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Margaret Thatcher's immortalisation is proving a difficult task. Having already cast the former Prime Minister in clay, the heritage sculptor Neil Simmonds is in the process of making a marble Mags. The finished article will find a temporary home in the National Portrait Gallery before ending up on a plinth in the House of Commons. But Simmonds, who is compiling a book about the project, has been frustrated in his attempts to find the right type of marble. "He has been to Italy six times and is as we speak again sifting through the quarries of Tuscany," says a friend, "but he has yet to find a hunk of stone with a good grain." Has he thought of using iron?

FORMER TORY Education Secretary Gillian Shephard continues to give her views on her time in government in her series of lectures to Queen Mary and Westfield College in East London. In the latest instalment, Shephard shared her thoughts on Mrs Thatcher's nemesis, Michael Heseltine. "His qualities didn't include a grasp of detail," the diminutive politician remarked last week. Recalling Hezza's role in pit closures, Shephard said, "I remember attending meetings where it was quite obvious that neither he nor his officials had any idea which pits were affected."

Lord Attenborough explodes the myth that he and his thespian friends really do gallivant around calling each other "luvvie". He explains in a recent interview: "I've never called anyone `luvvie' in my life - I hate the word." But dear Dickie believes that calling someone "darling" is a different matter, as "senility is descending at such a pace, I cannot remember anyone's name".

IF SHE had listened to her Hollywood contemporaries, Cameron Diaz might never have made There's Something About Mary, the film that put her firmly in the public eye. Diaz reveals in the latest Vanity Fair that her manager was besieged with calls claiming it would be "career suicide". But Diaz is clearly not too worried about appearances. Admitting that she was "boy crazy" when she was younger, the actress says: "I always liked the boy who was sticking the needle through his hand or chopping up sweets and snorting them."

The Irish heart-throb Gabriel Byrne's career advice comes from his children rather than colleagues. The Byrne bairns helped Dad pick his mainstream role in the Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster End of Days, which opened in the UK last week. "I only did it because the kids wanted me to do an action movie," he told Pandora. "When I read the script and saw that Satan [Byrne's character] `picks up Arnie from the floor with one hand and makes him cry,' I thought, that will make the children happy."

YOU ARE what you eat, by Act of Parliament no less. In an alliance of all shapes and sizes, the bicycling Lib Dem MP Tom Brake has attracted heavyweight support from the Labour members Eric Clarke and Robert Wareing for his motion about the Commons canteen. It proposes that, "for the same price, two ice-cream scoops of mashed potato is far less tempting than a massive portion of chips" and calls for "equality of treatment for both mash- and chips-lovers". But despite backing from the Government side, the measure still has only the three original signatories, making the case for "portional" representation a little soggy.

Taking a lead from other PR-conscious airline bosses, senior staff of China's largest airline will take to the air for the turn of the millennium. China Southern Airlines president Yan Zhi Qing will fly from Guangzhou to LA, senior vice-president Han Ma Zhang from Guangzhou to Singapore and vice-president Hu Yun Qi from Guangzhou to Beijing. Maybe they think the millennium bug will observe the Chinese New Year, which doesn't start until 16 February.