Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why being a Banker is now a euphemism...

We, dear reader, are the owners of something like 80-odd% of RBS and 45 % of Llloyds, quite apart from the about £2 trillion that the BofE is supporting them with in loans and guarantees, so you would expect that they might just be a tiny bit interested in keeping us "on side".
Not a bit of it. Their service continues to deteriorate faster than their balance sheets are slumping.
A friend has a couple of properties that are VAT rateable, so he has to add VAT to the rents. You will be aware that the rate has changed twice over the last year or so, first down to 15% then up again to 17.5%.
So when the rate went down, he carefully filled in the standing orders for his tenants, and made sure they signed and gave them to their respective banks ( aww you've guessed already, one was HBOS, part of Lloyds, the other RBS).
And he waited for the money to arrive in his account.
Well, it did -sort of. One of the banks paid two standing orders, one with the correct 15% VAT, the other with 17.5%. The other bank paid neither. Discretion impels me not to reveal which was which.
It took a couple of months to sort it out, and eventually he managed to get both banks to pay the correct amount. The little hiccup at the beginning they could not sort out - there was an exchange of cheques...
Move on a year and the VAT rate has just gone back up.
Same scenario, properly filled in standing orders, acknowledged by both banks...
And the same bank paid two lots and the other paid none.
Except the bank that had paid two then paid a third one.
As my friend says, " And they want to abolish cheques? It's the only way there is of making sure they do it right."
I'm not so sure about that. Twice I have paid a cheque to cover a credit card bill over the counter, and the bank has managed to give the card company the wrong amount ( despite giving me an electronic receipt for the right amount).
More recently, I upped my personal overdraft over Christmas and New Year for two weeks. On the due date for the increase to expire, the account was below its original limit - except the bank had not only removed the increase, they removed the overdraft completely - and charged me two lots of £25 for being over limit.
When I remonstrated, I was told ( admittedly by a minion and not the relationship manager I have) that there was no agreement for an overdraft ( can't find anything about it she said) and the £25 was for being over limit on the expiry date.
" So what's the other £25 for?, " I innocently asked.
" Oh, that's the charge for having the "privilege" account you hold." Silly question obviously.
When my relationship manager got back 5 days later, I taxed him with the problem.
" Ah yes, " he said." Don't worry, I will reinstate the overdraft "( which had had another 9 months to run)
" And what about the ( by now) £75 of charges your bank's mistake has so far cost me?"
" Ah yes. Well, I'll see what I can do..."
By return of post came a facility letter for the overdraft. Except it only had 6 months to run, not 9.
And there was a fee which exactly covered the charges - along with his chatty letter saying he had waived the charges for the over limits.
Nice work if you can get it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making a difference

Weirdly, the two largest online dating nations are the UK and South Africa. Don't ask me why I know this - it's part of my plan to carve a new career doing even less than I do now.
What has surprised me, though, is the infinite splitting. The marketeers always say get your market properly " sliced" and then swamp your slice.
But the range and variety of dating sites defies belief. Not only do you have white, black, asian, old,young, pink,yellow, religious,green etc etc, but in every segment there is gay, bisexual,lesbian ( what's the difference between gay and lesbian? I thought gay was both men and women), heterosexual, Goth, Jedi you name it.
There is quite clearly a market for these services. I believe more than 3 million people currently use them in the UK - and it would appear there are many more who simply use agencies and newspaper ads. Some of the companies concerned have turnovers in excess of £50 million pa, and of course because its all online their costs are minimal.
So I was quite taken with an ad I saw which started:
"Missing cat - possibly."
To cut a long story short the person advertising was looking for a partner who could bring a cat - but only one that had a nice nature. It was a play on words that the advertiser was " missing" her deceased cat... oh, never mind..
The nicest cats I know are extremely old and sleep all the time....
I'm reminded of my long dead extremely rich old aunt ( never left me a penny, but at least there was no cost to me) who - when crossing the Atlantic in the Queen Mary between the wars, saw a good looking young American at the bar and remarked to her sister " Well, he'll do for a dance or two".
That would seem to be the perfect match required, for they were married for more than 45 years.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I was delighted to hear on the radio this morning some twit telling us all we should be jolly grateful that we lived in the fifth biggest economy in the world and it was unacceptable ( God I hate that word) that we still had child poverty. Of course, this is largely a matter of definition ( I believe it's if you have 40% of the average earnings you are described as being in poverty) - but it remains true that we have an underclass who will never escape. It's also bollocks, because we are actually 9th or even 10th now.
However, what exercised my mind was that before the 1997 election one G.Brown gave a speech, in which he said ( and I quote) " It is unacceptable that in the World's FOURTH largest economy that there should still be child poverty in the 20th Century."
So there you have it.
Kinnock may have talked of thirteen years of Tory misrule, but 13 years of Labour misrule has managed far worse...

