Pandora

ANOTHER DECORATIVE scandal has hit the House of Commons: its bins are being refurbished. Some MPs' bins have been removed and are destined to come back dressed up with the House of Commons portcullis, repainted in the Commons shade of green. Although not quite on the scale of Lord Irvine's wallpapering last year, the move has caused dismay to some insiders. "The temporary bins they've given us are much better," one Parliamentary researcher informed Pandora. The nation's business continues apace.

THE WHITE gold used in Sophie Rhys-Jones's engagement ring flashed from newspaper pages yesterday, along with the fact that it broke the tradition of using yellow Welsh gold in Royal rings. However, Prince Edward's decision to opt for white gold may have been less revolutionary than it appeared and more a matter of expediency. The last gold mine in Wales, Gwynfynydd, is closing down with the loss of five jobs. The source of the gold used in Royal wedding rings, the mine has been in existence since the 1880s. Its closure is due to the local council's failure to allow the owners to expand the parking area for the visitors centre - a prime source of income for the enterprise. In the meantime, a Buckingham Palace spokesman told Pandora: "We have a nugget that was donated to the Queen in 1981 and it has been estimated there is enough for three more rings." Is this an omen that will light bonfires in the hearts of British republicans everywhere?

SIR ARTHUR C Clarke's endorsement of the claim that the world has got the date wrong for the approaching Millennium could have some happy consequences. The world's most popular science-fiction writer and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey recently noted that: "We will have had only 99 years of this century by January 1, 2000. We will have to wait until December 31, 2000, for the full hundred." Think, for example, how encouraging this could be to those responsible for building London's Jubilee Line extension, who have always promised to have it completed in time for the Millennium. For a start, they could tell those workers demanding extra incentive bonuses just where to go - back on the job. Indeed, Pandora suggests that the opening of the Millennium Dome itself be postponed for a year, giving its new boss, Lord Falconer, plenty of time to scrap its ridiculous, tatty pop-culture contents and replace them with exhibits of genuine cultural and intellectual importance.

DISCUSSING THE advantages of reaching the age of 75, novelist Norman Mailer was as intrepid as ever when he claimed that his flagging memory had actually improved his writing. "I have to admit that most mornings I say to myself, `What idiot wrote this mess?'." He continued, "I feel totally impartial, as if I were reading the work of a stranger, so it makes it much easier to cut out stuff and to shorten it."

HUGH GRANT (pictured)

has revealed that he gets "tremendous enjoyment" from the failure of other famous people. Grant, who co-stars with Julia Roberts in the forthcoming film version of Peter Mandelson's neighbourhood, Notting Hill, says that he knows that for celebrities "there are only two stories: success or humiliation". He confesses: "I've always enjoyed that cruelty when it's focused on other people." Let's hope Hugh enjoys it as much as everyone else enjoyed his divine humiliation in Los Angeles just a few years back.

THE SHOW trial of President Clinton will have to try very hard not to be eclipsed by the bizarre sideshow that porn-king Larry Flynt is promising. After advertising in The Washington Post a $1m reward for anyone who could prove that they had conducted extramarital affairs with members of Congress, Flynt's first victim was Representative Bob Livingston, who resigned before he could become Speaker of the House when he discovered that Flynt's Hustler magazine was about to publish details of his sexual philandering. Now Flynt is set to hold a press conference next week at which he will reveal, he claims, a long list of naughty US politicians. In the meantime, Flynt recently told The Boston Globe that he was reconsidering his reward payment for the women who grassed on Bob Livingston, because the politician resigned before Hustler hit the

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