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.