People & Business: A night at the opera and a 30p fine at the Bank

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The Independent Online
Howard Davies, who left the Bank of England yesterday to become boss of super-SIB, tells me he was unaware that it was within the Bank's powers to impose fines until he himself fell victim to a levy from the Old Lady.

Mr Davies has just been fined 30p for the late return of a classical CD to the Bank's music library.

The chastened deputy governor tells me that the offending CD was a recording of Simon Boccanegra, the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, the 19th-century Italian master. Mr Davies took the CD out because he was going to Covent Garden and wanted to bone up on said opera.

Tragedy struck, however, when he arrived at the opera house, only to discover the performance was of Verdi's 1857 version. The Bank's CD had been of the revised 1881 version, which is quite different. Indeed, Verdi famously referred to the premiere of the 1857 version in Venice as "monotonous and cold". It appears Verdi decided over 20 years after the premiere to completely revamp his work.

Let us hope Mr Davies will not be forced to do the same following his forthcoming reign at super-SIB.

Ocean Group shift a fifth of London's waste down the River Thames on barges to a place called "Mucking" in Essex. Or it used to be called Essex - now it's part of "the unitary authority of Thurrock". Anyway, considering how well the company is doing - pounds 300m in the bank - I suppose it proves once again that "where there's Mucking there's brass".

John Allan, Ocean chief executive, formerly with well-known cleaning group BET, says the company's permit for Mucking runs out in 2002. Not to worry, though. Ocean made a deal with Tarmac last year under which it can transport up to 12 billion cubic metres of waste to landfill sites, mostly around Colchester, also in Essex.

Good burghers of Colchester - you have been warned.

Surrey Free Inns, the respectable and successful pub chain, bought the eight-strong pub chain Richardsons in May - and said it would sell Richardson's "table dancing" venue "For Your Eyes Only". Much was made of Surrey Inns' wholesome, family image.

Surrey Free Inns now admits it is going to keep the club in Park Royal, west London, for the moment at least, in order "maximize shareholder value".

This is quite a coup for Gerald Richardson, founder of the club, in which young ladies remove their clothes for customers for a fee, and then gyrate for a specified time.

Mr Richardson is now on the board of Surrey, and adds: "Only 2 or 3 per cent of our customers are women. I am not sure whether they are mistresses or wives. But we are keen to get more women involved." It's all a long way from shove-ha'penny.

Fancy advising His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on how to spend his money?

The Household of the Prince is advertising for a financial controller, to be based in St James's Palace in London, with a salary of pounds 35,000 plus car.

Currently the Household's finances are supervised by the Prince's private secretary, Stephen Lamport, but the growth of staff numbers (now 70) and activities means a full-time bean counter is needed.

The job will cover everything from day-to-day financial control to supervising the Prince of Wales's Charities Trust.

BT tells me that reports thatit is to flog off the contents of its Museum of National Telephony are "rubbish".

The museum is being closed on Friday because the present site in the murky depths of Blackfriars in the City is failing to attract enough visitors.

"We need a better venue. But we are keeping all the contents, as well as the curator, Neil Johanssen and the technician Dave Kirton," BT assured me yesterday.

Which is just as well, since there are over 10,000 bits of phone history warehoused in west London, as well as the 800 items at Blackfriars, covering Britain's part in the evolution of phone systems since the 1830s.

Various schemes to rehouse the stuff include a new venue in Edinburgh, home of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the modern phone, as well as a possible slot in the Millennium Dome.

Let's hope BT manages to avoid what would be an unforgivable act of corporate vandalism. After all, "it's good to talk".