitely after a disgruntled bridegroom allegedly started the fire in the early hours of Sunday morning, causing an estimated £1m of damage. It is believed his argument was with the hotel owners – over the bill? – and not with his new bride. All of the guests escaped unscathed, including Ollie (the owl) and Elfie (the eagle).
* While Nelson Mandela's deep affection for BBC 6 Music remains a mere rumour, Aung San Suu Kyi's support of the World Service in the face of threatened cuts has been widely reported, not least by this column. The Burmese democracy leader has now detailed her listening habits more precisely in an interview with Radio Times ahead of her 2011 Reith Lectures, and she agreed that the World Service is not what it used to be. "I haven't heard any music on the BBC World Service in a long time," she lamented. "I used to listen to all sorts of different programmes, not just classical music. Er... Dave Travis?" Dave Lee Travis? "Yes!... I would listen to [Dave Lee Travis] quite happily because the listeners would write in and I had a chance to hear other people's words. It made my world much more complete." On a retro theme, the interview also reveals the code-name used by BBC producers for Ms Suu Kyi, as they covertly organised the Reith Lectures: Maggie Philbin.
* Dapper Dan Stevens – God's gift to women of a certain age, and heir to a rather large country pile named Downton Abbey – is now (be still, my beating heart!) a full-blown feminist, inspired by Caitlin Moran's much-discussed tome How to be a Woman. "Man-made scales of 'fitness' or 'hotness' have been wildly confused with those of beauty," the dashing Stevens writes for The Times, demonstrating the deep sensitivity that imbues his every performance. "As an actor," he goes on, "you continually see the ridiculous additional pressures heaped on actresses to 'look right' when actually what the camera sees when it spies the 'great actress' – what distinguishes them, and indeed the 'great woman', from her peers – is not on the surface at all. It is what illuminates the love-light in every man, whether he knows it or not. It's that little spark behind the eyes; an intellectual curiosity, an erotic imagination – and just maybe a knowledge of early Nineties indie and dance music." I think what he's saying, with characteristic charm, is that beauty comes from within, and you shouldn't judge a book, for example, by its cover. Calm down ladies; he's married!
* Man City fan and shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis is another stalwart BBC supporter, and has no time for critics of the corporation's big move north. "Let me say this to those commentators, celebrities and BBC staff who have rallied against the BBC move to Salford," he declared yesterday, "Shame on you for your outdated prejudices, one-dimensional view of Britain and negativity about the north which belongs in the dark ages." Another ungenerous Labour MP was quiet on the topic of Salford, but happily told me: "One of the things I'll never be able to quite forgive the north for is the fact it gave us Ivan Lewis."
* A distinctive take on Rory McIlroy's victory at the US Open, from the Murdoch-owned New York Post. The paper's front page yesterday featured the Northern Irish golfer raising aloft his trophy beneath the words: "Eire Apparent". Perhaps Rupert should provide some lessons in Irish history for the sports desk, just in case McIlroy's star keeps rising.
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