MT's Top 100 Entrepreneurs list for this year throws up two notable surprises. First, the return of the oilmen. As everyone agonises over Copenhagen and its aftermath and the reduction of carbon emissions, our Top 10 plays host to four petroleum barons. Black gold still shines through when it comes to making money and growing a business. Sadly, there are not, as yet, any windpower entrepreneurs in the list, and it's hardly the easiest thing in the world to start a nuclear reactor SME from a business park in Huddersfield.
Second surprise is the amazing comeback of the greyhairs. Of our 100, an extraordinary 58 are aged 60 or over. And no fewer than 11 have passed their 70th birthday. Durable assets and cash in the bank (or under the mattress) are what count in the current climate. The recession has taken its toll. The overall worth of our ton of contenders has dropped by almost half, from £17bn in 2008 to £9bn now. This is all enough to make Philip Beresford, compiler of our Top 100 (and, elsewhere, of the Rich List), squeak with excitement. He's right when he comments: 'Without them, we would be in an awful pickle.'
A bit of a pickle is what the game of chess finds itself in at the moment, too. In eastern Europe and the Far East, it's a macho pursuit with a cool reputation for cerebral conflict, safely contained within the chessboard's 64 squares. Here in the UK, it still struggles to shrug off its image as a pastime for those wandering around within the autistic spectrum, although few practitioners these days still hold their NHS specs together with Elastoplast. Like squash, it's never going to get on TV, and nor will Nigel Short make it onto the cover of GQ. This is a shame - it's a brilliant game and works like a dream online. I wish my son would play chess rather than the appalling Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that he favours at the moment. He dismisses it as a game for 'neeks' - a yoof term for the nerd/geek mix.
Finally, we need a little smile to get the year going. So do turn to The Sharp End, opposite the inside back cover. I've been urging the column's author Dave Waller to get a temporary job as a life model in an art school for ages. (Maybe this was revenge for him quitting MT to drive a nine-year-old Fiat Punto to Ulan Bator). He nearly had to pass a Criminal Records Bureau check before peeling off and taking to his plinth, but was spared this intrusion when I vouched for his bona fides. Call me cruel to send him out on such a mission, but the results are amusing.