Monday, December 18, 2006

Truly uplifting

I had an experience today which pointed up how lacking in common sense and what used to be called " bottom" the politicians who now run the madhouse are.
I met with a lady called May Nicholson. May runs the Preshal Trust in a seriously deprived area of Glasgow called Govan. It wasn't so deprived until the ships started being built in the far east and the 60's Labour Council in Glasgow knocked most of it down in anticipation of "regeneration". Fortunately, they never got around to it, and only now are things happening - mostly from private investment. Govan has more "A" grade listed buildings than anywhere else in Britain. But the population has dropped from about 80,000 to less than 6,000.
May is about 60, but for the first 30 years of her life she was an alcoholic and drug addict. For the last 30 she has tried to help the sub-normal and deprived to lead a useful life. She has an unshakeable belief that the Lord will provide, and she has never been proved wrong yet.
And what are the things she attempts to give people?
Dignity. A sense of worth.A clean environment. And education.
To do this, everyone who comes to her has a job, even if its sweeping the floor. They get a certificate for doing a good job, and she doesn't hand those out lightly. She makes sure that they get praise for a job well done, but a badly done job will lead to a dressing down - mild but truthful, and about the job not the " You're a waste of space" type. She makes sure where they live is properly looked after, and she makes sure there are mentors and neighbours to help with that. She makes sure they get a sense of achievement, that they as a person are worth it. They learn and expand their knowledge whilst in her care. To describe her as a dynamo is completely to mislead. She is a frail, soft-spoken rock, who gave me a hug and blessed me before I left.
She works in a rotting shed, which her people are doing up.
But she leads, and gets things done, and literally hundreds of people bless the day they met her.
My point in all this is the Blair/Brownite belief that if you throw billions at something, somehow it will get better. It won't. Like any school, what counts is the headmaster and teachers. In the hospitals, it's not the admin people, it's the charismatic doctor or surgeon who inspires and uplifts his staff, it's the good copper that works away and again, gets things done.It's the person in a job who tells the truth and shames the Devil.
There's an old adage " Cometh the hour, cometh the man"
In 1997, I have to say I thought it might be.
The only man coming now is Yates.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Run for Cover

No, not what we need to do since the Attorney General effectively said he could do anything he liked under cover of the "National Interest", but the title of a rather good "B" movie starring James Cagney, made, I think in 1954.
It is a tale of cowboys and a few Indians, but mostly it is about people's speed to judge, their herd mentality, jealousy and redemption. Pretty average cowboy stuff. You will, however, be pleased to hear Cagney wears a white hat, the baddies all have black hats, and the townsfolk various shades of grey.
But the thing that struck me was some of the dialogue, which, I daresay, reflected the thinking of the time, and, in view of my age, probably my pre-programmed view of life.
The best example was when the deputy sherrif, to whom Cagney had shown nothing but kindness and a wish to toughen him up, turned out to have been in league with the baddies all along..
" Don't blame it on yer larning - if it hadn't been that it would have been somethin' else!" In effect, you went rotten because you ARE rotten.
I don't subscribe to that view. I have unbounded faith in education, education, education ( remember that?) but that education does NOT only come from school. It comes from parents and grandparents as well, something that has almost been forgotten until IDS spelled it out again recently.
In Glasgow - and I'm sure in other places - there are some families that are 5 generations into not having worked. We -you - other taxpayers - have supported them for more than 40 years to a greater or lesser extent. Anyone on benefit, also doing the odd night behind a bar, or a little labouring, would be entirely mad to start work to earn an extra £25 per week, and having to work for it too. And don't forget the peer and family pressure. I actually once heard a mother tell her daughter, who had come to work for us in defiance of her situation, that she was insane. The mother had come to our office, pulled the 16 year old out, and shouted at her for 20 minutes in the street.
Now I know Mr. Brown likes to control everything, and his policy of increasing the public sector, the sector on benefit etc etc is merely a sophisticated form of gerrymandering, but we are perilously close to the end. Even in France, after a certain ( lengthy) period, you don't get benefit any more.
We have to reinstate policies that bring an end to dependency. Without this, the British people will never get up off their knees. It is only the influx of Poles and others that are keeping things going. And still we have slipped from fourth best productivity to 25th.If they all decide to go home we are well and truly screwed.
By the way, the deputy sherrif saved Cagney from being shot, and so redeemed himself, shot by Cagney in the process. Quote from Cagney " Ya drew! Ya drew! an' I thought ya was drawin' on me!"

State of the Nation

I watched Andrew Marr this morning when that smarmy bastard Prescott dribbled all over the place.
I read the MoS on the leaked docuement. I read Iain Dale, Dizzy, etc etc.
For possibly the first time in it's existence, this shambles ( their word) of a Government has actually told the truth.
It's crap.
I was never more sure of this than on Friday night when we were at a dinner party, two of the guests being redder than red Labourites.A naughty friend of mind wound them both up by suggesting that Pinochet was a pretty straight kind of a guy. Unfortuantely, neither of them were clever enough, and launched into furious attack, only to be shot down with the reminder that it was what Bliar had said about himself. Of course, straight kind of guy is EXACTLY what Pinochet was. He had principles ( you may not like them, but he stuck by them. There was no spin, it was all straight out) Whilst speechless, my friend continued with suggesting that what had been done in the name of the British people, particularly in Iraq, was anti-democratic and the people certainly did NOT vote for their pensions to be ruined, the NHS to deteriorate even as billions were shovelled at it, and certainly NOT for the troops in Afghanistan to have to borrow ammunition as that provided by the MOD was useless. And why NuTrident?
Both the Labourites were squirming as all this was being said, until one of them blurted out -" well, at least the country is in safe hands with Gordon Brown" -which raised a huge guffaw all round the table - .."and at least he's honest!"
I need hardly say more. If there really are people who are this deluded, the Tories will have no problem.
Like I keep saying, majority of more than 40, LibDems down below 40.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I've just been to Prestwick Rotary Club Christmas Lunch. I hasten to add I was there in my capacity as a raiser of funds for the Gurkha Welfare Trust. As a result, I was collecting a very welcome £500, which is already winging it's way to our esteemed Treasurer.
What I had not realised was that the Rotary movement ( in the UK anyway) is almost entirely devoted to charity and good works. Although a large proportion of their work is local, they have tremendous outreach and training programmes worldwide.
I was enormously impressed with these particular people, largely retired, who now donated at least two days a week of their time to good works. I was forcibly struck by their complete lack of faith in either local, regional (= Scottish) or national government to deliver even minimum incremental improvements within communities. The message was loud and clear: if you want to get something down for a local community, do it yourselves.
One particular ( recent) project in the area was mentioned, whereby the local authority had undertaken a survey ( = consultants) had then produced a draft plan ( = more consultants) had then debated the issue ( = first direct involvement of local authority) and had concluded it was not worth while. I was quoted a cost of £35,000 to reach this stage. It was for a local drop-in club. The total cost was put at £500,000 capital cost and running it £150,000 pa.
There are 28 members of Prestwick Rotary. One of their number, incensed by a) the cost and b) the non- appearance of the centre, got his fellow members together. Over a ten day period, they a) sourced a suitable building b) put in a firm offer at £50,000 c) completed the purchase with a bank loan on the say-so of another member, and d) had a sign up asking for volunteers.
I hardly need to tell you the rest of the story. They got enough volunteers to do works required to bring it up to standard and staff the centre for the first year. During that period the centre made a profit and has already repaid some of the loan, and the rest has been repaid from their own fundraising.
And lots of children,young and old people use the centre every day.
So much for being not worth while.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


