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Ice storm

THE BUDGET was painless, so Pandora heads to Bond Street. First stop: Asprey. A report in a New York tabloid yesterday claimed that an Asprey executive had said something rude ("she's rather fat and dishevelled") about Kate Winslet and the $3.5m Couer de la Mer necklace which the jeweller designed for the film Titanic. The notion that Asprey wasn't keen to have our Kate wear the sapphire and diamond trinket to the Academy Awards on Monday was "absolutely completely unfounded ... utter rubbish" according to the store. "We first offered it to Kate Winslet to wear to the Oscars, but she declined." So the necklace will be worn by Celine Dion when she sings at the awards. Unless it is sold at the "Princess Ball" charity auction this Saturday in Beverly Hills and the new owner opts to wear it.

Going for a Ong

THE Queen of Bond Street, Christina Ong, is a shy Singaporean lady with impeccable taste in brand names. She is the wife of a secretive Singaporean billionaire named Ong Beng Seng. Whereas most wealthy ladies go shopping for glamorous fashions, Christina has been able to buy up the entire UK franchises of top designers such as Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Prada and Guess, as well as Bulgari, the jewellers. Thanks to their successes, Christina and BS have gone on to build the trendiest new hotel in London, the Metropolitan on Park Lane, as well as the Halkin in Mayfair. "BS Ong" is also the largest Hard Rock franchisee. But times change and economic woes in the Far East have led to the Ongs divesting. In January, the Telegraph reported that Ong had sold an Austrian hotel, a Gulfstream jet and a Bulgari jewellery shop and was looking to sell his stake in Branson's Virgin Entertainment Group. Now Pandora has learnt that he has sold his 50 per cent of the Four Seasons Hotel on Park Lane to Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

Dwarfing the news

LEAVING the fairy lights of Bond Street for the fairy tales of Wapping, what is the difference between "up market" and "down market" at Rupert Murdoch's newspapers? Both The Times and The Sun had cartoon illustrations of dwarves on their Budget front pages. The "up market" Times portrayed Gordon Brown as one of Snow White's dwarves while the "down market" Sun drew him as Snow White leading her dwarves. Literally speaking, not much difference at all.

Helpful Harriet

THAT didn't protect the news desk at The Times on Tuesday evening from irate, pleading telephone calls from Martin Sixsmith, Harriet Harman's spin-doctor, and then the Social Security Secretary herself. At issue was a diary piece about Harman's daughter, who has been informed that her Dulwich home is beyond the catchment area of the highly desirable(particularly if you're a Labour minister) Church of England comprehensive Lady Margaret School. After Sixsmith failed to convince that this was an infringement of the Privacy Code, Harriet rang to say that surely The Times had better things to publish. "Why don't you print a picture of [assistant editor] Mary Ann Sieghart?" she asked, leading some of the hacks to wonder if they should ring the Dulwich office of Care in the Community.

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