Racist Rag

Mr. Fact and I were discussing how many hits a particular website had received in November last year.
" Exclusive? It had more hits that the Independent web site!"
I opined that more people read this blog that read the Indie.
His response was that was hardly surprising as I did not cater in any way for the people who lived in Glenda Jackson's constituency.
" In fact ( he starts many of his sentences like that)in Glenda Jackson's constituency they deliver the Sunday Telegraph in a plain brown envelope. It's considered the equivalent of Der Sturmer and the local paper complains that the BBC is too pro-Israel and ignores the plight of Palestinian suicide bombers' families."

Monday, January 25, 2010

You're never too old to learn something new...

"I heard a story of a guy who put his Ginger Tom Cat in the Cats home for 3 months(You can imagine the size of the bill) When he expressed shock on getting the Cat out the bill was mysteriously reduced when he decided to pay in cash!! The Customs people are clearly not counting the cats in and out as they should be doing. If the Inland Revenue can sit outside a Fish and Chip Shop counting the punters then someone is falling down on the Job when it comes to this. Was it two businesses one for Cats and one for Dogs both below the threshold for VAT?Always ask for a VAT receipt to claim back the cost of the Cat when away on business."
I read this today in response to a post about a scam from petrol stations. When you fill up with petrol, if you don't take a VAT receipt, the garageiste prints it out anyway, then sells it to cab companies, who can not only claim the VAT back but also reduce their taxable earnings by the "extra" fuel used.
The point, though, is not that we all have a little larceny in our souls, but that I had never thought of claiming for the cat....

You must be joking

I was astonished to learn from the Herald today that Gerald Butler ( The 300, Rock 'n Rolla)) has been voted as Scot of the Year by 66% of the repondents in a survey for a charity called Scotcare.
Even more astonishingly, Scotcare's objects are described as " Taking care of Scots in London"
Maybe the stories about one Mr. G.Brown being bonkers are true....
It would be even better if they took care of Scots in Scotland.
I couldn't find the story online in the Herald, hence the link to the Daily Record

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Acting the Part

Being less than willing to go out and about at this time of year, now is the winter of our watching films.
Being a BAFTA member means I have to watch lots, but I regret to say that past great films are ever a siren call to me. Arguments rage about who was a great actor ( John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable,Spencer Tracy etc etc etc) and in truth many of the films they made are less than good, and their performances could only be described as formulaic. The films were made at a time when the studio bosses had absolute power over their stars and they did as they were told or face the consequences.
But every now and again the star got the director he deserved and something truly excellent emerged. I think of eg Wayne and John Ford ( OK I admit I love cowboy films) and Big John just has to be The American he became, but Ford had a gift for making a story come alive, and an actor mean what he said.
So it was with glee that I saw " My Darling Clementine " was on the box recently. It's not particularly accurate historically, but the effect of the direction and acting is to produce perhaps the best classic western ever. Ford is absolutely on the top of his form.
Henry Fonda has a stillness and power he lacks in many other of his films, whilst Victor Mature, never an actor I particularly liked, is better than he ever was anywhere else, and Walter Brennan as Pa Clinton has a smiling hate and avarice that belies his cuddly image from many other films.
As with all great films, there are light moments that break the menace. Today's directors would do well to remember that.
The one I particularly like in this film is when Fonda ( Earp) asks Mac the barman:
" Have you ever been in love Mac?"
" No," says Mac. " I've been a bartender all may life."
Many of us would agree.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How to win votes and make friends..

