Friday 25 March 2011

Dazed and Confused

Have you ever been to Bangaluru? No. Well I'm surprised to hear that. Evidently I have. Last night travelling on the tube to Stratford I noticed that my new watch had stopped. I was mighty hacked don't expect that these days; even a £5 watch from a market stall will keep good time...that's the wonder of modern technology isn't it? But then I noticed my mobile was telling me that it was five to midnight. A bit unfortunate as the event I was going to started at 6.45. But worse than that, it told me I was in Bangaluru. At least it was sunny and the temperature up at a very pleasing 26 degrees. I had to Google to find's the middle of India, and may be better known as Bangalore.

So the question is, what had happened? An unexpected power surge? A magnetic wave? I've no idea, but that doesn't stop me wondering about the trains which haul spent nuclear fuel through our soon to be beloved Olympic site at Stratford. I have just the tiniest inkling of what it must be like in Fukushima, wondering if they are being slowly, silently poisoned by radioactivity from the stricken plant. That must be horrendous....and perhaps worse than for the brave rescue workers who've been dowsing the damaged reactors almost certain that they will be receiving fatal doses.

Anyway, as it turns out I hadn't missed the performance of Frankenstein we had gone to see. It's this year's hottest theatre ticket and we hadn't been able to get any. Fortunately, the National Theatre is now showing some live performance at cinemas around the country. In fact around the world, although I'm not sure about Bangaluru. I really would wholeheartedly recommend you try the experience...we did the same with London Assurance last year (although we'd already seen it on stage too). It's a great way to experience some of the best theatre available, but without the expense of paying West End prices. I won't pretend that it's quite the same as sitting in the theatre. Bit it's close, and you can stuff your face with popcorn, which is always a bonus. Check out NT Live

As for Frankenstein itself. Well it's directed by Danny Boyle and the production is overwhelming..fantastically good. And Johnny Lee Miller as Frankenstein's Monster is a real tour de force. There were some oddities in the script, such as when The Monster is about to rape Frankenstein's bride, she says "We won't be having any of that in here". Not having been in that situation myself, it's hard for me to judge, but I doubt that's how it goes. And oddest of all, Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein had a black father. Now I don't mind one way or the other, but that's a real leap of faith and quite confusing when you're working out who is who. If the justification was that he is a great actor, that would be fine, but he was easily the worst performer on the stage. By a mile. So why do this? Especially as the whole thing is set in 19th Century Switzerland. Completely confused.

Another thing that confuses me is Fitch, Standard and Poors, and Moody's. They are the credit rating agencies that effectively decide how much it costs sovereign nations to borrow money. They are powerful enough to bring countries to their knees as we have seen in Greece, Ireland and now Portugal. It seems an extraordinary that these organisations are given such influence. Particularly as they have blood on their hands with the collapse of the banking system. It was them, after all, that decided that those unrecoverable property loans that were the catalyst to the crisis were credit worthy. How have they got away with it? I don't know. But if it was me, I would close them down with no compensation and give the job to an international organisation funded and run by governments, but independent of them.

Have a lovely weekend.

Here's some music to get you going

Thursday 24 March 2011

Groping in the dark

There seems to be a lot of that around at the moment doesn't there?

In Libya, we're happy supporting the rebellion in Libya because Gadaffi is a first class bastard, even if we don't know who we are fighting for. There's a rumour that many of the rebels are Al Qaeida. Well that wouldn't be the first time we've slept with the enemy...Bin Laden was once a close ally before he started blowing up twin towers and the like. It would be an ugly irony if we ended up with Frankenstein's monster from all this.

In Japan, (isn't it interesting how the earthquake/tsunami has got pushed off the front pages even before the missing 21,000 have been found, let alone buried), they're still trying to turn the lights on at Fukushima. Even when they do, they're not sure whether the cooling systems will work. My best guess is that they won't, so we'll have the firemen spraying the reactors with their hoses for a very long time. At least until they glow in the dark.

Meanwhile George 'Gideon' Osbourne was announcing his budget yesterday. It's certainly good for business, unless you're in the oil business, and may help a few of the less well off, but it's not going to make a significant difference for the majority of us. And more importantly, will it get us out of this moribund economic state we find ourselves in. Who knows? I suspect Gideon doesn't, he's just groping around in the dark.

Last night we were literally groping in the dark as we went to 'Dans le noir' a restaurant where you literally eat in the dark. By dark I don't mean they switch the lights out, I mean a deep, all embracing darkness that you'll rarely experience. It's amazing how oppressive that is. All the waiting staff are 'blinded' (I thought the word was blind, but they insist on the word 'blinded'...I hope that doesn't mean they poke their eyes out when they apply for a job there). The idea is that by depriving you of your sense of sight, you will get an enhanced sense of the flavour, smell and texture of the food. It's an excellent theory. In practice though, the darkness completely dominates the experience so actually distracts you from the food itself. Actually getting your food on the fork was tricky, and the only way to know you'd finished was to check out the plate with your fingers. Pouring wine was achieved by tilting the bottle gently and putting your finger in the glass so you knew when you'd filled it up. One of our group couldn't really join in the conversation because he found the lack of faces off putting, and The Cat's Mother couldn't eat...after all would you put something in your mouth if you didn't know what it was? I enjoyed myself, not least because I achieved a life long ambition.
I picked up my plate and licked it clean. Yep right in the middle of a restaurant in trendy Clerkenwell. I felt very naughty.

