Sunday, October 31, 2010


I wonder how many people have picked up on the very clever allusion in the new AA ad for home cover insurance?
And why, you may ask, is John Cleese, who has pots and pots of money, doing it?

Well, I suspect he has been offered so much money for a day's work that he couldn't turn it down ( or he's got a book/film to publicise).

So what is it?

Well, as the water pours down through the ceiling, his " daughter" says she will call the AA.

He replies," The AA? For faulty showers?"


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sic Transit...

The crown Prince of Japan, an extremely erudite man, spent some time at Oxford.

The story goes that when he went for his interview, which mostly consisted of having dinner with the Master of Balliol, the following exchange took place.

Now Balliol regards itself as rather grand, a bit like the second regiment of the Gurkhas, or just about any Guards regiment.

At dinner, which was proceeding most smoothly, as you would imagine, the Master was making conversation and said to HRH " I've always been fascinated with Japan and it's culture and spiritual life. How exactly does the Royal Family fit into that?"

" Well," said the prince," There are, for instance, two sides to my position."

" How interesting, and what would they be?"

" Naturally, there is the temporal, which clearly defines my position as next in line to the throne."

" Of course, " said the Master, with an unctious smile." And the other?"

" The other is the spiritual, which, from my point of view, means I am a god."

" Ah, yes, I see, " said the Master." In that case, I'm sure you will feel very at home at Balliol."

Monday, October 18, 2010

True Phlegm

I know I'm not keeping up with the pace, but hey, sometimes I have stuff to do.

I had an exceptionally fine dinner last Thursday night for the Gurkhas in the New Club in Edinburgh, complete with regimental silver, generals, lords,kilts,trews,medals and an after dinner speech.

The speech was given by Professor David Purdie, who not only gave his services free but also donated the pre-dinner drinks. The reason was his 90 year old father-in-law had fought with the Gurkhas in Korea, and is ( possibly) the last surviving Gurkha officer from that period.

He gave an excellent speech, not so much for the content but for the delivery. It was replete with military stories of the great and good, none more so than the Brigadier in the Carlton Club which was blown up by the IRA in 1990.

He represented everything a British Brigadier is known for: shoes so shiny you could see your face in them; suit immaculately correct; regimental tie; and true phlegm.

The Brig was having his dinner when the bomb went off. He was eating his dessert, and as the building collapsed around him, a cone of plaster formed on his head - and on the spoon of pud that was making it's way to his mouth.

As he came to rest somewhere between the first floor and the basement, complete with table and chair and himself intact, he took stock of the situation with a mind honed from years of command.

In his own words :" As I dusted off the plaster from the spoon, and ate my pudding, my thought was that this was no ordinary kitchen mishap."

It became the quote of the year - and reminds me of Sid James in " Carry on Up the Khyber."

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A decade in Afghanistan

Scotland is set to host the main events of a national appeal to raise over £350,000 for those affected by the war in Afghanistan, which will be launched in October. An ambitious team of students from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth lead the ‘DecAid’ campaign, which will honour the decade long contribution of British Armed Forces in Afghanistan since 2001. how of solidarity. DecAid deserves to s
The official launch on 13th October in 7 Rifles Barracks, Davies Street, London, will be supported by DecAid’s patrons; Lieutenant General Sir Nicholas Parker KCB CBE, Deputy Commander of ISAF Forces in Afghanistan; Hamish Clark of ‘Monarch of the Glen’; the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, and sponsors; Exeter University Innovation Centre; Plymouth University; Exeter University and NRG Direct Mail.
DecAid’s latest patron, former BBC war correspondent and independent politician, Martin Bell, comments "I find it most heartening that these young people, on their own initiative, are doing so much to support our soldiers in Afghanistan. This is not a celebration but a show of solidarity.”
DecAid proceedings will dominate 2011 in a coordinated year-long campaign. The opening ceremony, a spectacular ‘Massed Pipes and Drums’ event, on 26th June 2011, will see 2,011 musicians march along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, in conjunction with the Armed Forces Day events.
The appeal has set a series of extreme physical challenges which will involve several thousand people nationally, including ex-servicemen, their family and friends. The challenges include;
The ‘Munro Mission’, in Scotland, which aims to conquer 283 mountains in 49 days, climbing the height of Mount Everest every three days. The team will complete the 1600 mile route without the use of motorised transport, instead travelling on foot, and by bicycle and kayak. Ever Munro will be dedicated to service men and women who have lost their lives in Afghanistan. In this challenge the team will look to raise money for additional service charities such as the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
‘The Ride 2 Remember’ static bike race from London to Kabul,
‘The Big Tow’, in which vehicles will be towed around Rockingham race track in a tri-service competition; and
‘Stretched to the Limit’ where 30 teams will attempt the arduous trek up Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, carrying a heavy stretcher.
The DecAid enterprise will donate to three service charities;
‘Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association’ (SSAFA);
‘The British Limbless Ex-Servicemen Association’ (BLESMA); and
‘Talking 2 Minds’,
It is the brainchild of Rupert Laing, aged 24, who lives in Moray and is a former Exeter University graduate.
Laing comments “we want to encourage the population of the UK, particularly our generation of under 25 year olds, to stand up and show their support for the work of the courageous and inspiring members of our armed forces on the 10th anniversary of the conflict.” Laing leads the DecAid Team which is made up of current and former members of the Exeter University Officer Training Corps (EUOTC).
As well as its own proceedings, DecAid will oversee individually organised events which can be advertised on their website All of the money raised will go towards helping those affected by the decade long conflict in Afghanistan.
Notes for Editors:
For further information contact: Rupert Laing – or 07709 430 127
Several of the participants have already completed challenges such as climbing the five highest mountains of the UK and Eire in five days, each involving a marathon, and briefly held the World Record for the most people joined together to complete a marathon.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Jest Magic!

You might not believe this, but I was in the company of an erstwhile fund-raiser for the Labour party today. Yes, I know, very uncharacteristic.

He is, however, properly speaking, a dirty rotten capitalist, but also quite a nice chap, and we have business dealings with him that generally work out well.

We were chatting away when he suddenly broke off.

" Ya know, Kingy, I have to tell ya this. I'm this close to voting for that David Bluidy Cameron of yours. He's jest magic!"

There could be no more ringing endorsement...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Rose Red City...

I've been away, dear reader in Canada and the States.

Apart from putting on about half a stone ( 3.5kgs if you are under 40) I had an excellent time.

The most interesting part was being in Detroit.

This once truly great American city has lost about 65% of it's population over the last 7 or 8 years. Whole sections of the city are derelict, cut off from their surroundings by the roads and dead car parks that leaders of the Automakers insisted be provided.

There are no buses or trains or trams - they wouldn't allow them. But they needed to get their workers to and from the huge plants dotted about the city, and they wanted them ALL to buy a car every year, so the roads got built.

Over time, it meant that sections of the city lost people, then imploded. All the shops are no longer in Detroit - they are in the malls, half an hours drive away.

The first Black Mayor ever in Detroit in the '70s ( not really surprising - over 80% of the population is Afro-Caribbean) tried hard to help the City, right into the '90s. All the things he wanted to do to redress the balance were fought tooth and nail by the car companies and by the whites. When he stepped down, he had achieved virtually nothing to redress the problems.

Now, the (white) mayor is beginning to suggest some of the things that should have been done nearly 40 years ago.

There are no people wandering around - why would they? There's nothing for them to do in terms of shopping or sports or anything. The car parks stand as mausoleums to a failed environment.

What struck me most forcibly was that even before the cars came, Detroit was a rich city. Indeed, one of the reasons the cars got built there was that the money and the infrastructure existed. The rich executives and owners of Ford, General Motors, Chrysler ( and all the long forgotten firms they swallowed up) gave millions to the city to found schools, art galleries, concert halls - they gave to the City in their droves, as well as building fine buildings both for themselves and their businesses.

Now, many of these buildings have no future other than being flattened, and the land underneath returned to pasture. Even Henry Ford's first production line factory lies derelict - a plaque claiming that in 1925 it produced over 9,000 Model T's in one day.

But why -what has happened now? People are still making money in Detroit - lots of it.

They just don't give it back, they take, and take again.

John F.Kennedy and his brothers still hold a strong grip of American's souls, and Teddy's death last year boosted that, as does the 50th Anniversary of Jack's Presidential address.

