Friday, 30 September 2011

Snowdon - The Next Generation

Another car has been found in my parking spot atop Snowdon.

Was watching one of the old episodes of Star Trek (Next Generation) last night. It always amuses me that the Enterprise can accelerate from 0 to several times light-speed in a fraction of a second (meaning they have some form of inertial countermeasure), yet whenever they're hit by something, like a photon torpedo) everyone is shaken to bits.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Your European Correspondent Speaks

Asked if Greece would stay in the Euro if it defaulted, president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said; "Greece is, and Greece will remain, a member of the euro area."

When a politician say something like than, you can bet your bottom dollar that the opposite will happen. If you can't believe economists (and you can't), then you certainly can't believe politicians pretending to have a grasp of economics.

Apparently Miliband has said; 'I don't give a damn' about weirdo jibes." That's deeply weird!

I'm hoping the turn up for the weather will last into the 2nd weekend in October and that the sun will shine on my elder daughter's wedding in Accrington. I'm looking forward to decades of simmering resentment among relatives of the bride and groom being resolved through the traditional drink-fuelled fight.

Weddings are fast descending into tack-fests and displays of Americana as so-called traditions from across the pond manifest themselves in the UK. Weddings used to be understated; now it seems to be all about outward display and ostentation, and families get trapped into spending far too much on them.

Wedding favours (or rather 'favors')! What the hell are they all about?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Call me stupid, or call me old fashioned, but I do happen to think that if the economy of the West goes to hell in a handcart over the Greek affair (and the ensuing Portugese, Italian and Spanish affairs), then someone, somewhere - probably called Tristram, Cosimo or Warren - is going to make shed-loads of money out of it, which doesn't seem quite right somehow. Think I'll take my stash out of the bank for the duration.

When Ed Miliband gave his speech to the Labour Party Conference yesterday, he sounded as sincere as .... well, a politician. He appears to have the charisma of a traveller site.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Horse

Apparently the Horse Racing Authority has said that correct use of the whip does not cause a horse pain.

What an excellent argument for the return of corporal punishment in schools!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Economic Paradox

I hear the IMF is going to bale out the Euro if Greece defaults (which is a dead cert); however, the IMF is bankrolled by governments - the very governments that are either heavily in debt themselves or totally bankrupt. So exactly where is this liquidity coming from?

I hope it's not my savings they're going to use, but I fear it is. God help us!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pink QR

Can you crack the code?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Palestinian Satellite Love at 50MPH

Can someone please tell me how the Palestinians can declare themselves a state within the UN when their borders aren't even clearly defined and agreed?

It is said that when looking for wives, men are seeking to re-establish the unconditional love of their mothers. The love of a dog is unconditional; is that perhaps why men like dogs?

Don't you just hate lorry drivers on dual carriageways who insist on overtaking other lorries doing 50MPH by moving into the outside lane and doing 51MPH, only to drop back again after about 5 minutes when a slight incline is reached? Bastards!

You know this satellite that's meant to be hurtling to earth on a high impact trajectory? They say there's a 1 in 3,000 chance of being hit by it. Does that mean that someone from Chipping Sodbury (which contains more than 3,000 inhabitants) is guaranteed to be hit? Can't say I like the odds.

Been playing with an app on my phone that generates QR barcodes. Managed to generate one with my contact details and have appended it to my work email signature - you can scan it with your Android (or iPhone) barcode scanner and it puts the contact details into you phone (even from a computer screen) with 100% accuracy. I'm going to see about getting these QR codes put on my business cards.

Some smartphone barcode readers will even show the address on a map for ease of navigation. Brilliant!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Austerity Measures

Wouldn't you just know it? I have 2 final appointments today in Piraeus before flying home in the afternoon - and the taxis here in Athens have gone on strike.

Oh well, here's to a good hour and a half walk to my first meeting. Just as well I have a lift to the airport from one of my distributors.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Overheard in a Business Meeting

The Chairman's mobile phone rings. An Asian voice speaks on a very crackly line.

"Hello sir, this is Vodafone calling. Is it convenient to speak to you now?"

"No, I'm in a business meeting in Greece."

"When would it be convenient to call you?"

"Never? How does never suit you?"

"Sorry to disturb you."


These calls are never from Vodafone itself, but some 3rd party dealer trying to get you to switch to their billing and using a call centre in Uzbekistan.

I finally saw evidence of Greece's financial woes yesterday. Akti Miaouli, a street in the heart of the shipping district of Piraeus, used to be a hive of bustling activity with numerous shops. Over half of them are now closed and derelict.

I was hoping to conclude a major deal with the Greek Navy this week, but I was informed at a meeting with them yesterday that the whole of the armed forces budget had been frozen until the economic crisis was resolved. This is despite increased tensions between Turkey and Greece due to oil drilling operations in the sea between Cyprus and Israel. A very dangerous situation.

According to taxi drivers (and they are the font of all knowledge the world over), Greece's problems are threefold - public sector jobs that don't exist (although the people in the positions do), a tax collection regime that's shot to hell, and a government unwillingness to face up to reality. The first problem has been there since the Army ran the country, as on the transition to democracy they ensured that their cronies were moved into these non-existent public sector positions as a reward for loyalty.

