Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
...For Cambridge people rarely smile,
Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;
And Royston men in the far South
Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;
At Over they fling oaths at one
And worse than oaths at Trumpington,
And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,
And there's none in Harston under thirty,
And folks in Shelford and those parts
Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,
And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,
And Coton's full of nameless crimes,
And things are done you'd not believe
At Madingly on Christmas Eve.
Strong men have run for miles and miles
When one from Cherry Hinton smiles;
...But Grantchester! Ah Grantchester!
There's peace and holy quiet there,
Great clouds along pacific skies,
And men and women with straight eyes,
Lithe children lovelier than a dream,
A bosky wood, a slumberous stream,
And little kindly winds that creep
Round twilight corners, half asleep.
In Grantchester their skins are white;
They bathe by day, they bathe by night;
The women here do all they ought;
The men observe the Rules of Thought.
They love the Good; they worship Truth;
They laugh uproariously in youth;
(And when they get to feeling old,
They up and shoot themselves, I'm told.)
How fabulous to be in Grantchester & Cambridge in such beautiful weather! Even hapless England couldn't really depress one's spirits for long.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Poem of the week
When Sam Small retired from the Army
He'd a pension of ninepence a day,
And seven pounds fourteen and twopence
He'd saved from his rations and pay.
He knew this 'ere wasn't a fortune,
But reckoned with prudence and care
He'd find some investment to save him
From hard work and things like that there.
He thought he'd invest in a race orse,
As apart from excitement and fun
He'd be able to sit down in comfort
And live on the money he won.
He knew buying 'orses was tricky,
But that didn't daunt him at all;
He said "They must rise early 't mornin
As wants to play tricks on Sam Small!"
When he called on the local 'Orse-dealer
Surprise rooted him to the spot,
For he found 'twere his old Comp'ny Sergeant,
Whose kindness he'd never forgot.
'Twere a happy reunion on both sides,
Their pleasure at meeting was great,
For each hoped to diddle the other
And wipe a few grudges off slate.
The Sergeant brought out his race 'orses,
For which he asked various sums;
They hadn't a tooth left between them,
But Sam knew their age by their gums.
Sam studied their lines and deportment
As Sergeant were trotting them round,
And told him he reckoned their value
Were fourpence, per race 'orse, per pound.
Now the Sarg. had a filly called Buster
As he hadn't said nothing about,
But when Sam turned his nose up at t'others
He thought as he'd best trot her out.
Sam were struck with her youthful appearance,
Though there wasn't much light in the place,
For her teeth were all pearly and even
And there wasn't a line on her face.
The Sergeant asked Sam twenty guineas,
But Sam, who were up to his tricks,
Pretended he thought he'd said shillings
And offered him eighteen and six.
In the end he paid eight guineas for her,
And when he'd got home with the goods
He reckoned he'd not done so badly,
For three of the guineas was duds.
But later, when he thought it over,
A doubt through his mind seemed to creep,
If Buster were all she were painted,
Why the Sergeant had sold her so cheap?
He very soon found out the answer
When he looked at her close in her stall,
She'd the marks where her face had been lifted
And a mouth full of false teeth an' all.
The little walk home had fatigued her
And the cold air had started her cough;
Sam reckoned he'd best see the Sergeant
And tell him the bargain was off.
The place were locked up when he got there,
And he realized Sergeant had bunked,
So back he went home in a dudgeon
And found Buster lying-defunct.
Sam knew if he wanted to sell her
He mustn't let on she were dead,
So he raffled her down at the Darts Club-
Forty members at five bob a head.
The raffle were highly successful,
They all came in every man jack
And so's winner'd have no cause to grumble
Sam gave him his five shillings back.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
For better or for worse?
The ramifications of the One Child Policy in China are now coming through. It is estimated that the preference for sons over daughters has meant that there will be 24m unmarriageable bachelors by 2020 and daughters are suddenly worth their weight in gold as they can have their pick of the men. Property prices have been spiralling and flats in the big cities are generally unaffordable for young couples. In Shanghai, the easiest way for a girl to get a flat is to marry a man who owns one. Daughters are called "Minsheng Bank" (one of the leading mortgage providers). However, the divorce rate amongst young people in Shanghai has risen to 25% so, property-owning men, beware!
Monday, June 14, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
As Toronto is preparing to host the G8 and G20 summits this month, there is a huge outcry about the cost involved: C$1.1bn. The bulk of this (C$933m) will be spent on security but they are also spending C$2m on a fake lake (at a site which is only a few hundred yards from Lake Ontario) together with canoes, a dock, deckchairs, a bar and, of course, a large screen showing the World Cup!
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
All that glitters...
