Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Big incentives lead to poor performance

The Yerkes-Dobson effect, according to Stumbling and Mumbling, takes the position that big incentives lead to poor performance.
Clearly Stan O'Neal at Merrill's has suffered from this - give someone a $160m pay-off. He only managed to lose $8billion, but the incentives at Northern Rock clearly led to it's demise demise. £30 odd billion and counting.
But probably the most notable area of the truism is on the football field.
Some years ago, Glasgow Rangers had a star-studded team of international players, all on huge bonuses to win. Celtic had a team of young hopefuls who had been brought up in their own programme. Who won? Celtic.
Now arguably the manager has a great deal to do with this - why are Man U perennially successful and why is Martin O'Neill destined to lead them to even greater heights after Fergie goes? That said, the Celtic side of 1988 ( it's 100th year) under a manager of no great ability ( Billy O'Neill) won everything. Why?
O'Neill was only there the one year. But he had been a great Celtic player, one of the Lisbon Lions. What he instilled into the players was the guts and determination to play " for the jersey". No other manager could have done that in quite the same way. Time and again during the season it looked as if they couldn't make it. Time and again, they upped their performance to make it happen.
Why is Stephen Gerrard such an inspiration? He IS Liverpool. He plays " for the jersey"
So the next time you are thinking about " incentivising" your crew, think about getting them to play " for the jersey" and for the love of it.
They'll do much better than their highly paid opponents.
Then take them out for a Chinese meal afterwards as a reward.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


...wrinkles the body. I don't think anyone could argue the opposite. Of course, plastic surgery now can do away with quite a lot, but I have to say that, personally, I find natural more attractive than false.
But why, you may ask, has age reared it's head today? Am I feeling achey and painy? Am I more forgetful than usual?
Quite the opposite. I have always been what one might define as " feisty, " and quite " light blue touch paper and stand back." Recently, though, I have found myself being more emollient and, perhaps, less driven and more kindly, and more accommodating.
But all that changed today when the Architect asked us to take down a partition because he wanted the door moved to the other side.
Jimmy the Joiner went balistic. The Electrician went balistic. The Plasterer went balistic. The Painter went balistic.
I went super-balistic.
I don't think the Architect will ever ask us to do anything ever again.
As General Douglas MacArthur had it: "Age wrinkles the body, but quitting wrinkles the soul."
I'm bloody certain that ain't happening to me - ever.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A new .. er.. appendage

A man suffers an industrial accident, which removes his, er, penis.
Once out of danger, he is visited by a doctor and a lawyer.
The doctor tells him the bad news is they can't use his old penis - it is too far gone to be of any use.
But the lawyer tells him that, as it was an industrial accident, the first part of the good news is that he can get £9,000 compensation.
And the doctor then tells him the second part of the good news is, he can rebuild a brand new penis for him at £1000 per inch - so 6 inches = £6,000, 9 inches = £9,000 and so on.
The victim says he will have to speak to his wife, and would they come back the next day to discuss matters.
So next day, the doctor and lawyer reappear.
" Well," says the doctor," Now you've talked it over with your wife, what have you decided?"
" We're going to get a new kitchen."
Quite right too.


I am TT in this country. Most people who know me are very good about it and very few of them even ask me to break that taboo. There's the odd occasion with new people when there has to be some explanation, but in general it's OK.
So the other day we were at a friend's house, and I was offered a soft drink as usual.
One of the other guests siddled up to me ( someone I don't know) and said
" Ah, doctor's orders eh?"
" No" I explained, " I just don't drink in this country."
" Seriously?"
" Yes, seriously". He appeared somewhat shocked, and continued to drink 2 to 1 for everybody else.
After a while, he started picking up a bottle and walking round, topping up other guests - and himself. He was clearly enjoying himself.
He got to me.
" You'll have a wee glass of wine, surely."
" No thank you," I said somewhat coldly, " I told you - I don't drink in this country."
" Oh go on - be a man!"
Now I really really hate that. As I have yet to have the operation, I can assure you that I remain, as we speak, of the male persuasion.
Fortunately the host was hovering, because he knows I can get very abusive and rude to drunk fools who annoy me ( actually, to anyone who annoys me, but that's the grumpy old man syndrome) and grabbed the bottle and pulled the moron away.
Well, fair enough. It didn't spoil my evening - I wasn't enjoying it much anyway, I'm not good at talking drivel with a room full of dead people - but it did make me think about alcohol once more.
It is a very dangerous thing. It clearly has a large proportion of the youth of this country in its grip, not to mention many others. The problem is it has become relatively so cheap. When I was at University, I could stretch to the odd pint of beer or lager, or even a bottle or two of plonk, but shorts and bottles of spirits were quite definitely out of my reach. My nephew, now 15, regularly goes to parties where his peers have bought bottles of vodka. At that age, apart from the fact I wasn't especially bothered with alcohol, I had better things to spend my money on.
My father had a rule. From when I was 16, any of my friends who came to the house could have a glass of wine or a beer - one or the other, and only one. Under 21 that was the rule. Anyone, even a 20 year old, asking for a gin and tonic or a whisky was firmly told no. Over 21, not a problem. But it was in the open. Noone had to hide it and, interestingly, my friend's parents round about adopted the same rule to a greater or lesser extent. Of course, in those days, parents actually took responsibility for their children in a way that is largely non-existent now.
In my own case, I have never had to make the point. Although the youngest Ms. Lear does like a drink, it doesn't appear to be a big problem - the other two hardly bother.
Anyone who comes to the house can have whatever they want and as much as they want.
But if at some point they refuse a top up, they do NOT get offered any more.People may have good intentions, but the road to Hell is paved with them.
Better leading not into temptation.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Anger and Annoyance