His words are everywhere, and they are as relevant today for America and for ourselves as they ever were:

" Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather, what you can do for your country."

We've all forgotten what that means.
PS The picture is of the Renaissance Centre, GM's world headquarters.
It's a fabulous building - with nothing round about it. They are starting to landscape and riverscape round about, but all the shops have gone and there are either expensive good restaurants or hash-joints in terms of food.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The compliments are coming thick and fast at the moment. Our man in China asked for a picture of me and this was his reply:

"You look as a handsome,robust,kindness man I think."

Of course, I am his customer, so there just may be a touch of sycophancy there...

Anyway, today is a day when Mrs. Lear goes to Yoga.

There are two distinct classes, the Blingers, and what she calls the Norms & Nicies.

The Blingers mostly drive black 4x4s, and get very upset if the perfect line up outside the class is broken by eg a Ford.

They arrive late and chatter.

They've all had breast enhancement. How can you tell? When they lie on their backs, their boobs stick straight up.

The Norms & Nicies on the other hand, turn up on time, concentrate on their Yoga, their boobs meld into their chests when they lie on their backs, and generally drive ordinary cars.

And they don't care where or how they are parked.

The point of this story is that the Blingers are slowly but surely diminishing in number.

This is the direct result of the present economic conditions. Some of the 4 x 4s have gone. The husbands are either having to put more money into their businesses, have lost their jobs, or, if partners in law firms,have no net salary this year.

These are the people who would normally keep the economy growing by their spending habits, but these are the very people who have been hardest hit.

The Banks, of course, have been waiting for the little glimmer of hope so they can start liquidating any problem loans ( they don't do it at the bottom, only when it starts to improve). They've also been hugely encouraged by the Basel III bank ratios, as to all intents and purposes all UK banks are well within the parameters.

Which would make you think they would start lending again.

But of course not. As someone recently told his bank manager:

" Listen, if you hadn't caused the problem in the first place, you wouldn't be causing us ALL problems now!"
PS In case you are unsure, this is NOT a picture of me. I am far more handsome... and incredibly modest.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ah So!

I received a very nice compliment today, in that someone who had read this blog asked me to contribute to another. Regretfully, I declined, as I have too much to do at the moment as it is.

I do, however, intend to contribute to stillsexyatsixty when it's up and running. After all, I have several birthday cards from a year or two ago which say " older.... wiser.... sexier." And who am I to disagree?

Anyway, the other nice thing that happened today was I had an exchange of emails with a lady in China, who says her name is Jane Russell.

Now actually, I'm pretty sure her real name is something like Wang Bo, and she just wishes she had the body and looks of Miss Russell ( By the way, did you know Howard Hughes invented a special bra for her for one of his films? I presume he had to handle her breasts a lot to make sure it fitted...As I recall the movie was "The Outlaw" -appropriate, I think)

She is our account executive at one of the parking companies we use for domains, and her emails are a permanent delight. We ask her to do something, which she does, but then goes way way beyond the call of duty, and is pathetically eager to please. If all the Chinese that people deal with are like her then we might as well give up now.

So you can imagine my delight when the following came in from her..:

"Thanks for your reply ,I find ideas from your ideas and will tickling up to senior management."

In the UK, I'm sure she would be done for sexual harassment, but I'm pretty sure it's a good career move in China.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Inglish as wot she is spoke

Amongst a raft of other things I did today, I went in to my local bank.

There was an Asian lady waiting, not in the queue,and eventually the manager ( if that's what they are nowadays) came out to speak to her.

The Asian lady spoke with a pronounced Glaswegian accent. The gist of the conversation was that she had phoned the call centre about something - which of course was in India.

The conversation went..." An ah canna unnerstan a wurd they peeple sez."

Sic Transit Jamilla....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Great Occasion

Yesterday was spent in Edinburgh, gearing up for the last night of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

2 Div, which is the brigade that is stationed in Scotland, were the hosts and a fine collection of punters we were. I was the only one without any medals.

This is the 60th. anniversary ( it began in 1950) and it has returned to it's roots, having flirted with less military themes in the 80's and 90's. Last night included the Pipes and Drums of the Gurkhas, which is partly why I was invited.

The final firework display was a fine ending, and I defy anyone to hear the Lone Piper spotlit on the Castle Battlements and not to feel the hair on the back of their heads bristle. Tattoo comes from the words "Doe den Tap Toe", Dutch for "turn off the taps" which was the cry in the 17th. and 18th. centuries in the Low Countries,when the fifes and drums of the local regiment marched through the streets signalling it was time for the troops to return to barracks.

This year of course was especially poignant because of the deaths in Afghanistan, and quite a number of the participants last night were not long back.

Next year, astonishingly, marks 10 years of us fighting in Afghanistan. A group of students have come together to form DECAID which will raise money for a variety of military charities, hopefully the GWT included.

Two of the projects are worth mentioning. One will be a full parade of 2,500 Pipers and Drummers marching down the Royal Mile, immediately after armed forces day next year. It will be well worth securing a view.

The other is nearer my heart. A group of 6 young men will climb ALL the 283 Munros in a seven week period. They will walk all the way, including between the peaks. It includes canoeing to the Islands.Incredibly, the record for doing this by a single person is 39 days.

The intention is that each Munro will be dedicated to a dead soldier in Afghanistan, and that will include a spell which will be dedicated the the Gurkhas.

Sadly, we are already past the 283 deaths that would cover the Munros.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I've had to do a quick ( as in two days there) trip to Romania, as my incredibly valuable signature is required on a EU document to enable me to get my hands on Eur150,000 of EU cash.

Some months ago, the Gnome ( you can guess why he's called that) came across some Corncrakes on our land.

Now Corncrakes are on the red list and we should all be doing our utmost to keep them with us. Naturally, we do rather more when our palms are crossed with silver.

So the EU is providing me with money to expand the area where the Corncrakes are and to create a sort of "corridor" for them to flit to and fro between.

We can only use the land for hay thereafter, but as this will add up to about Eur 100 per hectare, and we get the EU subsidy of a further Eur 67 per ha, this will represent quite a nice return on our net costs per ha of about Eur250 after the EU grant. The Romanian government is supposed to be lobbing in a few quid as well, because they should attract eco-tourists.

It's a long term project, but what it does do is underpin and secure our business in Romania for the long term.

The Mayor has been very helpful in leasing us some extra land to cover the loss of agricultural land this will entail.

I did have to promise him that he could be the first to see them... once we find them again....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Into the yellow leaf...

I'm back from Switzerland, after my cousin's funeral.

It was a lovely time, despite the lashing rain and freezing temperatures.

Her four children and myself talked endlessly about times gone by , mulled over old pictures ( who was that?) and remembered odd things ( there should have been an enormous bowl of ice cubes on the dining table to add to her white wine.)

We all threw a white rose into the grave and some earth, and her eldest son said a few words, followed by me, who had known her longest. We both said to remember that she loved us all in her own way, and I reminded her children that she was very proud of them too.

Then we all went to the Hotel du Lac for an excellent lunch amidst general bonhomie.

The evening was spent back at her magnificent Maison de Maitre, making pasta and heating up the ubiquitous cheese tarts. No one had been there for 2 years, but the vegetable patch was still flourishing, growing produce for the gardener.

Her younger son ( No.4) and my two eldest ( Ms Lear Senior and Mrs. Rock God) had great laughs remembering all the holidays they had together. My children were always very envious of No.4 because he was allowed to do practically anything he wanted , whilst mine were always being circumscribed.

As No.4 said, " Well, that's blind indifference in upbringing." He was not wrong.

I do hope her four children and our family remain friends. I knew her all her life, and all of her children all their lives.

As we left the table, No.4 clicked his fingers and shouted " Staff! Staff!" which had always been his mother's way of dealing with anything.

It raised a good laugh but brought a tear to more than just my eye.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A life less ordinary

I've been saddened by the recent death of a cousin of mine, who was variously known as Mrs.Posh,The Hoor, and the Alkie.

This might make you think she was less than loved, but, as I was brought up with her, I never felt less than great affection for her.

Being some 9 years older than me, as a very little boy I'm sure I had to perform as her baby whilst she played little mother, and in the old days when you could dial only local numbers,she and I used to dial random numbers and ask to speak to odd people, then slam the phone down shrieking with laughter.

