Martha Stewart's obsessive extravagance

Prison hasn't dampened Martha Stewart's desire for absolute perfection.

I'm glad to hear that prison hasn't curbed Martha Stewart's extravagance. In the FT, America's domestic goddess describes her favourite home, Skylands in Maine, which was built for Henry Ford's son as a summer retreat in 1925.

As you'd expect, it's on a lavish scale, from the triple-thick oak floors to the 200-seat Catholic church to the air-conditioned wine cellar with a collection of 1982 Bordeaux.

Then there are the pine needle paths and the crushed local pink granite drives. These, says Stewart, take a good deal of maintenance. "Every year in October the crushed pink stones from the driveways are taken up and stored until May to protect them. Likewise the pine needles have to be dried and cleaned..." But despite this attention to detail, she insists she's "not obsessed". Storing gravel? Drying pine needles? No, of course you're not, Martha.

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James Bond's strained budget

The actor Daniel Craig has bought himself a £4m apartment in a house near London's Regent's Park, but since he's set to earn £30m from playing James Bond, that shouldn't unduly strain his budget.

The real mystery, as Michael Hewitt pointed out in The Sunday Times, is how 007 himself managed to get by. Admittedly, he was often on expenses but he was hardly a big earner. In


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(1955) the combined figure of his salary plus a small private income is given by Ian Fleming as £2,500 a year, the equivalent now of about £43,000.

Not surprisingly, Bond complained of having "not quite enough". He smoked 60 to 70 specially made Balkan/Turkish cigarettes a day and drank at least half a bottle of spirits.

On top of that, wonders Hewitt, how did he afford "his comfortable flat in the plane tree'd square off the King's Road" and his Aston Martin? Good question.

The Blairs' £30,000 new toy

Tony and Cherie Blair have paid £30,000 for a private swimming pool to be delivered to their country mansion. It is encased in stainless steel and has wave jets to provide Cherie with a current she can swim against. The only problem is that the £5.75m Buckinghamshire house is a listed building. Will the Blairs get planning permission to install their new toy?

The previous owners, says the Mail, did get permission, but it was for a different kind of pool. One architect involved in the plans told the paper: "I can see no way on earth that the Blairs' ghastly modern pool is covered by the original listed consent."