Saturday, March 29, 2008

Home Alone...

Having been abandoned for business reasons by Mrs. Lear, The Headmaster and the Headmaster's wife ( they've gone to walk around Harris) I've had a day when I can get things done.
I don't know why, but I always achieve much more on my own.
So all the information that I haven't taken in over the last week has been committed to memory ( or put in the bin), I have put all the clocks forward ( including the central heating), and now I am going to bed.
Only I came across this priceless snippet about Yoga.
" Julie is not your Ethnic Yoga teacher. She is much more the Stylist Yoga teacher. Her students are more likely to have had boob-jobs and drive black 4 by 4s than munch uncooked vegetables and wear home made clothes that have been dyed in the bath."
Clearly life has moved on. No longer is it enough to be a yoga teacher, you have to be a celebrity if you want to make a success of it, and " get on".
I can't help but feel this is the complete antithesis of what Yoga is supposed to be.

Terminal 5

Far be it from me to heap more fertiliser on BAA, BA ,Architects, etc etc etc, but I immediately knew it was going to be a disaster when the Architect ( whose trade I have always regarded as akin to the place where society defecates, preceded only by elfnsafety consultants, or maybe that's followed by) appeared on television and stated " Actually it's a very sophisticated baggage handling system with a building round it."
ps I just put on spell check, which highlighted elfnsafety above. When I clicked on it the little box below said " no suggestions". Elfnsafety clearly renders even computers speechless.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ashes to Ashes

I watched the last episode tonight ( for the time being anyway). It's not rocket science and the acting sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, but it's quite fun for someone who was an adult at the time and remembers what the 80's were like.
Gene Hunt, yer actual Gene Genii macho man, tore Lord Scarman off a strip.
His words were " In 20 years time when you're afraid to go out after dark, and the place is overrun with thieves,muggers, knives and other bastards ( short "a") you'll be crying out for the likes of me, but I'll be in Alicante tanked up and sizzling like a sausage. You can close us down, hamstring us and knacker us BUT WE ARE UNBREAKABLE!" Round of applause.
Anyway, it was clear this was the author's message which in What's New Pussycat was accompanied by a bright yellow ,flashing arrow saying as much.
I would have to say this does seem a little bit ex post de facto, but I can't help but feel a little bit of 80's policing ( or 40's or 50's come to that) would sort a lot of the youth problems. Today we had a group of teenagers ,drunk, aged 15, who battered a young man senseless, and then killed his girlfriend. As the policeman after the trial said " The accused 's mother just laughed all the way through the trial as if it was nothing important". With parents like that it's hardly surprising the youngsters have no respect, no sense of right or wrong, or of any guidance.
But I'm willing to bet if Gene gave them the odd doing lots of them would turn into models of society.


I've a funny feeling I am probably breaking the official secrets act, but we DO all know we have troops in Afghanistan, and that they are getting killed. Perhaps for lack of equipment. Allegedly.
But I was recently privileged to read an email sent to friends and family by a serving squaddie.
The first point is they are only allowed 30 minutes a fortnight on the Internet. And maybe not always - it depends - so keeping in touch is difficult in the extreme.
Most of the soldiers are not in a cosy camp somewhere,but up in the mountains looking down into the valleys, and they are unable to wash for many days at a time. They are constantly under sniper fire. They frequently don't get hot meals. This particular squaddie's email referred to being in one position as hell, but the next one along, about a mile away, was heaven - that's where the cooking got done, and every meal had to be collected under a hail of bullets.
Offhandedly, he says: " One of the lads got blown up and unfortunately died before we could do anything for him, but we have had quite a few badly wounded who we have been able to save." Oh, and they spend a month at a time in the bivouacs.
This is the reality in the hills. Several people recently have made the point that the Taliban MUST be beaten.
I don't disagree with that, but the boys in the dirty uniforms need proper support, proper equipment and proper backing from those of us at home.
I simply don't believe they are getting this at present.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Maitre D'

