Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm humbled

I've spent most of today opening envelopes and totting up cheques that have been flooding in the this years Gurkha Highlander.
I am always astonished at the affection and long-term links that the UK has with Nepal and the Gurkhas.
Many people include little stories with their cheques. Some people just send cash anonymously. I like to think it gets through because it's being sent to the Gurkhas. Little old ladies send in cheques for odd amounts. As one note said " I'm sorry the cheque is only for £8.50. Its all I've got in my account."
There are waves of disgust at this government's treatment of the Gurkhas, and equally strong waves of admiration and dare I say it love for the " bravest of the brave".
I think two of the notes areworthy of mention, which sum them all up. The first is from a lady living in central Scotland. " A small token of my gratitude to the gallant men I met in Stirling during the 1940s. They saved my sanity by "adopting " me when I thought I could not go on."
And another from a lady in Liverpool.
" I'm sending this because the only reason I'm here is because a Gurkha gave his life for my father. When I was growing up, Dad would never talk about the war. Sometimes a war film would come on the TV. He would switch it off, turn to me and shake his finger, saying, remember that he wouldn't he there if it hadn't been for the Gurkhas.
There is no real way to say thank you to them."
Too true.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Red Tape

In a sense this is a double entendre as it implies, not just the ancient approved colour of government tape, but left-leaning paranoia and control-freakery which is ham-stringing UK business.
Today, the plumber ( Not Paul Davidson obviously, but the one we use) came into the office and was complaining bitterly about the problems he had trying to open a bank account for his business.
Up to now he has relied on cash and his own bank account, but as he wanted to send his son to plumbing-school on a grant , he needed a business and a business bank account.
Apart from having banked with Bank of Scotland since he got his first pay packet, they hold his mortgage, his Isa's, his car loan, and a personal loan.
It took nearly 7 months to get the bank account open, which included going into the branch and having the business adviser there fill in the forms and send them off with the relevant documents - twice.
If you want people to be legitimate and pay tax, make it easy.
And get rid of at least half the 10,000 odd pages of UK tax law that no one, not even tax inspectors, appear to understand.
Quote from this week's Property Week, regarding the Government's abolition of rate relief on empty buildings - Doug Stewart of Salmon Developments says he will demolish any buildings unlet after 3 months trying - and leave the piles of rubble in situ. " It will serve to remind the public and Ministers what a bad job this government is doing. Rate relief was removed with a promise that it would lower rents and increase the supply of commercial space. Clearly the government is wrong on both counts."
That's how much Brown, Darling, the Treasury and everyone else involved understands about economics and unintended consequences.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gurkha Highlander

You all know how committed I am to the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
To this end, 6 serving Gurkhas and an ex-Gurkha Officer will be walking the Gurkha Highlander Way, from Mallaig to Stonehaven, 11th - 19th August.
I've got the easy bit - I just have to drive the mini-bus, generously donated by Arnold Clark.
In past years upwards of GBP50,000 has been raised and we would hope to reach at least this target.
The official start is Saturday 9th August at the War Memorial at Prestonpans at 4pm, when we will all parade and receive the first cheque of the campaign from Mary Yorkston, a Trefoil Trust committee member. If you are in the area, come along and get a cup of tea.
Thereafter you can take pictures of us at Mallaig at 10am on Monday 9th. August and at 6pm at the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge on Wednesday 11th. August, where we will be laying a wreath. With any luck there will be a piper - fingers crossed.
Prince Charles is the Patron of the Gurkha Welfare Trust and Colonel in Chief of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. Prince Harry, when interviewed about his time in Afghanistan, specifically mentioned the Gurkhas he served with.
If you can help in any way, please do so. Donate online at

... and after.

So Mason just did it.If anyone was in any doubt about Labour supporters views on the present Government and what they've done for ordinary people, this result should leave them in no doubt. Even more so, last night's Conservative Council seat win in Westminster North ( never ever been anything but Labour) means the end of Labour rule.
I've long argued that each MP should fight and work for his own constituency, and hang the consequences. Labour's Marshall ( and many more particularly in Scotland) never subscribed to this idea and - as Guido would say - had their snouts well and truly in the trough, mouthed platitudes about regeneration and social inclusion, and hopped on the plane to London.
I sincerely hope these results will teach all politicians an important lesson.
Look after your people and they will look after you.
Ignore them and - eventually - you will get booted out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Glasgow East before...

