Column Eight: Breaking in to Alcatraz

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The Independent Online
There's always the element of the unexpected at shareholder meetings. At Rank's annual meeting yesterday Charles Adams, a shareholder and freelance photographer, felt the urge to voice his concern over security at Butlins camps, part of the Rank empire, after a visit to a site in Minehead, Somerset.

'I didn't go there by choice - all the hotels were full up,' he declared to cackles of laughter from board and fellow-shareholders alike. 'It was like arriving at Alcatraz. The place was underlit. The chalet two doors away was burgled.'

Strange, you may think, to break in to a Butlins camp. Most people would probably want to break out.

Last week we told you all about the fact-finding mission made to South Mimms service station on the M25 by Bruce Jones, the fearless leisure guru at Smith New Court, in his quest to bring in-depth research to his clients.

The saga will continue in Smith New Court's leisure bulletin for March, which promises a full report on current trading at the South Bronx branch of Rent-A-Centre (America's answer to Radio Rentals). The intrepid Mr Jones tells us he had to be escorted to and from the Rent-A- Centre by hefty minders from parent company Thorn EMI.

Perhaps he should change his name to Indiana.

Breathless excitement failed to greet a survey on house names distributed yesterday by Halifax Building Society. It all seemed a pretty good waste of time since the three most popular names were the same as in their 1988 survey. Unbelievably, the favourite name is 'The Bungalow', with 'The Cottage' runner-up. What, you may wonder, is the most popular name for new homes? It's . . . 'The Bungalow'.

Building societies are really coming up with some duff stuff at the moment. A release that drifted this way yesterday boasted the attention-grabbing headline: 'What do Marilyn Monroe and the Bristol & West have in common?'

We are told that 1955 was the year that Marilyn Monroe appeared in The Seven Year Itch in New York, and it was also the last time mortgage interest rates were below 5 per cent. That's the link. Quite.

The annual Slaughter & May skating challenge has metamorphosed into a rollerskating challenge due to the malfunctioning Broadgate ice-rink, relocating to Paternoster Square, next to St Paul's Cathedral. All day today 19 City companies (assuming Allen & Overy's team makes it across the busy main road from its Cheapside offices) will be raising money for Sense, the National Deaf-Blind and Rubella Association. Noisy support will be much appreciated.