This is my first visit back to Greece since they went into the Euro - and it's very obvious that prices have spiralled. The place used to be cheap, but looking at prices now you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in Berlin - despite very obviously not being so. Mind you, Germany owns most of the country now.

Having nothing better to do, I tried to watch an ice hockey match on satellite TV last night. It's impossible to watch; the thing they're all trying to hit moves so bloody fast that you can't even see it. It's just a mass of blokes going up and down the pitch (field? rink?) like a swarm of bees. Pointless from a TV spectator's perspective. I think it's just the occasional fights that relieve the tedium.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


Work is such a nuisance, don't you think?

These are the things I sell, by the way. I was visiting a cruise ship in Piraeus yesterday to have a look at a couple of installations and see how they were faring.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Rules Are Rules

I think there's a conspiracy to put puy lentils into every conceivable airline's menu. Can't think of a meal I've recently had on a plane that didn't include the damned things. They're obviously the new black.

One of the flight attendants told me I wasn't allowed to use my electronic cigarette. I enquired as to why, when in essence it is no different from an inhaler which I can use with no issues. She couldn't answer the question, nor could any of the other cabin staff when I widened the discussion. Don't you just hate rules that have no rationale backing them up?

Have to say that, so far, Greece doesn't give me the impression of a place facing financial melt-down. Mind you, I'm not sure what a place facing financial melt-down is meant to look like. I guess when your only option is to default on loans from France and Germany, the problem ain't really yours in the first place (well, at least not in the short term); it's Germany's and France's problem.

I'm always disappointed by Greek cuisine. While I love the salads, the meats are always tiny pieces of barbecued burnt offerings; dry, leathery and indigestible. Civilised weather here though - expecting 30 degree temperatures today and blue skies, not the incessant rain of back home.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Same Old Conversations

Modern humans interbred with their African ancestors until quite recently, according to skull remains found in West Africa.

Can you imagine an early Neanderthal conversation? "All these bloody Cro-Magnons, coming here and taking our jobs..."

Off to Greece this morning; need a few days of sun after a dismal British summer. Need some business too, but not sure I'll find any in Greece.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Mmmm - Drugs, Drink and Dancing. Sounds Good!

BBC Tweet: A pro-Gaddafi radio station announcer is quoted as saying; "These revolutionaries are fighting to drink and do drugs all the time and be like the West, dance all night."

Can't think of anything more likely to positively encourage Gaddafi loyalists to join the NTC. Seems most of them are mercenaries anyway.

BBC Headline: Nick Clegg to highlight Lib-Dem achievements in government.

That'll be a short speech then. Wonder if there's any connection with another headline: "Man arrested with gut full of drugs."

BBC Headline: UBS trader charged with fraud.

What about the rest of the banking fraternity - Fred the Shred and all those people?

Friday, 16 September 2011

Password Protection Racket on Dale Farm

If you think your neighbours are using your domestic Wi-Fi internet connection and can't be bothered to protect it with a password (it can be a tedious procedure), simply rename it "Police Surveillance Van No.5". That should get them off it.

It might attract a few hackers though.

Dale Farm. Heard of it? It's an illegal traveller site in Basildon and these so-called 'travellers' have been fighting a 10 year battle with the local council to remain on the site, much to the chagrin of the locals, who consider them vermin. Human rights organisations and what-have-you are involved, claiming the travellers are being victimised.

Now I heard one of these 'travellers' being asked why she didn't simply move to a house, like normal people. She replied that she would never give up the travelling lifestyle.

I'm sorry, but if these people have been in the same location for 10 years, logic dictates that they haven't actually travelled during that time, nor do they intend to ever again, else why fight for the right to stay. I don't think I have ever lived that long in one location - does that make me a traveller?

These people are not travellers, but simply illegal squatters who happen to live in caravans. It's called having your cake and eating it, I believe.

Went to get some Euros from the bank yesterday and was horrified at the exchange rate. Can someone tell me why, when the Euro is holed more than the Graf Spee, we have an exchange rate of 1:1? The currency should surely be on the Monopoly value scale?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Greek Tragedy

Those bloody Eurozone leaders are defying gravity again and suggesting Greece is financially sound, only delaying the inevitable.

I was hoping the place would collapse before the weekend, as I'm flying there on Sunday for a week of business meetings and fancied buying up a cheap villa for a couple of quid.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Lament for the Organic Economy

Overheard in the Caravan:

No.1 Son; "Dad, what's a Walkman?"

Chairman: "Ancient technology."

Following that exchange, it struck me that to someone aged 13, a Walkman, which was iconic to my generation, is practically unknown.

While at the Ludlow Food Festival we heard a 5 piece band called Lament playing in one of the squares. Excellent, if you like Latino rhythms.

One thing notably absent from the festival was organic food. Seems people have now lumped organics into the same metaphorical basket as vegan food.

