The Queen of Rock and Sole

Elvis daughter Lisa Marie Presley works at chippy

ELVIS Presley’s daughter has got customers All Shook Up after landing a job – at a mobile fish & chip shop.

Lisa Marie Presley – the only child of Elvis and Priscilla – is often seen clad in an apron wrapping up people’s cod and chips in her pal’s distinctive Mr. Chippy van. The 44-year-old singer and her husband Michael Lockwood regularly serve customers, despite living in a £9million mansion nearby in the quiet English village of Rotherfield, East Sussex

Justin and Kim Scales, who run the business and the King’s Arms pub, say Lisa Marie and her husband “love helping out”. The four became pals after Lisa Marie and her hubby kept popping into the pub for a pint and a game of darts after moving to the UK two years ago.

Kim said: “Lisa likes to see how we live and experience it. We were laughing because the customers didn’t know it was her. She really enjoyed it.

“Her rich neighbours are confused that she wants to come to the pub. If they go out, they go to fine dining restaurants but Lisa and her husband say they don’t know what they are missing. When she is in the pub people treat her normally. It’s not a big deal, everyone has got used to her. She’s really friendly.”

One local said: “It’s amazing when you go for a pint and see Elvis Presley’s daughter sitting there drinking a pint of Guinness. What’s even more amazing is that she’s standing in a van serving up fish and chips to people – who would ever have thought that?

“The King of Rock and Roll’s daughter doling out portions of cod and chips to villagers in England.”

Lisa Marie recently said she loved living in the UK and was happy to have left behind “self-absorbed” Californians. She said: “I lived in the same neighbourhood for 17 years and I didn’t even know a neighbour.

“When I moved here I was getting notes and flowers. That’s what I love about it. It’s simple, it’s not flash, it was a quality of life I needed. I can honestly say I am the only person who came to England for the weather. I love the cold and the rain.”

(Jack Losh, The Sun)

Tragedy as SEVEN Britons among 19 killed in Nepal plane crash

SEVEN Britons on a trekking holiday to the foothills of Mount Everest are among 19 killed in a devastating plane crash in Nepal.

Witnesses described hearing the screams of passengers and seeing flames coming from one of the plane’s wings moments before it smashed into the ground. The twin-engine propeller plane is believed to have hit a bird and crashed shortly after take-off near Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, authorities said.

The British victims were named as Raymond Eagle, 58, Christopher Davey, 51, Vincent Kelly, 50, Darren Kelly, 45, Timothy Oakes, 57, Stephen Holding, 60, and Benjamin Ogden, 27.

Mr Ogden, the youngest victim, was a Oxford University graduate and recently qualified lawyer who lived in London. A statement from his employers, international law firm Allen & Overy, said: “Everyone at Allen & Overy is deeply shocked and saddened by the news.

“As well as being an excellent lawyer, Ben was a very popular member of the firm. Ben will be deeply missed by all who knew him.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the families of the victims have all been informed.

The Brit tourists were killed along with their Nepalese tour guide, five Chinese people, as well as two passengers and four crew members from Nepal.

Explore Worldwide said seven of the passengers on the plane had organised their trips through the adventure travel company based in Farnborough, Hants. Their Nepalese tour guide was also on the flight. Ashley Toft, Explore’s Managing Director, said: “We are devastated by this news. Our thoughts are very much with the families of those affected, both in the UK and in Nepal.

“The basic facts are that Sita Air operates scheduled flights and is approved by airline authorities. The weather was good. The plane was departing for Lukla and our passengers were heading for Everest Base Camp at the start of their trek.”

Speaking during his visit to Brazil, PM David Cameron said: “It is an absolutely horrific incident and obviously I feel for the families concerned. I know our ambassador in Nepal is on the case and on the spot dealing with it. Obviously we will have to find out exactly what happened. It is a deeply, deeply tragic case.”

Although the exact cause of the crash was still unclear, the manager of Tribhuvan International Airport Ratish Chandra Lal Suman said the pilot had reported hitting a bird moments before the tragedy. Mr Suman said: “Immediately after the take-off, the air traffic controllers noticed the aircraft making unusual manoeuvres. When the traffic controller asked the pilot about it, he said the plane had struck a bird.”

The plane, belonging to Nepal’s domestic airline Sita Air, was heading east towards Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest and a popular destination for trekkers. It crashed near the Manohara River to the south west of the city. Weather in Kathmandu was clear at the time.

The pilot reported trouble two minutes after take-off, and Kathmandu airport official Ratish Chandra Suman said the plane appeared to have been trying to turn back to the airport. The airport’s police chief, Narayan Bastakoti, said firefighters brought the blaze in the wreckage under control and police rescuers were trying to pull out the bodies.

