Friday, March 30, 2007

The Last Valley

I don't know if you ever saw this fim which starred Michael Caine and Omar Sharif, but where I am in Transylvania is just like it. The Saxon houses are delightful and the area simply brimming with health at this time of year. Geese are being protective of their nests as eggs are due to hatch. Piglets are running around. Lambs and kids are frolicing away. Even the dogs have puppies. The blossom is out and the buds are appearing on the trees. Jenschen violets carpet the hills.
Why am I bothering to go back to Glasgow? That is actually quite a serious question.
The one thing I find a touch tedious is that everything requires a committee meeting - including what time to meet tomorrow morning. As we have met before 8am every day so far, I assumed it would be the same tomorrow, even though it's Saturday. Not a bit of it. After about 20 minutes discussion - all of which was carefully translated for me - it was decided we didn't need to meet so early. Ten past eight would be fine.
I encountered the first hostility today in all the time I've been here. Not hostility exactly, but a sudden realisation that - if I wanted to - I could swamp an existing situation and take it away from a particular person. In one village there are 2 equal powers. There is much that the local mayor wants to sell to improve matters. The other people simply don't have enough money to buy even one hectare of ground, and farm between them about 20 hectares, owned by the town council in another village. We are being offered 115 hectares including the land presently farmed, with a view to the other land becoming economic and profitable again. Naturally there was a certain worry.
What to do? The present rental for the 20 hectares is the sum of 80 kgs of goats cheese, 2 lambs and 2 pigs a year. So maybe in UK terms about 100 pounds - in Romania about 20. The other 95 hectares are what we want some of which is suffering from erosion and requires significant works before it can be brought into use again. So, with Solomon like wisdom, I said that the existing rent would continue, but that I would gift the cheese to the community, and - as we were going to be employing people on the land - we would arrange for the sheep and pigs to be raised in the community. This went down like a storm and we all ended drinking various bottles of liquors made from all sorts of different fruits, potatoes, corn and wheat.
Fortunately both my driver and translator poured theirs into the pigswill, so there are bound to be some pretty hungover pigs tomorrow.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Back in Romania

As the Beatles song has it "back in the USSR.. You don't know how lucky you are..."
Not strictly true, but everything starts here at 8am. I was at the Bank promptly this morning, first in the queue. It then took 45 minutes to change some money and pay into our company account here. They have't quite got the idea of Capitalism yet.
But it's a beautiful day, crisp and clear with the sun shining, and I am going to meet interesting people - hopefully to sign a deal.
It is truly a most joyful and amusing place. I was sitting in the bus from Bucharest Airport going to the station and there were a couple of people in the centre of town carrying lambs, with the mother ewes following meekly behind. Wonderful. I assume they were being taken to a butcher's shop.
On the train trip to Sigihisoara, I take a meal as it is very good and cheap. It is also cooked after you order it. I had pork fillet and chips with vegetables, a bottle of beer and coffee. Pounds Sterling 4 including tip. And that is seriously expensive here. I also read a book I've been given about bees and bee-keeping. I won't be doing any of it in the near future, but as I am meeting the bee-keeping cooperative tomorrow I though I better have some knowledge.
If you want to know more have a look at

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Days of Glory

Told you this would be a great film. REALLY well acted, well written,well produced and not too long - ie good editing. Almost all films are about 20 minutes too long nowadays, but THIS one was perfect.
Go and see it. The French treated their colonial troops about as well as we did. This is a 5 star, 10/10 film.

Monday, March 26, 2007


These birds are often referred to as flying rats.
According to the garden survey just released, they have increased by 666% over the last ten years.
Says it all really.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brilliant? NOT!

