Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bilko 2

According to the latest information I have, he has asked her out on a date on Friday night - to a concert in London ( that's a classical concert).
I do hope the young lady is getting the emails as well.


Whilst driving with a friend in Ayrshire, a bus passed us going in the opposite direction.
" Look at that, " my friend said. " That bus says it's going to Sorn, and that's the wrong direction for Sorn"
I should explain Sorn is a small town in Ayrshire, which, amongst other things, sports quite a nice castle ( and not much else).
I looked at my friend somewhat quizzically.
" Why do you think that?"
" Well, I know the way to Sorn, and that's not it."
"No, I meant what makes you think it's going to Sorn?"
" The sign on the front"
I shook my head.
" No - I'm sorry. It actually said " Sorry not in service" "
I got out of the car as soon as I decently could.

Monday, January 28, 2008

On my own

Mrs Lear has popped down south to have a day or two with a chum, and visit her Godson, who is expecting his first child ( at least his wife is).
She has also taken the Dog, so I am truly on my own.
This means many things, all the way from the obvious ( I can leave the loo seat up) to the weird (the breakfast tray has disappeared).
I am well able to cook myself a meal ( last night was seafood with couscous, and a rather nice beetroot, apple and celery salad), although usually at odd times.
So what of the entertainment? Dancing girls? Cocaine parties? Lashings of booze?
Sadly, no. Larkrise to Candleford. Making a couple of phone calls.
And reading until 2am.
Much better for you.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Bilko moment

This is weird.
Many years ago, in one of the Sergeant Bilko episodes, Bilko & his cohorts decided to set up a base radio station, to get the money from advertising. The problem ( as ever) was they couldn't let anyone else know what they were doing and ended up having to leave a microphone ON in the Colonel's house. Needless to say, there were great rows about the whole thing, but everyone loved overhearing what the Colonel and his wife said.
My email has been up and down for some days, but it appears to be back to normal now.
Except in one particular respect.
I appear to be getting emails from a chap who is conducting an affair - or at least trying to. There's no " From" or "To" in the address slot at the top, or even a " Subject" ( I think we can take it that this is supposed to be " Sex" - with a capital "S".
I've only had a couple so far, but I shall keep you posted. We do all love to eavesdrop, don't we?
A sample from the first email:
"Darling one, I did so enjoy our time together yesterday. The quick lunch that turned into three-and-a half hours as we talked our hearts out. I will always think of that Bistro as " our" restaurant. I felt your pain and confusion, as I'm sure you felt mine.Touching your hand sent a shock through me...."
That's enough of that for now. It's too soppy to continue.
But I'll let you know how they get on.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


The last member of the last generation of my family died during the week.
She, too, had made it past 90, which worries me considerably. I'm not sure I can stand living to 102.
She led a marvellous life, interspersed with disaster and travail, as nearly all lives are. She was my mother's younger sister. In their young days, my mother would frequently prey upon her baby sister, one time putting her onto the luggage rack on a train and leaving her there.
Later in life, they were inseparable friends.
I spent many half-terms with she and her husband, as my parents were frequently abroad, and my fondest memories of her were the delicious chocolate cakes she sent regularly to school. As you can imagine, for a small boy with a sweet tooth, this was nirvana.
She remained a good looking woman all her life., with a streak of vanity and pride in her appearance, which one day prompted her to ask her husband if she was as beautiful as when he had married her.
" Of course you are my darling" he replied " It just takes you a little longer"

