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Drink of the Week

ABSINTHE IS green, very potent (70 proof), psychotropic, and back after an 80-year gap (absinthe makes the heart grow fonder, after all). An anise- flavoured liqueur, it is distilled with oil of wormwood, (a herb, effective against tapeworm), and flavoured with hyssop, lemon balm, and angelica. Once a favourite with artists, it's about four times as strong as vodka, and adds some narcotic, cannabis-like, effects. pounds 40 a bottle to lose your mind, possibly forever.

Xmas Pud of the Week

MORE A cream sherry man than an absinthiste, Andy Park is worried. He's been addicted to Christmas customs since 1993, when he decided to put festive decorations up in the middle of summer "to cheer myself up". They're still up, and Andy is known as "Mr Christmas". He watches the Queen's broadcast every day at 3pm. He spends pounds 15,000 a year on Christmas food. Dinner always consists of roast turkey, with sausages, bacon, roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Sprouts are his favourite - "I could eat bowls of them." His sprout habit, potentially fatal, and the fact that he has gone from 12 to 16 stones may account for Andy, 41, having no luck finding a partner. "They think it is great fun at first, but I haven't been able to find anyone with the same passion as me about it."

Conundrum of the Week

CHRISTMAS HAS come early for Carol Vorderman, who has signed a pounds 5m contract with Channel 4. Here we go, then.

Vowel please, Carol. Consonant please. Another consonant please. And a vowel. OK, today's Countdown conundrum is: ALOTOFMONEY-FOR NOTMUCH-WORK.

And our brain teaser is: What's Carol worth per day? Here's the answer: 255 shows x 5 years = 1,275 shows. Now pounds 5,000,000 divided by 1,275 shows = pounds 3,921.57 per show. Given 7 shows per day x pounds 3,921 = pounds 27,447 for a day's work.

Image of the Week

NO WOMAN, No Cry by Chris Ofili, winner of the Turner Prize. This painting is a tribute to the dignity of Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen, murdered in a racist attack. Mr Ofili's work is varied. Appropriately for an man who uses elephant dung, many pictures feature a mythical black superhero called Captain Shit, with figures from black popular culture (James Brown and Mohammed Ali). And all done without absinthe.

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