Friday, October 29, 2010

Quotation for Sunday

"I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine."


Thursday, October 28, 2010


What irritates me most about Ed Milliband is his lisp. Perhaps he should try the trick used by Demosthenes? As I'm sure you remember, Demosthenes (384-322BC) had a speech impediment when he was young and was terribly teased by his schoolfriends. To correct it he used to go to the beach, put pebbles in his mouth and practise making speeches. He went on to become one of the finest orators in Athens.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

King Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great died on this day in 899. His biographer, Bishop Asser, claims that he had a keen interest in literature from an early age and that his mother gave him a volume of poetry as a prize after he'd managed to memorise it. In later life, stressed by fighting off the Vikings, he found refuge in books and went on to translate various philosophical writings from Latin into English. One was Boethius' Consolation of Philiosophy and contains these lines:

"Thus Alfred told us an old story,
the King of West Saxons showed off his craft,
his skill of verse-making.
His wish was wide-reaching,
that to these people he should pass on poetry,
and be delighted by men using his phrases
so that dreariness might not overwhelm
those self-absorbed characters,
who only attend
to their own whinging.
But I must speak
to make common philosophy fashionable
and tell it to the high-minded.
Heed it, who will!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ghost story of the day

There was a big house in Athens, with an unsavoury and unhealthy reputation. The silence of the night was interrupted by the sound of weapons and chains. First they came from afar, but then they were heard nearby. Soon there appeared a filthy, emaciated old man with scraggly hair and beard. He had chains on his hands and feet.
The residents didn't sleep very well. Some even died from fear. Eventually the house was empty.
Finally, deserted, it remained quiet. When it was put up for sale no one was interested.
Then one day Athenodorus, the philosopher, came to town. He saw the FOR SALE sign on the house, found out the price and asked a great many other questions.
No one held back on the horrific details, but still the philosopher decided to go ahead and buy the place.
That very evening, his first in the house, Athenodorus took a torch, stylus, and writing tablet to the front of his house. He let the slaves off for the night. Then he determined to keep himself busy writing because, he thought, an idle mind is the devil's playground.
At first, all was still. Then from afar came the rattling of chains. Stoically, Athenodorus didn't even bat an eye, but kept on writing. The sounds grew closer and closer.
Soon they were in the house....
Then they were in his very room....
At this Athenodorus laid down his stylus and looked up. There was the ghost. It beckoned him with a finger, but Athenodorus just took up his stylus again. When the philosopher heard the chains rattling above his head, he picked up his torch.
Slowly the ghost ambled to the door with Athenodorus close behind. As it reached an open area in the house, the ghost disappeared. Athenodorus grabbed a handy nearby clump of grass and placed it on the spot where the ghost had vanished.
The next day, Athenodorus called the magistrate. In his official capacity, he dug up the spot that had been marked. There they found chains and inside the chains, the bones of a man.
The magistrate gathered the bones for a proper burial. Never was the ghost heard from again.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Match and dispatch

I had a bizarre conversation with an Indonesian property company yesterday:

"We have started a new venture: cemeteries and have built a very beautiful one in Jakarta with flat, not vertical, tombstones."

"I thought the disadvantage of flat tombstones was that the engravings will be eroded more quickly by rain?"

"We can replace them cheaply. The advantage is that the cemetery is much easier to mow. We are also getting income from weddings there."

"Why would people want to get married in a cemetery?"

"We have built a very beautiful chapel there and you can't see the graves from it. There will be a huge number of invisible guests!"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Defensive logic

"We are building 2 aircraft carriers, but no planes for them to carry."

"The only wars we can envisage the UK entering into alone are war with Spain over Gibraltar and war with Argentina over the Falklands."
"We did not foresee 9/11."
"Spending is being increased by £650m to counter infiltration of the Govt's secrets."
"A zoom lens though the window of Danny Alexander's car discovered the details of the Govt's plan to cut public sector jobs."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I met a Chinese analyst the other day who was telling me about the strong growth in rural consumption in China. He said he'd gone back to his home village in Yunnan province a couple of months ago and had gone for a jog in the surrounding hills. On his descent he saw one of his old primary schoolfriends jogging up the same path. This boy, he knew, had become a farmer.

"Hey!" he cried, "What are you doing jogging in the hills during the day. Shouldn't you be out on your farm?"

"You clearly haven't been back here for ages!" retorted his schoolfriend. "No one in this village farms any more: we all do business and have outsourced the farming to labourers from Sichuan province!"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Design for Living

I went to see Noel Coward's Design for Living at the Old Vic, starring Lisa Dillion, Tom Burke and Andrew Scott which is very silly but has some good lines including:

"Would you like some ham? I ordered it from Scotland."


"That's where it lived when it was alive!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quip of the day

There's an announcement this afternoon that Whistler's doing an IPO. Quick as a flash, my colleague remarked, "Their performance is clearly going downhill fast. They're on the skids!"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

RIP La Stupenda

One of her friends said, "She had cords of steel."

Monday, October 11, 2010

The grim reaper

I went to my friend's funeral on Friday. This is the third funeral her 8 year old son has attended in as many months: two grandmothers and his mother. The quotation on the service sheet was, "When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Bad joke of the day/week/month

Three statisticians were hunting a lion. One shot 10 yards to the left. The second shot 10 yards to the right and the third jumped up and down shouting, "We got it! We got it!"

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


"I wish there was!" he says. You wouldn't think he'd had the best education in the country, would you?

Asian euphoria

The prospect of QE2 has been whipping the Asian markets into a frenzy and there are placings and new issues everyday to take advantage of investors' enthusiasm. The retail element of China Suntien Green Energy, a wind farm and gas company new issue, was 257x oversubscribed...

Monday, October 04, 2010

Irish directions

A friend was on holiday in Ireland this summer and asked for directions to Westport. He received this answer, "If you're going to Westport it's best not to start from here..."

Friday, October 01, 2010

Aethelred the Unready

Switching on the radio, I heard the end of a comment by a Conservative MP (I presume) about welfare reform. "We don't want to be like Aethelred the Unready!" he exclaimed. My question is, does he know that "Unready" is a mistranslation of the old English "unraed" which means "bad counsel"? Aethelred was not unprepared, he was ill-advised.