I spent part of this morning in the company of a man who is a West of Scotland Catholic of Irish extraction - the bedrock of Labour's dominance in Scotland for over 50 years. He used to be a Labour fundraiser, has met and dined with all the present Cabinet ( and the ones that came before under Our Tone).
He resigned from the Party in 2006 over a number of matters, but largely because he felt that the Party in Scotland in particular was doing nothing for its people.
Having spent two years thinking about things ( he'd never be a conservatives despite sending his children to fee paying schools, living in a £1million house and being an all round wealthy person) he has decided to become an SNP supporter - and even put himself forward as a candidate for future elections.
If someone like him can change sides, then many hundreds of thousands more will over the next few years. As he says " It's time for a change. We won the fight in 1997, and the Westminster Government, despite being led by Scots, continued to use us as cannon-fodder. Now they've pissed it all away. They can't afford to do anything for us. Maybe the SNP will."
He has no fears of Scotland being on its own. " Within Europe, we would attract much more in funding than we get at the moment. We could easily be a haven from the strife and stress elsewhere in the UK and the world"
His prediction for the bye-election?
" Curran might just do it - but only because she's actually quite good. Or she might not - it's that close.
But at the general election, the SNP will definitely take it - along with many more seats. And in the Scottish Parliament next time round there will be a majority of SNP members."
Engies be warned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


My last day in Romania was wonderful. We were in the fields with the sun beating down, finding out all sorts of interesting things. We were surrounded by clouds of the most brilliant butterflies, who flitted about us all day.

Not least, someone had planted corn on one of our bits of land. The interesting thing was that we had bought an entire block, but the miscreant had only used a small part at one end. It transpired he came from another area, had not heard we had bought it, had been renting it for several years, and the vendor never bothered to tell him it had been sold. A quick visit got the agreement to transfer the rent to us.

The goat man reported we had 12 extra goats ( I'm not sure quite how, as we only started with 6 nannies), but of the 12, 6 were billys and would be sold in October. So now we will own 12, and on the present rate of increase by next year we will have about 30. I don't understand it either.

The day was rounded off by agreeing to buy some other disparate pieces of ground , some of which we actually wanted. The problem is the government only pays the pension to the vendors if they withdraw entirely from farming, ie sell all they own. Frequently - if not all the time - we have to buy bits here and there we don't want. Every now and again, some of the odd bits join up and then it becomes rather more interesting.

The day finished with a drink or two in the Mayor's garden ( we helped collect the Mirabelles from which he makes a delicious drink) followed by dinner at almost the right time in the Unglerus in Biertan. It serves the best cabbage salad of anywhere.

Nothing would do after dinner but that the Mayor would visit his friend the artist Ion Constantinescu who lives nearby. Of course, another bottle was broached which naturally meant we had to buy something....But it did mean we got free invitations to his next show on 17th October. Alin told me that the ending of his name (.. escu) indicates an important man in Romania, or one with connections, that all important part of doing business there.

After all this it was back onto the night train back to Budapest which leaves Sighisoara at 23:26. As I've mentioned before, night travel is now my preferred time to move about. As my Granny would have said, " What kind of night-hawk are you?" There was hardly anyone on the train, and it arrived bang on time the next morning. The station hotel knows me well now and allows me to shower and shave in an empty room, before taking their breakfast. I spent a lovely day in Budapest and flew back to Prestwick in the early evening.
The most important thing to do in Budapest is to haggle, especially with the taxi drivers. A trip to the airport can cost as much as Eur 50 or as little as Eur 10. The problem is finding the right driver. I discovered by accident that they can change the charges made per kilometer on their meters, so it is critical to get the price agreed first.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Papanash wars

