Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Old Soldiers..

.. never die, but this government does it's best to kill them off.
Ian Dale has the story of a VC Gurkha, refused permission to live in this country " because he has no strong links with the UK"
Except he fought for us for years in the jungle against the Japanese and the Malays, and won a VC. For Valour.
I'm on the Scottish committee of the Gurkha Welfare Trust. There are thousands of ex-Gurkhas with no income at all and the GWT pays some 10,000 of then a monthly stipend. I am ashamed of our government's treatment of all our forces, but especially of the Gurkhas, which is why I give my time and money to help them.
Please donate if you can.

Making money

I know we earn all the time, but I am a trifle stunned by one of my investments at the moment.
Bought over a period of two years with a view to making me a million by the time I die, it has gone up in an almost straight line for the last month.What to do? Take a few profits of course. It rises again. Take a few more. It keeps going. And going. So sell some more. And up it goes. Again. And again. Sell more. Up. Sell more. Up and Up.It's actually compounding at 6%. Per day. It cannot continue. Just like the property prices. That was 5 years ago we said that. And effectively every sale has been wrong - too cheap.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Insatiable lust for power,incurable incompetence

So said Winston Churchill of the postwar Labour Government. Andrew Marr's programme on BBC2 tonight was rather good, and more honest that many other programmes of a similar nature.Churchill had it right of course. This present government could be summed up in exactly the same words.
Churchill also said, in the Commons debate on dismemberment of the Empire ," Many had defended her ( Britain) but she can no more defend herself"
History never repeats itself exactly, but our postwar dependence on America has come full circle again, and we are once more merely their forward aircraft carrier - and a pretty dodgy one at that.
Marr's programme had several piercing insights. Not least was the Labour Nationalisation strategy of 1947. Rather like Bliar's triple education ( say it and it's spell will make it happen) the incantantion of Nationalisation was meant to bring not only power but profit to the people. What that government and Old Labour never realised is that it is profit that brings the power, not the other way around. Marr's statement that Labour had no strategy or even management ability to run the great nationalised industries meant they withered and died.
I rather liked the thesis that the Ealing films captured the moment and reflected young postwar Britain's desire to escape from control and rationing. I loved Stafford Cripps' broadcast " I'm sorry, I have to say no.We can't allow any more rations." Imagine someone saying that today. It would be spun anyway. " Oh course you can have what you want" and then no delivery, rather like the NHS, Police, Education and all the rest.
Anagram of the day:REAL FUN = FUNERAL

Monday, May 21, 2007

Not in Romania

I'm not going this month, because they have been having an election so all the mayors have been very busy.
I'm missing it. I'm going for longer next month.
So that's all right then.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I am being berated by various of the Miss Lear's about not putting hyperlinks in to take people to other blogs or articles. I apologise in advance for the following and hope by present guru will help with this later.
Lord Goderich ( has a short piece on education. It pretty much mirrors something I suspect most people know, but are scared to say.
Forget respect, forget not failing, forget inflating passes, forget the lot, but somewhere along the line we need to restore proper discipline. Add in the fact we must get our literacy rate up and you can largely get rid of everything else.
The Telegraph magazine has a good article about prisons today. It's thesis is that the drop in crime is largely a product of locking people up. This is because - as a generalisation - most crime is committed by about 100,000 under 25s. It's a continuing number, but as they get locked up for a period, the area in which they operate improves. They are mostly young males. Again I blogged on this before - no adult males telling them how it is. Interestingly, a step-father ( or I guess that should be partner) is no substitute, because the mother tends to shy away from parenting and concentrate on the new man in her life. Weirdly, single mums with less than three children do rather well - provided they remain single mums. David Copperfield, that excellent police whistleblower, has a similar theme. The most wanted posters in police stations tend to have the same 15 or 20 people on them - some get caught and are removed for a while, but once out, they reappear on the wanted list. There's more to steal so more gets stolen.
So what's the answer? More police to catch more of the criminals. More prisons to keep repeat offenders off the streets. Discipline at home and in schools.
And for heaven's sake teach them to read, write and do arithmetic. Without it there will be no jobs for them and no betterment in reoffending rates.

