Thursday 7 March 2013


I'm glad I didn't have to pay for my University education.  If I had, i would have asked for my money back.  I usually refer to my degree BA Hons 2.1 from Exeter University as Economics and Politics.  That's technically mis-representation.  It was @Economic and Political development since 1800'.  It was my way of doing modern history...all the modern history degrees started in about 1500.  Not very modern, even in 1980.

One of the topics I studied was politics in the Soviet Union.  We used to indulge in that popular past time of Kremlin watching...when the Politburo came out on the balcony to wave the massed ranks of the army past on May Day, we would decide the pecking order on where people stood...and where they had stood the previous year.  It was nonsense of course, although every Soviet watcher did the same.  The truth is, it was pretty chilly on the balcony, so any one with any common sense would linger at the back, and away from the side the wind was blowing...  not long after I left, the Soviet Union collapsed and three years of hard graft in the student union was wasted.

Wednesday mornings at 9.00 were the economics lecture.  Unlike many of my colleagues, I chose to go, and rarely fell asleep, although they really were quite tedious.  I always tried to sit next to Jane (I think that was her name), who had been a runner up in the Miss England contest the year before we started.  When I wasn't being distracted, I learnt all about basic economics.  One of the things I did learn was that it is a basic principle of capitalism that super-profits are not sustainable within a competitive capitalist market place.  The reason being a simple one.  If you are making super-profits (because, for example you've developed a new service or product), sooner rather than later some one else will enter the marketplace.  And when they enter the market, supply will go up, driving down the price.  Now I do understand that we don't operate in a perfect capitalist market, and tools such as 'branding' have enabled some businesses - such as Apple or BMW to maintain high prices for their products.  But, and here is the point that I've been getting to if we look at the financial markets, they should be operating a pretty pure version of least that's what they themselves claim.  Finance has always been profitable, but the super-profits earned since Maggie Thatcher's Big Bang should by now have died away.  Some might argue they have, but when they continue to give salaries the size of a third-world country's national debt, I would dispute this.  Vociferously.  And whilst Georgie Porgy Osbourne has traipsed off to Europe to beg that bankers be allowed to keep their eye-watering bonuses, the rest of us should be turning round to say that simply and bluntly the system is bust.  Not just cracked, but completely and absolutely, totally broken.

Perhaps the man from Eton and Oxford is not the best person to recognise that the system which has given him and his cronies so much needs to change.  Radically.

Hear endeth the lesson.

P.S. Do you like this...first picture taken from one angle, and then I moved so you could see what it really looks like.  Big Brother?

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Can I have more, please?

An update from George:

"Last of George's tubes came out today - hurray!  he's now feeding: tube-free and enjoying (yes really enjoying) eating soft, mushy food. Memory a lot better.  He's still in intensive care, but should be moved to trauma this week."

Progress is a good thing.

On another matter:  time to dig deep my the middle of the picture is soldier Chris...he was featured on the big screen during the Olympic Opening ceremony.

Chris is doing a sponsored ride to Paris for his chosen charity Kiterite  which describes itself as the world's first charity dedicated to using kite-sports in all its formats to help, support, educate and develop people of all ages with physical, mental health or learning challenges.  Anyway, Chris needs more sponsorship in order to achieve his if you would like to sponsor him, click here  or perhaps just feed the link around the interweb on Facebook or Twitter....I'd be grateful, and Chris will too!

After my watch-box extravaganza, it seems somewhat hypocritical to take another pop at the bankers...but that's never going to stop me.  The Funding For Lending Scheme was launched by the Bank of England to encourage banks to lend to small businesses by offering banks cheap money.  It was designed to kick start the economy.  You may have read this week that bank lending is continuing to decrease. Inspite of the BoE lending some £14.5 billion, lending has fallen by £2.4 billion.  My maths may not be great, but I think I can calculate that the banks are sitting on a fat profit at the tax payers expense.  Again.  And in this very same week, Bog-eyed Osbourne has trotted off to Brussels to plea for bankers bonuses not to be restricted.  Jeez, by any standard that stinks.  Really stinks.  While the economy slowly sinks, the Chancellor can do no better than demand that city w*nkers be allowed to be paid more.  The banks caused the crisis, and it is more than time for them to do their bit to re-invigorate the economy so I can buy more watch boxes (oops).  Anyone with half an ounce must see that the system doesn't work.  Fundamental change is absolutely necessary...and more savage cutbacks by the Tories and their LibDem puppies which only impact on the less-well paid isn't the way to do it.

So more MoD cutbacks.  Whilst the Generals bemoan the loss of our military capability, I feel it is incumbent on me to point out that globally we remain one of the highest spending countries on military stuff.  Now that the world's map is no longer half painted pink, I suggest we cut back accordingly.  So an army about the size of Lichtenstein's will do very nicely thank you very much.  And the savings can be spent on something rather more worthwhile.  Suggestions on a postcard please.

Phew.  Enough said.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Watching the clock

We had a busy weekend.  Friday night was quiz night.

Last year we won, and this year we were the 'swats' table, so the pressure was on.  Or not in my case, because I refuse to be competitive.  That's my excuse for us coming fourth.  At least we helped raise £2000 for the NSPCC.

Saturday, we met with my dangerous friends in Camden.  They're dangerous because without exception, they encourage an over-indulgence of drinking and behaviour.   We will call them Mr and Mrs Chip.  That's a reference to one evening in Brighton when Mr Chip fell into the gutter and would have been intense pain if it hadn't been for the beer anaesthetic that we had consumed all day long.  A dozen years later, he still has a lump on his shoulder from the incident.  I may yet devote a whole post or two to them and our exploits.  On Saturday, we were more civilised than usual, and were in mid-debate about the diminution of artistry and the supremacy of concept as the defining moment in modern art when The Cat's Mother and I realised we were about to miss the last tube home so had to run away.

