Never in my life have I heard hardened hacks gasp at a press conference. "We have decided to accept neither bid," said Dame Helena Shovelton at the Lottery Commission's press conference in London on Wednesday, causing a sharp intake of breath from the assembled tv crews, assorted broadsheet scribes and tabloid worthies. The room fell silent for a good five seconds before the inevitable barrage of questions began. Mind you, images of Maggie Thatcher at her best floated through our minds as the redoubtable Dame Helena went on to handle the press scrum with a hand of steel. "I'm not finished!" she snapped to an upstart from the Evening Strandard who kept interrupting. Questions she considered stupid or repetitive were dismissed with a withering look. Everyone came out of the conference feeling slightly cowed. We hadn't been treated in this way since the Iron Lady swept into Whitehall Press conferences to deal with what hubby Dennis often described as "the reptiles" of the fourth estate. Mind you, given all the pre press conference hype the "Iron Dame", as she is now known in the newsrooms, might have expected a fair amount of incredulity from the likes of us. Still, courtesy of Sir Richard Branson who, sadly, was held up in the Caribbean by a hurricane, we were able to get our breaths back with a swift glass of champers or two at his London house. Oh, and most of us were also able to have a nosey at his garden while we were at it. Actually, for the record, it wasn't that flash, but at least it was a welcome sanctuary after the formidable Dame. {{COUNTERPOINT }}