BUNHILL: Even the powerful find it hard to be Ruth-less

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The Independent Online
TOMORROW night the great and the good of the media world will assemble at the Dorchester Hotel in London to celebrate the relaunch of the European as a magazine. Fittingly, the downsizing of the paper has been accompanied by a downsizing of the staff, with dozens of jobs going in the past few months as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

The revolving-door theory is very big in business these days because of its ability to accommodate the huge number of employees who have to make their exit at the same time. A revolving door, however, is supposed to turn full circle so it was gratifying that it behaved with due propriety for Ruth Grierson, the in-house public relations person at the European who had been closely involved in the preparatory work for the relaunch.

Early last December, Ms Grierson had a meeting scheduled with MacLaurin Communications, the PR firm for the European supremo, Andrew Neil. Then the axe fell and the appointment was cancelled. A couple of days later, however, she received a call from MacLaurin: could she come in for a few days to do some work for the firm? And the assignment was ... the relaunch of the European.

Which just goes to show that you can take the job away from the person, but you can't take the person away from the job.

IT'S A bit late for Christmas now but here's a wonderful gift idea for your loved ones. It's a solid gilt-edged investment, it's tall and rectangular and would fit in well in any retro-style living-room - and once upon a time it was full of horse dung.

I'm talking rubbish, of course, but where there used to be muck there's now brass. The Corporation of London is selling off 800 cast-iron bins which have done sterling service in the City of London for years and, in the days of horse traffic, were filled with equine excrement by specially assigned "crossing boys" - that being the era of enlightened employment practices and flexible working. It couldn't happen now, of course.

So the bins are full of history, and full of something else, but since the early 1990s they have been redundant. At around the same time as the rock band U2 released "Where the streets have no name", the corporation gave us "Where the streets have no bins"; not only were they potential receptacles for terrorist bombs, they could also be transformed into shrapnel if a bomb went off. And they weren't alone in their desolation; the litter baskets in London railway and tube stations have gone to waste for the same reason.

The absence of bins is something of a bugbear for me. Unless you are one of those altruistic souls who think that road sweepers should be gainfully employed, the terrible price of buying take-out food these days is to stagger around London, your jacket and trousers bulging with sandwich wrapping and other assorted detritus: "Is that an empty polystyrene coffee cup in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?" Purchase one of the corporation's bins, however, and you'll not only be the proud owner of a genuine collector's item but you'll be able to carry it with you everywhere you go, providing a handy receptacle for the day's debris.

So get on to the Corporation of London now and turn the wilderness into a waste land. At prices ranging from pounds 75 to pounds 200, this is an offer you can't refuse.

Whole new ball game

FIRST it was fantasy football, now it's fantasy finance - the chance to assemble a dream team of stock investments from any economy in the world.

This opportunity comes courtesy of Reuters Moneyview, the "real-time" financial information service which has been signed up by Manchester United as the football club continues to scout the world for exciting new investment talent. United says it wants to "maintain our position as the market leader in the sector" and that Reuters can help by providing up-to-the-minute details on all regions where the club might want to build up its reserves.

So now we know why United's manager, Alex Ferguson, has been racking up the air miles recently. The recent Champions' League tie (sorry, match between market leaders) against Juventus in Turin? The game was just a cover story; Mr Ferguson had heard Italy was on track to meet the Maastricht convergence criteria. And the quarter-final game against Monaco?United get to visit a tax haven.

It should be an all-star line-up, though: bonds and gilts for a safe pair of hands at the back; a sound defence invested in UK equities; a creative midfield tracking smaller companies; and a cavalier forward line that shoots on sight at the "Tiger" econ-omies. "And they've gone for South Korea," as Alan Hansen might say - "they'll be disappointed with that."

If United fans feel they've been sidelined by all this high finance, let me assure them that it's as easy to sing about investment as it is to get behind your team. Altogether now: "It's by far the greatest portfolio the world has ever seen."

THIS story is true ... the names of the characters have been changed to land the innocent right in it.

As the credits rolled last Thursday night on a typically bloodthirsty and far-fetched episode of Taggart, the sinister denouement involving a lovelorn, drug-crazed woman with superhuman strength was slightly diluted by a surreal voiceover. All events and people were entirely fictional, the very nice man assured us, and a ne'er-do-well character called Max Muscle had no connection whatsoever with the real-life firm of Maxi Muscle - a "reputable supplier of training accessories".

So it was back down to earth with a bump, as it was for the ill-fated Max Muscle who was ne'er to do well again. And the moral of this story - other than the usual moral of Taggart which is never, ever, under any circumstances leave your house - is that however unlikely your plot lines and characters, you'll have to apologise to someone unless you do your research.

So beware of casting characters as "Paul Smith", "Joe Allen", "Joe Bloggs", "Diageo", "Billingsgate Fish Market" or "Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company"; these are entirely reputable organisations and not to be confused with mad axemen.