Thousands of Westerners head to the Himalayas every year to trek in the region around Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. Autumn is considered the best time to trek in the area.

The crash follows an avalanche on another Nepal peak on Sunday that killed seven foreign climbers and a Nepali guide.

Footage taken by witnesses using mobile phones showed the front section of the plane was on fire when it first hit the ground, and that it appeared the pilot had attempted to land on open ground beside a river. The fire quickly spread to the rear, but the tail was still in one piece at the crash site, reported to be near a slum about 500m from Kathmandu’s Tribhuwan International Airport.

Villagers were unable to approach the plane because of the fire and it took some time for firefighters to reach the area and bring the blaze under control.

Soldiers and police sifted through the crash wreckage looking for bodies and documents to help identify the victims. A number of badly burned bodies were laid in a line a few metres from the craft’s shattered fuselage, as a large crowd of shocked bystanders looked on. Bodies were taken by vans to the city’s hospital morgue.

The flight was one of the first to take off from Kathmandu’s airport, and departed at about 6.15am local time. Other flights reported no problems and the airport was operating normally.

The British ambassador to Nepal, John Tucknott, told Sky News: “Regretfully all those on board perished. Our thoughts at the moment are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives.”

Tulasha Pokharel, a 26-year-old woman who lives near the crash site, said she was among the first on the scene. She said: “We could hear people inside the aircraft screaming, but we couldn’t throw water at the plane to put out the fire because we were scared that the engines were about to explode.

“The pilot tried his best to make an emergency landing. If he had managed it, then we could have rescued some of the passengers.”

It was the sixth fatal air crash in Nepal in the last two years, with 76 lives lost in that period before Friday, raising fresh questions about the safety record of the country’s numerous small airlines.

In May, 15 people were killed when a small Agni Air plane taking tourists to a treacherous high-altitude airport near Nepal’s Annapurna mountain region ploughed into the ground. In September last year a small plane taking tourists on a sightseeing trip around Everest crashed into a hillside near the Nepalese Kathmandu, also killing all 19 people on board.

(Jack Losh, The Sun online)

North Korea opens its doors to ‘worst building in history of mankind’

NORTH Korea has opened the doors of its tallest building for the first time – as it remains unfinished more than 20 years after construction began.

The pyramid-shaped eyesore – named the Ryugyong Hotel – cuts an imposing figure on the skyline of capital Pyongyang. But in reality the 105-storey hotel remains an empty shell with just a bare concrete lobby and a vast set of columns supporting its vacant floors.

North Korea began building the futuristic Ryugyong – whose name means Capital of Willows – in 1987 with the grandiose ambitions of creating the world’s tallest tower.

Work ground to a halt in 1993 however when funds dried up to economic mismanagement, natural disasters and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The state’s failing economy and serious food shortages continued to overshadow the project.

It was increasingly slammed as a blot on the urban landscape and the regime even reportedly airbrushed it out of official shots.

Exterior construction resumed three years ago, but few have been allowed inside until now when a tour agency from Beijing was invited in to take photos.

The building – branded the “hotel of doom” and “the worst building in the history of mankind” – will eventually open in two or three years.

(Jack Losh, The Sun online)

£60,000 bounty on anti-Islam filmmaker

A SENIOR politician in Pakistan has put a £60,000 price on the head of the filmmaker whose anti-Islam movie has sparked violent protests across the world.

Government minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour urged Taliban and al-Qaeda to kill Nakoula Basseley Nakoula as their “sacred duty”. And he even offered to do it himself — whether or not it would mean him being hanged.

Nakoula’s film, Innocence of Muslims, was made in the US and portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud.

Announcing his $100,000 — or £60,000 — bounty, railways minister Bilour said: “I announce today that this blasphemer who has abused the Holy Prophet, if somebody will kill him, I will give that person a prize of $100,000.

“I invite Taliban and al-Qaeda brothers to be partners in this sacred duty.”

Bilour made his offer a day after at least 20 people were killed and scores injured in clashes across Pakistan, with Karachi and Peshawar among the worst hit.

Protesters also marched through the capital, Islamabad, chanting slogans against Nakoula and demanding punishment.

In Bangladesh, the capital Dhaka was rocked by violent rallies yesterday, with police firing tear gas and using batons to disperse protesters.

And in Nigeria, tens of thousands of Muslims marched through the city of Kano, shouting “death to America, death to Israel and death to the enemies of Islam”, as US and Israeli flags were dragged through the dirt.