Brown's budget has turned round and clearly given him a really nasty bite. I'm glad he is now the most hated politician in Britain. Weirdly, it probably has nothing to do with the lowest under £18,000 getting less money, and all to do with the fact that if you hand out wads of cash, at some point you have to stop. If you have been receiving the cash, you mightily resent not getting it any more.
It was only a matter of time before Our Tone escaped the most hated politician position. When you are a genius politician it becomes not too difficult to beat a psycho.
What is really interestimg is that Brown clearly thought it was a masterstroke. It just goes to show how judgement decays with power. On the other hand, he may never have been that good a politician. We simply keep being told he is.
Or maybe Tone egged him on, realising what would happen.
Now that really is a masterstroke.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Last Wolf in Scotland..

.. is not dead
Only sleeping
He is no shaggy dog story
He is never in danger of being killed
But rather of dying of neglect
If the last wolf promised to renounce violence
He would be allowed to lie by any peat fire in Scotland
But his paws keep the memories of Battles.

This is part of a poem by Kenneth Steven, of whom I had never heard.
There are a couple more lines which didn't particularly impinge on me, and this is all that I can remember.
It is a synonym for Scotland itself. We have become like the wolf,destined to lie dormant, until now relying on handouts and scraps, where before we made things happen right across the world. Even in Startrek they couldn't do without a Scottish engineer ( even if he was only pretending).
But I just get the feeling - the merest smidgeon of a tickle - that things are changing.
Whereas before the brightest and the best moved out from their homeland to make their way in England or America, or Asia, now they are beginning to stay. People from elsewhere are beginning to come to Scotland to work and thrive. Our population ( admittedly partly due to an influx of immigrants) is beginning to rise again. There's a buzz to the cities that has not existed for more than two generations.Even the Arts is flourishing as never before.
Weirdly, this may actually have something to do with the Scottish Parliament, which most people would say has done nothing for Scotland.
I would argue that it has. Scotland always did best when it was proud and fierce and loyal to itself.Despite the carping from many quarters, the Parliament has given us a focus which we conspicuously lacked.
I just hope we don't let the SNP screw it up for us.

Friday, March 23, 2007

What's the next line?

The Worder arrived in the village at the winter solstice. No one saw him arrive. From one moment to the next he simply appeared.

Take a look at H&SE on The Croydonian

It's really funny.

Chaos in the Chateau

Did you see it? DID YOU SEE IT?
I can't believe it is not an elaborate spoof. It is the funniest programme I have seen for years and Ann the lady owner is a comic genius without knowing it. I haven't laughed as much at anything since the original Fawlty Towers.
If it really is real, I have every intention of going to stay there.

Worse off AGAIN

I hadn't thought about it but the 2p off income tax means that less money will go into your pension. Presently, if you pay £100 into your pension, the Treasury tops it up to approx. £128. NOW, if you pay £100 in, it will - hey presto - only be approx. £125.50. So in case that is too difficult to understand, it means that the Treasury is paying out about £3billion LESS each year ie it is a £3billion tax INCREASE.
I'm leaving.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Everybody's Doing it....

... picking their nose, chewing it.
Words old Kinglear used to sing when he'd had a few. I think the first part came from a real song and the latter part from his somewhat fevered mind.
YouTube and Guido have an excellent clip of Bliar speaking yesterday, with GB behind him, picking his nose several times, eating it and then wiping his finger on his tie.
Now Mrs.Lear would be the last person to suggest that I never pick my nose. She does insist, however, that I do it in private.
I do try.

I'm DEFINITELY worse off

I've just spent an hour with a calculator, a sliderule, a set of log tables a wad of paper and a pen.
This year, I am £30.82 per month wrose off.
Next year it looks like £50.16, and the year after £70.67.
Now this does not take into account the potential rise in council tax ( it's heavy in Scotland). If you take inflation into account I will be yet another £100 per month worse off in 2009.
It's time I left.

Better off? I don't think so.

Do you think you will be better off as a result of Gordon Brown's last Budget as Chancellor?
The results:
Yes - 9%
No - 91%
Results from This is money.
I don't think the con has worked.

