Do you know of any obscene four-letter words beginning with X? No, I didn't either, until my office phone rang insistently at 4.45pm on the last Friday before Christmas.

Yes, I can hear you screaming: “Don't answer it. Don't answer it!”

I answered it. “Merry Xmas, Tone, me old fruit cake!” It was Sammy Davis from Stratford, his estuary accent washed over me.

“Merry what?” I spluttered, playing for time, I'm sure he can hear me sweating.

“Xmas Tone, Christmas. Come on get with it. Are you sweating?”

“No, I'm certainly not!” I protested, as the phone slipped in my perspiring grip.

“‘Ave I got a deal for you, my son?” Sammy began firing words like bullets. “There's a geezer I know, who's just spent his Xmas bonus” [there was that X-rated four-letter word again] “on

an amazing Stradivariarse he picked up at a good price from a little dealer in Pimlico.”

“Oh, a Stradivari-US” I enunciated slowly and clearly.

“You been drinking? Antonio”

“Certainly not!” I responded defensively, as I endeavoured to edge the whisky bottle a little further from the phone.

“‘Ere's the thing, my old love. ‘E's just belled me on ‘is mobi, and I've promised ‘im I'll ‘ave ‘im covered by the time ‘e reaches ‘is gaff.”

“And what do you expect me to do about it?” But I already knew the answer.

“Phone a friend, mate. Phone a friend. Come on Tone, it's only seven point eight mil.”

“Is that dollars or sterling?” I stammered, stalling for time.

“Don't be a plonker, Tone. Guineas!”

“Not a prayer my friend. We already have sixteen million exposure and I would have to find a live reinsurer.”

“I knew you'd ‘ave the answer, Ant. You can always rely on the pros!” and the line went dead and I wasn't far behind.

It took me five desperate phone calls and a dozen bottles of Dom Perignon to track down the last friendly voice from the World Re at the Rat & Firkin.

“Hi Jim, sorry to drag you away but I need a big favour. I need £2m on a rare Stradivarius on top of a max homeowners, I've already laid off five million..You will? Thanks. I really appreciate....” But he was gone. I just prayed he'd remember the conversation.

Triumphantly, I phoned Sammy back.

“What kept you? Tone, I thought you were going to let me down.”

“Well Sammy, I've had to call in a lot of favours, but you can tell your client that we've managed to cover his violin.”

“Violin? VIO-LIN? Who said anything about a ruddy violin?”

I could feel my blood pressure rising with my temper, but all I said was “X***!!”