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THE LAST time Robin Cook tried to go off on holiday - to Colorado - he was stopped by colleagues at the airport as the story of his extramarital affair was about to break. Today our Foreign Secretary sets off - with his new wife - on a richly deserved fortnight's vacation in France. However, he won't be coming back to Westminster when it ends, but will be accompanying the Queen on her state visit to Malaysia and Brunei. Last time Cook travelled East with the Queen - to India - he departed a bit early, causing his critics to accuse him of abandoning the Sovereign to return to his mistress. It's likely he'll be sticking right by her Majesty's side for the duration this time, then winging back to that fantastic Brighton conference.

IT'S STILL a month away but Pandora can't believe the mounting excitement. This year's Labour Party conference is promising to be a true extravaganza, although its timing does present a potential problem for Jewish party members. The Prime Minister will be addressing conference on Tuesday, 29 September, which also marks the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday in the Hebrew calendar, when religious Jews will want to begin fasting by 6:30pm, to attend synagogue and be with their families. Fortunately, Tony Blair's speech should be finished earlier in the afternoon. It remains to be seen, however, if Blair's speech will draw inspiration from this, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when repentance for your sins is required. Pandora doubts it, but wouldn't that be a wonderful surprise?

MANDY'S AFTER-HOURS shopping spree in the Conran Shop should have set new standards of customer service for British shopkeepers everywhere. Pandora wondered how the new President of the Board of Trade would fare, were he to indulge in the same sort of leisurely evening patronage back home in his Cleveland constituency? "Any particular night in mind?" asked George Skinner, the genial manager of Povey Carpets, in Hartlepool. "I'm normally here late anyway," he assured Pandora. "Sundays as well."

HOW REASSURING to hear that the Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio has changed his mind and turned down a $20m starring role in the film version of Bret Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho. The voyeuristic, blood-and-designer- label-soaked account of a yuppie serial murderer, American Psycho struck many critics as the worst sensationalist tripe to come along in many years. The film was first planned as a low-budget production, but once DiCaprio was aboard there was talk of a $40m budget, with Oliver Stone directing. Now that Leonardo has headed for the lifeboats, American Psycho looks destined to end up where it belongs - sunk out of sight.

PANDORA RECENTLY reported on the domestic bliss of the film stars Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke(pictured below), whose baby girl arrived earlier this summer. The DIY newlyweds were renovating their new country house up in Sneden's Landing, New York. But that's over now. After just six months, they have put the $1.25m residence, "Ding Dong House", back on the market. One tabloid ventured that this might be because the house is haunted. In fact, the town is haunted by celebrities, past and present - Al Pacino, William Hurt, Bill Murray... Indeed "Ding Dong House" was the home, at various times, of the composer Aaron Copeland, the choreographer Jerome Robbins and the psychologically troubled Superman actress Margot Kidder. Ding dong ding. On second thoughts, Uma and Ethan are staying put in Manhattan.

DOES ACUPUNCTURE on the 29th floor of Guy's Hospital sound like a tempting night out? Acupuncture is apparently a "leisure trainer" company. Most of the celebrities it invited to Monday night's launch party for its new trainers decided to give the hospital bash a miss. The evening's entertainment involved sticking a plaster on part of

your anatomy and then taking a photograph of it. This concept, as conveyed i

n a TV advertisement, has been found too risque to be broadcast. A photo of one specific anatomical feature,

minus the plaster, might not reflect acupuncture's bottom line,

but it would mirror the firm's

PR finesse.