MARIO’S BEMUSING MUSINGS ON BEAUTY

THE GREAT Pyramids of Giza? An ugly pile of weirdly-angled rocks. The Statue of Liberty? Just a rusty shard of copper wearing a silly hat. The Colosseum in Rome is still far too paltry a landmark, but at least we’re getting warmer geographically.

No, for the human race’s biggest achievement, one must go to Brussels. Or so says Italy’s new leader, Mario Monti.

“The European Union remains the most beautiful construction put in place by humanity,” he gushed yesterday, at a stroke dismissing millennia of architecture, literature and even all of Apple’s gadgets in favour of the financially troubled bloc.

Monti didn’t specify which part of the EU he found most awesome. Maybe he’s starstruck by the way the sun hits the sweat on the foreheads of the panicked bankers as they run to another all-night emergency session at the ECB. Or the speed at which participants in this magnificent system rack up enormous, unpayable debts. Either way, it’s inspiring stuff.

MAGGIE’S MARK-UP
THE IRON Lady has been on general release in the nation’s cinemas since Friday 6 January, with ticket sales starting at an austerity-friendly £8.10.

Impressive, then, that the Centre for Policy Studies has cleverly managed to persuade its supporters to pay £100 to watch the movie at its screening next Monday.

For that price, you get to view the film in a “prestigious West End location” – the Soho Hotel – with a “brief” introduction from Thatcher’s advertising tactician Maurice Saatchi.

Throw in a few free drinks, and the enterprising think-tank is laughing all the way to the bank – as of yesterday, only five tickets remained unsold.

COMMA CHAMELEON
HOLD THE front page: Waterstones, the UK’s largest high-street bookseller, has lost the apostrophe from its logo. “Waterstones without an apostrophe…reflects a truer picture of our business today which…is now built on the continued contribution of thousands of individual booksellers,” muses managing director James Daunt.

That’s thousands of individual booksellers all with the surname Waterstone, presumably. To recap: the artist formerly known as Waterstone’s is the family-founded chain that has sold out to larger players three times in its 29-year history – to WH Smith in 1993, to HMV Group in 1998 and, last year, to a vehicle managed by Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut (right).

APPROVED LOANS
WESSEX the pawnbroker sees a “cross-section of society” through its doors.

Being located just down the road from Goldman Sachs on Fleet Street, it also receives its fair share of bankers, who have traded in assets from £50 to £100,000 – watches, jewellery, even the odd Old Master – as banks clamp down on lending. “The banks like to say no; we like to say yes,” the store manager told The Capitalist.

Further down Fleet Street at Suttons & Robertsons, the high-end pawnbroker directly opposite Goldman, meanwhile, manager Kris Parish has been entrusted with a number of diamonds as clients look to free up cash – one worth £50,000.

Client confidentiality prevents revealing whether said gem dealer was employed by the bank – but if Goldman staff need to pay themselves a “bonus”, be aware the sky’s the limit for the value of items pawned. “We say £1m, but we’ll look at anything,” says Parish, ahead of Suttons’ expansion to Birmingham and Manchester in the spring.