No this is not the famous Graham Greene story, it is Glasgow for every day of the last 6 weeks.
Which means we have been unable to finish outside works on a building due for completion this Friday.
Which means we can't get the occupation certificate now before about January 9th 2007.
Which means the tenants can't take occupation on January 3rd.
Which means they will have to postpone their move.
Which is a mess for all concerned.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Don't get ill in February and March 2007

I've just been reading about the new rules regarding overspending Hospital Trusts. Suppose you spent £105m last year and " earned" ( what a joke that is) £100m. So you have a £5m deficit. THIS year, your budget earnings of £100m have to a) pay for everything b) pay back the extra £5m and c) make a profit of £5m ie your actual spend can only be £90m. In effect, and allowing for inflation, that is near enought a 20% cut.
So, finally, Mr. Brown's chickens are coming home to roost. The cumulative deficit will be £1.6b this year.There is no money. The coffers are empty - sorry that's wrong, the coffers have an ADDITIONAL hole of £100b over the last 5 years. And it's growing at £35b or more per year.
And just so we have it clear, this is because of targets and meddling.
I always like the example of feeding London. Nobody plans it. Nobody directs it. Yet Londoners get food and drink and people profit from it. Let Tesco run the NHS.

You'll be a man

I know it's almost certain that being a man nowadays is a) superfluous and b) certainly sexist and c) probably illegal unless you are gay, but I was most taken with some words about the son of an immigrant and a madwoman. He rose to great wealth several times, and ultimately lost it all. He despised most of his family, except one, who managed to start just a little bit up the ladder rather than beneath it.
People mostly hated him, and talked about him behind his back, but as long as he had money they took and took and took from him. He was perhaps the best true friend anyone could have, but that friendship was very sparingly given.
It takes madness in the blood to get things done. That's one of the reasons everything now is such a mess, and sooo drawn out. Noone dares have the madness. Paper shuffling to cover your backside has taken the place of forward movement. Hence the Czars and reports as produced by Nulabour. It's why the schools, hospitals, police and anything else you care to mention are not actually improving.
He is described as being " a man". It's a very old fashioned concept, but one that bears reviving. There are very few. There are lots of hard men ( John Reid's tough guy stance springs to mind) but I would never grace him with the epithet of being " a man". The French have " un homme serieux" and the Germans " ein mensch".
If you are a man, you do your uttermost for those around you - friends, family, work colleagues, people who are affected by your behaviour.
You do NOT - as we now have - people who hide behind weasel words and abrogate and deny responsibility. You carry it as a permanent burden that you overcome.
So who is this man? His name is Eugene Malou. He was a man.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lord James Douglas Hamilton

Last night I was taken along to Glasgow Southside Conservative association - basically Teddy Taylor's old seat - for a talk by Lord James. It was a fascinating and interesting tale, to do with his father and the arrival of Rudoph Hess in Scotland during the war. There was also wine and food, and a prize draw, and a thoroughly good eveing was had by the ( approx) twenty or so people who attended.The most interesting part of the evening was the part where we were told about Albrecht Haushoffer, who was Germany's greatest expert of Britain and it's Commonwealth. He had written a report in 1938, prior to Munich, stating categorically that Britain would fight if Germany drove East. Hess and Hitler dismissed it. He also warned - as did Hess in Mein Kampf ( that sounds strange as Hitler wrote it, but Hess actually edited and redrafted it) - that Germany should only attack East once the back door was secured by Britain.
Interestingly enough, I have been reading a book about the rise and downfall of Prussia ( officially disbanded in 1947). The main preoccupation of successive monarchs was to avoid such a two front war.The problem was always going to be that if a stupid king DID start a war on two fronts, then potentially it spelt the end. More importantly, even after the Landestag and Bundesrat reforms around the time of the unification of Germany, the control of the Army was NEVER removed from the king and put under the Parliament. This meant that Wee Willie could declare and wage war without there being anyone to gainsay him. The same thing still applied after WWI - the Head of State was still in control of the Army. Although it is unlikely that being under Parliament's sway would have had any effect before either World War, it just might have done before WWI.
As they used to say to me at school - " Compare and contrast" with the position in the UK today, where Bliar has effectively taken us to war and subsequently had the debate in Parliament. And compare it to Mrs. T who, I believe, did not actually declare war on Argentina until Parliament approved it.
I have wandered far from the point I actually wanted to make. That was, that on a cold Friday night, a senior Tory politician was prepared to turn out for 20 odd people, and be the soul of charm and wit. Unlike most now in politics, he bahaved in a selfless way.
It made me proud to have been there.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I just received the annual email from an old friend, Willie Kinnaird, who moved to Africa with his wife and children over 20 years ago. He undertakes missionary work as well as work for the Wycliffe Bible Translation people. He is probably the person I know who is closest to being a Saint.
Apart from the usual remarks about the children, his wife and the goings-on in the village, he had a small section on Ouldeme proverbs.
The three I particularly liked are
1) The left hand washes the porridge hand ( ie right hand)
He translates this as " We should help each other"
2) Sweet in the mouth, bitter in the stomache. Translation " Things are not always what they seem"
3) The hyena says: I would not want to eat a woman's head.
Translation: There's nothing in there.
I don't agree with this but I rather like the fact that they have a proverb stating it. No feminists there then.