Is it the time of year or is it old age?
I can't help but feel annoyance in particular is an old age thing. Grumpy old men and women abound - it's easy to see why people go off each other when you see the looks and remarks adressed to one another in the street or shops.
I'm sure a lot of it has to do with things that now irritate, which twenty or thirty ( or forty!) years ago didn't bother you in the least. It didn't bother me that there was little of interest on the television. There is now so little worth watching ( HIGNFY, The Sopranos and the recent programme about India spring to mind) that I now get positively vicious if something is suggested that might interfere.
Tomorrow night is a case in point. It's the last episode EVER of the Sopranos. I am seriously worried about Tony. I have long felt that AJ ( his son) is eventually going to either kill his dad or become the next Godfather.
There was a suggestion that someone would need collecting from the station at 11pm tomorrow night. I responded so ungraciously that I doubt they will bother to come.
And don't tell me I could record it. That pisses me off even more.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A New Toilet experience...

After my somewhat truncated loo the other day, I have been looking out for loos of various sorts - strange but true.
I was in Wigan again ( thankfully I avoided the establishment previously entered) and on the way back I decided to visit the loo at the station. Although I was somewhat in trepidation, I decided it would be better than the loos on the Virgin train, which have the most sickly smell. I will only raise the loo seat with several layers of tissuepaper in my hands.
Anyway, I made my way through the old-style door into a beautifully kitted out gents.
As I made ready at the bowl, my glance fell on a notice at eye level.
" Bloe- A new Toilet experience.
*Energy Saving
*water reducing
*natural perfuming
*environmentally beneficial cleaning."
And it really was extremely clean and tidy and worked properly.
The only draw-back was the blue light. I could hardly see a thing.
I am reliably informed that this is to stop junkies shooting up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I had an excellent lunch of lamb stew today in one of my favourite lunchtime haunts, accompanied by the Director. He is a man in his 70s, of upstanding and somewhat old-fashioned bent, who nevertheless has a twinkle in his eye.
After an absence of some 25 years, he and his wife have taken up tennis again, in order to "get-in" with the social set in Ayrshire. All the players are somewhat elderly. The matches are keenly fought, if played at a slower pace than say Wimbledon. The group moves round a variety of homes in Ayrshire, all of which have tennis courts.
The other week, at one such venue, one of the Older Members enquired, in general terms, whether the Director would be available the following week.
" Steady on," said the Hostess, " The Director is only a reserve.He's not a chum!"
My friend was somewhat dis-chuffed at this, but waited for the phone call, each week for the following three weeks, which duly came.
After the three weeks were up, the Older member took him aside.
" I think" he said "you can now consider yourself a chum. Don't forget to turn up next week."
And he didn't.