(Jack Losh, The Sun on Sunday, p.4)

British and German embassies attacked as anti-Islam film violence spreads

Fears: A Sudanese demonstrator burns a German flag as others shout slogans after torching the German embassy in Khartoum. It is directly next door to the British embassy .

THE British and German embassies in Sudan were today attacked as violent protests against an anti-Muslim film spread across the Middle East and North Africa.

Police fired teargas at thousands of demonstrators in Sudanese capital Khartoum while, in Egypt, the ruling Muslim Brotherhood called for a ‘million man march’. Protesters in Sudan breached the German embassy before tearing down the country’s emblem, raising the Islamic flag, smashing windows and igniting a fire by the main gate.

The violence comes in the wake of anti-Islam film Innocence Of Muslims by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian from California. It is unclear though why European missions are being targeted.

Demonstrations have erupted across the Muslim world with new protests outside US compounds in Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Bangladesh.

Last night, more than 200 people clashed with police outside the US embassy in Egypt capital Cairo while another demonstration gathered in Tahrir Square this morning. There are fears that worse is to come as anger mounts and Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood urged crowds to join a ‘million man march’ after Friday prayers.

About 500 Iranians chanting “death to America” attempted to storm Iran’s Swiss embassy, which handles US interests.

Demonstrators burnt American flags in Iraq capital Baghdad while protesters in northern Lebanon set alight a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, chanting against the pope’s visit to Lebanon and shouting anti-American slogans.

The US mission in Yemeni capital Sanaa was breached yesterday resulting in the deaths of four people and dozens injured, Following the killings of the US ambassador and his entourage in Libya. Clouds of black smoke rose into the sky as hundreds of Yemenis overwhelmed local security forces and stormed the mission. US Marines have been deployed to protect its diplomatic compound there.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai has postponed a visit to Norway in the wake of the violence, while Nigeria and the Philippines have bolstered security outside foreign embassies.

Many Arabs are opposed to Nakoula’s inflammatory film but far more have expressed outrage by the subsequent violence. Libyan writer Hisham reported a deep sense of shame in Benghazi, Libya, while a shopkeeper close to the US embassy in Yemen said: “The film is an insult to the Prophet, but this is unbelievable.

“We’re really struggling to understand how something like this could get so out of hand.”

Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed eventually denounced the attacks on the US embassy in Cairo, but added: “We condemn strongly all those who launch such provocations and who stand behind that hatred.”

(Jack Losh, The Sun online)

US Embassy in Yemen stormed

Protesters inside the US embassy in Yemen

PROTESTERS angered by the anti-Islam film which triggered bloody riots in Libya and Egypt today stormed the US Embassy in Yemen.

Crowds swarmed outside the compound in capital Sanaa as demonstrators set tyres ablaze and tore down its sign from the outer wall. Demonstrators then broke into the grounds, smashing windows and burning the embassy’s US flag.

The latest wave of violence follows the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues in an apparent rocket attack on their consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The protests were sparked by director Sam Bacile’s inflammatory film Innocence of Muslims, after clips appeared on YouTube.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today condemned the amateur flick, stressing the US government had nothing to do with it. “To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage,” Clinton said.

“The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message.”

Speaking at the launch of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Morocco, Clinton condemned the violence, adding: “It is especially wrong for violence to be directed against diplomatic missions. These are places whose very purpose is peaceful to promote better understanding across countries and cultures.

Jewish movie-maker Bacile, from California. has refused to apologise for his controversial £3million film, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a child-molester, womaniser and fraud. Bacile, 56, said: “This is a political movie. The US lost a lot of money and people in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re fighting with ideas. Islam is a cancer, period.”

Saudi Arabia has condemned the anti-Muslim film as well as denouncing violent anti-American protests. The kingdom denounced the “irresponsible” group behind the incendiary film and condemned “the violent reactions that occurred in a number of countries against American interests”.

Yemen is home to the most active branch of al-Qaida with the US acting as the main foreign supporter of the government’s counterterrorism campaign.

Today’s protests in Sanaa are said to have been spurred on by Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, a religious leader accused by the US of supporting terrorism.

In a rallying call for Yemenis to follow protesters in Egypt and Libya, Zindani reportedly said: “When an icon of a society is humiliated it means the society is humiliated itself and it would declare its denunciation of this humiliation and if it did not show its anger, it will lose its dignity.

“Muslims have no more precious icon than the Prophet Muhammad and lively Islamic people have expressed their denunciation of the film categorically. Support your prophet and declare your wrath, you Muslims, especially you the young men of the Arab revolutions whom hopes are in you and you reveal the will of the Arab people.”

