Virtual City Diary: Eclipsed again

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The Independent Online
AT LAST I wreak my revenge on Darth Grump. I abandon my Totally Blitzed Wine and Cheese breakfast at Lily's early and head instead for the office.

I am fed up of her forcing me to stare at the Sun whilst swigging a rather nasty Muscadet and listening to her wittering on about getting blind drunk. I arrive some time after 11am and find the hooded Sith warrior staring skywards. "It makes you go blind," I whisper. I have never seen anyone re-adjust so quickly. "Are you game?" I inquire. He nods. It is a pity I did not wait 24 hours. Today is August 12th - I could have shot him.

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ON MY way to Bank station I bump into Mervyn King, deputy governor of the Bank of England. He has kindly brought forward the release of his inflation report to avoid being eclipsed by the eclipse. He confides that the next total eclipse that coincides with the release of the Bank's report occurs on 12 August 2026. The eclipse will be visible in Iceland, Greenland and Spain. The inflation report will be opaque everywhere.

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TALKING OF investment bankers, who was that man clinging precariously to the coupling mechanism of a Docklands Light Railway train yesterday morning? Chaos on the DLR (Dead Loss Railway) led to chronic overcrowding and the silly banker chose to ride shotgun outside to Canary Wharf. You may have thought it was the eclipse which only comes every 70 years and lasts for two minutes, but passengers on the DLR have another answer.

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ONE MAN who may well have time on his hands is Sir Nigel Rudd of Williams and Pilkington fame. There is renewed gossip that Pilks is in the bid frame again. Was it ever thus? Intriguingly, Lord Hanson phoned a couple of weeks ago to reassure me that the conglomerate as a corporate beast is not yet extinct and will soon return.

M'Lud identified Pilkington as a prime target for a classic conglomerate raid. Given Sir Nigel presides over an erstwhile conglomerate in the shape of Williams, I wonder whether he is offended by Lord Hanson's suggestion. The question may be moot since I hear that Sir Nigel would be more than happy to hand the keys to the Williams kingdom over to Tyco, the US group with which he has had two sets of abortive merger talks. It has been put to me that tentative talks are back on after takeover chit-chat fell apart a month ago.

If Williams and Pilks both lost their independence it would free Sir Nigel to take the chair at Marks & Spencer. He has a lot of fans in the City and I am not alone in wanting to see him as the man who puts the filling in my prawn sandwich.

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THE OTHER man I might trust with that task is Larry Ellison, who runs the mighty Oracle Corporation in the US. He is a doll - a rugged sailor and rampant share options type. I know he is a bit touchy just now, having finished an uncharacteristic last in class in this week's Fastnet.

I wonder whether his crew received the same kind of admonishment he once delivered to an Oracle co-worker. "If you don't make the product and you don't sell the product and you don't service the product," the bearded Japophile said, "tell me real slow what it is you do and I will do all in my power to automate you."

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