Uncle Willie died

Yes, he finally did. Aged 93, he is the last of my father's siblings to go.
They have all done pretty well. The eldest, Jackie, died in a car crash when in his twenties, but all the others, with two notable exceptions, managed 85 plus, and 90 plus for 3 of them.
There were 9 originally, all born before 1913, with three before 1900.
None of them was ever teatotal, or a non smoker. The two that died early ( still 60ish) was entirely down to the excessive use of alcohol and cigarettes. One in particular had a fondness for meths when she couldn't get anything else.
They were an extremely close family, who hardly saw the need for other people ( after all including the wives and children we made up a huge number. They were huge fun ( Scottish and alcohol is a powerful mixture) and I miss them all.
But ( apart from my own father) especially Uncle Willie. He was a divorcee and then remarried, but in my youngest days he was always around. He had an impish sense of humour and a magical way with constructing things with his hands. When my parents were abroad, and I was in scholl, it was always Uncle Willie who took me out.
There are two things that stick in my memory. Whenever any kind person would give me a sixpence ( 2.5p in today's money) Uncle Willie was always there to suggest I give it to him and he would give me 3%. I wish I had. I unfortunately spent them on sweets or caps for my toy pistol.
The other is that one day he bought two balsa kits for model aeroplanes, the one's with the rubber bands inside.
Uncle Willie made the most beautiful thing, correct to the last drop of glue and dope to tighten the paper covering. Truly a thing of inordinate precision and correctness.
I misread the plans and built it with double everything, so it weighed twice as much, looked it, and had the grace of a 20 storey office block.
He and I went to the local hill and released our aircraft simultaneously. His performed the most exquisite flight for about 10 feet then then did a Stuka dive into the ground. Both wings broke off, and the front moved towards the tail by about 3 inches.
Mine on the other hand flew on - and on - and on for about a quarter of a mile and then, when the rubber band gave up, glided perfectly to earth in an immitation of a real aircraft.
We stood at the top of the hill looking down at his wreckage.
" Let that be a lesson to you"
" What?"
" Don't read the instructions first."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tory diehards

And my goodness me, they certainly are dying hard.
The Telegraph had an article today, clearly handed out by Liam Fox, stating that the Shadow Cabinet wanted to ditch all the touchy feely stuff, Francis Maud was too soft, blah blah blah.
Guido had it right when he said these people are insane - they constitute a tiny minority of UK voters and pandering to them would simply hand Brown ( for it will be he) the next election.
What do they want -9% ahead and they are complaining?
The two MUCH more important points are contra-indications.
The first is, once Bliar became Leader of the Opposition, there was no dissent in the ranks. He had his party well in hand ( they had lost 4 after all) and maybe to shut these idiots up WILL take a fourth defeat.
More importantly, Political Betting has an interesting point about how Lib Dems will vote at the next election.
Yes, I know lots of people went from Tory to NuLabour, but just as many went from Tory to LibDem. Those that went to LibDem went because they saw the Tories of 1997 as discredited and out of touch with New Britain. Those that went to NuLabour, went because, er, they saw the Tories of 1997 etc etc. But BOTH lots moved left, and because a) Tony Bliar seemed a pretty straightforward kind of a guy ( good grief ,did he actually say that?) and b) because they wanted the Tories out.
Both those strands have now played out. If anything, the exact opposite swing is happening. There are lots of people who will vote for anyone ( including the BNP) so as the get rid of the people who have betrayed them. Interesting sidelight - Labour always talks of being betrayed by their leaders. Haven't noticed it in the Tories ranks, they tend to betray each other.
And lots of erstwhile Tories, who voted tactically in Tory seats to NOT get a Tory, will vote the other way this time.
It's some years off, but I would bet 1) the Tories will have an overall majority 2) it will be a lot bigger than everyone thinks and 3) the LibDems will be back down, well below 40 seats.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Joy... in pretty short supply in lots of places. Iraq springs to mind.
But here in Glasgow, the word on most people's lips is " buzzing" . For whatever reason, Glasgow is once more a seriously good place to be. It has been growing in intensity over the last six months or so, until now, there is a palpable smile on the face of people wandering about the city.
I don't know if it's the prospect of Christmas ( unlikely in view of the familial disasters that usually take place), but in my own case, it's because of a building we are working on at the moment.
The last four weeks have been involved in pulling OUT rotten wood, plaster and junk. In many ways, it is the most expensive part of any project. No value is being added, and the problems are being exposed. Is the budget for rot enough? Have we got a big enough contingency for that dodgy wall?
And then suddenly, stuff starts to get put back. The downstairs joists go back - all beautifully treated, tarred and wrapped in plastic to prevent any future rot or water attacks. Hardwood goes onto them and you can walk around again - no more " Watch yer feet."
At the same time, the real proportions of the building can be seen. There's an arch there, a lovely steepled roof here. There IS going to be enough daylight in that dark corner. Vistas open up. Value starts being added.It IS going to make a profit.Even the architect -quote " what a dreadful mess." - takes a different line - " You've got a wee gem of a building here!"
But to the man in the street, perhaps the most amazing and wonderful thing is that both Celtic and Rangers will be playing football in Europe after New Year.That hasn't happened for a long time.It definitely merits a degree of personal wellbeing and joy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Legalise Drugs NOW!