She hated school, and my father, who sort of looked after family matters, was continually having to take her back and ask for another chance at a whole string of places. The one school she quite liked was at Rolle in Switzerland, where she was able to get out and indulge her taste for both men and drink.

She crashed her father's Rolls into the side of her ( much older) future husband's Alfa Spider in order to make sure she got his attention. That was in the South of France when she was 18, and had just done the season - and a lot of the deb's delights too.

She married at 19 an ex-Austrian Swiss National 24 years older than herself ( having paid to repair the Spider) who had escaped from Hitler and done well. He was to go on and produce Peter Seller's films and The Go Between with her money. But he really made his wealth from buying up all the French films after the war for $10 each and then renting them worldwide at $1000 a time.

When they divorced three children later, it was - and remains - the second most expensive divorce case ever, second only to Margaret, Duchess of Argyle.

She married again and had a further son, but the marriage was short lived.

I always felt very sorry for her in that she never appeared to have any enjoyment in her life - sex and booze yes, but not contentment and happiness. It later years, even if the world was coming to an end, her response was usually that she was having problems with the swimming pool, or the staff - or both.

Just one story.

As I've said, her husband was Swiss. In those days, Swiss jurisdiction meant that she could never have her children, as they automatically became wards of the father.

Stupidly, she allowed her ex-husband to take them on a skiing trip to Switzerland, where they were promptly purloined legally by the father.

My cousin immediately appealed to my father for help. As all his brothers and sisters said he was the cleverest of them, and, rather like myself, was not one for sitting back. He was a man of instant action and reaction.

He drove immediately from London to Villars with my cousin and me. He dropped me in Geneva with airline tickets in my name and those of my cousin and her three children for the following afternoon.

At Villars, he managed to collect the children early from ski-school, and raced off south to the St.Bernard tunnel, crossing into Italy before 7pm. Luckily, as was the way in those days, children were on their mother's passport until they turned 16. My cousin and her children caught the early flight to London from Milan, and by lunch time were wards of the English Court - delegating custody to the mother.

Father (wisely) set off back to London via France.

In the meantime I was still in Geneva, and sauntered up to the check -in desk at the appointed time - whereupon several burly Swiss policemen and my cousin's husband descended on me.

Needless to say, like Manuel, I knew Nathing.

Of course, eventually the Swiss figured it out and my father was persona non-grata for a few years.

But he was always rather pleased with his escapade.

And her husband is still alive and well...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I wanna tell you a stawy

I finally have a little time to tell you a stawy, as Max Bygraves used to say.

I have a friend who is Armenian by descent, but Iranian by birth, who is now about 46. Lets call him Mr.Notsonice

He lives in London. He has no money, he is ill with ME, and he stumbles around the Iranian ex-pat community.

About four weeks ago, a friend of his, the Ex-Ambassador I mentioned some time ago,appeared on his doorstep with a young ( as in 24 year old) girl in tow. Lets call her Miss Fancypants.

Now the story is that they had never met before and he had simply asked her to accompany him to see Mr.Notso, because she was nicely dressed. And smelled nice too. Can you imagine any girl in her right mind doing that?

That was a Thursday evening. They all went out and had a meal, and on Friday Mr. N and Miss F went out together on a date. They went back to his flat and three and a half weeks later she is still there.

What's odd about that, you may ask? Well, with the best will in the world, no female in her right mind would give Mr. Notso the time of day, let alone sleep with him. He admits to never having had sex without paying for it. All of a sudden Christmas has come every day of the week as far as he is concerned.

Miss F professes undying love for Mr. N. So much so that there is talk of wedding bells, parents being introduced and the like. And yes she has a British Passport and a job in a lawyers office before you ask if that's the motive.

She is supporting him, running around after him and generally not letting him lift a finger. Mr. Notso is wandering around looking as if he has been hit over the head with an extremely large hammer.

Now call me an old cynic ( I am) but this just cannot be 100% on the level. He's a friend of mine and even I don't like him quite a lot of the time.

To my mind there are two possible reasons.

1) She is being chased by a gang of international crooks and she is using Mr.Notso as a safe house.

2) She is a plant from the Iranian Secret Service trying to get inside the dissident Iranian community in London. She is much better looking than Mata Hari .

Either way, Mr. Notso may not have long to live.....

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The love that jolly well ought to speak it's name.

I have been remiss, dear reader, in not keeping you up to date with the goings on in my realm. I have, perhaps uncharacteristically, been very busy with funerals and other matters, which have kept me away from a keyboard for a longish time.
I have a tale of intrigue and skullduggery to tell, but not the time to do it today.
For the moment, I just want to bring to your attention a new production of Romeo and Juliet.
What's interesting about that, you may say.
Well, it stars Michael Byrne and Sian Phillips. The former is 67.
The latter 77 - and perhaps best known for being married in the 60's to Peter O'Toole.

But my point is, this is ROMEO and JULIET. Surely a couple of wrinklies shouldn't be allowed to play two young lovers?

All I can say is I think it's a brilliant idea. Let's reinvent romance and find such a love in our waning years.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How to handle the Taliban


1. There has been a report in the Media of a Gurkha soldier on active service in Afghanistan, who is reported to have decapitated a member of the Taliban.

2. The incident remains under investigation by ISAF authorities.

3. Any media enquiries regarding this incident should be referred to the MOD Press Desk on 020 7218 2661.

That'll make the blighters think twice before messing with the Gurkhas!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our three lads.

From the MOD:

I regret to inform you that the following were killed in action on operations in Afghanistan on 12 Jul whilst serving with 1 RGR:

Major James Bowman RIFLES seconded to 1 RGR – Officer Commanding A Company. James was a bachelor, his parents live in Tidworth.

Lieutenant Neal Turkington RGR – Platoon Commander A Company. Neal was a bachelor, his parents live in NI.

Corporal Arjun Purja Pun RGR – A Coy. Corporal Arjun Purja Pun was a Battle Casualty Replacement detached from Sittang Company RMAS. He was married with a son and a daughter. His wife and children live in UK. His parents live in Nepal and will be informed through HQ British Gurkhas Nepal.

Next of Kin have been informed.

Even more sadly, James Bowman was known to me. His most recent communication told of his hugely rewarding times with the Gurkhas, that they had had some "crunchy" times in Afghanistan but thankully were on top and staying there.
He had been invited to the GWT dinner in October at the New Club in Edinburgh, but had had to decline as he was to be on ops.

A Black Day

From Spean Bridge Hotel:
"We are very sad at the hotel to lose 3 of our friends today.Our flag is now half-mast. Please convey our sorrow. We are thinking of you. All keep safe. We send our love to you all..Commando bar and all staff"

Friday, July 02, 2010

Another day another hill

Well we've made it to Friday so only 2 more Munro's - Lochnagar which weirdly is a mountain - and Mount Keen.
Wednesday was the most glorious day and I accompanied the boys up the hill. When we got back down I had to reach for the moisturiser for my arms and face.Wednesday night was also the reception in Kingussie, where lots of RBLs from eg Nairn and Granton on Spey came and presented us with cheques, our piper played and we were also enjoined to dance Nepali dances to the Mardle drum rhythm. I also had the most extraordinary conversation with a perfectly nice looking chap, who clearly decided he needed to tell me all about a) his sex life and b) his likes and dislikes about the size and shape of the various parts of the female body.Fortunately I was rescued as he was working his way down...
One of the RBL Chairmen just happens to be a piper and a piping judge, and he also obliged with a few tunes which brought everyone to their feet.
Thursday as ever was the longest day and characterised by wind and rain.Tea was very required as they came in about an hour earlier than anticipated. My view is this group are even fitter and more determined than their forerunners, making quite sure their times are noted, so that next year's lot will find it hard to beat.
We stayed last night at The Inver Hotel at Crathie, where Susan always makes us most welcome and gives us free food and on this occasion accommodation as well.
One of the interesting pieces of information I have gleaned this time is about "khud" races.
In the old days, the army always posted pickets on the top of the hills around where it was marching or bivouacking, so that they would not be subject to a surprise attack.
Of course, the poor pickets had to run for their lives as they were withdrawn, and as the Gurkhas were the best mountain runners, they always got the job where speed and mountain craft were essential. The pathans used to hide in gullies trying to guess which way they would run, and obviously kill them if they could.
In general the Gurkhas won through, but on the second retreat from Kabul ( will we witness the next?) 35 Gurkhas died keeping what enemies they could away from the main force.
Tonight there is a reception in Banchory where we will be on parade to receive more cheques.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A letter from Joanna Lumley to our 7 Gurkhas

Beyond the seventh mountain,
Beyond the seventh glen,
Beyond the seventh waterfall,
March seven Gurkha men.

