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Correspondent’s week

This week by personal finance editor of The Scotsman Jennifer Hill

This whirligig they call journalism is an expensive hobby. To the outside world, it might seem like a carousel of free lunches at swanky restaurants and gratis trips to Dublin and Gibraltar cunningly disguised as hard graft, with expeditions to research a booming offshore investment market and the jurisdiction, economy, regulation and private sector of a self-sufficient colony. (Any public relations pundits seeking a hack seasoned in such undertakings to find out first-hand the tax benefits of the Cayman Islands or prospects for emerging Eastern European property hotspots, I’m your woman).

Then there is an assortment of freebies of the material variety. Packages to recently land on my desk include a stocking packed with Madonna’s latest album, black lace French knickers, a chocolate lover’s tasting kit courtesy of Airmiles, a fluorescent blue dog basket containing Kit-Kats, Salty Dog crisps and plastic mice – probably meant as playmates for four-legged friends but they double nicely as squeezable stressbusters – from e-Sure and, just this week, a “Get Set for Summer” beach bag from Standard Life in preparation for the record temperatures expected to hit the UK and England’s appearance in the World Cup, not to mention members’ vote on the mutual’s flotation plans.

The pack came complete with Magicool body and face-cooling spray, an umbrella (for Scottish correspondents only) and a “lucky” flag of one of the 31 nations competing in the aforementioned football tournament.

Those with the victor’s flag will get a 100 donation to a charity of their choice. I, it must be said, have been dealt a poor hand – Belgium. It has a cat in hell’s chance of winning for the Belgian are in good company. Like the Scots, they do not feature in the line-up, so say my learned sports colleagues.

So, there are the freebies but the coalface of truth is a tough place. A job in journalism entails seriously hard toil for a distinct lack of spondulicks and then there are PRs to contend with. Don’t get me wrong – I love our PR friends. But they have their moments. One came this week from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland which seems to think that newspapers, like the civilised world, shut up shop at 5pm. No need, then, for any out-of-hours press office contacts. As for PRs who send out press releases at 4.30pm on a Friday just before logging off for the week, God love them.

The PR world manages to fit in such feats in between wining and dining, oozing and schmoozing, all on a salary that has caused even the most veteran of reporters to screw up their faces in disgust and give deep thought to jumping the fence at one time or another.

It must be said that the good and great managed to schmooze in style at the Headline Money awards at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel last week. Most of them that is as some have clearly fallen on hard times.

An unmanned bottle of pink bubbly caught the eye of a certain PR manager – he shall remain nameless to spare his blushes – so much so that he felt compelled to have it. Being rumbled was patently unlucky, unlike the dog in the firm’s ads. Several denials later, my interrogation skills saw him crack and confess all.

Sellors has since replaced the Mercier Rose – given to me by HSA, sponsor of the Regional Journalist of the Year award, upon my success at picking up the title – not once but twice.

After another week of hard labour that has included reporting on a Stewart Ivory Foundation reception and SVM Global’s interim results, I intend to quaff both this weekend without an iota of shame at the extravagance. As for next week, it is back to the expensive hobby.

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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