The Box: When sorry is not enough

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The Independent Online
A NEW example of tender feelings at 10 Downing Street's press office has reached Pandora. One of Tony Blair's top press officers, Tim Allan, has issued a writ against the Guardian after a story by its architecture correspondent, Jonathan Glancey, identified Allan - wrongly, Glancey now admits - as having made an angry telephone call to the Guardian hack after he wrote critically about the Dome. Glancey's story appeared the day after Blair's "envy of the world" speech; it described Mandelson's folly as naive, cartoon-like and ill-informed. He received a highly unpleasant but authoritative telephone call from someone claiming to be a Downing Street press officer. The caller refused to give his name. Glancey then wrote a follow-up story about the phone call, claiming it was from Tim Allan. Allan immediately called Glancey and pointed out his mistake. The Guardian subsequently printed an apology. In ordinary times, this would have been the end of the unfortunate incident. But then the writ arrived from Allan's lawyers. Can anyone remember one of Mrs Thatcher's press officers filing suit against the Telegraph? In the meantime, if anyone has a clue about the true identity of Glancey's mysterious crank caller please get in touch with Pandora.

Changing political climate

IF ONE man has his way, there definitely will be an Irish agreement later this week. The chairman of the mediating team at the Irish peace talks in Stormont, George J Mitchell, has had a flu-like cold since January, the Washington Post reported yesterday. The Irish-American, 64-year-old former US senator flies back and forth across the Atlantic weekly and also blames the Northern Irish climate for his inability to get rid of his symptoms. In fact, Mitchell was raised by his adopted Lebanese immigrant parents in Maine, where the climate is far harsher than anything you will find in the Emerald Isle. It was Mitchell who set the deadline for agreement in the talks for this Thursday. Although retired from the Senate, Mitchell, who isn't being paid for his work at Stormont, has an extremely active law practice and is a director of a number of corporations, including Federal Express, Xerox and Walt Disney.

Gary's not such a bad boy

LAST week saw Titanic knocked out of the number one spot on the list of top US box office films. The new blockbuster is Lost In Space, in which Gary Oldman stars as yet another monstrously wicked villain. Oldman distinguished himself last year for his realistic but highly compassionate semi-autobiographical film, Nil by Mouth, which he wrote and directed. Some may recall a story several years back about Oldman's mother, Kay Delahunty, who refused to accept her millionaire son's invitations to move to Hollywood and persisted in living on a south London estate and working at a cafe on a barge. Now word reaches Pandora that Oldman has finally succeeded in persuading his mum to join him and has bought her a house in Beverly Hills.

Behaviour so uncool

FOR almost three decades, Elaine's has been the trendiest celebrity bistro in New York, where Woody Allen rubs shoulders with Norman Mailer and everyone who is anyone in Upper East Side celebrity circles goes to watch the Academy awards. If you are not a celebrity, the glowering figure of Elaine Kaufman "greeting" you at the door to her Italian restaurant is not altogether a welcome sight. This weekend Elaine's famous coolness towards her non-glittering clients reached a watershed. She was arrested early Saturday morning for allegedly attacking a patron who had, refused to order a drink.

Warbling in Welsh

REPORTS of William Hague being tutored by his wife, Ffion, in how to sing the Welsh national anthem reminded Pandora of a story Sir Edward Heath likes to tell about his own Welsh rugby crooning experiences. Whenever the former Prime Minister would travel to Cardiff to watch England play Wales, he would be greeted before the match by a stalwart local Tory. "Your usual, sir?" he would ask, and then pass a copy of the Welsh anthem written out in phonetic English for him to sing before the television cameras.