Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (31/07/11)

Always ahead, but without the hat

Sunday 31 July 2011 00:00
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Marlborough College has become a focus of media attention since producing our future Queen. So no wonder its governors are asking Britain's most media-friendly headmaster, Anthony Seldon, to replace the incumbent head when he leaves. Nicholas Sampson has been in post seven years and is off to Australia next year. Seldon, best known as Tony Blair's biographer, is head of Wellington College, Berkshire, where in 2006 he introduced "happiness classes". If Seldon is appointed, it would be an embarrassing blow to Sampson, as the two had a public spat in 2008, after Wellington dropped Marlborough from its rugby fixture list. As if to prove his media-handling abilities, Dr Seldon is brilliantly non-committal when I call: "I don't think I have been asked," he laughs. "Marlborough is one of Britain's great schools, but I'm already at one of Britain's great schools, and I have every intention of staying there, if I'm allowed to."

One of the smaller walk-on parts in the drama of Amy Winehouse's life was the leading genetics scientist Steve Jones, who lived next door. The late singer bought the house next to his in Camden Square from Arabella Weir, author of Does My Bum Look Big in This?. Jones and Winehouse made unlikely neighbours, but got on, as he is a fan of her music. He was unfazed when he heard Winehouse was turning it into a recording studio. "I discovered in a physiology class long ago that, even at the age of 21, I had lost the ability to hear high notes," he wrote last year. Winehouse's house was also once inhabited by Archbishop Makarios, who led the bid for Cypriot independence.

A new front has opened in the war between Marco Pierre White and the people of Britain who just want a quiet pint. Last week I revealed how locals at The Yew Tree near Newbury were celebrating, after Marco quietly sold his shares and left. Now news reaches me of discord at The Pear Tree in Whitley, Wiltshire, which "Mark-up" Marco has bought. He has taken draft lager off the menu and hiked the prices, and the locals are foaming. My man in the inglenook tells me some regulars are even transferring to the Whitley Golf Club. But some are taking up the fight, and have formed The Whitley Formation Drinking Team. They plan to make contact with drinkers at The Yew Tree to discuss tactics on "how to rid ourselves of 'Mark-up' before the ultimate closing time". Tin helmets at the ready!

The Lady is looking for an online editor and, judging by its advert, it wants someone as "penis-obsessed" as editor Rachel Johnson. "Thrusting, funky editor needed to lift The Lady website so it stands on par with its counterpart, the newly relaunched magazine," it reads. "All applicants must have top website skills and comprehensive understanding of The Lady brand." Understanding of The Lady brand is a moot point: proprietor Julia Budworth likes features on gardens, Johnson prefers quips about lady gardens. Is the internet ready for all this?

Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell writes a considered piece in The Guardian in response to the Norwegian massacre. In it, he talks of how mass murderers long to join the killers' hall of fame. But to avoid giving the murderer yet more publicity, he deliberately avoids using the young man's name. How thoughtful that someone should come along and put it in big letters in the headline.

Louise Mensch, the Tory MP and recent addition to the MPs crusading against phone-hacking, says she suspects newspapers of digging up stories to discredit her. On Friday, she forwarded journalists an email she claimed to have received from "David Jones Investigative Journalists", containing a list of lurid allegations. The odd thing is that nobody has heard of this bureau, and it has nothing to do with the David Jones who writes for the Daily Mail, who is in Norway. One paper that isn't in the business of digging up dirt on Mensch is The Sunday Telegraph: today it is giving away copies of her novel Glamour, written under the name of Louise Bagshawe. Or is it a subtler way to embarrass her?

Dancer and TV personality Louie Spence is not one for holding back. Speaking to a national newspaper, he gave this extraordinary account of his morning routine: "I buy porridge with extra berry compote and honey from Pret, and I arrive no later than 9:05. While my computer's loading I mix the compote into my porridge, so it all goes pinky, and I eat it before checking my emails. It's not possible to do both at the same time – you slobber everywhere.... At 9:30 I do what I call "dropping the kids off at the pool" – my favourite loo is on the top floor, and my body is clockwork." Enough!

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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