Goldman Sachs is being strongly criticised at home and abroad. An article in the China Youth Daily last week asserted, "Many people believe Goldman, which goes around the Chinese market slurping gold and sucking silver, may have, using all kinds of deals, created even bigger losses for Chinese companies and investors than it did with its fraudulent actions in the US." It was referring to oil hedging contracts which GS sold to Chinese state companies which went on to cause huge losses.
Yesterday the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission issued a subpoena to compel Goldmans to provide critical documents which could not be found within the 2.5bn (I assume, American billions) pages of evidence submitted by the bank. "We did not ask them to pull up a dump truck to our offices and dump a load of rubbish," said Phil Angelides, Chairman of the Commission.
Monday, June 07, 2010
Elephant in the room
Friday, June 04, 2010
Here's the new statue on the Bund in Shanghai with the old Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building in the background. A mixture of Wall Street and the City! The HSBC Shanghai HQ was built in 1923 and was deemed to be "the most luxurious building between the Suez Canal and the Bering Strait." It now houses Shanghai Pudong Development Bank but tourists are allowed into the entrance to admire the mosaics in the domed ceiling of London, Paris, New York and Calcutta together with the exhortations of spes, fides, aequitas, iustitia etc.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Last weekend I visited Zhujiajiao, a charming town built along streams and canals, about an hour outside Shanghai. It was officially designated a town under Emperor Wanli (1563-1620) during the Ming Dynasty and was also known as the Pearl Street Pavilion.
Nowadays it is commercial and full of (mainly Chinese) tourists. There are many boutiques selling silk, paintings, ceramics, Mao memorabilia and fresh water pearls (I bought a beautiful pale pink strand). There are also plenty of cafes looking over the water and small shops offering roast pork, bean curd and dim sum. The only disappointment was the rain!
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
When I was in China there was a lot of discussion about what is happening at Foxconn. Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, has two factories in Guangdong province in China, one employing 450,000 people and the other 150,000. It makes components for Apple iPhones, Dell computers and Nokia mobile phones. The workforce is mainly young Chinese people (only children from the One Child Policy) from rural areas, attracted to earning a good salary in a coastal province. They earn around £90 per month and live in dormitories on the factory site. There has been a spate of suicides at the larger factory: 13 in the last 6 weeks. The workers have been complaining that the factory is a soulless place, working 12 hours a day, doing overtime to try to increase their wages, going back to the dormitory at night and often speaking to nobody.
The first measure that the company took (after 10 suicides) was to install a telephone helpline for depressed employees. It seemed to be working but then there was another death. It then gave the workers a 30% pay rise to £120 per month. There was another suicide. The Chairman, Terry Gou (see photo), came over from Taiwan to apologise to the factory and came out with the most amazing analysis of what has been happening. He said that because the company was offering such high compensation in the event of an employee's death (£20,000), some workers felt that it was worth sacrificing nearly 20 years of work in order to give their parents a large sum of cash so that they (the parents) would be able to cover their medical expenses and live the end of their lives in comfort. Therefore, he concluded, the company was now abolishing the compensation payout!
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Surprise, surprise, I couldn't access my blog in China. I had fun in Shanghai though and saw many interesting Chinese companies. For the first three days I was a guest at a conference where there were several other Europeans. "Don't bother going to the Expo!" they said. "The queue to get into the site takes 2 hours and then you have to queue for ages to enter each country pavilion." The only free time I had was at the weekend so I decided not to waste it queuing in the rain.
The following week I was presenting at a Morgan Stanley conference. Not only did they serve a chocolate pudding in the shape of the Chinese pavilion (as per the attached photo) at their gala dinner, but they also hosted a dinner in the Expo site one evening which meant that there was only a 10 minute queue to get in. We were told at 8pm that we had a choice: we could either go to the Chinese pavilion on the Morgan Stanley group reservation or we could wander around on our own and meet at 10pm for the bus back to the hotel. "How long will we have to queue for the Chinese pavilion?" I asked. "About 45 minutes," they said.
My colleague and I decided that it would be much more fun to look round some of the other pavilions so off we went. The Chinese pavilion is in the centre of the site with Europe to the left and Asia to the right and two hours is insufficient time to see both sides so we chose Asia and all the countries with no queue: Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, East Timor etc. It was most amusing to see North Korea's slogan "Paradise for the People." The differences in each country's presentations were fascinating. Morocco and Oman were my favourites. Morocco had built a typical Moroccan house in its pavilion with intricate wooden carvings, beautiful tiles, balconies and fountains. Oman has created a sandstone staircase to enter its site and had streams running through it and frankincense burning. East Timor, meanwhile, was in a relatively small space with a few statues and a video of military marches in the country.
When we returned to the meeting point at 10pm we asked the others how they'd liked the Chinese pavilion. "We had to queue for an hour and a quarter!" they complained, "And then we only stayed for 15 minutes as it was so boring!"