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Silvio goes dog bonkers and Clegg fails to bite but trust Muriel to give us an appropriate ending

ACCORDING to dispatches, Silvio Bonkersconi, has gone "dog crazy".

The object of his ardour is a white Maltese terrier called Dudu which, I am unreliably informed, is Italian for du-du. The mutt was introduced to the former prime minister by his latest squeeze, 28-year-old TV starlet Francesca Pascale, since when it has played ball - ahem! - with the thief of Crimea, Vladimir Putty, and been profiled in Chi, Mr Silvio's mag. It also has its own Facebook page.

Now it's said that Mr Silvio has gone ga-ga rather bunga-bunga. Moreover, recent photographs of him and Dudu together suggest that increasingly they are beginning to look alike and that soon it may be impossible to tell them apart. Which could be why Mr Silvio has started a campaign to find homes for the millions of homeless dogs which roam Italia's streets and do their business wherever. No doubt this is the origin of the phrase "deep Dudu".

NIGEL Farrago, head of Uvflipped, and Nick Cleg - a horsefly, according to my guid Scots dictionary - have been debating, an unedifying sight. By all accounts Mr Farrago won, not least because he lied better than Mr Horsefly. If Uvflipped prevails, Mr Farrago has promised not to allow any more foreigners into Britannia, lest they pollute the gene-pool of the swivel-eyed loons who make up Uvflipped's membership. In a Channel 4 documentary, Mr Farrago burped from one pub to another, imbibing like we hacks of yore.

Worryingly, he seemed unaffected by his prodigious intake. One can't imagine Mr Horsefly faring similarly. I may be mistaken but he looks to me like a half-pint-of-shandy man. That these are what is known in the posh prints as "leading politicians" is worrisome. Mr Horsefly, having shacked up with the Dodos, says that if Laybore wins the next Westminster election, the DumbLibs may go into coalition with it. By the by, I have been reading Anthony Trollope's fat novel, The Prime Minister, in which one character says bluntly: "I hate coalitions. I think they are disgraceful." Moi aussi.

AT the age of 87, my dear amigo, John Calder, peerless publisher, international gadfly, opera buff, poet and obit writer, is to have a festival in his honour. Organised by Gill Parry, filmmaker extraordinaire, the event will run over the Easter weekend - April 18 and 19 - at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

Throughout his career, Mr Calder has not had enough fingers to put in all the pies he's been involved with. He is best known as the publisher of countless Nobel prize winners and other, equally celebrated writers, such as William Burroughs, Henry Miller and Alexander Trocchi.

Samuel Beckett was one of his authors and the great Irish actor Barry McGovern will be reading from his work. Another contribution comes from the Hebrides Ensemble which is playing Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire which, I'm assured, is not easy to whistle. Also, Mr Calder and I will be in conversation.

"Adventure," he once said, "is what my own career has been about." Which is just as well. In this benighted, uncultured and uncivilised land, it is remarkable he is yet to receive any form of official acknowledgement from Queen Tupperware, though Edinburgh Yooni did get round to giving him an honorary degree a couple of years ago. Whoop-de-doo!

REGULAR readers of this throbbing organ may recall my mentioning the prospect that House of Fraser, which owns a humungous store in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, and a couple more, including Jenners in Edinburgh, could be sold to strangers.

Needless to say, the alarm bells I rang awoke no-one in particular. Now HoF has fallen into the hands of a Chinese billionaire. Yuan Yafei, a former civil servant, has bought 89% of the company for £450 million, though if he had waited a few weeks he could probably have got it for half that price in the summer sale.

Virtually all of Britain is currently owned by the Chinese. Weetabix, Harvey Nicks, London's black cabs and Gieves & Hawkes, the Savile Row tailor, are some of the brands they've recently acquired. They also own £45m worth of British pig semen following a deal brokered by Davy Cameron. There's not much more I can add to that.

THE quality of life of millions is at stake, says Keith Cochrane, heidbummer of the Weir Group, before insisting he'll be voting No in the referendum. One wonders whom the millions are that he's talking about. The unemployed? Those on the minimum wage? Or those who are terrified they'll soon be living on the street because of the bedroom tax?

Like so many of his business chums, Mr Cochrane is allergic to change and uncertainty, except when he's the one instigating it, as he has done with his company keen to gobble up a Finnish rival, to the chagrin of Finland's government. Come independence, argues a report commissioned by Mr Cochrane, Weir might gain £400,000 in reduced corporation tax, but could lose nine times that sum, £3.6m, through the loss of "group relief". Last year, Mr Cochrane's pay fell to a measly £1.7m after a slump in profits. Those in glass houses ...

WHERE better to spend the weekend than at the Mitchell Library, venue for the Aye Write! festival. With Professor Willy Maley, and writers extraordinaire Zoe Strachan and Meaghan Delahunt, I took part in a discussion of Muriel Spark's bejewelled valedictory novel, The Finishing School, which was published when she was 86.

What happy memories it brought back, not least of sitting at the end of Mrs Spark's bed in her house in Tuscany watching the news on Sky, at the end of which Hazel the weather girl would invariably intone: "As we go through this evening and into tonight." Eventually, this became the novel's last line; indeed, it is the last line of Mrs Spark's which appeared in print in her lifetime.

Was there ever a more melodic way to bow out?

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