I was delighted to see that even policemen across the globe are coming round to the position I adopted 20 or more years ago that drugs should be legalised.
Quite apart from the approx. £5billion a year that it costs the NHS to deal with the problems drugs presently create, there is the small matter of something approaching a further £10billion in thefts to fund the habit.
Yes there are issues of eg people craving more.
Yes there are moral issues ( but on the other hand, free will disctates that if we want to screw up our lives we are entitled so to do)
But it seems to me that the present situation is very akin to the way people looked at gin in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Lots of people never touched the stuff, but vaste swathes of poorer people in particular spent large parts of their lives in a stupor. Recognise the similarity? There was a huge move to ban gin ( remember Prohibition a hundred and odd years later- great succes that was), but it was taxed more and more heavily by successive governments, until the problem - never solved - became bearable.In a democracy, you can't have very high percentages of the population openly disobeying the law. By definition, if enough people want it, then it becomes de facto legal.
I accept that rich people use drugs too - but why should they not help finance the NHS and government?
As with all things in life, it is the will that counts. I was interested to read recently of a valley in America that had been flooded 70 odd years ago to create hydro power and supply water. Now there is a move to let the valley bloom again. There is clearly a very strong "green" move for this, but the politicians are also beginning to think it might not be a bad idea. It will cost billions.
But as a spokesman said, " If we have the will, the money is not a problem."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Baroness Kennedy and the Truth

I had an extremely excellent evening yesterday at the Glasgow University Chancellor's dinner.
The speaker was Helena Kennedy, who spoke refreshingly and, one has to assume, with real truth as opposed to spin.
The reason I say this is that her speech largely consisted of an aoplogy for Tony Bliar and his conduct of government since 1997.
She made the point that whereas he had said that as a government they should listen to the people, reply honestly, and not conduct cynical exercises in political expediency.
She said that people wanted a strong government, a strong economy, and safety at home and abroad.
Sadly, NONE of these things had happened. Laws were no longer made democratically, and tended to be mere cosmetics. There was no time to debate them properly. The government used pathetically hyped " Big Conversations" to give the impression that it was listening and then did whatever it wanted in the first place. Principle had seeped away from the government and into quote"money given in unacceptable ways".
She was also involved in the commission looking at ways of reforming the House of Lords. Interestingly, she said the overwhelming feedback was for an elected assembly BUT with a range of capabilities, not just politicians, ie there should be businessmen, doctors, dentists etc etc,a House of ALL the Talents as it were.
Young people have been turned off by Bliar's spin. They are entirely capable of seeing through the non-answers, and the sound-bites, in a way that perhaps their parents were not capable of. Bliar had had a huge chance in 1997, which he has completely ruined, and possibly ruined the United Kingdom as we know it as well.
She finished up by saying that Truth HAD to return to the centre of politics, as otherwise Democracy - already in crisis - would end up being so devalued that only small pressure groups would be involved in formulating and managing policy.
What an excellent speech. Weirdly, it also encompasses very much Tory values and beliefs, but ,in a strange way, the true Socialist has always believed in respect and progress, however much he/she objected to inequality.
I think she should ditch her peerage ( honestly earned) and fight GB for the leadership. She would get my vote any day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sorry, Sorry

OK, it's not an apology. It's Deep Sorrow. As Catherine Tate's Gran would say " Wot a Facking Liberty"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Apologise? What did we do?

So Bliar has finally " apologised " for Britain's role in slavery.
Of course, this is not something any of us have been involved in for over 200 years, but that doesn't stop him doing it. Oh, no, but it is , naturally, a cynical political ploy. Who are the strongest Labour voter block, who change least? Black and Afro-Caribbean.
So go back a bit. Who actually banned slavery first? Britain, both in the UK and throught the Empre and Colonies, did.
Who enforced a blockade to stop slave ships at both sides of the Atlantic? Britain did.
Who released slaves from Spanish ,Portuguese , Dutch & French ships, when intercepted? Britain did.
When did that Great Democracy stop slavery? Nearly SIXTY YEARS after Britain - and then enforced a different kind until well within living memory.
Every other European country ( not to mention Africa, Arabia,China,Russia - you name it) continued slavery - even for some of their own people - long after Britain stopped. And some still enforce it today.
So let's celebrate the fact we were the first to limit and stop it.
And don't give us a load of crap that is merely yet another cynical political stunt.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Call me cynical...

Just back from a quick trip to Northern France, which was most pleasant as - being overseas - I was allowed a small libation.
What was I doing? Yes, indulging in that great passion of mine - looking to buy a house in France.
And,no, I didn't find one.
Still,that's par for the course - I haven't been doing this for nearly 40 years without making sure I don't have to stop! I'm quite sure I shall still be doing it immediately prior to pegging it. There is little more alluring prospect that driving around nice places, eating good food, and drinking delicious wines.
But whilst I was away, there was a report that something like 800,000 Brits now own houses abroad. That is terrifying. It means only one thing. Property prices overseas are about to crash. When a very ordinary 3 roomed property in a small town in Northern France is confidently expected to fetch £150,000, the world collectively is insane. I can still buy 2 flats in Glasgow for that, and if I really try and am prepared to do some work, I can probably get 3.
And have an income of £1500 per month.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Whilst in Kelvingrove, I came across a sign which read
and in brackets underneath ( Female toilets).
I do hope not.

Thirst for knowledge

I had a very pleasant weekend, being visited by friends from Ireland. It was, of course, accompanied by much jollity on all sides and a modicum of alcoholic refreshment by all parties except myself.
Part of the programme included a visit to the newly refurbished Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
I was delighted to find my old friend Sir Roger the elephant still there - truth to tell he couldn't be taken out so they surrounded him with an enormous packing case and left him in situ. Only in Glasgow, however, would they have left a hole in the side of the packing case, so they could look in from time to time to make sure he was still there.
The whole building is sparkling , light and airy. The vast arrays of stuffed animals have been put away, but the remaining exhibits have been themed ( Biggest clam shell/ tallest animal/ largest /smallest egg. etc etc) which is pointed and interesting.
The paintings are superbly displayed, and the Salvador Dali has been repositioned so one comes across it either round a corner, which blows you away, or along a corridor, which makes it grow on you.
The most interesting display, however, was of the great Glasgow exhibitions of 1888 and 1901. They were of such a scale that whole trains were exhibited, and the visitors were in the millions - the last day alone in 1901 had 173,000 visitors.
What was the cost to the people of Glasgow or the Government?
No, it wasn't like the Dome, Wembley, the NHS IT debacle, or, indeed, anything else this Government meddles in.
They were ready in advance. They were constructed under budget.They were organised and run by private committees. And they made a profit. In fact, the 1888 exhibition made so much money that they were able to build the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum from the proceeds.
Now two things occurred to me - apart from the obvious. The first was that the people in Local Government at the time we are talking about were NOT politicians as we know them today. They were businessmen who wanted to give something back to their communities. And by God they did - as the Tempest tells us, true freedom consist in service.
And the second was, both exhibitions had an enormous educative effect. Whilst the Dome had interactive games and drivel, the Glasgow exhibitions showed enterprise, proper science and business, and people yearned to get on and learn more about their world and what the future might be.
Jump forward to 1988, and the Glasgow Garden Festival had a success as well, largely because it did not try to pander to the lowest common denominator, but to maintain an assumption of a certain level of intelligence.
I know I have been stressing the Education Education Education a bit of late, but this is the same theme. We are dropping our belief in levelling up, because it's easier to level down to meet the targets. There shouldn't BE targets, there should be standards - and if you don't get the standard, go back and learn it againEducation is there to bring enlightenment to the less advantaged. It is NOT there just to keep the kids occupied whilst Mum and Dad are at work - that's if they aren't playing truant. You may remember there was a truancy czar some time ago. Yes, well, haven't heard much of him recently.
So in 1888, even the poorest and most disadvantaged came to see what was what, and they turned up at school, and suffered the tawse ( better than mum or dad being sent a letter by the domine) and LEARNED.
And in case you think you didn't need to know much in the shipyards, coal mines and engineering works that made Glasgow great, you would be very wrong.
Because the cildren and people of 1888 KNEW that if they learned they could "Get on".
Can we say the same today?

