Tuesday, March 31, 2009

You couldn't make it up

"This month consumer confidence jumped quite significantly to levels not seen since May last year,' said Rachael Joy of the consumer confidence team at survey compiler GfK/NOP. "

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fascinatingly ugly

This may sound unkind, but if I was married to Jacqui Smith, I would definitely need porno films to get it up too. My flabber was so ghasted, you could have knocked me over with
a Jack Rabbit.
One of my aunts, long deceased, used to say that certain women were " fascinatingly ugly".
Jacqui Smith somehow misses.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Don't mention the War ( unless you want an outbreak of happiness)

A sort of courtesy aunt whose funeral I recently attended shows how differently people (and events) can be viewed.
I thought of her as a determined spinster - an amusing card of my acquaintance described her as a package returned unopened.I liked that and it fitted my view of her precisely.
I was taken aback at the funeral to meet an extremely elderly man, who no one knew. For reasons I can never fathom, as ever, I was detailed to find out his reason for being there.
I introduced myself and asked what his connection with the deceased was.
" I was one of her lovers during the war." I must have looked shocked, because the elderly gentleman went on, " I wasn't the only one of course."
It turned out her nickname had been the Faslane ******; delicacy forbids using the word on a family blog.
By all accounts she had a wonderful war and fully deserved the nickname.
" But then, " said my informant " We all did. It was the best time any of us have ever had. I used to travel up from Pompey ( he had been a sailor) when I landed taking more than 24 hours to get here, spend a couple of hours with her and then 24 hours back again."
" And was it worth it?"
He grinned at me.
" It was a bloody sight better than a bar of chocolate and a pint of weak beer."
And off he wandered straighter of back and jauntier of step and with a silly grin on his face.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The force is with her...

Mrs. Lear has an electric finger.
I'm sure if she tried she could get sparks and lightning bolts to come out of it.
Her computer is continually having heart failure and her Internet connection - which is the same as mine - only works if I get her online first.
Her finger, however, has not precluded her from passing all her computer skills modules. It's taken some time, but she could now get a job.
Over the years, her finger has done amazing things to phones, mobile and fixed line, televisions, radios,electric blankets and photocopiers. This is not to mention the central heating and the lights in the house. The Bluetooth in her car is a martyr to shouted commands, with one particular gentleman having to answer his phone several times a day.
Last night she excelled herself. She was downstairs watching a programme. I was upstairs, waiting for it to finish, and as soon as it did I changed the channel on the bleepy to the programme I wanted.
All she had to do was switch off the downstairs telly.
You probably know that bleepys have a way of reminding you when there is a programme you want to watch.
Rather than the usual hiatus when one of the TVs is turned off, I saw onscreen firstly a reminder for a Dutch radio programme. Then a horror film. Then News at Ten. Then BBC News at Ten. In quick succession there were a further 4 programmes scattered about the universe.
The one thing I have learned in life is not to interfere with the upstairs bleepy when the downstairs one is in use. The last time we lost signal completely for a day whilst the Sky box people untangled their wires.
So I placidly let it be, and as each reminder came up over the next hour or so I simply deleted it.
Only to discover I was immediately taken to the reminder programme, and I couldn't then get back to the programme I was watching.
I do wish she would try the " SHAZZAAAM!" thing...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NOT getting off..

Hattip to The Herald Diary.
A smarmy young man is trying to get off with an attractive young lady.
Eventually she gets fed up and says:
" Look, the only way we are going to exchange bodily fluids is if I spit on you."
Love it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to get into Heaven

Not everyone will appreciate this but it made me howl with laughter.

Four young men arrive at the Pearly Gates, and Peter says, " Ah, hello, you just need to answer a question and you'll be in."

So he asks the first one " Whats 2 and 2?"

" Hm, is it three -no -7 -no 6 - no could be 5- ah yes, its 4"

" Very good" says Peter " In you go" and asks the second young man the same question.

" Simple, its the square root of 16, or its cube root, depending on how you look at it"

" Well done, " says Peter as the young man enters the gates, and asks the third man the same question again.

