Axe grinder 06.01.06

Divine coupling is no devilish joke

THE New Year promises to be a particularly happy one for religion correspondent for the Times Ruth Gledhill.

After
years of living in sin, as they say in religious circles, she is
finally going to marry her lover, playwright and journalist Alan Franks.

They are both well acquainted with marriage vows.

Vicar's daughter Gledhill has two divorces behind her.

Franks, meanwhile, has suffered one failed marriage.

The
couple have set a date – 1 April at Richmond Register Office, followed
by a grand reception at York House. Invitations have been sent out, but
guests believe they will be the victims of an April Fool's joke.

When
I call the bride-to-be she is happy to tell me about that moment in the
Lake District last summer when they decided to wed. "Alan didn't get
down on bended knee, we're not a couple of 18-year-old romantics," says
Gledhill, 46. "But we weren't upright. We were both horizontal. I can't
believe I'm telling you this."

She has known Franks for 18 years,
so why get married now? "It was the London bombings which made us aware
of our own mortality," she says, "and we were thinking of Arthur [the
couple's young son]."

Wedding music will be provided by Franks's
other son, Simon, who plays with a band called the Audio Bullys. Alas,
the bride won't be dancing. "My last husband was a ballroom dancer,"
says Gledhill, "so it would seem like a bad omen."

And why is she
so certain that this marriage will work? "Because it feels different,"
she replies, adding, "Don't be too horrid to me."

Express clamps down on fruity behaviour

FRUIT-EATING has been banned at the Daily Express. Or rather, staff
with vitamin C cravings have been told they are not allowed to munch
fruit at their desks.

Burly security men have been roaming the floor, reminding
disobedient hacks of the draconian ban. Secret banana eaters and covert
apple chompers run the risk of a severe reprimand.

"We have been told that if we want to eat fruit then we must do it in the canteen or outside," says one source.

There
are two theories for the fruit ban… 1) It is part of the clean-desk
policy; 2) An outbreak of pimples among top brass – improbably blamed
on fruit flies… But does the ban extend right to the top? Richard
Desmond famously has a banana delivered daily to his desk on a silver
salver. Will that ritual also fall victim to the ban?

Will Helliker pip d'Ancona to Speccie post?

THE
SPECTATOR saga rumbles on. Who will be the one to slump into the
editor's leather-padded chair now that Boris Johnston has "resigned" to
concentrate on his Tory Party responsibilities?

Sunday Telegraph deputy editor/ columnist Matthew d'Ancona is convinced that Speccie chief Andrew Neil will give him the job.

I
am told: "Matthew feels he should have got the editorship of The Sunday
Telegraph. He reckons that because he was passed over [in favour of
Sarah Sands] the Barclay brothers will now give him The Speccie. I
wouldn't be surprised if he has already drafted his opening address to
the magazine's staff."

But wait… there's (yet another) outsider
galloping towards the finishing post, in the form of Sunday Express
diarist Adam Helliker, the veteran gossip with charm, charisma, an
unrivalled contacts book and an ability to hold his liquid lunch.

"While
Matthew and Andrew might clash over politics and editorial strategy,"
says my new friend at The Spectator, "Adam and Andrew would work well
together. They share a mischievous sense of humour."

No easy ride for Sun's new Biker writer

THE Hells Angels of Fleet Street have zoomed in to defend Jane
Omorogbe, the panto star who has been hired to write The Sun's
motorbike column, Biker.

As mentioned here recently, there are still question marks hanging
over the departure of Omorogbe's predecessor, Keith Jackson. He
vanished while editor Rebekah Wade was on holiday.

Wade's hubbie, Ross Kemp, was a Jackson fan.

Meanwhile,
admirers of Omorogbe (above) include Eric Rayner, the commercial
manager of features at Press Association, which also happens to employ
Omorogbe.

"Her credentials are not in question,"

Rayner
tells Axegrinder. "She rode a Honda RCV MotoGP bike for us at the
Goodwood Festival of Speed and recently did a stint in California on a
Harley-Davidson drag bike. Jane is a qualified motorcycle instructor
and is incredibly quick on a bike, as I can testify (having tried and
failed miserably to keep up with her around a track)."

He adds:
"If her appointment as Sun Biker writer is being questioned, I'd
suggest a head-to-head at Brands Hatch between her and Keith Jackson –
FireBlades at high noon. My mortgage would be on Omorogbe. And as for
who looks best in Lycra – no contest."

Keith?

Ombudsman rules in favour of Blunkett

MEANWHILE, the dossier on The Sun's star columnist, David Blunkett, is growing.

As noted here recently, when Blunkett is lunching with journalists,
he makes sure he arrives first so that he can order exquisite claret
before his journalist hosts arrive.

Now Bill Newman, the
ombudsman of The Sun, tells me: "I have been privileged, along with my
oenologically less informed political colleagues, on two occasions to
order David's wine for him.

He prefers white burgundy and thoroughly enjoyed the Puligny Montrachet and Montagny I have ordered for him."

Adds Newman: "Deprived of sight, his tastebuds are in fine working order."

How reassuring to know that Blunkett – forever cautious – wanted not just one meeting with the ombudsman, but two.