Friday, November 10, 2006


Whoever " anonymous migsuk" is on Guido is as daft as Kaletsky.
The judgements supposedly made under John Major have nothing to do with the present pensions problem.
This is down to two things only - GB stealing billions ( add it up - he's kept more than £100b) and the new pensions regime Nulabour put in place which required utterly insane assumptions to be used to calculate liabilities.
This forced the pension funds to flog off billions and billions of equities at the bottom of the slump and buy Government stock when interest rates were low. What has happened now, with this new, caring attitude? Er, as interest rates rise, bond and gilt prices decline. So the pension funds have had a double whammy - no rise from equities and a drop from gilts.So don't pretend it was anything to do with BT ( before Tone) - like everything thing else he and his idiots have touched they have ruined a perfectly good system.
I added this to a story Guido had about GB being on News 24 today. That man has stolen more money than any other in the history of the UK, and pissed it up against more useless walls than anyone can imagine.
By shear luck he came in after Major had done nothing for a few years which made the UK economy the strongest in Europe, and even Brown's meddling and mendacity has not been able to destroy it completely. Sainsbury jumping ship today is only the start - I predict a bloodbath before Christmas, as the pygmies and rats attempt to escape the ship as they begin to see where this appalling Government is headed - the rocks.


I was in London at an international trade fair over the last couple of days and - apart from being unutterably bored by the whole thing and astonished at the sums of money lavished on the show - I was delighted by one insight.
The organisers had set up several computers at various points around the hall, and there was forever a queue to get onto one.
I drifted past a couple of times, trying to judge a good time with not too long to wait. I stopped and waited when I saw two tall ebony-black Masai warriors in their exquisite multicoloured wraps logging on to the internet.
What a fantastic sight! There they stood with gold earrings sparkling against their black skin, dressed in a scarlet wrap with white zig-zags, Googling some information.
If that's what globalisation means, I'm all for it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wouldn't it be nice...

Well actually it IS nice. Our friends in the Labout Party have stopped shilly shallying and " have responded in a positive way" to Danny Dewsberry.
The terms of the deal are secret, but I'm sure they benefit Danny, quite apart from the exposure he will have had for his expertise!
So the blogospere triumphs. Onwards!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Home to roost..

Today may well be the day that the country as a whole falls out of love with NuLabour.
This sounds incredibly sweeping, but it is always the straw that breaks a camel's back, not the first ton or two.
In this case, it's all to do with Hazel Blears and her lot not paying a poor student for work they asked him to do.
Danny Dewsbury - he of the poor student tendency - even had to resort to a lawyer's letter to get just over 60% of his expenses that Blear's factotum had agreed to pay. My own view is that £395 to create what appears to be an excellent semi-documentary is peanuts, but then, that doesn't include time, equipment etc etc, all supplied for free by Danny.
Back to the camel.
Danny is a student with some £13,000 of debt. As far as I know, none of the Labour Front bench had any of the now ubiquitous Student Debt. They, of course, benefitted from the good old fashioned education system we used to have, whereby people could actually get an education and, if bright enough, go on to get a degree - for free.
Not now. Apart from the general dumbing down and degrading of exams and degrees, it also costs money. This has to be the one domestic result of Labour's period in power that people will remember longest and object to most. You can argue about crime, about immigration, about Iraq, or the Health Service, but the one area that EVERYONE in the country is affected by is education.
So that's why I say it could be the final straw.
Danny's story encapsulates all that is worst about Nulabour. Debt traded against education. Broken promises. Spin.
And at the end a " Hey, let's move on" and complete disregard for the individual.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Education Education Education

Thus Tony Blair's 1997 mantra.
I hardly need labour this point - he didn't. He has effectively ruined the University system in this country, and very nearly utterly destroyed upward mobility for the underprivileged. He and his cronies are the products of the system his political heavyweight forebears put in place to HELP people. Now, we have a system that is completely and utterly failing at all levels. Even potential students are shunning the offer of a place at University as they KNOW it won't get them anything more than they can get by working.
All this was underpinned today by Lord Archer on Andrew Marr. Apparanetly, if you opt for "Education" in Prison, you get £8 per week.
Anything else - laundry, loo cleaning etc - you get £12 per week.
As with so much else ( better tax breaks for single mothers as opposed to married couples springs to mind) Blair and Brown have undermined and betrayed not only this country but their own professed beliefs.
'Nuff said.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Venal, shifty, mendacious and cheapskates to boot.

You've probably never heard of Danny Dewsbury. In essence, he asked if he could make a film of the members of the LabourParty at their conference. He was told yes, and we ( the Labour Party) will pay expenses.
Danny - like so many students - owes about £13,000, so getting back his expenses would be good. He provided his own camera, lighting etc etc and made a good film ( see it on YouTube) which the party hacks chopped about to get rid of the embarassing bits. They then used it for their own propaganda - and didn't pay him the expenses.
So a group - including Croydonian, PragueTory and others - is getting a fund together to repay him for his efforts.
Quite rightly, Danny has sent the unedited version to The Daily Mail, which shows eg Hazel Blears having four attempts to introduce herself.
No only venal etc etc, but stoopid too.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Into the sear, the yellow leaf....

