Abramovich’s bizarre Scottish odyssey

Roman Abramovich and his posse of billionaires isn't what you'd expect to find in the Western Isles.


I've never much cared about, or for, Roman Abramovich, but I couldn't help staring at those photos of the Russian oligarch on his bizarre tour of Scotland's west coast. One picture showed him ashore, walking with a tiny dog, surrounded by bodyguards. (At any rate they looked like bodyguards, though according to the caption three of them were actually fellow billionaires.)

The party was based in the tycoon's 536ft superyacht, Eclipse, and stopped off at islands like Arran and Islay, where they would all go cycling and chat nicely to locals. On Arran, a young man fell off a swing trying to get a better selfie of the passing billionaire, hurting his back. Abramovich promptly arranged for two medics to come from his yacht and help the man until an ambulance arrived.

The Russian took "evident delight" in his encounters with locals, said The Times. James Morris, a barman dressed up as a Chelsea footballer, cornered him outside the Laphroaig distillery in Port Ellen. "Can I get a picture with you?" asked Mr Morris. "Only if I can have one of you first," replied a grinning Mr Abramovich.

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The west coast of Scotland is not the place you'd usually expect to find a Russian billionaire, one of whose holidays last year involved booking up all 111 rooms of the Beresheet Hotel in the Israeli resort of Mitzpe Ramon for the Jewish Passover. But having spent some of my happiest weeks in the Western Isles, I'm glad he enjoyed himself.

Keep the Garrick free of women

Not being a member of the Garrick, I was spared having to decide whether to vote for or against women members at the club's ballot last week. "There are three intolerable things in life," Orson Welles once observed. "Cold coffee, lukewarm champagne and overexcited women." So I suspect he would have voted against, as would The Sunday Telegraph columnist Celia Walden had she been a man (and a member).

For almost two centuries, wrote Walden, the Garrick has enabled its 1,300 members to avoid Welles's "triad of unpleasantness". Now they will be able to go on avoiding it, though the vote was followed by a furious outcry from high-profile members such as Jeremy Paxman, Lord Bragg, Hugh Bonneville and Damian Lewis, "who lambasted the club's outdated' and sexist' rules". (If it's so "scandalously retrograde", wondered Walden, "can we look forward to their principled resignations?")

Walden, a member of two London clubs herself, says she is often "forced to move to another room in order to make myself heard above the helium hum of overexcited members of my sex". If she's in a bar, she does her best to get away from "gaggles of females" and sympathises with the view that the Garrick's atmosphere of male camaraderie would change if women joined. And why should it change? Women might feel entitled to feel aggrieved "if we were stuck in some Victorian purdah", but we're not. We're even allowed in to the Garrick as guests and that's "perfectly fine by me".

Tabloid money: how to run your household the Greek way

"As we know, the Greeks invented many things," says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. "Democracy. The Olympic Games. And wine made from creosote. And now it seems they've come up with a new and exciting way of running an economy. It's very simple and, best of all, you can use all their ideas to manage your own family budget at home. Just follow these easy steps

"When times are good, you go to a bank in Germany and borrow an enormous sum of money which you then spend on private health care, a new house, a couple of tasty cars and some expensive education for your kids. When all the money is gone, you then go to a bank in France and borrow more money which you spend on a boob job for your wife and maybe a swimming pool Then, when the bankers are jumping up and down and shouting at you, you say you are no longer the head of the family and that, in future, all correspondence must be sent to your 14-year-old son who's very good looking, but a bit Communist."

Many will be hit by the decision to cut tax credits, says Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. "But as a country that spends more on family benefits than Germany, France or Sweden, our bloated welfare budget had to be cut. It can't be right for people to go on having children they can't afford and expect the rest of us to pay for them... When Gordon Brown introduced tax credits they cost just £2bn a year. Now they cost £30bn." It's too much.

"As I sit writing this on my Apple laptop, iPhone by my side, I can see across the room my husband's iPod and daughter's iPod," says Alison Phillips in the Mirror. In just one room that's a shedload of money made by Apple. It's the same in millions of homes and it's why Apple notched up around £2bn in profits here last year. On "that kind of dough", Apple should have paid corporation tax of £400m. "They actually paid £12m." Osborne promised a crackdown on firms like Apple which channel their profits through other countries: "£388m tells me it isn't working."