The violence follows the death of al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader in Yemen in an apparent US airstrike, a major blow to the terror network.

President Obama condemned the attacks in Libya as “outrageous and shocking” while PM David Cameron said Britain would help bring the killers to justice.

The US have dispatched the FBI to Libya to help with the hunt, along with 50 marines to reinforce the Tripoli embassy. Two US warships were reportedly heading towards the Libyan coast last night while US surveillance drones are being redeployed to hunt suspects among alleged jihadist camps in eastern Libya.

(Jack Losh, The Sun online)

Goss from the Neon Box

For the first two months of this year, I worked as a fly on the wall inside the ‘London party scene’ – three words which should be a source of derision for any balanced individual. And perhaps just a hint of voyeuristic intrigue, too.

If you think of the capital as an oversized high school, then these events are the posturing houseparties thrown by the bored and rich popular kids. At the same time, they function as a perpetual daisy chaining of brand promotion, celeb glitz and journalistic tittle-tattle, all neatly wrapped up in an opportunity to get pissed in your Sunday best.

After mixing with (or, perhaps more accurately, cornering) anyone from Hollywood actors to government ministers, I got out of this neon box two months later, relatively unscathed. With a belly full of wine and more canapés devoured than even the most weathered Fleet Street diarist could consume, I present the best of my spoils…

Harry plans expedition to South Pole:

Prince Harry vented his frustration last month after a team of injured servicemen were forced to call off their attempt to climb Everest because the mountain had become a death trap in the warmest spring on record. Still, the wounded heroes can now take consolation in the fact that the Prince plans to join them on their next expedition.

Edward Parker, a co-founder of the charity, Walking With The Wounded, tells me that the Prince has already talked to him about the servicemen’s race to the South Pole. “He would love to do it — he’s told us so,” Parker says.

“He’s a 26-year-old bloke who loves adventures, and the core of what he is is a soldier. He considers himself to be one of them, and they consider him to be one of them, too.” The ambitious expedition will take place next year and will involve around a dozen injured servicemen, racing in teams.

“That element of competition will give it an extra edge,” says Parker. “We just have to wait and see now if the Prince’s military and royal commitments would allow it. If he is able to show his support for the wounded, then he will undoubtedly do so. It’s very close to his heart.”

The Prince joined the servicemen for four days last year on their successful trip to the North Pole. “I think for me, personally, I’m hugely proud to be a British soldier, to walk alongside these guys,” he said at the time. “What these guys have done — and what they will continue to do throughout their lives — is just truly inspirational.”

Galloway’s brotherly love:

George Galloway’s notorious appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, in which he got down on all fours while licking pretend “milk” from Rula Lenska’s hand, has led to some lasting friendships. The unlikely new MP for Bradford West says he helped his fellow former housemate, the transvestite pop singer Pete Burns, during his recent travails.

“I got him out of jail,” he says. “I had to go to a police station and pay a sum of money, of surety, to get him out of the cells.”

Burns’s spokesman confirms that “George did indeed help Pete”, but describes the incident as a “storm in a tea cup”. He says: “Pete was never, actually, charged with anything — just a silly ‘breach of the peace’ argument that went a little too far.”

Morgan Freeman: why black actors quit Britain:

Britain is often said to be a more racially harmonious country than America, but Morgan Freeman claims that black actors are denied chances in this country. “I know at least three actors who left Britain for the States because opportunities for them here in the UK were limited,” the American actor tells me at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises at the BFI Imax in London.

“The British film industry definitely has more work to do on that front. It needs to catch up with the times; it has much more progress to make.” The Oscar-winning actor, whose roles have included American presidents and Nelson Mandela in Invictus, adds: “I think Hollywood is pulling it off quite well for young black actors. There’s a lot of opportunities over in the US.”

Freeman’s comments echo complaints by black British actors, including David Harewood, who starred in the hit American drama series Homeland. In February, Harewood said he was forced to go to America to win a starring role. “Unfortunately, there really aren’t that many roles for authoritative, strong, black characters in this country,” he said.

Patrick Robinson, who has appeared in television series such as Casualty, claimed that he was ostracised by one of the BBC’s executives for almost a decade after he spoke out about the lack of opportunities for black actors. “Ask any lay person to name five British black actors and they wouldn’t be able to,” he said. “Idris Elba had to go to America to make it in The Wire before they asked him back here.

“There are some white actors who hardly ever seem to be out of work. Look at the guys from Life On Mars and Mad Dogs, like Philip Glenister, Marc Warren and John Simm – they never stop. But we just don’t get those chances.”