Friday, May 18, 2007


I am very into this. Ever since I discovered it I have been practicing it and find it entirely therapeutic. It is much better than thalassotherapy, yoga,meditation, aromatherapy, or any other therapy you care to mention. This includes therapy therapy ( analysis) - not that I have ever had this, although Mrs. Lear thinks I need it.
Overall my wellbeing has increased markedly since I began ecotherapy. My muscles are toned, I am generally more cheerful, more able to cope and my chloresterol level has dropped. Actually that last is a lie as I refuse to allow anyone to check me for anything. If I'm going to die I want to do so without worrying about it.
What are the other benefits? Well, I sport a healthy tanned look. I wish I could say my hair was growing to cover the somewhat thin spots, but unfortunately I will need to go for the "getting hit about the head "option that is in all the papers.
I should mention I discovered this miracle cure whilst in Romania. However, I understand it is available practically anywhere, and it's practitioners make a point of not insisting on a specific location.
Generally, in Romania, I find myself with two or three others, similarly engaged in ecotherapy. Afterwards, we tend to find our way to a hostelry of some description, in order to allow the slow wind down process that is so important with any form of therapy.
I have to admit I am an ecotherapy purist. That is to say, I refuse to undertake a course when the weather is inclement. However, when the sun's out,the birds are singing and the wild boars are not attacking, I find myself drawn to undertake an ecotherapy course once again. I doubt I will do it in the winter.
So there you have it. I am a convert. You should be too. I should mention it is to all intents and purposes free, so not only is it good for your health, it's good for your bank balance as well.
I would give you a contact number to get started, but I don't know your 'phone number.
What? Yes, you can do it on your own.
It's taking a walk in the country.
When it's sunny.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Those English Council Elections

We have a friend staying at the moment who acted as an officer supervising the vote and subsequently acted as a teller, actually counting the votes.
His experience - admittedly in a down market area - should give pause to all those who think Democracy is alive and well in Britain.
His first observation was that nearly all the voters were over 50 - including some dragging their oxygen bottles with them, but determined to vote all the same. There was a very - very - small number of people who were first time voters, who regarded it as all of a bit of a lark. The 25 -50 year olds were to all intents and purposes non-existent.
The next bit is seriously scary. Of the approximately 300 people who voted in that ward, more than 30 could not read or write. Some had brought friends to help them. Others asked my friend to read the list and had him point to each in turn. One woman had brought her 15 year old daughter and her truculent boyfriend. The younger element cut up rough when the mother and my friend would not let the daughter actually do the voting.
Only about 25% of the potential electorate turned up. So probably something like 30% of that ward of voters could neither read nor write. What amazed me was that any of the illiterate turned up to vote. I regard that as an absolute triumph.
More importantly,I find it utterly disgusting that we continue to turn children out unable to read or write.All the social engineering in the world won't help these people without literacy and communication skills.
Bliar was right with his triple enunciation of Education. The only problem was he thought that was all he had to do - oh, and spend extra billions to no effect. I suspect that literacy in the UK is now worse than before the last war, and probably since mid-victorian times. The one thing our forebears were sure about was that the 3 Rs ( sic) were critical to progress.
So I don't care what your politics are. It's time there was a complete rethink about how we are going to educate our children - even to the point of teaching them nothing else until they can read and write.
Without it, we as a nation will be utterly sunk in another couple of generations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

So he made it

Alex Salmond is Scotland's new First Minister. It will be interesting to see who all the people are who voted for him, but I sense a Tony Blair moment.
Remember 1997? Remember how it looked as if there was going to be real progress? Respect? Better NHS? Better Police? I won't bore you but if you didn't feel there was at least a possibility that things " could only get better" you were definitely a curmudgeon.
There's a similar feel to Salmond's acceptance speech today. He states he will only work in Scotland's interests and no others. That is definitely something Scots voters want to hear. Labour lost out because their people in Scotland put the UK Government first in it's calculations, not Scotland. I suspect that was not their original intention, but it's what happened - power is seductive and prone to dull one's instincts.
Scotland may not break away from the UK, but the political parties up here will have to rethink their allegiances. The Scottish LibDems and Tories need to have separate policies for Scotland and not ally themselves too closely with Westminster. If they don't, within 10 years the SNP will have an absolute majority on their own. NuLabour, of course, has a serious problem in this regard - without Scottish and Welsh MPs they would never rule at Westminter at all, and developing a separate policy will be almost impossible given Brown's predilictions.
David Cameron's suggestion, reported in today's papers, that he would bar Scottish MPs from voting on purely English matters is entirely sensible, and, as I've said before, the party that solves the West Lothian question will sweep all of England into it's maul.
So let's give Alex the benefit of the doubt for now. After all, we did it for Tony.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My Auntie's 90th Birthday