You may have noticed my emphasis on matters food and drink whilst sunning myself in Romania.
This is because the meal - usually at a completely different time to when we would consider it right to eat - is an integral part of political, cultural and business life. I'm sure this is a hang over from the not-so-distant past, when simply getting enough to eat was everyone's main occupation, and being able to order up food was a Party given right.
For example, today I had nothing at lunchtime, but I did have a plate of spaghetti bolognese at about 4pm, then had what was officially lunch at about 8:30pm. I'll probably skip dinner....
One of Romania's gifts to world cooking is Papanash(sweet fried Romanian cheese balls with sour cream & fruit eg black currants) which I enjoy when it's offered. Tonight it was on the menu in the restaurant across from the flat, and I duly ordered it - as did everyone else in the place.
Now it so happened we had with us the lady who manages the "Rustic" better known here as "Roostick" who is inordinately proud of the size of her papanash. They are praised the length and breadth of Sighisoara. People even on the day they get their pensions come specifically to the Rustic for a plate of Papanash. She makes them with extra cheese, which, for me, makes them a little heavy.
Anyway,as we were munching through our cheeseyballs ( light as a feather because they are made with less cheese and more flour) in walks one of the old men who normally eats the Rustic papanash. He doesn't have much money but he does like his papanash, and duly ordered a plateful.
Well if you had called the lady every bad word you can imagine she could not have reacted with more vigour. She marched across to the man and asked him why he was eating papanash not at the Rustic.
" Well, these ones here are a little lighter, and they are better at night than your ones, which are too heavy at night..."
He never got any further. The lady in question promptly burst into tears and fled from the scene. It rather put a dampener on the evening, but we all managed to eat our deserts.
We finished her's too.


Yesterday, when I went to get the cheese Fornetti at about 9am, there were none. I was told to come back in an hour. 10 am NONE! 11 am NONE! .. and the Fornetti shop shuts at 11:30.
This morning, I was there just after 7am and bought the biggest bag of cheese Fornetti you have ever seen. Then I asked for "Mere" ( pronounced a bit like merray) which are the apple ones that Alin likes.
So I took an executive decision and bought the sweet poppyseed ones for him.
As we set off for our fifth appointment ( the first was my haircut which costs about GBP1 here, the second the lawyer, the third the bank and the fourth ... actually I can't remember) we were both happily munching away. Alin turned to me and said. " Well, Mr.K, the world crisis is over!"
And do you know, I actually felt as if it were true.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Local Action Group Meeting

Today was the big LAG meeting which started about 11am and finished just before 7pm.
Here in Romania everything is debated endlessly, which is why an agenda of 5 points took 8 hours to discuss.
The main talking point today was a man from the Ministry of Agriculture, who came bearing gifts - and was promptly shot down by all sides as his ministry had manifestly NOT done what it was supposed to have done. He did promise to take all the complaints back and sort them out, but the concensus of the meeting was that we would need to get on and do it ourselves - something I heartily agree with. We were strengthened by several new Mayors who had just won their places in the recent elections. These men ( and 1 woman) had all wanted to be involved in the LAG but the previous incumbents had been very old school. Now, we are reinvigorated.
One of our LAG members is Willy Schuster, the only remaining Saxon in Mosna, who is seriously into eco everything. His brochure for different cheeses, cream, yoghurt, herbs and what not has a quote from the Bible - "The Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress and to keep it "( Genesis 2:15).
This really is the Garden of Eden come to life.I've never been more sure of anything but that we have to do our utmost to keep it if we are to deserve our primary place on Earth.
It's been a very busy few days, and will be even busier tomorrow and Saturday. The lawyer has really earned her money this week ( by the way, one standard contract translation today was Ron 25 - how does she make it up?) as has Alin, who has driven nearly 1000 miles ferrying people about. Work starts here at 7am, so quite often we have to be on the doorstep at that time. Bed is never until after midnight. I'm sure he is delighted when I go away again and he can get some sleep. If you have a look at page 2 here, Alin is in the bottom right hand picture with the dark hair and the sunglasses. But please have a look at the other pictures further down. You will get a feel for why I love it here.
The day ended with an excellent meal about 9pm ( it always takes a couple of hours to get the odd bits of business sorted after the meetings). Tonight was excellent celery soup, the most delicious garlic filled sausages, and, as ever, the cabbage salad. It's just as well we all had the same as we are all seriously pongy.
Tomorrow will be accountants,checking a couple of houses, builders and finally trying to conclude a deal for an old mill we want to turn into a packing shed. Saturday will be the best day - we are in the fields and hills again to check that the areas shown on maps correspond to the property titles.I enjoy this more than anything else here.
There are potential pitfalls to be avoided - there are for example 3 old woman all with identical names, who all live in the same street, and all in a row at 133, 134 and 135. They are not related at all. At some point they swapped various parcels of land for ease of working, and now noone really knows who owns what. Fortunately, City Hall takes a pragmatic view of these things - as long as we have a piece of paper saying we own such and such a piece of land, as certified by the Notary, they will register it. It's only 17 years since the land was returned to its owners, and it will take another generation for it all to be properly - as Alin says - "registrated."
I'm sure there will be a barbecue Saturday night before I am poured onto the train for Budapest.