Sherlock enjoys passionate Russian romance:

In Parade’s End, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a repressed statistician, whose beautiful lover pleaded, “Why didn’t you kiss me?” In real life, the Old Harrovian is demonstrating his affection for the Russian muse of a fashion tycoon.

The star of Sherlock, 36, is courting Katia Elizarova, 26, who is known for her close friendship with Leon Max, the Russian rag trader who bought Easton Neston from Lord Hesketh for £15 million in 2005. Last week, Cumberbatch and Elizarova attended the launch of Natalia Vodianova’s Naked Heart Dessert. The actor spent the entire time ensconced with the law graduate in a quiet corner of the Russian restaurant, Mari Vanna, in Knightsbridge.

“We’re just old friends,” Cumberbatch says. “I can’t say any more than that. Russian is a wonderful language. I’d love to be able to master it.”

The Tories’ UFO:

Roger Helmer resigns from the European Parliament at the end of next month because of his “increasing disillusion with the attitudes of the Conservative Party”. The choice of his successor as MEP for the East Midlands is intriguing.

The Tories will send Rupert Matthews, a publisher, to Strasbourg. He is an expert on the paranormal whose books include Spirits and the SasquatchUnexplained Ghosts and UFOs: A History of Alien Activity from Sightings to Abductions to Global Threat.

He also ran a course on the paranormal at West Virginia’s International Metaphysical University, covering poltergeists, aliens and the “goblin universe”. Sounds perfect for the job.

Leigh lays into boss Cameron:

While Tory MP Patrick Mercer has complained of “subterfuge” after his alleged tirade against David Cameron was published, one senior Conservative was more than happy to give me his opinion of the Prime Minister. Edward Leigh, who served as a minister under John Major, did not mince his words when asked what he thought Cameron had achieved.

“Well, so far nothing,” blustered the former chairman of the Public Accounts Select Committee at the launch of Tory MP Bill Cash’s book, John Bright: Statesman, Orator, Agitator, at London’s Reform Club. “What has he achieved? What has he changed? What ideas has he articulated?” No doubt the Prime Minister will be happy to let him know.

Nick meets Silvio:

Described as the “First Lady of the Coalition”, Nick Clegg told guests at The Spectator Parliamentarian Awards: “The only time I met Silvio Berlusconi, I started very serious, saying Europe has got to deal with the great competitive challenge of Asia, etc. He just butted in: ‘I have slept with more women than your Prime Minister.’ That was when I knew the Eurozone was in secure and safe hands.”

Andy Akinwolere on white telly:

The theatre may have embraced the concept of “colour blind casting”, but Andy Akinwolere, Blue Peter’s first black male presenter, tells me that television is still failing to represent ethnic minorities.

“So far as I can see, there are currently no black male or female prime-time presenters and this strikes me as wrong,” says Akinwolere, 30, who moved aged eight from Nigeria to Birmingham. I know many talented black comedians and television presenters, but they just don’t get the big breaks. They might make it in music and children’s television, but it’s just not happening in prime-time.”

Akinwolere says that during more than half a century, Blue Peter — which he left last year — has had 35 presenters, but he, along with Diane-Louise Jordan and Konnie Huq, were the only non-white ones. “Television in this country is still a white, male-dominated industry,” he says. “Jonathan Dimbleby is undoubtedly a great man but why couldn’t a black man be used on a travel documentary and enthuse about Africa instead?

“The BBC are leading the way, but as soon as you get to the point where you have to have quotas for ethnic minorities, you know you have totally failed over the past few years.”

Speaking to me at the Motor Sport magazine Hall of Fame, he says it is notable that there are no black television presenters on Match of the Day. “Out of all the black footballers that have played in this country — and I know plenty of articulate ones — you would think that they could have found jobs for one or two as full-time commentators.”

A-ha! Steve Coogan to Labour’s rescue:

Since the former stand-up comedienne Ayesha Hazarika left her post as a spokesman for Ed Miliband, the Labour leader has needed someone to help liven up his speeches. He may, however, have just hit the back of the net.

Steve Coogan, whose comic creations include Alan Partridge, the narcissistic local radio presenter, wants to become involved with the Labour Party. “I support Labour and I would certainly get involved under Miliband – I’m not bothered about personality,” Coogan says at a party to celebrate the opening of Gresham Blake’s new tailors in Shoreditch, east London.

“I used to be apolitical; I didn’t want to alienate people, and all the rest of it, but I don’t really care about that anymore. I’m sometimes very Left-wing, other times I’m a little Left-wing, but I never go right of that centre post.”

Coogan, who has become a campaigner against tabloid newspapers after he was exposed for his cocaine snorting and encounters with lapdancers, adds: “It’s all about what your fundamental priorities are. I think rich people should basically pay more tax to help poor people.”