From Iain Dale's Diary

Brown is such a lair. Iain Dale posted this. Even Brown had to admit on BBC Breakfast show that it was a neutral budget. It might be this year, but it takes more in next year and even more the year after. Shyster.

Brown has made much of the increase of £150 in child tax credit and £1200in the maximum income before the working tax credit starts toget withdrawn. But have a look on Annex A Page 8 of 32 bottom of page paragraph A14 (page 212 of whole document) "A.14 From 6th April 2008, the rate at which tax credits are withdrawn will increase from 37 per cent to 39 per cent."In otherwords, if you are on tax credits the cut in income tax from 22 to 20% iscancelled by the increase in tax credit withdrawal from 37 to 39%, plus you getthe increase from 10-20% with the starting rate abolition.The increase in child tax credit by £150 if you have children helps and the rasingof start of withdrawal from £5220 to £6420 also offsets the rises to the extentthat the very low paid are a little better off, but this is no giveawayfor the low paid. They are still taxed at 70% for every extra pound they earn(20% income tax, 11% national insurance, 39% tax credit withdrawal).

Wife in the North

Phew! She's back home. Thank goodness she didn't top herself.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

THAT Budget.

Its brilliant! He steals a headline ( Basic rate cut by 2p) BUT screws everybody.. The Youngest Miss Lear phoned in great excitement to tell me that he must be a brilliant politician, but, basically, we were all screwed. The Eldest Miss Lear emailed to say whatever happened she would be paying more tax. Middle Miss Lear said Eldest Miss Lear earned too much money anyway and deserved it.
But seriously, especially if you are on a low salary, you will pay more. You WILL become more dependant on the State. You WILL not be able to save or do overtime or move up the social scale because you WILL pay 70% on your incremental earnings.
It's the worst possible sort of gerrymandering and will create even more of an immobile and hopeless underclass.
Like I said, it's brilliant.

Wife in the North - and Tapestry Talks

I am very worried about Wife in the North. No sign of her return, and she permanently appears to be down in the dumps. Even the £70k she is getting for her blog-book doesn't appear to have cheered her up. No wonder her husband spends time away.
And what about Tapestry Talks? No word since 9th January. Most worrying.

The 300

Yes well, I was BAFTAing last night to see the 300. It's complete drivel. Badly acted, dreadful script, awful accents. Body count into the tens of thousands, including rhinocerous and elephants.
"Sigh" and it should have been good. The story is, after all, one of the great heroic pages of history, and the producers and director have form as making decent films.
What really annoyed me was that Leonides, King of Sparta ( Greece don't you know) kept slipping into a Glasgow burr, which somewhat ruined the dramatic moments. The fight scenes were good, though I could have done with less blood all over the place, and they became a bit repetitive.
Next week should be good, though - " Days of Glory". Its about North African soldiers making their way through Italy and France during WWII. A sort of Afro-French " Band of Brothers". My French correspondents all say it is "superbe!!". But then, the French say that about ALL French films.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Modern Morality Tale

I know I'm a boring old whatsit, but I was taken aback by the following - although I don't suppose I should be really.
A friend of mine, Mr. Executive, married a younger woman some 18 years ago. He had been busy earning money and building a business during difficult times, so perhaps did not pay as much attention to Mrs.Executive as he should. Needless to say, she found comfort in the arms of another man - after 3 children - who just happened to be Mr.Executive's best friend. The two of them waltzed off, taking a large slice of Mr.E's loot. They marry.
Mr. E was somewhat shattered, but about 3 years later found a kindly gentle soul to live with and marry.
Roll on about 8 years. Mrs.E and Mr.Best Friend have 2 children. But Mrs. E is now 40. So Mr.BF changes her for a younger model ( 28) even although Mr. BF is 49. And guess what? Mr.BF doesn't have any money. So HE waltzes off with most of Mrs. exExecutives dosh which was my friend's to start with.
And my friend, who was pretty innocent in all this, is now being sued by Mrs.exExecutive for more money, and is liable to get it too. Effectively my friend is supporting 3 families, all because he is the only one with any money. As he so cogently put it :" I'd be better off going bankrupt. At least the ******** wouldn't get any more money"

The Pigeon ( continued)

It was in a box. Two policemen drove it to Lugton about 25 minutes away, and left it in an animal sanctuary there. It was let out of the box and flew away.

