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FOR 53 years it was solely concerned with the doings of two neighbourhoods on the west side of Manhattan, stretching from 15th Street up to 34th Street. Now it is scrutinising the activities of a 12-year-old girl from Little Rock, Arkansas. For the Chelsea Clinton News, founded in 1939 to report on New York's Chelsea and Clinton districts, shares its name with Bill Clinton's daughter. A few weeks before the US election, the paper began a 'Chelsea Watch' column, addressing such topics as the Joni Mitchell song 'Chelsea Morning', after which she was named, and where Chelsea would go to school in Washington. More recently the column dealt with the 'Socksgate' affair, in which catmint-wielding photographers lured Chelsea's cat Socks from the Arkansas governor's mansion into the full glare of a global photo opportunity. A furious Mr Clinton then ordered the press never to touch the cat again. 'What worries me most about Socksgate,' writes the 'Chelsea Watch' columnist, Kate Aurthur, 'is that Bill's decree originated from the iron fist of Chelsea . . . In nightmares I have about Chelsea's future, I see 'First Brat' headlines and the Times comparing her ostracism to that of Sinead O'Connor . . .' Even more disturbing, the paper suggests, is the news that Bill and Hillary send Chelsea

to a German-speaking summer camp.

ONE HAPPY result of shopping at Thresher's, for N Lamont at least, is that he gets to keep his job. John Major is now letting it be known that the promised Christmas Cabinet reshuffle will not, after all, take place - largely, it seems, because of a desire not to seem bulldozed by the newspapers. Lamont will doubtless be showing his appreciation, come Budget time, by cutting tax on claret.


The bottom, it seems, has dropped out of the second-hand vacuum cleaner market. See yesterday's Loot, London's free ads paper: 'Hoover model 2798 upright vacuum cleaner with tools, brand new, never used, still boxed with 12 months warranty . . .', Turbo upright Hoover, plus warranty, brand new, unused, still boxed, unwanted gift . . .', 'Hoover vacuum cleaner, turbo power, U2798, brand new, dust has never soiled my brushes, must sell, owner going abroad . . .' Hoover Ltd's 'spend more than pounds 100 on a Hoover product and get two free tickets to the USA' has led to a monstrous glut of unwanted fluff gobblers. So we can only support the sentiment expressed in a car sticker spotted this week: 'A Hoover is for life, not just for Christmas.'

A FRENCH trucker, it is reported, has been banned from driving for two years after being caught on the M6 nearly four times over the limit. The man's name? Patrick Meurdesoif - or 'dies of drink'.


Neil Kinnock, Barbara Follett and Tessa Blackstone held a birthday bash at the Natural History Museum in London on Tuesday night, to celebrate having clocked up 150 years between them. It took place under a large, red-lit dinosaur (Diplodocus Carnegie, since you ask). The party, paid for by Follett and her husband, Ken, faltered slightly just before 10 o'clock, when almost all the MPs present left

to go and vote. But not Jack Cunningham, the shadow foreign affairs spokesman, who decided, wisely, to stick with the dead dinosaur.

FANCY an alternative to the Queen's speech on Christmas Day? Well, Nigel 'exciting' Mansell reviews his annus mirabilis on BBC 2, while Channel 4 is showing The Phantom Tollbooth. But there's Problem Child on the Movie Channel, That Girl on Bravo, All Mixed Up on Superchannel or The Newly Wed Game on Lifestyle.


Christmas present suggestions. How about 'a realistically detailed, life-size bust of foam- filled latex, modelled as a mortally wounded screaming man with shaven head and eyes closed, a large hole on the left side of the cranium exposing pieces of brain and other tissue, with simulated blood trickling from the wound, down the face . . .' Made from a life cast of Charles Dance for use in the film Alien 3, it's estimated to go for pounds 2,000 to pounds 4,000 at a Christie's sale today. They've also got a fully working flame thrower from the same film ( pounds 2,000 to pounds 2,500) - just the thing for dealing with used wrapping paper.


17 December 1946 Denton Welch writes in his journal: 'John Turner, whom I first remember as a small boy of 14 watching the air battles of 1940, and whooping with excitement and delight, came the other day after being in prison for four months for refusing to wear the King's uniform. It appears that he went on parade with yellow tie and bottle-green corduroys. He talks all the time about Anarchy; with Christianity poking its head through the folds every so often. Everybody, so he says, behaved very well indeed to him, both in the Army and in prison. The people who had not seen active service were the most inclined to be hostile.'