Friday, April 30, 2010

Where's there's muck there's brass

A Chinese couple, Li Li and Li Tan, have just made US$6.2bn from listing their pharmaceutical company. Shenzhen Hepalink Pharmaceutical, on the Shenzhen stock exchange. Its speciality is making heparin, a blood thinner derived from pigs' intestines. Li Li met his wife when they were studying chemistry at Sichuan University and they founded the company in 1998. They now want to keep a low profile and are refusing all interviews. Good for them!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Down at the hustings

Last night the United Church and the Bishop of Winchester hosted hustings for our election candidates: Steve Brine (Conservative), Patrick Davies (Labour), Mark Lancaster (English Democrats) and Martin Tod (Liberal Democrats). The UKIP candidate was otherwise engaged. As you can imagine, they all towed their Party lines about the deficit, parliamentary reform and how to tackle our "broken society." The only one to break ranks was Patrick Davies who said that he's never supported owning nuclear weapons, had marched against them in the past and hopes for a nuclear-free world.

It was interesting to watch the interaction of the personalities: Steve, the action man who always has a ready anecdote; Martin, who's passionate about climate change and who hopes to learn how to be a good constituency MP before another election is called; Mark, the cheerful policeman who believes the English have far too little say in their own Parliament; and Patrick, a man of great integrity who sadly doesn't stand a chance of being elected in Winchester.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Flower of the day

The Winchester Cathedral rose

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lost change

Mark Oaten MP is standing down from Winchester, leaving a hard-fought contest between his successor Martin Tod and the Conservative candidate Steve Brine. It is disappointing that so many of the Conservative posters are being vandalised in Winchester. In one ward, 26 posters have been stolen or damaged in the past 6 days. The police are investigating. Steve has a good chance of winning. I wish him well and am looking forward to the hustings at the United Church on Jewry Street on Wednesday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Trophy of the week

Bonhams is holding an antiquities sale this Wednesday. This Hellenistic gold wreath dating between 300-200BC could be yours for an estimated £100,000-£120,000.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three cheers for St George!

I'm looking forward to toasting him later with a glass or two of Nyetimber.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

timeo Danaos

The Parthenon's on strike today. Thank goodness we've still got the Elgin Marbles.

Bitchy joke of the day

Cherie Blair is touring the countryside in a chauffeur-driven car.
Suddenly, a cow jumps out into the road, they hit it full on and the car comes to a stop.
Cherie, in her usual charming manner, says to the chauffeur: 'You get out and check - you were driving. '
The chauffeur gets out, checks and reports that the animal is dead.
'You were driving; go and tell the farmer, ' says Cherie.
Five hours later, the chauffeur returns totally plastered, hair ruffled with a big grin on his face.
'My God, what happened to you?' asks Cherie.
The chauffeur replies: ' When I got there, the farmer opened his best bottle of malt whisky, the wife gave me a slap-up meal and the daughter made love to me. '

'What on earth did you say?' asks Cherie. '

'I knocked on the door, and when it was answered, I said to them: ' I'm Cherie Blair's chauffeur and I've just killed the cow!''

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Big Short

If you are looking for an amusing, easy to read account about the massive bets surrounding the sub-prime mortgage market, I strongly recommend Michael Lewis' The Big Short. What's so good about his writing is that he gets inside the characters of the players involved: the quirky fund managers hanging on to their conviction that everything will go horribly wrong; the clueless bankers driven by the prospect of big bonuses as long as they can continue to churn out CDOs in massive volumes; and, worst of all, the terrible ratings agencies who sanctioned the bonds as being perfectly palatable without investigating their toxic elements. Michael Lewis is a master at engaging his reader. I remember reading The New New Thing on a plane to San Francisco, but that's another story.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Photo of the day

Friday, April 16, 2010

Joke of the day

After getting all of Pope Benedict's luggage loaded into the limo, (and he doesn't travel light), the driver notices the Pope is still standing on the curb.

'Excuse me, Your Holiness,' says the driver, 'Would you please take your seat so we can leave?' 'Well, to tell you the truth,' says the Pope, 'they never let me drive at the Vatican when I was a cardinal, and I'd really like to drive today.'

'I'm sorry, Your Holiness, but I cannot let you do that. I'd lose my job! What if something should happen?' protests the driver, wishing he'd never gone to work that morning..

'Who's going to tell?' says the Pope with a smile.

Reluctantly, the driver gets in the back as the Pope climbs in behind the wheel. The driver quickly regrets his decision when, after exiting the airport, the Pontiff floors it, accelerating the limo to 205 kms.. (Remember, the Pope is German..)