This could almost been written for you! In fact it comes from the Disney film of Snow White: and these eerily, almost-accurate words came from the mirror consulted by the Wicked Stepmother.

Scotland would not be the same without the tread of Gurkha feet over its hills and glens, and I am thrilled to think that this year you will be organising a scarily ambitious programme to raise money for the GWT.

May good fortune and fine weather dog your footsteps, and may the pleasure of companionship cancel out the pain of blisters. This brings a thousand good wishes and Namaste to all your fine walkers from Joanna and a whoosh of green smoke and an eerie cackle from the Wicked Stepmother (whom I am able to channel at will).


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gurkha Highlander 2010- Day 3

The memorial service for Gurkha Highlander went off exceptionally well last night - even the sun came out, and the hills had that magnificent grandeur they take on when cloud and sun come together in a certain way.We had a lovely message read out to us from Joanna Lumley, which I know is now being disseminated through the media.
You may not know this but Joanna was married to her present husband in Fort William- just along from where we are climbing the seven summits.
Frank in the Spean Bridge Hotel had again produced his best curries, and everyone had a jolly party afterwards.
Today the lads climbed Creag Meagaidh, getting up and down in about 5 hours,although two of them did it in about 4.
When I went back to pick them up I donned my walking boots again and headed up the hill. After about 45 minutes two ladies and a dog came running towards me - I would have to say they were of the " broad bosomed, bold, becalmed, benign " of Balham fame - except their broad bosoms were anything but becalmed as they jounced about with each step. They steamed past with a cheery wave and I conti. After another 5 minutes or so, two of the boys ( who were in training for Trailwalker until they got an injury so are now in recovery training)came flying down the path towards me. I dug in my pocket and held out the van key,which one of them grabbed out of my hand on the way past.
I turned back at that point...
The leader today was a senior serving officer, whose connection is that he was in
10th Gurkhas as a Captain. The more astonishing thing about him is that he was in a class of 7 at Stirling University in his youth, along with Jack McConnel and Tommy Sheridan.He also had Eric Joyce with him, well known as the MP who claimed the most ever expenses. Amongst other subjects they were studying politics, and the discussions must have been wonderful.
Tonight we are having Baht at the organiser's house in Kingussie - followed by another party/fundraiser in the Silverfjord hotel.
Should be fun...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gurkha Highlander 2010 - the Seven Summits

I suppose this is technically day two and the weather, as ever, continues to disappoint. Whilst most of the UK is sweltering in 80F heat, we in Spean Bridge are on about 14 C ( = 56F) with heavy rain and mist. In fact, as we drove towards the departure point this morning, there were 3 Munro's ahead of us. You could see the top of two. I asked the boys which one they thought they were going for." The one with the heavy mist, sahib" came the chorus.
Frank made us his special fish curry last night.The Nepalese are not huge fish eaters, so they were a bit circumspect to begin with when it appeared. Suffice to say it all got eaten.
We just saw the end of the Engerland match. End being the operative word.
We did, however, watch the Argentina versus Mexico in the bar, where there was a man and a women in Argentine strip, going berserk for most of the match, the lady screaming in what I assume was Argentine and the bloke in a very strong Scottish accent. At half time I asked them how they came to be here. They lived just up the road and the lady was from Argentina. The chap made it quite clear that following Scotland was toooo depressing, whilst following England was clearly out of the question. Plus it helped with matrimonial harmony if Argentina lost as they could commiserate with each other.
Before setting off this morning we had a practice at the Commando Memorial for the wreath laying we have tonight. Piper Samir played "Flowers of the Forest" most sweetly, and Sgt Dev laid the wreath with enormous aplomb. I hope it goes as well this evening when supposedly TV crews and newspaper journalists will attend.
In the meantime, I have to get in the food for tomorrow's climb, which includes lots of sweeties. Gurkhas have a sweet tooth, especially for chewy ones, so several jumbo bags will be required. Then I have to get the tea flasks ready for the boys coming down off the mountain.
As Corporal Ang said yesterday " I didn't know tea could taste as good, Sahib!"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

GH 10 launch!

I'm sitting in the reception at the Spean Bridge Hotel, which is, as always, the nerve centre of the Gurkha Highlander Operation each year.This is GH10.
Frank, the owner, and all the staff are so good to us that despite the place being generally overcrowded, we love being here.
Together with my chum, we drove Arnold Clark's minibus down to Sandhurst on Friday, and I ate my first curry of the period. Quite why I'm not sure, as I could have had a KFC or a McDonalds or a kebab in the immediate vicinity of the Travelodge we were in.
On second thoughts, the curry was the most acceptable option.
It didn't stop us having an egg & sausage McMuffin for breakfast - the option of GBP7.50 or GBP 1.99 was no contest when every fiver we can save pays for the food for an old pensioner for nearly a week in Nepal.
Sandhurst itself almost brought tears to the eyes of my pal as we drove to collect the lads - he had been there 37 years earlier as a sprog lieutenant. I have to say he has lost none of his military bearing over the years, despite not being career military.
We stopped off in Stafford to collect the rest then battered on up the road. My chum got off at Croy to take the train back to Edinburgh, and I drove on.
Frank welcomed us like long lost friends, insisting all the kitchen staff met us,as well as the customers in the bar, the restaurant, the hotel and the fish and chip shop, so it took a while to get to the first drink - which Frank paid for himself.
His boar curry was delicious, as was the chicken and pork, and the rice mountains were quickly demolished. Mind you, we do not have The Man Mountain with us this year who could eat any four people under the table and still be looking round for seconds....
Sunday dawned dull and cold ( 14C) so the smart new fleeces were donned for the assault on Ben Nevis.
The format is a bit different this year ( you can read about it here) which means I will have slightly less driving to do ( if you discount the 2000 to collect and drop off the boys. This was done to save enough for 20 pensioners for a month - times are really tough in the world of charities and we have to go for even more value for money.
So please - give money if you can, but even more importantly mention the Gurkha Welfare Trust on your blog, or Facebook or whatever.
I promise you it will make you feel good....

Saturday, June 19, 2010


The Sun ran a front page special last December after the draw for the World Cup.
It ran:
Those with some linguistic ability will spot the initial letters form " EASY". The sub-title was " Best English Group since the Beatles!"
I have little or no interest in fu'baw, but I have to admit to my interest being increased by England's two appalling performances so far.
In order to progress they now have to beat Slovenia, which, from last night's performance looks a)impossible and b)has the potential for an England defeat.
I told you the reason for the white flags with the red crosses in an earlier post.
I suspect there are even more England fans with metaphorically short appendages this morning....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A fairytale romance..?

