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Correspondent’s Week

The week starts slowly, thankfully, as I come straight into work after an overnight flight from Cape Town feeling exhausted, having spent most of the flight attempting to block out fractious babies. Admittedly, it is not my usual commute but I have just spent an interesting week finding out more about emerging markets and the South African investment economy after a group of journalists were flown out as guests of Investec.

I spend the morning trying to decipher and then write up my notes from the many meetings I had during the week. I begin writing an emerging markets spread in the afternoon, send a synopsis of future ideas to the business desk and then head home with a 100-page report on Africa.

I fell much more refreshed on Tuesday. I head off to a breakfast meeting in the City where I spend an hour or so talking about and learning more about inheritance tax issues with a firm of specialist advisers. I then clear my massively overloaded email inbox. That is what happens when you go away and forget to put auto-reply on your inbox.

Lunch follows with former Consumers Association Which? at Kensington Place. Great food, bad service. We spend an interesting couple of hours discussing issues from the increased crackdown on PPI sales through to unreasonable bank charges and the effectiveness of the FSA. In the evening I meet up with a friend, eat more food and bore him senseless about my South Africa trip. He has the manners to stay awake.

Wednesday starts early with a squash game, which gives me an energy boost. I spend most of the day chasing investment case studies to accompany my emerging markets spread. I call around 20 advisory firms, asking them to find me people with exposure to Africa and commodities in their investment portfolio.

In the evening, I meet up with a contact for a quick drink, then head into town. For some reason, several different organisations have decided to hold parties tonight. I drop in on Zopa’s and then head to Quill Communications’ seventh anniversary drinks party. I intend to stay only for a quick one but several hours and lots of fun company later, I stumble into a taxi and head for my bed.

I am suffering on Thursday. Clearly, the wine must have been off last night, yet, with a busy day, I need to concentrate. I finally get lucky when the wonderful Ben Yearsley from Hargreaves Lansdown finds me a case study. Within an hour, a small firm in Oxford comes through with a second case study and I interview them and gratefully finish off the article. I decide to spend the afternoon replying to readers’ letters which I should have seen to sooner – most are bemoaning rising energy costs and poor service at the hands of the major energy suppliers – and making phone calls to get more information where the situation looks interesting. Squash again in the evening and strangely being hungover helps my game and I win 4-1. My opponent forgives me and it is his turn to pay for dinner. Result.

Friday also starts with an early-morning squash session – well, I need to work off all the alcohol. I get to the office and start going through the proofs for the weekend’s Financial Mail. It is an interesting section, covering everything from the curse of tax credits to the High Court appeal made by those left without a pension after their company schemes collapsed – and the shameful refusal of the Government to take steps to redress the situation.

In the afternoon, I scan all the papers and put in phone calls to try to source stories and ideas for next week’s paper. I top off the week with a “quick” drink with Richard Dyson. Several hours later, I stumble home. Yes, there is a theme here.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Sam Shaw, email: or telephone: 020 7943 8042


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