Pandora

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HEALTH SECRETARY Frank Dobson, who returned from a ministerial visit to South Africa last weekend, has found himself being held to account for his past. The Holborn & St Pancras MP is a trustee of the Covent Garden Community Centre, according to the Camden New Journal, and therefore liable for debts the centre has run up with Camden Council. A report warned councillors that there would be difficulty to recoup the money and that trustees may face "serious personal and financial difficulties and even bankruptcy". In efforts to call in the debts from the trustees last week, the Labour council was prompted to include Dobson for fear of showing bias. The result is a pounds 1,500 bill for Dobson. Considering his plans to force medical graduates to repay the state for their training if they do not spend a minimum time working in the NHS, Dobson will surely know the importance of honouring a debt.

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THE TO-ING and fro-ing over the right to roam in the countryside has prompted the Country Landowners Association to make recourse to the Web. Responding to the charge from the Ramblers Association that landowners were not voluntarily providing the public with enough access to the countryside, the CLA has put together Access 2000 on its website. The register, designed to show that there is enough voluntary access given by landowners without the need for the government to legislate, offers many exciting opportunities that Pandora is anxious to take up. In Surrey, for example, there are places where the public can go "tobogganing, when snow is a reasonable depth and livestock has been removed"; in one parish in Leicestershire there is the opportunity to join a "clay pigeon shoot club on alternate Sundays", while an exciting opportunity exists in West Sussex for "ploughing matches by arrangement". Phew, after all that excitement Pandora feels like a walk.

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STAYING WITH all things rural, an intriguing notice appears in the latest issue of the magazine of the National Farmers' Union. "We were due to meet Michael Mates MP on 25 September but he called off at the last minute due to good poisoning. This will be re-arranged and I will report in next month's notes." In the meantime, Pandora wishes Mates a bad recovery.

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NOVELIST TOM Wolfe has thrown his vanities on the bonfire to endorse a Republican candidate for Congress. The recipient of Wolfe's uncharacteristic foray into the political sphere is Stephanie Kupferman, who is also backed by New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former President George Bush. Wolfe held a fundraiser for Kupferman a few weeks ago as an outward show of what the New York Post calls his long-suspected Republican sympathies. Republicans everywhere must be wondering what else is left in the "favour- bank".

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PETER MANDELSON might not be best pleased with the new newspaper The Wharf. The Mirror Group's new journal for the Wharf's workforce includes a set-piece article from Mandelson about the influence of the Dome on the importance of the Docklands area. Unfortunately, for Mandy the article appeared across the page from an article asking "Has Blair betrayed nurses?" Of course, you have to take the rough with the smooth.

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THE RAILWAY Hotel in Harrow has been a popular venue for rock bands for the last 40 years and is famous as the first place where the Who's Pete Townshend (pictured) smashed up his guitar on stage. Now permission has been granted for the building to become a church. "I'm really sad to see it shut," said manager Grainne Hennessy to the Harrow Observer, "but considering the ghosts who are supposed to inhabit the pub, maybe a church would be the best thing to have."

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"ELVIS HAS left the building, Elvis has left the building" amused passengers at Canary Wharf station were assured last Thursday. Was someone doing a guest spot on the tannoy? Was the King really in town? Pandora made some enquiries with the nice lady at the Docklands Light Railway: "Some schoolchildren thought it might be amusing if they took over the tannoy. The matter is being dealt with by the British Transport Police. I won't say anymore than that." Poor woman. She sounded all shook up.

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