Some bleak news for the Beeb's new Dickens drama

Oliver Marre
Thursday 27 October 2005 00:00

For the series, in which Dance, pictured, stars as the solicitor Tulkinghorn, is to be targeted by the mighty force of the Dickens Fellowship, an organisation with thousands of members spread over 50 branches across the world.

Its crime is to have introduced a side-kick for Dance's character, who does not appear in Dickens's original book.

"We thought that Tulkinghorn should have a confidential clerk," explains its writer, Andrew Davies, who was behind other small-screen classic adaptations such as Pride and Prejudice. "He's called Clamb and he's not in the book at all. I think Dickens's admirers will welcome a new addition to the pantheon of his characters."

He's wrong: Selma Grove, joint secretary of the Dickens Fellowship, is outraged, and is already planning direct action.

"I have just counted 57 characters in the book," she tells me. "Why on earth do they need to introduce another? What is more, Dickens specifically makes the point that Tulkinghorn does not have or need a clerk because he keeps all the secrets of the great families himself.

"This is an outrage and they shouldn't be calling it Bleak House. We have a meeting on Saturday, and I shall be asking those in attendance whether they would support a protest in costume outside the BBC."

* Starbucks stands for millions of people as the symbol of capitalism on every high street. For their masses of fans across the globe, the Rolling Stones are the proud survivors of the counter-cultural rebellion of the 1960s. It's a rather sad, therefore, to report that just months after Bob Dylan caused outrage and upset by agreeing to have his new CD sold in the coffee chain's outlets, the Stones are set to follow suit.

While the precise financial details of the deal remain confidential, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and co are said by insiders to have agreed to the deal thanks to heavy financial incentives. The forthcoming album, Rarities 1971-2003, will be available alongside your favourite coffee next month. Says a spokesman for Starbucks:

"We felt this was an exciting project and a perfect fit for what we are trying to provide to our customers."

For all this, I can't help but suspect that the band's notoriously hard-living guitarist, Richards, will require rather more than a cappuccino to keep him going.

* Never having been afforded the opportunity to appear on a reality television programme, Nancy Dell'Olio has taken the welcome step of sending herself to the desert.

She's just signed up for a period of self-imposed exile in Israel, where she'll be joined by the Sigalia Heifetz, the wife of the Israeli ambassador to Britain, on a scheme called "I'm a Jewish Princess ... What Am I Doing Here?"

The answer - of course - is raising their profiles and, simultaneously, money for charity."We will be redefining the term Jewish Princess as well as ourselves as we learn new skills and find out what we are really made of," says Dell'Olio, the on-off lover of England's football coach, Sven Goran Eriksson.

The plan is that they should spend 10 days living in the Negev desert and undertaking a series of strenuous tasks.

* It's not all hard work for David Cameron's supporters. Pandora was pleased to see that two of the Tory frontrunner's loudest cheerleaders were out on the town together on Tuesday night.

Rachel Whetstone, the glamorous - and newly single - former chief of staff to Michael Howard spent the night at the Gielgud Theatre in London's West End, watching the premiere of Agatha Christie's whodunnit And Then There Were None. She was joined by her friend the Tory peer Lord Astor, Cameron's stepfather-in-law.

"Considering that it was written back in the 1930s, it's a rather racy play," says another member of the first-night audience.

"It really is just the thing to take their minds off the leadership campaign."

* It isn't just Tony Blair who is resistant to the idea of submitting to a grilling from John Humphrys on Radio 4's Today programme.

The presenter was recently invited to lunch at Buckingham Palace and - ever the hack - used the opportunity to pitch for an interview with our Sovereign Queen.

"I offered a reasonable argument, I thought, but after a quarter of a second, she looked up again and said 'no'," Humphrys tells me.

"And then she added: 'What is more, Mr Humphrys, if I were ever to do such an interview, it would not be with you.'"

Perhaps his more gentle colleague Edward Stourton, who this week had the honour of talking to King Harald of Norway, is a more suitable candidate.

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