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The stars come out at Christmas

TALE of two soaps: no sooner had the heir to the throne sipped a scotch at the Rovers Return to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Coronation Street when his son William wowed hacks with tales of his gruelling gap year in Chile.

Another star is reborn on London's south bank. There are plans to transform the roofless and rotting Battersea power station into an "entertainment village" including a ballroom, Roman-style baths, an art garden, a cinema, hotels and two theatres - one occupied full-time by the Canadian company, Cirque de Soleil, a partner in the development. Lots to keep the family happy during the holidays, but not until 2004.

In the meantime, you can fall back on traditional museums and stately homes, especially as English Heritage wants to widen its appeal to ethnic minorities. "We do feel excluded from much of England's heritage even though we're British," said Alex Pascall, former organiser of the Notting Hill Carnival who wants to establish n African-Caribbean heritage centre in London.

And so to Christmas as we know it: a heritage dating all the way back to Victorian times. As if wall-to-wall Harry Potter on Boxing Day were not enough, the Beeb is offering an "alternative" nativity play, It's a Girl, using modern idiom. "Offensive" and "tosh" say the traditionalists; but the author, Robert Childs, defended his work. "The language used by Joseph is colloquial, but he was a chippie."

Santa has received some vernacular prose in Lapland letters, the Post Office reveals. Children are confessing their misdemean-ours to get into his good books. "I only hit my wee sister a few times and I did say sorry and give her a hug and I didn't mean to drop my daddy's new watch down the toilet," is one offering.

And now Woolworths is employing "personal shoppers" to help kids choose Christmas presents, in an attempt, it claims, to prevent them from buying unsuitable gifts. No more socks then.

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