My father, old King Lear, was very keen on tipping well. In America, of course, 15% is the minimum as the waiters and so on are so badly paid.
But my father would tip with gay abandon ( but please note he was anything but a homosexual).
I was reminded of how useful the Maitre D' can be the other day. There are certain places where it is impossible to get in for some time, and a previous good tip can help immeasurably.
Maitre D's are of course privy to lots of secret information. That illicit lover's tryst, that business deal, that contract being discussed, all have their weak links when the Maitre D' is hovering nearby. Many a table has been acquired by the passing of folding money, well palmed as the hand is shaken.
There was a very famous Maitre D' in Glasgow, long since retired, who I shall call Albert. An old Uncle of mine always took care of him, and when we would go out for dinner, Albert would invariably make sure we were well attended to.
Badly behaved people were soothed. People trying to be clever were helped to understand that Albert knew better.
On one occasion there was a group of younger people making quite a lot of noise at a table near us, and the glances of the other dinners were having no effect.
Albert glided over, and whispered in the ring-leader's ear. There was no more hilarity after that and they all left quite quickly.
" You see, " said my uncle," you can't put one over on the Albert's of the world"
As I was paying the bill I asked Albert what he had said.
" Oh, sir, that's a professional secret - but it has to do with large men kicking he and his companions in the balls once they leave the establishment."

Monday, March 24, 2008

In Which We Serve and Brief Encounter.

I watched Noelly doing his thing in his film with Celia Johnston, In Which We Serve. It is, of course, hopelessly out of date ( not least because the children do what they are told), and the respect accorded to people is - a trifle - cloying.
What struck me though was Noel's wife, Celia, compared to her character in Brief Encounter.
There's no denying there was - and still is in some ways - a romanticism in the train. It is completely lacking in air travel and driving doesn't bear thinking about.
My thought was that the two films were actually about the same woman at the same time. If I was married to quite such a stuffed shirt as Coward portrays as the Captain of HMS Torrin, I would look for a more relaxed and fun guy too - if I was female that is.
Trevor Howard as the male lead in Brief Encounter is the perfect gentleman, but has that edge that women - I'm told - find dangerous and exciting. Coward has none of it. Nowadays of course Trev and Seels would have shagged in the ladies' loo, which would rather spoil the whole point of it, but I regret that we have lost many ideals and morality now regarded as old hat. Even that expression is too out of date to bear thinking about.
Some time ago there was an attempt to update the ten commandments and the seven deadly sins. The argument was that these were put in place to enable a tribe in the desert to survive, and have no place in modern society.
Although that's true to a certain extent, some hold good eternally, but perhaps we need to move some of them forward a bit. Romance has it's own morality and rules.
As a final thought, the two leading men only have one letter different between them - Coward and Howard.
5 Letters apart but light years in attitude.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Size really does matter...Or maybe not.

I was taken for a walk by the Dog today as I usually am at the weekends.
Despite what looked like sunshine, this being Easter in Scotland, there was a sharp wind which meant the heavy coat and cap were required.
My dog, being the Cavalier he is, is endlessly wimpish unless really really pushed, and, as there are very few dogs smaller than he is, he tends to spend a lot of his time in the park lying down and looking small.
The one dog that is smaller than he is is a Yorkie. Pepper is tiny - less than half the size of my small small dog.
But what a different character. Fearing nothing, he goes his own way about the place, staring down dogs ten times his size, with no aggression, just sheer mental strength.
As the Alsatians and Boxers charge and bounce up to him, he stands staring at them, straining to his full 4inch height, motionless. Not a flicker. The larger dogs get to within about 3 feet of him and stop dead. They are used to other dogs cringing from the assault, and seem genuinely shaken when Pepper stares them down. Usually they bark at him a couple of times. Pepper looks at them disdainfully. Then the larger dogs do a sort of harrumph, and turn away, pretending a) they are superior and b) nothing happened anyway.
Pepper watches them go, and then does a little jig, which I guess is his equivalent of falling about with laughter.
As your granny almost certainly told you, the bigger they are the harder they fall.....

DIY weekend

Easter traditionally being the time that more people hurt themselves doing DIY than any other, I naturally, am not doing any. Not that I ever do, being exceedingly cack-handed.
Walking the Dog today, I noticed the swans getting ready for the cygnets due soon. The pen was sitting sernely on a spot, preening herself, nibbling the odd bit of grass, whilst the cob was picking up bits of straw, grass and whatever, tossing them towards her, and bad temperedly shaking them about the place.
It's not only humans who dislike DIY.

Does Livingstone have a death wish?

