Barrie Masters was born in 1956 in Rochford, Essex, one of four children to Margaret, a hospital orderly, and Barry, a mechanic. He was educated at King Edmund secondary school and misspent his youth in boxing gyms and youth clubs around Southend and Canvey Island. “It was as boring as Belgium. It was dreadful. That’s why we started a band,” he later said.
The tedium of what came to be known as “the Essex badlands” persuaded several others to do the same and the area produced a statistically improbable number of successful 1970s groups, including Dr Feelgood and the Kursaal Flyers.
Err, yes, it does.
The line-up also briefly included the harmonica player Lew Lewis, who received a seven-year sentence for armed robbery after holding up a post office with a fake pistol and attempting to make his escape on a bicycle.
The tragedy of Robert Mugabe was thus complete. He was the guerrilla hero who defeated white minority rule but went on to ruin the newly independent country he inherited. He was the supposedly model African leader who turned into a despot, the liberator who became an oppressor, crushing opponents and rigging elections. He was the professed advocate of reconciliation and national unity who might have been another Nelson Mandela but ended up pursuing the politics of hatred and division — most notably and disastrously by seizing the white-owned farms that were the mainstay of his country’s economy.
Towards the end of his rule Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of Africa, was unable even to feed its own people. Inflation briefly reached 500 billion per cent and unemployment 90 per cent. Nearly a quarter of the population, including most of the brightest and the best, left the country.
Ironies abounded. As Mugabe neared his tenth decade, life expectancy in Zimbabwe fell to the lowest in the world. An intellectual with seven degrees, Mugabe sent his children to prestigious private schools in Harare while the state education system that he had built up during his early years in office collapsed for want of funds. His supporters staged ostentatiously lavish celebrations of his birthday as millions of Zimbabweans survived on a single daily bowl of cornmeal porridge.
Under Mugabe’s grotesque misrule commercial farms reverted to vegetable patches, the lightbulb to the oil lamp, the tap to the well and the wheel to the foot. Only the abolition of the worthless Zimbabwean dollar, and a power-sharing agreement with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in 2008, halted the country’s implosion.
He was in the news again in December 1987 when speaking out against the temptations on offer at a disco to mark the forthcoming new year celebrations. “It leads to the touching between the sexes, which constitutes fornication,” Smith thundered in his church magazine. “The irrefutable truth is that rock’n’roll and fearful immorality go hand-in-hand.”
At which point we can say that the Wee Frees (actually, he moved over to the Wee Wee Frees) are less extreme than the Southern Baptists. Who are against sex because they think dancing might break out.
Behind the charm and ready smile Bell was a volatile and insecure man of robust, right-wing opinions. He believed in capitalism and disliked the high-minded liberalism that he claimed dominated the media and universities. He was hostile to the EU, opposed most regulation of businesses and loathed such Tory “wets” as Chris Patten, Ian Gilmour and even John Major.
Rodham tested that friendship on Prescott’s behalf in 1997, when he arranged a White House meeting for Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, to help to smooth the way for a plan to introduce “smart” credit and debit cards to Russia. “I just called the Russia desk at the White House, as anybody in this country can do,” said Rodham, although it is possible that being the first lady’s brother helped to get the call put through to the right person. Luzhkov’s name rang alarm bells in the Clinton entourage. He had been accused of having links to Russian mobsters and had been involved in a dispute with an American businessman who was subsequently found murdered in Moscow.
Knew the bloke, vaguely. But he and his assassin (not the shooter, the guy who paid at least by all sensible accounts) were customers.
There was a joint venture which owned a hotel and there was an argument over who really, really owned it. The Russian courts said the local, the arbitration one in Stockholm the American. A terminal solution was found….. not particularly Luzhkov involved, even as he would clearly and obviously known the shooter and probably done business in other realms with him.
In this, he was helped by a lifetime’s experience of introducing himself by that name. Family legend, which he was happy to burnish, had it that Mary Shelley had borrowed it, with a slight amendment, for her book after meeting an ancestor of von Franckenstein’s, who was consul in Geneva when she was there.
Before turning to acting
Franckenstein’s first role on camera, improbably, was as an extra in Mel Brooks’s spoof Young Frankenstein (1974).
Sir Pterry was right. The million to one shot, it’s a certainty, isn’t it?
In the end he lived out his old age in relative peace — but it might all have been very different. Driving home one night, Cosima narrowly missed a man who stepped into her path by accident. It was Jeremy Irons.
By the 1970s he was a self-employed painter-decorator in London, but had little clue what he was doing. On one occasion he was redecorating a large house in Clapham where the owner wanted a downstairs lavatory painted in a terracotta colour. Having run out of money, Arthur whitewashed the walls, installed an orange lightbulb and after dark showed off his handiwork to the owner, disappearing before daylight revealed the truth.
