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Toby Walne

My freelance career begins with a trip to the pawnshop nervously clutching my wife&#39s £2,000 engagement ring.

The news isn&#39t good. The high-class pawnbroker on The Mall stops his assistant from taking the ring round to Christie&#39s for a valuation. He only offers me £150.

Well how about some of my prized comics?

Poker-faced, I am informed that classical art paintings are more their cup of tea. Sniffily, I am informed that perhaps I should try my luck elsewhere.

The average customer at this high-class hock joint walks out with £20,000 and promptly takes it round the corner for a spin on the roulette table. Among the trinkets pawned and never returned are Lamborghinis.

Life for a hand-to-mouth freelancer can be difficult but fortunately this particular trip was made as research for a Financial Mail story.

It was followed by a trip to sunny Marbella in Spain.

The only other time I have visited the Costa del Sol was a couple of months earlier researching a timeshare scam story for Financial Mail.

By coincidence, the hotel where I am staying is right opposite the Miraflores timeshare complex I was thrown out of by suited thugs for asking questions.

On this trip, I have been told to find out what customers really think about Banco Santander Central Hispano – the bank circling like a vulture over the carcass of the expensively re-branded Abbey.

It is an enlightening visit. Customers are offered a free set of saucepans if they take out one of their pensions and a plasma screen TV with a mortgage. Predictably, this dubious sales ploy actually works.

Unlike the siesta, this hard-sell practice is likely to be exported to Britain once the bosses have pushed through the takeover.

After returning home, I walk into the police station in search of another story. This time it is to see how well crime pays in the underworld of personal finance – not just the boardroom.

“M” meets me at the door and gives me a guided tour of all the high-tech James Bond gadgetry that he has collected from cash machine fraudsters.

These nifty little devices are attached to cash machines and can swipe card details without the customers even knowing of their existence.

Incredibly, it appears that homegrown thieves just are not smart enough. Romanian gangs monopolise the £72m a year racket.

Between naps at home, it is time to kick back and enjoy the promised delights of the freelance life with a spot of daytime TV.

I have a strange obsession with the US elections. The presidential debates being re-run on CNN make for gripping entertainment.

George W Bush is the one I would most like to have round for a barbecue – the very reason why he should not be the most powerful man in the world.

Then it is time to join the dreaded school run.

I navigate my bicycle around 4x4s with Sexy 1 number plates on the mean streets of South Woodford to pick up my oldest child Sophia. We then pick up son Harrison from a nearby nursery.

In the late afternoon, I become a house husband. It is time to clean, cook and look after the children before my executive wife returns home wanting her slippers.

Naturally, I do not do a very good job.

For some, it is fast cars and loose women – for me, it is power tools that provide those testosterone-fuelled kicks.

So in the evening it is time to wrestle with the latest DIY essential – a bandsaw – ripping through wood in the vain hope that I might create something useful.

Later, it is time to retire to the front room cinema.

A friend recently made the costly mistake of lending me his movie projector after several months of pestering.

A spaghetti Western season of Sergio Leone&#39s finest has just been completed – the man with no name hiding a mysterious past in personal finance.

I am currently Looking Through a Glass Darkly with Ingmar Bergman. Not many laughs but plenty of subtitles on that eternal quest for the meaning of life.

Toby Walne is a freelance journalist

•Norwich Union PR Lorna Wiltshire was forced to endure more than two hours of conversation with cheeky chappy Bobby Davro at a recent charity dinner.

MM reporters watched in horror as Mr Davro reached for his business card, telling Lorna, he was in touch with a couple of Only Fools and Horses lookalikes and that she was a dead ringer for Raquel. Davro then heckled the models at the charity fashion show that followed, urging them to keep their clothes on.

The Diary thinks Lorna should team up with Norwich Union PR Rob Pell as sidekick Rodders, all they need now is Del Boy.All suggestions are welcome.

•Unum Provident chairman and managing director Susan Ring and a team of 100 Unum Provident staff raised over £20,000 for the Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood Lands End to John O&#39Groats charity relay.

•F&C needs to brush up on soccer-speak after an email on “Bouncebackability”. Viewers of Sky One&#39s Soccer AM will know of the presenters&#39 crusade to get this word into the dictionary. But F&C is intent on giving it a new meaning with a lengthy analysis of interest rates.

Urgent diary, urgent diary stop press. At the last minute Diary has finally received communication from Mr Ghiloni. However it seems his claim is not all the events discussed were actually leaving dos at all. Anyway in his own words:

“I have read with interest the diary pieces regarding my departure from Britannic Asset Management and I thought that I should set the record straight. Yes, there have been a number of &#39dos&#39 so far but these have not been related to the &#39how many leaving nights does one man need…&#39 theme that you have been running. Rather they have been my acknowledgment of the fact that &#39my audience&#39 clearly wants me and I do not feel that I can let them down.

At this point in time, given that I do not know what the future holds for me, I have not completed all of the venues for my one man show. There may well be more to come – either as a goodbye or as a celebration.

However, I am sure you are confident the details will be available to you from the &#39sources close to the sources&#39 when the time comes. Indeed, a picture may even turn up.”

Diary is sure that readers cannot wait to get photographic evidence of your, er, performances. Maybe the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year. Watch this space readers.


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