The Third Godfather

Whilst writing the previous blog mentioning my Godfathers, I was reminded of another story which involved two of them.
GF3 was an American who had had a very smart American car ( beautiful maroon colour) shipped over to the UK. However, he was then sent off to India, and the car was left in my father's care.
Now GF1, he of the eventual British Leyland persuasion, longed to get his hands on this car to take it apart and make it divulge all the secrets of American manufacturers.
The car was parked at the works of OKL's screw manufacturers. One day, two men turned up in suits and bowler hats, as one did at the time, with several bits of official looking paper, demanded the keys and said they were impounding the car as the correct import duty had not been paid. Somewhat bemused by this, and as there was no email, fax, or even meaningful telephone service to India at the time, my father handed it over, getting a proper receipt. He immediately sent off telegrams and all sorts to get an answer from GF3.
As you can imagine, it took more than a week for a definitive answer to come back - no duty was payable according to the American Embassy, as the car was going to be re-exported.
How to get the car back? Phoned the number on the forms - zilch.
Just as OKL was beginning to panic, the car reappeared in the yard, with the same two men, who handed it back and said it had all been a terrible mistake, so sorry, blah, blah ,blah, and off they toddled.
The car was taken out every couple of weeks and carefully driven around. It was lovingly cared for and washed and polished by the mechanic.
Until one day, whilst polishing, a bit of the paint came off. Great perturbation. It was decided to leave it and report to GF3. GF3 expressed astonishment.
The next time the car was washed, a lot more paint fell off.
I won't bore you with the rest of the details, but OKL decided the best thing to do was call in GF1 and try to get it resprayed before GF3 came back.
GF1 looked a bit sheepish.
" Er, we did that already"
Then of course it all came out. He had had the car high-jacked, taken to pieces and put back together, and they were driving it along the measured mile near the Blue Boar garage when it crashed.
And they fixed it, and resprayed it.
Except the American standards at the time were superior to those of the UK, and the paint didn't take properly.
So GF1 and OKL got it resprayed again and left it severely alone until GF3 collected it.
Some months later he called to say the paint was peeling off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Political skullduggery

Guido has a very good thing about the Yates enquiry which starts this afternoon - if various things happen, the Chairman has been nobbled.
The record of this Government is such that I simply don't believe there wasn't SOME funny business, but I read an interesting thing the other day:
"The people can be lied to, but they cannot be fooled"
Flash should have thought of that before he flew off to Basra.

Toooo kind

A friend has no internetwebthingy ability. This extends to his emails being opened and printed out by his secretary and the replies dictated to her, and then typed by her.
As a result I print out the blog every now and again and send him a copy.
I used to write to him direct, but as most of what I want to say is on the blog, it's much simpler just to print it out.
He is always very kind about what I write.
The only problem is that he tends to misunderstand some of my points. So, for example, he thinks Romania is utterly corrupt, that it is totally impossible to do business there, and clearly bad for my health ( I think he means the drink). He did say, how do you manage to get anything done?
I started to explain to him, but a thought struck me and I told him to read it on the blog next time round.
Many years ago, Old King Lear was having dinner with two of my Godfathers. Now you may wonder why I had two Godfathers - actually I had three. It was a business thing. One was the boss of what became British Leyland and the other was the boss of the company OKL worked for. OKL was what used to be called the Sales Director - I've no idea if such a position even exists any more. It probably has " interface" and " solutions" in it somewhere.
Anyway, the company OKL worked for made screws - fasteners for metal. The reason for the dinner was to sign the deal for umpteen million of the little blighters to be put into invarious British cars.
Now GF1 was quite a bon viveur. He had laid on what one could only describe as a viciously enormous dinner, accompanied by gigantic amounts of alcohol, and all three had stuffed themselves, and drunk well but perhaps not wisely. By the end of the meal, all three were virtually immobilised.
Just at that point, the person serving the meal brought a plate of exceptional cheeses. All three shook their heads.
GF1 raised himself a little ; " But I had it brought over specially from France! You must eat it!"
At which point, GF2 leant over to my father and hissed in his ear: " Eat the bloody cheese and get the order!"
And that's how I do business in Romania.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's a Miracle!

We had some friends in for a drink on Saturday night.
One of them opted for a glass of white wine.
I opened the fridge and extracted a bottle of Fairtrade Pinot Grigio from Argentina, courtesy of M&S. It's a screw top. I cracked the seal.
We have several more bottles of it.
I poured a generous glass ( never let it be said we Scots are not generous - apart from the Aberdonians and the people formerly known as "living" in Edinburgh)
My friend looked at the glass.
" That's not Pinot Grigio."
I looked at the bottle.
" Yes it is. It's from Argentina."
He took a sip. And spat it out in the sink.
" It's water. And old water at that."
I swigged the bottle. And spat it out.
" It's water!"
So was the next bottle.
At that point we gave up and he had a beer instead.
Move on 48 hrs.
I had got a bottle of Irish water from M&S in Euston the other day. I opened it today, and took a swig. And spat it out. It was very old and dusty. I remarked on this.
" Ah, " my friend said. " It's clearly Pinot Grigio."