Monday, March 19, 2007

That ICM poll and Brown

I was talking today to a Tory Councillor ( in the south needless to say) who is about to go to Cambridge to be interviewed as a potential Parliamentary candidate.
I have known him a long time, and have never known him to make a mistake in his political judgement.
He says Bliar will go 1st or 2nd May, completely overshadowing the elections ( clever move eh?) Brown will give away masses of stuff and call an election in October.
Tories absolute majority, LibDems under 20 seats - game over.
Or Brown will wait until 2010 and be completely wiped out.

Pleasing to Man

The anagram is Leamington Spa. Rather like the correctness of the sentiment.

I don't believe it.

We are taking down a derelict building beside one of our other properties. It isn't big, in fact its only one floor, entirely within our own ownership and within an area we own in its entirety. We've done all the right things ( building warrant etc etc).
A pigeon came and nested in the rafters. One of the tenants in the next door building said we were to look after the pigeon. We did. We carefully put it in a box and gave it to her.
So she 'phoned the RSPCA. Who called the police. Who have been here for more than an hour whilst everyone stands around wondering what to do. Which includes the Police and the RSPCA.
It's a pigeon, not a great crested whatever in danger of extinction.
They shoot pigeons, don't they?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mine and Thine

I've just spent the best part of two days in London, in an underground bunker, trying to sort out a business in which I have an investment. Actually, that's not strictly true. I spent two days and most of two nights doing it.
The problem is a simple one. The guy who runs the business ( Mr. Interweb) is a brilliant IT and Interwebthingy bloke, but really rubbish at admin and recording things. So although lots of cash had come in, and not all of it gone out, there was no tie up between the figures. It was further complicated by the fact that he was due 25% for his expenses, and he took the 25% from the top line, rather than the cash received.
But it was all amicably sorted. He at least knew he was making a mess, and had the guts to ask for help. How many others in a similar situation would do this? People are too afraid nowadays about covering their backsides, when a simply " Sorry, I screwed up" would both enhance the perpetrators reputation for honestly, and cost less in the long run to sort out.
In the long run, this could be a highly profitable business, but at the moemnt its scale is too small for the overhead.
But its growing.
Anagram of the day: PLEASING TO MAN
Answer tomorrow. It was in the Telegraph Crossword on Friday, and - a clue - if I hadn't lived nearby I would never have got it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Scottish Skiing is Hopeless

This is not my opinion but the opinion of a Swiss ski instructor. He was, however, referring to a period some years ago.
But his remark did remind me of the time a relative ( well not really related at all - wife's step-mother's new husband) began skiing. This was before WWII. You bought the skiis and bindings and had to fit them yourself. And the skis were about 3 feet taller than you were.
Anyway, Mr.Relative bought and sorted his skis, then headed for the hills with some pals. They drove until they found a gentle slope, beautifully covered with virgin snow. They got out of the car and Mr. Relative duly strapped on the skis. He set off most gracefully, with a magnificent hissss and swish, and reached the bottom of the slope, and came to a halt just as it began to turn upwards once more. Great shouts from his friends looking on.
And with that, it all came to a sticky end. The white stuff he was standing on started to move, and at an ever increasing speed. Judging discretion to be the better part of valour, he threw himself sideways, only to continue in the same direction. Shortly thereafter, the white stuff opened up - and unceremoniously dumped him on the hillside.
He had skied onto the backs of some sheep, minding their own business under the snow, in a sheltered spot.
I regret to say this can still happen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

God and the Easter Egg die.