Looking back to BGB ( Before Gordon Brown)

I just happened to look at a post I did in February 2007.
I know its not good to say "I told you so", but even then I was predicting the disaster Brown was and is, and that the Tories would form the next Government.
If only I was a betting man.....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


We own a domain name ( and I was doing some work on it. In order to access the information I wanted I had to type in a generated password.
What came up for the password? L-O-V-E.
What could be better?

Gordon Brown's ineptitude.

Quite by chance I was speaking today to the Romanian equivalent of a QC.
Extremely erudite ( as you would expect), he had a keen interest in all things Anglo-Saxon, having spent a couple of years in the UK earning enough to see himself through university.
Amongst other topics, Grodon Brown's sale of the UK gold reserves some years ago came in for scathing criticism, which is hardly surprising. It was probably the most ill-conceived and certainly the most cack-handed trade that was ever carried out.
The policy ( if that's what it is) which came in for the most derision was Brown's pledge to spend GBP200 million ( or is it GBP400million - noone seems quite sure) buying up newly-built flats for people and calling for first-time buyers to step onto the housing ladder. As even this foreign national, not very attached to UK news said " Does he not know that house prices are falling sharply in UK?"
In fact it could well be he doesn't. I have noticed that politicians always "do something" just when it no longer becomes necessary. One of my most treasured memories is of, I think, Jim Callaghan introducing index-linked gilts. I knew immediately inflation was going to fall.
As anyone with even half a gnat's brain knows, UK house prices are falling at their fastest rate ever. Forget about the drop over the last year - the last 3 months has seen the equivalent of 20% per annum wiped out.
So is this a good time for the government to be spending our money buying houses? No, it is not. Apart from the few housebuilders who might shift a bit of stock ( and at say GBP150,000 per house even GBP400million is only just over 2,500 houses or only 1% of what was sold even in the last 12 months of new build, and only 0.1% of the total sales last year) this is like the gold sale in reverse. Buy it at GBP150,000, sell it later at GBP100,000 if you're lucky. As opposed to sell it at USD 200 and watch it climb to USD 1000.
So, as my Romanian friend said, should he be encouraging youing people to get on the housing ladder? He answered the question himself. No, he should not. I would draw parallels here with Equitable Life, where Brown explicitly mislead thousands of policy holders, and the Ombudsman has said so, and awarded compensation. Whether they will get it is another matter.
If Brown were either prudent, economically competent or capable at all he would know that the economy will sort all these problems in time. Yes there will be hardship, yes some people will lose - but equally some people will profit. You might not like it, but that's the way it happens. Brown's interference will only make things worse.
So just think - we are back to being the "poor man of Europe" we used to be, and an Eastern European, only 19 years out of Communist rule, says so.
When was this phrase last used?
Oh yes, we had a Labour Government then as well, along with the "winter of discontent"
Did I read somewhere about 2.5million government employees going on strike just now? Oh, yes.
Oh well, we've been here before.