Back to Glasgow and some better weather.
Things here in the underworld are getting a little sticky.
Glasgow has always been known for it's "gangs" but of course these are just the footmen for the knights, lords, earls,dukes and kings behind them.
Sometimes a footman gets the better of himself and then things become somewhat hairy.
Jimmy, for it is he, many years ago did some odd things in Ireland, and to this day frequents a pub called the Crystal Bells on Glasgow's Gallowgate. It is entirely untrue to suggest it is an IRA drinking den.
Now Jimmy had a lady-love ( Senga - in case you don't know this is Agnes backwards. It's like houses and pubs that are called NIA ROO. This is OUR AIN backwards. Got that?)
Senga, like many a lass, had her head turned by the wealth and power of Sean, and dropped Jimmy for greener pastures.
But inside Senga's breast her attachment to Jimmy never left her, and after yet another enormous row, she dumped Sean.
Now Sean is one of the high ups in charge of various taxi firms in the town and connected to the Crystal Bells ( you need to keep up and make the connections yourself.)
Senga phones Jimmy, begs forgiveness, tells him she is finished with Sean, and can they meet - in another pub which shall remain nameless. Jimmy goes along, and he and Senga start chatting and canoodling - and then Sean walks in, alerted by just about everyone in Glasgow who he had told to let him know where Senga was.
Sean slaps Jimmy about the face a couple of times and tells him to leave Senga alone, or Sean will set about Jimmy in no uncertain terms. In order to save Jimmy from a worse fate, Senga tells him to go. Jimmy agrees, and goes to the loo to tidy up a bit.
Only he bursts out ten seconds later brandishing the knife he had down the inside of his sock, and stabs Sean 53 times, all the time shouting " Set aboot me? I'll show ya set aboot me, ya ***@@^!"
In the ensuing mayhem Jimmy escapes, leaving behind the knife sticking out of Sean.
When the police arrive,they are able to get half a dozen witnesses, DNA and fingerprints off the knife, and promptly put an APB arrest warrant for Jimmy.
That was six weeks ago. Jimmy discussed with his lawyer trying for self defence (even to lawyers and criminals with flexible minds, 53 stabs is a bit much for self defence - 8 or ten yes, but not 53...)but the lawyer said the best bet was to turn himself in.
Jimmy, of course, is heartbroken - not that he killed Sean but that Senga will now have nothing to do with him.
So the for the last 6 weeks he has been wandering around Glasgow from house to house as various relatives go away for a few days, but blind drunk most of the time.
It hasn't stopped him drinking in a large number of pubs causing problems,nor ending up in the Crystal Bells shouting he could batter any one present.
He even turned up at a police station one night when he had forgotten which house he was supposed to be hiding in and asked them to put him up for the night. As he was clearly totally drunk, the police refused to take him in,so he sat on the pavement outside and went to sleep - from which the police roused him about 7am.
But here's the thing - why are none of Sean's associates after Jimmy, and why are the police ( who would appear to be taking urgent and stringent steps to arrest him) not got him yet?
Could it be connected with various taxis being set alight in the night and the police being very grateful for Sean's death?
As Bubble would say in AbFab " Who can say..?"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Love in the time of Cholera

You may remember that I am involved in the domain name business, which has broadened my knowledge of human failings and quirks considerably.
One of the more annoying things are the emails from people saying they want a domain we own, but they have no money, and would we be really kind and just give it to them.Or say they used to own it and demand we give it back to them - again for free.I wonder if they would let me have their England fubaw shirt for free... no hang about, they well might.
Anyway, one of the things we do is dating sites - I know, tacky and sleazy - but there are something like 20 million ( yes that's MILLION) people registered with dating sites in the UK alone.
For some reason South Africa has not that many less, but of course the holy grail is North America, where there are well over 50 million men and women of every sexual orientation looking for the One - or even just a one-night stand.
In amongst these are the poor souls who have a serious problem, like an STD (HIV,herpes, aids etc).They have no fewer yearnings and needs than the rest of us, and of course there are actually quite a lot of them out there.
So it wasn't a total shock when I got a request to add to the dating sites we have one domain that has good traffic for related medication (might earn 50p per day) and
which,when translated into an STD dating site, appears to be earning USD 10-15 per day.
I do not in any way suggest, dear reader, that you have such a problem, but I can only say my eyes have been opened to another area where help is desperately needed.
Click here to find out more.
PS The title of this post refer to a rather good book by Gabriel García Márquez

A miss is as good as a mile

I'm seriously busy in Romania, catching up with all the stuff I should have done last time when a) the weather was bad and b)I spent a couple of days in bed.
It hasn't prevented everyone ( and I do mean everyone) laughing like drains at the England - USA fubaw match that ended in a draw, after one of the classic goalkeeping blunders by some overpaid stiff called Green.
I am,of course, not English, so the joke is even better as far as my Romanian friends are concerned.
I did hear a joke that superseded the match.
The new British Government is seriously worried that men's penises in the UK are becoming too small to perform properly.
As a result they have asked that every man with a penis of less than 3 inches in length display a white flag with a red cross on it either as a flag on their car or out of the windows of their houses.
If you've been in England recently you will know that there are literally millions of poor chaps in a dire state.
Can't say I've noticed any such flags in Scotland - or Wales for that matter.....

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Charitable weekend

To Corstorphine Fair on Saturday for the Gurkhas.
30,000 people attend this event which is in aid of local charities.We had a visit from mthe local MSP, the MEP, the ex-MP and the new MP, all of whom ( of course) wanted their pictures taken and to be associated with the Lumley Campaign.
I wouldn't mind so much, but not one of them put their hand in their pockets ( or handbag) to give us a donation.
Overall though, it was a good event, and apart from collecting money, we gave out lots of leaflets. In common with most military charities, our supporter's average age is increasing so we need some younger blood at the bottom end.
The preparations for Gurkha Highland 2010 proceed apace. There is no offical cap this year as we are trying to reduce the budget ( where have I heard that one before?) so I will be wearing my 2009 cap.
Or maybe the 2008 one.
On Sunday I helped out the Friends of Maxwell Park at the Ready Steady Grow event.
I really must start charging for my time...

Friday, June 04, 2010

Plus ca Change

I apologise for being away for so long, but I have had a great many problems to contend with - not least having to change my email which rendered this account inoperative for some time.
Romania finished off well apart from the weather that was poor for the time of year.
The wedding went well and instead of the bride being ransomed it ended up as the bridegroom ( Nicou) who was more than bemused with the whole thing. I managed to get candle wax and honey all down my jacket, so it is presently residing in the specialist cleaners.
In the meantime, I see we now have a coalition government. It remains to be seen whether it will be strong enough to force the banks to stop lending to it, and start lending to the poor benighted punters. I had a discussion with the regional director of RBS today, whose brief is:
1) Do not lend money on property
2) Where you have lent money in the past, claw it back
3) If you can't get it back, up the charges, margin and fees.
4) Er, that's it.
In effect, whereas bankers used to get bonusses for lending money,they are now getting bonuses for getting it back in. It will all end in tears, as all things with the banks do in time.
I am gearing up for Gurkha Highlander 2010, which is actually named "The Seven Sisters", the idea being to do 7 Munroes in 7 days. Fortunately, I am only driving again.
In the meantime, I was on the Somme again for a boy's outing, which was great fun, even if a bit chilly. It culminated in an excellent lunch on Sunday in Arras at a restaurant that had just opened two days earlier. The food was excellent as was the ambience - but we were somewhat surprised to discover that the Chef was from Swindon.
I sort of think the level of his food was a bit beyond the good people of Swindon...
As an aside, the spell check suggests " Swindlers" for Swindon...
The most extraordinary thing about the battlefields is that when the war ended there where literally thousands of square miles with nothing in them - just mud, holes,metal and bodies. These bodies keep appearing - we saw several new graves in some of the cemeteries with addenda in the registers. The thought at the time was that no one would ever live in the area again, but good land ( especially owned by a Frenchman) is precious, and the villages all grew up again quite quickly.
One of the more interesting things to do is visit a German Cemetery. There are very few as most bodies were taken back to Germany, but there are a few here and there.
Complete with Jewish headstones.
The thing is, the non-Jewish corpses have a simple black metal cross with the name, rank and job of the interee.
The Jewish ones were removed during WW2 and melted down to make bullets - so at least the Jews could be useful. The bodies were removed from their Aryan colleagues.
Now, the headstones have replaced the gaps and the bodies have been returned.
In Schlaflige Ruhe

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gie us Peace..

I couldn't stand it anymore - I had to get away from all the politics and everyone asking me questions about what I thought. Why don't they just do their own thinking?
Anyway, here I am back in Romania again, ready for another wedding ( although it will be dry as far as I am concerned)and to do lots of work ( hopefully). The flight from Luton to Sibiu on Blue Air went without a hitch, and the moment we got back to Sighisoara Alin whisked me off to talk to several groups of people about all sorts of things.
The last few days have largely been taken up with changing over my email address. Our techy Ms. Lear ( Now Mrs. Rock God) had set me up about 10 years ago on, which was ( is??) run by Boots for females. But it was dead easy and I could work it.Unfortunately, it moved to Tiscali some years ago and has never been that reliable. Now, they are closing the whole system as of June 3rd.
Of course, changing over the address book was easy ( especially as Mrs. Rock God actually did it for me ( Virtual Assistants are marvellous), but ploughing through the hundreds of saved and sent emails to see what I needed to keep has been much more onerous. I cannot for the life of me think why I have an email telling me all about prosthetic legs which I have carefully saved....
Sighisoara is looking lovely, as they have now finally finished redoing all the cobbles in the citadel, and they ahve added lots of uplighters to make it look very smart. As I returned from lunch about 9:30 this evening, there where a goodly number taking photos of how smart it was.
Alin has the bit between his teeth about taking a test drive in the new Dacia Duster - but he is very disappointed to hear that the 4 x 4 with aircon and leather seats is not the mere Eur 10,500 he thought it was. That's the basic model - no aircon, no 4 x 4 and naturally no leather seats. With everything it's about the same again...
The more interesting thing is the Dacia Logan we bought nearly 3 years ago for Eur 5,600 is still worth about Eur 3,500, so we have had all that motoring for about Eur 2000. I call that really good value.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The election that didn't elect.