Many years ago, when the Ms. Lears were very small, one of them spilled all the easter egg die over her bedroom carpet. Being a tidy wee soul, she promptly got a wet sponge and tried to clear it up, with what can only be described as gloriously disastrous results. When upbraided by Mrs. Lear, the wee soul said that " Maybe God would magic it away."
Quote " Unless ye have faith as little children..."
I won't go on as this is not really a religious post. It has to do with belief - which can be in lots of different things ( fairies, Jedi, God etc.).
Unless we really believe that something is possible, it won't happen. Half-hearted attempts at projects never work. It is principle and belief that make things happen.
Which is why - now that even Gordon Brown has changed his mind about Trident - NuLabour is destined for the dung heap of history. If you can't have a belief you don't deserve the power to make a difference.

Wrinkles don't hurt.

Start of a quotation from an extremely smiley middle-aged lady - which goes on..." just all the bits underneath them"

One shoe syndrome

I am permanently astonished at the number of single shoes that appear all over the place. I came across one this morning in the yard of our offices. One shoe. A lady's shoe. Quite well made and relatively new. Our yard is locked at night. Noone could have got in, except by climbing over a thirty foot wall and across a railway line.
The only other alternative is that somebody was extremely cross about something, and hurled it over the wall and into the yard. They would have to have been extremely cross. Perhaps a girl with her boyfriend. Or the boyfriend with the girl. Or a drunk girl with herself.
The single shoes do appear everywhere though. I came across one in the carpark at Edinburgh Airport on Friday.
I keep looking for a one-legged person.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Chatten Flirten und Texten

This was the headline on a billboard I passed in Switzerland on Saturday.
In case you don't speak German, it says " Chart, Flirt and Text".
The internet and the mobile has finally made the world English.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I drove past our wonderful Parliament building this afternoon.
It looks not a lot from the cramped up-close view one gets. It certainly does not have the presence of Holyrood Palace across the way, set in a vista, and with a solid presence.
The Scottish Parliament building, on the other hand, looks now rather like a rather drab Swiss concrete 1960's building with some odd bits stuck on to bring it into the 90s.
And it's getting very grubby. But then, we are talking Edinburgh.
A Godfather of mine, a career diplomat, was asked, many years ago, about the Cities he had stayed in. The talk got around to dirt and grubbiness..
"The two dirtiest cities I know are Edinburgh and Hanchow", he averred. " But then, Hanchow does have a 5000 year start"

Labour and how not to make things work

I had dinner this evening with an executive who, two years ago, was seconded to the Office of Deputy Prime Minister.
You may ask why. Simple. Prescott and his office had a budget of £500,000,000 ( yes that's half a billion) for some daft project, due to last three years. But after TWO years, they had still not decided what to do to get "value" for the taxpayer. So my friend was brought in to give guidance and get the ball rolling. He spent six months sitting in endless, boring meetings, were nothing was decided, except the date of the next sub-committee meeting. Noone would take a lead, make a definitive suggestion, or even take up any of the ideas put forward by the massed ranks of consultants called in to produce report after report.
At the end of his six months ( 2.5 years into the project) some £150million had been spent, with nothing at all to show for it, apart from ever growing piles of mouldering paper.
Sound familiar? Well, the NHS has suffered from the same thing - except they wasted even more money by implementing the changes, again and again and again so that - surprise - we are actually back to where it all started in 1997. So that's not just £150million, it's something like £36 BILLION wasted. And er, we are back where we started because, er, well it worked better than anything else we suggested, only now we are making it even better by er a) getting rid of nurses b) doctors etc etc.
It's the same with every other department. Labour actually has no ideas, and never had. As I've said before - no principles and therefore no worthwhile action.
Just the wrong action.

