Two duelling music icons have fallen out in a dispute over a house extension.
The problem with bad neighbours is like that of fearsome relatives. You don’t choose them, but you’re stuck with them. In some respects neighbours are worse – you can’t encourage them to make the trip to Switzerland. So I feel for Robbie Williams and Jimmy Page, neighbours who are, I learn, still sadly locked in a “bitter feud”.
The dispute began when Williams, a now greying pop star, “submitted plans for a basement gym and pool at his £17m west London home five years ago”, reports Victoria Ward in The Daily Telegraph. His neighbour, Page – widely described as a “rock god”, now 75 – opposed the development because he feared it might damage his 1875 Grade I-listed mansion. As a result, Williams’s plans were blocked twice. He was fined £4,670 in 2017 for breaching noise regulations.
Last month, Kensington and Chelsea councillors approved the third draft of Williams’s plans, dependent on assurances “about monitoring vibration levels and ground movement”. Page is likely to appeal.
A local resident complained Williams was, allegedly, up to his old tricks. It was claimed he was “so intent on further tormenting his neighbour” that he blasted out the music of Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple – rivals of Page’s Led Zeppelin – whenever he spotted Page venturing out into his garden. Williams “had also been seen imitating Led Zep frontman Robert Plant, strutting around in a long wig”. Sadly, the “story” turned out to be a hoax.
It may all seem very bizarre, but when neighbours go to war, rationality flies out of the window, “defying intervention of either law or sanity”, as Leo McKinstry says in the Daily Express.
Take the two ladies in Somerset who went to court after their neighbour spitefully decided to plant leylandii to block their view of Solsbury Hill, an ancient landmark. Or the couple who had to pay £200,000 in legal fees for installing a locked gate with a spike-topped cast-iron bar to cut their neighbours off from the gas and electricity meters.
A sad end for a rock rebellion
Williams, for his part, claimed the allegations of bad behaviour were“fanciful” and that he has behaved in a way befitting a “responsible citizen”. But that doesn’t sound like the Williams we know, as Zoe Williams points out in The Guardian.
He had, let us not forget, “such an advanced sense of play over pragmatism that he walked away from the most money-spinning boy band of his era because he couldn’t choke out one more ballad”. Last summer he gave his audience the finger during a World Cup concert. Indeed, his entire career reads “like a quest for the wellspring of human ridiculousness, the tale of a kind of toddler conquistador, armour-plated by his own sense of self-parody”.
Still, with our national psyche in a bad place, it feels appropriate to read about two once-carefree celebrities fighting over a basement swimming pool. We must hope it teaches us something about ourselves so we can emerge from the “bullsh*t” we’re mired in. “The journey from unreflective mischief to dug-in interior decoration must be one of the saddest blind alleys of wealth. The only way to resolve this is for these two gentlemen to go on tour together.”
Tabloid money… the saviour of the high street
•When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, starring Cate Blanchett, has been hailed as the most shocking play to open in London since Hair – one elderly woman fainted and had to be helped out of the theatre by young actor Samuel Tucker, says Liz Jones in The Mail on Sunday. Surprise, surprise, tickets for the show, “despite costing £50”, are already sold out.
“Sadly, I quickly realised the play, being staged at the National’s tiny Dorfman Theatre, should really be called When We Have Sufficiently Tortured The Poor Audience.” At best, the play is perplexing. Tucker explains it thus: “For all women out there, Blanchett is saying even when you are 49 you can… be all-powerful and sexy”. We don’t have to spend £50 to find that out. “Women already know this!”
• “More 40-plus women are giving birth than teenagers and a new survey shows us merrily postponing marriage and children in favour of zooming around the world footloose and fancy-free,” says Vanessa Feltz in the Daily Express. “Part of me wants to give the ‘when I was your age’ speech. You know the one: ‘When I was a mere stripling of 23, I had a husband, a baby, a mortgage, stretch marks, a fitted kitchen, a full-time job and a raft of responsibilities’.” Snowflakes hadn’t been invented and helicopter mums and dads didn’t exist. They just stumped up for the vol-au-vents at the wedding. But given the autonomy and financial independence it gave me, “I don’t regret a single sensible minute of it”.
• “Good to see Meghan Markle embracing the high street and opting for a £25 maternity dress from H&M to go walkabout in during a charity visit last week,” says Lorraine Kelly in The Sun. Later on, it was back to business as usual, and the cheap frock was traded in for an “eye-wateringly expensive” £3,400 Roland Mouret ball gown for a night out at the Royal Albert Hall.
“I don’t think the Duchess of Sussex needs to spend such huge sums of money on clothes. With her class and elegance, she makes even the cheapest fashion items look like haute couture. I hope she continues to wear clothes we can all identify with, because where she shops, tens of thousands will follow in her wake.” Meghan could well turn out to be the saviour the beleaguered British high street so desperately needs.