The Virtual City Diary

IN THE words of my old friend and crooner Michael Jagger "Please allow me to introduce myself".

I am Dorothy (call me Dot) Komme, cyber traveller, bon viveur and your virtual diarist for the week.

It is never easy to be asked to step into someone's shoes, particularly while they are still wearing them, but that butters no parsnips with my lords and masters.

"Go forth and open your contact book," barks Darth Grump, our man in charge of shouting (no Sympathy for the Devil here).

Let me assure you it takes more than a dark hood and menacing demeanour to make me open anything. All I can say is that I will do my very best.

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YESTERDAY I held my annual Pimms and pies party at Komme Towers.

As usual, my hand-selected elite corps of British Airways Club World cabin boys were on hand to distribute drinks and eats.

They are a charming bunch who regaled us all with tales from behind the bike sheds at Ayling Island. There is much mirth at BA adverts mocking Lufthansa's punctuality, given BA's own erratic time keeping.

I have flown with BA nearly 80 times in the past 18 months (i.e once a week on average) and lost count of the number of times flights were late either departing or arriving. More intriguingly, the cabin boys relate a graffiti jape relating to the BA popular person campaign which granted Club World travellers the right to take a partner with them free on their next paid-for journey. Campaign slogan posters had been cruelly altered, reflecting the dissident view on chief executive Bob Ayling, to read "BA Popular Person? (Not)."

More worrying is the news that the promotion is actually costing BA premium revenue. According to the cabin boys most of the popular people are redeeming their partner reward vouchers in the business-class cabins.

The shrewder and more cost-conscious frequent fliers are spurning the opportunity to impress a friend and instead using the vouchers to take a business colleague (who would have paid full fare) at no cost.

When Mr Ayling unveils the company's first quarter figures today, treat any comments on premium cabin load factors with caution.

Bums may be on seats but wallets are in pockets. ....TEXT: MY LAST flight with BA was from Milan where we were held prisoner for three hours on the tarmac.

I was gasping for a Menthol Super Slim but the stewardess stormtroopers denied me my basic rights.

The only upside of the ordeal was that being cooped up in a tiny, crowded cigar tube in stifling heat without a cigarette and with no information on why we were motionless put me in good shape for life on London Underground.

Although LU is much abused these days I am assured by Toby Worthington- Milde, brand guru and honoured guest at yesterday's party, that our subway system was responsible for the naming of Gap.

Although sales at the US retail chain are under pressure (up only two per cent on a like-for-like basis in July I hear), it remains a firm favourite at Komme Towers.

According to Toby he was on the Circle Line with one of the marketing executives of a soon-to-be launched casual clothing company in search of a brand. Alighting at Victoria the executive was urged to FIND THE GAP. The rest, as they say, is history. .TEXT: CONSIDERABLY MORE expensive casualwear, but still on the Dorothy Komme designated designer list, comes from Ralph Lauren.

The eponymous Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation has just won a momentous victory in Dallas preventing Polo (once an equine periodical, now a lifestyle mag) from publishing under the Polo name. I am a big fan of Polo shirts but my favourite has developed a sinister hole at pectoral level. That makes me fear for the future of Polo mints.

If court success in Dallas goes to PRLC's will the company which brought me a shirt with a hole attempt to abolish the mint with a hole? ...TEXT: THE POLO, by the way, will be much in evidence on Wednesday as a substitute for the much-vaunted pin hole viewer.

My local patisserie (or baker as it was once known) has gone one step further and is offering the Eclipse Food with a View menu. It consists of a large ciabatta (with a selection of fillings) and a glazed ring doughnut. The eclipse filters through the doughnut and is displayed on the sandwich.

When the sun comes out again, lunch is already served.

THE ECLIPSE also coincides with the 12th anniversary of the appointment of Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

The last total eclipse in the UK came shortly after Mr Greenspan was born.

Two years after he was born, stock markets collapsed. Two months after he was appointed Fed chairman, stock markets collapsed again. What will happen two weeks on Wednesday?

The stock market omens for the immediate aftermath of a total eclipse are good. The last three have all seen London shares race ahead.

On 24 October 1995 the total eclipse in India saw the FTSE 100 advance firmly.

On 9 March 1997 there was a total eclipse in Mongolia. The next trading day (a Monday) brought a new record high for the FTSE-100. The FTSE 100 also hit an all time high on 26 February, the day a total eclipse occurred in Venezuela.

ALL THIS delving into history brings me to the anniversary of a great British institution.

Anyone who has been around for the majority of the century, has a penchant for gin and is a keen follower of the turf deserves a special greeting.

Happy birthday then David Simpson, deputy chairman of Ludgate Communications, on this your special day.

David, by the way, is the only person who believes he has already seen the eclipse.

He believes it was run at Sandown on 3 July and is convinced you only have to wait a year to see it again. Many happy returns ma'am.

BEFORE I fly, may I just reassure you that the phrase "taking coals to Newcastle" is actually a cliche in action.

I hear from Australia that transport and logistics group Brambles Industries has just unveiled plans to develop a coal and general bulk terminal. The location?

Walsh Point in the port of Newcastle, north of Sydney.

John Willcock is on holiday

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