You might think this is merely a rhetorical question, but he has courted Broon's Jonah twice recently. Never mind that in 2000 Brown wrote an article excoriating Livingstone, he completely reversed and this week past, in the same newspaper, wrote a gushing tribute that was somewhat nauseous to read.
Not content with that, they appeared together during the week, and Gord did the business again, praising and endorsing Livingstone.
Naturally, this has nothing to do with the fact that Boris is well ahead in the Mayoral race.
What it does do is show how afraid Broon is on the upcoming political nightmare of both Edinburgh and London being in the hands of wily, clever, charismatic men, who can make his life hell. Today's Sunday Telegraph has a very good article on this.
All it does, of course, is ensure Livingstone's defeat. There has been much talk of financial contagion recently, but I can think of no more toxic contagion politically than being endorsed by Broon.
Just as an aside, many might have hated Tony Blair, but he was always, Our Tone.
Broon is not held in any such affection.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


The FT, no less, has an article on Govan today which is slighty informative and refers to the 2014 Commonwealth Games as being helpful in this area's regeneration.
I'm not sure that's true, as Govan and where the Games will be held are at opposite ends of the City. The area hosted the 1988 Garden Festival, but it's only in the last couple of years that things have begun to move in the right direction.
What struck me about the article, though, was something quite different.
I know the area very well, because we have bought some property there over the years and have held on hoping for better days. Govan once had more than 600 shops, now probably not more than 30 or so functioning properly. The population has fallen by about 90% over the years, leaving wastelands behind.
The article was focusing on the cheap housing in the area ( which it certainly is) but there is much much more happening than just housing. What struck me was how newspapers take a line and everything else gets squeezed into it, ignoring both facts and open-mindedness. The recent McCann victory over newspapers is a case in point.
The same applies to this article. What would seem to me to have changed is the attitude of the people in the area. From out and out depression, there is a renewed jauntiness, known in Glasgow as "Gallus".
If they can keep it, there truly will be a renaissance.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What would you do?

A man has a mistress for 30 odd years. About 12 years ago his wife dies. For some reason, his family know about the mistress.
One day after the wife dies, the man asks his son if he can come and stay the night en route elsewhere.
And bring his friend.
The son ( I suspect egged on by the wife ) says no.
So the man and his new live-in-lover ( ex mistress) never go to any of his family together, although they live perfectly happily and have a circle of their own friends, many from before the man's wife dies.
The man continues to see his family on his own. The couple visit her family together without any difficulty.
Now the lover effectively looks after the man until he dies ( she would be about 25/30 years his junior), and brings him great happiness in his declining years.
My view would be that the man's children were being petty.
What's yours?

A Little Flower.....

I am wearing purple socks, green trousers, purple shirt. Mrs. Lear ( noted for her eye for sartorial resplendence) said " Ah. A purple crocus!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I was through in Edinburgh this evening for a GWT meeting, and the new Chairman invited me back to his flat for an orange juice.
He is a senior Sheriff ( think Judge) in Edinburgh, and has just been handed a document on proposed legislation, affecting accused persons and the people who try them.
As he says, if the accused is standing in front of him, hands in pockets, chewing gum, he tells him to take his hands out of his pockets and gets the usher to give him ( or her) a tissue to get rid of it. He also has the policeman on duty remove the mobile phones when they ring ( yes, this is true).
Now, with the new proposed legislation, he will no longer be able to do this, as the poor dear accused would feel hard done by. The accused will be able to make an official complaint. This complaint will have to be investigated. Whilst it is being investigated, the Sheriff will be suspended ( on full pay), and may not sit again until the process is complete.
If you've been following me, within about three days every Sheriff in Scotland will be suspended, so no trials can take place.
Clever eh?
Oh, and in case you're wondering, this brilliant idea is not from the SNP. It comes direct from Westminster ( prop. G.Brown/Nulabour) and has been handed to the Scottish Parliament for ratification.
Can't quite see it happening, myself.

Credit cards

I received a strange communication from my credit card company yesterday.
In brief, it said it had removed my ability to draw cash against my card limit.
As I have never done this, I was somewhat bemused, but then, having thought about it, I realised that, quite apart from all the cancelled, reduced limits and so on that are being forced through ( with, naturally, lots of overlimit charges and penal interest rates) taking out the cashing element helps reduce the Banks potential liabilities. If you have to take cash out of your bank account, you reduce the amount you are drawing on your card.
As far as I am concerned, Bernanke has played this absolutely right so far. I suspect he was arguing for more cuts long before they ever got delivered ( he does, after all, go with the concensus, rather than telling the meeting what he intends to do). But now everyone can see the oncoming express train, he is moving very fast and very big - very necessary.
Our own guardians of the purse have displayed a breathtaking lack of concern. When John Moulton says the question he is being asked most by everyone he deals with is " Where dare I put my cash" ( the answer of course is Northern Rock) something must have gone wrong somewhere.
Before this is over I fully expect at least one more disaster in the UK, which, hopefully, will finally jolt the powers that be into letting go a bit. £5billion by the BofE needs to be contrasted with ( at a guess) very close to $1trillion in the States and about Eur 1.5trillion from the ECB.
And you can forget about inflation. As the wheels silt up and grind to a halt, the only thing going up will be our Government's desperation to get its hands on our money.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Bear..