The comedian is not worried about being portrayed as a champagne socialist. “I’d never castigate a Tory for drinking cheap bitter, so I don’t think the Tories should castigate me for drinking quality champagne,” he says.

Ian Blair latches onto Cambridge cathedral:

Lord Blair said that he was “a bit of a limpet” as he clung on to his job as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner after the innocent Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead on his watch. Four years after he finally had to let go, Blair, 58, has something new to cling to: the brickwork of Christ Church, Oxford. He has been appointed as the chairman of its Fabric Advisory Committee, which oversees the cathedral’s upkeep.

Blair says: “As a former commissioner, I never thought I would be in charge of looking after the brickwork of Christ Church, but, as a graduate of the college, I am delighted to be asked.”

Jonathan Aitken, the former cabinet minister and another alumnus, says: “Throughout Christ Church’s history, there have been people associated with it who have been exiles, outsiders, even executed. They have known the ups and downs of life. I was sitting next to Ian just before Christmas when we read lessons at the cathedral. He strikes me as very suited to the job.”

Bear Grylls’ mission against red tape:

Bear Grylls climbed Mount Everest at the age of 23 and once circumnavigated Britain on a jet ski, but the adventurer is struggling to overcome his latest challenge: health and safety legislation. “There’s so much unnecessary red tape now preventing children from getting the most from life,” says Grylls, who became the youngest-ever Chief Scout when he was appointed in 2009, at the age of 35. “What I want to do with the Scouts is remove this. Excessive health and safety should be scrapped.”

Speaking at the Royal Geographical Society, before a dinner celebrating the one millionth Land Rover rolling off the Solihull production line, Grylls tells me: “If you mollycoddle kids, you disempower them. And I think you empower them if you teach kids responsibility and how to manage risks. I want them to be involved in loads of dangerous things the whole time – I have that in my life and I’ve learned how to do it safely.

“Kids love it when I tell them we’re going to do something super-dangerous. Fear is healthy – modern life and health and safety rules strip children of this.”

It was recently announced that the Duchess of Cambridge had offered to help with her local scout packs in Anglesey, North Wales. He adds: “She’s brilliant and what’s lovely is that, rather than wanting to come in and stand on ceremony in a fancy position, she’s going to get her hands dirty and get involved with the local groups in Anglesey and just help out with the kids,” Grylls says. “We’ve got 35,000 kids on the waiting list but we need way more adult volunteers. We get on very well despite my blood not being quite that blue.”

Dan Ackroyd: Westminster needs more comedy

As someone who has overcome Tourette’s — a syndrome that is often associated with coprolalia, the involuntary exclamation of obscenities — Dan Aykroyd has some choice words for David Cameron, who jokingly suggested that Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, was showing symptoms of the condition in the House of Commons.

“Politics has got too personal, too nasty, in Britain, as it has in America,” says the star of Ghostbusters and Trading Places of the jibe, which resulted in a swift apology from the PM to people who genuinely suffer from the condition.

Aykroyd, 59, tells me the exchanges between the members of the Government and the Opposition have degenerated into little more than “shouting matches,” and he was struck, as an outsider, by how little real humour there is in the words that they employ. “The Right-wingers everywhere take themselves too seriously, whether in the US or the UK,” says the Canadian-born star, who is a naturalised citizen of the United States. “And, by the way, so does the Left. The Left can take itself a little too seriously as well.”

Speaking at a gathering in Soho to launch his quadruple-distilled Crystal Head Vodka, Aykroyd adds that politicians underestimates the power of gentle humour as a “marketing tool.” He addsL “A little humour, a little lightness — and, yes, a little kindness — would do all the candidates the world of good. Barack Obama has a good, light touch, and that will stand him in good stead in our forthcoming election.”

Mike Leigh on the art of film finance:

Best known for his gritty working-class dramas such as Life is Sweet and Vera Drake, Mike Leigh is planning a radical change of tone. “I’m currently trying to raise the money for a film, a major motion picture, on Turner. Not Fred Turner, not Jack Turner, but J M W Turner, the artist,” he says.

The director appears to be struggling to convince potential backers. “If you know anyone who’s got a spare few milllions, perhaps you could let me know.”

Passport to Kent:

November’s elections of Britain’s first police commissioners should be lively contests. Expected to stand in Kent is Col Tim Collins, the Iraq war veteran. Opposing him will be Fergus Wilson, the landlord known as “the king of buy-to-let”.

Wilson tells me: “If I had my way, I would fill in the Channel Tunnel and declare independence from the rest of Britain. I am not going to be a lap dog for central government.”

