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Witches return to the blasted heath

NOT CONTENT with the late Sam Wanamaker's attempt to recreate the Globe Theatre in London, a band of Scots in Invernessshire plans to build a Macbeth theme park on Hardmuir, the 'Blasted Heath' of Shakespeare's play, on which the witches chant their 'Double, double, toil and trouble,/ Fire burn, and cauldron bubble'.

The idea behind the pounds 800,000 project, scheduled for completion in 1995, is primarily to provide jobs for local people in an area where unemployment stands at 32 per cent, and to boost tourism. However, Hugh Fraser, the businessman in charge of the scheme, also hopes the park will dispel what he sees as the erroneous myth in which Shakespeare has managed to shroud the former Scottish king.

'Macbeth was not a demon murderer. He was a good king who ruled Scotland well for 17 years,' he said. 'We will retell his story in a light-hearted fashion, using fact and fiction. We will also tell the tale of the self-confessed witch Isobel Gowdie, whose trial of 1662 is recorded in local documents.'

Outside attractions will therefore include paths littered with glassfibre witches and goblins,

although diversions inside the main building - restaurants, workshops, etc - will be on the safer side. Sadly, no plans as yet for walking forests.

ADULTEROUS government ministers in this country may occasionally be forced from office, but there is usually an element of decorum about their going, with wives standing full-square beside them as they fall from grace. In Zambia, political wives take a dimmer view of affairs, the most notable example recently being the wife of Newstead Zimba, the country's home affairs minister, who suspected a pregnant woman of having a liaison with her husband.

Storming the woman's house with two of her sons, Nora Zimba broke all her windows before abducting her in a Mercedes. She then drove to the minister's office, where she paraded the hapless woman in front of him and his staff. 'At 28, this woman is as old as your third-born son, so why not give her to one of your children?' she bellowed at her husband.

Only one option was left to the minister in charge of the law: Mr Zimba had his wife arrested on the spot.

Friendly exchange

LAST summer's speculation that Baroness Blatch would take over as Secretary of State for Education from the then ailing John Patten has come to nothing, but I gather Mr Patten's deputy is sticking to a game plan she first devised during his absence. Knowing her boss had fallen out with the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations - he described their campaign against his education reforms as 'neanderthal' - she determined to mend relations with the organisation's spokeswoman, Margaret Morrissey, and spent much of the summer in close attendance. So close are the two women that when Ms Morrissey picked up her mobile telephone while travelling to London by train on Wednesday, the following conversation is said to have taken place. 'Hello, this is Emily speaking,' said the baroness, her voice competing with a BR announcement. To which Ms Morrissey replied (no doubt to Mr Patten's delight): 'Emily who?'

IN A sale at Queen's University, Belfast, copies of James Molyneaux's biography, Molyneaux - The Long View, will tomorrow be reduced from pounds 7.50 to pounds 2.99. Do they know something we don't?

Money to burn

ONE OF the more unusual appeals for a government grant has been made by a publican, Mike Milner, who has been pulling the beer pumps at the Soltersgate Inn in North Yorkshire since last summer. He is delighted with the pub, I'm told, but he wishes a tradition that goes with it wasn't quite so expensive. According to legend, the pub's fire must never go out, and it has duly been burning for the past 198 years. Mr Milner is asking for help towards his pounds 150 per month fuel bill.

A DAY LIKE THIS

7 January 1917 The Rev Andrew Clark at Great Leights in Essex writes in his diary: 'The village gossips are much exercised over the Government's exhortations to practise economy, addressed to a village like this where no one has ever done anything else and where there is no increase in money received, since no one has war-work, and reserve to give or invest. They have an instance in point, if extravagance is sinful (as the Government says) why did Mr Asquith not check it in in the case of his daughter's marriage (she had married at a large society event the previous November)? If the national funds are in such need, why doesn't Mr Asquith sacrifice a tenth of his large income, and other members of the Government likewise, to the national need?'

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