" Hm well lets try 3, no so go for 5, and then we'll go for the middle - 4!"

" Super," says Peter, " Off you go", and he starts to ask the fourth young man the same question.

" Oh, forget all that old chap, no need to go into details, where's the party?"as he barges past Peter and through the gates.

" Ah fine fine," says a benign Peter complacently.

Michael had been watching this and said " Oy, what's all that about?"

" Well, " says Peter," That was 4 young men blown up in a snatch Landrover in Afghanistan, and I wanted to know what their divisions were."

" So how does asking them what 2 and 2 are help?"

" That's easy. The first one is infantry - takes them time to get there but get there they do -eventually. The second one's a sapper, too much information and largely irrelevant. The third's clearly a gunner ( brackets the answer and then gets spot on)"

" And what about the last one?"

" Oh well, he's clearly Cavalry. They're just such great fun."

It reminded me of when I was a small boy in Germany, and the Brits held ( and still hold) a Keil Week race.
The only slight draw back was that the boat that was detailed from an illustrious Cavalry regiment was on the wrong side of the Keil Canal, and would have to come through to take part in the race.
The Bonn Military Attache of the day was a great friend of my father's, as was Judge Bennett, who had been one of the Judges at Nuremburg. The news had circulated of the Cavalry's petit probleme.
The BMA and the Judge appeared at our rented-for-the-week house one day, both with shining eyes, and waggled their eyes whilst saying " We need you to come with us ." Wink wink, waggle waggle.
My father, never one to ask questions said was it all right if I came along.
" Not much for the boy to do, but I'm sure it'll be fine."
So off we set for the other end of the canal.
When we got there, a few yachts were jockeying for position to enter.
" Watch this" said the BMA.
There was a resounding crash, and one of the yachts ( which looked rather low in the water) came to a juddering halt. The BMA and the Judge were by now rubbing their hands and capering about, in a most un-judicious or military way.
There was a deal of hilarity on the yacht, which eventually turned round and came towards the jetty we were standing on.
It was the Cavalry yacht. They threw a line, which we secured.
" Well this is a fine kettle of fish" said the rather smart young man on the tiller.
" Looks like you've too much draught for the canal," said the BMA with glee.
" Damned shame. We'll have to lighten the boat."
At which point they started unloading crate after crate of champagne.
Once it was all off, the young officer took a leadership decision. "Well, its too late to go through now, we better settle here for the night. Fancy a glass?"
All agreed with alacrity, along with everyone else who happened by over the next few hours. I eventually went back to the car and slept, returning about 7am to a silent scene of devastation. The older members were still snoring, strewn about.The smart young officer of the day before, looking distinctly less smart, waved and said." Cast off old boy. Got another party to go to tonight on the other side..!"
And away they went.
Such great fun.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It might be he needs a rescue of his own....

I'm sure the dog story helped Barack Obama become President Obama.
It's uplifting, it shows a caring parent and man.
It shows a man who can be trusted to deliberate.
Or does it? The above is certainly the way it played, but acting as Devil's advocate, I wonder?
For a start, it depended on his getting to be President. Aspiration is a good thing, but the time it's taking to get the dog rather gives the lie to any enthusiasm he has for it.
Secondly, his list of " musts" ( supposedly reached by family consensus - yeah right) include it being either a Labradoodle or a Portuguese Water Spaniel, both of which have non-allergenic coats.
But the other requirement is for it to be a rescue dog,
I 'm pretty sure that's the code for it ain't going to happen. People are very unlikely to dump what would need to be a pedigree dog on an animal shelter. I suppose it's possible one could get lost, but from my long experience of such dog owners they would rather cut off both their arms than lose their dog.
So over all, I have the feeling that this is the story of what his Presidency will be: Long on hope, high in aspiration,lofty in ideal but totally lacking in performance and result.....

