Thursday, February 28, 2008

Glasgow leads the world in pharmaceutical research

You may doubt this, but a revolutionary new practice, originated in Glasgow, is sweeping the world.
Some form of asthma tablets, when powdered, mixed with water and injected, give the same effect as heroin. How anyone could discover this is beyond me, but it is so.
It is also true that the most you can now get a prescription for is 6 - and an admonishment NOT to sell them - it appears they may be worth £15-20 each.
So you have a straight choice.
Take the six tablets orally which means you can survive the asthma attack.
Or you can inject them and not care.
Or you can do the sensible thing which is to flog them and go on an almighty binge - and not care either.

It must be me & Bard in the Botanics Fundraiser

Why is it that every time I set something up it gets blown out of the water ( and believe me that's a very appropriate metaphor at the moment in Glasgow) by, as the saying goes, " Events, dear boy"
I won't bore you with the details, but it feels better to get it off my chest.
Anyway - to more pleasant things.
Bard in the Botanics is having a fundraiser on 25th March in the Kibble Palace. Along with some drinks and nibbles, there will be vignettes of parts of this coming seasons productions.
If anybody in Glasgow or elsewhere would like to come along we could have a blogger's convention too.
Just leave a note in the comments.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The way we live now....

I was sitting in my car, parked at the side of the road, talking on the telephone, minding my own business, when suddenly the passenger door was opened and a little old lady got in.
I said to the person I was speaking to to hold on a moment, and addressed the lady.
" Madam, please would you get out of my car. I am on the 'phone."
Now actually, I think the mistake I made was mentioning the 'phone. The sweet little old lady started swearing at me and told me to get off the effing 'phone and start driving.
" Madam, I am not a taxi."
This clearly threw her.
" Why are you parked here then, if you're not a taxi? This is where I told them to pick me up."
I terminated my 'phone conversation and repeated my request for the not so sweet little old lady to remove herself.
" Are you sure you're not a taxi?"
" I'm absolutely certain."
" Well you can eff off then ... and don't bloody park here again."
With that she got out and slammed the door - then rapped on the window.
Being well brought up and not generally unkind or rude to old ladies, I opened it.
".. And you jest tell yer boss I won't be using his bloody company again, and I'm getting on to my social worker about you!"
Now I know I fall into the grumpy old man category regarding people's behaviour nowadays, but I rather thought this took the biscuit.
Clearly used to having everything done for her by the state, including calling for taxis, I was saddened by the lack of manners from someone who was old enough to know better. What it showed was that even sweet little old ladies become corrupted by this government and it's policies.

Broon the Jonah...

... not content with buggering up sporting fixtures, floods, the economy etc etc, now we have an earthquake.
Does it by any mischance remind you of the plagues of Egypt?
I received a text, passed on to me from a friend whose son lives very close to the epicentre.
When asked if he was thrown about, the reply was " Yes, very much so. I was just getting home from work!I thought the house was going to fall down."
Many years ago I was in Switzerland on the Lake of Geneva when an earthquake hit. It was very minor, but I remember jumping up to run out of the house. My father shouted " Sit down!" which I did. It transpired his thinking was if the roof did come in, at least if any of us survived, we would know where the others were buried. Not too sure about that, personally.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The meaning of control freakery

" I don't think you should call me a control freak, just because I insist the plates are graded according to size.....Ok, the knives forks and spoons as well.. Yes and the cups... Yes yes AND the sausages..."

Notes on a train..

A black cat crosses the railway tracks, then sits staring as the train moves out of the station.
A mobile phone goes off with the Z-Cars theme.
Railway workers using a supermarket trolley, complete with dangly thing for the £1 coin, to move their tools about the station.
Watching two lovers intertwined, before breaking away as one boards the train, tears in both their eyes.


.. is painless in the words of th M*A*S*H signature tune, but from a article I was reading in the paper today, the highest incidence of suicide in the United States is in the areas that have the highest number of Country & Western radio stations.
No surprise there then.

