Feather Duster 20.10.2006

Shamed Columnist Resigns

After a quite shocking run of form (see below), the usual inhabitant of these pages, Axegrinder, has offered his resignation (see below) and editor Ian Reeves is now considering his future.

In the meantime, we’re giving a break to this fresh new columnist, Feather Duster, who rightly celebrates the brilliance of our industry and showers accolades on those who deserve greater recognition for their contribution to journalism.<blockquote>

Dear Ian,

I am now wondering if it is time for me to call it a day. Axegrinder started out as a gossip column about people who earn their livings by publishing gossip. But the column has proved the point: gossips don’t like being gossiped about.

It’s now clear that I am pissing off too many people who, in turn, then get on the blower to you which pisses you off and then you have (quite rightly) stern words with me, which pisses me off.

On that basis, I am offering you my resignation. It saddens me to do so, but it is the decent thing to do.

But if I were to say a fond farewell to Press Gazette then perhaps you’d be in a position to remove the box of Anadin from your daily diet.

Meantime, I’ll get by.



Axegrinder Apology 1

NEVILLE ELDER<blockquote>

An Axegrinder item on 22 September headlined ‘What a City anniversary’ alleged that photographer Neville Elder behaved unprofessionally by deliberately taking unusable photographs of the City AM party he had been instructed to attend and made a cryptic protest in the only photograph of acceptable quality. We now accept that these allegations are untrue and apologise to Neville.</blockquote>

Axegrinder Apology 2


In this space last week, Axegrinder managed to offend newly appointed Daily Telegraph editor Will Lewis and his columnist Simon Heffer. The item incorrectly stated that there had been an angry exchange between them. Both men have asked me to point out that there was no truth whatsoever in the story and I sincerely apologise for any upset caused.</blockquote>

Axegrinder Apology 3

REBEKAH WADE <blockquote>

An item in last week’s Axegrinder stated that a member of staff at The Sun had sent an anonymous letter to News International chairman Les Hinton criticising the paper’s editor, Rebekah Wade. The article caused great distress to Ms Wade, who has cancelled all Sun subscriptions to Press Gazette. It has since become clear that there was, in fact, no truth whatsoever in the story and I would like to apologise for any damage which may have been done to Ms Wade’s reputation.</blockquote>

Nice Sam’s new(ish) book lives on, but Silky doesn’t

If you are anything like me (very nice to everyone), you probably spend your time wondering how you can plug your friends’

books in print. So you’ll thoroughly understand if I devote this lead item to promote the literary career of Sam Leith, books editor of The Daily Telegraph.

He’s a great guy, Sam. And he’s just brought out his first paperback, entitled Daddy, Is Timmy in Heaven Now? Sam pays affectionate tribute to pets from history – from Adolf Hitler’s dog to Gérard de Nerval’s lobster – while attempting to get to grips with a brand new pet of his own: a cat called Henry. It’s hilarious stuff.

I read it cover-to-cover in less than a month. It’s almost as good, if not better, than the hardback he published last year, Dead Pets.

Actually, it’s exactly the same book, re-packaged. Apparently the publishers thought Britain is a nation of animal lovers, but they hadn’t reckoned on the fact that we don’t particularly love dead animals, hence the change of the title and the new picture on the cover: a painting of a spaniel playing the piano.

The book was inspired by the untimely demise of Sam’s pet hamster Silky for which, some 20 years later, he still holds himself responsible. The book is doing very well. This week it had got to 126,595 on the Amazon rankings, so it can’t be long before Sam reaches the number one spot.

  • Daddy, Is Timmy in Heaven Now? is published by Cannongate Books Ltd and priced at £7.99 (but heavily discounted in most places). A must-read for people who love things.

What a good exclusive – three times

Feather Duster’s scoop of the week goes to The Independent on Sunday, for its “exclusive” splash at the weekend (15 October) about the manpower-strapped Ministry of Defence looking at civvy helicopter pilots to fly in Afghanistan.

Who would get my award for scoop of the month (I hear you ask)? Probably The Sun for its “exclusive” last week (12 October) about the manpower-strapped Ministry of Defence looking at civvy helicopter pilots to fly in Afghanistan.

Cracking story, but one which appeared three days earlier on page 9 of The Sun.

Critic struck by textual tragedy

Feather Duster’s friends in the West End kindly invited me along to the opening night of Cabaret (on the condition that you said it was a very good show? – PG ed) and a very good show it was, too.