Out for dinner

We were out for dinner last night, and I heard rather a nice story of policing in the past.
'Twas the night of the Great Train Robbery, and the host at last night's dinner was returning from a week's sailing up the West Coast of Scotland - no papers, no mobiles, no nothing, as it used to be ( I know younger readers won't believe this, but still).
He returned home late at night with three extremely large trunks/boxes , and, it being a horrible rainy night ( It's Glasgow) threw them rapidly into his garage and locked it, leaving the car outside.
Come 9am, there was a knock on the door, and there stood two policemen, who enquired who he was. He told them. They then said they were investigating the Great Train Robbery. At which point he thought it was a wind-up and slammed the door on them ( he was quite tired from his time at sea).
Needless to say, within about a nano second, the door was hammered again. Once opened, my friend was staring down the barrel of a revolver, and realised that, just possibly, this was no joke.
Fortunately, he had a perfect alibi, but the point was the policemen told him they were following up several thousand leads from the public. OK it was a huge event, but even minor crimes in those days were reported and followed up. I question whether the same could be said of virtually any crime apart from murder nowadays.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Soc. Gen.

So they lost a few quid. No wonder the ECB has been pushing as much money as possible into the system.
Not really a surprise though - if the trader had been right he would have made fortunes for his bosses and we would only have heard how wwwwwwonderful they all were.
As it is, we had to hear how well they closed out the trades ( except it looks as if everyone spotted what was going on and dropped every price they could which doubled the loss on the day). When everything goes up it's easy to look good. As soon as the reverse ratchet sets in it gets harder and harder to hide it.
But Banks in general have to destroy huge chunks of value every few years, otherwise they feel unloved. Remember sovereign debt? LTCM? And every other debacle over the years?
This is only bigger and better.
We will have to hear about how " prudent" they are being now.
I hate prudence. From many years ago, when there was a huge slump in shipping rates and every fjord, sea-loch and inlet was stuffed with idle ships, there were two main sets of owners - the Norwegians and the Greeks.
Every bank who had lent to the Norwegians told us how secure they were, how prudent, how sober,how carefully managed. The Greeks on the other hand were a feckless lot, gamblers, leading an exuberant lifestyle ( read drunken orgies).
So... have a guess who went bust? Well, it wasn't only the Norwegian shipping companies. Most of the banks who lent to them went bust as well.
And the Greeks?
Well, the one thing a REAL gambler knows about is quitting. The Greeks were - and are - masters of diving for cover when something goes aglae.
They survived.
And bought up the bankrupt Norwegian ships.
At 10 cents on the Dollar.
Who's clever now?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Northern Wreck

The Times Anatole Kaletsky has an excellent article about the ex-bank.
As he says, there's no new money - it's all out of the taxpayers pocket. It's a bit like when your bank manager phones you up and asks if you are paying in today, and you say yes - from my credit card account.
The crunch rolls on. I take no pleasure in being proved right - 15-20% down in UK and even more in the East and Europe - is not something to be happy about.
I remain optimistic though. The ECB has pumped another $1billion in over the last week, and will surely change rates soon - even if it will eventually lead to the Euro's demise. Italy, Spain and Ireland ( and France to a lesser extent) are all at their wits end with the " strong" Euro, and Spain's entire economy could easily implode as the house sales dry up. Don't forget in America it's only their own people who aren't buying many houses. In Spain, it's everyone, including the Spanish.
The US will drop rates sharply, pump money in AND give tax cuts.
And in the UK? I expect a 20% in real terms decline over 3 years for domestic property. That's roughly what commercial has done already in 6 months.
Remember, you read it here first ( as long as you didn't read it 3 years ago as written by Roger Bootle)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Table talk

We had friends for dinner tonight ( a rather excellent Bouillabaisse even if I say so myself), and two snippets of the conversation bear repetition.
The first was about class. We were talking about how our political masters these days " lacked class" and didn't know how to behave properly.
As one of the guests put it, " Class is not having to think about it," which I regard as the best definition of class there is. Properly brought up, you don't have to think about it - it's natural.
The other was the story of an old lady on one of the islands being visited by a passing yacht, and there being many pictures on the side-board of various young men.
" Ah," said the visitor," Old family members?"
"No no," says the old lady " Those two are my sons."
" Goodness!" Exclaims the visitor. " I had no idea you were married."
" I'm not, " she replied " But I never said I was unattended."