Lost in translation

In the lawyer's this morning I was much taken with the complete disregard for precise charges for things here. For example, the lady who is the official ( i.e. she has a stamp which says so) translator seems to dream up a figure for her fee which bears no relationship to the work she has done. Today, for three lengthy documents and four other standard sale contracts, she charged Ron 25 i.e. about GBP5. Last time out were just three standard contracts ( which I can now translate better than she does) the fee was about double.On other occasions it has been as low as Ron 10 and as high as Ron 80. The difference? I have absolutely no idea.
One of the drawbacks of having a top-notch lawyer in Sighisoara is that we have to bring the people from the villages about 45 minutes drive away. Some days, Alin does the round trip 4 or even 5 times. Alin usually picks them up and then I go back with him and the passengers on the last return. Today, one of the ladies suffered from travel sickness and we had to stop a time or two.Her sister made fun of her and said it was the result of the moisturiser she used. The two of them fell about laughing and then explained that they were too poor to buy Nivea, so they just used margarine - when they could afford it. The point, of course, is that they are subsistence farmers and have lots of butter which they make themselves - but have to buy the margarine.
The poor here are genuinely poor, in some cases worse off than even sub-Saharan Africa. Today I was in a house with a fire in the centre of the room, no windows ( despite having the gaps where they should be) chickens wandering about and an old lady who uses her back garden as the loo as its good for her vegetables. No longer able to support herself, she wanted to sell her land - all of an acre - which would guarantee her a pension from the state. Her son - who does nothing - wanted her to keep the land, so that when she died he would get it and he could get the benefit, not her.
Alin, being a kind hearted soul, immediately squashed that idea. We did a deal whereby we paid her an annuity as in that way she would get the use of the money and her son would not. The monthly amount was tiny, but together with the state pension it will be enough for her to live on. I also said I would buy her a new pair of glasses as hers were broken and the glass had been sticky-taped together. I put a Ron1 note in her grandchild's tiny hand.
Sometimes I want to cry when I leave these people's houses.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There are no ugly women..

You can probably guess I am back in Romania. One would hardly dare utter such a remark in the UK for fear of being attacked as condescending and anti-feminist.
I have been spending my time doing more night time travelling and I've pretty much decided that I will travel overnight in future and not during the day. There are very many fewer people about and those that are travelling seem to be much pleasanter company. I won't bore you with the two trips in UK ( Glasgow to Lancaster and then Lancaster to London - the first departing about 11:30 pm, the second about 3am) nor the 10:30 Mortlake to Winnersh ( accompanied by a mime artist who, I think, had had a couple and refused to converse except through mime. Bit tricky with train inspectors), but will move directly to Budapest to Sighisoara.
Somehow, I was accompanied for the first couple of hours by a lovely little lady ( about 4ft tall and at least 4 ft round) from Macclesfield who was visiting her daughter. She and her husband had moved to Hungary 7 years ago, had a 13 year old daughter who spoke Hungarian fluently ( no mean feat I can tell you) and all of whom swore they would never return to the UK. "England's a bit sad at the moment" said Ellie," I'd leave too except my husband's disabled and I don't want to move him.
Mind you, once he's gone I'll be off like a rocket."
It was the use of " a bit sad" that brought home to me how low Blair and Brown had driven us.
When I woke up I had no idea where I was. The train had been held up by a tree or two that had been blown across the track, so we were 2 hours late. However, I'd never seen the area we were crossing in daylight, and I had an exchange of texts with Alin which finally pinpointed how late we were.
Needless to say, that meant the day started 2 hours late, so we only got to Nemsa about 2pm - 2 hours later than expected - and were met with a tidal wave of property titles and old ladies shaking pieces of paper at us, all demanding attention.
By the time we sorted them all out I was almost unable to understand another "2914/2 is 3700 sq mtrs and she's the sister of the lady's husband who wants to sell 3417/10 of 7300 sq. mtrs on the hill beyond the other one..."
I think we picked up some more land where we wanted it...
Of course, by then it was after 7 pm, so we were already an hour late for the barbecue. This was the mayor's one for the reconsecration of the new cross brought from Spain for the new Church.. only, as with all these sort of things, the Cross had not arrived and the priest from Alma Vii was busy, so it was just a barbecue. We did all raise ourt glasses to the new Cross, and poured a libation on the ground.
Vasily, not noted for his PC attitude, was contemplating the seried ranks of old crones ladeling food onto their plates.
" Na Vasily, " I said ( through Alin) why are you standing looking so thoughful?"
"Well, Mr. King, I was just looking at all these ladies that someone has loved - and a great truth came to me."
"And?" I prompted.
" There are no ugly women - only men who have not drunk enough."
And with that he downed another glass of tuica and wandered off.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Social responsibility & personal too.