Donald Bain - Scottish Artist

"Donald Bain, a Scottish Colourist. William Hardie Ltd.
A beautifully simple guide to one of the less well known Scots painters, Donald Bain, born in Kilmacolm in 1904, died in 79. He moved around France, worked in the Clyde shipyards during the war, and knew Matisse during his stay in St Paul de Vence. There are some stunning plates of Bain's remarkable oils and watercolours. He designed A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Margaret Morris Celtic Ballet in 1948 and believed "Cézanne is the master most modern painters ignore." What adds to this book is his correspondence. He wrote to J.D. Fergusson from Paris, the Alpes Maritimes, and from back home "en Ecosse." The voice in the letters is as determined and confident as his use of colour. "
I've collected Bain's paintings for a number of years and for a variety of reasons a few good ones have come on the market recently. I bought one today.
It is a stunning depiction of sunset across a Scottish Loch, beautifully painted when he was sober, not necessarily something he often was.
One of his favourite tricks was to ring up one of his patrons after lunch on Sunday and say he was coming round to sell a painting. He wouldn't leave until the patron had parted with cash. No cheques.
The reason, of course, was that he had spent all he had earned the previous week by then, woke up, was berated by his wife for drinking the cash, and set out to get some more.
As a result, some of his art is what one might describe as " after lunch" but some of it is stunning in concept and execution, as good and as innovative as the Glasgow Boys proper.
He is still massively affordable - a black ink drawing might only be £80, although some of his oils have gone for more than £4000 - still cheap for what they are.
But as with all art, irrespective of what experts might say, it's not the money or investment potential or whatever that one buys for.
You buy for love and because you want to look at that particular bit of canvas for the rest of your life.

Friday, February 22, 2008


I met a chap today is pioneering a new format of photography and moving pictures.
The easiest way to describe it is that, whereas Cinerama gave you nearly 180 degree vision, this gives about 90 degrees, and costs one-tenth to make a cinema or shoot the film. Even in stills its' quite stunning and doesn't need special glasses or anything else.
But my point here is that this tiny tiny tiny company, based in Scotland, has spent 8 years trying to get funding of £100,000 to produce it's first film.
Not one arts or government body would even give them the time of day.
Not one " angel" investment company, entrepreneur or individual would back them.
They even had an agreement with Cinerama to change their existing cinemas and remaster films to show in them.
Nothing. Nada. Nix.
Anyway, one of the directors ( I should mention they all have full time jobs outwith Vistamorph) went on holiday to San Francisco.
He went with a couple of pals to a bar for a drink and they were discussing his problem.
A casually dressed middle aged man came up to the group and did the usual " I couldn't help overhearing what you were talking about " routine, and handed out cards.
To cut a long story short, within 2 days they had the funding they wanted, and much more.
Firstly, they got an introduction to Paul Allen, he of Microsoft, who is a huge Cinerama fan and maintains a Cinerama Cinema to keep the genre alive. Then they got not £100,000 but £1million. Finally, they were told if they needed any more they were just to ask. And when were they moving to LA?
In the event they have decided to stay in Govan in Glasgow, one of the areas in our Dear Green Place that is renewing itself for the third time and make their first film about a boat building company, still going in the area, that has been there since the early 1600s. They've also bought the old cinema in the area, a rotting hulk, that was due to be demolished and have " Exceptional, superb" etc flats of distinctly non-descript and average quality built on the site.
I've heard similar tales before. It's one of the reasons for the brain drain that is being yelled from all the newspapers and bulletins at the moment.The English in particular used to be the world's investors and risk-takers, with the Scots somewhat reduced by the Darien disaster forevermore. We no longer are.
One of the reasons the USA is already starting to get to grips with its economic problems is it's people's delight in having a go. We tend to sit around and moan. The Yanks innovate.
No wonder we want to leave Blighty.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

From the coalface....

Someone was telling me that on Monday, Brown was meant to speak at the NFU dinner (he'd cancelled the big speech because of fears he'd be booed. So when DC mentioned him, they booed instead!) Anyway as so often happens, the car went to the wrong building. His special adviser was on the phone screaming - and all Brown did was sit in the corner, muttering 'Too many mistakes. Too many mistakes. Too many mistakes'.
Seves him right for screwing up the rest of us.


In case you've missed it ( and clearly Darling hoped you would) this Jersey registered company owns more than half Northern Wreck's mortgages. Not only that, it has the best of them and hence is fully secured - unlike the personal loans and 125% mortgages which are held onshore, and are the bits that have been nationalised. They are also the easiest bits to flog off.
As a result, Sadler will almost certainly do this, reducing the outstanding to BofE etc etc, but reducing the overall quality and risk rating of the remainder.
As I've said many a time before this Government - and Brown and Darling in particular - have no understanding of markets, money,economics or even business in general.
It just goes to show how powerful spin and repetition of unfounded lies are in conning the public.

