Pembroke: Arty party

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The Independent Online
IT MUST be a sign that work has not yet picked up to the desired levels. Hundreds of lawyers and accountants found the time to mingle last week at an early evening bash at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition in London's Piccadilly hosted by Arthur Andersen.

While one or two firms seemed to have brought along most of their staff, artistic appreciation did not loom terribly large on the agenda at the party. Over the champagne and canapes, Ian Plaistowe, a senior Andersen partner who was, until earlier this month, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, revealed that in his twenties he had been a friend of Derek Jarman, now a controversial film maker but then starting out as an abstract painter. He maintained that Jarman had been able to convince him of the subject matter of his own pictures, but confessed he could still not fathom what most of this year's exhibits were about.

Nevertheless, while one prosperous-looking silk was heard to mutter that prices were well up on last year (rather like a customer down at Arthur Daley's used-car showroom), there were a number of 'sold' stickers gracing even some of the more expensive items. For some reason, though, there was little interest in a miniature watercolour competitively priced at pounds 245 and entitled Mr Graham Gooch.

THE LORD KING/Richard Branson punch-up seems to have died down of late, which is probably good news for Ms Joanne Virgin. She sorts out queries about membership of the executive club - of British Airways.

IF YOU'RE house-hunting with a million pounds in your liquid cash account, we have just the bargain for you. 'No Man's Land' is a converted circular Victorian fortress, set in the Solent between Portsmouth and Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, and is one of a string of currant-bun lookalikes built along the middle of the Solent as part of our maritime defences.

Originally designed to accommodate a garrison of 400 men and 49 guns, the fortress was used as a peg in wartime for the anti-submarine nets protecting vital ships in Portsmouth Harbour. It was converted in 1990 to include three helipads, a tennis court (which presumably has some netting arrangement to prevent wayward lobs or players plopping into the sea), an indoor swimming pool and gym, five bedrooms and several receptions.

Then, the price was pounds 5.75m; sadly, and in spite of coverage in Sunday supplements, it failed to sell. By 1992, the agents said they were seeking pounds 2.5m. Now, The Property Week and CSW says you'd get pounds 50,000 change from the guide price of pounds 1m, but the agents admit that the eventual selling price is difficult to predict. 'The problem is that there are no price comparatives.'