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Correspondent’s week

This week by Daily Express personal finance reporter and consumer expert on This Morning Holly Thomas.

My week starts in the wee hours of Monday morning when I appear on ITV’s This Morning as a consumer expert. This time, I share a handful of high-street bargains with viewers yet to finish their Christmas shopping. The poor retailers really are suffering, it seems. There are half-price digital cameras, cut-price books and discounted Christmas decorations.

It really is a buyer’s market. I am back at my desk by midday and make some calls on a story for Wednesday about misselling of with-profits bonds as a follow-up to James Salmon’s piece in MM. It is good news for consumers who have been ripped off but bad news for hard-pushed IFAs with yet another thing to worry about.

In the evening, I meet Standard Life’s Emma Wylie, who as of this month is an official resident of London town, sent down south presumably to control the unruly City (and trade) newshounds waiting to pounce on demutualisation leads. Emma has a pink cocktail waiting for me on arrival. Lovely gal.

Independent on Sunday PF editor Sam Dunn makes an appearance, too, brandishing home-made Christmas cards for us both. What a charmer.

Tuesday is busy, getting Wednesday’s section looking tip-top. I am interested to learn that cash machine operators that charge us for taking out our own money have been fined for failing to display adequate signs warning people of the fee. Good news, I say. It is pretty bad that we have to pay in the first place if we cannot find a nearby free ATM, let alone being duped. Cashback is the way forward.

Our Christmas party for the City and Money desk kicks off in a local bar at 6.30pm. Lots of familiar faces turn up, including a rather merry Esther Shaw of the Indie on Sunday, who has been at lunch (all day) with Chase de) Vere Mortgages’ spokesman Nick Gardner.

Plans for a sensible night go out the window when a few of us go to a tapas bar which is holding a disco complete with City men wearing ties with Christmas puddings on them and dancing to Rocking Around The Christmas Tree. Oh dear.

Wednesday starts slowly but I make a start on a feature for Sunday, offering money-saving ideas to people getting caught up with Christmas and maxing out their credit cards. Experts say most homes can save more than 300 a year by changing the companies that provide them with gas, electricity and a fixed-line phone service. I leave the office a tad early to meet people from Rias for dinner and then go on to the ITV British Comedy Awards. It is a fantastic night although I am disappointed that Catherine Tate did not win anything. I think she is hilarious.

By Thursday, I am starting to feel completely shattered. My meeting with The Children’s Mutual is cancelled, leaving my morning free to work on a feature. At lunch, I have to go back to the pub to collect Esther’s coat that she left on Tuesday night. That girl would forget her head if it wasn’t attached. Then I file my feature for Sunday nice and early so the team can leave on time for our Christmas dinner with AITC PR luvvies Annabel Brodie-Smith and Jemma Jackson.

Lucky for me, I had booked Friday off to get my shopping started. The biggest headache is going to be a secret Santa present for one of my team. Oh, the pressure to get something funny, yet useful – and all for a tenner.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: paul.mcmillan@centaur.co.uk or telephone: 020 7970 4776

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