This from a LibDem:
"It gives me absolutely no pleasure whatever to write this - I am a party member of the LibDems (or was until today - the chance of my renewing my membership has receded significantly if the party is unable to display any maturity and judgement)."
If you recall I long ago said the LibDems would do badly at this election ( actually worse than the outcome) and now I believe they will split again. We will return to effective 2 party system democracy at the next election, when the LibDems will be wiped out.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Back to the '70s

Niall Ferguson will be having an article in tomorrow's Spectator which has the following paragraph:
"The mess we are in is the result of 13 squandered years in which an unprincipled government frittered away the achievements of the Thatcher era. We are back not just in 1979, but in 1976, the last time the IMF had to bail Britain out as a consequence of Labour¹s economic mismanagement."
If anyone is in any doubt as to what this means, have a look at Greece today.
I may be eating my Romanian goats sooner than I thought...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Ok I admit it, I have a bet on that the Tories will have a majority and even more than 2 seats in Scotland.
I only ever bet £5 - it's proving the point, not the money. My best "coup" was not when John Major won the 1992 election ( though I had £5 on that) but when he won the leadership from Mrs. T.
But it wasn't my bet.
I was sitting in a car with a chap whose nickname was ( is) Dealaday. His wife in the back seat was complaining bitterly about all the horrible men who had forced her out, and Dealaday said he was going to put £1000 on Heseltine.
I told him he was crazy and the ( at that time just the MPs) party would never condone matricide.
" So who would you bet on?"
" I have £5 on John Major". He looked at me as if I had two heads. It happens to me frequently.
" You're mad."
" Wait and see."
He thought for a moment.
Then he reached for the carphone and spoke to his bookie.
" What are the odds on John Major?" I think they were 5/1 from memory and he promptly put £1000 on.
The rest is history - and apart from the £25 I won myself, I got a cheque for £500 from Dealaday.
I didn't start to tell you all that - I was thinking about election night.
It's the only night of the quinquennial when politicians cannot hide, spin or lie.
They are exposed naked and trembling before the power of those they have ignored for years.
I sincerely hope the worst offenders will get the chop ( I'm thinking particularly of Ed Balls) but there are others too.
We shall see.
And by the way, I happen to think JM wasn't such a bad PM - I'm sure history will prove him to have been right in lots of things ( and Blair and Brown wrong in lots and lots)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Wear it with pride..

Yesterday was the annual Gurkha Welfare Trust Curry Lunch, which this year was held at 2 Div. Headquarters at Craigiehall outside Edinburgh.
We had an excellent day, including a band concert, which was a bit chilly standing outside to listen to.
The thing about the GWT is that the people involved, and it's supporters, are all terribly nice people - generally of a slightly older tinge and therefore polite and caring, but also with a sense of humour.
At the risk of offending my reader, two senior officers ( long retired) were passing through a door to collect their food. One stopped dead.
" Have you just farted?"
"Of course I have, " said the other. " You don't think I smell like this all the time do you?"
The main preoccupation of most of the elderly army people is with their medals. Some, of course, are for extreme bravery, but quite a lot are "campaign" medals or what are called "theatre" medals.
A dear friend has been trying to get his theatre medal for Malaya since 1966. He has reams of correspondence on this, and supporting letters from all and sundry saying he was there. Including the son of the then Prime Minister.
The problem is two-fold. He can't remember when he actually arrived, and the MOD has lost his records.
His arrival date is critical, because you have to do 6 weeks in a theatre of war to get the medal.He might have arrived 42 days before the end of the campaign. Or he might not. Or,if he arrived 43 days before the end, is that six weeks before or is that six weeks bar one day.
It's a bit like how many angels can dance on the point of a pin.
Of course, the fact that the MOD has no records is less of a drawback. They can simply rule that he was there.
So it was with some glee that he appeared yesterday, looking incredibly smug, wearing his new medal. I'm sure he bought it on ebay.
I questioned him about it.
" Well," he said, "I've been keeping it inside my jacket. I wasn't actually sure I was allowed to wear it. However, I went onto Google and they say I may."

So that's all right then.

He's now turnd his attention to a TA medal he feels entitled to....

Saturday, May 01, 2010

His Majesty's clothes

Whilst waiting for someone at Glasgow Central Station last evening, there were a group of nubile young ladies handing out cards -to men only. They passed me by, and I asked for a card.
"Nah," said the stunna. " It's for a lap-dancing club. You're too old"
" Besides, " said the other, " We don't let anyone in wearing cords."
As a friend hurtingly remarked,"It's as well they didn't see your underpants."
Definite lese-majeste

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sticking out

The volcanic ash has had some unexpected effects.
People having to remain overseas - if on medication - have had some issues with getting their pill supplies.
Most have had a fairly easy ride. In the EU for example, you can go along to a doctor, explain your problems, show the medication and get a new prescription which can be filled in ( for example) Puerto Banus, if that's where your staying.
So it was without too much worry that a very senior Scottish gentleman discovered that he might have an extra week or so in Spain before he could get home.
He toddled into the doctor, gave him his prescriptions, explained his problems and the doctor nodded sagely.
Now the gentleman in question has a specifically dodgy ticker that requires constant medication.
One of the pills he has to take every day is Viagra.
50 mg.
8 times a day.
This results in certain effects which I will leave to your imagination, and which elicit quite a lot of admiring glances from ladies of all vintage - and quite a lot of men too.
So the Spanish doctor,having nodded sagely,looked at the bulge in his patient's trousers,and wrote out the prescriptions, all bar the Viagra.
The Scottish grandee queried this, and was assured no prescription was necessary - Viagra was available over the counter in Spain without prescription.
He popped into the pharmacy, handed over the prescriptions, then said , "Viagra?"
"Si", said the pharmacist." Quantos?"
Now the VIP had never had to think about that- he had simply got the prescription, used the pills, and then refilled the prescription when he finished them.
Just at that point, his third wife ( some 20 years his younger) hobbled into the shop - she had hurt her back gardening.
The husband and she exchanged some words, then he turned back to the pharmacist.
He had no real idea what to say - so he said the first thing that came into his head.
The pharmacist dropped the pills he was holding. He looked at the wife. He looked at the husband. He looked at the husband's crotch.
He shook his head.
"Madre de Dios! You Eeenglish! Normally you are just disgusting with the beer! But now - you are disgusting with the sex too!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

God made Sex

I was taken with this headline to a story about sex education in America. Of course, we in the UK couldn't possibly bring God into our rapidly disintegrating multi-cultural society, and absolutely not into S-E-X.
In America, though, God is still very big business, and He is listened to.
Well, his minions on Earth are, at any rate.
So I was pleased to see that God had made sex. It has always seemed to me that it's not something that had to be constructed. After all, even very primitive creatures have what they call sex ( we might not, of course). I'm sure Mr. Fact will make sure we get all this correct.
The point of the article was that parents should be the people to inform their children about it - never mind how embarrassed both sides might be.
I well remember my own sex education at school, which I have mentioned before.
The majority of what I learned from my parents came from my father ( boy - dad - it's a man thing).
We were walking up a street in Vevey, Switzerland that sits comforatbly on the Lake of Geneva in it's pristine smugness. As we made our way homewards, my father kept his eyes very firmly on the ground, and harumphed, clearing his throat.
" Hm yes, your over thirteen now, aren't you?"
" Yes Dad."
" Harumph, harumph... ah, things start happening.. harumph!"
" Yes Dad"
" Ah, harumph, ah, there might be hairs growing .."
" Yes Dad"
" Harumph.. all over?"
" Yes Dad."
" AH and er, harumph, what about down there?"
" Yes Dad."
" Ah," sigh of relief. " That's all right then..."

