The latest official list of gifts to members of the royal family reminds us that charities aren't generous only to those in need. The Duke of Edinburgh, for example, was given a case of beer by the Go Commando charity, courtesy of Cotleigh Brewery in Somerset, to mark 350 years of the Royal Marines; Prince Andrew received an Arctic Monkeys CD from Kidzaware in Yorkshire; and Princess Anne got a quilt and some dream catchers from Save the Children Canada. Lower down the food chain, the Duke of Kent got a framed painting of a zebra from Young Epilepsy and Princess Alexandra got nowt. At the top of it, the Queen received from the private Felstead School a copy of its charitable history and a bristle brush boot scraper. Just the job after tramping round one's estate.
The end in October of the three-year term of the Charity Commission chair, William Shawcross, caused a slightly terse exchange recently at a hearing of the scrutiny committee on the draft Protection of Charities Bill. Bernard Jenkin MP suggested to the charities minister, Rob Wilson, that it might be an idea for Shawcross's term to be extended to the end of the commission's three-year transformation programme, September 2017. Wilson said it was worth considering, which prompted Jenkin to thank him for "that wonderful non-answer". And when Jenkin asked if it was worth looking at the commission's future budgetary needs, Wilson snapped: "We're always looking at things, as you know, Mr Jenkin." Bear in mind that Jenkin is from the toff end of the Tory party while Wilson is a man of the people.
Meanwhile, Wilson is still in the throes of signing up for payroll giving. In November he talked up this underused method while handing out the Payroll Giving Awards, so he can't very well not do it. But he's no fan of requiring employers to offer the scheme. "We can't do that!" he told one guest firmly at the awards.
Would drivers be distracted by 50 young people wearing giant false breasts? The operators of the Tamar Bridge thought yes, and asked the youngsters to discard said boobs while crossing into Cornwall. The march was to open the educational tour of the seven Cornwall College campuses by the charity CoppaFeel!, one of the sparkier breast cancer charities.
The think tank Civil Exchange put out a press notice last week headlined "Big society has failed, concludes three-year study". Meanwhile, there is news from Berlin – apparently, the wall's come down; and we eagerly await a response to inquiries to the Holy See about the religious inclinations of the Pope.