CITY DIARY : Tough news for a fund manager to stomach

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The Singer & Friedlander investor show has gone down like a lead balloon with many of the 500 fund managers and analysts who turned up at London's Barbican Centre last week. The central attraction at the Cortecs International stand - an on-the-spot test for susceptibility to stomach ulcers - resulted in much of the City being diagnosed as of an ulcerous disposition.

Nearly half the 200-odd people who took the test (which identifies the presence of ulcer-provoking bacteria) failed. Evidently stunned by the poor show, the company quickly rushed out a "don't be unduly worried'' public information bulletin.

"This bacteria is usually found in about 30 per cent of people tested,'' explained Jonathan Pockson, Cortecs' finance director. "There is no cause for alarm for those who failed the test. However, they have all been advised to show the results to their doctor.''

Well that was a fun day out.

To add to his woes Michael Howard must surely be asked to explain the surge in his department's electricity bill since he took office. And to his predecessor at the Home Office, Kenneth Clarke.

No stone is being left unturned in the desperate drive to trim every unnecessary penny from the public expenditure bill in the run-up to the Budget. So it can only be a matter of time before the Chancellor's attention is drawn to Mr Howard's profligacy with light bulbs.

Mr Clarke has a bee in his bonnet about energy-efficient lighting. The dimly lit Treasury is plagued by weird-looking bulbs and even the showpiece chandelier in the cavernous hall is disfigured by low-emission units.

However, Mr Clarke's penchant for gloom is not shared by Cabinet colleagues or civil servants. One of Mr Howard's more popular decisions has been to reverse a similar greening of the Home Office.

News from the Frinton Society, a gathering of retired Russian interpreters, which has unearthed a secret marketing drive by the south of France to persuade the Russian Mafia to invest in the Cote d'Azur. A glossy magazine, published by Societe des Bains de Mer, has hit the streets of Moscow inviting the new breed of Russian entrepreneur to play the French casinos and buy property.

"Of course, there is a splendid Russian Orthodox cathedral in Nice,'' notes the society. "But I doubt if the kind of visitors this mag appeals to will attend.''

One for the English Tourist Board to ponder.

Tonight it's the Wines from Spain evening at Chelsea Football Club, where the Navarra Wine Exporters Association will be hoping to drum up a little trade. "This special event,'' says the invitation. "It has the added advantage of taking place in the Private Trophy Room, which is usually only open to CFC directors.''

That should give the happily fuelled guests enough space to stretch out after the festivities. Chelsea last won a trophy in 1971.

Will Carling (above) has added a fresh dimension to his lecturing technique which, it has to be said, was beginning to look as flat as the English rugby backs in South Africa. There is definitely a keener edge to the performance of the England rugby captain turned management consultant since his run-in with the House of Windsor.

Speaking at a gung-ho sales and marketing conference in Birmingham last week, Mr Carling chose as his theme "winning teams''. He had no sooner mounted the podium, however, than a mobile telephone burst into life somewhere in the assembled throng.

"Tell her I'm not here," sniped the player.

Welcoming the audience, Mr Carling said he was pleased to see so many people. "You can all witness that I am exactly where I said I would be.'' Photograph: John Houlihan