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NEIL'S SEND-OFF BASH HIT BY INFLATION

After a little arm-twisting, members of the Shadow Cabinet agreed a few weeks ago to part with pounds 100 each to fund a send-off meal for Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley including 'presentations'. It will be held a week today. That was painful enough. But now the party organiser, Jack Cunningham, (his last organising job, you'll remember, was the 1992 election campaign) has had to write a difficult letter to the partygoers. 'I regret to have to tell you that the original 'quotes' of the likely cost of the meal and presentations were a considerable underestimate.' All suitable venues in the House of Commons were booked up, he explains, and so a private room at the Savoy Hotel has been taken. 'This,' writes Cunningham, 'has increased the expense . . .' It has also, we gather, increased the collective Shadow Cabinet blood pressure. Cunningham concludes by requesting that his colleagues accept his apologies and send a further cheque for pounds 50. Smartish.

'WAS IT YOU,' asks a paragraph in the Sun's sports pages, 'who blew Jeremy Bates away?' They're referring, of course, to the sneezer who let rip at the Wimbledon audience on Monday afternoon, causing Bates to fluff the crucial serve that might have beaten Guy Forget and made old England great again. 'If you can throw any light on the big tishoo, give Sunsport a call,' the item goes on innocently enough. Advice: if it was you, don't call - just jump. It'll be easier that way.

HOWE IT HAPPENED

Geoffrey Howe, who follows Baroness Thatcher to the Lords today, has an autobiography on the way. Its publisher, Macmillan, promises 'a detailed account of the circumstances leading to his resignation speech and its explosive effect upon the power dynamics of his party' - also known as The Juicy Bit. But we must wait until 1994 before we can read how Geoffrey fell out with Maggie - and felled her. On the subject of the Baroness, you may have read that staff at Middlesex University have called for the banning of nouns ending in '-ess', like stewardess or mistress, because, they say, the suffix 'stereotypes females as wicked'. Hmmm. Baronette isn't quite right. It'll have to be Baron Thatcher.

MIKHAIL MALEY, defence adviser to Boris Yeltsin, has a good wheeze. He proposes replacing the nuclear warheads in the nose cones of SS-18 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles with up to seven tons of food, blankets and tents. Whenever an emergency occurs the idea would be to lob an SS-18 at the trouble- spot and bomb it with sustenance.

A PUFF OF SMOKE

Spontaneous human combustion is not taken seriously enough, says Jenny Randles. She and Peter Hough have spent seven years working on their book, Spontaneous Human Combustion, to be published later this month. 'It took us a long time building up contacts. When we first asked around everyone denied being interested, but after a while we found a number of scientists who were carrying out related experiments and who would admit to us that they knew it happened.' And it happens a lot - Randles estimates that 10 to 100 people in Britain burst into flames each year. So how do you avoid it? There are, confesses Randles, 'freak combinations of gases and food which could result in combustion. A combination of hydrocarbons from eating too many eggs and medicine to control bowel movements which consists of liquid paraffin could, according to some scientists, be a flammable combination.' You have been warned.

AMANDA de Cadenet, whom you might call a television presenter, talks in Hello magazine of her new baby daughter, Atlanta. 'She'll stop me spending so much money in Sloane Street] It's a bit of an effort (having a baby) so I haven't bought so many clothes since she came around.' There's more. 'It's great to have a girl because I can show her all my Chanel jewellery and she'll inherit a great wardrobe.' And: 'She is going to be my friend, well, she is already. I'm pleased there isn't a generation gap.' Amanda is 20.

A DAY LIKE THIS

1 July 1929 Dora Carrington writes to Julia Strachey from The Hague: 'The Dutch are extremely plain, slow and lacking in sensibility (to my way of thinking). In their favour: the coffee is good, some of the architecture very beautiful and lovely pictures in the galleries. We've had one grand dinner so far, enormous varieties of hors d'oeuvres: literally 20 dishes. All the time a band of Javanese coffee-coloured musicians played passionate passages from the greater Italian operas dressed in cherry red uniforms with gold frogs. The Dutch under the influence of food and drink lapse back (even in the grand restaurants) into amorous scenes by Rubens, loll in their chairs, burst into coarse laughter and tinkle glasses together. So far I have seen no interesting cats.'

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