Axe Grinder: 3 November 2006

‘Cruising with Dialysis' – the life of Brian we never saw SADLY, the recent death of Brian Vine has meant that Daily Mail readers never got to see what promised to be a particularly compelling and unique travel piece.

I learn that several weeks ago the Associated veteran, who was suffering from kidney failure, wangled a commission to go on a Caribbean cruise with his dialysis machine. The article was destined for the pages of the Mail's Good Health section. It was to be entitled: "Cruising with Dialysis."

"Brian was all set to go, but then his situation deteriorated so much that he never made the trip," says a Mail source.

Meanwhile, a fascinating picture of Vine's final months is being painted by former colleagues. A legendary luncher, Vine refused to let his illness keep him from the table. In the mornings he would undergo a spell of dialysis, before catching a train into town, lunching like a trencherman and then dashing off to catch the train home in time for a much-needed second treatment on the dialysis machine. One of his final lunches was with an assortment of renowned Mail cork-sniffers. Halfway through the meal, Vine announced that he would be switching from red wine to whisky. Asked why, he explained: "The doctor has told me I can only drink one litre of liquid a day. I'd rather it was Scotch than claret." God bless him.

Will Farrow's £1m put Ferrari in pole position?

DRIBS and drabs are coming in concerning Kelvin MacKenzie's recent birthday bash.

It's been described to me as "a grand affair held at his Footballers' Wives home", which is within spitting distance of posh St George's Hill in Weybridge, Surrey.

Among the 150 guests, LBC presenter and former Mirror exec Nick Ferrari was there chatting about how he intends to run for London mayor. "I'll bankroll you," said a booming voice and up stepped Gary Farrow, notorious fire-fighting PR and hubbie of Sun columnist Jane Moore. Farrow promised to put up £1 million towards campaign costs. Other guests were stunned by his generosity. However, Farrow is canny enough to know that Ferrari will require someone to handle his PR in the run-up to an election and, if he wins, there'll be further need for a publicist's services.

Mum's the word as birthday speech falls flat

MEANWHILE, Kelvin's birthday party speech contained that element of controversy for which he is famous. "A blonde has been spotted leaving her lawyer's office with a wheelbarrow full of cash," he said. "And no, I'm not referring to Heather Mills."

In fact, he was referring to Jacqui, the woman who ended their 38-year marriage earlier this year when she divorced the former Sun editor on the grounds of his adultery.

The couple's children were listening to the speech, but not one of them showed a flicker of a smile when their dad had a dig at their mum.

Kelvin's Kama Sutra sales stiff at 202

TALKING of Kelvin, I have news of his success as an author. According to sales figures from Nielsen Bookscan, his witty tome, The John Prescott Kama Sutra, has sold 202 copies. Yup, that's an amazing two hundred and two copies.

The book retails at £6.99, which gives it a market value of £1,411.98. Should anyone ever accuse personable publisher John Blake of paying lousy advances, this is ammo he can fire back at them.

Westminster full of vermin shock horror

SINCE the press contingent's offices at Westminster were emptied over summer for building work, a plague of mice has moved in. Hacks are now back at their desks, but so are the vermin. "A mouse was seen in room 12, where the regional papers work, and ran straight into one reporter's handbag," we are told. "And another mouse was seen in the press bar on Tuesday night. Sam Coates (of The Times) was so scared he jumped up on a bar stool to get out of its way."

THE REFURBISHMENT work in Parliament has severely limited the press canteen's menu. For much of last week, it was serving only one dish — a high-cholesterol all-day breakfast. Are the Commons authorities trying to kill off the fourth estate?

How to Express annoyance at devotion to Di

COLUMNISTS (the ones that are left) at Express newspapers have been blitzed by emails from a reader enquiring about the obsession with Princess Diana. Phil Bussey apologises for emailing the writers, but explains: "I had intended to direct my comments towards the editor, but was unable to find an email address for him/her so had little alternative."

Bussey continues: "I am writing in the hope that one of you as recipients might be able to shed some light on a question which has been bothering myself and many of my colleagues at work. Your newspaper was always a popular choice within our contact centre — excellent sports pages, opinion and up-to-the-minute news features.

"Sadly I have to report that, while it is still purchased in large quantities, the reasons for purchase have changed in recent years and the Express has become a huge source of amusement among its readers. "The reason is your initially irritating, but increasingly disturbing, obsession with Princess Diana. There is a daily rush to buy the Express in our offices, to check in what way you have managed to steer the headline towards Princess Diana — it really is quite laughable now."

Bussey and his colleagues "are now heartily sick of hearing about anything to do with Diana although it does provide everyone with a good giggle every morning".

Jules is put in the picture after missing scoop

THERE has been a perverse form of punishment dished out to Jules Stenson, features editor of the News of the World, after he missed the Madonna adoption scoop.

Stenson's reprimand was on display to millions of Screws readers — he had to pose last week in a sleazy "Photofile" story which appeared on the paper's Dear Jane agony aunt page.

Stenson was playing the role of "Nick", who is having an affair with a lass called "Laura". In the first snap, Nick is shown trying to chat up Laura. In the second picture, his shirt is unbuttoned. By the third snap, "Nick" is tugging off Laura's shirt as she spreads her legs for him on a kitchen table. In all four shots, Stenson is crimson faced. In the fourth and final picture, he has a beam-me-up-Scottie look. From now on, he's on Madonna's case.

