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Correspondent&#39s week

It was an indifferent week to be an insurance correspondent but a great week to be English, a sentiment I can write without fear of my virulently Irish mother stumbling accidentally across a copy of Money Marketing.

While unusual doses of sporting glory contributed, with the English seeing off the French, South Africans, Mace-donians, and, um, Litchten-steinians, the real reason for my rush of patriotic fervour was David Blaine.

On my way to and from work this week, I have walked past his box and revelled in the fact that the onlookers are engaged in collectively taking the mick out of a man more used to hero worship for feats such as Standing Still for a Very Long Time.

Blaine has, in fact, haunted my thoughts throughout the week. On Monday, I considered going on an empathetic hunger strike in a bid to avoid a week with more results from the impossibly complex Lloyd&#39s of London insurers.

On Tuesday, watching the inexorable tumbling of R&SA&#39s share price since it announced its deeply discounted £960m rights issue, I wasted valuable time comparing David Blaine with Andy Haste, the company&#39s chief executive.

There are striking similarities between the two men who have both taken on tasks more ridiculous than sublime – Blaine in sitting in a box for 44 days waiting for his organs to start eating themselves, Haste in becoming chief executive of R&SA.

Blaine is being pelted with eggs by protestors and Haste is on a series of roadshows trying to reassure investors that they are not throwing away more cash on the hapless insurer by plugging an £800m hole in its reserves. R&SA&#39s shareholders may not throw eggs but I bet they wish they could. Lunch was spent with Alex Childs Villiers, the suave Financial Dynamics PR man charged with looking after one of R&SA&#39s rivals as the most hapless UK player – AMP.

The setting was Aquarium in St Katherine&#39s Dock, a venue appreciated for yacht porn by those of us turned off by property. It occurred to me that both Haste and Blaine can afford to buy one of the gorgeous boats and I can&#39t. So which of us is the fool after all?

Tuesday also illustrated why it was an indifferent week to be an insurance correspondent. As the industry des-cended on Kensington Roof Gardens for Polhill&#39s party, I was working. Helen Nugent, my colleague at The Times who knows a good party when she sees one, tells me that it was great and everybody was there apart from me, which is nice.

I was on a late shift on Wednesday, which involves starting work at 3pm and finishing at 1am. I would have been watching the football on my supper break if a group of American insurers had not decided to sue Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Sudan along with a further 495 individuals or organisations in a bid to recover some of their losses on the World Trade Centre. How do you sue Sudan, let alone Al Qaeda? Presumably, the lawyers have the answer and can also afford a yacht. Or five.

On Thursday, I had lunch with Phil Hickley, Axa&#39s PR man, at Cafe Spice Namaste, London&#39s best curry house. Phil was in suitably chipper form for a Chelsea fan, gloating over the Russian billions pouring into West London.

He also bullishly assured me that Axa is in the UK for the long term despite the systemic problems in the market that have seen off AMP, Swiss Life et al.

Henri de Castries, Axa&#39s chief executive, cannot be sticking with the UK because he is excited about the pros-pects for the UK market post-Sandler. Perhaps if the debonair Frenchman is in it to be English, he should pour some cash into a glorious but impoverished football club, Sheffield Wednesday to pick an entirely random example.

Thursday night was spent with various hacks from the business desks of The Times and The Telegraph, ending at the Groucho Club. The location led to a hideous outbreak of finding the word “darling”, falling from my lips at excessively regular intervals.

Passing briskly over Fri-day, which is probably for the best, I spent the weekend learning to scuba dive, which did not remind me of David Blaine or Andy Haste at all.

Antonia Senior is insurance correspondent at The Times


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