Column Eight: Grand Met has it taped

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The Independent Online
This week's Big Brother prize goes to Grand Metropolitan. Our man at yesterday's annual meeting of Grand Met's shareholders was discovered - heinous crime - with a tape recorder and told to surrender it to security men before going into the meeting.

Proceedings over, our man went to retrieve his recorder. 'I'm not giving it back until you tell me where you're going now,' said a Grand Met heavy with a sinister sneer. After some tense diplomacy, our man managed to recover the recorder without resort to physical violence and - civil libertarians rejoice - without detailing his movements for the rest of the day.

The shenanigans continue down at Sea Containers House, on the Thames opposite Blackfriars. James Sherwood, head of the shipping company, is anxious to install a helipad on the roof of the building. Most of the local community, including residents and HM Customs & Excise, who are co-tenants in Sea Containers House, are anxious not to have whirly-birds landing thwackety-thwack just yards from their noses.

In an effort to prove that the noise won't be so bad, Mr Sherwood has twice ordered a helicopter to hover above the building for sound tests. It is a brave man, however, who takes on the Customs.

Nocturnal visitors to London's West End do not see Trafalgar Square at its best. Nelson's Column is dimly lit, Landseer's lions crouch in semi-darkness and we hear that Westminster City Council is seeking corporate sponsors to pay for floodlights.

Alas, it is unlikely that the obvious candidate, Trafalgar House, will stump up due to its own financial Waterloo.

The Eurocrat who runs the Commission's communication and culture group and has ruled that the Government can ban Red Hot Dutch, the pornographic satellite television channel, without first consulting the EC, is fittingly called Mme Flesch.

This year's Chancellor's Challenge, in which teenagers run the economy for a simulated eight-year period, ends on 8 March. During the competition they use such devices as interest rates and income tax to counter inflation and unemployment.

The winners' ceremony should provide an opportunity for Margaret Beckett, dishing out prizes, to make a few pointed remarks about Mr Lamont's performance versus that of the sixth formers - 'teenage scribblers' of the future.