I take absolutely no pleasure in Bear Stearns implosion. Keyne's dictum that it is not the banks borrowers going bust that destroys banks, it's the cutting off of it's lifeblood - cash - still holds good. In Bear's case the Fed has rightly seen that a collapse by it would create far too many problems for it to be able to stem the systemic tide. The Bear will be sold off within a very short space of time ( why would anyone go back to trading with it?) and life will go on, albeit at a reduced level. The Bear was one of the brokers giving hedge funds money. That's stopped too. We are back with cash is king .
I heard two stories last night at a dinner. The first was from a senior Royal Bank of Scotland executive, who said they had not changed their lending criteria one jot or tittle in the last two years. People's perceptions had changed, so that those who expected to get 100% or 95% or whatever, were shocked to discover they could only get 75%. In a sense this is the real disaster of the last few years where self-certified mortgages and 125% loans were increasingly common - people will long harbour a grudge against the ( solvent) banks who only ever lent reasonably prudently. " If Northern Rock could give 125% why not RBS?" HMM yes well, perhaps no reply is needed.
The other was much more interesting. A senior fund manager and his son, also a fund manager and in charge of the family's finances, at the start of 2007 instructed their bankers to turn all their cash into physical gold and Bank of England securities. You may think this is easy, but actually getting physical gold in significant quantities ( as opposed to deposit receipts etc etc) is not that easy. And BofE securities as opposed to Bank deposits are seriously hard to acquire.
You may think this is a little extreme.
But coming from where it does, and since yesterday on Wall Street, I wish I'd done the same.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In the Romanian Lawyers office

One of the nicest parts of being in Sighisoara is being in the lawyers office. This is only partly because she is one of the most attractive women I know ( Alin swears she was fat and ugly when he was at school with her) and much to do with the people we take there. Yesterday for example, an 82 year old firebrand of a great-grandmother insisted on better music being played whilst she waited to sign. A man insisted on taking less money from us than had been agreed because we had given him a free ride. The heir to a small piece of ground wanted to give it to us as he didn't want it, provided we got him a new mobile phone.
But the nicest thing is the careful explanations the lovely lawyer gives people. The reasoning is simple - most of them can't read. There is a wonderful charade of " Oh, I've left my glasses behind". This is easily countered as the lawyer has a drawer full of abandoned specs, but after trying a few on, the elderly darlings say they are no good, and would she mind just reading the document to them? And the official translator lady ( who is at the opposite scale to the lawyer) knows less about English or Romanian law than I do - at least I can now translate the phrases and clauses faster than she can. In recognition of this, the official stamp of " Translation confirmed" has gone down from an original equivalent of £7 to a mere £3.
So on Monday afternoon, after a hard days graft on papers and other rubbish, we were ushered into the Mayor's parlour, along with three of his henchmen. So there were actually 5 of us drinking. Alin never touches alcohol when he drives.
We started at about 3 in the afternoon, and, together with sausages, and " mitj" which are lamb and meat-balls, we managed several 2-litre bottles of extremely good home made wine by about 7pm. We were there to discuss the Cabbage Festival in October.
There was a slight pall over the occasion, as that particular manufacture of wine was running out.
" Ah, " said the Mayor, " When this is finished, I will have to buy some from Vassily". I may say Vassily was sitting next to him and perked up at the thought of making a cash sale.
" For cash?" he asked.
" No," said the Mayor," In exchange for all my wine you've already drunk."
" Ah," said Vassily" I would never get through my 8,000 litres on my own anyway. It's just as well I have you for a friend - and Mr. King of course "

