A BROKER friend of ours wants to send a message to a lucky boy who scored a very early goal by selling National Mutual. National Mutual's share price got seriously caned yesterday following the news that director Alex Yang was parting ways with the locally listed insurance group. The stock bungee jumped, and so far it looks as if it forgot the elastic rope. Friday morning: $6.20. Friday close: $5.20. Ouch, no soft landing there. But somebody, somewhere got seriously lucky. ''Have a look at National Mutual's performance over the past couple of weeks,'' our friend said. We did, and guess what? The company's stock price got an earlier caning. It fell from the 11 January close of $7.10 to a 13 January close of $6.40. Volumes were low and the rest of the market was dropping - but, oh boy, did National under-perform. ''Strange that,'' our broker friend said. Not really. The world is fuller of stranger phenomena than you might think. There was that horse that became Pope, for example. Or those Yeti footprints they found up Mount Everest. In this case we think someone just got really lucky, or had a sudden psychic flash. That kind of stuff isn't covered in market regulations. We have no further comment. Anyone out there like to tell us what they know? Ideal, Holmes WE know how much our readers hate junk mail. Some of them have even sent their junk mail to us so we can see how bad it is, although Lai See does not encourage junk mail from anyone. Now Chris Holmes, a local literary agent, has sent in an excellent tip for tracking down the people who are handing addresses out, a useful thing pre-Data Protection Act. A police inspector chum of Mr Holmes (Chief Inspector Lestrade, by any chance?) suggests this technique. Each time you have to fill in your address on a form for hire purchase or whatever, lay it out slightly differently. For instance, when opening a new bank account write it as Mr Lai See, 5/F SCMP. When buying a car scrawl it down as Mr L. See, 5/F SCMP. Keep a record of the different variations used and, bingo! Every time you get an irritating, mail-box-clogging exhortation to buy something useless, the way in which it is addressed will show exactly which company has been flogging personal information to direct marketers. Mr Holmes' chum was often able to totally mystify companies by his seeming psychic powers. Once, a security chief contacted him and begged to know how it was done because the company believed it had a mole. ''Simple,'' said the inspector, ''send me a cheque for $10,000 and I'll even send you the vital piece of incriminating evidence.'' Good scheme. Red rag MR Holmes also had a good inappropriate music tale. An author friend of his was visiting Hong Kong from London. It was the author's first trip over and all the things that can happen to an innocent tourist in Hong Kong seemed to happen: once the sharks scent blood in the water, watch out. The visitor not only got conned by a shop-keeper, but even managed to get separated from his wallet, thus losing all his plastic money. That meant a trip to HSBC's headquarters, where this kind of loss can be reported on the fifth floor. While the forms were being passed out, filled in and processed, Mr Holmes' friend enjoyed the muzak the bank had thoughtfully provided: The theme from The Sting. Blue-rinse stock IT was nice for Lai See to run into Alfred Mockett, managing director of BT Business Communications. He reminded us of how much UK annual general meetings differ from Hong Kong's. In Hong Kong, shareholders are in general very deferential to their chairmen. At the last HSBC shareholders' meeting in Hong Kong, there were very few questions for Sir Willy Purves, and one chap delivered a very long thank-you speech to the board. That'swhat you get for delivering spiralling profits, hefty dividends and a magnificent share price performance. But at the BT AGM things are very different. BT was previously owned by the Government and privatised in the 1980s. Many thousands of small investors bought shares for the first time in the offer, which was very good value indeed. And BT's small shareholders, like all proud owners, like to turn up to hear how their company is doing. It was the annual highlight for many to arrive at Wembley conference centre in London to hear Sir Iain Vallance, BT's chief executive, speak. Shareholders certainly take advantage of their right to question the chairman. And some of the shareholders are differently endowed with perceptions of reality. Sometimes very differently endowed. There is one chap, a retired doctor, who harangues Sir Iain every year. He goes on about electronic beams and teleportation. Mr Mockett tells us the AGMs have calmed down a bit now. ''The secret is sticky buns and tea,'' he said. ''It brings out the blue-rinse set.'' The blue-rinse set are ladies who have achieved a certain age and the dignity and hauteur that accompany their seniority. Ladies of this type would never ask mad or difficult questions of their chairman. Nuclear winter LARGE bits of the US freeze solid every year. And every year, city authorities are taken completely by surprise. Snow ploughs get snowed into their garages, gritters are fresh out of salt and grit and, everywhere, the first big freeze up brings total chaos. Still, it is a bit surprising to learn that the US Government's global information service has frozen up. No, not the CIA, the other information service - USIS - United States Information Services. The organisation is asking media types to be a bit patient with them because the cold weather is slowing their operation down. Lucky the Cold War never got really heated during a wintry spell. It might have taken weeks for the news to get through. A bit rich BY contrast, Lai See has awesome powers of persuasion. We can even bring the biggest banks in town into line. Peter Roberts has an account with one of the two current note-issuers. He faxed us yesterday to complain about being charged $250 to deposit $50,000 in his account. Considering he was actually lending money to the bank, this was a bit rich. He and wife Heather tried to get round the problem by breaking the deposit into three chunks three times the administration for the bank, but no charge. No dice: Standard Chartered Bank charges for anything over $20,000. Well, Lai See has sorted the whole thing out. We have had the pass-on arrangements cancelled. The pass-on arrangements are the excuse that banks have used for charging customers for depositing money - or lending it to the bank, as we like to call it. Pass-on is horribly complicated, but it's about the US dollar peg, the real exchange rate and the note-issuing banks. But, Mr Roberts, henceforward neither HSBC nor Standard Chartered will charge you for lending them money - and that's official. Mr Roberts, by the way, is a qualified barrister. But he hasn't practised for about 20 years. He works for a leveraged forex company and claims to do far better. Howling error HERE is another tip from the Cellnet Guide to Mobile Phone Etiquette. Imagine you are on a date. Imagine it's a nightmare. Simply pop out for a moment, call a friend and get them to phone back in 15 minutes. Tell your nightmare date that a sudden emergency has cropped up and bow or curtsey gracefully out. This should avoid what Lai See used to call ''coyote mornings'' when, rather than risk slipping an arm from beneath a sleeping head that suddenly looks less attractive than it did at the karaoke bar, you chew your own arm off like a coyote caught in a trap. Yeecchh, sorry. In securities WANT to re-live those great moments from the best war films - The Great Escape, The Wooden Horse and, our favourite, Albert RN? We hear that Barings Securities is to start holding a roll call at the start and finish of each day. ''Appeller'', was what the German guards used to shout in the movies mentioned. And all the prisoners would line up to answer their names. But they were always getting round it. In Albert RN, they made a dummy in a Royal Navy uniform, called him Albert and carried him out to have his head counted. We have yet to hear of any departing Barings staff using this technique or jumping a motorcycle out of the Barings eyrie in Exchange Square like Paul Newman in The Great Escape. But watch out for brokers abseiling down the side of Exchange Square Three on ropes made out of Hermes ties. ''Cooler! - 30 days.''