Monday, March 23, 2009


For all the very best reasons i watched the whole of the BBC " Pride and Prejudice" yesterday afternoon.
You may say what a waste of an afternoon, but I had little else to do, and found myself sucked in again by the performances , the humour, the plot and the passion that it exudes.
So what is Mr. Bingley worth at £5000 a year? Well, very roughly, about £500,000 in today's money. And Darcy? about £3,000,000pa. And the £100pa that Lydia and her husband end up with? About £10,000 pa.
That set me thinking about my lifetime. Born in 1948, £1 then is worth about £21 or so now. That bald figure, though, hides an uncomfortable truth.
Very roughly, the first 30 years to 1978, mean that £1 became about £3.50. The next 30 years the £3.50 becomes about £23 ( or £1 = £6.60).
Unless you are exceedingly innumerate, you will see that over the second 30 years, inflation roughly doubled.
So the potential for deflation should be seen in that context.
It might be uncomfortable, but the longer the present crisis continues, the more I tend to think we need the lost years of the Japanese 1990s worldwide to return to some kind of stability. After all, who says the falls in industrial production in the East and Germany will ever be made up? Maybe we are all heading for a slower, less productive world.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I have in my hand a piece of paper.....

The gorgeous Winchester Whisperer has a piece today about what a shambles the Treasury made over Northern Rock.
This is hardly surprising as HMT has never had to meet a payroll, make a profit, or even negotiate a price. In this case, they clearly didn't even try - or realised they were supposed to..
Be that as it may, I was reminded of the old soldier's trick ( highlighted in Black Watch) of walking about with a bit of paper in your hand. When questioned, it's only necessary to wave the paper to be told to be on your way, and be quick about it.
This, of course, is pretty much what this government has done all along - it's just got more frenetic and pointless as we descend ever further down the recession slope.
Quite rightly, other members of the G20 are saying there is no point announcing yet more measures - it takes time for things to work through, and, quite frankly, no one has the least idea of what is going on at the moment, or what's working, or if it is.....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

OAP Larceny

In these days of PCness, and non- fur wearing, I'm sure the following cannot even be contemplated without shudders running down your back, dear reader.
This morning, on the John and Shaz show on Smooth Radio, the question was asked what horror stories did we, the listeners,have to do with weddings.
There were the usual brides not turning up,even a groom not turning up, but these are almost perennial favourites.
I was reminded of the occasion when my mother, Old Queen Lear, manged to embarrass me even as a grown up, having done it mightily when I was a child. I'm sure your own parents embarrassed you too when you were younger.
We were at a wedding that required full fig, and as a result I was wearing full morning rig. Mrs. Lear ( can't quite remember what she was wearing, but would certainly have been totally a la mode) was dressed to the nines, and Old Queen Lear had on her fur coat.
Most of the older ladies present also had their fur coats getting an airing.There was a deal of "My skins are all female of course, sooo much softer," and a general stroking of pelts. I seem to recall the cat we had at the time was particularly fond of lying on mink.
Anyway, as we had a long drive back, we left relatively early, and that was fine.
Until next day I got a phone call from Northern Constabulary.
" Is that Mr. Lear? Do you have a Queen Lear with you?"
Of course I did. " Could you just confirm she will be there for the next half hour?"
My immediate reaction was to put her on the first flight out, but within the allotted time, our local village copper appeared.
Niceties were exchanged, and then he asked to see the coat.
Queen Lear was delighted to show him her super soft mink coat.
Now Queen Lear suffered from failing eyesight, and being a vain old bird never wore her glasses in company. There had been a spectacular failure.
" How do you know this is your coat?" asked the Bobby.
" It's got my initials inside," said my mother, opening the coat and showing the silken embroidered letters.
Except they weren't QL. They were completely different.
Fortunately, those were the days when policemen had both discretion and commonsense. He took the offending coat away and asked us to call the next day to collect the correct one.
As you can imagine, my mother's face was more than red.

Eat in your carry out

It would appear that France has won a victory over the EU by getting restaurant meals' VAT reduced from 19.6% to just 5.5% That's a huge drop which would really make a difference to restaurants here.
Presumbaly, as the precedent has been set, it should be a doddle to get the same concession here.
Want to bet on it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Labour still isn't working

According to Iain Dale:Fact of the Day: Did you know that every single Labour government in history has left office with unemployment higher than when it started. Looks like they're not going to buck the trend this time, doesn't it?
And don't forget they are the party of the working man.
Yeah, right.

