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Yesterday the Queen reopened the King's Apartments at Hampton Court Palace, now restored after the terrible fire of six years ago. Candy Kuhl, of Oxford Conservation, was one of those invited to the ceremony - but she didn't turn up. Her company was hired to complete the pounds 10m restoration programme, but it is now suffering from the failure of Historic Royal Palaces, the government agency responsible, to pay the bill. Oxford Conservation completed, on deadline, the restoration of seven Raphael cartoons, loaned from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for display at the palace. The company received payment for materials, but has found, since it sent in its major bill, that only a trickle of money has been forthcoming from the uncommunicative HRP. 'They either wouldn't take my calls or said that payments were on the way,' explains Kuhl. Her solicitors are now trying to recover the outstanding pounds 19,000 - which may not sound like much, but is wreaking havoc on Oxford Conservation's cash flow. 'This sort of thing should not happen to small firms who are attempting to preserve the heritage of Great Britain,' says Kuhl. Crawford Macdonald, director of the palace, refused to discuss the case.

AND NOW the reasons behind the violence on the Ordsall estate in Salford. Quite apart from the deprivation, poverty and all that, there's this particular cause for complaint turned up by the Salford Urban Mission. The youth who torched the carpet warehouse, reports a mission worker, did so because he was 'sick of seeing the ads for Carpet World on television'.


Dame Barbara Cartland is 91 today, and in fine form. Yesterday, she tells us, she dictated 7,700 words of her latest novel, today she will attend a lunch party given in her honour by a new hotel in central London where rooms can cost as much as pounds 1,000 a night. 'I think people are mad - no one I know has got any money at all. Everyone's poor and out of work,' she says with characteristic candour. Dame Barbara has herself been sacked from the Oldie magazine ('Richard Ingrams told me I could not write about health'), but she is furiously writing letters about the British Humanist Association's attempts to explain atheism to schools. One was published in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, despite the fact that there's a froideur between Dame Barbara and that paper's editor, Max Hastings. According to some reports, she has banned him from her Hertfordshire home, Camfield Place. 'Oh no,' says Dame Barbara. 'I banned him from the shooting. Because between drives he killed my call duck (a bird unable to fly, used to entice others to a pond). Shot it, killed it - it was very unsporting of him. I think it's because he had an unhappy home.'

ADVICE from Richard Branson on how to make your wad. Interviewed in Q magazine, he says he never carries cash. 'My pay cheque goes straight to the bank and I just never seem to draw any cash out. But that's the quickest way to become a millionaire, isn't it? Borrow fivers off everyone you meet.'


For fans of these things, here is the President of the United States defending his record: 'I see no media mention of it, but we entered in - you asked what time it is and and I'm telling you how to build a watch here - but we had Boris Yeltsin here the other day. And I think my times campaigning in Iowa, years ago, and how there was a - Iowa has kind of, I single out Iowa, it's kind of an international state in a sense and has a great interest in all these things - and we had Yeltsin standing here in the Rose Garden and we entered into a deal to eliminate the biggest and most ballistic missiles and it was almost, 'Ho-hum, what have you done for me recently?' '

YOU may have wondered why, as they left the talks on Ireland at Lancaster House on Tuesday night, certain of the politicians were looking rather pleased with themselves. 'Every day is a good day,' chirped the nationalist SDLP MP Seamus Mallon, though nothing very significant had happened. Turns out that he, his colleague John Hume and several Irish government ministers were some pounds 2,000 richer, having backed Mallon's tip for the 5.15 at Newmarket, Aughfad, which came in at eight to one. The Ulster Unionists at the conference did not share this bounty.


9 July 1942 Adolf Hitler speculates at dinner: 'People frequently ask how it is that Rommel enjoys so great a worldwide reputation. Not a little is due to Churchill's speeches, in which, for tactical reasons of policy, he always portrays him as a military genius. Churchill's reason for doing so, of course, is that he does not wish to admit that the British are getting a damned good hiding from the Italians in Egypt and Libya . . . Now the name of Rommel is hallowed among the primitive races of North Africa and the Middle East. This shows how dangerous it is to portray an opponent in this manner. The mere name suddenly begins to acquire a value equal to that of several divisions.'