With this kiosk, I thee divorce - and it's so cheap
Sunday 11 June 1995
QuickCourt comes, of course, from America - specifically Arizona, where it has been running for two years with great success. It is a "kiosk", which means it looks like a bank machine but is actually a powerful computer. And before you think that only the Americans would be silly enough to tolerate such a gizmo, ICL has bad news for you. "We've shown it to the Law Society and the Lord Chancellor's office and they're extremely interested," says Mark Lucas, marketing manager of ICL Kiosks.
This is how it works in Arizona. Trot along to the kiosk in the court- house. First decide if you want to get divorced in English or Spanish. A sincere chap called Victor appears on the screen, looks worried, and asks if you want to get divorced. You press Yes. "Are you absolutely certain this marriage can't be saved?" Victor asks urgently, Yes and No boxes flashing to the right of his head. If you are overcome with uxorious remorse, press No, and he gives you a seriously sincere counselling speech and tells you to go back to your spouse.
If your heart is unmoved, get on to the business of filling out forms and pressing buttons frantically, until the machine spews out 50 pages of paper, which are then ready to be signed.
These papers cost $25, against the $150 a lawyer would charge you for the same process. Intriguingly, Mr Lucas says 27 per cent of the kiosk's use is at times when the court-house is closed to the public.
In other words it is being used by lawyers making a tidy margin.
IT'S THE Paris Airshow again, time for the aviation world to walk tall and fly proudly.
And what better name to wear than Barnes Wallace, as the new head of public affairs at Rolls-Royce, maker of fine aero-engines, does? Was he related to the father of dambusters, Bunhill enquired?
It was an ignorant question: Barnes Wallis was just Barnes Wallis; the Rolls man, David, is Barnes-Wallace (hyphenated).
And he's an accountant by training. Shame.
Lunchtime O'Miffed CITY journalists and City public relations people usually get on so well. It is sad, therefore, to have to report a falling-out. John Coyle, one of the best- known financial PRs, is taking legal advice over the actions of Clive Wolman, who until later this month is City editor of the Mail on Sunday.
Since last summer Mr Coyle has been planning the launch of a weekly magazine for the City - comings and goings and gossip, a sort of Campaign for financial folk. In September he had lunch with Mr Wolman, who was trying to launch a daily paper for the City, "to see if we had common ground".
A week or so ago, it emerged that Mr Wolman was planning a weekly paper which, Mr Coyle says, "is described in exactly the way I described mine". The really bad news for him is that the paper is being backed by the Financial Times, which is reported to be investing pounds 4m. That compares with Mr Coyle's planned budget of pounds 1.55m. The staff will be bigger too, at 55 against 35. All this has discouraged him rather. "If the paper is as described in the press reports, I don't think there's room for two," he says.
Mr Coyle is miffed. He says he had the idea 11 years ago, but was too busy PR-ing to start the ball rolling until last year. He says he spent about pounds 30,000 on business plans and the like, and was set to launch in 1996. The working title was Whittington, and a raft of journalists was lined up.
The res, as I believe lawyers say, lies in how much information was swapped at that lunch in Kensington. Mr Coyle says that "if Clive genuinely converted his idea from a daily to a weekly, there's not much I can do". Mr Wolman says this is exactly what happened. "I've told him he should take legal advice and make sure it's good legal advice," he says. "If his lawyer wants to see the business plan I prepared long before that lunch, I'd be very happy to let him have it."
A SMALL test. You are sitting at a table with 81 other people; there is a gentle roaring in the background, and loud knocking on the ceiling. Where are you?
Answer: in Apsley House, right on Hyde Park Corner (hence the roaring). Number One London, as it is known, is reopening to the public and the corporate entertainment market this week after a three-year refurbishment. The Iron Duke built himself a little extension with a table for 82 people, at which he entertained Waterloo survivors on the anniversary of that splendid victory. If you have 81 chums you want to entertain, the Victoria & Albert museum, which runs the house, will provide a similar table.
And the knocking? Well, the present Duke of Wellington and his son, the Marquis of Douro, live in Apsley House. They don't want rowdy types, which is why they have insisted that only company rather than private binges be allowed. Those are the knocks on the ceiling: the duke with his broom handle when you start singing 'Ere we go...
If you are surprised, first, that the V&A is running Apsley House and, second, that it is trying to fill it with business people, you have missed the new commercial spirit in our great museums. V&A Enterprises turns over pounds 3.5m, and includes a fast-growing licensing operation. Michael Cass, its managing director, points out that it is doing no more than returning to its roots: it was founded as a museum of manufacturing, and was designed to help British companies improve their design. "They were worried that the Germans would overtake us in the 1850s," Mr Cass says.
GOOD news. In early March Bunhill reported that the Wilton Royal Carpet Factory, the oldest carpet-maker in Britain, was about to close. And so it did - for five weeks. But on 12 April the looms started turning again because, managing director Peter Le Count says, "you can't kill 300 years of history that easily".
Mr Le Count was running the south Wiltshire factory when it was bought by the American giant Carpets International. It became clear CI did not want the site, so he left and started negotiating with Coats Viyella, the previous owner that still owned the site. He and two other managers agreed with Coats to lease it while they raised the finance to fund a purchase, and as the Wilton Royal Carpet Factory died, the Wilton Carpet Factory appeared in its place.
Why isn't it royal any more? Well, Carpets International kept the Wilton Royal brand, but the valuable royal warrant was withdrawn from both sides. Mr Le Count is determined to get it back, and will probably succeed because he is pushing the little factory firmly up-market. By bolting computerised controls on to the elderly looms he can, he says, make the very best quality carpets for posh hotels, stately homes and, presumably, palaces. The auguries are good: the first order came from the Earl of Pembroke, who lives next door in Wilton House. An ancestor rescued the factory when it went bust in 1905, and it looks like the current one is doing his bit this time round. Good chaps, earls.
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