Sunday, December 27, 2009

Not so hot

"Now, undeniably, there is climate change. But we call it spring, summer, fall and winter. As for global warming and cooling, that has been going on for millennia. Not so long ago, we exited what is known as the “little ice age.” Over the 20th century, the official rise in global temperature was seven-tenths of one degree Celsius. "
Patrick J. Buchanan on

Going to get better?

I know my reader is not keen on any political stuff here, but there is suddenly a different feeling running through the country.
I have no idea when it started, but there is beginning to be a "fizz" of expectation and hope which has been sadly lacking for a long time.
I agree it may just be the hopes for a New Year - but there was no such feeling this time last year.
I'm not even sure it is the prospect of a Tory Government - it may simply be the near certainty of Gordon Brown NOT being around.
But a buzz and an excitement there is, and it is starting to make a difference to people's planning and forward thinking.
It may be that the recession has finally run it's course, and the next quarter will at worst be flat or perhaps marginally ahead.
Or it may be the growing expectation, fostered by all the interested parties, that house prices will be higher in 2012 than they are now ( not too difficult in my view, even if there is a further dip)
Or it may simply be that people can only last so long feeling fed up and depressed and eventually they will break out and make themselves a new life.
I had an interesting conversation over the Festive Season with a man whose son has been swithering between two women - one he is living with and one who he lives with intermittently. Both sides appeared to know all about the other.
Some sort of final decision seems to have been reached and he is now much happier - but it's taken him more than a year to get there, and lots of unhappiness as far as he is concerned.
But hey - that's life. Bad things happen to good people - and vice versa.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Well we had a really good Christmas with fillet of beef rather than turkey which everyone agreed was a much better idea. Although there was Christmas Pudding ( and though I say it myself the flaming brandy , driving away the devils and evil spirits,was a triumph) the chocolate pud was most appreciated.
The dog got a whole stocking for himself including chews and doggy choc drops, but also a chocolate flavoured rope which he has taken to his bed for safe keeping.
We are still pretty tied up with snow, but the temperature is slowly rising having got as low as minus 8 and enabling me to walk across the park pond to the island in the middle. If I can do it so can the foxes, and Hessilhead had removed most of the ducks and the swans.
Being a film person, Christmas and New Year is always a good time for me as the TV has many good films with several "network premieres" on the go.
I had seen it before but I watched 'The Apostle" this morning and was struck again by the extraordinary performance Bob Duvall gave. Unsurprisingly, he was nominated for Best Actor,but amazingly (meaning there was an even better performance) didn't win. And why? Because Jack Nicholson gave a performace in " As Good as it Gets" which has probably never been bettered.
The final scenes, when Duvall is about to be arrested, are so powerful and spine-tingling that I would defy anyone not to be moved.
There is one part when Duvall picks up a baby, and shows the congregation its tiny hand.
"See this baby's hand? What father would drive a nail right here through it and then NAIL both hands and FEET to a board until his child died.? Would any father have love enough for the world to do that?I couldn't I don't have enough love.
But God.. God he had enough love. Hallelujah!"
And he did.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Very Happy Day..

Middle Ms. Lear is getting married today.
She always said she would never marry, but I guess things change. Youngest Ms.Lear, when told, immediately asked if it was just a tax dodge. Eldest Ms. Lear, known for her straight-talking, opined it was a jolly good idea to keep it secret as it would prevent lots of dreadful people turning up.
It has been a huge secret as she and her young man ( known in the family as Rock God) are decidedly anti "fuss" of any sort, and there will be a total of 10 people at the wedding.
This includes Mrs. Lear and myself, our new in laws, a bridesmaid, a best man and the minister and his wife who just happens to be my future son-in-law's uncle.
The ceremony is taking place at No1.Devonshire Gardens, where they had their first date several years ago,with dinner afterwards.
Almost the best part is it is costing me nothing as all blandishments have been refused. As they are buying a house, I suspect the cost will actually be enormous...
The other slightly wonderful thing is we are all going to Ireland for New Year to stay with the Earl of Kilkenny. You may recall no such person exists, but if he did, he would certainly be like my friend Jimmy, who was christened as the Earl by me more than 40 years ago.
So I am going on my daughter's honeymoon.
I can't think of a nicer compliment.
I should have said the reason we are all going to Ireland is because the Rock God has been given tickets to see one of his bands in Kilkenny.
It's Sharon Shannon's Big Band Tour.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A cautionary tale...

