The National Farmers' Union gave journalists attending its press conference in London this week a firm dose of motherly love. As we arrived for the mid-morning session, president Ben Gill was on hand with a silver salver of bacon sandwiches. Not a man to brook refusal, he was fortuitously distracted by further arrivals before my polite rebuttal sank in. After we sat down, the plate went round the table another four times under his watchful eye accompanied by cheery threats to mark down those did not partake as enemies of the cereal, dairy and pig industry. Still on the warpath as the session came to an end, he called after departing backs to take spares back to their offices to warm in the microwave. On to a briefing from MAFF's new top civil servant, Brian Bender, Permanent Secretary. I wondered how close his feet were to the ground as he promised an "out of the box forward blue skies thinking for the future" and waxed lyrical about "a golden chain hanging from the high aims and objectives of management, through the teams and down to individual employees". A quick change into somethingglitzy and it was off to L'Oréal's excellent annual party to toast the New Year at London's swish and trendy Jerwood Gallery. The cosmetics giant always comes up with something different and this year it was a display of living grass photographs. Mind you, as a humble Grocer hack I found it unnerving mixing with the gushing, vowel bending, AbFab set from the women's glossies. Still the Champers was excellent. Ah well, on to the next bash. {{COUNTERPOINT }}