I missed this earlier - it chimes most excellently with my own views, so it must be right .. er, yes, that's right.

Back to the 50's

I was trying to laugh at Gordon Brown telling us all to eat less and don't throw away so much food. As I say trying, but failing.Guido has an excellent piece on what one can only refer to as a gargantuan feast that the G8 are having over in Japan. Brown's comments rather smack of Marie Antoinette's " Let them eat cake."
Anyway, I am old enough to remember the 50's and food certainly was NOT wasted then. Everything was hoarded and reused. Some of it was certainly a continuing dearth of food since the war years, but quite a lot of it was just old fashioned good housekeeping.
And debt? Anathema. I remember my mother wanted a new Hoover, and bought it on HP about 1956. Her mother was furious with her - and all for 6 shillings a week ( that's 30p. in our profligate times.)
But the thing that sticks in my mind most was the attitude to television.
It was not a question of not being able to afford it. Oh no. It was a question of NOT having that timewaster in the house - said with a gleam of fanaticism in the eye.
What changed attitudes was the Coronation of 1953.
It suddenly became almost a patriotic duty to be able to receive what truly were historic pictures.
It was exciting too. Nowadays there is little or nothing that really excites us - we've been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, buy a bigger car, but it's all just froth and non-sense. I feel really sorry for the present generation. I daresay it's an old man's conceit, but I can't see things being as exciting and as much fun as my generation's time.
In any event, I don't think they'll have any money to do anything with anyway.
Something did excite me today, though. I bought one of those ASUS eee mini laptops. When I was a wee boy there was a fantastic programme on the TV during Children's Hour, called "Billy Bean and his funny machine." It really was amazing, too. Of course, none of it was real, but it was such fun that to this day, any gadget in our household is called a Billy Bean.
So I'm doing this on my new Billy Bean.
Har har har.


The Wonderful Winchester Whisperer has produced the poem in full to which I alluded yesterday.
I'd forgotten just now powerful it is in full - as ever, it's just snatches that come back to me.
If we all lived up to it and stopped our morbid interest in " celebrity", if we took our own responsibility for matters, and we gave our lives to service rather than to selfishness we'd all be better off.
Shakespeare had it right in The Tempest - true freedom consists in service.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
'Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son.

Sends shivers down my spine, anyway.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

"C'est la vie"

For reasons I don't understand there has been a distinct increase in the number of people using this expression in recent weeks. It can only be a fatalistic acceptable of the toilet we are all about to go down after Gordon Brown's prudent handling of the economy. As I've said before, this man and his entire set of incompetents never had a principle, never understood the first thing about economics, money, or even human beings. Tony Blair was pretty much the same - except he understood people and how to con them.
So it is with some regret I report this increase in the use of the expression.
I do like it though. In the wonderful poem " If" - which I believe I have always tried to live up to - if you can treat success and failure with equal disdain, you will be a man ( or nowadays I suppose it would have to be " a person". Sigh) So perhaps what's happening is good for the British psyche. We have spent too long complaining, suing for no good reason, wanting the government " to do something" that perhaps we have come to realise that actually no one IS going to do anything and we have to do it for ourselves. The Brits are nothing if not easy going and tolerant, yet stubborn and indomitable when required. Bob Geldof gave a marvellous speech ( reported by Iain Dale) in David Davis' constituency which summed out what we are.
The most poignant " C'est la vie" was definitely Freddy Mercury. Clearly dying, he was interviewed and, when asked whether he had regrets, replied " No - whatever happens it's just - C'est la vie" - and with a shrug of the shoulders that was the end of the interview.
So lets get rid of envy, of jealousy and bitterness, and take on a mantle of getting on with it, good or bad.
And an outlook that is prepared to accept the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and by opposing, end them.
Gypsy Rover's owner even uses it about a missed chance to ride on the footplate of a steam train - but there it's cie la vie. Not sure if that's a typo or an attempt to inject an NZ accent.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Down and out in Munich

