Monday, February 28, 2011

Quotation of the day

"We are a very modest family."

The Gaddafis' estimated fortune in the UK alone is estimated to be £10bn.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Missed a trick

I heard an English oil worker being interviewed about his escape from Tripoli. The airport was chaotic, the British Embassy officials were furious that there were no British planes available and he was told to wait in the VIP section of the airport. Suddenly there was an announcement: there were 50 seats going on a Polish plane heading for Warsaw. He grabbed the opportunity and subsequently discovered that this was the plane generally reserved for the Polish President. It's strange to think that Cameron, a PR guru, was in the region and failed to send his own plane to fly a few people home.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bread and circuses

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has this response to the crises around him: spend £22bn immediately on a 15% wage increase for civil servants, forgiveness of debts for prisoners and financial aid for students and the unemployed; spend a further £247bn by 2014 to improve Saudi education, infrastructure and healthcare; and to replace any Libyan oil reserves which may be lost with crude oil of the same quality. Do you think these measures will appease his people?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Riddle of the day

One for a glorious golden grave
Two for a terrible torch of tin
Three for a hundred hollow horses
Four for a knight with a spur of speargrass
Five for a fish with fortunate fins
Eight for a frog with eyes like marbles
Ten for a tower of turbulent toast

What are six, seven & nine?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mad dog

Ronald Reagan has been vindicated: "mad dog" Gaddafi is back to his old tricks. Did we ever really buy the story that the regime had had a change of heart? Oil, arms, cash...such is the way of the world. Politicians, please spare us the moralising.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The riddle of the Sphinx

So Cameron's in Cairo. Let's hope the Sphinx's riddle isn't rewritten thus: what goes on 2 legs in the morning, 4 legs at noon and no legs in the evening?

Friday, February 18, 2011


I went to an excellent concert at the Handel House Museum, 25 Brook Street, London. Handel bought the house when it was newly built in 1723 and lived there until he died in 1759. The harpsichord in the first floor drawing room is a replica of the original but it was quite something to hear it being played and to imagine Handel playing the same music in the same spot 280 years ago. He composed The Messiah there, in just three weeks. The house was conveniently situated: he could stroll over to Covent Garden to oversee the rehearsals of his productions and he enjoyed walking in Hyde Park. He went blind in 1752 and he wrote an annotation in his 1751Jephtha manuscript (now in the British Library) that he can't continue writing the notes as he can't see.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Swim for your life!

My colleague was swimming with an Australian companion in Cape Town last weekend. The waves were high and he was doubtful about going in. "Come on, mate!" cried the Aussie. "I've trained as a life saver. You'll be fine." They ran in. The sea was strong, my colleague was worried, he looked over towards the Aussie who also seemed to be having difficulty. This was confirmed when he shouted over these words of advice, "Don't turn your back on the waves: they could break your neck! Swim for shore!" My colleague questioned how he could swim for shore without turning his back on the waves. "Surf the waves, mate, and then swim like hell!" came the useful answer. They eventually emerged onto the beach, noticing that they'd been the only people in the sea and that a group of South Africans were laughing at them, very loud.

Monday, February 14, 2011


The chef Marcus Wareing wants to be remembered as a great and respected restauranteur and a gentleman. Writing in today's FT, Neil Shillito questions whether a gentleman would say to his wife (he is quoting Wareing) that he is going to "work 16 hour days and she couldn't tell me to stop." Shillito says that a gentleman is someone who can play the bagpipes but chooses not to. Do you agree?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Il Pachino

Of all the world's tomatoes, Pachino are the most expensive, costing E6 per kilo. However, the Sicilian farmers who grow them are only paid E0.50 per kilo and Fabio Granata, who is part of a commission investigating organised crime in Italy, is suspicious that the Mafia is taking a cut. There is an allegation that the tomatoes are transported 800km to Fondi in central Italy to be packaged before being sent back to Pachino on different trucks for distribution to retailers nationwide. The controversy came to light on 3 February when the "King of the Housewives", the television presenter Alessandro Di Pietro, advised his viewers not to buy them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Big Society Bank

Were the Blue Baroness allowed to speak in public, I'm sure she'd say, "There is no such thing as the Big Society." Does anybody know how the Big Society Bank will work? As far as I can see, charities and local projects whose grants are now being cut will have to apply for funds from the BSB, a state bank. Does this not simply add yet another layer of bureaucracy to the public sector? Who'll be in charge of it? How many employees will it have? Will it have branches or just be an internet bank? Will funds be allocated per region or per worth of project and, if the latter, what criteria will be used to assess that worth?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A rum thing

You know that ubiquitous hand sanitiser gel that became very popular after the outbreak of swine flu? My prison visiting friend tells me it has been banned from her prison because the inmates were mixing it with rum essence and water to make rather good cocktails!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Only in L.A.!

My dear English friend, artistic Trudy, is now living in LA and I thought she may get on well with the lovely Rachel, an American friend of a friend with whom I stayed on a brief visit there a decade ago. Trudy called her and Rachel suggested meeting that evening, not admitting that she wasn't the Rachel whom Trudy was seeking. As it turned out, "my" Rachel's old mobile phone number is now owned by an unknown (to us) Rachel who happens to be interested in art and who wanted to meet a complete stranger. How weird is that?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy Chinese New Year of the Rabbit! Apparently we'll all have more luck if we carry around pigs with us. I asked my HK broker how she could fit one into her Hermes bag and she said the street sellers in Hong Kong are selling loads of small jade pigs. She's going to get a pig screen save for her mobile phone. Back Monday.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Quotation of the day

I asked one of my Hong Kong brokers which Chinese birth sign she is. Here's her answer: "DOG...reverse is GOD..."