It's heartening to hear in these austere times that the gravy train is still steaming along for some in Hong Kong. Lo and behold, and knock us down with a feather, it's the lawyers who are in the first class compartment, napkins around their necks, revelling in a financial feast fit for a, er, lawyer. As the local economy increasingly resembles a motorway pile-up and various kind and compassionate souls justify calls for cutting domestic helpers' extortionate salaries by 20 per cent by saying that everyone has to do their bit to keep us afloat, Lai See hears that some of the wigged ones involved in the airport inquiry are on a very nice little earner - $60,000 a day, to be precise. Five days a week for three months. The arithmetically minded among you will have calculated that this adds up to $3.9 million for each of our silky upholders of truth, justice and the Bollinger way. Meanwhile, in Japan, budgetary restrictions are filtering into every sector of industry, as firms search vainly for ways to endure the economic holocaust. It seems there is no end to the creative ways executives in the land of the rising debt avoid the real issues when it comes to battening down the hatches. Do they contemplate off-loading non-performing assets? Or some cropping of executive perks to show they're all in it together? Even sacrifice a few of their stock option entitlements? Nope. Casualties of the crackdown on corporate extravagance include those profligate wastrels engaged in the wilful overuse of toilet paper. According to a news agency report from Tokyo, an employee at an electronics company was quoted as saying that in the office toilets 'we are not supposed to use more than two perforated segments each time'. It's all become so clear. Either we are staring at a two ply-led economic recovery - or some Japanese firms are getting bogged down in the minute details of efficiency. We should have seen the writing on the wall, says one former equity analyst of the new slim-line, no-trading, no-researching Santander Investment. The Spanish parent has had an eye on the Hong Kong outfit for several weeks. The arrival of a gaggle of auditors from Madrid several weeks ago at The Landmark offices in Central coincided with the placement of a Sisley billboard advertisement on a nearby Des Voeux Road building. It featured a huge, glaring eye. 'It was spooky, like we were being watched,' a former analyst said. This week, however, the eye was replaced with a Benetton ad featuring the mocking face of a three-year-old brat. 'I think he knew our fate before we did,' the ex-analyst said with a resigned sigh. 'But you know what the Monty Python boys say: 'Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition'.' The trim and taut among us have always suspected that fat people had no taste. Now a scientific report from Germany emphatically proves it. A study carried out by the German Institute for Nutrition Research in Potsdam, near Berlin, has found a link between obesity and a lack of fine taste buds. Overweight people, apparently, have a less-developed sense of taste and smell than people of 'normal' size. The study involved 120 people of both sexes, including equal groups of normal-weight, slightly overweight and vastly overweight men and women. Tests revealed, for example, that on average overweight men made more mistakes in distinguishing basic sweet, sour, salt and bitter tastes than their normal-weight counterparts. Moreover, many overweight people were able to recognise a bitter taste only in higher concentration than normal-weight people. In no single area were overweight participants able to differentiate better than their normal-sized counterparts between smells and tastes of food and drink. 'From now on,' the Potsdam scientists said with studious gravity, 'the idea that fat people are greater connoisseurs of good food than their slimmer contemporaries no longer holds good'. Quite. We look forward to reading their follow-up paper revealing beyond any doubt that Germans have no dress sense. Sometimes in this big old world we're confronted with just too many choices. What a relief then for a couple out on the town who visited Mad Dogs in Lan Kwai Fong. 'Would you like smoking or non-smoking?' the apparently helpful waitress asked as they inquired about a table. The woman turned to her companion and asked if he was a smoker. He wasn't, so naturally enough she asked for a non-smoking section. 'Oh sorry,' came the reply from the helpful, but apologetic waitress. 'We don't have a non-smoking section.' We haven't rung to inquire if they also offer low-fat meals and light beer. It just didn't seem worth it somehow. He may eat all the pies but does he enjoy them? Celebrated English fatman Martin Hollis does his bit to back up German research proving that the thin have more sophisticated taste buds.