Chaz in charge of Intelligence gathering

CHARLIE Burgess, former managing director of The Independent and Independent on Sunday, has washed up at Editorial Intelligence ("where PR meets journalism").

You may have thought that EI was no more, following the horrendous publicity it endured earlier this year when it was revealed that highly placed journalists were paid to be on its board. But it continues to thrive and Burgess has been given the chore of organising its birthday party.

Why PR stunt left a bad taste in the mouth

SURELY the most tasteless stunt of the PR year — animal rights activists have sent MEPs and political hacks a campaign pack which includes bags of chocolate raisins posing as animal droppings.

"Forty-five million animals are shitting themselves," say the bags, which then invite the recipients to eat the contents. Yeurrgh!

The stunt is all about alerting opinion formers to the dangers of excessive cosmetic testing. If they really want to do that, should they not just send out photographs of Vanessa Feltz or the late Dame Barbara Cartland?

After Carly Buckhaum's tongue-tied email ("apologies for any incontinence this has called"), comes this item from the Solihull Observer…

FORGET about the magnificent prose that appears in the pages of the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs. These days, the writers are saving their most controversial thoughts for the papers' internal message board, which allows hacks to air their views. Distraught staff are posting grumbles and groans galore about life in their new HQ in Victoria. Settle down with a latte before reading these leaked messages… The price of coffee

Message posted: 19 Oct 2006 Those of you still in Canary Wharf, be aware that today the price of a cup of coffee has gone up to £1 for a small cup of coffee and £1.50 for a large (Canary Wharf medium) because the new machine has now been installed. This morning, the cost was 40p for a do-it-yourself cup of instant. I, for one, will now be bringing in a flask to make my own in the absence of kettles etc.

Walkers crisps are 35p (20p in Canary Wharf) and when you query prices the answer is "everything costs more up here". All the more reason to let us have our electrical appliance back — or are we getting a large pay increase?

Reply: 19 Oct 2006 Absolutely agree! PS: Apparently it is only 5p for a Polystyrene cup of hot water — if you were to get your own milk and instant coffee as an interim measure? Plus might be even cheaper if you took your own mug?

Reply: 19 Oct 2006 Someone'll have to encourage a hot dog stand man to be outside the building selling cheap tea and coffee! If you see one give him the address…

Reply: 19 Oct 2006 Abolutely disgusting how things are changing. Costs more to travel and longer, costs more to eat. So pay rises due for all then?

Reply: 23 Oct 2006 What is the price increase for food/drink like at BPR [Buckingham Palace Road] compared to Canary Wharf? I'm sure I was given the job where one of the job benefits was a "subsidised canteen" — surely they can't just simply remove this?

Reply: 24 Oct 2006 The increase of a coffee out of the fancy machine is a rise of over 100%. I paid 60p at Canary Wharf — the same is now £1.50, a penny dearer than Starbucks and I'd rather walk there for theirs which is slightly bigger and tastes better.

Reply: 23 Oct 2006 Also be warned that today notices have been put up that we are not to fill our water bottles from the water coolers. Seems the poor things can't handle dispensing SO much water at once!

Reply: 23 Oct 2006 Even though if you actually look at the water dispenser at the moment… there's no cups!

Reply: 23 Oct 2006 Do we now use our hands to get water?

Reply: 24 Oct 2006 Keep filling your bottles — just fill a cup's worth at a time and wait a few seconds for it to recover from such stress.

The price of yoghurt

Message: 23 Oct 2006 I've just been charged 85p for a yoghurt — I know there was some variance in prices at Canary Wharf, but 85p is not on, that's more than 100% up on what you pay in the shops. What's going on?

Reply: 23 Oct 2006 I agree, they're actually about 45p in the supermarkets so anything more than 50p is a rip off!

Safety on the glass stairs at Victoria

Message: 24 Oct 2006 Please can people use a little basic common sense on the stairs at Victoria and not stand in the way of people while having a conversation. Yesterday, two people stood there for 10 minutes having a conversation while looking down over the first floor. When I approached and said "excuse me" I was blatantly ignored and virtually given a dirty look. This then meant I had to turn sideways and virtually step over there [sic] feet to be able to reach the top stair. This is obviously a major safety issue as I could of easily fallen down the stairs and made a big red mess at the bottom. Come on people, use your brains!

Reply: 24 Oct 2006 What is a virtual dirty look? I fail to see how you would have fallen to the bottom. There is a corner so at worst you would have only ended up halfway down.

Reply: 24 Oct 2006 I would like to know how to virtually step over something. Maybe the person concerned would have only virtually fallen down the stairs and therefore would not have hurt themselves (or at least have only virtually hurt themselves). Come on people, use your brains and learn the difference between there, their and they're.

Reply: 24 Oct 2006 Well ha de ha with your replies, I see its half term. I virtually had to step over, meaning I had a very small space to go between, ie: the length of a foot and had to watch where I was stepping and make sure I didn't trip up. Not me at fault here, just the people thinking they are better than the rest and won't move out the way. I suspect the replies are from the two at fault!

Reply: 24 Oct 2006 You must be incredibly large if you cannot get past a person standing on the stairs — they aren't narrow. I am quite a big person, but I have managed to get down those steps with a person to the side of me. Perhaps the gym is calling?!

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