Paxman's Pants

Until yesterday I had no idea what all the fuss was about.
Yesterday, however, Mrs. Lear bought me new pants from M&S.
I don't suppose I've had new ones for several years ( they tend to get bought in 10s) and I now see what has happened.
In essence, the legs are slightly longer.
If you have very skinny legs this is fine - the legs don't cling to you and hence their inherent weight pulls down, keeping the hole at the front closed.
However, those of us of a somewhat bulkier nature, where the pant's legs stick to you, have a problem. The hole gapes open.
My only hope is that once washed they will shrink a little bit, which will, hopefully, make it all work to my satisfaction.
Many years ago I used to wear longjohns in the winter when I worked in the fruit market at 5am. When I stopped, I still had two pairs of longjohns unopened.
Several years later, when we were moving house, Mrs. Lear took them back, and received - not what she had paid for them - but what they were selling for at the time. Although she pointed this out to the returns manager, he said it was company policy. It was a time of high inflation, so she got back more than she had paid.
Nowadays, the exact opposite would be the case. I believe the longjohns are now selling at the same price as when they were originally bought - in 1979.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What's a wife worth?

You may have read today that a woman's work in the house is rated as being worth some £33,000 pa.
Personally, as I have argued before,if you include sexual favours this is a mere drop in the ocean.
Today, however, I came across the auction list for the next big domain name sale.
Amongst others, HUSBAND.COM and WIFE.COM are for sale.
As one would expect, Husband is down at merely $50-$100,000 opening bidding.
Wife, however, is $250,000 - $500,000.
I do hope the young man who's emails I was getting has paid attention.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Nose by any other name...

This evening's dinner table discussion centred , firstly, on the solidity of Mercedes built in the 80's compared to mid-range cars then, followed by the build quality being generally good in all cars now, to the colour of various cars - which for some reason appeared to be brown across a range of vehicles and people.
Two stories emerged. Mrs. Lear and her then boyfriend were persuaded to take little sister to the Drummond Safari Park. Boyfriend had just bought his FIRST NEW CAR!
So in they drove, past all the signs saying " No responsibility - at your own risk" and got about half way through when the monkeys started jumping around and onto the car.
Then there was a ripping sound. And then lots of ripping sounds.
The car was one of those extremely " in " vehicles of the time that had some vinyl over the roof. I'm not sure why, but it was probably to save on painting costs.
Anyway, as you will doubtless have guessed by now, the entire roof was completely stripped by the monkeys who clearly thought it was the funniest thing that they had ever done.
I strongly suspect that is why the boyfriend decided to make himself an ex.
The second involved myself as a newly-wed in a brown Allegro, driving home with Mrs. Lear beside me. The road had been dug up, and it was raining, and when I applied the brakes, the car did a little jump and crashed straight into the back of the Morris Minor in front.
The driver of the car leapt out and rushed up to me as I clambered out.
" My nose! My nose! You've broken my nose!"
Now apart from a whisky blender or a wine taster, I wasn't too sure about the necessity for having an unbroken nose, but I looked at him carefully.
Straight nose. No blood. Not squashed.
" Er, it looks ok to me."
" Not me you idiot!. My gnome's nose."
He had been transporting a garden gnome in the front seat of his car without it's seatbelt. When I crashed into him, it jerked forward and broke it's nose on the dashboard.
It was indeed a very sad looking gnome.
A new one cost me about £6 - but I'm quite sure the other driver conned me.
I'm sure he was taking it to be repaired.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

50 ways to leave your lover

I was listening to Paul Simon on the car radio and was taken by the general lack of mentioning that you were leaving.
" Just nip out the back, Jack, find a new man, Stan, don't need to discuss much... just set yourself free" .
I'm sure many people do just walk out, but there must be many more for whom the actual moment of leaving is utterly traumatic, drawn out, and possibly even violent.
We were out for dinner last night and were discussing how few people the assembled company knew in Scotland who had divorced - this was because one couple we know had recently split, and there is probably a divorce pending after 30 odd years of marriage.
I suppose it usually comes down to one final straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back.
A lady present ( who admitedly was on her second husband but then she is English) told us that she had left her first husband twice, only to be " sent back" by her mother. I suspect that's putting it a bit strongly, but she says that when she married, her husband wore boxer shorts.
After a few years of marriage, the pants reduced in size to y-fronts.
Later, they became the equivalent of speedos.
" But then," she said, " I was watching him dress one morning and saw him put on what I can only describe as a thong. I could never live with a man who wore such a thing. I packed a bag after he'd gone to work and left forever."
She did, admittedly, leave a note on the table.