Yesterday was my Aunt's 90th Birthday. She is the last survivor of my parent's generation of my forebears. She was my mother's younger sister.
A year ago, I wouldn't have put money on her lasting another week, never mind another year. But last it she has and in better form and shape that I thought possible. We had a lovely day, with the lunch menu dictated by herself ( shepherd's pie with peas, and icecream and meringues) My cousin , her daughter, did the needful and we travelled down to East Yorkshire for the occasion.
Two things struck me particularly. Travelling down the east side of the country is infinitely worse than the west.It is actually impossible to get a drinkable cup of coffee between Edinburgh and London, unless you nip off into the larger towns and find somewhere. Even the places that boast eg Cafe Nerro turn out to be aspirations rather than fact.We were, however, offered various evil cups of instant coffee, all of which we declined.When you need a heart-starter, you need a heart-starter.
The second was about longevity. Supposedly, only one in a thousand live to be 90. We know quite a few nonagenarians, and all of them have one thing in common.They are all somewhat eccentric to a greater or lesser degree,and unfailingly cheerful. I'm sure it has something to do with natural selection. Very few committees have ever made any progress, which appears to come mostly from outliers of the human race. I'm sure that there are a few in every generation who are programmed to question and probe, to ridicule and go off at a tangent, just so the human race can progress. There don't appear to be any animals who " progress" in the way that humans do, so there must be a gene somewhere that makes the difference.
At the very least, it makes life more enjoyable.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A woman and her builder.

I've just been to sort out some fire doors, and had to stand in a queue whilst about 20 women and their builders ordered kitchens, bathrooms and other parapharnalia. The women were all neatly dressed with their war paint on. Smart but casual. Beside them were variously aged builders, all in the regulation jeans falling down and white T-shirt. Some of them were even quite good looking in a macho sort of way. Even the ugly ones were macho. Most hadn't shaved. For a while.
You would have thought that the women ( aged between, oh say 35 and 50) were on their first dates. The gazed adoringly at these creatures. They patted the brawny, bare arms, even letting their fingers dwell fleetingly, as they withdrew their fingers, slowly, to rest on the counter top. Near the arm.
The supercharged longing at the trade counter was palpable. It did occur to me that Wife in the North was probably not treating her builder this way, and that was why she was having a few problems.
Clearly, these women's husbands were not providing satisfaction.
A friend of mine who sells upmarket kitchens and bathrooms says he can always tell when a husband has been unfaithful. His wife orders a top of the range kitchen. Even as he blanches whilst writing the cheque, he is meekly intoning " Yes dear". It's much cheaper than a divorce. And they get to keep the cook, cleaner and child chauffeuse.
I don't think this was the case with the women this afternoon.
But it did occur to me that the UK's society had changed under Bliar.
Whereas before a woman's hairdresser was the most important person in her life, nowadays it's her builder.


Courtesy of the Herald Diary, I love this.
The Tales of Para Handy are about the West Coast Puffers that used to ply their trade along Scotland's Coast, and the scrapes that Para Handy, Master of The Vital Spark, used to get into.
It was made into a TV series in the '60s with Roddy MacMillan, and remade in the '90s with Ricky Fulton.
It was largely filmed on the Island of Islay, and when extras were needed, a quick visit to the local pub filled the positions quickly.
One man,slightly the worse for wear and ignoring the fact that Para Handy is fictional, told the recruiter." Haw hey, you should pick me. I'm Para Handy's cousin" " Really?" said the somewhat bemused media person.
" Aye. I'm Para Lytic."
Boom boom!

The show is over now...

Well actually it isn't but you get the drift.
I'm astonished noone has mentioned Louis Carol and the Cheshire Cat.
Remember? It sat in the tree and slowly disappeared, until nothing was left but it's grin.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Living Saints

We gave dinner last night to the two people I know most akin to living saints. They live mostly in Africa and teach, translate the Bible, help their community, and pray.
They have brought up three children. They raise all their own funds. The say Grace before meals. When they are unsure about something, they pray for guidance.
With all this, they don't ram it down anyone's throat.
I first met them when Mr.Saint was looking for a flat about 30 years ago. He had no money, but, when he told me the Lord would provide, I gave it to him anyway. And the Lord - or somebody - did, and He has continued in the same vein.
Their ambition is entirely to help their friends and neighbours. They are anything but unworldly, yet at the same time remain simple and straightforward. I can't actually imagine them ever being tempted by anything that might tempt you or me.Not even pride.
If more people were like them the world might arguably not have advanced much, but it would certainly not be as stressed.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Gurkha Welfare Trust Curry Lunch