Those of you with a theatrical bent ( no aspersions cast) will know this comes from King Lear. In case you don't know he has three daughters like me - or vice versa.
Anyway, I have been feeling somewhat like Lear the last couple of days, sleeping almost not at all and enjoying, if that is the right word, 2am and 3am cups of tea.
Last night was no exception, but the quiet that surrounds that time of night is extremely pleasant.
I was able to reflect on the continuing spiral dowawards of our society, highlighted today by the reports on 4 million CCTV cameras watching us. I didn't vote for it, did you?
I certainly didn't vote for policemen to arrest people and break their doors down, and then have the DPP, on looking at the evidence, say it is a load of tosh. This has been happening more and more recently, and is of course related to the war on terror.
In case you missed it, one of NuLabour's Gurus has said " Scare the people and they will put up with anything." Ok, that's a paraphrase, but you get my meaning. So the headlines scream about terror plots averted, stringent new measures for taking lipsalve on aircraft ( oh, that's being relaxed this week. I can take it in a plastic bag. That'll contain the blast) - huge inconvenience and disruption to people and companies. And then.. nothing. But that of course is SOOO much this Government. I believe it was Teddy Roosevelt who said " speak softly and carry a big stick". Our present Masters do the exact opposite, to the detriment of both ourselves as individuals and our society as a whole.
What was the best period of government this country ever had? I'm not sure, but it would have to be one where it interfered as little as possible, or did something genuinely good for the people as a whole. Perhaps Lloyd George's Edwardian era Governments. Let me know.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


How good to see everyone on the telly sporting their poppies.
More importantly, do you know that there are two distinct kinds?
I am a bit of a WWI geek, so have been trawling through some of the Earl Haig Fund original minutes from when it was founded, and the history of the poppy. I'm sure we were all brought up on the story that the fields started blooming poppies when the guns fell silent, but of course that is rubbish - it was November and they couldn't have bloomed until the spring. There may be some truth in the odd poppy blooming where the high explosive had churned the ground during the previous summer, but it appears the real reason is slightly different.
Poppies, of course, are where morphia comes from. The idea was it would symbolise the " balm" and soothing of pain of the War.
But back to my opening sentence. There are two kinds - very in evidence once you know.
The English poppy has a green oak leaf. The Scots does not.
The Scots - Haig was one - wanted a special remembrance for their ( relatively heavier) casualties.
I had the opportunity to visit the WWI battlefields last year. More than a quarter of a million Brits to this day visit the Somme in particular. What shocked me was at Notre Dame de Lorette, which is the French National Cemetary for ALL their wars with the famous WWI ossuary. Less than 20,000 French a year visit it. The French, of course, regard the Germans as their new best friends, and nothing is to interfere with their love in.
Some years ago I visited Oradour sur Glane - one of the several villages utterly destroyed by the Germans during WWII. It has been preserved as it was, which is the most eery and extraordinary thing.
The tour ends in the Church, where the village's women and children were burned to death and shot as they tried to escape. The tour guide says " Madames, Messieurs, this is what the Germans did to the French, we must NEVER forget".
I regret to say I am told they now say " This is what the Nazis did ( full stop)"
I've also visited Auschwitz - but that can wait for another day.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The two Johns

Did you see the dog skit in B,B & F last night?
I howled at the thought of TB and GB being dogs sniffing each other's bottoms.
Explains a lot, really.

Marmite and the Middle East

Sorry about the double post about Cobbett, but, as I said, something went wrong first time round ... but as somebody recently remarked about Sion Whatsit, nothing dies on the web.
Anyway, what about Marmite and the Middle East?
Apparently, the Israelis and the Palestinians both have a significant deficiency of Potassium, which, the less you have in your system, the more agressive you become - explains a lot don't you think?
So Edward de Bono, he of the lateral thinking department, has proposed shipping huge quantities of Marmite to both sides, as it is very high in Potassium, and, if taken in sufficient quantities, will restore the requisite levels in their bloodstreams.
My thought was that as you either love Marmite or hate it. Wars have been fought over much less.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

15 out of 20

Some interesting property articles in the papers this morning, none more so than a league table showing which UK towns and cities had risen the most in value over the last decade.
On average the rise is 187%. For those of you somewhat mathematically challenged, this means that someting that cost £1 ten years agove is now worth just under £3. I know it looks weird, but 100% rise means £1 = £2.
Anyway, Newry is the greatest riser, at just under 5 times, and the smallest rises are in Scotland, where 15 out of the lowest 20 are. Even so, even Paisley and Greenock ( both pretty ghastly) have doubled.
Now the interesting this is that ( taking the average)and assuming a present value of the housing stock in the UK at about £3trillion, this means that 10 years ago it was worth in the region of £1trillion. So our collective worth ( before morgages) has risen about £2trillion). But at least £1triilion of that rise has been borrowed already, meaning that in the last ten years, in property alone, we have collectively, as a nation, increased our net worth by £1trillion.
No wonder thereis a feel good factor which buoyed NuLabour all these years.It's only now as things turn that the Tories have any chance to make headway. At the same time, people tend to change when they feel secure ( as they did in 1997) as opposed to unsure ( as in 1992).
And wars always start when the harvest is in, and revolutions when things are getting better and people want to move faster.

Cobbett Rides Again!

I tried to post this last night but there was some problem, so here goes.
I came acroos this blog ( see above) which includes lots of well argued cases.
One of the more recent ones is about the NHS and the "moral hazard" we effectively DON'T feel because it is there and free.
I have long felt that skiers were unfairly penalised by having to have insurance or pay cash, when mountain climbers, hillwalkers,potholers etc don't pay a penny.It's time somebody MADE people engaged in dangerous sports and pastimes cough up for their accidents.
And by the way, if you get drunk on a Friday night you better have cash available on your credit card, because A&E will charge you for whatever they need to do to fix you up.That'll do nicely.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cobbett Rides Again!