EU Treaty/Constitution

So Flash is going to have a line by line discussion in the HoC on the " new" Treaty. This is going to destroy his Government utterly, as Maastricht did John Major's. I'm delighted he knows nothing and has learned nothing and that he will soon be consigned to the dustbin where he belongs.


The Gurka's motto is " Better to die than live a coward". Can't help but think Flash doesn't live by that one.
" The true wealth of Britain is the British Character." Sadly, I fear it is now lacking. And every other form of wealth is being pulled into the NuLabour maul.
Mark Mardell has an excellent piece on the Finns, and their continuing outperformance in many walks of life and sport. Strangely, the Finns put it down to their education system, which basically does not allow you to progress upwards until you have achieved satisfactory results in ALL subjects, and in their belief in strong family ties ( mind you, if you speak Finnish there aren't that many others who you CAN communicate with). Can't see Flash countenacing anything so outrageous as something like that.

Poirot's eggs

I had forgotten this but saw the Poirot episode again at the weekend in which it occurred.
Poirot, Hastings and Miss Lemon are taking breakfast somewhere on the south coast. Two boiled eggs are placed in front of Hercule.
He carefully tucks his napkin into the space between his shirt and his throat, puts on his pince-nez, and surveys the eggs.
" I cannot eat these eggs. They are of a completely different size."
Excellent attention to detail.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Mudlark

This is the title of an old film, which, amongst others, starred Alec Guinness as Disraeli.
It is the story of an orphan boy who finds a cameo in the mud of the Thames mud of Queen Victoria, and he decides to see her, give his respects and try to get her to come out of mourning and show herself to her subjects again.
He has various adventures and eventually meets the Queen, and she emerges into the adulation of her later years.
But there are three wonderful parts of this story.
The first is Disraeli in the House of Commons, lambasting the august members for failing the child. Our own present leaders could quite properly be so castigated.
The second is spoken by a minor character. When discussing a course of action, the character says " He is an old and wily politician - he knows nothing can be gained with a minuet." Too true. If only the present crop would be committed and say so.
Finally, the John Brown character, played by a famous Scots actor whose name escapes me but has Finlay in it, quotes the second Book of Kings. " Is it well with the Child?"
The whole thrust of the arguement was that we need to take care of our children. We need to stop child killing child. We need to make sure they are in a stable home environment. We need to give them parameters beyond which we do NOT allow them to go. There was an excellent piece on Radio 4 about young offenders being subjected to a proper programme of discipline ( not full of catchy phrases) and relying on - as the programme director described it - large men with testicular authority.
Above all, for God's sake, let's stop the nonsense that means that 50% - I'll repeat that - 50% cannot pass GCSEs in Reading Writing and Arithmetic. I don't care which party does it. I don't care HOW they do it.
But by God I want them to do it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The crutch in the park

Now those of you who follow this blog will know that Saturday and Sunday mornings are my time for taking the Dog for it's morning walk in the park. I was particularly early this morning as I had to let some steel erectors into a building we are doing up at 07:30 am, and took the Dog with me. Needless to say the steel didn't fit, and when I went back, it was only because I can read drawings that they managed to understand which way round it went. Did help a bit.
Anyway, the Dog and I set off round the park this morning, and the first thing I see beside the swing park is a crutch. Just one, full size crutch, lying abandoned in the grass.
Being of an eccentric bent, I imagined all sorts of scenarios, from miraculous cure to theft and abandonment, but I was definitely not prepared for the next thing that happened.
Round the corner came a lady leading a rather elderly Golden Retriever. The Dog clearly didn't know them, so they only got the " 'Morning" grade III greeting.
But I did notice as they passed that the retriever had one of it's paws in a sort of split and black plastic shoe - very natty - and that it favoured this paw.
I was most taken with the shoe, and turned to watch them walk away.
As they passed the crutch, the dog bent down and picked it up in it's mouth, and carried on, limping.
So now you know. Vets are not only sorting out animals, they are increasing their mobility.
With crutches.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The smallest room in the house

I'm in London for the ( half) day and stayed last night in the cheapest hotel in central London. I've stayed there before - when I'm on my own the lower the cost the more I like it. Rather like the old days when one spent hours wandering around French towns finding the cheapest plonk - I think the besy we ever did was about 20p per litre. The sensible thing to do would have been to spend the same on a bottle there as we did at home, and we would have had some fantastic wines, but, of course, as you know, wisdom comes with age.
Anyway, there I am in my room last night ( double bed, can just about walk round it sideways) and I decided to go to the loo. There was a door in the wall. I opened it.
Immediately in front of me was a washhandbasin, about 6inches by 4. On the left, with 2 inches between the wall and the loo-seat, was the loo. To the right was the shower.
Now I immediately worked out I would have to sit sideways on the loo. I need hardly mention the various difficulties this resulted in.
What I didn't appreciate then was that the size of the shower was commensurate with the WHB. When I got into it this morning, every time I moved I changed the setting on the taps. There was just enough room for my feet in the tray, and the curtain billowed out over the floor, although it was extra long so the bottom was still in the tray and catching the water.
I did a rough measure.
52 inches by 32.
No wonder it's the cheapest in Lo0ndon.
But I tell you what, I slept really well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The way we are