Last longer! Thicker! Longer! More satisfying!

I'm sure like most of you I get masses of spam which is largely connected with a certain part of my anatomy. Apart from the fact that I disdain pills and medicines, in my own case, I can't help but feel further improvement is unnecessary ( you can take that in any way you like).
But as I get older there is one part of me I wouldn't mind being thicker,longer, more satisfying and even last longer.
It is, of course, my hair.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Afternoon delight

I spent the afternoon in The Golden Jubilee hospital in Glasgow with a friend who was swallowing cameras and things.
The Golden Jubilee was originally built to do heart ops on rich Arabs, and the idea was that their retinue would stay in the hotel ( The Beardmore) beside it. Unfortunately, it never quite made it and ended up being sold to the NHS, where now it resides as a beacon of excellence and is in use as the " Ok send them to Jubilee and that'll get the waiting lists down" on a range of ills.
But my delight was in reading some of the magazines in the waiting room. Not just OK! and Hello! but things called Closer and Yours!
They were full of people of whom I had never heard. I'm beginning to understand those Judges who ask " What are the Beatles?"
One of them had a section entitled " Psychic counselling" which had me in stitches, although it was deeply sad in many ways.
The first letter was from a woman in Hounslow ( you'd need counselling right there) whose letter read: " My first marriage was one of convenience. The second broke up because he was an alcoholic. The third one said he would rather be drunk all day than be with me. Now I have met someone on the internet who I really like, but he is unsure of me. Do the stars predict happiness for me?" This from Claire, 32.
My friend decided that the best thing would be to leave the poor chap alone, but the " Psychic Counsellor" was able to say " Go with your feelings. But if he starts drinking, I think you should both go for counselling"
And at the bottom there were a variety of messages in reply to undisclosed letters.
" To Davie from Falkirk - Your Mum says she's sent the cat to you with a message."
The mind boggles.
PS. My friend was fine.

Fat finger syndrome

I was typing in www.google.co.uk and missed the second "g" As a result my computer attempted to reach www.goole.co.uk
An immediate error message sprang up " Danger! This is a potentially dangerous area"
Goole has no Conservative councillors, but 8 Labour , 5 LibDems and 4 Independant.
Definitely a dangerous area.

DVLA advertisement

There's a DVLA advertisement running to get people to buy new tax discs.
Whilst in no way condoning the non-purchase of these, I was somewhat taken aback by the advertisement.
My immediate " say the first word that comes into your mind " was " Stalinist".
But then, I suppose that should be no surprise from Damp Squib - this is the opposite of Flash that I thought was a good name for Broon.
Insidentally,Private Eye is running a very good cartoon strip of " The Broons" the famous DCThomson creation, which features " Jockshire Brewery" and " Jockshire Daily Record" "Jockshire Evening Times" and " Jockshire Herald".
Jockshire.com has some lovely quotes from the Scottish Parliament - I particularly liked Peter Peacock's " In this debate I stand on the side of the fish".
I always knew politicians thought of themselves as godlike, but surely walking on water is a bit excessive.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On Classic FM...

... they have an ad running for their new "6 babies" internet radio programmes. Amongst others, Ronnie Corbett is extolling the possibilities, and comes to the conclusion, if you like Baroque music, you need only listen to it and nothing else. As he says " You could have a BAROQUEORAMA"
The other presenter ( Honor Blackman) says " Isn't that an American Presidential Candidate?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