Sunday, March 09, 2008

On the train across the Austro-Hungarian Empire

I'm back in Romania for the first time since just before Christmas, and came via Budapest, now my preferred way into Transylvania.
The train is a wonderful mixture of the old Empire and the subsequent Communist regimes, laced with efforts at the New Improved Capitalism that is putatively espoused.
Two images stick out.
The first is what I assume was a university athletics team on it's way to a meet. It included the javelin throwers who were on the train complete with their javelins, well able to kill anyone within 100 mtrs - and no corks on the ends either. I can't help but think Elf 'n Safety would have been after them.
The other was the divi. This consisted of ALL the train officials, including drivers, guards, restaurant car AND the border guards etc etc, both from Hungary and Romania, getting together to divi-up everything that had been "begged borrowed or stolen" from the passengers. This was done in no-man's land - clearly because no-one had jurisdiction there.
I was talking to one of the senior men ( as defined by the amount of scrambled egg on his cap and uniform) about it over a beer, and told him it would not be something that could happen in the UK - at least not as openly.
" Ah" he said." But you do it secretly. I have been reading all about your MP's and how much they steal."
I remonstrated with him, saying that these expenses were, if not necessarily generally approved of, at least they were legal.
He smiled. " My friend, not so long ago, people who did in our country what your MPs do were shot. Now we only imprison them. And what we do? Everyone must live."
I'm not sure he regarded this as a forward step.

Why I support the Gurkha Welfare Trust....

"Sadly Hav Bhanubhakta Gurung VC died on Sat 1 March 2008 at 1100 hours at his son's house in Gorkha, aged 87. He was suffering from pain on his body in the morning. When doctor was called to check him, it was found that he had low heart beating and low blood pressure reading. While arrangement was being made quickly to move him to Kathmandu some 4 hours away, he passed away in Gorkha.

Today on 2 Mar, early in the morning, the family wish to move the body to Chitwan and cremate on the river side at the famous worshipping place of Devghat. Chitwan 2GR reps will gather there and lay the regimental flag on his body. I have asked to borrow a piper from BGN. Late Bhanubhakta's ash will then be brought back to Gorkha to be buried beside his wife.

COS HQ BGN has been made aware of this tragic event. As a result the Gurkha Major BGK, RSM, Major Hitman Gurung 1/2GR and a piper have travelled to Chitwan.

So that members are aware, this now leaves only 3 surviving Gurkha VC winners out of 13 - Lachhuman, Tulbahadur and Rambahadur. Bhanubhakta won the VC in Burma in 1944 when single handed he cleared trench after trench of the enemy on a hill when the platoon attack stalled due to enemy strong gun positions. Finally taking hold of a bren gun from the dead gunner, he fired at the remaining trenches thus taking over the platoon objective. The incident took place near the village of Tamandu . As result, the regiment still celebrates Tamandu day, a Battle Honour every year on or around 5 March."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Two interesting posts..

Winchester Whisperer has a post about private jets and how this is a clear sell.
Stumbling and Mumbling about the Archers ( not really, but it's to do with mergers).
All I can tell you is the party's over, and there will be lots and lots of people with very severe hangovers.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

2014 again

Glasgow's hosting committee has produced a blueprint on how to pitch for a major event.
As they say, if they had had it, life would have been much simpler.
It only cost £6.21million, which, to judge by the funds now committed by private enterprise to Glasgow's East End alone, is an incredibly good investment and rate of return - unlike the 2012 Olympics, which just seems to get more and more expensive and less and less worth it.
One of the lines in the article talks of visiting lots of voting countries to lobby them, and bringing them to see Glasgow.
This continues that well known Glasgow tradition of the pocket handkerchief, methinks.


I am not noted for my abilities at colour co-ordinating, especially in my dress sense. Mrs. Lear once famously remarked that I dressed like a little boy whose mother always put his clothes out for him ( I had to admit it was true).
Just occassionally , however, on the monkeys typing Shakespeare principle, my agglomeration of clothes sometimes works.
Today, merely by chance, I managed yellow socks and trousers, blue shirt and sweater.
Mrs. Lear eyed me critically.
" Hm" she said. " You're so well co-ordinated this morning you could be gay"
I'm not 100% sure that's supposed to be a compliment.

The Bundeswehr...

... is very exercised because Southern Afghanistan is too dangerous for them. I suppose they may be right - they would be fighting a religious group ( shades of the Holocaust) and Germany has a lot of Islamists in its Turkish and other foreign worker community.
But that's not what is exercising the media in Germany.
The Brits think it's OK to send the third in line to the Throne there.
But Merkel is afraid....