Education for Young Black Men

This is a little late I know, but I have been busy.
Some committee funded by us, the taxpayers, has announced that Young Black Men are falling prey to the "instituional " racism of schools.This is because some 12% of the School population of Young Black Man ( YBM in future - its boring typing it again and again) are regularly excluded, whilst similar Whites are onlt 5%, whilst for Asians its less than 1%.
I don't know that many young people at school, but I DO know that Asian families stay together. I also know that, according to national police statistics, 70% of all muggings are perpetrated by YBMs. And I also know that the Black ( Afro-Carribean) communities suffer the highest percentage of single parent families and absconding fathers.
Just in case you don't get it, because their fathers are not around, the YBMs have less chance of being guided as they grow up, and , accordingly, less control and discipline.
So please don't insult our intelligence by suggesting that the schools are "subconsciously" anti-black. They are not. The YBMs behave badly. They get excluded and deserve it. What we SHOULD be doing is NOT issuing platitudinous rubbish, and try to teach them about fatherhood and responsibility.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ming again and the Populus poll

If anyone has looked at Political Betting today, they will note that the Conservative vopte is given as is the Labour, but the LibDems are given as ??. The same applies to the leadership question. How appropriate.
Why would you vote LibDem when you can have Dave, and you voted Conservative until the sainted Bliar? And you only voted for him because you thought he was a LibDem anyway? Dave, on the other hand clearly IS a LibDem....
The other thing that does now seem to be sinking in to the population in general is that a) we are overtaxed b) the taxes aren't making things better and c) er, there's sunfink going on about peerages and money or sunfink in Landan.
You bet.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Ming , PR, and the coalition

I always knew he was mad. He might be trying to be clever over the Scottish Elections in May, but forget under 40 seats next time - he's fast heading for less than 20.

Fire Drill

Back home now, but no thanks to various hotel staff who have THREE TIMES in the last three days tried to incinerate me. Fortunately, in each case, it was merely an over-enthusiastic sensor. Once set of f by smoker in the wrong place, once by steam from the bathroom, and finally, at 2am this morning, by the girl on the desk ( first and almost certainly last night in charge) making herself toast.
The other people this morning were most ineresting. Everyone had managed to dress ( or didn't want to sleep in the beds UN-dressed) and were remarkably cheery. Nearly eveyone sympathised with the poor girl, who was in floods of tears. Apart from one niggly bastard, who immediately demanded a refund - and no it wasn't me or Mrs. Lear.
I may say when I went to check out this morning the room rate was already off the bill, so hats off to Premier Travel Inns.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Any offers?

I was talking with the Mihai Eminisceau Trust yesterday about a wonderful Manor House they are looking to rent out over the summer in Romania.
It sleeps up to 9 and is a truly magnificent building,set in the last truly ecological area of Europe. It does not have a swimming pool, but the area is rich in heritage and the horse riding, walking, and Unesco World Heritage sites in the area are fantastic.
They are wondering what to charge for it on a weekly basis. Any suggestions?

Iain Dale on Cheney

Brilliant line on Dale's Diary today.
" No Country ever got rich on taxation."
Somebody should high-jack it over here.

Excitement In the Smoke

Down in London for a trade show this weekend. Drove down yesterday without any hassle, and made all the appointments for late in the day. I am permanently astonished at how cars and vans stop at pedestrian crosssings. In Glasgow people don't use crossings, and noone stops for you anyway.
What has interested me this time is that the people I am meeting ( OK I know they are probably more politically connected than your average voter) appear to be in a state of genuine excitement. This is in distinct contrast to the last time I was down less than a month ago, where it all seemed quite dull. Maybe it is the fact that people are now declaring they will stand as Deputy Leader, and maybe it is because the " Electoral Calculus" is moving Dave's way. The Clarke road show - despite being a showcase for a debate -showed just how bereft of any ideas NuLabour is. Beyond trying to retain their seats of course.
And the title for this blog is of course completely wrong. London is no longer " The Smoke". Perhaps the greatest achievements of Government are not connected with equality, education etc etc. Perhaps the difference between the London of my childhood and now is the greatest legacy of Government.
It was a Tory one of course.