The end of the Age of Labour?

Alan Watkins in today's Independant argues that the Age of Labour has been seeping away for some time.
This is hardly surprising, as the arrogance and disdain with which the majority of Brits are treated by this Government will come to it's natural conclusion. The "client State" as created by Broon the Gloom cannot be sustained, and will die. As Ian Hyslop said on Newsnight some time ago, " You can lie to yourselves, you can lie to the people but you can't lie to the media"
However, a large part of Bro9on's present problem is the fact that Tony Blair created a new kind of politics in this country.
Not the risible "third way", but the cult of the presidential style PM. If he had stuck with collective Cabinet responsibility, Broon could have kept his head down. Of course, being a complete psychopathic control fresk doesn't help here, but at least there would have been some kind of genuine leadership and forward planning. There is neither.
The other huge mistake was the " multicultural" society. This can only ever lead to division - quite apart from the huge sums spent on translating 147 languages on a daily basis ( yes you read that right).
So, yes, we are in the last days of Labour, however many there may be.
We need to get away from PC, from throwing money at things, from setting targets which then warp every performance, and get back to what Mrs. T referred to as " Housewife's house-keeping". It imposes discipline and points the way forward. The credit crunch will impose it's own discipline ( Balls is proposing a Sharia solution to HMT's complete lack of cash)
As I'm never tired of saying - London gets fed every day, and noone directs it.
Strangely, it works.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The survey

Do have a read at it from the link here.
I particularly like the fact that 0.0% said they would not have sex on a 9th date ( but on the 8th or 10th was ok)
This is clearly something in the Scots character. Either they've gone off each other by then or it's the " I'm off to the pub with my mates" stage. But on the following date, the 10th., sex has reasserted itself as of interest - but only to about 1%
Myself, I would have thought nowadays that 100% would want sex at every opportunity.
But as a child of the 60's I know that the permissiveness of that time was mostly newspaper hype - and the people who were filling in the survey were Scotsman readers, and therefore don't qualify as under-16 sex maniacs.
No many of them anyway.
And they mostly come from Edinburgh, poor souls.


Dizzy has unearthed a rather insteresting survey.
"Scots who fancy Brown and Cherie
Croydonian has stumbled on an hilarious and equally worrying report survey from Scotland which has the following findings:
Which celebrity most closely resembles your ideal man?Gordon Brown - I like powerful men - 1.8%Which celebrity most closely resembles your ideal woman?Cherie Blair - powerful women do it for me - 0.9%
As he notes, that suggests on the current puopulation of Scotland "2,218 chaps have the hots for La Booth, and a scarcely less credible 4,764 lassies are pining for the Dour One".
Poor unfortunate souls! "
Would you describe either as celebrities?
Famous yes, but celebrities?
Surely not.
Neither of them has shagged a footballer or been in the Big Brother House - as far as I know - and therefore cannot qualify as celebrities.

Valentine's Day & Bilko 4

I'm sure you've all had the obligatory card and perhaps even the marriage proposal or whatever, but have you had the advert in the paper?
I only ask because both papers we take ( one regional one national) had full pages of messages of the " SQUIDGY Happy everafter from Nootley xx" variety.
I find many of them most amusing, and wonder what the real message behind them is .
For example, " To my favourite Dick from Black Bess" could be some kind of code for highway robbery.
Anyway, the email from the young man I received this morning ( I really really hope the girl is getting them too) was lovely - full of tender love and soppiness. The dinner last week clearly went very well and - reading between the lines - I suspect a certain amount of Ugandan practices took place. They are meeting tonight for a romantic dinner. He is picking her up at 7:30.
My email keeps going down so I live in fear I will not get the end of this story, but his emails keep appearing. Long live love!
I shall report back.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Latest Funeral

Haven't really had time to mention this, but it was actually rather fun in a strange way, all done with military precision as one would expect.
For me, the defining moment was when, as the coffin was being taken from the Church, the Piper tuned up, them blew lustily the Lament.
I defy anyone anywhere, especially a Scot, not to feel the frison of a shiver run down his spine and the hairs on the back of his head stand up as the sad, proud notes roll out.
No wonder the Scots were sent into battle first.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