We don't have any more snow around here, but I was still able to stand on the ice at the edge of the pond in the park today. In our water butt at the back door, there is still an iceberg that is at least 30 cms thick, and I am still wandering about the house with my husky on - we Scots refuse to have the heating on from 09:30 am until 17:30 pm. Actually that's not quite true - its on for an hour over lunch....
I was discussing the effect of temperature on our psyches with a friend the other day. He assured me he felt much more like sex when it was warm and sunny - quite apart from the pyjamas, sweaters, hot-water bottles and the potential for electrocuting yourself on the electric blanket proving a turn-off in the winter. He was also quite sure that business activity always started to pick up again as the temperatures started to fall in September each year, and categorically averred that that was why countries further south than Munich weren't at the forefront of wealth.
I'm not so sure about this - India,Brazil, China and even Japan seem to be doing all right, although I know there are chilly parts in all these countries.
Over on Takimag, Patrick J. Buchanan has an excellent piece on why America's own Mr. Brown did so well in Massachusetts. Basically, the majority white population which works hard and pays its taxes has reached the point where they won't put up with depredations on their wallets for immigrants and ne'er do wells any more.
The same applies here. Gordon Brown's British Jobs for British Workers expresses it perfectly - except we can't do that because we have given away our sovereignty to the EU. America, fortunately, has not yet done so, and I would suggest that because of their history they never will.
Buchanan finishes with the following quote:"What the McDonnell, Christie, and Brown victories teach is that the GOP should stop listening to the Wall Street Journal and start listening to these ( white) forgotten Americans.
An end to affirmative action and ethnic preferences, an end to bailouts of Wall Street bankers, a moratorium on immigration until unemployment falls to 6 percent, an industrial policy that creates jobs here and stops shipping them to China appear a winning hand in 2012. "
The last paragraph says it all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Council of Perfection

I don't for one instant suggest that the following are representative of what happens in Glasgow City Council, but then again, you never know.
The first tale is quite mundane in its application.
A plumber, working for the Direct Labour organisation within GCC, whenever he went home at night simply took 4 cans of paint out with him.
And stored them in his back bedroom on the third floor of a tenement flat he lived in.
This went on for quite a long time.
Until one night, he was sitting watching the TV when he heard the most almighty roar and the whole building shook as if it had been hit by an earthquake.
Getting up to investigate ( the noise was from the back of the house) he open the door to the back bedroom to discover there was no longer a bedroom.
Nor a back wall.
The weight of the paint had finally broken the joists all the way down, which had simply collapsed the back of the flats.
The second tale is far more complex.
GCC over the years has done several upgrades to its housing stock.This consists of people in a block moving out and a complete upgrade, including eg turning 3 flats into 2 giving both internal bathrooms.
So when the workmen came to start work on a particular premises they were told that there had been a gents toilet behind a certain wall, that had been blocked up many years previously after a fire.
Now it was to be knocked through to provide a fire escape, and work duly started. A hole was made and the navvy stuck his head through to see if there were any problems.
He drew back slowly.
" Er, I'm into a kitchen."
What had happened was that when the next door building was being done up, the old toilet had been Incorporated ( there was a wall after all) and that one flat had a super big kitchen which none of the others in the block had.
Needless to say, it was one of the flats that had been sold off by the Council.
I'm told it cost them more than £250,000 to sort out the problems they had created for themselves...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

If all else fails ( part deux)..

Whilst I was having lunch yesterday with my legal friend, the ( confessed) criminal he was about to sentence did a runner. As my friend says " What an idiot. He had confessed to the crime already he would have got off quite lightly. Now he's an absconder and the tariff goes up by 3 times"
He adds: " Of course in Glasgow or London it's easy for them to disappear, which is why they don't get let out there. But in Edinburgh? We let them wander about because THERE'S NO PLACE TO HIDE....."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

If all else fails...

I had lunch today with a friend in Edinburgh.
He is approaching judicial retirement age, and as we chatted, we talked of the bad winters past. He remembered 1947 ( I don't) and we both had memories of 1962/3.
" I was at Basil Paterson's trying to get another A level."
I had forgotten all about this " crammer", which has had an illustrious career and an even more illustrious roll of Old Boys.
In my friend's case, he had finished school with one A level. In those days, there were no grades, but you needed two to get into Youni.
So off he trotted to BP. His academic career had been less than sparkling, but his two best subject were physics and chemistry. He spent a year and managed to get a D in physics ( it was the first year of grades) thus giving him the required 2 As. No mention was made of the chemistry....
He then went to sit the entrance exam for St. Andrews. I believe to this day, he is the only person who has ever failed it. He insists they must have lost his papers.
What to do? As he says, " Well, the Law Faculty at Dundee was just being massively expanded, and they had lots of spare places so I went there - no exam needed. Of course, I didn't know that Scot's law was different from every other legal system in the world. So I was stuck with it."
Which I may say he has done very successfully.