At the Funeral

I always quite enjoy funerals. You meet up with lots of people you haven't seen for ages and you can compare a) how well you are and look compared to them b) how well your brain is compared to theirs and c) commiserate about their grandchildren. Whilst waiting for the service to begin I observed to the person on my right that there were a large number of people in wheelchairs and crutches as well as a plethora of walking sticks.
" Yes" she said " I think a trip to Lourdes could be quite productive"
The deceased was a very handsome man who bore more than a passing resemblance to David Niven, complete with pencil mustache. During the 30's he had been what was known then as " A gay blade" - I hate to think what that might mean now, but then it signified a dashing character who had great success with the ladies.
As his eulogist put it:
" Not to be let loose with any good labrador bitches."
The only slight fly in the ointment was when a very elderly doddery man asked me how long I had been retired for. When I replied that I was still working, he replied.
" Good God - at your age?"
I am clearly not as well preserved as I think.
Update: Another elderly gentleman wanted a whisky, but there was only wine free.
" Ah" he said " In that case I'll have a bottle of white wine."
" You mean a glass."
" No, I mean a bottle."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


A friend sent me a text today - we have a thing going about Smooth Radio which plays all the old songs from my mis-spent youth. Rusty Springboard was mentioned - for those of you of tender years this was the nickname of the magnificent Dusty Springfield. " I only wanna be with you" was playing, which, if memory serves me right, was her solo breakthrough song.
I accept I may be extremely naive, but I remember being devastated to hear she was gay. The other major disappointment in my life was to hear that Michael Flatley - he of the original River Dance - was actually American. And after me watching the video all those times of the performance in Dublin with the lovely Jean Butler. Strangely, she is related to another friend of mine.
He tells the story of her growing up winning prizes for the soft shoe dancing as opposed to the clickety-clack of the hard shoes, at which, apparently, she never really excelled. When she went for the audition she was asked to do both - and to start with the hard shoes. After a few moments she said " I'll be doing the soft shoes first " and apparently blew everyone away to such an extent they never bothered to ask her for the other discipline.
They hired her on the spot.
And gave her extra lessons.

£1.01 up!

You may recall I reached 50p recently of picked-up money. A further 2p today has created the madnificent total you see above. And yes, its a deliberate spelling mistake.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sense & Sensibility..

.. finished yesterday, and a great sadness to me it is too. I spent from 4:10 yesterday indulging in what our lodger refers to as " men in frilly shirts". Then on to Larkrise and finally the last of S & S - definitely not S & M.
I always feel that Brandon is SUCH an excellent man he is probably a wife beater behind closed doors. Morissey played him quite differently from Alan Rickman, but none the worse for that. Ferrars was a remake of Hugh Grant in the same role - as somebody said to me, he is a weak character who would have married the awful Miss Steele. By the way, once she had transferred her affections to the equally awful Mr. Robert, did Mrs. Ferrars change back the inheritance? I think we should be told...
But the scene which I liked best was Elinor confronting Willoughby at the end. He had realised his life was a sham and knew he had blown it all - repentance and humility were his lot. The contrast with today could hardly be greater. A quick shag and away would be the form ( not even a wham bang thank you ma'am) but I must say we have lost so much by this. Romance is what makes the world go round, despite Fanny Bowles monetary assertion, and love definitely makes life worth living.
Even Timothy Spall had it right in " All or Nothing" - " Life ain't werf nuffink without luv"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pets Sounds...

.... by The Beach Boys turns out to be one of the must have CDs of all time. Really pleased about that.

DC on AM

I tend to watch the AM show on BBC1 for the review of the papers. Sometimes the people are quite good ( Jane Moore today was) and sometimes they are a bit stuffy ( Dominic Lawson was).
But today's main interview was with David Cameron.
If you saw it, you just might have been disgusted with the difference between Marr's fawning Brown interview ( never interupted once or even asked a mildly difficult question) and the rottweiler approach taken with Cameron today.
Cameron has clearly grown into his job, rode the questions well, made his points, refused to be put off, and came across as a person who was a thoroughly decent bloke without pretensions. Brown the other week displayed all the false humility and arrogance which we now expect from Labour.
Marr did his utmost to make something of the George Osborne allegations and DC shot him down - especially his final riposte which was " We asked the commissioner and have an email from him saying what we did was perfectly correct. The point is we asked - something Mr. Hain has not done" Marr promptly shut up and tried something else where he got equally short shrift.
Anyway, I daresay the Labour press will make it a "destruction" of Cameron story.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The credit crunch part 2347