First, there was a war to be won and his country needed liberating. Before he saw action, however, his commanding officer was kind enough to call on his mother, the Grand Duchess Charlotte, who was in exile in London. She is said to have remarked: “Well if he gets killed that will be that, but please do not allow him to be taken prisoner.”
He landed in Normandy on June 23, 1944, and took part in Operation Goodwood, intended to clear the ground for the taking of the communications centre of Caen, which fell on July 20. He then advanced into Belgium, reaching Brussels on September 3.
General George Patton, commanding the US Third Army, was about to enter Luxembourg, but on hearing that the crown prince was near by, he arranged for him to take part. On September 10, 1944, “John Luxembourg” crossed into the country at Rodange, the spot where his family had fled the Nazi invasion more than four years earlier. He later joined Patton in the first Jeep to enter Luxembourg city.
Returning to his unit, he was involved in the Battle of the Bulge, the Reichswald attacks and, as German resistance crumbled, the move into Bremen and Hamburg. On April 14, 1945 he was back in Luxembourg with his father, Prince Félix, to greet the grand duchess as she returned from exile accompanied by Winston Churchill and to celebrate with a jubilant population.
His early education was in Luxembourg followed by studies at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire, where he learnt to eat whatever was set before him, a skill that came in handy in the army and at state banquets.
“There was no way we were going to leave — we were staying with the passengers to the end,” he told Ynetnews. “This was a matter of conscience, professionalism and morality. As a former officer in the Free French Forces, I couldn’t imagine leaving behind not even a single passenger.”
The crisis ended when dozens of Israeli commandos stormed the airport by night, arriving in a motorcade disguised to look like that of Ugandan leader Idi Amin. Three hostages, seven terrorists and 20 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the operation. Another hostage, who had been taken to a Ugandan hospital, was later murdered.
Upon his return from Entebbe, Mr. Bacos said that he took two weeks of vacation and then insisted that his first flight be to Israel, to see if he was “still afraid.” He was not and continued flying until his retirement in 1982.
If, by the end, Simon Norton was concerned that his life had not been what you would expect of one of the cleverest men in the world, he did not show it.
This was the man who as a child was fêted as a prodigy in the Daily Mail and The Sunday Times. Yet as he sat amid the accumulated detritus of his basement — a tidy mind in an untidy world — he displayed little worry that his was not the position of eminence most readers would have predicted years ago.
He was the mathematician who gained his first first-class degree aged 17, who began his second hailed as among the most promising prospects of his generation — and who, indeed, had some notable success in his twenties. In the dim half-light of his Cambridge flat, however, he did not appear to be bothered whether after that he had really fulfilled his potential — whatever that means.
Well, yes, mathematical genius, has breakdown, leaves maths. So, a failure then.
Norton was unambitious and never quite of this world. He was also generous, concerned and kind. He did not have a partner, children or many close friends, but what he did have, wherever he went, was a way of eliciting fondness.
When he died, on February 12, the family said they were surprised by just how many people wanted to pay tribute. “Simon’s funeral was attended by mathematicians, bus campaigners (who look very similar to some mathematicians), publishers, grateful former tenants — a peculiar and lovely mix,” said Alexander Masters. “Afterwards we all ate jaffa cakes (Simon’s favourite biscuit) and went on an hour-long bus ride round London, in celebration.”
There’s a certain glorious – and rather English – victory to that life.
Karl Lagerfeld is dead, and the fashion industry he presided over from the house of Chanel rends its garments and calls itself heartbroken. His muse, a white cat called Choupette, which exists largely on Twitter – a metaphor for his misanthropy so pure I thank him – was photographed in a mourning veil, thanking us for our words of condolence. That his best beloved was literally inhuman, and very small, is no surprise. (It is rumoured that, if she exists, she will inherit his fortune, though that is illegal in France.)
I do not think Lagerfeld really liked women. It is impossible to watch his work and think he did
Is it politically acceptable to say that gay boys don’t like women these days?
The couture shows in Paris, at which he excelled, power the global fashion machine and send it to the duller parts of Earth. He decided what was lovely and what was not, who should be noticed and who should be ignored. None of this would matter if it didn’t have that power – fashion, when cornered, cites its triviality as a defence – except it did. The machine sold perfumes and handbags (almost no one can afford couture, and that kind of money is a sickness in itself) by offering an ever-receding image of beauty that no normal woman could ever attain, let alone hold. The girls who wore his clothes, which were as insubstantial as a fleeting dream (he was an artist, and his works expressed his philosophy perfectly), were very young and tiny. They seemed, when you watched them, only just born, with no blemish on them, existing only for the adornment of Lagerfeld’s feathers and bows.
The rest of it seems to be fat bird whining about fashion models.
“Mine is the epitome of the nice middle-class family life,” Whitfield said proudly. She went on to state that she was “a great fan of the middle class. There are millions of them and yet people speak as if it’s some disease.”