The chairman takes great delight in interrogating our journalist over some recent inaccuracies
"Somebody's been a naughty boy, haven't they?" smiled the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet as we met for a pint or two of Baffling Charge at The Distressed Craven. "I think what we have here is a case of 'Hold the front page – journalist in wrong facts horror', wouldn't you say?"
"I'd have thought you more than anyone would be of the opinion that the front page would only be held if a journalist actually got their facts right," I replied, with perhaps not quite as much good grace as I might have. "But we all make mistakes – apparently, even me.
"And anyway, it wasn't facts it was a fact, singular, and not even really that – more of a 'fa', in fact, so to speak – so I don't think it merits quite the amusement you seem to think it does. After all, we've had more than 200 conversations like this over the past four years or so and, without wishing to tempt fate, this is the first time there's been any suggestion of inaccuracy."
"Oh I wouldn't say that," said the chairman. "Maybe I've just been too polite to mention any quibbles I've had over your coverage of SmallBlue Planet – after all, it's fair to say that you don't always paint us in the most flattering of lights. And now you've done the same to Schroders and they're not taking it lying down, are they?"
"Hang on a second," I said. "It was just a couple of perfectly amicable phonecalls, that's all."
"All the same, you must be pretty ashamed to be so wide of the mark," said the chairman. "There you were, ranting on like you so often do about …"
"I do not rant," I interrupted. "I may expatiate, I may expound, I may learnedly discourse and, on rare occasions, I may even hold forth but what I most certainly do not do is rant."
"You must be joking," said the chairman, airily dismissing my huffed protests with a wave of his hand. "Whatever verb you use, if I recall correctly, you were telling me that 'recently we've had the Schroders double whammy of Robert Gall resigning to go to Insight soon after returning from a six-month sabbatical in July 2003 and Denis Clough announcing he was off from May 2004',"
"All of which is true," I replied.
"Ah yes," said the chairman. "But then you went on to say that Schroders has since confirmed Mr Clough is not coming back and that's not quite true, is it?"
"No – no it isn't," I replied. "OK, so I forgot to add the words 'to manage Schroder Tokyo' at the end but that's hardly a hanging offence, is it? And I don't know why you're being so pious – I don't seem to remember you picking me up on it at the time."
"Maybe that's because I was brought up in a world where journalists got their facts right so I don't question what they tell me," said the chairman.
"Now who's joking?" I replied. "I can think of at least three newspapers who've had to take out injunctions because of the sheer weight of correspondence they were having to process from you for perceived inaccuracies. And didn't you once apply for the position of personal finance editor on one of the Sundays on the basis you could 'do a better job in your lunch break than the present incumbent manages full-time'?"
"I think you'll find we were talking about you, not me," replied the chairman. "And don't try and weasel out of taking responsibility by shifting the blame onto those dear, sweet people at Bestinvest either. Just because you were quoting them at the time doesn't excuse you not checking your facts.
"Schroders only ever confirmed their Tokyo fund had a new manager and, as far as they're concerned, Mr Clough's returning to the fold after his sabbatical. Even if, eventually, he doesn't, that still doesn't make you right now. But am I to understand the whole of our chat this week is to be taken up with a point of clarification?"
"Hold on a moment, I'll check," I replied. "You know? Apparently it is."