Unintended consequences.

The one thing that has become abundantly clear over the last couple of weeks is that not only does this government have no idea what it is doing, it has no idea what effects it is having by what it is doing.
For example, the implication of a three times salary cap on mortgages implies a further huge drop in house prices. This, in turn, will lead to further huge losses at the banks - which means they won't be able to lend to start the economy.
Perhaps this further collapse in house prices is A Good Thing - in some ways it is - but it's also condemning millions to abject poverty.
It really has all got completely out of hand.
I had lunch yesterday with, amongst others, a CA long retired and the Treasurer of the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
He had banked from the days he first had an account with Bank of Scotland - as had his father and his father before him. His practice had banked with BofS. His wife and children banked there too.
Then one morning late last year he woke up and suddenly felt " My money's not safe in that Bank".
He says it was the most shattering day of his life. He had never never contemplated that cash in a bank was at risk.
His view is that the bankers - and the present government - will never ever be forgiven.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Old shirts for new.

I noted today with sadness the death of James Henderson, Scotland's oldest Rugby international. He played in the 30's, and was a great supporter of the game and the Baa Baas ( The Barbarians) in particular.
My long dead uncle, Jock Wemyss, knew him well - and he had been an internationalist before the First World War, and briefly after it. The extraordinary thing was that a bullet hit his nose and excised his right eye perfectly during that particular bagarre, but this didn't stop him being a great player and kicker afterwards.
He used to tell the story of playing in 1913 and 1914, but then there being no further internationals until the winter of 1918.
In those days there was little or no preparation for such events, probably just a get together the morning of the match. Most of the players would have arrived by bus.
So my uncle turned up on the appointed day in 1918, had a bit of a team talk, they ate lunch together, and then repaired to the changing rooms, where he assumed all the kit would be (he'd brought his own boots, jock strap and shorts).
There was nothing. No socks, no shirts. Being the elder statesman, the rest of the team deputed Uncle Jock to search out the SRFU chairman and ask where the kit was.
" Mr. Chairman, we're a bit short on shirts and socks."
The Chairman looked at him in horror.
" You mean you didn't bring the ones you had before?"
My uncle mentioned that his particular shirt had been ripped to shreds at the match ( no extra ones then).
" What, and you never thought to have it mended? We're not made of money, you know"
I think they borrowed some from some supporters.

NOT stoopid

Chris Dillow has a nice piece on old people being stoopider ( I wrote on this recently).
I'm not at all convinced this is true. Older people tend to " reason" more about things, whilst younger ones tend to " go for it" which I'm sure has an effect. It's well known that one's first instinct tends to be right more often than not.
I'm more convinced by the thought that most of the time we older ones just can't be bothered - and it's quite handy to appear less able to lull others into a sense of false security.....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Glorious mud

I can't help but think that writing one's blog is a bit like telling a story at a dinner party. Unless you are a total bore, you need someone to say something that reminds you of something which you then tell as an anecdote. In the same way, something has to happen to trigger writing the blog. It's one of the reasons I have great respect for people who write professionally - if they didn't keep at it we might get a lot more of the " Nothing much happened today" genre of writing.
So yesterday the pond in the Park was down about a foot, and I thought " Oh, they've found the plug again" ( actually there was a bit missing so they had to get another bit made)
This morning, it's at least 3 feet down on it's usual level.
Pools are being isolated and all the ducks have decided somewhere else is better. The swans look rather forlorn and the mountains of leaves that have never been cleaned out for years are all there to be seen. Along with the traffic cones, old bicycles, deflated balls, bags of rubbish and piles of wood that people have thrown in.
The fish are swimming round in small circles wondering where to go next, and the valiant Glasgow Parks Department were there this morning starting the job of clearing. I don't think it will ever be crystal clear, but at least the "good" bacteria will be able to flourish again.
Unless, of course, they haven't deliberately pulled the plug and something has gone wrong....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Save save save.

