While the names of the judges are no secret, which categories each individual is judging and the results of their deliberations are strictly hush-hush. Judging is surprisingly hard work because it is no easy task to give the contestants the time and effort they deserve to evaluate their work. Additionally, I had an early start to get into town on time – and an expensive one using peak time travel.
Nevertheless, it is a pleasure and an honour to take part. The seriousness and professionalism of my fellow judges was as one would expect, knowing the individuals involved, and if my category was anything to go by, no one could claim that the awards are made on the basis of Buggins’ turn or being mates with the organisers.
The judging meant that, sadly, I had to turn down an invitation from Abbey to the Grand National meeting at Aintree. This was a double disappointment, as an earlier invitation to the Cheltenham Gold Cup had to be scrapped because of the appalling weather conditions.
Just as disappointing was the fact that I failed to get as far as an online bookie, let alone a betting shop, for my customary flutter on the National. I really should have had my money on Comply or Die, particularly as I used to work for a compliance news website and the name had more than a ring of truth about it. Before reading the form, it did cross my mind that the winning nag probably belonged to a syndicate from the FSA. I was on the right track but the owner turned out to be on the other side of the compliance fence – David Johnson, chief executive of lender Commercial First and the man often credited with being the creator of specialist mortgage lending in the UK,
Journalism reveals all sorts of curious coincidences and relationships. Tuesday saw me dropping by the monthly national newspaper agony aunts’ get-together hosted by the Sunday Times’s Diana Wright. This is a gathering where we folk who answer readers’ letters chew the fat about the misdemeanours of the financial services industry and put the world to rights.
“Agony aunts” is, of course, a complete misnomer as one of the hardcore members is the illustrious troubleshooter Tony Hetherington of the Mail on Sunday. The meetings include several freelances as well as the “aunts”, such as Liz Dolan of the Sunday Telegraph, Margaret Stone of the Money Mail and Maggie Dibben of the Observer. Regulars include the Times’ Helen Pridham, Choice magazine’s Teri Harman, Barry Riley, formerly of the FT, and a host of others.
This Tuesday meeting coincided with the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final confrontation between Arsenal and Liverpool at Anfield, which was on the TV in the bar where we were meeting. Scouser Hetherington was cracking open the champagne as Liverpool trounced the Gunners 4-2. The MoS’s righter of wrongs turns out to have been a contemporary of Paul McCartney and George Harrison at the Liverpool Institute. As talk about famous friends became a little competitive, Teri Harman trumped Hetherington’s Beatles connection by telling the party that a member of her local women’s social group turns out to be Kimberly Santos, the former Miss Guam who became Miss World in 1980 when Gabriela Brum of Germany, the declared winner, stepped down after 18 hours to marry her 52-year-old boyfriend. It turns out that he former Guamanian beauty queen is now a housewife and mother living in South-east London.
You have to feel sorry for Adrian Coles, director general of the Building Societies Association, and his PR team, who are trying to fight the corner for the mutuals. Having barely recovered from being associated with the sins of the long demutualised Northern Rock, the societies are now being tarred with the brush of the plc’s overzealous mortgage pricing.
It is more than a decade since the wave of demutualisations swept through the savings and mortgage industry, yet on the front page of the Daily Telegraph this week I read: “Alliance & Leicester and Woolwich were the latest high profile building societies to increase prices yesterday.” So high profile that no one in the higher echelons of the financial section of one of our leading national newspapers has taken on board that neither has been a building society since 1997, when both A&L and Woolwich floated. The latter was taken over by Barclays in 2000.
Number of bylines in the personal finance section of the Independent on Sunday last week achieved by my trainee journalist daughter: four. Number achieved by me in the same week: nil.
Mousemats giving details of the latest tax rates and other Budget changes received from the Virgin Money PR Department: one. This is a vital accoutrement that I look forward to receiving every year.
Sam Shaw and Esther Shaw are both on holiday Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Helen Pow at firstname.lastname@example.org telephone: 020 7943 8038
Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Helen Pow at email@example.com telephone: 020 7943 8038