JK Rowling’s expensive mistake

Harry Potter author JK Rowling fell for the dream of owning a yacht hook, line and sinker.


JK Rowling and Amphitrite: a costly love affair

"To buy a yacht, wherever in the world you live, is to enter a whole other league of delusion. Ocean-going, you might say. It is to attach a hose to your bank account and leave the tap running." So says Matthew Bell in The Daily Telegraph. He's right. I know this to my cost, having owned a yacht even if it was rather a battered motor yacht for seven years before coming to my senses and selling it.

Mind you, I was sad when I did (as I confessed on this page), and so I'm sure is JK Rowling, who fell in love with the lovely 155ft schooner, Amphitrite, after chartering it for a holiday and having then bought it (from Johnny Depp) for £22m has had second thoughts. Now she's put it up for sale with a price tag £7m smaller (as you do: my boat lost about half its value in the time I owned it).

No, the truth is that Matthew Bell is spot on: Rowling got swept away by the lie that "owning is better than experiencing", the reason why so many lottery winners lose all their money within five years. If you want to start owning yachts, then the best advice is: become a billionaire first, preferably a multi-billionaire like the Russian Andrey Melnichenko, who came cruising up the Thames a fortnight ago in the inspiringly named "MotorYacht A": Tower Bridge had to be raised to let her pass. (And how much does that cost, I wonder.)

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Looking at his 390ft-long luxury superyacht and his glamorous wife Aleksandra, one can't help feeling what a lucky chap the 44-year-old industrialist is. The yachthas a helipad, of course, and a disco with a glass ceiling which looks up into the swimming pool on the deck above, and a crew of 37. The only discordant note, perhaps, is the 1.7 inch thick bomb-proof windows, but that's par for the course if you have an £8.5bn fortune.

The Daily Mail calls the Melnichenkos "Britain's blingiest couple", and certainly they're big spenders who seem to like Britain, owning, among their many homes, a 35-acre estate in Ascot. They also previously owned a £2.9m apartment in Berkeley Square. And while most of us regret buying one boat, they are busy preparing a second.

Fresh out of the docks, according to the Daily Mail, is a 468ft vessel Sailing Yacht A which will be the world's ninth longest and have three masts, all taller than Big Ben. The price tag is said to be £313m. Mrs Melnichenko will presumably have to add to the couple's stunning art collection. On MotorYacht A she sleeps next to two works from Monet's Water Lilies series.

Five on a jolly jape again

I'm glad to hear young readers can now once again enjoy "the original jolly japes" of Enid Blyton's Famous Five. According to The Daily Telegraph, Hachette's Children's Group has confessed that its 2010 policy to update the language "proved very unpopular".

What's surprising is why the dunces at Hachette ever thought updating was a good idea in the first place, especially since all they seemed to be doing was substituting anodyne phrases like "mum and dad" for "mother and father" and "dresses" for "frocks". Anyway, frocks are back, as is "golly". And at least Hachette has had the good sense to admit they were wrong and revert to the original text.

Inside Westminster Will Theresa May embrace viper Gove?

The grammar school initiative and the Hinkley Point delay are the "brainchildren" not of Theresa May, but of her joint chief of staff, 36-year-old Nick Timothy, says Adam Boulton in The Sunday Times. Timothy is a former columnist for the ConservativeHome website, where he expressed his opinions on grammars, Chinese investment in Hinkley and "getting to the bottom of what happened at Orgreave [during the miners' strike]".

Timothy and May's other chief of staff, Fiona Hill, "evince the two-faced spite of student politics" in unpicking Cameron's legacy, says Boulton. Hill was forced to resign from the Home Office after "a spat between May and Michael Gove". Timothy was demoted on the parliamentary candidates' list.

"While Timothy may be the prime minister's Rasputin'," says Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail, her "all-powerful adviser, perma-tanned" George Hollingbery MP, 52, is the aide responsible for her jokes at Prime Minister's Questions, "where she's proved herself no Ken Dodd". A multi-millionaire who made his money from pet shops and whose Cornish villa has been used by the Camerons, Hollingbery, I am told, "tours Westminster wreathed in cigarette smoke and mystery, quietly tipping his favourites the wink and emitting more sulphurous clouds over Mrs May's foes".

"After watching Michael Gove ruthlessly knife his pals David Cameron and Boris Johnson, Theresa May could be forgiven for thinking twice before embracing viper Gove into the bosom of her Cabinet," says Black Dog in The Mail on Sunday. "But Gove's friends say she has told him she can rescue him from exile if he can behave himself in a loyal, sober and trustworthy manner' over the next two or three years."

After the memorial service for the "minence grise" of Euro-scepticism, Rodney Leach, David Cameron was "amusing and relaxed", says Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph. It's perhaps too early to assess his legacy. "But I hope history will show that, as a PM with whom to pass an hour in good talk about pretty much anything, he had no rival in modern times."