Peter Schiff does it again on Takimag.com
I know if we all start saving money things will get worse - but Schiff makes the important point that it is the leverage on capital that makes possible lending. So £1 saved is - say - £10 lent.
The present problem is that that £1 isn't there. Arguably, all the money thrown at the banks is to replace that £1, because the trillions they used to borrow on the interbank market has gone - and has had to be replaced by their own tier 1 capital and actual deposits. And, of course, all those taxpayer squillions.
So the answer? Save like hell and/or pay down debt as fast as possible.
The quicker you do it, the faster we will get back to a sort of normality.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No price.

You will have noticed that I haven't been to Romania a lot recently, but that will shortly have to be rectified. The reason is there has been just too much here to deal with, what with the Crunch and all, but after last year when we had so many deaths in the first part of the year, I thought it might be wise to remain available.
I've spent much more time on the phone to Alin, which is always interesting, because for some reason his English deteriorates. I spent some time discussing the " plugging" he was ordering on a field. I didn't wish to show my ignorance by saying I had no idea what this was. Fortunately, as the conversation went on, a light flashed on and I was able to discuss the " ploughing" with some understanding.
The other thing he insists on discussing are the " inheritage" issues some of the land vendors have, which usually involve a trip to Sibiu to the Land Court to get yet another stamp.And unlike English, where the plural of sheep is sheep, in Romania, the plural of sheep is " sheeps". I am particularly fond of the " little baby sheeps" that are presently being born, especially when the "shepherding man" has had to protect them from the " teeth-eating wolfies". Strange diet for a wolf if you ask me. Apart from anything else, I'm sure the " wolfies" are just there so the shepherd can keep a few of the baby sheeps for himself ( " So terrible Mr.K, the wolfies are teeth-eating them." Hmmm)
Today's particular conversation revolved around what we would describe as a gap site in the village of Alma Vii. It's a complete house site, probably about three-quarters of a hectare, with overgrown but previously impressive gardens and vegetable plots. Some time ago, the local Mayor asked if we would be interested in it, as it belonged to the City Hall. As always I replied yes, depends on the price, and that was the last I heard, until, whilst going through some notes, I came across mention of it. I had asked Alin at the start of the week if the Mayor had come up with a price yet. This morning's conversation ran:
" An' when I am asking the Mayor about that land there, he is saying to me, of course it's Mr. K's"
" Ok, but what's the price?"
" No price"
" No Alin, I don't want to commit to it until I know the price."
" No no Mr. K, there is no price." Slight pause.
" Alin, I'm not buying it if I don't know the price."
" Mr. K, there is no price. He gives it to you." Long pause.
" Ok, he gives it to me - but for how much?"
" No price." Longer pause.
" Do you mean he is giving me that piece of land for nothing?"
" Yes yes, definitely."
" Nothing? Free?"
" Yes yes, no price"
" But what about the City Council?"
" No the Mayor he say Mr. K want that land and they all vote to give it to you for free."
Not too sure what this will actually cost in the long run - at the very least quite a few extremely expensive meals ( for Romania anyway). And some pretty sore heads too.

Alma Mater

I've been somewhat closeted in the office today between people dropping in and catching up with Romania, so I have spent rather longer with middle Ms. Lear than normal.
We were discussing her schooling, which was partly at Oxenfoord outside Edinburgh, where both her mother, the present Mrs. Lear, and Grandmother, the mad Goatherd's daughter, went.
We were actually discussing class, and she made the point that even in this august establishment, the emphasis in her day was on getting on with people, not looking down on them and generally regarding the cleaning ladies as worthy.
As she said, " Well, they taught you to make a ball gown and smoked salmon mousse, so it was pretty basic really."

I don't think she quite has the same idea about egalitarianism as I do....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Teaching Granny to suck eggs.

