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Faulty crystal balls

Remember Kosovo? I seem to recall that when we were pounding Yugoslavia only a few weeks ago, it was described confidently by some as "the last major conflict of the millennium". Now here we are, about to send troops into East Timor.

You might answer that our contribution is pretty small - and mainly drawn from that institutionalised mercenary force, the Gurkhas - but no one should underestimate the ability of the East Timor conflict to get very major, and very nasty.

As my colleagues explain on other pages, Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, is extremely volatile and none too happy about what it perceives as white neo-colonialists coming to reclaim their former possessions.

Let's hope that, as in Kosovo, the peacekeepers succeed in quelling the violence (or most of it) and ensure a speedy return home for all refugees.

At the same time, perhaps we ought to refrain from any predictions that we won't have to do the same thing all over again in some other trouble spot before the millennium celebrations begin.

PG Polska

The latest fuss surrounding PG Wodehouse and his dalliance with the Nazis reminds one how extraordinarily popular he was with German readers. And not only Germans: my mother fondly remembers devouring his works during her girlhood in Poland.

What always impressed her family about this tale was the challenge of rendering Wodehouse into Polish, beside which, I would imagine, translating the specifications for a nuclear reactor or a treatise on Hegelian dialectics must be child's play. Presumably one could find equivalents for expressions such as "Pip, pip, old fruit" or "the aged ps", but how in God's name, I have always wondered, would you translate names such as Gussie Fink- Nottle or Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright? My mother can't remember. If anyone out there can help, I promise to pass the information on to you.