Pembroke: Tarmac's Sir Eric finally takes to the road

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Sir Eric Pountain, the man who marched the building group Tarmac up to the top of the hill only to see it fall off a financial cliff, finally bowed out yesterday.

Sir Eric, a keen tennis player and Scrabble enthusiast, hands over the non-exec chair to Sir John Banham, former director-general of the CBI.

Sir John may not be as colourful a figure as Sir Eric (this is someone who once listed ground-clearing as one of his recreations in Who's Who), but does like a joke.

On Question Time he was once asked who he would most like to spend the evening with and replied: 'Denis Healey's wife.'

Apparently, he and his wife had just met the charming Edna at a dinner party a few evenings before.

Hotels that install swanky gyms and games rooms thinking they will attract businessmen are wasting their time. According to a new survey by Expotel, a hotel reservation group, overworked suits don't get time to preen themselves on the pec decks these days.

The swimming pool is the most popular leisure facility. Least popular, by quite a margin, is a hotel haircut.

Guardian Group, the new name for the old Guardian Royal Exchange insurance company, is keen to drill its name and logo (an owl) into people's minds.

John Sinclair, chief executive of the Guardian Group, and Ray Pierce, managing director of Guardian Direct, spent an hour standing in the cold yesterday posing with Duffy, a European eagle owl flown in from Andover for the event.

Duffy behaved admirably, sitting on a big blue telephone and keeping its beak to itself.

But why did GRE need to change its name in the first place? 'A name is like a suit of clothes and we have had the same one for 25 years,' said a spokesman unconvincingly.

Atop London hotel has graciously slashed the price of phone calls. A five-unit call at the Beaufort in Knightsbridge will now cost 25p compared, the hotel says, with pounds 1.90 at the Grosvenor House and pounds 1.46 at the Savoy. Unfortunately you have to pay up to pounds 250 a night to qualify.

The Prince's Youth Business Trust, the charity that helps entrepreneurs under 30 years of age, has backed lots of businesses, including a cow chiropodist and a stick insect breeder, but never anything like this.

Tomorrow it will pay tribute to Joy Taylor, the 20,000th person it has helped. The trust gave Ms Taylor pounds 3,200 to set up her shiatsu practice at her Sheffield home.

Ms Taylor, 27, also offers a sideline in cranio sacral therapy, where membranes, bones and fluids are balanced by the laying on of hands.

Her conversation with the Prince of Wales and John Major should prove interesting.

(Photograph omitted)