THAT pesky cloud of Icelandic volcanic ash may have caused havoc among passengers and crippling losses to airlines, but at least there has been a silver lining for one man.

“Wee” Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways, has suffered something of a PR nightmare over the past year amid strikes and crisis-hit revenues, though Eyjafjallajoekull has proved a convenient excuse to turn that around.

Walsh on Sunday proved his dashing bravery as the only passenger aboard BA’s flight from Heathrow to test the safety of the airspace (how narked poor Virgin boss Richard Branson must have been to miss out on that opportunity).

And he continued on his quest last night by heroically cancelling a swanky party at the Halcyon Gallery in Mayfair to launch BA’s new first-class cabin, at which he was supposed to be schmoozing with Bond beauty Gemma Arterton.

“We have to focus all efforts on trying to get our stranded passengers mobile,” explains a spokeswoman, apologetically.


Speaking of the volcanic crisis, feast your eyes upon the following genius spoof email which was doing the rounds in the City yesterday – relayed here without comment (though somewhat abridged due to space limitations) so as not to spoil the comic effect…

“European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso announced yesterday that the European Union has filed suit against investment banking giant Goldman Sachs for the fallout of ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano.

“In a statement delivered in Romansh, the official EU language of the month, Barroso said, ‘We have uncovered evidence that this so-called ‘natural disaster’, which is costing the EU hundreds of millions of euros, is in fact an Act of Goldman, and we intend to hold the Zionist-American cabal in charge of the firm accountable.’

“The EU complaint alleges that Goldman operated a proprietary wind-blowing strategy to direct the volcano’s ash into Europe’s stratosphere. Goldman is accused of profiting from the fallout by buying complex Flight Cancellation Swaps that are netting Goldman millions of dollars every time another European flight is cancelled.

“The complaint cites a smoking gun email from Francois Tubbey, a 16-year old Goldman vice president, stating: ‘That’s right, baby, Fat Franky’s in charge of the weather.’

“Goldman issued a statement saying that it intends to ‘vigorously defend itself,’ adding that the EU’s charges are ‘unfounded in meteorology and probably also in fact…’”


Yet more on the unfortunate victims of that ash cloud, as I hear accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers’ resident pantomime troupe nearly came a cropper due to cancelled flights.

PwC’s actors and actresses were due to set off for Ireland last week to put on their annual panto for local schools, though in the event only half the cast made it across the water.

Ever the restructuring experts, the ones who made it over valiantly battled on through the performances of Snow White playing more than one part each. A sterling effort all round.


Over to the Grocers’ Hall on Princes Street last night for the annual Growth Company Awards – an excuse for the notoriously rowdy small to mid cap community to congratulate themselves with copious amounts of champagne and endless back-slapping.

Arbuthnot Securities won Aim broker of the ear, Brewin Dolphin Aim adviser of the year and Eversheds Aim lawyer of the year – while the coveted individual award for analyst of the year went to support services specialist Francesca Raleigh at Numis, the third successive year that the firm has fielded the award’s winner.


Stefan Allesch-Taylor, the boss of investment bank Fairfax, is famed equally for his extensive array of corporate and extra-curricular business interests, his statuesque 6’10” frame and his former whim of keeping piranhas in a tank in the corner of his office.

The jovial chap readily admits that his toothy pets have had more attention over the years than he has, even though he actually got rid of them almost a decade ago.

But The Capitalist learns that the piranhas’ legacy still lives on in a picturesque courtyard behind Fairfax’s Berkeley Square offices – where a number of ancient and plump goldfish swim lazily around a shallow pool.

Apparently, the happy fish are the last remaining stock from the pool that used to feed the greedy piranhas every day, earning them the tongue-in-cheek nickname of “The Survivors”.