And on Sunday we were at The Tramshed, a restaurant that features works by Damien Hirst to celebrate a friend's daughter's 18th birthday.  There was twenty-four of us, and we were really quite apologies to the other diners.

I have said for a very long time that if the house caught fire and I had time to grab only one thing, it would be a perspex cube which contains picture of The Boy and me from when he was about eight years old.  It's always been quite a treasure.  Assuming I was upstairs, I would also grab the picture, not quite a family portrait, that I had done for The Cat's Mother fifteen months ago.  And now I think I have one other thing...I could just about manage to carry it under my one free arm as I dashed down the stairs, flames licking at my heals, smoke choking me on the way.  It's this:

It's a watch box...

I know it is the absolute height of luxury and extravagance (96' yacht, Ferrari and ski chalet in St Moritz excluded), but I absolutely love it.  I have quite a few watches.  Not expensive fact most are Swatch watch price, but over the years I have collected them and enjoy looking at them...sometimes even wearing them.  Some I can no longer tell the time on - because they don't work, they're too complicated, or the markings on the dial are too small for my fading eyesight - but I do like them.  My favourite is the one bottom left, made by Braun and inspired by the design genius Dieter was a fiftieth birthday present from me to me.  Until now, they've been shoved in a drawer, but are proudly displayed in the polished wood box above which I received on Friday.  One day I will pass this on to my son....providing I'm upstairs when the house burns down.

So if your house was burning, is there one thing you would take with you?

Monday 4 March 2013

Through the looking glass

I think I've been taking LSD.

That can be the only explanation for my life over the last four days.

I'm not objecting, it's rather fun and I hope it continues.

Before I start, I have proof-positive that lawyers are total w*nkers.  I write press releases for a living (you'd never guess it from the quality of writing here I know), and last week I had to write one about a brand of biscuits.  In it I described them as 'the nation's favourite biscuit brand'  The press release had to be checked by their in-house lawyers.  They came back and said the line had to be removed unless I could prove that it was true.  The line, in fact, came from their own website.

I had an e-mail this morning from the Royal Mail headed 'News of changes to our pricing', it goes on:

"We have announced that stamp prices will remain the same for 2013.

The price of a First Class stamp will remain unchanged at 60p.

A Second Class stamp will remain unchanged at 50p.

The price of a First Class Large Letter stamp will remain at 90p and a Second Class Large Letter stamp at 69p.

This morning I arrived in the office to a phone call from a very posh hotel in Paris.  In somewhat broken English, he explained that he had been given my number by The Ritz Madrid as the person who could help him get a better price for the deal.  I didn't know which deal, nor how I could help him.  I'm not a fixer.  He was reluctant to let me go as he was convinced I was the man he needed.  I wish I knew what it was all about.

On Friday, I received a random friend request on Facebook...normally I just delete them, but the name was familiar, so I decided to find out more.  As it turns out, this person is a very well respected well respected he's been listed for the Man Booker prize three times.  He is so well connected, that by accepting his friend request, I am now one step removed from many of the UK's best and biggest literary and media giants.  Of course, it's a massive mistake...I don't know who he thinks I am.  He doesn't have masses of friends, clearly quality not quantity is his mantra.  But by a remarkable turn of coincidence, over the weekend, I've been asked by to link up on LinkedIn by a literary agent and the marketing director of a top publishing firm...

Anyway, a true story from my new BFF:

"In Kabul there is still a synagogue on Flower Street. Two Rabbis who hated each other fought over it. One reported the other for sex crimes under the Taliban. This could have ended very badly. But Mullar Omar, head of the Taliban, was so fascinated by these two men's loathing for each other he let them off saying that it beat most Afghan feuds by a long way. One is now dead but the surviving Rabbi is a respected member of the local community."

I would like to apologise right here and now to my doppelgänger who is presumably missing out on all the fun...

Sunday 3 March 2013

As mad as a box of frogs (fritz)

Having just got the motorbike sorted, it's a bit disappointing that it won't start again.  The Cat's Mother thinks I should get rid of it.  I don't disagree.  But I think I should replace it, whilst she thinks the money should be spent on bus fares.....

Have you been watching Howard Goodall's Story of Music?  As a school boy I was weak on foreign languages, and music was the most foreign of them all.  It was just beyond my comprehension.  Oddly, though, listening to music was one of my favourite past times.  With this series, Mr Goodall managed to unravel many of the mysteries that had eluded me from my childhood and the series was absolutely fascinating.  Actually understanding music composition remains out of my grasp...minor, major chords and all sorts of other nonsense cannot be absorbed by my brain...but the story was superb.  We've still got one episode to go (thank you iPlayer), but the last one where he vented his spleen about Wagner really helped put the music in its social and political context.  The clip on the link above is Stravinsky...chosen for a reason.

Last week we went to see some Pina Bausch.

If you've been daft enough to be reading this for a while, you'll know I'm a bit of a groupie having got hooked by the Wim Wnders film Pina.  The two albums I listen to most on my iPod are the soundtrack to the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, and the soundtrack to Pina.  That's telling.  As part of the Cultural Olympics we went to see a performance of some Pina by the Tanztheater Wuppertal and frankly it was pants.  We left quite disillusioned  even if I remember rightly, we shared the show with the rather stunning Florence Welch and and nearly stunning Lilly Cole.

So we went with no illusions and few expectations....and were surprised by just how wonderful it was.  All right some of it was absolutely barking mad and wouldn't have gone amiss in a Berlin cabaret show.  German humour such as it is does not translate easily into English.  However, the bits that were brilliant were truly brilliant....I would highly, highly recommend you see it if you get the chance.  Though not now because the run has finished already.