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The Scurra.

WHEN the BBC's former political editor Robin Oakley got the job, no one was more put out than the Beeb's then chief political correspondent, the combative John Sergeant, who was passed over for the post. But now Sergeant is getting his own back via the bookshops.

The two men published their memoirs in the same week in September. Today, after seven weeks on sale Sergeant, who is now political editor of ITN, is way ahead.

According to UK sales estimates from Whitaker BookTrack, Sergeant's Give Me Ten Seconds has sold 7,918 copies while Oakley's Inside Track has sold fewer than 1,500.

Sergeant's tome is even outstripping James Naughtie's The Rivals, which went on sale at the same time as his own. The presenter of Radio 4's Today programme was given a whopping pounds 300,000 advance to write his book about the tensions between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but sales languish at 3,350.

Given that Sergeant was paid a relatively modest pounds 130,000 for his memoirs, executives at his publisher, Macmillan, are cock-a-hoop.

HAIR-TOSSING room re-arranger Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is branching out into the perfume business. Old-fashioned soap-makers Bronnley have asked him to create a range of "room and body sprays", aromatic candles and "portmanteaux to make anywhere as special as home".

The Changing Rooms presenter says his six scents - Black, Brown, Ivory, Pink, Scarlet and Turquoise - "define your comfort zone with the way colour smells". Ooh er.

NORTHERN Ireland Secretary John Reid was in dangerously relaxed form when he addressed the SDLP conference in Belfast on Saturday.

When he included the word "comrades" in his opening to delegates, he added: "Don't tell Tony I used that word." Then he referred to "Gordon and Tory" before correcting himself. "Did I say Gordon and Tory?" he asked to laughter. "I mean Gordon and Tony."

The man whose official residence is the vast Hillsborough Castle, then ruled himself out of the running to take over as First Minister in his native Scotland following the resignation of Henry McLeish, on the grounds that "you don't get a castle with the job".

Reid's speech was cheered to the echo but he better hope that Tory Tony sees the funny side, too.

THE Bookseller magazine has published the shortlist for its annual Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title Of The Year. Contenders include The Art And Craft Of Pounding Flowers: No Paint, No Ink, Just A Hammer!, Fancy Coffins To Make Yourself and The Flat-Footed Flies Of Europe. But the current leader in the magazine's online poll, with 31 per cent, is Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service.

WORD reaches The Scurra of a touching display of humanity by a judge. Laetitia Winter, a 53-year-old, transsexual magician known as Fay Presto, was before the beak for riding a scooter without a crash helmet.

Winter, who performs at Soho bars and restaurants, argued that a helmet would ruin her hair for gigs. And after revealing she was on her way to a show at Marco Pierre White's Criterion restaurant, she got off with a warning from district judge Geoffrey Wicks.

AFTER being hit in the face by a carnation, Prince Charles has offered to discipline the culprit personally. He's going to give the flower a strict talking-to.

CAPTION(S):

GLEE: Sergeant; LET OFF: Winter
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 12, 2001
Words:550
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