CITY DIARY

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Hitting the jackpot with

a low-flying office stapler

City punters have been seized by National Lottery fever as the "roll-over" jackpot spirals ever higher. But the chances of winning the pounds 30m-plus jackpot appear to be considerably less certain than other rather less attractive things happening to one.

For instance, a group of actuaries was yesterday mulling over the fact that 18 people in the UK were killed in accidents with office equipment in 1994. Taking the UK working population at around 25 million, and considering that there are 14 million permutations to the numbers making up the winning lottery figure, the actuaries concluded the following: that you would need to purchase at least 10 lottery tickets to have a better chance of winning the jackpot than of being killed by office equipment. So be warned: get out there and buy the tickets or watch out for that low-flying stapler.

For the City executive who has everything, The Hang- Em-High Game Rack. Christmas may have been and gone but this useful invention from Hilltop Products of Newbury, Berkshire, is just the thing to transport home your recently slaughtered game in the back of the car.

The man behind the invention, James Bulmer of Purley Farm Stables, says the rack will retail at pounds 19.95: "At present the most common practice is to pile the game one on top of the other in the back of the car boot. Sadly, some of the meat will go off, especially if the birds are warm and damp.

"In fact, the only way to transport game is to make sure that they are hung either from the neck or the legs whilst allowing a certain amount of air to circulate freely around the carcasses." This is achieved by the Hang-Em-High, a system of rods that fit together in the boot of your car, according to Mr Bulmer.

Nothing gets the small business lobby quite so worked up as the ease with which bankrupt businesses can avoid paying back unsecured creditors. The subject is not new, however, having been a hot topic in the 16th century.

Debtors at that time were able to claim sanctuary from their creditors within certain city areas stipulated by the church. Thomas More in his History of King Richard III written in about 1513, described the sanctuaries as having become a rabble of thieves, murderers and malicious traitors.

David Graham QC, an insolvency specialist who retired from Coopers & Lybrand two years ago, is writing a history of English law on going bust during the year 1543 to 1603, and according to Coopers' insolvency journal, Phoenix, pretty bloodthirsty work it is too. For instance, in certain cases the church was allowed to dig up the corpses of dead bankrupts and remove them from consecrated ground. In 16th century Italy bankrupts had a dreadful time:

"Insulting and reviling procedures were ordinary, such as the wearing of distinctive headgear."

Sometimes just nothing seems to go right, as the London Stock Exchange's chairman, John Kemp-Welch, can testify. Yesterday the chairman was preparing himself for the tricky business of explaining to an expectant press conference exactly why the chief executive Michael Lawrence was leaving. Just as he was about to begin to address the restive hacks, Mr Kemp-Welch leaned down to the microphone on the desk in front of him and asked: "Can you hear me at the back?". Unfortunately the mike belonged to a BBC Radio man who was kneeling down in front of the desk. The embarrassed radio man exclaimed : "I don't work here," at which point the gathered hacks cruelly guffawed. Mr Kemp-Welch is made of stern stuff, however, and fairly rattled though the press questions. When his own adviser told him to wind it up, he replied: "Oh no, I'm really beginning to enjoy this."

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