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Work in the media? Struggle with statistics? Stan's irreverent (and often irrelevant) review of the latest media reports, news and gossip may not help at all... Stan the Statistician

Stan # 14: Fiddling expenses 17 August 1998

First, the questions again from the quiz on my last desk top, then the answers, so no peeking if for some inexplicable reason you didn't read my last desk top. Shame on you.


  1. How long did the Hundred Years War last?
  2. Which country makes Panama hats?
  3. From which animal do we get catgut?
  4. In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
  5. What is a camel's hair brush made of?
  6. The Canary Islands in the Atlantic are named after what animal?
  7. What was King George VI's first name?
  8. What colour is a purple finch?
  9. What country do Chinese gooseberries come from?
  10. How long did the Thirty Years War last?
  11. What colour is the Black Box on an aeroplane?
  12. Who wrote Haydn's Toy Symphony?


  1. 116 years, from 1337 to 1453.
  2. Ecuador.
  3. From sheep and horses.
  4. November. The Russian calendar was 13 days behind ours.
  5. Squirrel fur.
  6. The Latin name was Insularia Canaria - Island of the Dogs.
  7. Albert. When he came to the throne in 1936 he respected the wish of Queen Victoria that no future king should ever be called Albert. I doubt if any would want to anyway.
  8. Distinctively crimson.
  9. New Zealand.
  10. Thirty years of course. From 1618 to 1648.
  11. Orange
  12. Leopold Mozart

This shows what kind of person the Data Dormouse is who supplied these questions. At least it distracted the folks at Asda in Leeds (UK) from their lives of drudgery for a few minutes..

In these days when money is tight, at least when companies are tight with their money, I'm sure my loyal readers would appreciate a guide to creative expenses.

A friend of my was dismayed when the Inland Revenue introduced self-assessment (that is, we do their work for them and they charge us money) and I spotted him one day in Smiths (a book, stationery etc. chain store) snatching up every discarded till receipt he could. "They want receipts", he snarled, "They'll get bloody receipts."

A rather more daring note was struck by a national newspaper reporter who dashed back into a blazing hotel during the bombing of Beirut. He re-emerged, singed and blackened, but triumphantly waving a credit card roller and a supply of blank forms. "Unlimited expenses, lads", he shouted.

Another top reporter is famous for the tiny attache case he carries all over the world, which he opens only in the secrecy of his room. An inquisitive colleague once took a peep inside it during a hotel party. It contained a hi-tech printing set and piles of blank pads in various sizes which could be used to duplicate hotel or restaurant bills.

One well known newspaper travel editor relies on the theory that nobody in the accounts department is likely to speak Thai, Amharic, Wolof or Albanian. It is a dangerous game, but so far he has got away with it. His expenses are ritually accompanied by incomprehensible receipts from all over the world. In this way he has passed off a tailor's bill for two safari suits as "Entertaining head of Bangkok Chamber of Commerce and his wife."

Less cunning practitioners, however, can go badly wrong. One journalist flying back to the UK from the Gulf, scribbled down in Arabic what looked like a useful company name to write in a blank receipt, which is how his expenses came to include an item for entertaining, "in-flight sick bag".

A Daily Express reporter sent to Spain came a cropper when he copied a promising name from a shop doorway. Sadly, "Domingo Cerrado" really means "closed on Sundays".

Three Daily Mirror writers claimed to have taken Bo Derek to lunch at the same time. But with her figure, it is unlikely that she ate three meals. Their features editor ordered them to sort it out among themselves. However, the writer who won later regretted it; the editor had genuinely been entertaining Ms. Derek.

A photographer whose boat broke down while covering the regatta at Cowes (Isle of Wight, UK), is still fondly remembered for his claim for being towed back to port, "Money for old rope - £150".

Rene Cutforth, based in Paris for the BBC, regularly entertained an official at the Polish Embassy to lunch at Maxim's - or so his expenses implied. Suspicious at the size and frequency of the bills, his London bosses discovered there was no such person on the embassy staff. Confronted with this news, Cutforth cried, "I always suspected the fellow was an imposter".

It's all a matter of keeping your nerve. A Sun reporter, angry at continual cuts in his expenses, found a solution. He would fill in his claim for a huge sum and, in another pen, would cut items in the style of the news editor. Then, with a different pen, he would cut still more in the style of the managing editor. Having forged their signatures, he would then send the forms straight to the cashier. "Worked like a dream", he said. "Sometimes, I was upset though. I'd think I'd been too savage on myself."

I hope these stories from the 'gentlemen of the press' inspire you to new heights of creativity.

Check in again at my desk soon!

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