Things have been pretty busy for the last week. I have been on two secret missions ( well, not that secret) and spent a lot of time in a bunker starting at two computer screens- and sometimes three.
But all in all its been quite amusing in its own way - and I've picked up a few more spare rail tickets en route.
Now it's Christmas and a time of good will to all men and women.
So I will share the following with you.
A smelly dirty old lady tramp stopped a sort of yummy mummy and asked for some money to buy food.
"Ha! "says the Yummy. " I bet you would just take the cash and buy drink!"
" Never,"says the tramp. " I stopped drinking 20 years ago. It was killing me."
" Well in that case you would probably buy cigarettes."
"Not at all. I stopped more than 10 years ago"
" Well, I suppose you might buy some new clothes."
" What do I want new clothes for? I stopped going into shops years ago."
"Right" says the Yummy. " I can see you need food, so I want you to come to my house for dinner tonight.""
"Are you mad? What will your husband think, you bringing home a smelly old tramp?"
" I want him to see what happens to a woman who stops drinking smoking and shopping..."

Monday, December 07, 2009

If only...

I don't know if the Royal Bank of Scotland is advertising as heavily down south as it is up here in Scotland, but everywhere you look there are billboards, newspaper ads, TV ads, the lot, telling us how good RBS is at looking after its customers.
The ad I particularly like ( which comes in various sizes) is of a vet " who has been an RBS customer since age 6" with a tag line that says " we are open on Saturdays because your hands are full during the week"
Now being a vet, his hand could be up the backside of a cow, but no - just fitting in the palm of his hand is the sweetest little cocker spaniel puppy you have ever seen.
I'm sure you get lots of questionnaires to fill in, all trying to get your " feelings" towards various companies, but this is the first ad I've ever seen for a bank that made me a) smile b) go "awwww" and c) not want to shoot the lot of them.
So I suppose that's progress of a sort.
Their other ad, which had the directly opposite effect - i.e. a) I growled b) ground my teeth and c) wanted to shoot the lot of them - is the one with the school children all in white shirts looking happy.
The words are " RBS has taught over 400,000 children how to manage their finances through their xyz programme."
If only RBS had taught it's top 4 how to manage their finances we might not all be up a certain creek.
Without the proverbial.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

"Garden fails assessment" - shock horror!

I'm sure, dear reader, you are aware of Mrs. Lear's search for a new vocation and her herculean efforts at the Scottish Agricultural College at Auchencruive near Ayr.
Having magnificently come second in her first year to a horrible swot, she is approaching the end of the first term of her second year in fine shape - if a trifle over concerned by the assessments and course papers that she has to produce pretty much on a weekly basis.
This hasn't stopped her sleeping well, though, and perchance to dream.
You will probably also be aware we had some serious storms and winds over the last couple of weeks, so much so that the wooden fence between Castle Lear and our next door neighbour blew down. Mrs. L, eco-countryside warrior that she now is, cut the fence in half ( it's all that tree chopping down you know), and used it sideways to stop the dog escaping into the next garden.
This is a perfect solution until such time as the new fence bits arrive.
Of course, it does mean it's one more thing that her brain has mixed in with her course.
So it wasn't entirely a surprise when she informed me the other morning at breakfast that she was very upset that the garden had failed it's assessment.
As she hadn't drunk her coffee by that time, I put the remark down to mere un-wakefulness, as opposed to idiocy or Alzheimer's, but she went on.
" Yes, " she said, " It's too bad! They failed it because the fence had blown down and hasn't been replaced."
" Who failed it?"
" The Agricultural College"
" Do you mean they check up on your garden, to see if you are a fit and proper person?"
There was a slight pause as she sipped the coffee.
" Er I think I've got a bit confused. I must have dreamt it. They failed the entire class yesterday as none of us could understand the questions"
So that's all right then.
The Garden retains it's 100% pass rate.

Friday, December 04, 2009

OAP Viking Strippers?

I was walking along the road this afternoon when I was stopped in my tracks by the contents of a car.
It held 3 zimmer frames - but also three Viking helmets, complete with horns and fur.
I can only assume it is the OAP stripper brigade at work...

US Treasury Profits...

Little snippet on the wires - the USTreasury's TARP programme is already getting back the cash it lent various banks ( in full) and they have embarked on selling the warrants they received from the likes of JPMorgan, Capital One, CITI and so on. They have so far made a profit of about $3 billion from this, and, of course, earned 11% or so on the moeny they lent.
And they aren't stuck with any of the toxic loans - they remain firmly with the US Banks.
Compare this to our own situation, where the Treasury has had no money back, hasn't made a profit ( in theory there might be SOME but those dang prices keep going up and down), and has had to shoulder about £850MILLION of toxis debt and dodgey loans.
Don't quite see that as saving the world....