AFTER the appearance of the traditional annual Coca Cola advert on our television screens heralded the official start to the festive season, it appears the corporate Christmas is truly in full swing.<br /><br />Demand for Christmas crackers is up a whopping 21 per cent from last year as cheap ‘n’ cheerful celebrations take precedent over luxurious festive bashes, according to the UK’s leading cracker supplier Swantex.<br /><br />And for those who fancy heading out to experience some early Christmas cheer, all wrapped up in their woollies, both the Canary Wharf Group and Heathrow airport have some ideas.<br /><br />Canary Wharf is holding its annual “Winter in Style” event on Thursday evening, where the area’s retailers club together to give hefty discounts to shoppers and put on fashion shows and other entertainment.<br /><br />Heathrow is also getting into the spirit of things with a giant sprig of mistletoe above the arrival gate at Terminal 5. Sadly, attempts to get in touch with BA chief Willie Walsh yesterday to discover whether he’ll be using the opportunity to kiss and make up with luvvies among his disgruntled staff fell on deaf ears…<br /><br /><strong>MERRY DANCE</strong><br /><br />The City’s musical contingent are well and truly out to play this winter, with another Square Mile band ready to perform tomorrow evening at Charlie’s Bar on Crosswall.<br /><br />LBBW equity sales trader John Blackley, JapanInvest’s Chris Newton and Svenska Handelsbanken co-head of equity sales Angus McNeilage, along with their chums Mark Laver and Martin Paling, formerly of Bentley Capital, tell me they’ve been going for 13 years as a band, having initially worked together at HSBC James Capel.<br /><br />Thursday’s gig – which will consist of covers of everything from the Beatles to Oasis and Snow Patrol – will be in aid of the Kent Air Ambulance.<br />“We aim to get everyone up and dancing,” chuckles Blackley – who must have a knack for it, since the band has raised over £50,000 for various charities at their gigs since they first got together. Tickets cost £10 on the door...<strong><br /><br />PUPPY LOVE<br /><br /></strong>What is it with people obsessing over links between the mighty Goldman Sachs and cute baby animals?<br /><br />Last week, the scandalous gossip from the bank’s US headquarters was that five abandoned kittens had been found near to its new building, which is under construction. But though Goldman pledged to pay the little uns’ vet bills, no money had materialised, causing uproar even though the payments had quite simply gone astray.<br /><br />Now, perusing an article on the web entitled “What Should Goldman Sachs’s New PR Strategy Be?”, The Capitalist chances upon a charming suggestion from a reader.<br /><br />“Puppies for everyone!” proffers our (presumably female) enthusiast. “It could work…”<strong><br /><br />FINE DINING<br /><br /><br /></strong>Trivia snippet of the day: did anyone in the City realise that Anthony Parnes, one of the stockbrokers jailed for the “Guinness Four” share trading scandal in the late Eighties, is related to smooth restaurateur Richard Caring?<br /><br />Apparently, Caring’s mother, Sylvia Parnes, was cousin to the father of Tony, who was nicknamed “The Animal” in the City in his stockbroking heyday and is still friendly with many a veteran in the industry today.<br /><br />No wonder Parnes is such a regular at the Ivy, Mark’s Club, Annabel’s and the rest of the smart eateries in the Caring empire.<strong><br /><br />SPORT CHANCE<br /><br /></strong>Much excitement over at the Canary Wharf offices of Japanese bank Nomura, which is looking ahead to its sponsorship of the Oxford and Cambridge varsity rugby match at Twickenham on 10 December.<br /><br />As part of the build-up, both the teams are coming to Nomura next week for the event’s official launch, and will be shown around the bank’s headquarters to get a feel for the place.<br /><br />“I’m not sure if they’ll be too excited about looking at our computer screens,” says my man on the trading floor, “but we’ll certainly be happy to meet the rugby stars of the future!” I’ll bet.<strong><br /><br />SQUEAKY CLEAN</strong><br />Here’s a blow to Marks and Spencer’s image, after 125 years of hard slog establishing itself as a squeaky-clean family establishment. In pops an email from extra-marital dating agency IllicitEncounters, which claims that over 70 per cent of its female members purchase lingerie for their romantic trysts at the firm.<br /><br />Presumably, the credit crunch sent patrons of upmarket Myla running straight into the open arms of good old M&S and its cotton undies?