THE Great Communicators were out in force at the Grand Hyatt in Wan Chai yesterday. Actually, we were lucky to make it. We went up there at lunchtime in search of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), but couldn't find the group because hotel staff had removed the little sign at the entrance that tells people who has booked a function room. It didn't matter, though, because the speeches started 20 minutes late. We had turned up for the presentation of a Communicator of the Year Award to the sickeningly well-managed MTR, and another to Hong Kong's most famous pair of red specs, Christine Loh Kung-wai. The last time we wrote about the IABC, which among other things is a sort of PR body for the PR industry, was last year when the body cancelled most of its 10th anniversary events because it hadn't left enough time to publicise them. This time the embarrassment occurred when president-elect Sarah Woods called up Christine and the MTR's Miranda Leung Chan Che-ming to receive their trophies. She reached under the rostrum for the trophies and discovered . . . nothing. 'Where've they gone?' she asked. Luckily, neither of the prize-winner is ever short for words, and even if it had taken a month to find the trophies, their views on 1997 and toilets on the MTR could easily have kept everyone entertained. After 10 minutes of hunting it turned out that one of the hotel staff had put the trophies in a cupboard, but hadn't told anyone. PLA-tonic RESIDENTS of Li Ka-shing's island paradise, South Horizons, might be interested to know why the Government has bought 148 flats there, on top of the 100-odd it bought in March. We were told officially yesterday that the cash came from the $2.6 billion allocated earlier in the year to buy flats for 'disciplined services' - basically the police and fire services. This sure is going to be a low-crime, fire-free zone. And before any worried residents ring us, we've checked and the definition of 'disciplined services' will not, repeat NOT, include the PLA after 1997. Hair today . . . HONG KONG'S penultimate bearded senior civil servant will be sailing into the sunset in February when the jovial Marine Director Allan Pyrke retires. Bushy beards have almost disappeared from the civil service these days, and Allan's departure heralds the end of a fine and flowing tradition. Now, the only senior beard is Tony Miller. David Carse of the monetary authority shaved off his scraggy offering, while Fred Tromp of the Environmental Protection Department, whose splendid face-fungus was once a foot long, isn't at director level so he doesn't count. Allan's beard was a particularly fine one, as befits a man whose long career in seagoing matters began with a deckhand position, later becoming maritime lecturer, then moving through the ranks of the civil service. He arrived in the territory in 1968, and when he sails out on the Canberra he'll be going back to retired life in England. 'I'm leaving with some sorrow,' he admitted yesterday. Just before Allan got married he had a disagreement with his wife. He wanted to get married clean-shaven, but she liked him bearded. He claims that he cut his beard off and sent it to her in an envelope. Reverse charge IT was heartening to see the territory's cuddliest monopoly unveiling its 'G-force' service guarantee plan yesterday, under which customers will get monetary benefit in the form of free line rental if the company fails to meet its service targets. It's actually rather generous and was unveiled by deputy chief executive Peter Howell-Davies. Hey! Isn't he the chap who 12 months ago said he wasn't going to introduce rebates because 'people are more interested in having a published standard of service rather than compensation for no service'? In fact, isn't he the chap who said the company had done market research and found customers simply weren't excited by such a scheme? Yes, it is the very same chap. A good bet WE'D hate to be accused of encouraging people to trade in derivatives, what with them having caused financial explosions from California to Frankfurt, but this is worth noting. Intercapital, a derivatives broker, is tomorrow donating the whole of the day's revenue and commission to a bunch of charities, without any deductions for overheads or expenses. We'll skip over the fact that one of the chaps involved is called Ken Lotery, which is quite a name for someone in the derivatives business, given that people who don't understand it complain that it's just a form of gambling. Instead, we'll just record that last year the event in the London office only raised a hefty GBP288,000 (about HK$3.48 million).