Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Philippine luxury

Bentley is opening its first showroom in the Philippines at the beginning of next year, on the heels of Ferrari and Maserati. It takes six months from order to delivery in the Phils and the cost of a Ferrari ranges from $434,000 to $727,000. It is believed that 9 Filipinos own Ferraris, one of whom is the boxer Manny Pacquiao who bought the 458 Italia model. 

Simonides of Ceos

Simonides of Ceos (modern day Kea) lived from 556-468BC and is the father of mnemonics. One day he was dining at the house of a wealthy nobleman named Scopas at Crannon in Thessaly, and chanted a lyric poem which he had composed in honour of his host, in which he followed the custom of the poets by including for decorative purposes a long passage referring to Castor and Pollux; whereupon Scopas, with excessive meanness, told him he would pay him half the fee agreed on for the poem, and, if he liked, he might apply for the balance to his sons, as they had gone halves in the panegyric. A little later, a message was brought to Simonides to go outside, as two young men were standing at the door who earnestly requested him to come out; so he rose from his seat and went out but could not see anybody. In the interval of his absence, the roof of the hall where Scopas was giving the banquet fell in, crushing to death Scopas and all his friends and relations. When their friends wanted to bury the
bodies, they were unable to tell them apart as they had been completely crushed, and the story goes that Simonides was enabled by his  recollection of the place in which each of them had  been reclining at table, to identify them for separate  internment; and that this circumstance suggested to him the discovery of the truth that the best aid to clarity of memory consists in orderly arrangement.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Song of the day

Once upon a time lived a king

Who owned a handsome flea….
....a flea, hahahahaha .....a flea.

He cherished him and loved him
As though a son were he…
A flea, hahahahaha ….a flea…

He called the royal tailor
Who toiled for days and nights
To make the flea a doublet
And fancy purple tights.
A flea hahaha...a flea

Our flea is dressed in velvet
And silks of golden hue
A ribbon o'er his shoulder
A jewelled order too...
...a flea! hahahaha...a flea!

A minister they made him
A diamond star he wore
And all his poor relations
Got orders galore...
A flea hahaha...a flea

The courtiers, male and female,
They were no longer gay.
The queen and all her ladies
Were pestered night and day, ha ha!
 A flea hahaha...a flea

To scratch they were forbidden,
They had to bear the prick.
But we, when we are bitten
Know how to scratch... and kick!
...a flea! hahahaha...a flea!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Glastonbury tor

I went to a wonderful wedding in Bradford-on-Avon on Saturday and then headed off to Glastonbury for a pub lunch with friends yesterday. My friend's husband was surprised in the Gents to find a man putting on make-up. "Don't mind me," he said, "I'm just getting ready for the Zombie walk!"
It was a wet, windy autumnal day but we didn't let the weather disrupt our plan to climb the tor. When we reached the top, amidst the howling gale, we heard a weird chant emanating from the tower: three "pilgrims" trying to connect with the energy from the ley passing through the tor. To us sceptics, there seemed to be more force from the wind than the earth.
On the way down we took the wrong path and ended up at the White Spring, a candlelit temple to water nestling under the hill. By this time, the clocks having gone back, it was dusk and atmospheric. The temple contains a healing pool, although even my intrepid husband wasn't tempted by complete, or incomplete, immersion, and shrines to Brigid (a Celtic fire goddess), Our Lady of Avalon (aka Mother Earth) and the King of the World of Faerie. The shrine to the last was covered with antlers and an assortment of bizarre offerings.
There are two springs from the tor. One is red, coloured by iron, the other white with calcite. The Well House where the White Spring is located, was built in the nineteenth century to provide clean water for the town which was beset by cholera.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Claus crucified

A few years ago a Japanese department store, trying to appear modern and Westernised, mounted an extravagant Christmas display featuring a life-sized crucified Father Christmas. There is also an anecdote told by an American Motorola executive in 1945, the first year of the American occupation of Japan. Shopkeepers in Tokyo's Ginza district knew there was a big Western religious festival approaching. They knew it involved a man with a white beard in a red suit. The result was little Santa Clauses in crucifixes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chinese chateaux

Changyu Pioneer Wine has just opened its fourth chateau in China, Chateau Changyu Moser XV, a 150 acre estate on the outskirts of Yinchuan, near the Gobi Desert. It's also building a "wine city" in Shandong province, east China, with two chateaux and a European-style village.
Changyu built its first chateau in 2002 in cooperation with the Castel Group, headquartered in Bordeaux, France. Blessed with sea, sand and sun, the chateau is an integration of winemaking, sightseeing and recreation.Stored for at least three years in oak barrels imported from France, the Cabernet Gernischt wines made at the chateau are deep ruby red with a "mellow" taste. This wine, integrating Chinese and French manufacturing techniques, has drawn interest from hundreds of enterprises and organizations, making it the bestseller among the chateau's wine lineup.
China's now the fifth largest wine market in the world and has come a long way since the 1990s when most wine there was fake: a blend of water, sugar and grape juice.

