Historian barred from Tesco after dust-up at the check-out

Last updated at 10:48 28 October 2005

Even in this age of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, binge-drinking and general boorishness by teenagers, rowdy behaviour is not entirely the preserve of the young.

Distinguished octogenarian historian Sir Raymond Carr, I learn, has been involved in a disturbing incident.

Four years short of his 90th birthday, Sir Raymond has been obliged to take his business from Tesco and do his supermarket shopping elsewhere.

The eminent historian and former Oxford University don hasn't switched trolleys in search of better value or superior products.

He has, I can reveal, been barred for bad behaviour. And not just from his local branch in Devon, but from every single one of Tesco's 1,900 stores in Britain.

Father-of-four Raymond, who was once responsible for disciplining unruly undergraduates as warden of St Antony's College, has disclosed the reason for his exclusion from the supermarket chain in tomorrow's edition of The Spectator magazine.

In a review of a new biography of Christopher Marlowe, he notes how volatile the Elizabethan writer was before going on to make his own confession: "Cursed with an ungovernable, violent temper, when engaged in questioning a bill in a Tesco store, I was accosted by a computer nerd determined to explain to the ignorant aged how computers make out a reckoning.

"I struck him and am now banned from all Tesco establishments."

Although reluctant to elaborate on the incident, Sir Raymond, whose artist son Matthew was a protégé of Andy Warhol, last night confirmed the sorry tale.

From his temporary home in West London - where he is living with Lady Boothby, widow of the notorious Bob Boothby, before moving into a new home in the capital - Carr tells me: "I bought two identical pots of flowers for my wife and wanted to exchange them because I realised that I'd got the wrong colours."

Carr, a world-renowned expert on the Spanish Civil War and author of The History Of English Foxhunting, adds: "The check-out girl told me that it was impossible to exchange them, as she'd already entered it into the register.

"Some computer fanatic back in the queue started going on about how wonderful computers were for making up bills. I just got so annoyed with him that I hit him."

The store took a dim view of Sir Raymond's behaviour and he was ushered out, warned never to darken the door of any Tesco store again.

But a defiant Carr confides: "I go to Marks and Spencer now."

Tony's crony is bound for Vatican

Tony Blair has dispensed with 400 years of tradition by appointing a Roman Catholic - who just happens to be his friend - as Britain's next Ambassador to the Vatican.

The new envoy, the Prime Minister's former foreign affairs adviser Francis Campbell, will make history as Britain's first Catholic envoy to the Holy See in four centuries. Irish-born Campbell, who attends Mass every Sunday at Westminster Cathedral, was a key aide to Mr Blair until 2003.

But the decision to circumvent the normal ambassadorial selection procedure and appoint a fully paid-up member of 'Tony's Cronies' has upset both the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Corp.

That Mr Blair has chosen a trusted lieutenant rather than a diplomat suggests a desire to forge closer links with the new pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. But it will not be all altar wine and roses for Campbell. His appointment coincides with a downgrading of the post as part of Foreign Office cost-cutting, a move that has irked the Pope.

Campbell's predecessor, Kathryn Colvin, had her staff cut from five to one, and had to summon extra manpower from London to cope with the increased workload when Pope John Paul II died this year.

As part of the Foreign Office's economy drive, unmarried Mr Campbell will not even be based in the Vatican itself but at the British Embassy in central Rome, incurring the Pope's even greater displeasure.

Looking sheepish... but Davina's proud

After losing out to Ant and Dec for the Most Popular Entertainment Presenter gong at the National Television Awards this week, ubiquitous TV presenter Davina McCall was in no mood for any dissent from animal lovers offended by the pelt she wore to the Royal Albert Hall ceremony.

Davina, who was paid a staggering £2 million to front the latest series of Big Brother, caused a stir by accessorising her slinky floor-length dress with a £695 Mongolian lamb fleece jacket made by Jasper Conran.

But the svelte mother-of-two, 38, told me: "I have a very firm rule. I wear it only if I can eat it. I wouldn't eat mink, so I wouldn't wear mink." Barbecued Mongolian mutton is obviously on the menu at the McCalls', then...

Net call ends tennis dream

Hobbling into a party at Kensington Palace the other evening, Annette 'Nettie' Mason was charmingly stoic about the dramatic collapse of her burgeoning acting career.

Nettie, 49, glamorous wife of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, was as happy as a half-term schoolgirl when she won a role as a tennis pro in the forthcoming British film Heroes And Villains. But, sadly, injury meant she was never able to show off her racket skills on camera.

Explains Nettie: "My character was a really aggressive player and so I was doing a lot of practice. I overstretched and ended up snapping a tendon.

"It was my own fault as I was playing at someone else's house and had borrowed their shoes, which were a bit too big.

"The day filming started, I was in the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London having an


Nettie, who lives with 61-year-old multi-millionaire Nick and their two teenage sons in Wiltshire - their eight-bedroom home formerly belonged to the Duchess of Cornwall - is not the only member of her family hors de combat.

Nick was recently rushed to a Harley Street clinic for an emergency appendix operation, prompting him to cancel a promotional tour of

Bulgaria for his autobiography.

Says Nettie: "We've been comparing scars, but Nick had keyhole surgery, so his is tiny compared with mine."

PS Virtually all the guests at Tuesday night's Buckingham Palace banquet for the King and Queen of Norway were content to stick to the menu of halibut and venison washed down with 1999 Puligny-Montrachet and 1990 Château Cos d'Estournel. There were three deviations, however: Princess Michael of Kent - who had a separate, undisclosed main course - the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Charles and Camilla had the set meal, but set themselves apart from the crowd by being served a mysterious, dark green liquid in his and hers cut-glass decanters. Crème de menthe? Castrol GTX? Hemlock? Clarence House won't say, but my eyewitness wagers it was organic olive oil from Highgrove... Pip Pip!