Donald MacInnes: I'm hoping Branson wins his bet, otherwise it's so long sis

In The Red

Readers of this column – from the less-than-occasional to the samurai-level devoted – will be aware that, although this reporter rarely, if ever, bets on anything, I am often much impressed by those who do, my friend Ken in Aberdeen being the punter to whom I most often refer and, indeed, defer.

He once spent six hours drawing tiny numbers on unpopped popcorn and then ran a sweep on which ones would pop first. He and six mates crowded round the microwave window, urging on their favourites. Ken made an easy, if noisy, £50.

This level of punterdom is way beyond me. Although, having said that, I did gamble last weekend, buying a scratch card in Tesco. But that was really just because the woman who sells them on the customer service desk is the most aggressively miserable human ever to have drawn breath and I occasionally like to cheer myself up by being near her enormous rage. I didn't win, but the rush of the scratch was worth it.

Although things degenerated when some of the juice from the lemon the woman was sucking squirted into my eye and she thought my winking meant I fancied her. Her fury subsiding, she winked back, idly twirling the hair on her chin into a single strand. I screamed and ran out.

But to this week's point (or what passes for a point in this column).

In terms of big bets, you would struggle to better this: Sir Richard Branson, below, has bet British Airways a million of your English clams that the Virgin Atlantic brand will still be alive and swooping in five years' time.

The reason for the wager was that the softly-spoken squillionaire was forced to poo-poo claims from Willie Walsh, boss of International Airlines Group (which owns BA) that the Virgin Atlantic brand was headed for oblivion. Like a gang of bees approaching the Gale's honey factory, the industry had been "abuzz" with rumours that Dicky B was of a mind to sell his 51 per cent stake in the airline.

But he quashed swiftly the veracity of the jungle drums by saying: "We have no plans to disappear. Virgin Atlantic was my baby 28 years ago when we set up with just one plane… Virgin Atlantic is still much cherished."

This is good news for me. Whenever I visit my sister in Miami, I only ever go Virgin. If I had to go back to one of the American airlines – the cabin crew of which are about as friendly as a frying pan to the face – I may have to conveniently forget where my sis lives and proceed directly to the Amalfi Coast.

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