Pembroke: Boris couldn't make it, but . . .

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It always seemed optimistic for the organisers of a top pharmaceutical conference to expect Boris Yeltsin to attend last Friday night's banquet at the Kremlin as promised.

In the event, he proved too busy with more pressing matters to meet representatives from firms such as Glaxo, Ciba-Geigy and Fisons. Rather than being disappointed, however, the delegates were relieved to escape Moscow before it exploded.

'We didn't see any trouble but when we went into the countryside we saw a lot of troops doing what we thought were exercises,' Geoff Frew, chairman of the Pharmaceutical Directors Club, said. 'Now we're not so sure.'

On that same visit to the Russian countryside the delegates' coach (inevitably) broke down. Despite much tinkering by the driver the engine flatly refused to restart. Nothing daunted, the driver then spotted a telegraph pole by the side of the road sprouting wires in all directions. He cut off some of the wire, attached it to two terminals in the engine and off it went.

Brits may be notoriously feeble about learning to speak foreign languages, but signs are that some are beginning to twig that a little effort goes a long way.

One City building on Finsbury Pavement, up for let, is advertising for tenants via a hoarding outside.

The board, erected by Richard Mann & Co, the agents, is in three languages (and in this order) - Korean, English and Japanese. 'We believe the Koreans are the next boom market for tenants,' a spokeswoman said.

Canadian Pizza, the manufacturer of pizza bases ('the topping doesn't much matter really, it's just onions and things, the base is what makes the difference,' a spokesman says) has pulled off the fairly extraordinary feat of exporting its product to Italy.

This was recognised at no lesser forum yesterday than the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool in the speech given by Gillian Shephard, the Minister for Agriculture, praising British companies that have succeeded in exporting goods to Europe.

What will probably please the company even more, however, will be that the 'pizza crust manufacturer in Manchester' was mentioned in the same breath as the holy of holies, Marks & Spencer, which sells 60 per cent of its sandwiches to the Europeans.