CITY DIARY

The great and good of the aviation industry will tonight pick up their collective dancing shoes for the first aviation ball in aid of NCH Action for Children. With patrons including Sir John Egan, Richard Branson and Sir Colin Marshall the event has proved a sell out.

The scale of the industry means that prizes for the tombola are suitably deluxe. What's hot: a part in the film Carla's Song, donated by PolyGram, and what's billed as "the world's greatest autograph book" - collated from passengers at the VIP lounge at Heathrow. Not so hot - except for those who have lost their bags en route - a day out at Gatwick to see the baggage control system.

Ernest Saunders, the former Guinness chairman, who last year refuted claims that he had ever suffered from Alzheimer's disease, looks set to miss out on a new role. The local Thames-side residents' association is seeking a new treasurer. Word is that tactful diplomacy is in play to circumvent him as a possible candidate. Just as well, since the Court of Appeal accepted that he did suffer from the disease - on the grounds, among other things, that he could not recite three numbers backwards.

Members of the Institute of Legal Executives are a studious bunch. Even an invite to the Ritz - along with champagne - was insufficient to persuade many legal folk to ignore a Law Society meeting scheduled for the same slot. That was the official excuse for a rescheduling - but perhaps members were simply deterred by the topic for discussion: legal NVQs, which are due to be introduced next year. Hard to make palatable even with plenty of champagne.

Christopher Balfour, a director of Hambros Bank since 1984, has joined the board of Christies International. Given the competition between fine art houses, the auctioneer is understandably cock-a-hoop. One insider tells me that great store is being set on his "business getting" ability.

Balfour is already familiar with the world of luxury as a former director of Dunhill and now a non-executive of the luxury goods group, Vendome. Curiously he is also a non-executive director of the less rarefied property development company, Evans of Leeds. Perhaps that's how he hones his "business getting ability".

Sore ears all round after many spent the weekend pursuing a table at designer-cum-restaurateur Terence Conran's latest eaterie, Mezzo. With seating for 700, you would have thought booking preparations to be well in hand. Not so. Here's what would-be diners can expect: being answered by several electronic voices before being put on hold; then a test greeting before being transferred to someone else's answering machine. Then an electronic message puts you at six or seven in the queue; you hold in anticipation of six or seven people being dealt with quickly, only to get cut off. A spokesman for Mezzo admits to "a slight problem" with the booking system. Remember, the thrill is in the chase.

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