In 2013 Acorah, whose cars included a Triumph sports car and a Jaguar, was banned from driving for 28 months after crashing one of them, possibly under the influence of spirits.
Oh, tee, hee, eh?
And, of course, this had to be said:
Despite his psychic gifts Acorah, a compulsive smoker who kept various cats and dogs and wore a red-and-gold ring, was as vulnerable to mishaps as any other entertainer. On one occasion in 2013 he was forced to cancel a show in Dunfermline on his Eternal Spirits tour because of what the theatre described as “unforeseen circumstances”. As one annoyed fan told The Sunday People: “You would think he would have seen it coming.”
“It is patronising and implies that my books, which are easy to read, must be easy to write,” she said, pugnaciously adding: “Nobody calls Agatha Christie ‘cosy’. To keep up writing in clear, well-balanced sentences takes a lot of hard work and if anyone doesn’t want a Glasgow kiss, swallow that opinion and put it where the sun don’t shine.”
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.