Now here's a thing. Would you bother to steal £22 worth of wood?
Clearly someone has.
To start at the beginning, I went to the depot of a national timber merchant, and bought 2 planks of wood, each 4.7m long. That's about15 plus feet long. Total cost £22. I was told to go round the back and collect them. I drove round, but then common sense prevailed when I noticed that about 10 feet would be hanging out the back of the car.
So I drove back to the job, gave the line to the joiner, and told him to take a saw with him when he went to collect.
This morning, the joiner phones me.
" Somebody collected they planks yesterday"
To cut a long story short, the warehouseman and the security guard both swore blind I had collected the wood, and they even had a car registration to prove it. And a time ; ten past four.
Needless to say it wasn't my car registration.
To cut a long story short, after threatening legal action, the papers and their head-office, grudgingly we were delivered the wood as a " goodwill" gesture - but on a separate line, with the original being retained for " investigation".
Now whatever way you look at this, someone at some point has blagged these two pieces of wood. Maybe it was a stock shortage they were trying to cover. Maybe the whole workforce have a consortium that disappears stuff that's not collected by 4:10 pm. The manager kept saying to me " But noone would steal two pieces of wood" in a sort of " You are clearly an idiot" voice.
But someone somewhere has that wood, and at least two people in the depot are in on it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

So what IS happiness?

I was recommended a book by the Last Unreconstructed Communist.
It is called " Hector's voyage or the search for happiness." by a chap called Francois Lelord. Although that's it's English title, I could only get a copy in French.
It is a delightful tale, all about Hector the psychiatrist, who is sad because he can't bring happiness to his clients. So he sets off around the world, has various adventures, and writes what he learns about happiness in his little notebook, specially bought for purpose.
There are 24 " lessons" in total. But Hector rubbed out number 18, as he didn't want the girl he loved to see it ( it was " Happiness is being able to love several women at once" - Lelord is French after all)
If anyone is interested I will happily send all of them, but the synthesis is, I think, enough.
Lesson 21: Happiness is a way of looking at things.
Lesson 13: Happiness is to feel useful to others.
Lesson 10: Happiness is to have an occupation that you enjoy.
As Hector says to himself, these are good lessons. And enough for him.
And me.

Back from Romania

Got back in last night to the usual guddle. Everyone seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the week and some new potential crossover contacts were made. Most of us remained reasonably sober.
There were some wonderful stories going the rounds. One was from a highly successful lothario, who said that the trick was not to spoil a woman. All you had to do was make her comfortable in your presence. I never found out if he meant in bed or just when together. Another was about British Army manouevres in Germany. Until recently, the way it worked was that every autumn, the tanks rolled - mostly across farmer's fields, through chicken huts, pulverising walls and creating new duck ponds where none had been before. The German farmers, of course, loved it. If they had a wobbly bridge, they would point a tank over it, the bridge would collapse, and the farmer submitted a bill. Apparently, there was a corporal in the pay section who was detailed to collate the bills every day as they came in. Every year, when they got to £20 million,the excercise was officially ended.
But what of the progress out there? Tourism and the ethos of tourism is beginning to take hold. Service is becoming something to be expected in the hotels and guesthouses. Younger people are remaining in situ as they can see that things are improving. Most importantly, the consolidation of the smaller landholdings is continuing and will benefit the communities where it happens.
We are working on a new valley. Once we have consolidated the 64 individual owners, we will be able to form a lake and create a fishery, as well as leisure facilities for tourism. On the adjacent sloping ground, orchards and a forest will grow. There might even be a guesthouse. All in all it should give ongoing work for about 10 or 12 people , with more required at certain times of the year. In a village of roughly 250 souls, that represents a huge benefit.
The Mayor of Mosna - recently voted the best in the whole region - gave an official reception for us, and presented us with Romanian flags. One of the really weird things is that the patron saint of the area is St. Andrew - complete with Scottish blue and white flag , so we all felt as if we had wandered into downtown Murrayfield. The flags were in abundance when we arrived.
Everything in Romania is late. There is always so much discussion about everything. At one point, in a room with lawyers, notary publics, owners and a couple of mayors plus staff, I called a halt to having the translations given to me. The debate was eventually concluded, and I had the conclusion translated - much easier.
They had just had the Cabbage Festival - by all accounts a great success, but it seemed to me that quite a few of the locals were suffering the after effects. The cabbage salad remains one of my favourite dishes, and we ate quite the most delicious tomatoes I have ever tasted sitting in the sun beneath the walls of Biertan citadel.
Capitalism has still to get a grip. Everything still requires dozens of stamps and signatures, but the system is robust and appears to mean that there are few mistakes. One of the pieces of land we wanted to buy had an incorrect name on the title ( you have to produce your identity card every time you do anything and the cross check revealed the discrepancy).
There are two ways to sort this. One is to apply to the land registry to have the title changed to the correct name. This can take up to three years.
The alternative is to get the local mayor to sign an affidavit that the man whose name appears on the title and the man on the ID card are one and the same.
Takes about three minutes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Globalisation and IKEA

