Pandora

Cliff Richard, eat your heart out. The real Millennium Prayer has been written by backbench MP extraordinaire Andrew Mackinlay. Our Andy from Essex (his seat is Thurrock) believes "the commercial hype surrounding the so-called `millennium celebrations' to be disproportionate and inappropriate". In a classic piece of parliamentary graffiti put to the Commons before Christmas recess, he says that "the hallmark of the 20th century has been world wars and mass genocide on an unparalleled scale caused through the selfishness and miscalculations of kings, politicians, generals and others in privileged and high places". Not convinced that things can only get better, hehopes that "the time between this commercial binge and the true millennium of 31 December 2000 will be used to begin a meaningful attempt at making the coming century better that the last". Andy, there's a place for you in the history books - if not in the Dome.

AMONG THOSE unlucky (or is that lucky?) enough to be working over the Millennium eve is Labour MP Gareth Thomas (Harrow West). As Home Office parliamentary private secretary, Thomas volunteered to be the Government's spokesman on the Millennium Bug. Luckily for Thomas, this sober duty will be followed by a ski-ing holiday - assuming the Bug doesn't leave his plane grounded.

Speculation that unlikely couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones are to split has been rife over Christmas. A last-minute decision by Zeta Jones to spend Christmas in Wales had Douglas scrambling across the Atlantic to join her. While the British press has almost given up on them (notably Scotland's Sunday Mail, which called Zeta Jones a "simple, calculating wee Welsh girl who knew that a famous husband never did a girl any harm"), Douglas's generosity has swayed US opinion. For Christmas, he gave her two diamond bracelets. But as diamonds are a girl's best friend, does she still need the man?

FORGOTTEN TO buy someone a Christmas present? How about bidding for a Russian submarine? Built in 1964, this 300ft relic of the Cold War is being auctioned on the Internet by the SubExpo company (www. subexpo.com). "We'd like $1m but we'll settle for less," says the company's president, Alexander Sheftman, who adds reassuringly: "It's not hot."

The most amusing moment provided by Christmas television this year almost went unnoticed. Who Wants to be a Christmas Millionaire? took the unofficial Yuletide comedy award when one contestant phoned a friend to ask which country out of Norway, Denmark, Finland or Sweden did not help constitute Lapland. "I'll go for Swindon," the hapless chum offered, correct in a manner of speaking.

PHILOSOPHER OF the millennium? Thomas Aquinas? Rene Descartes? Karl Marx? Try Eric Cantona. The Gallic wisdom of the former footballing hot head (now "star" of the grand ecran) stretches further than seagulls and trawlers. Pandora considers this an appropriate time to revisit Eric's fertile mind. In the days leading up to 2000 we have selected a few favourites. Today: "Life is always too cruel. All we can do is say, `Let's try and pass the ball and let the sun shine.' Let's just hope it shines on everyone."

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