Instant saver at Mail City desk

PENNY-PINCHING continues at the Daily Mail where managing editor
Alex Bannister is still coming to terms with his unsuccessful attempt
to force journalists to buy their own pens, pencils and notebooks.

Bannister recently summoned City editor Alex Brummer and handed him
a piece of paper which contained a detailed breakdown of the City
column's budget, including a list of the names of Brummer's staff and
the salaries they receive.

"What I want you to do," Bannister told Brummer, "is cut it back."

Brummer studied the figures for only a second or two before replying: "I can knock 60 grand off it immediately."

Bannister's eyes lit up. How was that possible, he inquired eagerly.

Brummer pointed to one of the names on the piece of paper and said, "That person left a year ago."

Boffey gets the better of Mirror party poopers

SLIGHT KERFUFFLE at the Daily Mirror after reporter Daniel Boffey announced that he was being wooed by The Mail on Sunday.

Boffey, who is the son of ex-Sunday Telegraph and Daily Mirror
executive Chris Boffey, informed his bosses that the MoS had offered
him almost double the estimated £25K he was on as someone who just
finished the Mirror's graduate scheme.

In an effort to keep the young hack, the Mirror offered to up his salary. But their figure was still short of the MoS bid.

Boffey
might have stayed at the Wharf, but he was told to make his mind up
double-quick. He did just that and left for Associated.

However,
I learn that Mirror executives were so peeved by Boffey's imminent
departure that they tried to ban him from the reporters' Christmas bash
at Mulligan's at the Wharf.

All a bit childish considering that
chief exec Sly – Sylvia to her Mum – Bailey had cancelled all Christmas
parties and the reporters were paying for their own do.

In the end the reporters defied their bosses by inviting Boffey and made it clear that it was the executives who were unwelcome.

Chapman plays political game with Telegraph

DAILY Mail political correspondent James Chapman has "done a Porter" – much to the fury of The Daily Telegraph.

You may remember ex-Sunday Times deputy political editor Andrew
Porter quit as David "crackers" Cracknell's deputy at Wapping to sign
as the new political editor of the Daily Express… only to quit before
arriving at his new job to take up a post as deputy political editor at
The Sun to incoming political editor George Pascoe Watson (a golfing
buddy of Porter's).

Now Chapman has done a similar Uturn.

He
quit the Mail's lobby team to move into the room next door at
Westminster to work for the dour political editor of the Telegraph,
George Jones.

But Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was desperate to
keep Chapman, so offered him the job of deputy to the Mail's political
editor, Benedict Brogan, which Chapman has accepted.

Trouble is
that the job of the Mail's deputy political editor was held by veteran
Paul Eastham who has been absent from the Commons since August. I'm
sure Eastham has now been suitably looked after.

Now he's got the desk diary

PLEASE,
please. No more calls to say that my old friend Rod Gilchrist has
managed to blag a 2006 desk diary from The Mail On Sunday, the paper he
left several months ago.

 

The Exes Grinder

THIS expenses story is short and not very sweet.

It concerns a sports editor who was not the most organised of individuals.

He was the sort of chap who would rarely submit his expenses on time, if he ever bothered at all.

Even rarer were the instances when he gathered any receipts to substantiate his infrequent claims.

So
no-one ever thought to disbelieve him when he explained his lack of
receipts for one particular claim was down to discovering himself in an
embarrassing "lack of loo- roll situation"

and being forced to use the only paperwork that came to hand: receipts.

Not even the accountants were prepared to argue the point.

Many thanks to Jon Buss for contributing this tale.

 

the 1pm girl

SOUTH Africa seems to be the favourite holiday destination for the Barclay brothers' executives.

I
learn that both Speccie boss Andrew Neil and Sunday Telegraph editor
Sarah Sands spent the festive season in Cape Town, though not under the
same roof I don't think.

SORRY to report that Hugh MacKnight, a
reporter with North News and Pictures, was mugged while walking through
Newcastle city centre after leaving a festive party.

The mugger
punched him in the mouth and demanded he hand over his money. But
rather than dip into his pockets, MacKnight punched the mugger who then
fled into the night, minus a tooth or two.

Says MacKnight: "He
must have been eating cheesy Wotsits before he tried to mug me because
his fist tasted of them when he punched me in the mouth."

QUITE
hard to get a colour page spread in The Independent these days. But the
paper gave a vibrant two pages the other day to the story of Rovi, a
dachshund with "good breeding and a glossy coat".

Readers were
told by Rovi's mistress: "I am off to Wolverhampton, to a dog show –
the Great Eastern Dachshund Show to be exact, with Rovi, my longhaired
standard dachsie, of whom I have high hopes. We are going to an unknown
place and entering an unknown world…"

It went on: "This story
starts in September. For months, people had been stopping me in the
street and admiring my dog. 'Isn't he gorgeous,' they would say,
stroking his noble head as he stood stock still, graciously accepting
the waves of compliments that washed over us…"

There followed a further 1,100 words about a day in the life of a dog.

Rovi's story may have started in September, but did the Indy's story start at the editor's home?

The
article was written by Indy cartoonist Sally Ann Lasson who not only
shares a duvet with Rovi, but also with the paper's editor Simon Kelner.

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