I just came across this blog. One of the articles has a very reasoned discussion about the NHS.
Basically, the arguement is that we expect other people to take care of us - and in the NHS's case , for free.
Why should skiers have to have insurance or pay up themselves if the have an accident? Why not hillwalkers, climbers, potholers etc.
And a Saturday night drunk who turns up at A&E? Er, that'll be £100 please - credit cards accepted.

How many of me?

Apparently, there are none of me in the USA.
I have to tell you that I know of one in Canada. He is actually a distant relative, descended from my great grandfather's brother.
And there are a couple of dead ones before me.
But all in all, rather satisfying, don't you think?
People frequently assert " They broke the mould when they made him".
Or in my case they didn't even make the mould - in the UK anyway.


I just love this - it epitomises all I adore about Glasgow.
"Gonnae" is used in all sorts of ways within " Parliamo Glasgow", as in
"Gonnae no do that?" ( Trans: Please don't do that any more)
I read this story today.
Mr. & Mrs. McClumpshy are on the Costa del Plenty beach.
Mr.M turns to his wife and says " Put some o' that sun stuff on ma back"
" Haw hey," says Mrs. M. " Manners. Gonnae put a gonnae in there?"

Black Book

Saw an excellent Dutch/English/German/Hebrew language film last night ( Ok it had English subtitles) called "Black Book"
It was basically a wartime thriller, with overtones of the old Victor Mature film " The Scarf", where the brave resistance leader turns out to be the traitor.
Dr.Akerman ( brave resistance etc etc) turned out to have been arrested by the Gestapo and turned. He was in custody for 3 weeks.
Of course, he met his somewhat grisly end, but my thought was more on the point of what would YOU do? I know that if the Gestapo had had me for three MINUTES I would happily have done anything for them. Within us we all have the overwhelming urge to survive ( that's how we got here), and if it means betraying others then ( in our own minds) that's a price worth paying.
Think of the French collaborators , the Quislings, the Dutch traitors and so on. Would we - in the same situation- be as upright as we would like to think we would be? I doubt it very much.
There is a price that will buy ANY of us, and, to distort Bernard Shaw, " We have established what we are, we are now simply trying to ascertain the price"

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Day before Today

Well, I promised I would report back, and overall it was a pretty good day. Not great, but pretty good.
I had lunch with a friend with lots of amusing chat, the builders are getting on with their work, and nothing dreadful happened. My wife was out at a musical evening ( I declined as I knew it would be poor) so I was able to indulge in pasta and chess. I went to bed to read about 11pm, only to be told to get up at 11:30 and come through to the drawing room, as some friends had been invited back for coffee, and wanted to dissect the evening.
Ah well, it was quite fun, but didn't finish until 1:30, which is too late for my old bones.
However, in the midst of all this was the ITV news. The headline was all to do with a face transplant. The voice over portentously asked " Has science gone too far?"
Unfortunately, on the screen appeared
I have no idea where " Far" is, but I'm not planning to go there.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Gosh! Someone has left a comment! That means at least one person has read at least some of this stuff. What a result ( I believe that's the correct term, but, in case anyone's interested, EVERYTHING is a result - win lose or draw.)
Anyway, today has all the omens for a good day. How do I know? Well, first thing as I came out of the house there were two magpies on the lawn ( one for sorrow, two for joy). As I drove to the office, a black cat crossed my path. Then Jupiter from Holst's Planets came on the radio.
This last always raises my spirits. The final few bars speak of joy, happiness " I will survive" " I WILL conquer" etc etc, so I am always convinced things are going to go well. However,my general caution and forward thinking usually says to itself that it merely means I WON'T crash the car today.
I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A New Beginning

No, nothing to do with Starwars, but a new young chap who has just started in the office today.
His job is to type, all day every day, because my daughter has a virtual office ( - and very good it is too) where people dictate stuff down the internet all day, and night.
How times have changed. A few years ago it would have been a young girl whose ambition was to get married, have a family and be in charge of the typing pool ( that takes you back a bit). Now, Alex, for that is is name, is only using this as a stepping stone to fame and fortune - and I don't think he has any plans for female accompaniment.
But what is interesting is the swing round in young people's attitudes. Over the last 40 years I have seen young people being ambitious for themselves, then a decline, then a surge again in the late seventies. Mrs. Thatcher may have made us all greedier and more self-centred, but she didn't actually make us any more ambitious. That tends to happen when things are running down in the country - people feel they no longer are able to coast and need to " get on".
That is clearly happening now - lots of young people are looking for offices and the services we offer, well up on eg 5 years ago.
It also happens at a turning point, which, I am sure, we have well and truly reached.

Casino Royale

Had an email from BAFTA offering premiere tickets for the new Bond - a mere £35 each. When I asked for some they then had the effrontery to ask whether it was for London or Glasgow. I thought that was a bit dim, until I realised it was sheer laziness - they had sent out invitations to the whole country and when they got the replies back, they couldn't be bothered to check the addresses. Oh well, I suppose I would be the same - although I might have put a tag on the emails to KNOW which was which.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oh what a beautiful MOOOOORning!

I'm sure you know this is from Oklahoma! but it holds equally true here in Glasgow today. It is about 12 Celsius, the sun is , as we say here, splitting the skies, there is no wind, and I have just taken the Bootle for his walk in the local park. There is no doubt we are creatures that require sun and blue skies to feel good.
On the subject of Oklahama, I read that Geography is the wrost taught subject of all in our schools, although Scotland is slightly better than England ( isn't it always??!). So, if anyone ever reads this, there is probably about a 99.9% chance that the reader will have no idea where Oklahoma is. Apparently most children can't find England.
What staggers me is that despite all the billions lavished on all parts of our country over the last ten years, absolutely everything is worse. Bremner Bird and Fortune had a very funny George Parr skit last night on the prison regime, which basically showed the civil servant completely ignoring the questions and the situation. That, of course, is what New Labour does. Difficult situations are ignored. Public outrage is assuaged with a commission and enquiry or in the early days with a Czar ( why not Commissar?). But absolutely no action.
I read a most interesting article the other day which was saying roughly the same thing, but then pointed out that all action ( well nearly) had been via the armed forces. Why? Because you give an order and they carry it out. So that's easy. Everything else our Lords and Masters actually have to make something work, and it's much much easier just to pass a new law. Sounds good looks good and by golly .. er.. screws most things up.
Well, that's the lovely day ruined then.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

OH dear..