I was sitting there watching the sexually-charged musical and thinking how nice it is to get free theatre tickets in return for a plug, when an irritating man produced his mobile phone and started sending text messages. This went on for the entire first act. Bleep. Bleep. Bleep.

It did cross my mind to say something to him, but it is not in my nature to upset people. However, Michael Billington, The Guardian’s theatre critic, was more bold. He marched up to the texter and said: “I don’t know who you are. I don’t care who you are. But how dare you ruin the show for everyone?”

Michael’s voice was so well projected that if ever he decided to swap his place in the stalls for a place on the boards, he would do exceptionally well. He didn’t have room to mention any of this in his review (“Forty years after its premiere, Cabaret increasingly looks like one of the defining musicals of the postwar era.”)

  • Cabaret is on at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue and runs until 7 April.
  • Box office: 0870 890 1107.

Why Simon bends towards liking Bent

My thespian friend Simon Callow was the star of The Times’s T2 section on Monday, where he was allowed to have a tilt at some of Fleet Street’s crustier theatre critics.

Simon was appalled that the critics had not been kinder to Bent, a gay play which opened recently in London.

Annoyingly, lack of space prevented Simon from telling the readers that Bent’s director, Daniel Kramer, is the man in Simon’s life. So I promised to mention it here.

  • Bent is on at the Trafalgar Studios, tickets: 0870 0606632

Indy: lovely folk, fine editor

The Independent not only has one of the finest editors in Britain, but is also one of the friendliest places on Earth.

I don’t normally like leaked emails (morally, they’re not right, are they? And they can get you into trouble and cause upset), but I am only publishing the pair below because they illustrate the unparalleled camaraderie at the Indy.

Email no. 1 was sent by news reporter Jerome Taylor… “Slightly bizarre global, but does anyone happen to have any burn cream? My latte attacked me…”

(Easily done).

Email no. 2 was sent by Jerome a few minutes later. “Amazingly, burn cream has been located, thanks.”

And then this all-round email from editor Simon Kelner’s PA… “Does anyone have any throat sweets they can spare for the editor?”

Followed four minutes later by her second email: “Throat sweets found.”

Simon is known to have a penchant for rowdy karaoke at The Groucho.

Young Foster is one to watch

Feather Duster likes to keep an eye out for new talent arriving in Fleet Street, and I cannot recommend anyone higher than a young buck named Patrick Foster.

He is doing very well at The Times, where he is employed as a trainee journalist.

Last Friday, Patrick even managed to get a mention on the front page of The Daily Telegraph, in its story about the Oxford student who has been rusticated for videoing a couple having sex.

Although The Telegraph was unaware of Patrick’s connection to the broadsheet rival, he was described as the cameraman’s “accomplice”. I think I am right in saying that Patrick is the chap who put the video on the internet.

This not only shows that he has new media skills, but that he also has a flair for making news as well as writing about it, though he’s got a lot to do if he wants to catch up with Piers Morgan.

Patrick was rusticated himself a couple of years ago over a story published in whichever Oxford rag he was editing – something to do with exposing problems with Oxford’s IT network.

Patrick will go far.

Tanned Allison rapidly exits from villa

My favourite Daily Mail columnist, Allison Pearson, was still displaying a holiday tan when I spotted her the other day. She went off to Majorca with the family and has written extensively in the Mail about the trip.

I’m sure when the subject comes up again, she’ll tell readers about the bizarre adventure she had with Mallorca Farmhouses, the Reading-based company which kindly allowed the writer to say in one of its properties.

Actually, someone close to the property rental firm tells me that Allison and her clan were only in the villa for one night. On day two they moved out.

There was something that wasn’t quite right about the home. Allison was in such a rush to leave that she accidentally left the air conditioning on and forgot to lock the front door.

A spokeswoman for Majorcan Farmhouses tells me that there is absolutely no feeling of animosity towards Allison. “We put Allison into the Residencia hotel and the Daily Mail sent another journalist to stay in the farmhouse.”

There’ll be a glowing piece about the villa in future travel pages of the Mail. It’s nice, isn’t it, when these things are resolved quickly?

Do you prefer Axegrinder or Feather Duster? Email axegrinder@pressgazette.co.uk or featherduster@pressgazette with your views. 

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