So Mr. Fact had taken himself off for a drink with his pal to a bier-stube in Munich. It was just a bar, nothing special, but in the way of these things rather atmospheric and subterranean.
At a table near the counter there is a grizzly down-and-out slumped in a pool of beer. There is a piano in the corner.
Mr. Fact and his friend order a couple of litres of beer, and take themselves to another table.
All is quiet. There is no one else in the bar. They speak in hushed tones.
Suddenly, the dosser leaps to his feet and charges to the piano, dripping beer from his head.
He collapses on the stool, and begins to play, crashing out a first chord. Mr. Fact and his friend wince.
But then the dosser starts to play the second and third notes, and Mr. Fact ( being a factual sort of person) realises that the music is by Beethoven. The dosser continues most beautifully until the end of the piece. He finishes as many concert pianists do, with arms held straight before him,fingers caressing the keyboard, leaning back, eyes closed in rapture. He holds the last note perfectly.
Then he passes out and topples over backwards onto the floor.
" Just leave him" says the barkeep. " He's the cheapest piano player we've ever had here. He's entitled to 5 litres of beer a night but can't remember beyond two, so we are always marks in (Ed.: it should have been euros). But he does play beautifully doesn't he?"
Mr. Fact agreed - even when the dosser eventually came to and started playing Jazz.

This looks rather fun

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The despicable way this Government treats the Gurkhas.

I know I go on about it, but we have yet another instance of how badly the Gurkhas are treated. The Spectator Coffee House has a bit on it. Please go online at and donate.

REALLY cheap

My car was in this morning for it's MOT ( you can tell I'm cheap just from that sentence).
However, whilst in the Peugeot dealer, their maintenance manager told me the following story.
He had gone to one of the major garage groups in Scotland to get a spare part for a Renault. He collected it and signed for it in the usual way.
" Here" said the stores manager " You're entitled to a scratch card"
"No thanks," said Willie, " I never bother with those things"
" Naw naw - here, you have to take it."
" I don't want it"
" Here, I'll scratch it for you."
" I'm not bothered"
scratch scratch scratch,
" Look, you've got a star. It means you've won a prize."
" What's the prize?"
Store man reaches under counter and produces a Mars bar.
Willie is astonished, and reaches for the bar.
" No you can't have it. It's only for members of the public." And the store man proceeds to eat the bar.
Through munching teeth he says " Actually all the bars are counted against the cards and I have to sign for them every day."
A property surveyor tells me he has taken to turning off the hot water each night when he leaves his office.
" Every mickle makes a muckle," as your granny almost certainly didn't say.

The Honour's system is cheap.

I've never really bothered about the UK Honours system, but yesterday a relative of Mrs. Lear got his CBE. Very pretty it is too.
It was the Holyrood Garden Party yesterday with the investiture beforehand. Fascinators everywhere, masses of ill-fitting ladies shoes, and rather good sandwiches.
Mrs. L's relative then had 16 for a private dinner in a venerable club (which was rather good) and a jolly evening was had by all. The lady on my right ( about to have her 40th birthday) was complaining bitterly that the people she was due to go on holiday with to a villa sleeping 16 had (she assured me) never had a days discord in 12 years of marriage, and had decided to split up and ruin their hokiday. The husband simply announced he didn't love her any more and left. As the wife was her friend, I opined that the wife and child could still come, but my neighbour refused to contemplate it.
Anyway, whilst being shown the CBE, I asked where the recipient's previous gong was.
" Oh," he said," They make you give them back"
And it's true. Unless you die clutching it, if you get a new one you have to give the old one back. The same applies to all orders.
This means, of course, that there is a huge saving on gongs.
Bit cheapskate I'd have said.