I just took a "How nerdy are you" test to discover I am 50% nerdy with a rating of 58. Iain Dale is only 23. And HE knows about Ipods and Podcasts!!

Sore Head

No not because I had too much to drink, but because I had a lump cut off the top.It was beautifully done by the extremely cultured and urbane Indian plastic surgeon who recently took away a couple of my moles. Having excised the lump,he then stapled the gash in what is being described as a work of art by those who have insisted on looking at it.
This is actually the third time I have had a lump removed from exactly the same area. My head looks as if it has been in a knife fight, but the lump keeps growing back.The first time it was done, my children ( quite small at the time) were in terrible tears about the blood oozing down the back of the chair I was sitting in later in the day. The second time the hospital it was done in went bust the next day and the liquidator tried to sue me, having already been paid out by the insurance company.
So this time, I very carefully spoke to the insurers, to the surgeon, to the hospital, and everything appeared to be going swimmingly. I should have known better.
The day before the op, I had a call from the hospital, informing me that NU had no record of anyone with my date of birth, nor any record of having been contacted. So I phoned and asked to speak to the person in the call centre I had spoken to previously. Shock horror, he no longer works there. Interestingly, although you get through to an Indian call centre, when it's a claim you get put back to the UK. At this point I had a small frisson, as the person I had spoken to could not find the name of the particular type of lump I was having removed, and had substituted another kind.
I had a note of this name ( take a tip: always write everything down when you talk to a call centre, and date and time - they record the conversations). So I asked if there was any record of such an operation being authorised at the time and place appointed.
" Oh yes, there is a chap here called Mr. X.Y due to have this operation. - but it's not you."
I asked how the operative knew this.
" Because the date of birth is different"
And what was the date of birth they had?
It turned out to be my wife's DOB. We are, admittedly, on the same policy.
I suppose I should have sent her to have the op.

Friday, October 20, 2006

How to argue with a Bank Manager

We are in the middle of doing a development where ( despite the fact that anyone and his dog can get 100% funding as far as I can see) we are supposed to put up 30%. Originally, DESPITE the fact that the completed building is worth 3 times what we will have spent on it, we were supposed to put additional funding into the company. Never mind the Bank already held huge amounts of additional security, and never mind that we had sufficient capacity in our overdraft facility.
So, as a compromise, we agreed to do a certain amount of the work before the bank was asked to give us any of the money. That's the stage we are currently at, and, I may say, we have been able to cut about 11% off the total cost, making the profit to us even higher, and the borrowing requirement lower. That means instead of loan to value being 35% it will probably end up about 30%.
So today we asked for the first £50,000 drawdown, against approx. £200,000 we have spent. And the Bank said " Where's your contribution?" So I said "Come and see it - we've spent £200k". " How do we know it's worth £200,000? And what if the building is now worth less than when you bought it BECAUSE OF the works you have done?"
There's not a lot you can say when you are choking with astonishment.
So I said " Forget it, I'll take our business elsewhere".
And the Bank said "There's no need for that - the money is available now."
So what was that all about? Well, a little bird told me all the banks are running out of money, as they have lent so much, especially on mortgages, and new regulations and required ratios will shortly come into force. As a result they are all busily packaging these mortgages to sell to third parties ( £ 5 billion at a time I understand) a la Fannie Mae in the States. Which also means the easy money is slowly being squeezed and the housing market is heading for a crash.
Or something.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Back from the smoke

Well here I am back from London, and I must say, I did enjoy myself. Apart from the taxi fares ( total of nearly £50) an exceedingly good meal for 3 was £69 including tip, and my overnight stay, including an exceptionally good breakfast and a most comfy bed, was just £75. But it does take a long time to get anywhere. I can well believe cross town traffic actually moves slower now than it did in the worst period for horse drawn traffic, around 1900, when it was estimated at 11 MPH.
The business reasons for being down were boring, but I had a MOST interesting meeting with the Mihai Eminescu Trust. They are the people who are saving the Saxon Villages of Transylvania from the ravages of the modern day. Apart from someone wanting to build a Dracula Themepark ( where do they get these people?), the villages and the area have an extraordinary amount to offer. The houses and villages are stunningly attractive, and ideal for those who have had enough of the present " exceptional and outstanding monolithic chunk of concrete for only £299,999". Sell France, buy Romania!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Wages of Politics....

kinglear You probably haven't seen this, but our own Dear Leader ( Jack McConnell that is) has just bought himself a holiday home on beautiful Scottish Island.
Nothing very extraordinary about that, you might say. However, in these days of Socialist Egalitarianism ( wot that??) he has paid over £250,000. That's two fingers to the workers isn't it?
Oh, and by the way, it was offers over £160,000, so I expect he really, really wanted to be able to take Kirstie Wark somewhere nice

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Only a few hundred redundancies

In case you didn't hear this , Mr. Blair insisted at his news conference today( why call it anything to do with News is beyond me) that there would only be a few hundred redundancies in the NHS.
Quite apart from asking why there are going to be ANY such redundancies, it behoves us all to ask why - if this is true - every constituency in the land appears to be up in arms with what is happening to its health services. I'm not convinced the Tories are right with their 20,000 to go, but, on the other hand, we were assured a couple of years ago that only 13,000 Poles, Czechs etc would land here in the two years after these countries became members of the EU.
Ah, now I have it. As we now know some 600,000 have come ( even the government admits to " more than 450,000" ), that is a ratio of Government Statement to Truth of about 1/46.
20,000 NHS scrapheapers at the same ratio would be 434.78, so on THIS basis, Blair was telling the Truth. Well, not quite, but I'm sure you get my drift.


You all obviously know that King Lear had three daughters and the youngest was the only one who spoke the truth, and was nice to her old dad. This, of course, is not true in my own case, as I have no intention of giving away the dosh until I'm gone - and even then I might take it with me.
But more importantly, 3rd September is a pivotal date in any given year.
For example, the Second World War began officially on 3rd September. More importantly, it ended on 3rd September. That was in 1990 of course, and only because that was the date of the second reunification of Germany.
In case you think this is the sort of drivel that will be pumped out from here, the answer is " non". Well, most of the time anyway.