For reasons too tortuous to go into, we rolled up at the Bucharest IKEA this afternoon.
Mrs.Lear was able to go straight to what she wanted as the store is identical to the one in Glasgow - in every way including there being nowhere to park as it was utterly mobbed. And for those of you wondering, the prices meant we were able to get the same sort of stuff as near Sighisoara for abour 40% cheaper, so I guess we won out in the end. More anon.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Mrs. Lear seems to quite like it here, although I have to say having to break off every few hours to meet up with her is putting a strain on the cars and drivers. Yes, drivers. And cars.Too difficult with one of each at the moment.
Today was rather special.
We sat in the sun under the walls of the Citadel of Biertan, and were regaled with stories of good socialism by the Last Unreconstructed Communist. She is the most extraordinary woman who spends her life fighting with all and sundry to improve the lot of others.
Lunch consisted of tomatoes, aubergine paste,cabbage salad, local cheese, a sort of ratatouille, potato salad, all absolutely delicious - and, of course, a schnapps to blow your eyeballs out. Everyone else pretty much chickened out, but I, unfortunately, am not allowed to. I took it like a man. I am supposed to be in training and can only say if I had a glass of the schnapps immediately prior to commencement, I would be past the finishing post before anyone even heard the starter's gun.
We then ( thanks to our driver never drinking) managed to get to a town called Sintoia. It's not that big, but it does have a house that at one time was a local potentate's - so much larger than the usual run of the mill. Think of Russian Steppes and Doctor Zhivago, wooden balconies running the whole length of the house, grapes dangling seductively from an umbral covering - and chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, pigs and sheep all milling around in the courtyard.
The real point is it is actually large enough for us to inhabit. Ok, bit of work needed here and there ( like a couple of bathrooms for a start) but it is a most charming and attractive place.
The sun shone and the bees buzzed and all was well with the world.
And what of the header - Negotiation in case you have forgotten.
Well, Mrs. Lear is insisting - not unreasonably - that my stripped down lean mean lifestyle ( one bed five chairs one spoon) is not really for her. We already have a couple of carpets and a decorative plate ( you may well ask what on earth we need that for, but I don't know the answer). So today, we visited the third and final furniture shop in the area, picked out a few pieces, added them up and suggested a price of 10% off for bulk.
Now The Driver is no mean hand at negotiation. I like to think of myself as quite good too. We've both done a bit in our time. So imagine our astonishment when the vendor wouldn't even take 20p. off. We told him we would have to provide transport, that the furniture had marks ( true) that we were buying quite a lot - not a flicker. So we tried our final strategy. We told him we were going to leave. We are going to leave now. We walked slowly to the car. WE ARE LEAVING NOW! Not a twitch. The car was started. He turned and walked back inside.
"What we gonna do now?" asked The Driver.
We slunk away without purchasing anything. Complete failure.
But at least we hadn't given him the satisfaction of winning the negotiation.
Or had he?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Memories of Romania