China dogs

These comments from Patti Waldmeir in today's FT may amuse my dog-loving readers:

"Dogs in pushchairs, baby slings and body suits recently turned out for Shanghai's Pet Fair Asia. They bought pet beds shaped like Moses baskets and baby cradles, tiny doggy tutus and little canine Crocs. Some pooches wore nappies and many more snuggled up to their owners' chests in the canine version of an infant carrier. In China, it seems, chestdogs are the new lapdog.
As capitalism has spread in China, so have its dogs: pet ownership has exploded. Euromonitor predicts pet care spending will amount to $2.1bn by 2017. In one-child China, pets are the new offspring.
The Chinese still insist on feeding pets from the table rather than the petfood tin. "Chinese people treat pets like babies and the Chinese love cooking," says a frustrated dog food company executive."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chinese phrase of the day

"Drawing a snake with feet"
In the ancient state of Chu, there was once a government officer who wanted to treat his visitors with a bottle of wine. Since there were quite a few guests but only one bottle of wine, the officer asked the guests to draw a snake on the ground, and the first one to finish drawing would get the wine. There was this one person who finished drawing the snake faster than anyone else, but then he saw that others were still drawing, so he decided to add feet to his snake. This person then claimed the wine for finishing drawing the snake first…..until the officer intervened.  The officer said that the painting that he had drawn was not a snake as snakes do not have feet, and hence the second fastest person was awarded the bottle of wine.  Jaws dropped.  Scandal!  The phrase has since been used widely to describe those people who make things worse by being superfluous.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bad joke of the day

A couple of nights ago I had a few drinks with some friends. By the end of the evening I knew I'd had far too many but still finished the session with a double margarita. Not a good idea. Knowing full well I was over the limit, I did something I've never done before: I took a taxi home. Sure enough, I passed a police block but because I was in a taxi they waved me through. I arrived home safely without incident, which was amazing because I've never driven a taxi before and I'm still not sure where I got it from.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Insider story of the day

Thomas Ammann, a 39 year old German, who worked at Mizuho in London is on trial for insider trading in shares in Oce, a Dutch printing company, on whose takeover he was working. He was having affairs with two women (who were unaware of each other's existence). He met Christina Weckworth, 44, a divorcee living in Frankfurt, through an internet dating agency. She invested E1m of her E1.7m divorce settlement in Oce, doubled her money and gave half the profit to Ammann. He met Jessica Mang, a 30 year old chiropracter, in a nightclub. She borrowed money from her mother and on credit cards to invest in Oce and made £60,000, half of which she gave to Ammann. The sentence has yet to be given.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fashionable tea

I had tea with my Burmese friend Jessica and her daughter, the darling Gracie, at the Berkeley Hotel. The theme was fashion and you can see the Christian Louboutin must-have neon yellow high heeled chocolate biscuit with signature red sole, the Dolce & Gabbana light blue Sicilian blueberry sponge cake wicker basket wrapped in chocolate, the Miu Miu 1950's inspired vanilla bikini biscuit with red hot icing and playful white bow, the Valentino romantic peach cake dress with light pink champagne jelly and edible flower and the Jason Wu romantic cherry bavarois and coconut cream topped with playful pink skirt and biscuit heel. It's not cheap but you can have as much as you like and they also give you a going-home present of a couple of cakes (if you can really face any more cake!)