'Please slow down, Your Holiness!' pleads the worried driver, but the Pope keeps the pedal to the metal until they hear sirens. 'Oh, dear God, I'm going to lose my licence -- and my job!' moans the driver.

The Pope pulls over and rolls down the window as the cop approaches, but the cop takes one look at him, goes back to his motorcycle, and gets on the radio.

'I need to talk to the Chief,' he says to the dispatcher.

The Chief gets on the radio and the cop tells him that he's stopped a limo going 205 kph.

'So bust him,' says the Chief.

'I don't think we want to do that, he's really important,' said the cop.

The Chief exclaimed,' All the more reason!'

'No, I mean really important,' said the cop with a bit of persistence.

The Chief then asked, 'Who do you have there, the mayor?'

Cop: 'Bigger.'

Chief: ' A senator?'

Cop: 'Bigger.'

Chief: 'The Prime Minister?'

Cop: 'Bigger.'

'Well,' said the Chief, 'who is it?'

Cop: 'I think it's God!'

The Chief is even more puzzled and curious, 'What makes you think it's God?'

Cop: 'His chauffeur is the Pope!'

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The FSA is on a roll. Faced with the prospect of being subsumed into the Bank of England if the Conservatives win the election, it is, at the eleventh hour, doing its damnedest to prove its worth. Insider dealers are being prosecuted, fines are being levied and now, three years after the event, executives at Northern Rock have been fined and banned from the industry for misrepresenting mortgage arrears in January 2007. Let's not even ask why the FSA didn't pick up on the misreporting at the time. Three years is a long time to wait to ban these people from operating.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The tomb of Mausolus

The tomb of Mausolus (the derivation of the word "mausoleum") was built in Halicarnassus (now called Bodrum, in Turkey) between 353 and 350BC and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Mausolus was a Persian satrap who inherited his kingdom in 377BC and decided to build a new city for his capital: Halicarnassus. He married his sister Artemesia and the design of the new city was their joint project and passion. Artemesia was broken-hearted when Mausolus died in 353BC and she commissioned a lavish tomb for his memorial.

She employed the best artists in Greece: Scopas, who'd overseen the rebuilding of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and three other famous sculptors, Leochares, Bryaxis and Timotheus. Each man took one side of the square building and carved wonderful statues of people, gods, goddesses, lions, horses and many other animals. There were friezes on the podium and roof, one of which showed the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons whose fragments can be seen in the British Museum. It was built on a hill overlooking Halicarnassus, on a platform in a courtyard. Stairs flanked by stone lions led up to it and stone warriors on horseback guarded each corner. The roof was in the shape of a pyramid and perched on the top was a huge chariot pulled by four horses which carried statues of Mausolus and Artemisia.

The tomb survived for 1600 years but was eventually destroyed by a series of earthquakes and by 1404 AD only the base remained.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rhubarb creme brulee

American friends unexpectedly descended on me for lunch on Sunday so I made use of some of the rhubarb in the garden in Delia's creme brulee recipe. Stew the rhubarb with sugar, some chopped stem ginger and some ground ginger for about 30 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees. Cool, strain and discard the juice. Then either put in into individual dishes or one serving dish. Mix equal amounts of thick double cream and Greek yoghurt and spread over the top, completely covering the rhubarb. Sprinkle brown sugar over the cream mixture and place under a very hot grill until the sugar bubbles and begins to caramelise. Cool and serve. Not bad!

Friday, April 09, 2010

The grey market

There are grey markets in China and Hong Kong where people can buy imports of legitimate foreign products which were not intended for those destinations. You will have to pay up but you can get the latest handbag or electronic product before its official launch date. The hot purchase of the moment is the Apple iPad. This costs $500 in the US and is selling for $760 on the Chinese grey markets. The premium's not as high as the iPhone in 2007 which sold at double the US retail price.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

International Consolidated Airlines?

The merger between British Airways and Iberia will be called "International Consolidated Airlines." How dull is that and what a poor reflection on their combined strategy/PR/advertising departments! Let's hear your best ideas. Off the top of my head, I can come up with The British Armada, Fly Quixote, Costa the Earth and El Brito.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Joke of the day

Solly: How's your hardboiled egg and salt water?

Rebecca: Why do you ask me about my hardboiled egg and salt water but never ask me about my problems?

Solly: How are you problems, Rebecca?

Rebecca wails, "My problems? Don't ask!"

Rabbi Lionel Blue

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Poem of the day

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and souls delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better then thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Happy Easter!

A very happy Easter to you! The BBC's televising the Easter service on Sunday in Winchester Cathedral.