He is certainly familiar with the judicial system. In 2008, he was fined £565 for using a mobile telephone while driving. His wife, Judith, meanwhile, took a tenant to court in 2009, demanding £3,000 for a new bathroom suite after a cistern lid was damaged. It would have cost an estimated £213 to replace. The case was thrown out by a judge.

Aitken’s lessons for Lib Dem survival:

As Chris Huhne, the former energy secretary, finds himself in the dock accused of asking his estranged wife Vicky Pryce to take penalty points on his behalf, Jonathan Aitken – no stranger himself to the slings and arrows of political fortune – wonders if the Lib Dems are temperamentally suited to high office.

“Mr Huhne is innocent until proved guilty, but I do look at his party and all the problems its people have had and wonder if its members have got the knack for politics and for power in their bones,” says Aitken, who stepped down as chief secretary to the Treasury in 1995 after it was alleged that he had violated ministerial rules and was later jailed for perjury.

“The problem is that, after being out of office for as long as their party has, they seem to have lost touch with the basic, unwritten rules of political survival.”

Speaking at a reception to launch his book, Kazakhstan: Surprises and Stereotypes After Twenty Years of Independence, Aitken, adds: “Labour members and, yes, the Tories have inner alarm bells that ring when their private and public affairs are liable to cause them trouble. The Lib Dems just don’t seem to have them. They still seem to think that they are private people.”

The turnover of senior Lib Dems is a source of increasing concern. The party has five positions in the Cabinet — two of which have already had to be replaced amid accusations of previous wrongdoing. The Tories, who have three times as many ministers, have only lost one under a cloud — Dr Liam Fox.

Trevor Phillips and the book ‘too hot to handle’:

A man who once seemed to relish controversy, Trevor Phillips, the “chair” of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, seems to be mellowing in middle age.

Phillips has quietly returned “a not unsubstantial” advance to a publisher who had been hoping for a no-holds-barred memoir, which would have addressed his turbulent relationship with Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London; his close and long-standing friendships with Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson; his grandstand view of the rise and fall of New Labour; and how he came to form passionate views about issues such as multiculturalism and 42-day detention.

“My publishers had been waiting for me to write the book for a long time,” Phillips told me when I caught up with him at the launch of the book Britain Etc, by his friend Mark Easton, the home editor of BBC News. But I gave them back the money. All I can promise is that I will write a book between the time I step down from the Commission at the end of the summer and the day that I die.”

When I press him on the question, he tells me, grinning: “I can’t tell you any more than that. If I did, I’d have to kill you.”

Phillips co-wrote his last book, Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-racial Britain, with his brother, Mike, a distinguished crime writer, but the idea of writing a memoir with him clearly does not appeal. “My brother and I have too good a relationship to spoil it by working together,” he says, ruefully.

Amir Khan champions Haye:

Punching above his weight, perhaps, Amir Khan does not feel that his friend David Haye should face a life-time ban for landing a low on Dereck Chisora outside of the ring in Munich. “David shouldn’t get banned. Neither of them deserve a life-time ban. But they should get punished as what they did is bad for boxing and show it in a bad light,” Khan, 25, told me at last night’s Burberry Prorsum catwalk show.

“As a fellow British boxer and a good friend of David, I totally support him, but of course it was upsetting to see. Why did it happen? Well, he’s a nice guy, so it would have taken something pretty serious to have got him that wound up. We don’t know the whole truth of what was said. Both boxers were clearly running on an emotional high and were angry. Sometimes these things just happen.”

Winstone comes out fighting for Gibson the gent:

Although he stopped short of saying that some of Mel Gibson’s best friends are Jews, Ray Winstone says the actor who has repeatedly been accused of anti-Semitism has dined with him and a Jewish acquaintance in Boston and they all “got along like a house on fire”.

Winstone, talking to me at the West End premiere of Elfie Hopkins, was in no mood to distance himself from his old friend who appeared with him in Edge of Darkness. “Listen, everyone has said something in the heat of the moment and all I can say is that when I met him, he was a complete and utter gentleman,” Winstone says at the Ciroc Vodka-sponsored premiere.

“When I was out in Boston with him and my Jewish mate Dr David Wechsler, we got on like a house on fire. My old mate David loved him to death. There are a lot of things Mel does to help people which he never talks about. The press don’t report that.”