Sarah Purdon

Sarah Purdon ( produces the most delicious beef from her Hampshire-based herd of Belted Galloway cows. She keeps them on water meadows, loves each one and they come to her when she calls them by name. As they are her livelihood , she has no qualms in saying, "Try this steak: it's dear old Buttercup!"
One day police were chasing a thief on the other side of her field. The thief jumped the fence and was heading towards the gate on the opposite side of the field. Sarah called her cows and lined them up in front of the gate which made the police very grateful.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I strongly recommend the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain. Millais' Ophelia, Holman Hunt's Light of the World and Rossetti's The Beloved are just three of the treasures amongst this trove. There are some wonderful William Morris textiles and examples of furniture painted by Burne-Jones. My favourites were three paintings by Burne-Jones telling the story of Perseus and Andromeda. The final in the series is shown above (apologies for poor copy): Perseus shows Andromeda the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa which he holds in his left hand, in the reflection of the water in the well. If she'd looked at the head directly, Andromeda would have been turned to stone by the Gorgon's curse.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Letter of last week

Sir, In our old office in Bow Churchyard some years back, a guerilla war was waged against mouse infestation. As time went by, the traps and snares became ever more elaborate, and much thought was given to where the mice's lair might be and how best to entrap them.
One day I came to my desk and found an angry e-mail from our facilities manager. A mouse had been found, detected by a trail of evidence, in the drawers of my desk. I was accused of all forms of negligence. There was even some intimation that I was deliberately offering the mouse sanctuary. But in fact I had never noticed him as a fellow traveller on my corporate journey.
We dubbed him Keith and he was swiftly escorted out of the building in a Tupperware box for a happier life, somewhere off Bow Lane.
Keith showed considerable housekeeping initiative during his time with me, which I had failed to notice until his exposure. He used the lower compartment of the drawers for his toiletry and "upstairs", in the mezzanine drawer, he enjoyed fine dining, mainly on a large packet of wasabe peas that I'd never opened.
Keith's memory became an important part of our office folklore. For a number of days many pictures of cartoon mice were e-mailed to me, including a mouse hat with my face in it.
Our fine new office is rodent free but I still open the bottom drawer of my desk gingerly.
Piers Currie

(FT 4 October)

Poem of the day

I'm really enjoying a cd of Richard Burton reading Dylan Thomas. Here's an old favourite:

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Pepper's ghost

If you want a hologram of eg Frank Sinatra for a party, a company called Musion can provide it. Holograms work on the principle of Pepper's ghost and that, as you may know, works like this:

The viewer looking through the red rectangle sees a ghost floating next to the table. The illusion is created by a large piece of glass situated at an angle between viewer and scene (green outline). The glass reflects a room hidden from the viewer (left), sometimes called a "Blue Room," that is built as mirror-image of the scene.

Could be a thought for Halloween?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Bad joke of the day

My car broke down in Ireland. There was a farm nearby and the farmer kindly invited me in for dinner while I waited for a mechanic. I noticed a pig with only three legs in the farmyard so I asked the farmer, “Why does your pig have only three legs?”

The farmer said, “Oh, well see, this pig here’s name is Paddy and lemme tell you a story about him. One day I was out on my tractor when something went wrong and the tractor accidentally turned over. I was going to be crushed and would have died ‘cept Paddy here ran over and dragged me out. He saved my life that day, he did.”

I said, “Wow, that’s amazing! So he lost a leg while rescuing you?”

The farmer said, “No, but lemme tell you a story. My son was fishing in the pond when, all of a sudden, he fell right in and somehow his foot got trapped in a reed at the bottom. He would have drowned to death if Paddy hadn’t run outside, untangled him, dragged him out from the pond and applied snout-to-mouth resuscitation. He saved his life that day, he did!”

I said, “Incredible! So that’s why he only has three legs?”

The farmer said, “No, but lemme tell you a story. My daughter was getting water from the well. All of a sudden, she fell right in! She screamed and she screamed, but no one could hear her. She would have died ‘cept Paddy here ran outside and rescued her. He saved her life that day, he did!”

“Unbelievable!” I said. “But why does he only have three legs?”

And the farmer said, “Well you wouldn’t eat a special pig like that all in one go, now would you?”


I strongly recommend the Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy which has on display a selection of bronze statues dating from around 1500BC to the present day, from Europe, Asia and Africa (Nigeria). One of the most interesting sculptures to me was the one photographed above. This was found in a bog in Denmark in 1902 and is one of the oldest exhibits, made in the fourteenth century BC. The disc which you can see, covered with gold leaf, is thought to represent the sun. Its obverse has no decoration and so scholars speculate it depicts day and night. What I can't understand is why the horse is standing on the wheel axes. Any ideas?

There are, of course, some magnificent Renaissance bronzes, my favourite of which was a copy of Cellini's Perseus and Medusa: