People: Table talk leaves Keating furious

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA'S Prime Minister, Paul Keating, who prides himself on both his republicanism and his knowledge of antiques, is acutely embarrassed over his choice of a dining table for The Lodge, his official residence in Canberra. On the advice of a friend in Sydney's antiques world, Mr Keating commissioned a dining table to seat 24. The teak table was made in Thailand to a classic English Regency design.

When it was delivered, the table was rejected by the Australiana Fund, which organises and pays for furniture and art works for Australia's official residences: it wasn't Australian enough. Mr Keating was furious, but had to send the table back to his Sydney antique dealer where it is now up for sale at 20,000 Australian dollars (pounds 9,000).

Perhaps Mr Keating will be consoled by his planned visit to his family's ancestral farmhouse in Ireland, now an ivy-clad ruin, that his great-great-grandather, John Keating, quit in 1855. Six months' research in parish records in the Galway village of Tynagh showed that John and Mary Keating left with their eight children and arrived in Australia aboard the ship Mangerton, probably to escape the potato famine.

In somewhat vindictive mood, the film star Burt Reynolds has challenged his estranged wife Loni Anderson to take competing truth-drug tests to determine who started sleeping around first during their four-year marriage. Reynolds, who is having an affair with a waitress from Florida, is so confident of the result that he has staked the dollars 13m (pounds 6.5m) that Anderson wants in a divorce settlement, and custody of their adopted son Quinton, 5, on the outcome. He also promised to hand over his ranch, his house and 'a lot of western art she doesn't want'. He said the purpose of the test would be to determine how many affairs each had and who started first.

Never one to be discreet, the fat French model Anne Zamberlan, whose generous curves adorn French advertising hoardings, is furious that Air Inter, the domestic airline, refused to sell her a ticket for a single seat. Being asked to pay double was, she said, 'an attack on human dignity'. So she took the train instead. Air Inter is unmoved: it confirmed that its policy was to charge two tickets for anyone taking up two seats, 'whether they be injured or voluminous'.

There were high hopes for royal matchmaking at the party King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway threw to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Fourteen unattached princes and princesses milled around Oslo's royal palace at the start of a five-day bash. But amid the ranks of limousines, Per Gunnar Haugen, a 23-year-old windsurfer, rolled up in his tiny green Fiat to join his girlfriend, Norway's Princess Martha Louise, 21, thus scotching expectations that she might be paired up with other royal guests, including Prince Edward.

The Japanese press meanwhile are getting excited about a potential royal romance nearer home. Princess Nori of Japan, 24, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Emperor Michiko, is heading to Europe for what the papers call a love tryst. While on holiday in a Belgian chateau as a guest of Queen Fabiola, the princess is to have a discreet rendezvous with a possible fiance, Toshinaru Bojo, a 31-year-old of good family who is studying gothic architecture in France. Arranged marriages are common in Japan, but if a prospective partner doesn't please, either one can call it off.

Winner of the Nobel prize for literature, the poet and playwright Derek Walcott returned home to St Lucia to receive its highest honour, the St Lucia Cross, in recognition of his achievement in putting the little Caribbean island 'before the eyes of the world through his works', as the Governor-General, Stanislaus James, put it. The island's largest park, Columbus Park, was also renamed in Walcott's honour.

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