Earlier this month, Joe Eszterhas, best known for his work on Basic Instinct, claimed that Gibson pulled out of directing The Maccabees, a film he had written about the biblical hero Judah Maccabee, because he “hates Jews”. Eszterhas alleged that Gibson had said the Holocaust was “mostly a lot of horse––––”. He added that the actor “continually calls Jews ‘Hebes’ and ‘oven-dodgers’.“

The Jewish community had expressed concerns about Gibson’s involvement with the film. In 2006, the actor was arrested for drink-driving and an anti–Semitic outburst. He was also criticised for the negative portrayal of Jewish people in his 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ.

Gibson retorted that what Eszterhas had said amounted to “utter fabrications”. He added that “a man of principle” would have withdrawn from The Maccabees “regardless of the money” if he believed him to be anti-Semitic. Gibson told him: “I guess you only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your script.”

Robert Mugabe ‘fights for life’ claim

ZIMBABWEAN tyrant Robert Mugabe is fighting for life in a Singapore hospital, it was reported last night.

The 88-year-old is said to be having intensive treatment for a mystery illness. It follows reports he is to hand power to feared Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mugabe was flown to Singapore last week after collapsing at home. It was claimed he had gone to see his daughter enrol at university, which does not start until September.

Family members joined him on Saturday and, on Sunday, the Zimbabwe government postponed a cabinet meeting due to be held yesterday. Officials say he will be home tomorrow following his “Easter holidays”.

A British-based analyst said: “Mugabe’s health impacts on Zimbabwe’s political landscape. Everything revolves around his health and his age.”

A leaked 2008 US diplomatic cable suggested he has prostate cancer.

(Jack Losh, The Sun)

2011/12 Blog.com Awards

We at the creaking, draught-ridden, woefully under-funded tellallthecats HQ are startled to announce that this blog has been nominated for the 1st Annual Blog.com Awards, in the ‘News and Magazines’ category.

The public vote is open until the 15th, so show some love and cast your vote:

our.blog.com/2011/12/28/blog-awards/

Mistokin’ Identity

Published: Express, Mail, Sun

Police swooped on a couple’s home on suspicion of drug dealing after a sniffer dog mistook a legal garden plant – for cannabis:


Chris Vincent, 58, and his wife Anne, 57, were stunned when officers turned up at their home in a leafy Warwickshire village demanding access to their back garden. But officers apologised after they discovered the plant was not cannabis but a common evergreen creeper called ‘moss phlox’.

Since the couple moved into their house ten years ago, their garden has given off a powerful stench of cannabis. The smell became so strong two years ago that streams of teenagers began knocking on their door asking to buy drugs.

Bizarrely, the respectable couple even had the same teenager come round three times after “he refused to take no for an answer”. Chris said yesterday: “When we bought the house, the plant was already there – but then it grew and grew and grew.

“It didn’t look like marijuana, it just looked like a fern with lovely flowers. My wife’s a keen gardener but we didn’t know what it was – we just thought it was quite pretty.

“But local teenagers kept coming to the door saying, ‘Sorry mate we can smell ganja, you got any?’ – and I’d say no, I haven’t got anything. They were real hoodies – but also strangely polite, obviously thinking that I was some mean drug dealer.

“It’s happened loads of times over the past couple of years and most recently just a few weeks ago before the cops showed up. It’s unbelievable – I’ve never even smoked a joint in my life.”

Although moss phlox looks nothing like cannabis and grows vivid pink flowers in the spring, the plant gives off a similarly potent aroma. Police swooped on the Vincent’s four-bedroom, detached home in Bidford-on-Avon, Warks., three weeks ago after a drug dog “went berserk” on detecting the pungent odour.

One neighbour said: “Drug cops were crawling up and down the alleyway that borders their house. ‘They were peering over his fence and trying to take cuttings from the plant. A sniffer dog was there too, barking whenever it got close to their garden.

“It was bizarre – it was like being in a dodgy inner-city estate, not what you expect at all in rural Warwickshire.”

Officers explained to a dumbstruck Chris that the smell in the streets around his garden was unmistakably cannabis. They advised the couple to cut the plant down to prevent further confusion in the future. Although the plant is not illegal, Chris and his wife Anne – who works as a cashier at Nationwide – agreed to dispose of it at the local dump.

Chris added: “When the police came round, they said their sniffer dog went berserk when it approached our garden along the alleyway. They asked if we were having any trouble with local kids – and we said yes, we’re always having trouble with them.

“When the police saw the moss phlox, they knew exactly what it was – apparently an old lady who was growing it nearby got robbed a while back after criminals thought it was actually cannabis.

“Funnily enough we never really smelt its cannabis aroma before we dug it up, which is when it was really strong. We didn’t even really know what cannabis smelt like to be honest.”

Warwickshire Police confirmed they had requested Chris remove the plant.

(Jack Losh, SWNS)

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