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...