As I get older I am continually torn by two opposing thought processes. One says I am older, therefore deafer, stupider,slower, more of a liability, and I admit I play on that sometimes.
The other side says I am in full possession of my faculties and capable of trouncing any of these young whippersnappers - obviously not physically, but definitely mentally or in guile.
So I'm particularly pleased when a frail old granny knocks seven bells out of some youth - whose invariable response is " Not fair!" and they run away because our youth in general are cowards ( OK its a sweeping statement but it's meant to be.)
And it's why I always have a chuckle at the Herald Diary as they stick very definitely to the " old folk are stoopid line" - and nothing could be further from the truth.
Today's gem was that a young girl was visiting her granny in Glasgow, and pulled out her laptop - presumably to see if her Facebook entry confirmed she existed.
Granny grabbed the laptop and shook it violently, and said " Draw something nice dear. I remember your mother was very good at it when she was a child"
Granny thought it was an Etch-a-Sketch.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Down and Out on Stevenson Beach

As you know, Mrs. Lear is doing a course at Auchencruive in eco-land management.
Amongst other things, she and her group have to do a project and the choice fell to Stevenson Beach, which has been designated a Site of Special Interest. Of course, it isn't really as it's mostly used by quad bikers and drunks. The locals managed to get it made an SSI so they could ban the quad bikers - but a Scottish drunk is made of sterner stuff. There are always lots of empty cans and Eldorado and Lanliq bottles lying about.
So Mrs. Lear, dressed for the dreadful weather today including a beany hat, and her group were staggering about, and, as you do, she started collecting some of the empties to put them in in a bin. Her cohort fell over and she leaned over to give him a hand up.
" Are you all right down there?" said a very twee voice from above them. Looking up, there were two Ayrshire ladies with their smart dogs.
" Come away, Agnes, it's just a couple of drunks",
As they walked away, Mrs. Lear heard one say to the other "It's disgusting. That woman is pure dead drunk at 11 in the morning.. "
" Yes," says the other, "And just imagine what she's up to with that man."
" Quite dreadful.."

Higher Debt?

I received a letter today from the taxman, telling me I owed them £511 and a further £351.
I'm by no means convinced I do ( nor is my accountant) but what I did rather like was that the letter was signed ( yes with a pen) by a person who has as their title " Higher Debt Manager"
If £862 really is a higher debt at the moment, we really are all screwed.

The eight hour day

Amongst other aniversaries, today is the day we celebrate the introduction of the eight hour day.
Not, I hasten to add, in the UK, but in Australia it's a big deal.
For it was there on this day in 1856 that masons and building workers downed tools and made their way through the town, advocating a day based on 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep and 8 hours recreation.
Nowadays, of course, lots of us spend 2-3 hours commuting, 6 hours sleep,6 hours working and 9 - 10 hours recreation.
And yes I know that's more than 24 hours, but it takes in all the time we are at work, but not actually working.
Recent time motion study discovered:In a typical working day, staff spend 55 minutes gossiping, 16 minutes flirting, 14 minutes surfing...Aren't u lucky you use a virtual assistant?!

How not to lose money

I was at a 21st Birthday party on Saturday night with a 20's theme which was great fun if you like that sort of thing.
In view of the present crisis, the talk amongst the older people was all of the crunch, but the younger ones, nicely padded by their parents, didn't seem too bothered.
I was sitting beside an accountant who was fulminating about RBS and HBOS in particular, and the banks in general.
It's a story we have all heard time and again, but he recalled when he was an articled clerk in his early days, earning £65 per annum and damned lucky to get it too. He used to pop into the famous Horseshoe Bar where various other youngsters, including trainee stockbrokers, sometimes gathered. I rather fancy at the time these particular young men had to pay to get trained.
One evening one of the stockbrokers said to the trainee accountant that XYZ Rubber Company was an absolute certainty to go up dramatically, and he should definitely buy shares. Not having any money, he popped into his local Bank of Scotland at 110 St.Vincent Street in Glasgow and asked to speak to the manager. You could still do that in those days. It became a pub,but has now reverted....
Of course, he didn't actually get to THE Manager, but to one of his underling deputies - who were all probably at least 50 and had been with the bank since they were 16.
It was a bit like Oliver asking for more.
" Please sir can I have £50 please?"
I can see the picture - the greying sagacious banker would look over his spectacles with a light frown.
" And what, pray, is this money for?"
" Well sir, one of my friends is a stockbroker and he has given me a tip on XYZ Rubber."
There would be a pause.
" Young man, we are the Bank of Scotland. We have a fiduciary duty to our depositors first and foremost to lend their money to worthwhile and profitable enterprises. It is NOT our job to lend money to worthless young men for inappropriate speculation. Good day,sir!"
Shame they forgot that.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Free Matt Crawford, the Ambridge One!

Having listened to the re-run today of Matt's arrest, I'm still not sure why he's in trouble. If his main company is solvent and he continues to pay the Bank I can't see that he has a problem. I may have missed something along the line, as in Chalkie has disappeared with the money, or he has,when there would be a problem. As I say, I may have missed some of the crucial evidence.
Anyway, what I really liked was Lillian's comment: " If you were a country, Matt, you would be Iceland".
We are a country. We are Iceland - only bigger.

From GfK...

Fun poll

If there was an election tomorrow, which way would you vote?
(3414 votes)
Liberal Democrats
Interesting, don't you think? "Other" is bigger than Labour or LibDems.
Shows how disenchanted people are with politicians in general.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

What believing can do for you...

Matthew Parris as ever has an excellent article in the Times.
He makes the point forcefully that practically all the world's politicians are running around like headless chickens, because in general they are reacting to situations rather than looking at them broadly or through their principles. What principles you may ask - but read on...
"Did Gladstone, did Churchill, did Attlee, did Thatcher follow blueprints for their problems? Did they moan that the course was uncharted? When the challenge is unfamiliar, that's when you need politics; that's when you need philosophy, ideology, faith, hunch and the talent to link particular snarl-ups to a general view not only of how to manage traffic, but what cars are for. And you need the moral and intellectual confidence to follow your compass."
All these people had it. They had beliefs. They had principles. So when tested, they had the principles to guide them.
Not, as we have now, a party in power and a man in charge ( I use the term loosely) whose only idea is to do the opposition down, and extend state control.
George Osborne gave a speech yesterday to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. Don't forget it was one of the scions of Birmingham politics, a Chamberlain, who used the same event many years ago for a similar purpose - the redirection of his party. Many appear at the moment to think GO is a light weight, a tainted drink,not a helpful person in getting the Tories back into power. No one, however, has a greater thirst to put his policies into practice, nor the will and focus to achieve it. And before you ask what those policies are, they are the usual Conservative ones of sound money, value for money, an honest day's pay for an honest day's work - pretty much all of which have been destroyed by the present government.
Parris has this to say:"The Shadow Chancellor had stepped back, asked what at root he and David Cameron believed in, what at root they thought was wrong, followed this through to its consequences for policy, taken a deep breath - and said it in plain language. In a nutshell, that the banking bubble was part cause but also part symptom of our having lived beyond our means; that payback time is coming; and that in future we must cease rigging personal, business and national finances in favour of borrowing.
Right or wrong in its particulars, wise or ill-considered in its general sweep, Mr Osborne's speech stands as an example of what politics should be for: taking a view, a view of the whole, a view of your own; finding your explanation of the world; and navigating by that star. Deciding. And leaving managers to manage. That's what politics is for. "
Great stuff.Go for it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Signs of the times: No.94

Our newspaper shop has not opened today......
Pubs are changing hands, where they are changing hands, at about 40% of the value ascribed to them a year ago.
And John Redwood has a nice sound-bite regarding Quantitative Easing:
"The government has not merely divorced Prudence but is holding a drink and drugs party on her grave. "
So they not only divorced her, they murdered her as well....

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mad or what?

