HAPPY days for John Thain, the former Merrill Lynch chief executive who demonstrated yesterday that not only has he managed to stage an impressive comeback on Wall Street, but has actually learnt a lesson on the way as well.

Thain, of course, is best remembered among the financial community for the dual distinctions of having overseen a period of crushing losses at the investment bank and having managed simultaneously to blow an astonishing $1.2m (£767,906) on redecorating his Merrill office.

The lavish refurbishment, for those hazy on the details, included a $87,800 rug, a mahogany table for $25,700, curtains for $28,100 and even, perhaps most extravagantly, a parchment wastepaper bin for $1,200.

Thain’s new digs at CIT Group’s headquarters on 505 Fifth Avenue in New York are probably a cut above your average office – their developer Axel Stawski says his mission is to “develop boutique properties designed to satisfy NYC’s most sophisticated tenants”, and he’s incorporated the “highest quality materials and finishes” and floor-to-ceiling glass windows to maximise the view.

But Thain’s taking no chances, nonetheless.

“I think I’ll keep my office exactly the way it is,” was his curt remark yesterday.

The newest acronym in the banking book continues to cause headaches for analysts, following yesterday’s news that Barclays Capital had come over all politically correct in banning from their research notes the “PIGS” abbreviation.

I hear Italian investment bankers are now getting sniffy about the spelling of the acronym with two ‘I’s (representing Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), claiming that PIIGS is inaccurate since Italy will see a weak recovery this year.

The minefield broadens when taking into account the origins of the name – our very own Bank of England, where economists used to refer to the “PIGSTY” economies, ditching Ireland and including Turkey and Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, one amused City chum has given up trying to understand the current dilemma and is busy predicting jolly examples for the future.

“It won’t be long before someone identifies the Czech Republic, Romania, Azerbaijan and Poland as a cohesive economic group,” he writes, mischievously.

An interesting observation from upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose, which informs me that bonus season is truly in full swing.

Apparently, the retailer’s Canary Wharf store has seen a 17 per cent increase on sales of fine wines over the first part of the year – including pricey bottles of Château Mouton-Rothschild 2005, Château Ausone 2004 and even a £6,000 case of Château la Tour 1988.

Waitrose reckons banking types are busy investing their bonuses rather than splurging the cash, with the intention of selling on the wines at a premium later.

Though really, if you’re keeping that sort of superior vintage in the cellar, it’s probably pretty tough to resist…

Something of an overshare from “On the Brink”, the new book written by former US Treasury secretary Hank Paulson.

Poor old Paulson says he’s had a problem since his schooldays with “dry
heaving” during times of stress and fatigue.

An unfortunate ailment for a man tasked with restoring the US banking system to health, I’m sure – and one which probably meant that he spent most of his tenure in the job trying to avoid retching into the nearest rubbish bin…

Finally, a diary note for classical music lovers out there. A Valentine’s concert is taking place tonight at St Katherine Cree church on Leadenhall Street. On stage will be several entrants in the City’s Office Choir of the Year competition, as well as solo performances from virtuosos at the likes of law firms Linklaters and Norton Rose...