Saturday, June 30, 2007


I suppose one piece of good news for those people who are flooded in Bentley is that it's too hazardous for suicide/car bombers to drive in. I wonder who it was that picked up the car bomb in Cockspur Street. What amazing luck not to be blown up when moving it! The Westminster car removers are a vicious breed. They claim that as soon as their removal lorries have touched a car, they are on film so no amount of cajolery, tears, bribery or threats can change their mind as they'll lose their jobs. However, one can pay a £160 spot fine by credit card to be allowed to repark in a safe spot. I suppose the bombers had fled the scene/been distracted by the West End so didn't notice that the bomb was being towed away. Either that or the detonator was faulty. Anyway the towman must be thanking his lucky stars.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Many people sit on the benches outside Winchester cathedral and take comfort in the view. Quite often they seem to sit in sombre contemplation of life. The other evening I walked into the cathedral Close and saw a rather elegant woman on one of the benches, gazing sadly at the surroundings. Two feet in front of her was a robin closely watching her face. He flew off when he saw me approaching. I greeted the stranger sitting there and asked her if she'd noticed the robin, however, she had not: she'd been lost in her own contemplation. That was a shame. I'm sure she would have been cheered had she noticed his beady, inquisitive little face.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blessed are the peace makers

How ironic that Tony Blair is set to become the peace envoy for the Middle East. This will be a real test of his PR machine. He said the other day that he thought he'd be more likely to be assassinated in the UK than abroad. His new address, just of a stretch off the Edgware Road known as Little Beirut, does not bode well on that front.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The joys of June

My luck at Ascot last Tuesday with a couple of good winners - Henry the Navigator and Full House - and a sunny day, did not continue for the rest of the week. First, there was the Drama of the Retina and then, on Saturday, grey skies loomed for The Magic Flute at the Grange (, our local equivalent of Glyndebourne. The performance directed by Stephen Medcalf was wonderful. Pheasants and the flute flew across a gauze curtain, hounds from hell bayed from the backdrop, there was fire and brimstone and terrific singing by Victoria Joyce, Queen of the Night, and Elizabeth Atherton, Pamina. The star of the show was David Stout who played Papageno. Not only were his singing and diction first-rate (the production was in English) but he had an excellent sense of comedy. Mozart would have been proud. The drizzle did not provide the ideal conditions for a summer picnic in the interval and we decamped inside the portico at the front where we enjoyed coronation chicken, salads, strawberries and champagne in spite of the cool breeze. We gathered spare tables and chairs and the picnic rugs served well as insulation around the knees.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The longest day

Apologies if anybody has been missing my blog. I was at Moorfields Hospital from 7.30am to 7.15pm yesterday as my father had to have an emergency operation on his retina which suddenly detached from his eye. Apparently in one's old age the fluid at the back of the eye diminishes and there's a 1 in 10,000 chance that this will tear the retina. That blew my idea that he's 1 in a million. They repaired the tears, put it back in place and injected a bubble of gas into the back of his eye to keep it in place so, as long as he keeps his head down (literally - for 50 minutes every hour) for the next week there's a 90% chance that his sight will return in 6-8 weeks after the gas bubble's disappeared. I must say that the hospital staff were very jolly and efficient. The system there is rather strange, though. People come from all over the country first thing in the morning but they can only do the 4 most urgent operations per day. We were lucky to have the second slot. One poor man had spent £100 on a train fare from Coventry and had to stay the night in a hostel there (they don't have an overnight ward dedicated to retinal patients) in the hope that he may be considered bad enough to be operated on today. June 21 was indeed the longest day.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Shopping in boutiques during the first half of June pains me. After Ascot there's a 95% certainty you'll see what you bought a couple of weeks before at a lip smacking discount. This is, of course, an illusion. The skimpy silk dresses, beautiful shoes with way-too-high heels, elegant suits and crisp summer shirts on display in Knightsbridge are overpriced even when discounted. Bottega Veneta's selling wooden platform shoes with 6 inch heels for a staggering £500 (and you would be staggering in them: apart from the heel, the weight of them would drag you down after half an hour). I couldn't resist trying them on (no, of course, I wasn't a serious buyer) and the shop assistant took great pleasure in telling me that they were the only shoes in the shop which would not be on sale. Then, take the Zimbabwean stockmarket. The index has risen 7000% this year. Yes 7000%. Inflation is so bad there that the brokers' sales pitch has become, "For the same price as a loaf of bread you can buy 100 shares in x company." That's another market I've been out of, unfortunately. Away until Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Food for thought

