Pembroke: Cupid spreads his wings

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The Independent Online
IT MUST be a sign of these lonely times. Dinner Dates, a dating agency for well-heeled Londoners, is going national. Satisfied she has spread the 'word of love' in the capital, matchmaker Hillie Marshall has sold franchises in the South-east and North-west for pounds 5,000 each. This will enable lovelorn suits to meet a potential sweetheart when away on business instead of moping in the Holiday Inn.

Ms Marshall, who moves men from table to table at her dinners to give everyone a fair crack of the whip, is expanding her activities to include a skiing holiday in Meribel in March and a summer holiday. 'Sadly being single seems to be a growing industry,' coos Ms Marshall.

PHOENIX INVESTMENT COUNSEL, the new UK arm of the American life insurer Phoenix Home Life, is very pleased with its new appointment. Andrew della Casa has joined from Samuel Montagu as investment sales director, but whether the offices in central London are strong enough to cage the roaming adventurer must be in doubt. Raised in South America, Mr della Casa has a fondness for scientific expeditions into inhospitable deserts looking for things like spiny mice and neolithic rock paintings.

He even had to postpone his start date with Phoenix after falling down a canyon in the Asian state of Turkmenistan and shattering both feet and several ribs. Still hobbling around on a stick, he hasn't been put off exotic holidays. 'I'm going to Zimbabwe this summer - they don't have too many canyons there,' he says. Don't miss the Victoria Falls . . .

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ETON COLLEGE, that tower of academe that has schooled many a prime minister and chief executive, is going into the property landlord business in a big way. It has just appointed property consultant Grimley Eve to manage its portfolio of commercial, residential and agricultural properties and make the college some serious money. Not wasting any time, Grimley Eve is seeking to splash out millions on retail units, industrial sites and provincial offices straight away.

Whether the rental income will keep a ceiling on the school's pounds 12,000 a year fees is another matter. And one can only hope the teachers have more luck with their fund than the Church Commissioners had with theirs.

Music played to customers phoning Southern Water Services Ltd has been changed from Bridge Over Troubled Water to a more 'appropriate choice'.

IT MUST be fun being Lindsay Owen Jones, chairman of cosmetics group L'Oreal. There he is on the cover of Business Week, face tanned from racing his antique Ferrari, grinning next to Isabella Rossellini, the beautiful actress and model who promotes L'Oreal's Lancome brand, and sizing up a marketing push in the United States.

The adventurous Welshman, who sails, skis, pilots helicopters and speaks French, German and Italian, must hope he has better products for the big push than one turkey that flopped in France. A product introduced to eliminate grey hair by restoring natural melanin started well but had unfortunate side-effects. 'I looked great for two months - 15 years younger,' says one silver-haired executive. 'Then my hair turned a very peculiar colour, like merde.'

IS WILLIAM HILL having second thoughts about Mr Blobby? As we reported recently, the bookmaker was quoting odds of 50,000:1 on Mr Blobby to make the Queen's speech. One reader promptly nipped down to his local branch of William Hill but found his bet refused and had to go to Ladbrokes instead. Does Hill know something we don't?