Sunday, February 28, 2010


For reasons too difficult to go into, I spent Thursday as The Prisoner, of Port Merion and Patrick MacGoohan fame, or perhaps as Kafka's protagonist in The Trial.
How, you may ask, did this come about?
Well, if I tell you I had to go to The Legalisation Office in Milton Keynes, you will surely understand.
At first I was fairly jaunty about the whole thing, but as the looming, faceless, un-differentiable buildings towered over me, I felt the dead hand of the State descending.
As I entered the relevant building, I was handed a number - 074. Thereafter, the whole time I was there, I was addressed as "Number 74".
The stern lady, when I presented the papers, assured me that no such person existed on her database, but if I had a name and address and a telephone number she would see what she could do.
Needless to say, because the relevant person was in Scotland, faxes flew back and forth, together with copies of passports and certifications. But I and my fellow numbers just had to sit there, with no comfort and no information until our numbers were called. Two of the people who had been there before me ( " Numbers 71 and 73 ") were told their papers were not acceptable. The lady broke down and wept. Not a flicker from the other side of the bullet-proof glass. The man just trudged away sadly, presumably to get the papers done again.
The numbers above me were called and allowed to leave. Then " Number 74" - no please or anything.
" That will be £28 please"
" Er, is it all OK?"
" I'm not allowed to say."
" Well what's the £28 for then?"
" You have to pay it."
" Yes, but what for?"
" You have to pay it."
I proffered Scottish notes. With a very dirty look they were accepted.
Another half hour went by, and " Number 93" had already been and gone, when " Number 74" came round again.
A piece of paper was shoved out.
" Sign where indicated" I didn't argue.
She went away again, and came back a few minutes later with my darling papers duly Legalised!
I escaped into the lowering sleet - it felt like nectar on my lips....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Getting the correct perspective.

Over on, Tim Worstall has an insight it would do us all good to absorb.
Basically he argues that economists ( step forward your humble servant) start from a premise that their panaceas will be given effect by the politicians. He is referring to perhaps the foremost economist of today, Paul Krugman, who keeps telling the politicians what to do and then being astonished when they screw it up.
Worstall argues that the right way round is to assume that politicians " are indeed lying weasel felchers " and then a whole lot more makes sense and you have to understand "the slime and the mold that ... plans depend upon for implementation. ( Krugman) actually thinks that politicians are trying to do the right thing."
What politicians are trying to do is get re-elected. Between times, they screw things up. If they would only leave us alone....
One of Krugman's insights is that giving a group of people in an area extra money for their work will lead to better employees and better productivity. Giving everyone in the same area more money leads to absolutely nothing. To a certain extent, the minimum wage here in the UK and annual wage increases has led to little or no betterment of the quality of the workforce, nor of any productivity increases over time.
PS. Don't, under any circumstances, look up the meaning of felchers...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All that glitters...

A friend is having some treatment which has meant he has had to have some gold inserted into his body.
"There you are sir," said the nurse," That's you worth GBP 1000 more than you were this morning."
As my friend said, it wouldn't be that difficult.
"You know, they call David Beckham Golden Balls. Well, I'm the real thing."

Monday, February 22, 2010

When good things remain good..

The weekend was spent down at Colintraive overlooking Kyles of Bute. For once, the weather was immaculate, dazzling blue skies and a light covering of snow to make the whole place magical. The intention had only been to go for Saturday lunch, but we got a call from our friends saying hurry up and get down.

The weather remained fabulous the whole time we were there.

In these remoter parts of Scotland, one does not come across that many young people (in the group of houses were our friends stay, the youngest inhabitant is over 75, with the oldest nearing 99) which means a slower more genteel way of life pertains, with politeness and deference in abundance.
Two little stories from a wedding as reported from dinner on Saturday night.
One of the guests, approaching his 50th. wedding anniversary, says that his father took him aside the night before his wedding.
" What did the one silk stocking say to the other silk stocking?"
" No idea"
" Heavens above." This, apparently, was the extent of his sexual education.
The other was one of the witnesses at the wedding was wearing a pair of trews. As they were about to leave the vestry where the signing and witnessing had taken place, the Bishop who had married the couple, took up his crook, and hooked the betrewed witness's male member. He had forgotten to do up the buttons on his trews and the offending article had popped out.
" I know you intend to use that on the chief bridesmaid later, " he intoned," But I really think you should keep it warm until then..."
There can't be many that have been thus sanctified before use...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Guide for husbands and lovers..

Secrets & subterfuge always has nice things and I PARTICULARLY LIKE THIS.
As as been said before, "You may say that, but I couldn't possibly comment."