Living on the edge

Sorry about the sizing - I'll have to get the chap that winds my watch to sort it (joke)
When I was looking up Falstaff for the previous post, I came across this quote of his:
I can get no remedy against this consumption of the
borrowing only lingers and lingers it out... ( I,2,585)
Do you think Gordon Brown knows this?
Or the Greeks?

A singular man

Here's a tale to take your mind off bigots and the election.
Mind you, we all have prejudices..
Anyway, in Romania in the time of Ceausescu, there lived a man who didn't like the regime. Actually, lots of men didn't like the regime, but they toed the line.
This particular man, whose name was Tiberius ( and they have Trajan as well), decided he would "drop out" of the stranglehold that the regime had on it's people.
So he went off to live in the woods not far from a place called Apold. It was pretty chilly in the winter but he dug himself a cave and was fine.
The only problem was that he needed to feed himself, so he hunted a bit, stole a bit and general kept himself out of people's way.
The regime, of course, didn't like this show of individuality one bit, so they sent a few people out to throw him in jail.
Unfortunately ( or fortunately if you were Tiberius), they couldn't lay hands on him. They found the entrance to the cave all right, but when they went inside they started to be impeded by booby traps and disappearing floors into bottomless pits.
Tiberius had dug all these himself, and every time one of his pursuers disappeared there was maniacal laughter ahead of the pack.
The baddies eventually gave up, swearing to return.
Of course, reporting failure on something to the regime at the time wasn't a good idea, so there was a degree of fudge, delay and obfuscation which meant it was some months before anything further happened. Think Falstaff's description of his defence in Henry IV part 2.
They returned in force, with machinery and weapons, and tried for days to capture Tiberius, and always just in front of them was that maniacal laugh.
Eventually, they lost all patience and brought up artillery and explosives. They spent days laying charges, and finally pushed the plunger.
Tiberius had gone round disconnecting things.
By now, of course, he had become a hero, so the regime started at one end of the woods and cave and systematically blew half the mountainside to bits. Still they heard the laughter.
Finally, they poured hundreds of tons of concret and boulders into the caves, working all the way round like a hunter with a ferret after rabbits. Even as they poured, they heard the laugh.
When the work was all done there was silence. After a couple of days of no sound, they packed up their equipment and went away.
And Tiberius watched them from the top of the Church tower in Apold...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why people hate Thatcher

.. because she made them face reality.
PS. Lovely quote from ex-Fabian Stephen Pollard:"When you give power to those previously subservient to bureaucracy and ideology, everything blossoms"

Back to the Present

I finally got back to Glasgow last night.

My journey was most interesting, travelling through Hungary,Austria,Germany and Holland before setting foot on UK soil again.

I'm quite lucky - there must be several tens of thousands still stuck.

Travelling for 2 days across Europe in a train was a salutary lesson. The further west and north, the better the train. I set off from Sighisoara with 4 enormous sandwiches as provided by Alin, a bar of chocolate, 4 half litres of water, some cabbage pie - and a loo roll. I may say I didn't need it...

Nowhere did I see a single UK consular official helping out. In fact, at the main Vienna Railway station where I had to change for Munich, there were probably some 3 -4,000 Brits desperately trying to get to the Channel Coast without money or anything. Austrian Railways, at their own cost, was passing out coffee, water, food and what information they had, and very welcome it was too to those that needed it. They had also made the loos free ( normally 50 cents) to British travellers. An excellent effort.

Once into Germany, I saw just how far down the list of countries we have slipped. Everywhere was spotless. The trains had people clearing up regularly, and also cleaning the loos en route. They had recycling bins on the trains, and anything that was collected was recycled before being taken off. The trains themselves had about 25% more space per passenger than ours do. The train stations, even in the middle of the night, had all-night train information ( and trains that ran all night) as well as attended toilets and shower rooms and places to eat and drink.

At one point on a platform in Dortmund I looked a little lost. We wee man popped out of a sentry box, and asked if he could help. Which he duly did. This was about 1am.

Things were similarly good in Holland as I made my way to the early ( or is that late?) Hook of Holland to Harwich ferry. And there I met up with more hoards of Brits pleading with the officials to let them board. Eventually ( at a guess) a ferry which normally would take mostly freight and perhaps 4/500 foot passengers, took not so much freight but about 3 or 4,000 poor souls.

On board I was able to get a shower and change my shirt, so I looked quite presentable.

There were lots of tales, but two will suffice.

One elderly couple had been at Calais for 5 days. Not one Navy ship, not any British officials, nothing. So they gave up and headed to Hoek Van Holland, where they thought they would have a better chance ( they did).

Another couple had been in Argentina, and, as it happened, had flown with Iberia and therefore back to Madrid.

They had heard Brown intone that there would be a fleet of coaches waiting to take them to the Navy ships.

Not only were there no coaches and no Navy ships, there were again no British officials to help. In the end, they had found that there were possible chances in Holland, had changed their UK flight to Amsterdam, then made their way to the port.

Brown referring to the Dunkirk spirit made everyone laugh. As one of them told me:" Well at Dunkirk at least there were both ships and direction. And I should know, 'cos I was there. Here, this lot couldn't organise a chimps tea party".

I'm not sure I quite get that one, but I'm sure you get the drift.


I finally made it back last night ( more anon) but I was struck by an email I received from the only Tory Councillor in Glasgow:

Following the recent Council Budget announcement of additional funding for roads maintenance, Glasgow City Council can now set out below the proposals on how it intends to commit this combined budget of £12 million.
There has been no capital investment in the fabric of the network since 2006/07. This has left our roads more vulnerable to attack by external agents such as the weather. The last 2 successive years of extreme winter weather have demonstrated the vulnerability of our Road Network. Underlying problems have allowed the cold weather to wreak havoc, as evidenced by the massive increase in the number of reported potholes:-
2007/08 2008/09 2009/10
No of potholes
(Winter period 3,500 4,647 10,199
Oct – March )

So there you have it. There are officially 10,199 potholes in Glasgow City.

These are reported - and not necessarily filled in.....

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Dunkirk Spirit

Well,with a bit of luck I'll be back Sunday night. I won't bore you with all the machinations required to get a ferry reservation, but suffice it to say I had to get the Mayor to pull a few strings. Quite what his connection with Stena Line is I have no idea, but I suspect it may have something to do with RomGaz where his son works..

Of course, Romanians being what they are, they are convinced the flight ban has only been promulgated to enable train and bus companies to make a profit, and there could be a smidgen of truth in that. They are certainly profiting handsomely.

Spring has definitely arrived in Sighisoara - the little sad smiley ladies are out with their bunches of flowers. As you may recall from a previous post, their real business is not selling flowers, but getting their pictures taken. They are chosen for their diminutive size and the bitter-sweet smile they can put on. I defy anyone not to want to take a picture of them clutching a small bunch of wild flowers...

My enforced presence here has worked quite well, as people who might have wanted to avoid talking to us have no excuse not to when there would appear to be no imminent departure, so we have been able to achieve much that might not have happened otherwise. The weather continues to be beautiful after one day of rain.

The Mayor was very concerned that I would be travelling for at least 2 days to get home, and said that the situation was of such gravity that I should be allowed to take a bottle of tuica with me en route. In fact, it just so happened he had one with him, and, purely by chance, another one as well, which he proposed to keep me company with overnight. I reminded him of our compact, and after a bit of ( false?) concern for my well-being, he conceded he would save them for 3rd September.

He did insist however we should have a special lunch.

As you know, lunch is about 5pm, and we went to a place I had never been in Medias. I can only describe it as a barn, which it was, as it was a flour store for the bakery next door.

The "lunch" was prepared in the bakery oven and consisted of an entire leg of piglet smoked and roasted, served with nothing but the beans so beloved by everyone here - myself included. It was the most enormous chunk I had ever seen on a plate, and was absolutely delicious.

Of course, there was no charge. When the Mayor asked for the bill, he expressed wonderful astonishment that it was free. He is very good at that. It's a bit like the Godfather.." Your Don expects you to do this out of respect and love for him...."

I take the train later tonight. It feels a bit like Europe at the start of WW2 - it will be dark, a spirit of fortitude required, sandwiches, water - and loo-paper.

You never know...

Monday, April 19, 2010


My enforced prolongation of stay in Romania is throwing up all sorts of wonderful things.