EGGed on

If you are one of the people who has had their card stopped by Egg, you are almost certainly confused - none of the people I know who have had this unilaterally imposed on them owes any money on their card, has missed a payment, or is even vaguely " a risk"
What they ARE however, is people who pay off their cards in full every month.
Barclaycard are at the same thing. £5000 reduced to £500.
So why cancel their cards or reduce their limits?
Well, Egg is owned by CitiBank, which is having a little local difficulty in the States with its loans - correction, with the vehicles into which it stuffed its client's money to get stuff off it's own balance sheet.
By taking out the 160 odd thousand customers in the UK, they have probably reduced their credit card exposure by - at a guess - the best part of £1billion. On CitiBank's balance sheet, this will look good ( We have reduced our unsecured loans to individuals by $2billion) - but what it has also done is increase its risk.
Banks face a dilemma all the time - earn more ( increase risk) or reduce risk ( earn less). Egg will be left with the people who do not pay off their cards each month. Those who do are the people who it does not pay Egg to keep. If you don't pay it off, hey 25 % interest charges ( or more) is worth a little risk, don't you think? The Banks can afford to write off over 15% and still come out ahead - and they already hold general loan-loss provisions which make it all the more profitable.
Doncha just lurv how honest the Banks are?


Had a couple of days in Nice on business, which was just sublime.
We sat outside in the sunshine by the sea to talk and plan, for lunch and to drink the odd glass. It did make me think I am mad to continue living in Glasgow.
I know being away from home is always " better" and holiday or business trips are not real life, but I really enjoyed it.
Flying back into Luton was less pleasant, not least because at midnight my bag was lost - only to emerge on a completely different carousel in another part of the airport. The IBIS hotel couldn't find my booking. I didn't get to sleep until nearly 2:30 am realtime ( the hour difference) which meant I slept on until 9:30 - which was actually rather pleasant.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bilko 3

Well the date on Friday night clearly went well. There's lots about the soaring music and the rest, as well as the intimate diner-a-deux afterwards, and a desire for a further meeting this coming week.
No mention of sex, though, so they are both clearly ganging warily, as we Scots say. I feel it can only be a question of time. As far as the young man is concerned, the girl is " the One". What she thinks about him I have no idea, but he is certainly extremely soppy, which may - or may not - go down well. From what I gather, girls nowadays are as macho as the men, so this may not be the way to her heart.
Hang on - she's clearly just invited him to her place for supper on Wednesday. His email is accepting with alacrity. And he assures her he is not allergic to anything, just not desperately keen on coconut. Hm, no Thai meal then.
So the old adage about the way to a man's heart is through his stomache clearly still holds good in popular imagination. Someone once told me this was rubbish. The way to treat a man was like a carpet - lay him right first time and you never had any trouble with him ever after.
I did hear quite a nice thing about a couple who are getting married.
Not having many pennies, and really really wanting a new bathroom, they have put their wedding list at B&Q.
Very sensible.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Now you see it....

Whilst down near Hull for the Aunty's funeral, it so happened that I had a conversation with one of the big timber importers that have traditionally used Hull as their base. Historically, this was because lots of the wood and paper pulp used in the UK has come from Scandinavia, Germany and Russia.
His take on things was most interesting.
He says that the first sign they had of impending Doom ( the Credit Crunch, the coming Recession etc etc) was during July, when their phones stopped ringing. Noone was calling asking for wood. It was so unusual he had called a couple of the others in the trade - both in Hull and over Liverpool way - and they told him the same had happened to them.
Being not daft, he immediately told his staff to slash all their prices by 10% NOW. As a result he was able, over the next six weeks or so, to get rid of the timber he had paid for at only a small loss. Those still left with any are looking at losses up to 40% now. And there's little or no volume. The one saving grace is that only 15% or so of timber in the UK market actually comes from the UK - the rest is imported, so however much it falls, there is always going to be a market for the imports. The price is another matter, of course.
He told me that things in North America were even worse. 70% of Canadian lumber goes to America, and as a result, the volumes had dropped by 85% year on year. Mills were closing, and, as he said, many would never re-open as they were now not tecky enough to compete.
An interesting side-light is that the average US house is priced at about half the UK average, but their prices have already come back over 10%. Ours haven't really moved.
That is the " joy" of the American economy and it's " Destructive Capitalism". Yes lots of people will go bust, yes house prices will probably end up some 30% down from their peak, and yes the Banks will write off more millions.
But at the end of the carnage, there WILL be winners and survivors. Just look at the Dot Com bust - we ended up with some serious businesses, witness Microsoft's bid for Yahoo.
So the adjustment is already well underway.
It's just a question of clinging on for dear life and making it to the other side.
Oh, and by the way, there are still 10 -12,000 people still not back in their houses after last year's floods in the Hull area.
Great living in a modern society isn't it?