I have to prepare part of a picnic in a couple of weeks' time so have been looking for ideas and came across Mrs Beeton's suggestions for a picnic for 40 people: "A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal-and-ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf’s head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers. Stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold plum-pudding (this must be good), a few baskets of fresh fruit, 3 dozen plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6 lbs. of butter (this, of course, includes the butter for tea), 4 quartern loaves of household bread, 3 dozen rolls, 6 loaves of tin bread (for tea), 2 plain plum cakes, 2 pound cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits, 1/2 lb, of tea. Coffee is not suitable for a picnic, being difficult to make. Beverages.—3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers; ginger-beer, soda-water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6 bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne à discrétion, and any other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water can usually be obtained so it is useless to take it." A breeze!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


The latest fad trying to come out of Dubai is camel milk. It contains five times as much vitamin C as cow's milk with less than half the fat content (2%), is rich in anti-bacterial enzymes and can be drunk by people with lactose intolerance. It took a while to build automated dairies so that the milk could travel straight from the udder to the cooling tank and then to the processing plant (more hygienic than milking by hand into bowls in sandstorms) and great trouble was taken to build appropriate milking machines as camels' udders are far less uniform than cows'. Anyway, camel milk is very popular in the UAE and they're planning to branch into ice cream and chocolate. Currently they are not allowed to sell milk products to the EU because of foot and mouth disease. As camels are resistant to foot and mouth, they are hoping to be exempt from this ruling.

Monday, June 11, 2007

CO2 solution

Dr Alfred Wong of the University of California has an interesting solution for eradicating excess CO2. He spends much time in Alaska manufacturing fireworks displays in the form of artificial auroras. The magnetic shield of the Earth opens to space at the poles and anything travelling along the magnetic field could be forced vertically upwards at the poles and ejected into space. Dr Wong's idea is to release electrons into the atmosphere which would pair up with the CO2 molecules and form CO2 ions which are negatively charged. Using radio waves to propel them at an altitude of 125km, these ions would then spiral along the magnetic shield of the Earth until they fly out of the holes into space.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

What's your poison?

In April, pet food with additives from China was blamed for poisoning thousands of cats and dogs in America and was banned. This week Singapore banned three Chinese toothpastes which were found to be poisonous and Beijing has now published its first 5 year plan for improving food and drug safety, acknowledging that the safety problems are "severe". The position of Head of China's State Food and Drug Administration is a dubious job opportunity. The last one was sentenced to death in May, having been found guilty of taking bribes to approve fake medicines.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


My Italian colleague was very excited last week as she saw a dove flying outside our window along Knightsbridge. This, coupled with a magnificent rainbow which she saw in Canary Wharf augured well for the new fund which we're in the process of launching. She was looking out of the window remembering the dove yesterday afternoon when she spotted it again: "Look, there it is again at exactly the same time!" I looked but missed it flying by. Gazing at the chimneypots down the road I spotted the white wing of a seagull.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Reputational risk

I heard Jeff Randall speak about reputational risk at lunch today. This is such a hot subject that Oxford and Manchester Universities are offering courses in it. He said he'd suffered from it himself when he'd been appointed Business Editor for the BBC news. He was giving his first live broadcast and had been told to report on interest rate policy from in front of the Bank of England on the News at 10. The studio was counting him in by the minute: "5 minutes to go.." etc when he heard a horrible noise coming from his right. He had strict instructions to face the camera at all times but couldn't resist a quick glance when he saw, to his horror, a huge dustcart approaching the traffic lights behind him, traffic lights between himself and the Bank. It came to a halt and, realising that the backdrop to his broadcast would be a dustcart with RUBBISH written on its side, he called the BBC urgently to cancel his time slot. They agreed to delay it by 10 minutes. However, the environment in the City at 10.20pm is not as businesslike as during the day and when it came to 10.20pm, a car with four tipsy female passengers drew up at the lights behind him. "So, Jeff, what do you think was in the Governor's mind today?" came the question from the studio. "Oy you!" shouted one of the women, "Take your trousers down!"

Friday, June 01, 2007


Much news today: Bush goes green on unspecified "new scientific research"; Barroso's desperate to resurrect the EU constitution (yawn) and is hoping Blair's going to be positive about it at the European summit on 21 June; British Gas (nka BG Group) is trying to sell Palestinian gas to Israel; and the Turkish PM Erdogan is at loggerheads with the judiciary, has defied the Presidential veto and is pressing ahead with his constitutional reform package. It is unclear whether the latter will go through. There have been huge anti-Islamist demonstrations in Turkey over the past few weeks. The Turkish President, Sezer, has the right to refer the proposals to the constitutional court or to call for a referendum. We'll see if anything happens before the election on 22 July.