Pandora: Palin wields his pen as Israel's army advances

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The Independent Online

Hats off to Michael Palin, who will once again prove his credentials as show business's very own Indiana Jones by pressing ahead with plans to address an audience at the Palestinian Festival of Literature today – apparently undaunted – by Israeli attempts to put an end to the event.

It's a brave move, particularly given that Saturday night's opening ceremony was forced to relocate at the last minute, when 12 officials, acting on orders from the minister of internal security, gate-crashed the Palestinian National Theatre to demand an end to proceedings. Despite the intrusion, the ceremony went ahead a little later, in the garden of the French Cultural Centre, with Israeli police looking on.

Now, says Palin, he is as determined as ever to give his scheduled talk at Bethlehem's Ad-Dar Cultural and Conference Centre.

"It's an example of the pen being mightier than the sword," he tells us. "We managed to say what we wanted to say... it's the reaffirmation of power of culture over the culture of power."

Some more brain custard, Heston?

Pig nipple scratchings, calf's brain custard, and exploding animals could all be on the menu if Heston Blumenthal's proposed London venture goes according to plan. "It won't be a Fat Duck but it will have a strong element of British history," says the madcap chef, whose recent historical TV series Heston's Feasts featured all three. "I haven't signed anything yet," he adds. "[But] we have been talking to the Mandarin Oriental and two or three other people for two years."

Silvio loses his sense of humour

Is Silvio Berlusconi feeling a little sensitive? Pandora's Rome correspondent reports a curious alteration to a film poking fun at the Italian Premier.

Night at the Museum 2, which stars Ricky Gervais alongside Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, contains a joke comparing Berlusconi to Napoleon: "He's my height, a bit fat, very powerful," reads the script. "Everyone knows him and there's even some who like him."

But it seems that the last line may have been lost in translation, so to speak. Italian audiences will hear the considerably rosier: "Everyone knows him and the whole world loves him."

Pelling's yet to be courted by The Lady

"The whole idea tickles me pink!" exclaims Rowan Pelling, The Erotic Review's erstwhile "editrice", of talk that she is next in line for editorship of The Lady. "It makes me think of those courtesans who become nuns." And well it might: when she first joined the ER, Pelling adopted an alter ego, Emily Ford, "a bespectacled librarian dressed in a 1940s-style tweed suit, underneath which she religiously wore a suspender-belt and silk stockings." Pandora very much doubts that this is standard dress at The Lady, self-styled "journal for gentle-women."

Pelling adds: "I think this persona would transfer wonderfully... But as far as I understand the magazine has its own splendid editor... I'm gutted to report that nobody has approached me."

'Tis a shame!

Campbell's birthday wish comes true

*Belated birthday wishes to Alastair Campbell, who turned 52 yesterday. The spin maestro claimed to have but one wish for the occasion: a Burnley FC victory in yesterday's Sheffield United match. (Pandora could suggest a few more requests – perhaps concerning the Labour Party's poll ratings – though that is another story). Happily for Campbell, Burnley brought home the goods. Drinks all round!