Column Eight: The red sands of recovery

While British small businessmen retract their expansionist horns and talk mistily of the days of economic buoyancy, we hear of a lesson in business confidence from Australia.

John Grange has opened a surfboard, wetsuit and beach gear shop in Alice Springs. Those ill-versed in matters southern hemispherical may not realise that the town is set in the heart of Australia, with the nearest wave 930 miles away. There is plenty of sand, of course - fiery, red, burning, gritty stuff. Very appealing.

'These sorts of shops are all over Australia . . . I don't see why Alice Springs should be any different,' insists Mr Grange. 'I'm very confident we'll be successful. We've had some very good vibes.' He can come and vibrate in Britain any time he likes.

And in Sydney (which is by the sea) a businessman sends a 'hands off our flying kangaroo' message to BA, which may be bidding for Qantas. 'No British Airways ownership of our Qantas. Piss off, Poms' reads the slogan on a massive billboard at the airport.

'I believe the Spirit of Australia (that's Qantas) cannot be controlled by a foreign power,' says the billboard's owner. 'The message is amusing,' British Airways concedes generously.

Qantas is more concerned that the message may be mistaken for official airline policy.

It's going to come as a shock to London cabbies ('Best drivers on the road, Guv] Safe as houses' . . . crrrrunch) who see themselves as a law unto themselves, that their exemption from the seat-belt laws is about to run out. The bonus for passengers will be that, given the physique of most taxi drivers, it will be virtually impossible to turn round and talk volubly to the captive audience in the back.

This evening's total eclipse of the moon should be of interest to market observers as well as werewolves. Painstaking analysis by the Swiss of market trends in the wake of 143 total or partial lunar eclipses showed that share prices were significantly influenced 80 per cent of the time.

'Market prices are determined as a function of tens of thousands of buy and sell orders, which are issued by human beings. The latter are influenced by the electromagnetic atmosphere, so it is an interesting study to establish a correspondence between the map of the heavens and market movements.' Got it?

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