I was in Edinburgh today for the Curry lunch. For the first time in a long time we managed to get outside - normally the wind and rain is such that only a madman would venture out. Within 10 minutes the sun went and the rain returned - only to reverse itself about 20 minutes later, and thereafter at regular intervals.
I was in charge of the raffle, and I am pleased to say we raised more than had ever been raised before. The lunch was excellent. Last year, there were no poppadums - there had been at the Glasgow event and there was much acerbic comment. This year, in an effort to outdo Glasgow, Edinburgh laid on not only poppadums but PRAWN CRACKERS as well. These are not Nepali. People didn't bother with them. Much acerbic comment again. I think it has something to do with Edinburgh.
One of the lovely people there bewailed the fact that she found people in Edinburgh not particularly friendly. " If only the Glaswegians lived in Edinburgh. Then it would be a perfect City". But then, of course it would not be Edinburgh.
Our capital City suffers from the close Calvinism associated with John Knox. If you turn up to visit someone in Edinburgh at an appropriate time, you are not greeted with, " Come in come in. We're just making some tea." No. You get " Yer'll've had yer tea." The Glaswegians have shortened this to " Yer tea's oot". It's Parliamo Glasgow for " you're on a hiding to nothing."
The lunch, of course, was organised by the Army. Things go well when this is the case. The food is ready and out on time. Everyone gets a drink in double quick time. There are enough chairs to go round. The loos are clean and work. Anyway, you get the picture.
Except.... I learnt today that last year could have been very different. For some reason, noone had mentioned to the skeleton staff that we were coming. The entire battalion had gone off on manoeuvres. There was one corporal and his oppo. When the organising ex-Gurkha officer appeared at 11am, the heating hadn't been on for a week, the kitchens had had everything turned off, and the few chairs were stacked onto tables.
Undeterred, the corporal dug out some miscreants who were on jankers and by 12:15 the rooms were heating up, the place was polished, the chairs were out and the kitchen was ready for the food to arrive.
It was suggested that the miscreants should receive some mitigation for their crimes.
" Oh no sir," said the corporal. " Just doin' this was miti-bloody-gation enough"

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The day after the day after the day before

Much chat in blogosphere of what happens now in Scotland - not least "Where's Gordon?" As his pal Alf Young says he is in his North Queensferry home. Presumably thinking.
And what would he be thinking about?
Well, if he was a brave and forthright person, he should be saying that his and Bliar's version of the Labour party had run it's course. Oh there will be some ups that can be engineered, but essentially it's over. It has been for some time, but it's a bit like the headless chicken.
That being the case, what is his best move? It isn't to go to Downing Street. He can go there and struggle on for a couple of years, but his majority would likely wilt under the poressure of all those NuLab nodobies on the backbenches trying to secure their post-gravy train positions.It would be a living death by 1000 cuts, especially as he has spent all the money.
No, the really smart move would be to get out now " for family reasons". There's clearly an increasing tide of people mentioning him being a closet gay - even Ian Hyslop on HIGNFY last night, several newspapers and lots of blogs. One could say there's no smoke without fire, but that would be trite. Either it's an orchestrated effort to annoy and defile him, or it's true. The perception is that it will be true unless he sues someone. And we all know how that turned out for Oscar Wilde.
He could go to a seriously well paid job, probably with the IMF, or at the EU, with little loss of dignity, and actually a bit of respect. The alternative is he will preside over the end of NuLabour - and possibly Old Labour too.
Even Bliar's legacy ( whatever that might be) will be better than Gordo's if that's the case.
And just a final word about the LibDems. Ming ain't going to do it. Nor is anyone else. They are now in terminal decline. As before, I predict they will go left and the remains of the Labour party will join them in the wilderness. Bliar got in because noone believed he was a leftie - not that nice Mr. Blare. The first wiff of socialism ( and there is already more than that) will see the end of it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ok, Ok..

... I got it wrong, the SNP made it by one - but I was a lot closer than anyone else. For what it's worth, this is probably the best possible ourcome, apart from the dead heat, that could be hoped for. I doubt very much that anything will now happen for the next 4 years.
Pretty much like the last four. As somebody else remarked, the view of the Scottish Parliament under Labour and the LibDems is negative - ban this, ban that. Posutive? Not a lot. They tried with the bill to help with multi-ownership properties, but hedged it all so much that nothing really changed.
In a way, it makes Scotland even more attractive. The best governments are those that leave people alone to get on with it. For the first time in at least a couple of generations, the Scots will have to think clearly about what is really important to them.


..of my post on 2nd May about the Scottish Parliamentary Elections.
I would add however, that the complete and utter shambles, chaos, call it what you will, defines Scotland. If we can grab defeat and disaster from the jaws of victory, we will. I called a friend today, who before I said a word, started laughing.
" It's ludicrous! We have definitely got the government we deserve."
The question is - still - which one?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Organic Honey

One very kind person has asked where this exceptional stuff can be bought. Visit

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dead heat

Reading the news today, I now predict a dead heat between Labour and SNP. Amd no change in the ruling body in Holyrood