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DASA, the aerospace branch of the Daimler Benz corporate empire, gave a festive dinner at the Howard Hotel last week. George Robertson, Secretary of State for Defence, was an honoured guest and seated at the top table while his Special Policy Adviser, Bernard Grey, was seated at another table beside Quentin Davies, Conservative MP. Whitehall insiders have told Pandora that Grey, until recently the former defence correspondent of the Financial Times, is brimming with self-confidence and has already made a commanding impression on his new colleagues.

However, the former hack was not impressed with his treatment by the Germans and complained to his hosts following lunch about his seating arrangements. Not only should he have been placed at the top table, Grey pointed out, but he was placed next to a Tory! Considering the quietly effective bi-partisan approach which his boss Robertson has taken to defense policy since assuming office, Grey should be careful lest such behaviour is regarded as "off-message" by his Millbank superiors.

EVER SINCE the boom in new London restaurants in the early 1990s, it has become increasingly difficult to persuade restaurant critics to attend yet another launch party. (After all, aren't you supposed to be anonymous when you arrive to judge the latest trendy taverna?) But clever Irish restaurateur Oliver Peyton tried a new tack when launching his London branch of Mash on Great Portland Street. He asked the hungry press to brunch last Saturday and invited them to bring their children.

This strategy worked brilliantly, as anyone who has ever tried to plan a London weekend with children would expect. By 2pm, the sleek micro-brewery dining room of Mash was frothing with restaurant hacks, most with kids in tow. These including Bill Knott, restaurant critic of the Telegraph, Caroline Stacey of Time Out, Rory Ross of Tatler, Sarah Miller, editor of Conde Nast Traveller and Simon Mills, editor of GQ Active. Even Fay Maschler, grande dame of the London Evening Standard, said she wished she'd brought her grandchildren. Will this start a new restaurant PR trend, with bouncy castles at the latest Conran and Marco inviting the critics to dine in a petting zoo?

THE 18 AWARDS bill themselves as "the only event recognising arts and entertainment for adults". That doesn't mean pornography, according to the organizers, but rather "seeing an 18 film at the cinema, reading a JG Ballard novel or catching Prodigy or Eddie Izzard on stage". Sounds perfectly respectable to Pandora. However there was a bit of a rumpus behind the scenes at the Savoy, site of last year's awards. That most ceremonious of hotels took exception when guests complained about meeting naked youths dashing about the corridors. In fact, these were models in body-paint taking part in the 18 Awards ceremony. Someone gathered the models' clothes together, stuffed these into bin liners and tossed them onto the pavement. When the Hon Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the Commons Select Committte on Culture, Media and Sport, was asked recently if he would judge this year's awards at Alexandra Palace, his response was brutal. "I do not wish to be associated with your event," he wrote to the sponsors. Perhaps you should grow up a little, Gerald.

SOME AMERICAN has sent Pandora an e-mail titled "Top 50 Oxymorons". These range from "plastic glasses" to "happily married" to "synthetic natural gas" to "rap music" to, at the top of the list, "Microsoft Works". May I suggest "nerd humour".

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