Now I know we have become insane

Whilst reading a blog today about the atrocious UK Government borrowing figures for January, one of the comments reflected the truth that things are NOT getting better, that the banks are making businesses put money in rather than lending to allow them to trade properly. This wouldn't be so bad if anyone could actually get paid. It seeps into the soul when you spend the whole time chasing people for what in America would be nickels and dimes.
The problem of course is your customers have exactly the same problem. One of my tenants, a very hard-working office cleaner business, would love to take on more work. He's been offered it at rates that are good. But he cannot finance the 6 -8weeks he would be out the money before he gets paid. If he's lucky. So his business is stagnating, and his existing customers stretch their payment another few days, and he needs another £1000 from his bank to pay wages ( for jobs that will bring him £3000). And so the merry-go-round continues, with the velocity of money slowly but surely seizing up.
But a salutary tale.
My local post office, quite a big one, and only a post office with no shop, was sold by the PO about 2 years ago to an Irish property companyYes you read that correctly - insane I know, but hey, this is Brown's Britain. I believe they bought about 50 offices across the country. And here's another one I did earlier...
That was fine, apart from the fact that this property company ( not daft) used the PO cash flow to finance its developments.
Now have a guess. Commercial property has fallen some 35/40% over the last wee while and hey presto! no equity in any of the developer's sites. In fact, negative equity, and negative cash flow.
The banks, not being stupid when screwing the general public, takeover the developments. I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but once a bank pulls the plug, any money that comes in is used to pay down the debt - though the interest keeps ticking away at the side- and they are allowed to write the entire amount off against their profits, which means ultimately the Poor Bloody Infantry in the shape of the UK taxpayer picks up the tab, in lower earnings and hence lower tax take.
So what happened to my local post office?
Well, there was a bit of a hoo-ha, but the PO took it back ( along with the others) and everyone kept their jobs which was great.
Except they hadn't been paid for November or part of December. And guess what, the liquidators of the Irish property company say it's the PO to pay and the PO says its the liquidators...
But hey,the staff can sue both of them for their wages and get paid.
Yeah, right.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Education, education, education

I've been in and around London for a few days, always an enlightening experience. I think of Eliza Doolittle's Dad, Alf, who, just before signing " Get me to the Church," intoned, " There are drinks and girls all over the town and I have to track them down in just a few more hours". It always seems to me that that is the real business of London. All we ordinary folk bustling about are only there to provide the background.
So here's a tale to gladden your hearts on a Wednesday afternoon.
It seems that an ex-Ambassador ( no names no pack drill) has been having a bit of a hard time recently, but, of course, he continues to have very good connections at all sorts of levels of society. He puts these connections together with other people and takes a small commission for doing so.
A VERY senior executive of a certain American multinational, who had come up the hard way from what I can only describe as the uneducated and backward areas of the States, wanted a particular introduction to a certain group of people, and the ex-Ambassador was just the chap to do it.
A fee was agreed, and it was also agreed that the way to do it was to set up a dinner at an exclusive restaurant, where the group would just happen to be and they would be invited to join the executive and the ex-Ambassador at their table.
All was going absolutely swimmingly. Then one of the ( admittedly educated and worldly wise) group ordered some dish with truffles.
Now in all the best restaurants, a plate of truffles is brought, from which, after smelling and feeling the various fungi ( I shall be shot for referring to them as that), one is chosen for the dish. And a few slivers are grated into it.
Our executive thought he would like the truffle dish too.
The head waiter brought a silver salver with 5 creatures ( let's call them that).
As the executive was the host, the maitre d' took the plate to him first.
The executive promptly ate the one nearest him.
There was an aghast silence.
Then he ate a second one.
Then he cut the third one in half, and ate one half.
With shaking hand, the other truffle orderer picked up a truffle and ate it. Then the second. Finally, glancing about the restaurant ( since everyone there was riveted by the spectacle) he ate the final half.
" Not bad," said the exec. " Not too heavy, and quite tasty."
Naturally, the educated one was performing the equivalent of drinking the water from the finger-bowls, so as not to embarrass his host.
The conversation finally got going again, and it would appear a mutually profitable arrangement was made.
Now the ex-Ambassador, being no fool, knew that the bill was going to be of such an enormity that the exec would almost certainly make a scene - which, in the polite society at the table would almost certainly lead to no deal being done, and prejudice his commission.
So he whispered to the exec that it was impolite for the host to ask for the bill ( sooo common) and he should just slip him his credit card, and he would take care of it all.
Don't ask me how he managed without a PIN, but it seems he did.
Commissions were paid, business was done, everyone was very happy.
The explosion didn't take place until a few weeks later when the exec's credit card bill arrived back in Idaho ( or wherever).
The dinner for 6 had cost nearly $20,000.
As the ex-Ambassador said, " You know, Mr. King, sometimes it is good for the soul to have it scoured.One has to pay for education"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Mis-speak

I misquoted Sarah Palin, as admirably pointed out by Melanie Phillips.
It wasn't "change-thingy" it was "hopey-changey thing."
I think you'll agree there is a big difference. You have to give people hope to make change possible.
More importantly, what were ordinary voters actually wanting? As Palin says "How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for you?’ she asked at one point. She blasted [Obama] for rising deficits, ‘apologizing for America’ in speeches in other countries, and for allowing the so-called Christmas bomber to board a plane headed for the United States, saying he was weak on the war on terrorism. ‘To win that war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law,’ she declared."
The three strands here are what made Reagan and Maggie Thatcher so great.
In America, you better make sure 1) the US is top dog 2) They can live in peace and quiet with the right to gun down each other if they want to ( but not be gunned down by anyone else) 3) You not only act tough but are tough and 4) as Frank Burns said in Mash " We're American. Everybody else better get used to it." I know that's 4, but hey maybe its only 2 as 1,3 & 4 are pretty interchangeable.
Obama hasn't fulfilled any of these criteria, not least making the US top dog. But that core conservative agenda of defending life, liberty and social order (which in turn offers the best chance of success in the pursuit of happiness) is largely scorned by all parties.
And if parents would only make their children say please and thank you from day one, as Nanny Frost says, 99% of our problems in this area would disappear.

