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Correspondent&#39s week

Short weeks are a pain in the proverbial. I got back after the Easter break only to find that Guardian readers still read the paper even while on holiday and that they have filled up my email in-box with lots of comments, suggestions and general observations.

The first thing I do is thank them for their insightful contributions and set about editing the week&#39s Personal Effects column which is, rather handily, made up of reader comments.

As is the case with short weeks, the workload does not change so I try to hit the ground running. As soon as the readers are done and dusted, I am geared up to write the opening spread of Saturday&#39s Jobs & Money section. It is the sort of story I love. A credit card firm targeting people with poor credit ratings with the “lure” of stratospheric APRs and charges for which there is no logical explanation. Nice.

I do the rounds speaking to MPs, debt advice agencies, credit card firms, industry bodies and anyone else who wants to comment. For a bit of light relief, I entertain myself with the antics of George Dubya Bush. The TV, radio and papers are full of speculation early in the week. Will he or won&#39t he send more troops in? Will he or won&#39t he be re-elected?

He has been quaking in his cowboy boots all week thanks to the congressional 9/11 commission grilling of the great and the good of his administration and the growing unrest in Iraq.

The anorak in me thanks God for 24-hour rolling news. By way of distraction from this distraction, I venture out with my other half to see Starsky and Hutch the movie. I then highly recommend it to everyone I know for its fine quota of off-beat humour, a truckload of laugh out loud moments and the wonderful wigs donned by Ben Stiller.

Bright and early the next day, credit card industry body the Association of Payment and Clearing Services gets in touch to reassure me that even though spending on cards is still going through the roof, people are getting better at paying off their debts on a monthly basis. Bless.

I figure this is probably because they are no longer overspending in Marks & Spencer, shown by its results which indicated a bit of a fall in the store&#39s popularity with shoppers.

Parliament is not sitting so I am still pursuing MPs for comments for my opening article. Norman Lamb comes up trumps. I am always impressed by how on the ball he is when it comes to consumer credit issues. I find there is more to-ing and fro-ing with contacts than I would like on a short deadline. People appear to have put the snooze button on for the week.

Meanwhile, the office has gone cricket-mad. My colleagues are watching the box more intently than on Budget Day. I have no idea what goes on in this curious English game so I am on the phone and ignoring the running commentary and periodic expletives going on behind me.

I learn that consumers are apparently continuing to find credit cards “irresistible”, according to a survey by Datamonitor. I hope in vain that this will wake folk from their slumber and prompt them to get back to me with incisive comments. Turns out that a lot have taken the whole week off.

I grab some dinner on Wednesday night with pals who work in banking. We manage to get through a whole evening and not mention money or banking.

Very pleasing.

On Thursday, I am busy sweeping up some other stories, including the launch of the UK&#39s first Islamic pension fund by HSBC, while putting the finishing touches to my opening masterpiece. Need-less to say, I am still chasing down the final few contacts for comment.

I am now officially bored by the whole post-Easter thing. After corralling together enough relevant commentary from my contacts, and finally pulling my big feature of the week together, Thursday draws to an end and the section goes to press.

I rush home to scour the news channels for an update on the antics of the Texan cowboy and his visitor for the week, Tony Blair.

Mary O&#39Hara is personal finance correspondent for The Guardian


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