I am having a lovely time in Bucharest, not somewhere I have spent time before, courtesy of friends of ours. For free, we are staying in a 5 star hotel with hot and cold running staff, and even our own personal pimp at the door who accosts me everytime I try to cross the road. But he's very nice, and not pushy,even if a bit misguided.
We had a tour through Ceauscescu's People's Palace ( second only in size to the Pentagon, but third in cubic volume behind the Mexican Parliament) - lacks a bit in pzazz but otherwise not bad, if a little austere in an opulent sort of way.
We wandered through the old town, and various other bits, but the thing that jogged my memory was a statue to the last King of Romania, King Carol, I think.
When I was a little Lear, we stayed frequently in the Bellevue Palace Hotel in Berne. Old King Lear had business there, and we frequently accompanied him, especially if it was the skiing season.
In the bar there was an elderly man with walking sticks who was deferred to by all the staff. He was a permanent resident. His name was Charles and he lived there from about 1952 until he died in the early 70's. Because he was always there, my father, always a gregarious soul, frequently had a drink with him.
Charles was a retired agent for a bank-note printer. Most of Europe pre-WW2 had had it's notes printed in London, and Charles secured the orders and lived off the commission. Quite a nice job, but not in the multi-millionaire class.
Until the day, that is, that he met , in a resort in Italy, a stunningly attractive woman. Charles always had an eye for the ladies, and soon seduced her. The lady wailed and cried that she was undone, because her lover, the King of Romania, would no longer want her.
Now Charles, ever the practical, had never managed to sell notes to Romania. So quick as a flash, he persuaded her that there was a way to earn enough never have to sleep with the King again, and the he and she would be able to ride off into the sunset clutching huge bundles of banknotes.
The lady's name was Lupescu. She heard Charles out and readily agreed to the plan, and promptly left for Bucharest to do her bit. Within a week there was a summons to Charles to appear.
I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that only about 90% of the notes actually destined for the National Bank of Romania ever got there ( quite apart from the commissions paid to Charles, Lupescu, probably the King etc etc) and Charles and Lupescu led perfectly happy lives for a few years. Charles being very wise had changed all the money into Swiss Francs almost the moment it landed, and so the Communist era in Romania had no effect on his wealth. The only problem was that the bank-note printers and the NBoR suspected that a lot of the money had gone astray, and Charles lost his job - not that it mattered by then.
So Charles lived out the rest of his life seducing various women that passed through Berne and and Bellevue Palace Hotel, dri9nking fine wines and eating fabulous food, and taking the odd drink with old friends.
But whenever Lupescu was mentioned, his eyes would take on a misty glow, and he would sigh gently. " What a woman! Even 10% of the entire circulating currency of Romania was not enough to keep her! She always wanted it all."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Gordon Brown Trousers

Well, it was always going to happen wasn't it? Flash ( no spin no no) says to the pathetic brown-nosing Andrew Marr, I'm just getting on with the job and these advisers have been pushing this, but really I want to show my vision and on and on crap.
Brown is finished.
Andrew Marr is probably finished - Adam Boulton will certainly stab him the moment he sees him.
Brown gives the lie yet again ( I keep asking myself at what point do the Great British Public actually think this guy's a complete wanker?) to his statement that major matters would be announced through Parliament.
The answer has to be the Iraq trip last week. Even the media noticed that the GBP were enraged by lying about the troop withdrawals and were insensed by the use of our troops as political footballs.
So how does Britain feel having a lying,cowardly freek as an excuse for a Prime Minister?
Oh, sorry, that's the second one in a row.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Off tomorrow

We are off to Romania tomorrow. It will be Mrs.Lear's first trip, so I have told all the people out there to behave and not tell her about what good fun I am when I have had a few drinks.
More importantly, the Dog had to be taken to the kennels today, and, as the eldest Ms. Lear has deigned to join us direct from Blackpool, she was instructed to deliver him to his extremely smart kennels in Ayrshire, near a place called Floak. I'm sure it's a disease of sheep.
Anyway, the kennels is run by a stalwart of the SNP - one of the original founders no less. Ms. Lear, instantly smelling a traitor,was very much in two minds as to whether the Dog ought to be exposed to that kind of political treachery, and very nearly brought him back.
The situation was only saved because the kennel-maid ( who you would have to think of as a Labourite) said to her " OOh, did you see that lovely David Cameron on the telly - he'll get my vote when the time comes!"
When asked why she wasn't voting with her employers, she replied " No, no. They're all headbangers."
So now you know what the SNP are really like.

Yo, Blair!