Fifty ONE ways to lose a lover

"Fathers of other girls have never told me: "Don't forget to call Melissa from the dating site...." They just said "I don't approve of you and my daughter being together. I have a shotgun, a shovel and 20,000 acres of forest. Now bugger off!""

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

That Change - thingy

Sorry chaps and chapesses, but I just felt I had to comment on this.
On the GFK market research for TV pages, they have quick polls for odd things, but every now and again they have a serious one.
So yesterday the question was: How likely are you to vote in the coming General Election?
75% say they are very likely to do so, with only 11% saying they are unlikely.
Now it can be argued that this is hardly scientific polling - the voters aren't selected, triaged, weighted or anything else - but it does represent quite a large number of people ( I'm told over 10,000 but don't hold me to it).
The last time anything like this number would have been prepared to vote was 1997 - and before that 1979, both years of sea-change with voters thinking " It's time for a change"
So as a purely personal view, it seems this is another such year.
I would, however, direct you to Sarah Palin's recent gem:"You know, I keep asking people, how did that change-thingy work for you?"

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Ignorance and bliss

Yesterday was spent in Edinburgh on a high powered Gurkha Welfare Trust meeting. As always, these events are prequelled by lunch in a Nepalese restaurant.
The chat turn to " other things" and two gems emerged.
The first concerned the brand spanking new court in Livingstone, required because this "New Town" has the highest crime rate of anywhere in Scotland.
Just before it was due to open, a group of the Sheriffs who would be presiding were ushered round it's magnificence, until they actually got into a court room.
Almost instantly, there was consternation.
" What's the matter?" asked the (English) civil servant who had been in charge of this pleasure dome.
" You've only got 12 jury places."
" So?"
" In Scotland we have 15"
Of course the design had been approved in Whitehall, who, as ever, show complete ignorance of pretty much anything.
It took three months and about £30,000 per court room to sort that one.
The other little story concerned David Niven, who we all love. He lived with Errol Flynn for some time and I can only imagine what the state of the shared house would be like after a night....
My late father-in-law knew Niven before the war, and, indeed, has cine film of him playing hockey at the old Maryhill Barracks when he enlisted.
Niven went on ( with breaks) to become a decorated senior officer, but first he had to undergo Sandhurst.
Towards the end of the course, a senior General came to address the assembled subalterns, and at the end of the briefing, asked for questions.
Niven put his hand up.
" That man there ... good chap.. What's your name?"
" Niven Sir."
" Jolly good, what's the question?"
" I was just wondering, sir, if you could tell me the time of the next train to London?"
I'm pretty sure he didn't get to go...officially anyway.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Joke by any other name...

Being around computery type people definitely confirms those strange ads for Intel - you know the ones " Our rock stars are different from yours.." and " Our jokes are different from yours.."
So it was with some inner disbelief I heard a joke between two of aforesaid computery people.
It seems there was a certain lady school teacher who was in charge of computers at a certain school.
She required to get into another teacher's email.
Now teacher number 2 had had her email account set up by the installer of the school's computer system, who had put the password in, and then saved it for her.
But it wasn't a password like the name of your favourite dog, it was one of those X1Ffe#qWW ones ie completely useless for security if it's a) never changed b) not entered in the system each time.
Anyway, teacher 2 ( who is off sick) says to teacher 1 " Its OK, you can see the password - it's 9 asterisks...."
Like Intel says.....

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lunchtime with two Bunnies.

So there I was the other day having lunch with an ex-Playboy Bunny, when a friend of hers ( a slightly younger version of same) dropped by the table to say Hi.
Nothing would do but that she should join us and was fascinated to hear I was an Internet entrepreneur and had a domain name business.
" Gee," she said, " That's real great! Are you one of these people who sit on people's names?"
I opined I wasn't but she then told me all about how had already been registered, and ,gosh, she just had no idea how to find out who owned it ( sticks chest out, bats eyelashes, puts finger to mouth...), and she would just be soooo grateful...
By now I was really embarrassed by all the stares I was getting from everyone in the restaurant at the two outrageously blond beauties I was clearly getting along so well with, and as the coffees had just about been drunk, I paid the bill and nipped off.
When I got back to the office I checked out and lo and behold it was me who owned it. We had bought a bundle of names at an all in price a few weeks ago, and her name was amongst them.
So I phoned her up ( you didn't think I didn't ask for her phone number did you?) and told her I owned it and would happily transfer it to her.
At a reasonable price.
In dollars.
Not in kind.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
It wasn't me either, it was a chap called Rick Latona who is the biggest domain name owner in the world.