Column Eight: Summers celebrates safe sex

Ann Summers, the well-established emporium that assists consumers in developing their wilder erotic fantasies, is celebrating 11 years of its 'party plan'.

Unlike an Avon lady party or that genteel occasion for buying plastic containers for the kitchen, Ann Summers parties offer women the chance to buy items they may not wish to purchase elsewhere, 'in a safe, ladies-only environment', says the group.

'Party organisers are fully trained in overcoming any embarrassment by making product demonstrations fun as well as informative.'

When the party guests have stopped laughing presumably the cheque books come out to snap up such items as 'Isabella', which the brochure describes as a 'loose-fitting camisole and matching French style knickers with cotton gusset. In a soft, semi see-thru fabric'.

That old Spanish custom by which those wishing to promote shows, films and books carefully fillet critics' reviews to ensure that favourable comments are left in and the more negative observations left out has reached a new standard. Publishers of Jonathan Mantle's paperback edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls, describing the troubles of Lloyd's of London, claim that this newspaper described it as 'candid and well-written'. Up to a point. The reviewer described a rival book as not as 'candid' in naming its sources as Mr Mantle's nor as well-written. Both books were described as 'inconclusive reading'. Perhaps the publishers should have used the reviews of a famous novel with the same title.

Recession may be a mirthless affair for the business community but not for the funsters at the British Broadcasting Corporation. According to a statement from the BBC Radio Collection the 'brilliantly scripted Million Pound Radio Show' is full of useful tips and revelations that could possibly form a policy backbone for many a would-be recession buster.

Sample sketch: a group of pirates decide that they are inefficient and go on a management training course 'at a nice country hotel near Hastings with tea and biscuits' to compare work methods, prioritise objectives and improve their communication skills. Rib- tickling stuff.

Ian Maxwell was 15 minutes late for his court hearing yesterday in his continuing fight to ward off a bankruptcy petition. 'I'm sorry I'm late,' Mr Maxwell told his solicitors, 'I couldn't get a taxi.' It's not just the wheels of justice that grind exceeding slow . . .

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