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Correspondent’s week

Monday begins at 4am in a large, freezing house in East Devon. I had spent the weekend with my wonderful grandmother. I whisper goodbye to her and leave the house at five. Then a two-mile walk through pitch-black, pre-dawn country lanes to the station to catch the first train to London.

The only sounds are owls hooting in the valley and cattle grunting on the other side of the hedgerows.

At 9.10am, I emerge on High Street Kensington, 10 minutes late for that gruelling, annual ordeal, the Citigate Dewe Rogerson personal finance survey.

This year, there are lots of leading questions about Friends Provident, such as how financially strong do you think it is? How likely do you think it is to be the subject of a takeover? So what’s all that about, then? Someone somewhere is having a neurotic spell or at least feeling unloved.

I have lunch at the Abingdon with James Thorpe and Mark Maguire of Egg. On the way, I see there is a mobile police investigation unit on Derry Street, with posters requesting information about the Monckton stabbing.

After lunch, we decamp to the Britannia pub in nearby Allen Street.

Monday’s supper is with Alicia Wylie, formerly freelance journalist, now of Jupiter Asset Management, at her enormous flat in West Hampstead. We eat a delicious fish curry. But the long lunch takes its toll and I fall asleep on Alicia’s dining-room floor with her cats.

Tuesday is busy. My boss Jeff Prestidge is off to interview stricken workers of Turner & Newall in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire.

With the news that T&N’s US parent company Federal-Mogul has withdrawn its offer to plug part of the hole in the pension fund, it appears inevitable that workers’ retirement income will disappear in smoke.

I have a non-work lunch at Kensington Place with an old friend from university who, very annoyingly, has turned out to be a brilliantly successful author.

But I drown my envy later that afternoon with my colleague Jenny Little, who is celebrating her 30th birthday. Then it’s a number nine bus to Piccadilly for a few drinks in the bar of the Stafford Hotel, St James, with Polhill.

The extremely well connected Charlie Ansdell, who joined the agency two months ago, tells of an occasion when a pal (he did not say who) took him on a behind-the-scenes tour of Kensington Palace. Believe it or not, says Charlie, while peeping into the bedroom of one very public Royal figure, he noticed an array of sex toys on the bedside table.

On Wednesday, I am on the 7.30 train from Kings Cross to Cambridge. I am sitting in on a County Court case against Barclays. We are all familiar with sexual discrimination cases being lodged against big financial intitutions by former employees. But this is sex discrimination with a twist.

This time it is a former customer of the bank, a woman, who is alleging that bank staff discriminated against her by following her husband’s orders rather than her own during an acrimonious divorce.

Barclays’ lawyers and barrister are rather disturbed by my presence. I think I see one of the lawyers slink out to put in a quick call to the press office at Barclays’ HQ in the City. The customer, in her 50s, has spent four years preparing this case. It is a massive deal for her, emotionally and financially.

I leave at the lunch recess to return to London, having heard the skeleton arguments for both parties, and am back at my desk at 3pm. At 6pm, I hear that the woman lost. I am not sure whether I agree with this verdict.

Thursday is, on the whole, an ordinary office day. News leaks of Hugh Osmond’s decision to buy Pearl, NPI and the other dodo life funds that were pillaged by AMP.

I think it is very worrying. AMP killed these funds off and then had a jolly good chew on the carcass before hotfooting it back to Sydney and now a new scavenger, in the form of Osmond’s Sun Capital, pitches up. God save the policyholders.

Henderson, which is now all that is left of HHG, seems to have done well for itself out of the deal. It gets to go on managing the dodo’s dwindling asset pile.

At noon, I have my firstever Pilates session. I have decided to take it up because I want to be super-supple and because I have got bored of trying to go regularly to the gym but never managing to go at all.

Friday is the usual – reading proofs. I ponder more on the HHG deal, which is now public, and plan for the next issue.

Richard Dyson is deputy personal finance editor of the Mail on Sunday


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