" I'm an American"**

I'm delighted that America has returned to its senses. Obama's insane idea to bulldoze health care ( that from all I have read most people it think won't work in its present form) has itself been derailed with the election of a Republican to Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat.
Mind you, I can't help but think that the voters there were glad to have a change after 40 odd years of the Kennedys.
The message it also sends is that there is a distinct limit to what people are prepared to allow its government to take from it to spend. In America, this is much lower than we are prepared to pay here. I note our present Government has simply ignored this and borrowed/created/finagled money without actually asking us for it, so that when the bill becomes due, we will get landed with it. Its a bit like a "Dutch treat" dinner party when you drink tap water and eat a salad, and the other person has the gourmet menu and three bottles of wine, and then says " We'll just split the bill 50/50".
The other thing of course is that America sees itself as the good cowboy in the white hat, who is tough but fair, and never backs down. Obama's Nobel peace prize effectively sent the voters a message that he was a surrender monkey. I always remember Maureen O'Hara, the great , great John Wayne's close friend, who initiated the petition for the Congressional medal of Honour for him,and requested the words that would be placed onto the medal: "It is my great honor to be here. I beg you to strike a medal for the Duke, to order the President to strike it. And I feel that the medal should say just one thing, 'John Wayne, American." The medal crafted by the United States Mint has on one side John Wayne riding on horseback, and the other side has a portrait of Wayne with the words, "John Wayne, American."
Obama will never get a medal like that.

**A reference to a CNN advert of the early 2000s which had pictures of many and diverse Americans all saying " I'm an American" Powerful , tear-to-eyestuff.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My SuperPower

The new Mrs. Rock God aka ex-middle Ms. Lear was just making a cup of tea as I got back into the office this afternoon.
I have noticed that I do this quite frequently, even although it is not always at the same time of day. I've also noticed I can read minds about cups of tea, because any time I ever ask anyone if they would like a cup, they always say yes.
As she made me a cup as well, she was looking thoughtful.
" Well Dad, you definitely have a SuperPower telling you when to appear to get a cup of tea. Unfortunately, as SuperPowers go, it's not up there with time travel or invisibility...."

Monday, January 18, 2010

One more for the Road...

Whilst descending an escalator the other day, I noticed a sign which said :"Most accidents happen through loss of balance."
This was presumably intended as a warning for anyone on the escalator, but it struck me that the same is true in any sphere. The old adage that when you start believing your own PR you are already in trouble supports the thesis, and, arguably, the financial meltdown we have all been experiencing represents a collective, massive loss of balance.
The Edinburgh architectural practice that has hired Sir Fred Goodwin has either lost it's marbles and balance or has just scooped the most massive coup. According to all reports I have read it is the former, but I seriously suggested to a colleague recently that we could do much worse than hire Fred. He looked at me as if I had two heads. As you know, this happens quite frequently to me.
It was suggested I had been on the Buckie, better known as Buckfast, which is a fortified wine that seems to contain massive doses of caffeine - about 5 coffees per glass.
The report in the Herald today has some gems about this most revered of down-and-outs drink.
For instance, it accounts for 0.5% of all alcohol sales in Scotland ( mostly around Glasgow) yet would appear to be a factor in a very much higher incidence of violence. Over 5000 crime reports in the last year have mentioned it, and a Buckfast bottle has been used as a weapon in more than 114 cases. This far outstrips any other bottle as a weapon - you might almost say it is the weapon of choice among a certain section of society.
So today has had a sort of surreal aspect so far, and my mind is full of cowboys drawing their Buckfast bottles at the OK Corral...
As Alin would say, We shall see....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Reading John Redwood's blog this morning about his Jaguar reminded me of a happening when I were a lad.
'Twas the winter of '62/'63 which was a really hard one ( much worse than this by the way - no trains have been lost in the Highlands so far as I know this time round).
We were living in Paris which was rather grand in a strange way, and my mother's brand of French kept the neighbours and shop-keepers in a constant state of perplexity.
We were to travel from Paris to Bern in Switzerland and thence to Grindlewald for Christmas and New Year, and though it was snowy we were to drive in my father's Mk2 Jag - a superb car when it worked.
Cutting a very long story short, what should have been about a 7hr drive was already beyond that as we went through Pontarlier - which practically speaking you can't any more. It is /was a lovely small town which has succumbed to by-passes and the like.
As we climbed the hill the other side of the town, through the trees and up the pass, the Jag slipped and slid around, despite having winter tyres on ( I don't suppose many people in the UK even know what these are...)
Eventually we could go no further - stuck half way up a hill we had charged 3 or 4 times.
The snow fell.
We wondered what to do.
And then from behind came the unmistakable noise of a VW Beetle.
It put-putted past us, then pulled in.
Fortunately, the chap inside could understand what the problem was, without my mother's rather eccentric explanation. I seem to remember beetroot was mentioned...
Without further ado, a chain was removed from the VW's boot, attached to the Jag and we were pulled safely to the next town, where the Beetle was going anyway.
Despite being the middle of the night by now, a set of chains was purchased somehow - or maybe they were just borrowed for the duration.
These were fitted and the Jag was able to proceed on it's own.
As we clunked along the road, my father sighed.
" I can't imagine how this car is ever going to live down having to be towed by a Beetle..."
It never did.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Victory and austerity.

