Bunhill: Let's hear it for Britain's hairy heroes

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The Independent Online
I DON'T write about beards much. Wigs are more my thing. But beardism is undoubtedly rampant and I feel it my duty to leap to the defence of at least some hairy people.

Last week Ron Baker, a bearded Australian who used to work for Barings, was challenging a three-year ban by the Securities and Futures Authority. It was pointed out in another pink paper that Mr Baker's former colleagues had revived the old City canard: "Never trust a man with a beard."

Now we know City people are rather simple, but here they are being plain simplistic. Why? Because there are beards and beards and beards.

Type one is Mr Baker's - reasonably trimmed, but low maintenance. This is a sensible beard, probably started when he realised there were better things to do in the morning than waving a sharp instrument around. Mr Baker is not a fashion victim, but is this a reason to distrust him?

Type two does not belong to a merchant banker. It is Mr Marx, the Marxist's. Karl probably didn't have a natty Philips beard trimmer, so I sympathise with his refusal to cut his beard at all. He could perhaps have asked his barber to have the occasional hack - if only to flush out the starlings, capitalists etc who were probably hiding in it. But again I fail to see any reason to distrust people (or at least men) who wear such beards - they are more likely to be lazy than shifty.

Type three is more worrying. I will not (the lawyers would not let me) suggest there is anything remotely dodgy about wearers of the so-called goatee beard. Mr Branson, the lower half of whose mug we feature here, is an upright and popular person.

The question, though, is why do it? It must be rather more troublesome keeping a goatee in shape than it is to shave properly. A Canadian chum once grew a goatee because a young lady told him it was fashionable, but to me it just makes a man look like a middle-aged German executive. Is that fashionable, or am I out of touch yet again?

I HAVE discovered why BMW is getting fed up with Rover. The clue lies buried in Richard Lewis's new book, When Cultures Collide (Nicholas Brealey Publishing). He tells of seminars he gave to an "English car group which had been taken over by a German auto industry giant".

"The Germans listened eagerly to the remarks about British psychology and cultural habits. The British paid only casual attention, took hardly any notes, were unduly flippant ..."

And jokes, Mr Lewis tells us, are what German businesspeople don't like. Stereotyping? Perhaps, but there's nothing wrong with that, he says (and he speaks 12 languages, so he should know).

Here are 20 more Interesting Things about national cultures:

1) There are few countries where people do not believe they are the best. The exceptions include Finland and Italy.

2) Zulu tongues have 39 words for green.

3) It is impossible to waffle in French.

4) Apart from the Koreans, few Orientals are amused by American or European witticisms.

5) What is actually said in Japanese has no meaning or significance whatsoever. Smiles, pauses, grunts, nods and eye movements convey everything.

6) Finnish and English do not easily translate into each other.

7) Two-thirds of the lawyers on earth are American.

8) Arvo means afternoon in Australian.

9) Never tell jokes about Norway to Norwegians. They don't understand them.

10) Bring pictures of your children to hand out to Russian business people.

11) The Germans and Swedes are good listeners; the French and Spanish are bad ones.

12) The Finns are the best listeners, but only if they have a cup of coffee inside them.

13) The Germans distrust simple utterances because their own sentences tend to be long and complex.

14) English is the best language for brainstorming.

15) In the US, being sacked carries no stigma.

16) "He had kangaroos in his top paddock" means "he's crazy" in Australian.

17) Do not ask where the toilet is in Russia.

18) Latin people tend to buy more from a person sitting close to them.

19) The Finns and Japanese are strangely similar in many ways - they do not seem to use body language, and use silence as part of a conversation.

20) In Madagascar, you should not hand an egg to another person. Put it on the ground first.

That takes the biscuit

SO, HOW many extra Weetabix will Tesco have to sell to pay Dame Shirley Porter's share of the unfortunate "fine" she was landed with last week? That is the question, and here is the answer. Dame Shirley and her family have 19 million Tesco shares (she is the daughter of the founder, Sir Jack Cohen, and her husband ran the company for many years). That means that if the share price goes up by 5p, the Porter fortune rises by pounds 950,000.

She and five former Westminster Council colleagues have been ordered to pay back pounds 31.6m - but because she is the only one with any dosh, I gather she could be clobbered for the full amount. To cover that, therefore, she needs to get the Tesco share price up by 166.3p.

How can she do that? Easy - by increasing the profit, which will then feed through into the share price. To be precise, at the current p/e ratio of 12.9, earnings per share need to go up by 13p. As there are 2 billion shares in circulation, this means profits must rise by pounds 260m.

So how many extra Weetabix will Tesco have to sell to generate this? Well, on Friday a packet of 24 cost pounds 1.03 in the Bunhill Towers Tesco - 4.3p a biscuit (is that the right word?). Tesco earns about 6 per cent net margin, so it makes 0.26p profit on each Weetabix. The answer, my Dame, is therefore exactly 100 billion Weetabix. Better start munching.