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NORMAN LAMONT was being curmudgeonly on Wednesday night, at the first of the two Christmas parties at No 11: 'This is the vomit party, tomorrow's the cream . . . ' he muttered to an aide, as he surveyed the guests, journalists from the lobby and from City desks. Still, gritting his teeth, he did manage to mingle a little with some of his detractors, though others were conspicuous by their absence. Representatives of the London Evening Standard, which first printed the gross calumny of the champers-and-Raffles story, were thin on the ground. Financial Times people were there, but only to learn that, having decided not to give the paper its traditional new year interview, old Greenshoots has offered it to the Times, a more Chancellor-friendly paper. Lamont had, it was said, consulted his favourite lawyer, Peter Carter- Ruck, over whether it was proper to invite any representatives of newspapers with which he is in litigation. If he had excluded them, at least the mulled wine would have run out slightly later.

THERE IS precious little festive spirit at BBC Radio Wales, which has just cut 16 sound supervisor and seven production jobs to save money. Staff at the Cardiff station were baffled to find the Christmas tree in reception being dismantled. Apparently baubles chosen by the employees were considered a touch vulgar, and the tree is being redecorated at some expense under design department supervision.


Still warmed by the glow of their International Emmy award, the team behind Channel 4's newsroom sitcom, Drop the Dead Donkey, assembled to celebrate a new run (which begins in January). Co-writer Guy Jenkin promised that even the wilder exploits of Damien, the ethically challenged newshound, have some basis in fact. An episode in the new series, Jenkin says, features Damien reporting from famine-stricken Africa. To create the image of children rummaging through rubbish for food, he throws coins into some bins. 'Mentioning no names,' 'this was something I was told had happened during coverage of the famine in the Sudan.'

WEDNESDAY night was a long one. Staggering on, we arrived at a party to open a branch of Haagen-Dazs, the trendy ice-cream sellers, in Chelsea. All sorts of strange flavours: Adam Faith, a thing from the Sixties, acting as greeter for the evening, and boasting of having had three offers to make a comeback with a new album. And then Max Clifford turns up with a crane-like Antonia de Sancha in tow. De Sancha, just back from a two- month spell in France, announces she is moving to Paris. 'I'm just getting on with my own life,' she says mysteriously. 'I'm very happy. VERY, VERY happy.'


Private Eye held its traditional party at its Soho office, squeezing scores of people into the space between two desks. 'It's like a birth canal,' gasped one contributor, trying to make his way to the door and freedom. Topics of conversation included Tom Bower, the fearless Maxwell biographer, and his new book, due in May, on Tiny Rowland. Later, partygoers gathered round a piano to sing along as Richard Ingrams played carols - but Ken Livingstone couldn't be persuaded to utter a 'Gloria]' 'Reactionary rubbish]' he snarled, making for the door.

GUESTS attending Nuclear Electric's Christmas party were given pocket calculators as presents. Solar powered ones.


And at the Guardian features department party in the crypt of St Etheldreda's Church on the edge of City, the saintly editor of the Catholic Herald, Cristina Odone, was found wringing her hands and exclaiming, 'Oh, what a Godless lot]' Why? Hacks were serving up the grub - roast pork - from the altar.

AT THE Christmas party of the Office of Public Service and Science, William Waldegrave's department, there were, we're told, no jokes at all.


18 December 1915 Alan Lascelles writes about a friend in the Royal Flying Corps: 'At 10,000 feet they were attacked by a Hun biplane; after a few minutes, Howey got the Hun in the petrol tank with his machine-gun and saw it start to plane slowly down. He turned to shout to his pilot and saw (he) was stone dead. Their machine started to fall like a stone, 5,000 feet in about 20 seconds, but he managed to climb back into the dead pilot's lap and get hold of the controls. Somehow he righted the machine in time, and they landed not 50 yards from where the wounded biplane had fluttered down. H was absolutely unhurt, but the shock wiped out all recollection of his past life for two days. There is a chivalry among Hun aviators, it seems. The first thing H realised was that he was being shaken by the hand by the pilot of the biplane.'