Tuesday 22 March 2011


The dogs of war are going at it like a pack of wild canines in North Africa. The Arab League may well have been naive to think that by supporting a UK and US led resolution in the UN, all that would happen is that the west would point their weapons at Gadaffi and hope he would stop. Even I knew that to impose an air exclusion zone would mean taking out any number of ground installations. No doubt causing any number of innocent deaths along the way. Precision weapons are not quite as precise as you might think, especially if you're not 100% sure of where the target is. Anyway, it's a bit late to put the attack dogs back on the leash. It would be good if they could sort out who is the alpha dog, otherwise they're going to end up running round chasing their tails like puppies.

Judging by some of the footage being broadcast it would be fair to assume that peace will not naturally follow...there's an awful lot of weaponry floating around. As we discovered in Iraq and Afghanistan, it may be easier to win the war than win the peace.

If you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be?

No, its not one of those pesky memes (which I love doing), but something I was actually contemplating this morning.

The Boy is without question a springer spaniel. Absolutely full of boundless energy, he's as happy as Larry (except when he isn't), bounces around, and fills the room with his energy and demands for attention.

The Cat, I'd say is more of an Afghan Hound..graceful and elegant...never rushed and rarely in a flap.

The Cat's Mother a Golden Retriever...beautifully presented, the most even of temperaments, plenty of energy, always happy and pleased to see you. Mind you even Golden Retrievers can bark, as did The Cat's Mother at the Halifax over the weekend. Now The Cat is 16 she needs to give them her NI number so they can tax her (yep George Osborne really is that hard up). The Cat's Mother tried to give it to them, but they refused 'Data protection' was their reason. So The Cat tried to do it, but failed as she didn't know what her balance is (there's so little in it, the book hasn't been updated since 2007). And now the account is blocked. So The Cat's Mother tore into one was trying to take money out, no one was trying to do anything other than give them a number which they have to check anyway. So WTF. The Cat's Mother can growl and she can bark...she may even bite.

I realise I shall be trouble for suggesting those, but hell why not. It's my blog and I'll say what I want.

As for me, much as I would like to be a Great Dane (I'm not big enough), or a Bulldog (hardly a symbol of national pride), I'm going to have to admit to being a Jack Russell Terrier. It's probably fortunate that Grandma in Cyprus has a pair of them. She'll understand. I'm a scrapper. I can sniff out trouble and don't hesitate to get into a tussle. Inspite of my size (a perfectly average 5'8"), I'll take on anyone and anything. And rarely, if ever, do I come away with more than a scratch. In fact ninety nine times out of a hundred; no one hundred times out of a hundred, I come out on top. I've been doing this for 37 years. That's a Nota Bene years, as opposed to dog years or human years. And once I start, there's no stopping me. I can't help feeling that sometimes it would be nice not to get into these dog fights..after all if I'm right, as I always am, I shouldn't need to. It can be quite wearing. So sometimes I need to roll over, have my tummy tickled before I get up and start running around again.

You may have guessed from my last post that I'm currently in the ring with Lloyds TSB. If only they knew. I do know sooner or later I'm going to get a sound hiding, but I don't think it'll be this time. I sure as hell hope not.

In another battle, I've been fighting the Managing Agent for one of my properties who for a decade haven't produced any accounts. So I took them to the LVT the year before last. And won - they said I didn't have to pay for any period where there were no accounts. That didn't stop them sending me a bill for £11,000 in February. This morning I got another letter, crediting me more than £8,000. Pretty much game set and match. Again. Woof woof.

Of course some dogs are pussycats. Take this one. The new office dog who is too scared to tread on the wood floor, so sits or stands outside. Miaow, miaow.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Moving swiftly on

Here's something I found the other day. It seems immeasurably useful to have a list of e-mails for CEOs of businesses you're likely to fall out with. You can find it here

I've always found that going to the top is far more effective than starting with the Customer Relations department. Customer Relations is never about improving the relationship with the customer, it's always about protecting the company, so invariably, 'It's not company policy' to do whatever you want or need them to do. Like put right your legitimate grievance.

If you do ever come to need it, do check it's up to know it is just embarrassing to be complaining to someone who recently left with an enormous pay off, which is quite likely if it's a bank. If there is a new person, it's easy enough to work out their address as soon as you can see how they do other e-mail addresses. In the case of Lloyds TSB go for Helen Weir as the head of retail operations. It says something about the bank that she has an entire department given over to media and executive complaints. Their salaries are paid for by the extravagant, nay extortionate bank charges they levy.

Meanwhile, it must have been a slightly awkward moment when our military and political leaders marched left, right, left right into Downing Street to sign off the battle plan for Libya, only to find Colonel Gadaffi had declared a ceasefire. There must have been a group sigh of relief when they realised he wasn't actually a man of his word and continued pounding the rebels with everything he's got.

As it happens, and you'll know if you've read more than one of my posts, that I don't think we should be there in the first place. A view I share with a military surgeon who I was chatting to today. Evidently, she's already kept busy enough trying to put back together the broken and burnt bodies of soldiers being shipped back from Afghanistan.

But less of that, most concerning is that they've put the French in charge. Have you ever Googled 'French military victories'. It takes you here from where you can click through to here

Enough said.