I just finished reading this book by Geoffrey Whitehead.
I can only call it the most devastating charge sheet, which, very conveniently, confirms everything I have been saying about Bliar and NuLabour. The totalitarian nature of the beast ( very unfavourably compared with Nazism I may say), the lack of real ideology, the total abrogation of policy to " what works" which painfully doesn't, and the stubborn adherence to disater all militate to underline how far we as a country have fallen and been humiliated.
Whitehead says that no lessons were learned from Suez or Germany post WW2 on how to deal with a declaration of war or the aftermath of it. Of course, I would argue that Bliar never learned anything beyond his own overwheening belief in his ability to con everyone - which he very successfully did for a long time.
For much of his premiership, Bliar led the media by the nose - never more so than over Iraq, where the newspapers in particular came out with sentences like " We know Saddam's got WMD. He knows we know. And we're going to get rid of him and them" - complete lies of course, but very flattering even for hardened journos to be personally briefed.
So what have the journalist learned? Well, judging by their behaviour over Flash Gordon's honeymoon, not a lot. They appear to have been happily helping out Flash and his minions - right up to the point where Gordon went to Basra last week, and they suddenly noticed they were being conned again, and the Great British Public weren't having it any more. As Ian Hyslop said on Question Time last night " It's OK, Ruth, to lie to another politician or the public, but it's very very dangerous to lie to a journalist."
Mind you, I haven't noticed any apologies for the media's abject abrogation of an enquiring mind over the last ten years, and particularly over Iraq.
Oh, and by the way, did you know that every single offence is now arrestable? This has been the case since 2006. Even throwing a cigarette out of a car window. Jaywalking. Holding back someone from hitting you. Failing to move out of the way if a policeman wants to get past you, whether in a car or on foot.
So think about that the next time you take your hand off the driving wheel to change gear. Technically, it's an offence not to have both hands on the wheel at all times.
You could be arrested.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I've been here yesterday and today closeted with lawyers and others of a similar bent ( ie accountants) trying to finalise some documents for submission.
Quite apart from lawyers nit-picking ( " It says inter alia don't you think it ought to be inter alios?") it has been perfectly pleasant, apart from still being at it at 2am this morning. It did mean we managed to get it finished around lunchtime today. Now all I have to do is hang around until I can get back to Glasgow.
Anyway, as I always do, I have been chatting to various taxi drivers when there was time, and all of them said house prices were all right. One - who had bought two years ago on a fixed rate - had just got his quote for his new mortgage repayments - it was about £30 more per month than previously. My view would be that this is not the Armaggedon people have been talking about - it's a manageable increase for most people, and, overall, the effect on the economy is not going to be as dire as people have been saying. The reported slowing , or slightly falling, of house prices is entirely to be welcomed and long overdue, but, for the moment at least, it does not look as if it is going to be a rout. I suspect that what one might regard as " the family home" market will be almost unaffected, but all the amateur Rachman's will get their fingers well and truly burned. There are far too many one and two bedroomed flats that have been built, traded and left largely unoccupied. There have been virtually no 3 & 4 bedroomed properties built over the last few years, certainly not enough to satisfy demand.
Oh, and by the way, Rachman was much misunderstood.
The other thing about Birmingham is that it is where I was born. It was at the old maternity hospital in Loveday Street - how appropriate - but even a relatively elderly taxi driver could not remember it. It was pulled down not long after Mother Lear delivered me.
There's a moral somewhere in there.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Email from Romania

"Mr. King,
I am angrys and crosses with the peoples in Nemsa. They are not honourables peoples. You should not be so nice to these peoples. I am going to denounce this one to the Mayor as being a thief and f*** him. Yesterday, he was agreeing with the prices and today he is wanting more. So I am thinking to myself,Well ,I will f*** him. So I did. And you know what? Afterwards he was agreeing. So evrytings is OK.
What you tink?"
I am completely speechless. I had no idea he was so loyal.
I should perhaps not mention that the website for our carhire - translated into English - says " Thank you for coming with ass."

Dealing with Ze Tchermans

The Biogeneticist and I have been dealing with a German, who wanted to buy something of ours ( not parts of me I hasten to add).
Now we all know about Tcherman efficiency. I haven't seen it in action since about 1965.
But boy, have they got their act together ( at least this one did).
He told us exactly what he wanted, exactly what he would pay for it, exactly how he wanted to pay for it and with what documentation.
Now apart from all this being nice and easy to deal with, it also makes him a complete rubbish negotiator.
As every trader knows, you have to get the other side to tell you a price first. And never give a reasonable figure if you want to eventually end up with your shirt intact. And leave everything hanging so that there are bits to negotiate to win a bit more for yourself, or longer to pay, or anything.
He didn't. We asked him to propose a price and he offered us about twice what we had in mind as a final figure.
So we trebled it and came down a bit, saying he had been sensible & reasonable. He promptly agreed to the price we suggested, especially if we could be a little flexible.
I mean, is that a negotiation? I was quite disgusted with the capitulation, and almost felt like giving him a lesson in how it ought to be done.
So we ended up with nearly five ( yes five) times what we wanted.
What a let down.