Not least is the fact that rather than 120 odd goats we now appear to have more than 150.

At this time of year they are out in the fields in groups of 10/15, being looked after by young boys, who might be described as Peter's descendants ( That's Peter as in Heidi). Quite how I own all these goats is completely beyond me. The good thing is that it is creating employment where there was none before and the cries of horror at the size of the herd have diminished as more and more people are taking care of them. I think there are now 14 in total, with the boys on about GBP2 per day, with the seniors on about GBP6. It is of course 7 days a week, so there are opportunities to rotate work as needed.In the winter they are all indoors, so far fewer people are needed to look after them.

The first of the Billys went off to market and fetched about GBP300 each, so it's all woking out quite well though my fingers are firmly crossed. At last count we should be selling about 40 so we are firmly on course for a small profit this year

Goats, of course, eat their way through everything, so we have had a policy of getting them onto the worst land that needs cleaning up. Once the goats have chomped their way across, planting or reseeding is a doddle.Yesterday was spent all day in the fields, and a serious suntan is now in place. The butterflies and lizards were also stirring, and Transylvania is back to it's magical best.

I have a new camera which is simply wonderful - I have lots of really good pictures of my feet or the sky, but not many of anything else. Naturally, I don't have the instruction manual with me, nor would I read it if I did - it's a man thing. Fortunately, Alin is always on hand, and spent the whole evening early last week working out how it worked. At least I can now take a picture, look at it and erase it too.

Out here, sometimes amazing things happen for no apparent reason.

Alin was approached a few weeks ago by a man who couldn't pay his gas bill, begging to sell us a piece of land.

It wasn't where we wanted it.

It wasn't near anything else we owned.

It wasn't that easy to access.

It hadn't been worked for some years.

There were title problems, inheritage problems ( as Alin calls them) and even a problem with his ID.

Elena, the Capo of the local food Mafia in Nemsa, asked us very politely if we would please buy it, as she owed the man a favour. Reluctantly, Alin agreed to buy it, after his usual " Mr. King, what you tink?" elicited a shrug of my shoulders down the telephone.

One of the magical things here are the picnics people have. Barbecue is almost a religion. The Mayor has a good spot, set in the trees, but without much outlook. I've been looking for a spot where I could have my barbecue. Two or three areas have come up, but all of them just lacked a little something.

So yesterday we went to look at the land Alin had reluctantly bought, and slaved over to get the paperwork in order.

To say I was charmed would be to put it too mildly.

The land sits above Nemsa, looking straight down the valley and across the village, nestling in a kind of hollow below a wooded hillock.

We both just stood there gazing about.

" Mr. King, I'm thinking this will be your picnic spot."

A load of fag ash..

I've deliberately not mentioned the volcanic ash cloud up to now, as I couldn't believe Europe as a whole had collectively taken leave of it's senses.
When Mt. St.Helens erupted over a far larger area of the United States in 1980, less than 1000 flights were cancelled, and those mostly because the airstrips were covered with ash which had to be cleared away.
The Met office is in full cover-its-backside mode. Quite apart from the fact that people who study volcanoes regularly fly through the ash to measure all sorts of things, IATA has roundly condemned Europe, lambasted European leaders for their inaction, and calling the travel chaos "a mess and an embarrassment. "
Iata chief Giovanni Bisignani said: "The decision that Europe has made is with no risk assessment, no consultation, no co-ordination, no leadership."
Well that shouldn't be such a surprise - that's Europe described perfectly.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cold turkey

There are perils associated with doing business in Romania, and I have been hit by two of them today.

The first concerns some land we have owned for quite some time. To cut a long story short, there would appear to be two pieces of land with the same reference number.

As far as the law and we are concerned, we own the bit we thought we bought. As far as the person farming our land is concerned, it is still his.

However, it actually works in our favour, ,as we have a specific requirement for another piece nearby, which is owned by the dispossessed farmer. Nothing could be simpler than to effect a transfer each way....which has therefore worked out very well in our favour.

The other problem is the Mayor , having had his birthday, has decided he won't drink until my birthday on 3rd September. The problem is he has roped me in to do the cold turkey with him. In fact, it won't be much of a problem for me as I don't drink in the UK anyway, but I am Godfather at another wedding in Romania on 16th May, and that will be quite difficult.

Still, it's in a good cause. The bet is a bottle of whisky - to be drunk by the loser.

I don't drink whisky, so I better not lose.
PS. You see what being drunk does to you....???

A badge of honour

Being in Romania makes me reflect on what the EU actually does.

Apart from giving farmers like me subvention payments, most of the time it's objects are Statist and regulatory.

For instance, last year when we did the contracts for renting the land to various people, we simply put all the bits one individual was renting onto one piece of paper and had it notarised. The Romanians ( who make French and Italian bureaucrats look like amateurs) have simply layered EU regulations on top of their own. Somewhere along the line, this has translated into having to do one contract for each piece of land.

So yesterday we took the notary with us to Nemsa and Alma Vii, clutching ream upon ream of paper, and as each renter came up he signed, I signed and stamped, in three copies.

128 times.

Times 3.

I was completely punchdrunk by the time we finished.

The only ray of light on the horizon is that this is the first year this has had to be done, and everyone is up in arms about it, so there is likely to be a modification for next year.

Last year we got goats and sheep as rent, but as we now own most of the goats in the area ( and having the sheep simply feeds the teethy wolves and the locals), we will receive a share in the produce in the autumn, or in some cases days work. This last is quite useful as it saves having to pick and choose who we want to work for us on the day.

Yesterday was the Mayor's birthday, so of course we had to go and wish him many happy returns. He is now 58, and although he drinks like a fish and eats all the wrong things, he looks remarkably young. I put it down to his not smoking at all and being effectively stress free. Everyone does everything for him.

Of course, it could just be the genes.

His father died last month.

He lost a leg in the war and refused ever to wear a prosthetic, which stood outside his front door for all to see. He hirpled about on his crutches until the day before he passed away.

He was married twice( his first wife died during WW2) and Eugen is the progeny of his second marriage post-war.

He was 92 when he died, a man who worked the fields well into his 70s, and a previous mayor in the Communist era.

So I expect at least another 25 or 30 years out of Eugen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Goat Stew.

I've been very busy the last couple of days out here, and very boring it has been as well.

Hours spent with lawyers and accountants are just about bearable, but with officials who require upwards of 40 or 50 signatures and stamps is enough to make me want to shoot myself. Fortunately, it does eventually end, and one can emerge blinking into the sunshine again.

The Mayor is well. The house he is building for his son and daughter-in-law is progressing well, even if he has some odd ideas. He has decided it should have CCTV cameras. As everyone has told us,"For what he wants this? To watch his chickens pecking?" The house is in the grounds of his own house, which is immediately beside the police, so it is extremely unlikely anyone would attempt anything.

The centre of Sighisoara is no longer a mess - the cobbles have all been put back, although with true Official determination some of them have had to be dug up again. They had very carefully sunk some uplighters into strategic locations - the only problem being no one had laid any electric cables...

The new seasons cabbage is not here yet. This means that one does not order cabbage salad as it is a bit white and tough. Of course, foreigners and people from Bucharest are steered to order it, as they, of course, know no better.

But the overwhelming question of the day, on everyone's lips, is what are we going to do with the goats? You may recall last autumn we had about 60 - I say "about" as my calculation was less than the goatherd's, which, in turn,was less than there actually was.

Having been mated in November, we now have a string of baby goats emerging, which, in theory, will take us to about 120.

This is such an enormous number that people actually can't conceive of how we are going to deal with them. As Baldrick would say, I have a cunning plan...

It looks as if we will have about 25 or 30 male goats from the new crop, so these will be sold far and wide - we will only sell in our area if anyone wants one. Some may even find their way back to Switzerland to help their gene pool.

On 23rd May, a large delegation is coming from LeManoir near Caen in France to mark 25 years of association with Mosna. There is to be a feast for the whole (top echelon) population of the three villages and the French - about 300 people in total.

By my reckoning, this will use up about 30 kids. Of course, the Mayor has a budget for this, but Mosna City Hall also has a derelict orchard I want, so we have arranged a small swap. He will buy the goats from me and I will buy the orchard from him. More precisely, Mosna will give me the orchard and I will pay the Mayor....

But hey - that's the goat problem solved . For this year at least..