I know my reader doesn't like it when I get political, but a comment on Iain Dale's blog today led me to this . ( see bald figures below)
I have long held this is the sort of territory we will be in, in particular that the LibDems will be well down from where they are. I think ID is entirely wrong about them.
Even in Scotland Labour will only be voted for by the tied client estate they have created. In the same way that Heath Conservatives were neither one thing nor the other, Blair NuLabourites were neither fish nor fowl.
I don't in any way take from the magnificent chicanery and political nous which won Blair 3 elections - that's what politics is about, unfortunately. But we are seeing a return to core values by Labour in a desperate attempt to stave off defeat. The Tories tried the same thing in 1997 and 2001 and learnt a very harsh lesson.
You need a broad church to govern any country nowadays - even Iran, which looks to be going to go pop in the not too distant future.
But, as the American cousins say, here's the thing.
People want a quiet life with better things for themselves and their children. Blair promised it and made huge numbers think he could give them " the third way". That's bollocks. Actually, there's only one way.Whenever parties move from that agenda, and start thinking they should tell us what to do,they get eventually get thwacked.
It's a pity we had to have Brown destroying UK Plc to prove it.
Whilst in Ireland recently, a roving Church of Ireland priest asked me if I thought the Tories would win. I replied that I was sure they would.
" What a pity" he said. " Thousands will be worse off."
" That hasn't happened in Ireland, when you returned to common sense in your recent budget?"
" Er... yes."
In Ireland, of course, it was all the EU money that made the "Celtic Tiger", and that money is now going to Eastern Europe.
The EU made promises to the Irish Electorate to get them to change their vote about Lisbon, but it will make no difference. Ireland, as my friends there insist, is bust for a generation.
And Labour has stolen our rights, our money, our pensions, our freedom and will pay the price.
David Blackburn in the Speccie reports James Purnell like this :
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The third way learned the lessons of Labour's mistakes in the 70s and 80s. But it elevated avoiding mistakes to an ideology. It wasn't confident enough where it was right, or sceptical enough where it was wrong.’

Liberal Democrats
Scottish National Party
Plaid Cymru

Friday, January 08, 2010


A statement by Sir Stuart Rose of Marks & Spencer:
“There is no doubt about it, we have been bested by Waitrose. It’s not a secret.” M&S said UK food sales, based on stores open at least a year, rose 0.4 per cent in the 13 weeks to December 26. That compares with like-for-like sales growth of 9 per cent at Waitrose. ( See Chris Dillow)

Mrs. Lear opined sagely about the supermarket results just out.
" Marks and Sparks are not for cooks, they are for anyone,single people and pensioners. Waitrose is doing well because real cooks go there."
And what about Sainsburys doing so well recently?
" That's for lesser cooks"

Moving from "Pissed off" to "Let's get the bastards"

We're all pretty chill up here and I've just looked at an aerial map that shows the whole of the UK covered in white stuff.
My cockles were cheered, though, by this post from the nowmarriedfragrantanddelightful Winchester Whisperer which covers the national stereotypes amazingly well ( dontcha just love 'em?) especially the Scottish one.
The two missing of course are the Welsh and the Irish. I suppose the Irish would be " You'll have a cup of tea?" rising to " Have a piece of cake" and in extremis " I'll have a Guinness." whilst the Welsh would be too busy singing to notice.
It does rather beg the question, what is the best way to deal with terror? Do you ignore it and hope it happens to someone else, or do you go in so hard that it doesn't happen again for a generation. What you don't do, in my view, is have years long campaigns that just make more people against you. Machiavelli of course had this right nearly 500 years ago, saying The Prince must be utterly ruthless ( I never understand why in movies the hero is always left to fight another day. Shoot him/her dead first and then see how much trouble he/she causes. I suppose if you are getting $15million you pretty much have to be standing at the end of the film).
He also said The Prince should be magnanimous in victory - but only once all the opponents were dead. Before my erudite reader expostulates, this is all very paraphrased.
You may recall Edie Falco, who was excellent as Tony Soprano's long-suffering wife in The Sopranos. She is now staring in Nurse Jackie on BBC2 at 10pm - and I'm hooked. Apart from some excellent performances, the story lines are telling, and raise lots of issues which it would do us well to think about - and frequently make me laugh.
Try it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

An immovable object...