There has been a property forum happening in Edinburgh which, amongst other things, has opined that commercial property has declined in value by 40% in the past year . Then they say it represents a minus 12% return. Actually, compared to the markets that's quite good, but these two figures are incompatible.
Prime property was yielding about 5%. If it has delivered minus 12% then it has fallen 17%, not 40%.
I suspect, however, that the pundits are referring to the yield having fallen 40%. In the perverse and arcane way that property is valued this means e.g. a 5% yield is now a 7% yield - which actually looks quite tempting.
As my ex-banker advisor says anything yielding above 6% is a steal at the moment. The risk, of course, is of tenants going bust. In that regard, we've had one that is going to leave us. Not exactly gone bust, but as good as. He had a small overdraft of £10,000, pretty much unsecured on his business. It came up for renewal at the end of January, and he somewhat cavalierly rang to say he assumed he could rely on the bank's support for another year.
Not a bit of it. Despite banking with them for over 30 years, and therefore they had all his business transactions for that period, they asked him for a business plan and cash flow. He expressed incredulity, especially as he only ever used a small part of the overdraft and had never over-overdrawn.
Not only did they require the aforementioned, they also needed security, and a £1000 fee, and 7% over base.
Now the latter is hardly relevant, but the fee, as I've said before, means they would be earning a very tasty 18% on their money, if he drew it all down. As he might only draw say £2000, it means the bank would be earning 58% - or much more if he was only overdrawn say half the time. That would be 108%.
The banks "investment/own account" earnings are all gone and are seriously minus. They are going to make that up from people like our tenant.
To cut a long story short, he decided to give up, and I don't blame him.
But I digress.
According to the pundits, in the last wee while RBS and HBOS have accounted for 75% of all property funding in Scotland - and 50% across the whole of the UK.
With that gone, is it any wonder the market's knackered?
A sign of the times. Nationwide will impose charges on overseas card transactions from next month. As Brian Boru has rightly pointed out, not in Europe.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Dividend?

BBC.co.uk has a story about Eurotunnel paying its first dividend.
Right in the middle is a highlighted: "WHAT IS A DIVIDEND? ."
Something you have never seen if you are a Eurotunnel shareholder, and which you may not see much of over the next year or two from anywhere.

"Humiliated.Hopeless. Paralysed"

Peter Hoskin on Coffee House has a telling remark from a Labour Minister. It comes originally from Alice Miles in today's Times, but says:
"'Gordon doesn't start from a position of conviction, he just wants to create dividing lines with the Conservatives".
Can't help but say " I told you so."

Monday, March 02, 2009

The dangers of Quantitave Easing

Quantitative Easing has come to the Lear household.
Mrs. Lear eats a banana every morning for breakfast. If its green, yellow or black, it makes no difference to her. Myself, there are about 25 seconds in the life cycle of a banana when it is yellow without a brown spot when I can eat it.
Generally, Mrs. Lear buys a hand of 6 bananas - one for each morning for her and one for me when its perfect.
So imagine my horror when I discovered that this week there are 7 in the hand. The price is the same ( 99p) as the previous week's 6, but I will have to eat 2.
Deflation has set in. QE is rampant. I will have to ease my belt...
My waistline will expand...

Give your money to a failing business...

I had lunch yesterday with - amongst others - the CEO of a FTSE 350 company.
They effectively have no debt debt and an overdraft of about £40 million committed until 2015.
So you would think he was feeling pretty happy.
Not a bit of it.
£10 million of that comes up for renewal in October this year, but only from the point of view of what the interest he has to pay on it it. As he says, they could effectively give it back if they had to but who knows what the rest of the year might bring.
They have three divisions, one of which supplies to the high street, and that has fallen a little. The danger is that as mergers and bankruptcies proceed, his customer base disappears.
Now you might think that the bank might be happy with their account.
Yes and no. They have already been asked to give back the £10million tranche so that the bank can give it to some of their failing customers.
And that's really the rub. All the people who have done well, saw a bit of what was coming, hoarded cash, cut expenses and so on are the ones who are getting no help - quite the contrary. As my old pal Warren Buffett said in his letter to shareholders, Berkshire is Gibraltar - one of only 7 US companies with triple A credit rating - but he would have been much better to pile all their cash into a heap, set fire to it and ask the US Government for a bailout.
It's the old saying writ large - bad money drives out good.
At the moment, as far as I can see, there's no good money around at all.