February 4, 2011 10:09 pm

A mad hatter’s guide to Davos

Failing to take the right clothes to the annual World Economic Forum is as disastrous as forgetting one’s business cards

I packed the orange Orvis trilby hat. Bitter experience has taught me that not taking the right clothes to the World Economic Forum annual meeting is as disastrous as forgetting one’s business cards. And almost as important as a cold-weather hat is a suitable nightdress – it has to be one that folds up small enough for it and a toothbrush to fit into my evening bag. Then it goes with me to all the parties in the hope that I might find someone to share a room with. I am not seeking an illicit affair, but I usually have to stay so far out of Davos that I am always looking for someone with that elusive twin room, and who knows me sufficiently well that they won’t mind my snoring.

I booked business class to Zurich because I wanted to see who else would pitch up at the front of the plane. I was not disappointed – Barclays group chairman Marcus Agius and his wife sat in front of me (Mrs Agius was carrying a One carrier bag; Bono would be delighted). However, I was slightly alarmed to find Amy Chua across the aisle. Amy Chua is the Yale law professor and self-professed Tiger Mother whose tough approach to parenting is slightly scary. I was forced to twist myself into a very uncomfortable position to make sure that she didn’t see me crafting a careful answer to Cost Centre #2’s German teacher about why he had done so badly in his mock GCSE. Chua would have guessed immediately that I have permitted sleepovers, play dates and other such terrible things all of my children’s lives, and have not supervised nearly enough of CC#3’s French horn practice.

Later, at my first Davos dinner, I sat next to a nice-looking man from Reuters. What do you do at Reuters, I ask? I am the editor-in-chief, he replied. So you are, I cried, regretting not having worn glasses so that I could have read David Schlesinger’s name badge. Later on, it was his turn to be surprised when he discovered that I was the author of the Mrs Moneypenny column. He was, in fact, delighted to meet me, not least because – wait for this – I was not nearly as fat as he thought I was going to be. Was this an insult or a compliment?

As David Schlesinger didn’t have a twin room, at 11pm I walked to the Hotel Europe to meet my blind dates. The landlady of my B&B had suggested that I link up with two fellow guests and share the SFr250 taxi fare home. The less important you are at Davos, the further away you have to stay – I was a long way down the Davos-Landquart branch line, which felt like it was three cantons away. (Mind you, I met someone who was staying at Bad Ragaz – that really is at a plankton level of existence.)

One sunny afternoon I spent an hour or so walking snowy Davos in search of a nail parlour. I failed to find one that was open, but I did pass Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond four times. I did my own nails while I got my hair done; all in preparation for the evening’s round of parties.

Most of these were held at the Grandhotel Belvédère. The reception hosted by HRH The Duke of York on behalf of UK Trade & Industry was so packed there was barely room to breathe. Guests at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch bash got more space but not quite such appealing canapés. The Financial Times party was hosted by its chief executive, the gorgeous John Ridding (girls, Google a picture); then, at last, the party we were all waiting for – McKinsey’s. This was as star-studded as ever and, as usual, I got within 4in of FSA chairman Adair Turner. The band was brilliant but the place was so packed that I couldn’t even squeeze myself on to the dance floor. At the end of the evening, perched on a Belvedere luggage trolley in my orange Trilby and fur coat, waiting for my taxi driver and reading the FT, a delegate’s wife snapped my picture. It’s the hat, she told me. Great – I will bring it back next year.

Mrs Moneypenny will be appearing at the Leicester Comedy Festival on Feb 9; www.comedy-festival.co.uk

mrsmoneypenny@ft.com

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