PICK YOUR COMEDIAN

One useful and enjoyable annual event put on for organisers is the Speaker Drinks evening staged at the Institute of Directors venue on Pall Mall by speaker agency Performing Artistes.

This showcases stand-up comedians and their acts and allows plenty of time for delegates to network with, and perhaps book their chosen performer(s) The latest event presented five, four who made us laugh and one who made us laugh and think. Andy Parsons, well-known from his appearances on topical news show Mock the Week, told jokes about topical issues, including the current bad joke Brexit, (he is an activist for a second public vote on the issue) and introduced the other four stand-up specialists, including Markus Birdman, Naomi Cooper and George Lewis, all of whom went down well with the mostly female audience.

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SEE YOU, JIMMY

Tourism chiefs at VisitScotland used a picture of a Glencoe cottage once owned as a holiday home by disgraced BBC celebrity and sex offender Jimmy Savile, to promote tourism in the Highlands.

Savile is thought to have sexually abused more than 450 people over a 60-year period, over 300 of them under 18 and some as young as eight. He owned the cottage for 13 years, from 1998 to 2011 when he died without ever being caught or charged aged 84. It was featured in a highly regarded Louis Theroux documentary in 2000, When Lous met….Jimmy. In a van on the way back from Glencoe Theroux asks why Savile had claimed to the media that he hated children and Savile told him “It’s to put a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt”. As the couple said goodbye Theroux claimed that he had “a new-found respect for Jimmy” though he felt he, like most other people, had never got close in the week he had lived with him for the documentary.

At Savile’s death the leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield described Savile as “Leeds born and bred, and he remained a Leeds lad all his life”.

VisitScotland have now removed the shot of Savile’s cottage from their website, “in case it caused any offence”.

SOME ITALIAN WINE

A recent tasting of nearly 100 wines from Italy, organised on behalf of Italian wine expert Daniele Cermilli (who styles himself Doctor Wine), provided us with tastings of wines from the Velenosi winery in the Marche area.

This produces an excellent medium dry white for drinking with food that the good doctor rates with a 92% score in his highly regarded “Essential Guide to Italian wine” (2019) and this is the Verdiccho dei Castellidi Jesi DOC 2017, which is also flagged as exceptionally good value and should be selling retail for around £16 a bottle.

Rather more expensive is the red Roggio Del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC 2015, not rated by Cemilli. This is likely to be £50+ to buy here but is the Winery’s “Grand Cru” and, for our personal taste delivered a lovely creamy sweetness of red berry fruit that trickled seductively down the throat and dared us to spit it out, or ruin it with food.

The importer for Velenosi is Dolcevita Wines, Web: dolcevitawines.co.uk

THE HAPPY PRINCE

This is the ironic title of the latest, and arguably the best of the bios of the famous and infamous author, playwright and bon viveur Oscar Wilde, who made up a story to tell his children, which he called The Happy Prince.

The story of Oscar’s fall from grace for his homosexuality has been well documented on film, starting with the two released in 1959 and 1960, These were the black and white Oscar Wilde, starring Robert Morley in the title role, Alexander Knox as his defence lawyer Sir Edward Clarke, Ralph Richerdson as the prosecuting counsel, Sir Edward Carson, John Neville as Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas and Edward Chapman as his father, the irascible Marquis of Queensbury, who wasn’t happy with his son sleeping with Wilde and outed him by calling him a “somdomite” (sic) and sparking the libel case bought by Wilde that resulted in a win for Queensbury when he was able to call witnesses and defend his allegation as true.

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BOOKMAKER ACCEPTED STOLEN CHARITY MONEY

Bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) have been fined £2.2 million by the Gambling Commission for failing to carry out proper checks on money wagered.

One instance was a total of £894,754 stolen and wagered over a four year period from charity Birmingham Dogs Home by its CEO Simon Price, with the help of his wife Alayna. Price was given a five year prison sentence last year and his wife received a two year suspended sentence. PPB will now pay the stolen money back to the charity.

As part of the fine PPB will pay £1.7 million to charity Gamble Aware, nearly £500,000 to other victims – problem gamblers they allowed to carry on betting with them – and £50,000 for the costs of the investigation.

MOTABILITY LATEST

Mike Betts, CEO of Motability Operations a firm supplying disabled people with vehicles in exchange for their taxpayer funded benefits has announced that he will now heed the multiple calls for him to step down and will do so in 2020.

His announced departure follows a damning report on the way the company has hoarded huge reserves of the taxpayer cash paid to it and the “obscenely high” salaries and bonuses, nearly £3 million including a covered up £2 million in Betts case, paid to its directors. It also follows some seriously good investigative journalism by the Daily Mail newspaper.

The Motability charity was set up by Lord Sterling, who is now its chairman. Sterling was also chairman of P&O when it owned venue Earls Court and Olympia and was investigated by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission for abuse of monopoly by overcharging exhibitors there, a highly lucrative activity Sterling fought hard to, and failed to, retain. At this time some publications were infested by unfortunate typographical gremlins that rendered his name, most misleadingly, as Lord Stealing.

MISJUDGMENT

Criticism of Diabetes UK has followed their decision to accept £500,000 in sponsorship from Britvic, makers of the fizzy drinks Tango and Pepsi, which the charity has identified as contributing to the current diabetes epidemic.

Doctors have described the arrangement as “appalling” and as undermining trust in the charity from sufferers of the disease, as well as losing the charity credibility.

There have been calls for the charity’s CEO Chris Askew to give the money back. The funding policy for Diabetes UK states: “No commercial partnership will be entered into with a company whose product or service is considered to be detrimental to those living with, or at risk of diabetes.”

BLOOD MONEY?

Gambling addiction charities have attacked the £265 million salary that founder and joint CEO of online gambling firm bet365 Denise Coates CBE pays herself as “disgraceful” and “obscene”.

Recent articles in the press have listed the misery caused by gambling debts, and the rising number of suicides as a result, as the “terrible price paid” to fund Coates’s income, which makes her one of the highest paid women in the world.