You may recall I mentioned that I thought the crunch was beginning to recede a bit. There's more evidence of this today.
Firstly, Northern Wreck has sold a part of it's mortage book at a premium.
Second, Bank of America looks as if it going to get the bargain of the century by picking up Countrywide ( it's a bank in the States) for a song.
Thirdly, the BofE has said it will reduce the reserve fluctuation band shortly - they wouldn't do it unless they were reasonably sure it will stick.
And finally, Midshires has stared writing BTL mortgages again within the last week.
Now that really IS things getting back to normal.

What is the difference between Tony Blair and a Mafia Boss?

According to a reader who sent this to Iain Dale:
One (a) portrays himself as a man of the people and guardian of the community, but extorts large amounts of money from businesses and individuals under the guise of protecting them against future perils whilst actually accumulating vast wealth for himself and his family, (b) is indirectly implicated in the deaths of many people to promote his interests although he is never present at the killings, and (c) assuages his conscience with a superficial adherence to the Catholic church.
The other is an Italian thug.
I think this understates it,frankly, as I know a few Mafia Thugs who are considerably nicer and definitely more truthful and honest than Mr. Bliar.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The REAL difference between Tone and Gord

If you have been paying attention to the front pages of the newspapers today, there is a mug-shot of Broon with his hands in typical strangle mode. This is his signature hand gesture - it looks as if he has terrible arthritis in his hands as he strangles the air between them.
Bliar, on the other hand, always used either an open palm ( like Dave) or a proper fist.
So the real difference is, as every exponent of body-language will tell you, between an open-hearted engaging person and a complete control freak. Broon is trying to subdue everything in his grasp. OK he's not making much of a go of it, but that's his game plan.
The ludicrous announcement today of " everyone can have a check-up" is complete nonsense - you can have that already. As Dizzy points out today, you will get a letter, which, in the vast majority of cases, will go straight in the bin. BUT, of course, it will cost money and will require people to administer it.
Ah, now I get it. It's another of his non-job job creation schemes.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Poo Comittee

I'm sure you think you have never heard of this committee, but I'm willing to bet you have.
There are thousands of them up and down the country, but they all go under different names. It could be Dogwalkers Anonymous. Or Net Curtain Twitchers United. Or anything really.
They are made up of concerned locals, usually on a one issue matter. It could be the local hospital, or park, or joyriders, or almost anything, but they are the equivalent of the Vigilantes that the Police in particular are so against. They care about something and are willing to fight about it - quite often amongst themselves.
What they do do is make sure that issues don't just get ignored. They appear to be a largely Anglo-Saxon phenomenon. In Europe generally, issues are regularly co-opted by the local Mayor. If you have an issue, you can approach him/her and talk about it. Because he/she is elected, he/she has to listen. Here, the local Councils, whilst elected, are relatively emasculated. Even when a million people march against the War, or the banning of hunting with dogs, they are ignored. This latter, of course, is such a ridiculous piece of legislation that there is now more of it going on with more followers than there was before. It was always just a cynical ploy to divert attention from other problems.
But our local Poo Committee ( so nicknamed because it is trying to clean up our local park) is actually having a moderately successful time of it. The park is looking tidier and more welcoming. And with less dog poo lying about.
So this post is really a thank you to the people who have brought this about. Long may the improvement last.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Checking out

