<!--StartFragment--> <!--StartFragment--> ANY idea that the downturn would affect corporate hospitality at the Chelsea Flower Show, traditionally one of the biggest, most important corporate schmooze-fests of the year, was smashed to smithereens at last night&rsquo;s gala preview opening.<br /><br />Chelsea veterans including Marks &amp; Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose, WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, ICAP billionaire Michael Spencer and Carphone Warehouse tycoon Charles Dunstone all put in an appearance &ndash; as did banking titans Marcus Agius of Barclays, Stephen Hester of Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered&rsquo;s Peter Sands.<br /><br />Alliance Trust boss Katherine Garrett-Cox was also spotted among the blooms, as well as outgoing London Stock Exchange chief Dame Clara Furse and business secretary Peter Mandelson.<br /><br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not a hint of recession,&rdquo; whispered one guest, excitedly. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve come across any number of odious investment bankers desperately peddling their wares&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br />Perhaps the most notable addition to the list of City attendees was one Sir Victor Blank, who attacked his task as the evening&rsquo;s sponsor host with gusto, having resigned his chairmanship of Lloyds Banking Group just 24 hours earlier.<br /><br />Blank even provided ample fodder for wagging tongues when his arrival at the show coincided exactly with that of Mervyn Davies, the former chairman of Standard Chartered, who is hotly tipped to succeed him at the Lloyds helm. Needless to say, the bank&rsquo;s chief executive Eric Daniels, bringing up the rear, looked decidedly sheepish at the wretched twist of fate.<br /><br /><strong>BLIND FAITH<br />Standard Chartered&rsquo;s Great City Race is one of the highlights of the calendar for Lycra-clad City lovelies, and this year&rsquo;s run &ndash; on 16 July &ndash; is set to be no exception.<br /><br />Among those who&rsquo;ve already signed up at is one Richard Meddings, a big cheese (sorry, chief financial officer) at Standard Chartered, who plans to complete the 5km course blindfolded.<br /><br />Meddings is hoping to raise tens of thousands from the stunt for the race&rsquo;s official partner, blindness charity Seeing is Believing, including a fair whack from auctioning off a place to be his guide in the race. Paying for the privilege of leading him by the hand does seem a little strange to The Capitalist, though at least the more relaxed pace should be marginally easier on the old legs.<br /><br /><strong>DUMPING GROUND<br />This may be hard to believe, but defecating in communal areas has become something of a fad at the US headquarters of Merrill Lynch in New York.<br /><br />At the beginning of 2008, one employee &ndash; apparently angry at the meagre bonus he received for the year &ndash; left, ahem, a present on the floor of the men&rsquo;s toilets. Fast forward a year and a half, and the nightmare has repeated itself.</strong></strong><strong><br />Wall Street blog Clusterstock reports that another employee left a turd in the stairwell between the fifth and seventh floors at the firm, though this time, the reason for the perpetrator&rsquo;s stinking grudge isn&rsquo;t clear.<br /><br />Still, at least the new owner Bank of America can relax in the knowledge that this sort of appalling behaviour would never happen over here in Blighty.<br /><br />&ldquo;I hadn&rsquo;t heard the news,&rdquo; sniffs one Merrill Londoner over his stiff upper lip, &ldquo;but all I can say is that it truly beggars belief&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>WATER WORLD<br />A watery drama unfolds down at the London Bridge offices of Big Four accountancy firm Ernst &amp; Young.<br /><br />The Tooley Street area where the firm&rsquo;s headquarters are situated is renowned for flooding, so it&rsquo;s a problem E&amp;Y is used to coping with. But I hear there&rsquo;s a secondary issue which has arisen from the regular floods &ndash; namely, that the firm&rsquo;s visitor toilets are being treated as something of a public convenience.<br /><br />Last week, every caf&eacute; in the area found its facilities compromised by the latest deluge, leaving E&amp;Y the only building in the area to emerge unscathed. Cue a continuous torrent of coffee-lovers hopping about in the entrance hall attempting to get past a steely-faced security guard and a load of increasingly irate reception staff.<br /><br />May The Capitalist suggest capitalising on the opportunity by introducing a small charge, ? la Ryanair?<br /><br /><strong>CHESTY BUSINESS<br />It may be tough out there, but it didn&rsquo;t stop the big spenders fishing out their wallets at billionaire tycoon John Caudwell&rsquo;s annual Butterfly Ball at the end of last week.<br /><br />The event raised a record &pound;1.7m from the illustrious list of guests, including rock singer Rod Stewart and actress Liz Hurley. One particular piece &ndash; a life-size chest of drawers in the shape of Marilyn Monroe, made out of walnut and encrusted with diamonds and opals &ndash; even went for a staggering &pound;90,000.<br /><br />Money, as they say, can&rsquo;t buy you taste.</strong></strong></strong> <!--EndFragment--> <!--EndFragment-->