I had a most interesting chat with someone I regard as a superior investor yesterday, who is also omniscient as regards football investment.
He described 2009 as his annus horibilis, with every one of his major ( non-stock market) investments showing a loss ( and in some cases needing propped up with cash)
He made a bit on the bounce, but overall he estimates he is about 35% down in total asset value over the year - and he regards that as not bad going.
But his major preoccupation has been with football teams. The sport is a busted flush in this country, with the top Scottish Premier League teams collectively owing well over £100 million, all making losses, and no real prospect of salvation. Even Rangers and Celtic are now looking as if they will become also-rans as the recession bites, what with Setanta going bust and so on.
He tells the story of the very rich American family who thought they would like to buy Rangers - a mere pound or two would do it and HBOS would be delighted to get their money back. There would be almost automatic access to Europe, something that would not be guaranteed with any of the of the English teams ( pace Chelsea and Man U, and they ain't for sale even at £1billion.)
So a conference call was arranged.
Now it so happens that there has been a book written about the rescue of Celtic by Fergus McCann, and the Americans had read it, to get the feel of Scottish football.
McCann, of course, is a very canny Scot who made pots of dosh out of the deal - and found a wife, too.
So the call started with the Americans saying that a new Chief Executive and Chairman would be needed, and they knew of just the chap.
There was a pause.
" Who?" asked the Scottish side.
" Waall we think this here guy Fergus McCann is a real sharp cookie, and we would want him for Chairman."
There was a deadly hush.
It was pointed out that he was a Roman Catholic, and Rangers were Blue Noses i.e. Protestants.
" Waal we figure if a black man can be President of these here United States, then a Catholic can be Chairman of Rangers."
As Jesus once said, it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

In Ireland for New Year

As mentioned previously, the New Mrs. Rock God and her husband, Mr. Rock God, took us along on their honeymoon to see Sharon Shannon in Kilkenny.
We were originally staying in Inistioge by the River Nore, but there was so much rain we had to decamp to Kilkenny.
The Irish, of course, kill you with kindness, and I'm sure my weight will have gone up again despite bracing walks. The other slightly disconcerting thing is the number of cups of tea that have to be consumed, a la Mrs. Doyle in Father Ted.." AH ye will ye will ye will."
Three little stories.
Some friends of the Earl of Kilkenny were having dinner in Dublin when they were asked to move as Bono from U2 was coming in with a guest. The maitre d' offered them free wine, so quite sensibly they moved.
A while later, whilst Bono and his guest were eating, the friend ( male variety) went to the loo, and shortly thereafter Bono's guest followed him.
They fell to talking and it was pointed out that they had had to move to accommodate yer man. Would the guest be very kind and get Bono's autograph for his daughter?
The guest said most certainly, and would she also like his signature.
" No no, just Bono's will be fine"
The deed was done and as the couple were leaving, it was discovered their bill had been paid by Bono's guest. The male member of the party went across to thank the guest, and was again asked if his daughter would like an autograph. Feeling it would be ungracious to refuse, this was accepted.
It was Bruce Sprinsteen.
The Earl himself is known for his entrepreneurial skills, and many many years ago had decided he fancied a tour through France. Not having any money, he hit on the idea of taking the housekeepers of priests to Lourdes, which, in between times, would enable him to travel about. It was in the days of Danair, and he was able to fill several planes for some years until his wanderlust was gone. Of course, he had no money to pay a deposit, so the arrangement was made that the aircraft would land in Dublin, but would not take off until the charter costs were paid - in cash. The housekeepers of course had access to this, and as each flight took off they handed over the cost to the captain, who, on landing in Lourdes, gave the Earl the difference.
It was on one of these flights that a particularly formidable housekeeper kept up a running commentary all the way, and for the next two days as various shrines, services and so on were visited and undertaken.
As the party got back onto the flight, one of the milder ladies turned to the Earl, and said,
" Sure she's a lovely lady, but she wouldn't give the last word to God Almighty himself!"