I received not unexpected news tonight that an old sort-of relative was dying. He has lasted 90 odd years, and until very recently in extraordinary good health and totally compos mentis. Stopped by his 70 year old wife from driving too much, he would sneak away in his souped up Citroen, and drive over the back roads at more than a ton. He had driven all sorts of fast machines in his day and still loved the thrill.
He was a founder member of the Scottish Ski Club, one of the first skiers in Scotland, and won the Inferno race at Murren.
He liked to tell the story of buying skis in the thirties, screwing on the bindings himself, and taking off for the hills. Finding a suitable snowy slope, down he went, stopped at the bottom and suddenly found himself falling. He had skied onto a flock of sheep, who promptly scattered when he arrived.
He was definitely old school, but rejoiced in serving during the war with other ranks. He had an innate sense of right and wrong and of politeness and rectitude.
At the age of 70, he took up with the lady who is now his wife.He approached me and asked me to convey his sentiments to the lady's children and step-children, that he would have waited to be married before moving in with her, except he felt they would only have a limited time.
" I don't want anyone to think I am taking advantage of her", he said. I assured him that, even twenty odd years ago, such thoughts were unlikely.
But my fondest memory of him will be his wonderful fruity voice, which, when he read, made one dream of life and love and chivalry - and a bygone , better age.

Why do I bother....

.. to try to work before 7th January? Noone has any interest in anything, and those that might are off with colds, flu and a nasty sick-making virus.
Which means I can get around very easily, get into shops, warehouses or whatever with no hastle, and generally do a days work in a morning.
Except I can't.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

... and a wonderful hangover

I'm referring of course to the gloom and doom in the finacial papers over the last few days. Yes there's a huge hangover. Yes there are credit market problems ( serious ones). Yes there will be a lot of pain, especially in the City and across the country. Yes rail fares are hugely up - yes the electricity and gas prices are hugely up.
But I wonder. Being contrarian by nature ( Mrs. Lear says I am just plain contrary) I had a smell today that because it is looking so gloomy and everyone says so, maybe - just maybe - this could be the point at which the Banks, the Governments etc etc etc wake up and start to do something useful.
I got a smell today, because a friend of mine, who has been struggling with his bank since August, suddenly got the money he has been asking for - no strings attached ( well, not more than usual).
It was sent out on 31st December. Noone - NOONE - sends out offer letters on 31st December.
So maybe the Banks have been told - a la USA in the 60s - if someone is asking for money, give it to them.
I'm not saying I necessarily condone it.
But it just might allow the Banks enough time to rebuild their tier 1 capital, take the full write offs that are required - and continue to make money,whilst helping their clients to remain solvent.
And overall, that has to be good for the economy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

An excellent New Year

Some time ago Mrs. Lear and I were invited to Geneva for " the Bells" as we call them in Scotland. I had been unsure whether we would really go, for a variety of reasons, but when I checked Easyjets prices last week, the prices via Belfast were just too good to resist.
So we spent two nights there - with everyone coughing and spluttering and generally making it impossible to feel safe.
Still the weather was lovely and - because I turn brown very easily - an hour's walk brought out a healthy looking tan.
The bells theselves were brought in as I watched a Bavarian programme with huge jollity, Lederhosen, Drndls, Ompa bands and lots of coloured paper. As it was a Tcherman programme, midnight was properly counted down and everyone knew exactly when it was. Instead of Auld Lang Syne, however, they broke into the birdy song, which slightly confused me ( being overseas I had drink taken).
I was reminded of my favourite New Year of long ago, when the BBC invariably did it from Aviemore. On this particular occassion, Chick Murray was supposed to appear at the stroke of midnight and do a worthy recitation. Of course, what the BBC had not realised was that the vast majority of those present would have been drinking since lunchtime, and as a result come midnight had no interest in listening to any more drivel. They went wild. Chick appeared at the top of the stairs, looked about, mouthed " F*** me" and went backstage.
" AHAAAA!" gabbled the Commentator." Chick is always so amusing!!"
He appeared about half an hour later having presumably drunk non-stop since his first appearance, uttered the first line, and promptly fell down the stairs amidst rapturous applause.
They don't make 'em like that any more.