City Diary

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ANYONE WHO fears the BBC has been "dumbing down" was fortunate to miss one of the Beeb's newscasters Martyn Lewis yesterday as he fronted the launch of HSBC's TV banking service for couch potatoes.

"This is the single most important event since the BBC started in 1936," Mr Lewis told a startled audience in London. He then compared it to other landmarks in telly history, including the Queen's coronation in 1953 and the launch of Coronation Street in 1960.

Mr Lewis said HSBC's service would live up to the mission coined by the BBC's own founder Lord Reith "to educate and entertain". He then showed some clips of England winning the World Cup in 1966 and Richard Nixon's resignation. It then moved on to a scripted presentation by a fake-leopard- skin-clad Martine McCutcheon, formerly Tiffany in Eastenders, who said she might find the banking service "handy to check on my credit card". Lord Reith was last seen spinning faster than a No 10 press officer...

BRIAN JENKINS, a reader, has e-mailed me saying: "As Tony Blair is exhorting businesses to embrace e-commerce I wanted to locate the nearest Tesco's to where I work in London.

"I ventured on to their website and asked for the stores in London SW1. The results it came up with? Warwick Way, Victoria; Goodge Street; Oxford Street; and Battishore Way, Honiton, Devon. Which I also learnt is 140 miles away.

"Very handy for nipping out for a pint of milk," Mr Jenkins observed caustically.

COLIN BIRD, globe-trotting company rescue specialist with PricewaterhouseCoopers, was in chirpy form when he rang me from Tokyo yesterday, despite the weather. "We had an earthquake on Monday and a typhoon today," he said.

Apparently in Japan a quake of three on the Richter Scale is considered no big deal. "The windows rattle, the lifts switch off and the doors slam, then everyone gets on with things. And the typhoon's down in the south- west, so it's just a bit windy here," he adds nonchalantly.

Mr Bird recently spoke to PwC colleagues in New York, who were having anti-mosquito spray sprayed over them and awaiting Hurricane Floyd.

"You should write about British insolvency practitioners braving the elements," he said. Quite so.

JON HUSTLER, who describes himself as a leading dealmaker in the East Midlands, is moving from NatWest to become a corporate finance partner with accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward in Nottingham.

In a commendable display of humour for a banker, let alone a banker turned accountant, Mr Hustler said: "At last BDO will no longer be able to deny they are Hustlers!"

DAVID FRANKS (pictured), managing director of Regent Inns, was in a continental mood when he trumpeted the success of four new Bar Risa/Jongleurs comedy venues yesterday. "Most people don't know this, but for the Spanish speakers among us, `risa' means `smile'," said Senor Franks. Ay caramba. Risa in fact means "laugh". Smile is "sonrisa".

THE BANK of England has just faxed me details of this year's edition of its useful City Handbook, which details more than 150 organisations related to London as a financial centre, everything from AIM to the Wholesale Markets Brokers' Association.

The fax says: "This essential directory of City institutions is to be found on the bank's Internet site at...." Then it inexplicably leaves a blank space. I am told that such was the Bank's keenness to get the directory out the vital address had been omitted. It is: cityhandbook/index.htm.