Pundits maintain we need low interest rates and tax cuts to stimulate the economy, but persuading people to spend more than they can afford has contributed to the situation we're now in. There's simply no incentive for people to save.

Oh well, I suppose the mystics (i.e. economists) will sort it all out. If only they could agree what's needed - but they can't, which is why I call them mystics.

Anyone read Alistair Darling's memoirs? Must be a bit like reading the memoirs of a Finance Director of a large company; riveting stuff - if you're a bean counter.

I hear the The Home Builders' Federation has been engaged in a bit of circular logic while defending the building of homes that are far too small for purpose. They said that if new homes were built bigger, some people would be priced out the market. Well, if people can't afford them, then surely the prices will have to come down to the level where people can afford them, else there will be no market for the houses in the first place. Methinks they protest too much.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Over the Top

Had a day out at the Ludlow Food Festival yesterday.

Spotted these very swish BBQ devices, the largest of which is an eye watering £1,300.

Personally, I'd rather use one of these Army dustbins, which the Army Catering Corp were exhibiting and were used in the Crimea.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Indian / Pakistani Haka

Nice bit of marching - almost a haka. I wonder if these guys could field a rugby team?

Blokey with the beard certainly has some attitude.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Brush Off

This managing director lark is brilliant.

When I was a mere sales manager or sales director, I would get all kinds of brush-offs from secretaries, factotums and assistant footstool bearers. Now I get straight through to the boss with no trouble whatsoever.

I think every salesman should be given the honorific title of managing director.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The 50% Tax Row

The row about the 50% tax band is heating up. Personally I think increasing the percentage as salary increases is unfair and inflationary - the higher paid (invariably entrepreneurs) will simply pay themselves more to cover the extra tax, leaving less for their staff or investment.

Ed Balls is quoted as saying; ”People who earn £150,000 should be paying a bit more tax."

Isn’t that the whole point of percentages in the first place? 40% of £150,000 is a damned sight more than 40% of £50,000. People on £150,000 already do pay more tax.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Quiet Man on 9/11

Is it me, or has whatsisname....... Something Milliband ..... Ed, I think, disappeared?

And why is everyone talking about 9/11? It's months away from November.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Bank Speak

The Royal Bank of Scotland says it will vigorously defend itself against US government claims the bank misrepresented the quality of mortgages it sold.

Seems to me that the words; "We will vigorously defend," have come to mean; "We don't really have a leg to stand on."

Just the other day, NatWest charged me $4.50 for buying zero commission foreign currency at the Heathrow Travelex, quoting the charge on my bank statement as a 'cash advance'. No mention was made of this charge when buying the currency and the transaction slip did not show it.

How something I bought using a debit card, the cost of which came direct from my bank account, could be considered a cash advance is beyond me. Naturally they blame Visa - but Nationwide absorb the charge - which in any case is irrational.

I rang the bank to complain and threatened to move my considerable stash (the savings for the house build) to another bank. The drone on the phone didn't give a toss and told me to read the small print on my debit card.

Talking of rebuilding and investment, a pub in Cumbria has been brought back from the brink of closure by the village buying it for £300k. Seems a bit daft to me - the place was described as central to village life, but it was obviously in financial difficulty through the villagers not frequenting it in the first place.

Surely a better strategy, and one that did not involve the villagers mortgaging themselves to the eyeballs, would simply have been to frequent it, which would have brought it back from the dead and saved them a stash. I am confident that, now the flurry of activity is over, they will all go back to not patronising their purchase, and that was inevitable will once more become inevitable. Expect the Butcher's Arms in Crosby to close within a year.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Delusional, If You Ask Me.

Col Gaddafi is apparently 'ready for long war' and has the support of the people of Libya.

He's not exactly doing much for the popular view of megalomaniacal dictators. They're renowned for having a somewhat tenuous grip on reality at the best of times, but claiming popular support when it's popular support that's just ousted you is on par with claiming you've just visited Alpha Cantauri or that UK students have improved their academic ability for 26 continuous years and our 15 year-olds are the cleverest in the world.

Click to enlarge

Flying back to the UK today - glad it's not tomorrow, as the hotel breakfast is abominable on a Saturday. This is due to the prohibition by strict Jews on the use of electricity on Shabbat, hence no fresh coffee or freshly cooked foods in the hotel.

Given only about 30% of Israelis are observant Jews, it's a bit much.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Google Advice on Lentils

Yesterday Google told me I was in another country and asked if I wanted to change my location. Naturally I said yes, and since then I've been plagued with Google searches producing results in Hebrew and the screen being oriented left to right. That's the last time I accept any advice from Google.

I was reminded yesterday why I have never eaten puy lentils since the first time I tried them. They were on offer in the works canteen, which has a wonderful salad bar, and I was overcome with an irrational urge to try them again. It's like eating cardboard - I can't see their point.

I was told yesterday that they're confirming me as MD of the European sales region today. My six months probation was reduced to 4 months, so I must be doing something right.

Next time I travel I'm going to spend more time selecting clothes for the trip - I spent yesterday in agony from having to wear trousers that were a size too small around the waist and I had neglected to take to the charity shop.