A RINGING endorsement of Andy Hornby, the besieged former chief of HBOS who is now joining retailer Alliance Boots, from the most unlikely of quarters.<br /><br />John Thurso, the Lib Dem spokesman for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, has been among Hornby&rsquo;s harshest critics as a member of the Treasury Select Committee that harangued various bankers for their role in the financial crisis earlier this year. <br /><br />Yet Thurso, chatting to The Capitalist at a lunch in the City yesterday, could not have been happier for Hornby about his new appointment as Boots&rsquo; chief executive.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a great move, appointing a trained retail man with experience in banking as well,&rdquo; he mused. &ldquo;Hornby&rsquo;s reputation may not be intact in banking circles but he&rsquo;s certainly still viewed as being at the top of his game in the retail business.&rdquo;<br /><br />Sounds like Hornby and Boots chairman Stefano Pessina should both be giving themselves a resounding clap on the back.<br /><br /><strong>CHANGE OF SCENERY</strong><br />Intriguing to note the name City superwoman Nicola Horlick has chosen for the new investment vehicle she founded recently to launch a bid for quoted fund Bramdean Alternatives.<br /><br />Back in early 2005, when Horlick launched Bramdean Asset Management, she had to change the name of the company to Bramdean, a village near her Hampshire home, after she found out her original choice of Indigo had already been snapped up by a small US debt firm.<br /><br />&ldquo;There are so many fund managers, hedge funds, funds of this and that &ndash; so all the cool names had been taken,&rdquo; Horlick said in a newspaper interview at the time. &ldquo;Bramdean is a pretty village with the most beautiful copper beeches, but nothing much happens there.&rdquo;<br /><br />Fast forward to 2009 and there&rsquo;s something of a sense of d&eacute;j&agrave; vu. Petersfield, the moniker for the new investment vehicle, is also a Hampshire village, though The Capitalist is pleased to report that it&rsquo;s a darned sight more &ldquo;happening&rdquo; than quaint little Bramdean.<br /><br />Petersfield was formerly home to footballer George Best, Star Wars actor Alec Guinness, artist Flora Twort and agriculturalist John Worlidge, among other notaries, and is famous for its markets and annual fairs. It will also this year feature in the London Olympics handover celebration and &ndash; The Capitalist&rsquo;s personal favourite &ndash; once housed the world&rsquo;s very first teddy bear museum. Snazzy.<br /><br /><strong>BEHIND THE MASK</strong><br />There&rsquo;s nothing quite like a Venetian masked ball for gossip and intrigue, so the Courvoisier Square Mile Masked Ball, being held next Wednesday at the Natural History Museum, should turn out to be a corker.<br /><br />The whole event is being organised in aid of the Mayor&rsquo;s Fund &ndash; a charity set up by mayor Boris Johnson to tackle poverty among children and young people in the capital, which boasts Barcap&rsquo;s Bob Diamond, Mike Sherwood from Goldman Sachs and Sir Trevor Chinn, an advisor at CVC Capital Partners and former chairman of RAC and the AA, among its trustees.<br /><br />Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White is helping design the menu for the evening, which will also see auction prizes going under the hammer, including a bottle of Courvoisier XO Imperial cognac signed by Boris Johnson, a piece of artwork by Banksy and luxury holidays to the Turks and Caicos islands, the Seychelles and Italy.<br /><br />Tickets are still available (call 0207 819 9999), but guests should be sure to put some effort into finding a decent mask. After all, if even the undeniably gauche Boris can come up with a slinky black number with gold sparkles on it, there&rsquo;s no excuse.<br /><br /><strong>DOMESTIC BLISS</strong><br />&ldquo;Wee&rdquo; Willie Walsh certainly earned himself a tap on the wrist when he arrived home to his better half last night.<br /><br />The British Airways boss, pictured above, has decided to work for nothing throughout July to show solidarity with his staff, who have suffered 2,500 redundancies over the past year. But, chatting away happily at an airline executive lunch in Malaysia yesterday, Walsh made no secret of the fact he had not thought to forewarn his wife about the potential squeeze in the household budget.<br /><br />&ldquo;She read about it in the papers,&rdquo; he grinned, to throaty chuckles from his companions.<br /><br />Still, when your hubby usually brings home &pound;735,000 a year, a measly &pound;60,000 or so probably wouldn&rsquo;t hurt too much.<br /><br /><strong>CITY&rsquo;S GOT TALENT</strong><br />Another call to arms for bored business workers wanting to inject a spark of fun back into life in the Square Mile.<br /><br />A bevy of nominations are already in for The Capitalist&rsquo;s upcoming compilation of the top ten hunkiest men and loveliest ladies in the City &ndash; and the gents in particular have shown themselves to be rather keen on proffering themselves, friends and enemies alike for a position on the hot list.<br /><br />Any more last-minute suggestions are welcome at, especially for the girls, where nominations are lagging far behind their preened male counterparts&hellip;