Monday, April 29, 2013

Turkish delight

I'm heading off to Istanbul and then down towards the Syrian border. Back 8 May. Iyi gunler!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pompeii and Herculaneum

I recommend the British Museum's Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition. It's arranged in the style of a Roman house so you go into each room, dining room, garden, bedroom, kitchen etc and see the appropriate excavated decorations and objects. The heat from the volcanic ash was far greater in Herculaneum than in Pompeii. Consequently much furniture and food were carbonised. It's quite something to see Roman wooden furniture and a bowl of figs nearly 2000 years later. There's a wooden cradle, without the baby and blanket which were found with it, and an inlaid stool. My favourite objects are the murals: stunning garden scenes with many varieties of flowers and birds and wonderful pictures of reclining diners as well as a rather charming portrait of a woman doing her hair as she looks in a hand held mirror.
At the end, there are a few plastercasts made from the voids left in the ash by the bodies which are very moving. There's a man sitting on the floor, his knees touching his chest, his hands over his eyes: despair at the inescapable horror around him.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pleasures of Perthshire

We had a very jolly weekend near Comrie in Perthshire and I thought of my longest-standing reader, King Lear, as I walked up to the Melville Monument. The snowdrops were still out up there, the rhodos were in bud and will be magnificent next month, and the birch trees had a purple hue before their leaves came out. We saw plenty of wildlife: grumpy Highland cattle, leaping hares, darting red deer, hungry rabbits, oyster catchers, red kites and buzzards. Wilderness, peace, beautiful.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bad jokes of the day

If toast always lands buttered side down and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap a piece of buttered toast on the back of a cat and drop it?" Steven Wright

The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how much I play, I'll never be as good as a wall. I played a wall once. They're relentless. Mitch Hedberg

According to most studies, people's number 1 fear is public speaking. Number 2 is death. Does that sound right? That means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. Jerry Seinfeld

I supplied Filofaxes to the Mafia - yeah, I was involved in very organised crime. Milton Jones

I needed a password 8 characters long so I chose Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Nick Helm

I was watching the London Marathon and I saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another one as an egg. I thought this could be interesting. Paddy Lennox

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Don't cry for me, Argentina

Monday, April 15, 2013

Jobs for the old boys

Three years ago, Jamie Dimon, boss of JP Morgan, poached his father Ted, who is in his eighties, from Merrill Lynch. Last year, Jamie's salary was halved to $11.5m but his father's was nearly tripled to $1.6m. Do you think Ted will ever retire or or will he be worked to death?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Vocabulary of the day

Seagull manager - A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything and then leaves.

Sitcom - Single income, two children, oppressive mortgage.

Sinbad - Single income, no boyfriend and desperate.

Stress puppy - A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.

Percussive maintenance - The fine art of whacking an electronic device to get it to work again.

404 - Someone who's clueless. (From the internet error message "404 not found" meaning the requested document couldn't be located.)

Ohnosecond - That miniscule fraction of time when you realise you've made a big mistake eg you've hit "reply all."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Egyptian treasures

If you haven't the time or the inclination to go to Cairo or Luxor, you could spend an hour at the Egyptian exhibition at Highclere Castle instead. A few of the artefacts are original, excavated by Lord Canarvon and Howard Carter before the First World War. The majority of their discoveries were sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York to raise funds for the Carnarvon family.
Nevertheless, there are wonderful replicas of objects which they found in Tutenkhamun's tomb, including the throne above, his death mask and coffin and an intricate model ship, one of a fleet of 143 in the tomb. The originals are in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo and some were stolen and wrecked in the recent riots. They were retrieved and the museum contacted Highclere to use the replicas to piece them back together. Replicas have their uses!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Quotation of the day

In 1979 Harold Macmillan unveiled a bust of Margaret Thatcher by Oscar Nemon at the Carlton Club and muttered in a stage whisper heard throughout the room, "I must remember I am unveiling a bust of Margaret Thatcher, not Margaret Thatcher's bust."

Monday, April 08, 2013

RIP Maggie

On this sad day I salute Baroness Thatcher for her guts and tenacity to her principles. She was a straight talker, not a liar. She wasn't a PR junky or spin doctor. She was not for turning. RIP.

Friday, April 05, 2013

European diversity

"For a small open economy like Cyprus, Euro adoption provides protection from international financial turmoil." Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB 2008.

"Portugal is not Greece." The Economist 2010.

"Greece is not Ireland." George Papandreou, Finance Minister Greece 2010.

"Ireland is not in Greek territory." Brian Lenihan, Finance Minister Ireland.

"Italy is not Spain." Ed Parker, MD Fitch 2012.

"Spain is not Uganda." Emeriano Rajoy, PM Spain 2010.

"Uganda doesn't want to be Spain." Asuman Kiyingi, Foreign Minister Uganda 2012.

"Poland is not Cyprus." Financial Times 2013.

"Malta is not Cyprus." Times of Malta 2013.

"Slovenia is not Cyprus." Marko Kranjec, Governor of the Bank of Slovenia 2013.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

No ghost

The aged P went away for a few days over Easter. The funny thing was that most nights I woke up, having heard him call my name and one day I was upstairs and his voice shouted to me from downstairs! My conclusion is that our noisy pipes are mocking me (although the heating's not on at night...).

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Rent a wail

An article in today's Times claims that Chinese entrepreneurs are offering their cash-rich, time-poor compatriots an opportunity to escape the obligation of sweeping their ancestors' tombs at the Qingming festival. At Qingming, people return to their villages and for many workers on the coast, this can mean a long journey inland. They can avoid this, however, by paying £32 for a sombrely dressed mourner to stand in their place by the graveside and to weep for ten minutes. A video of the performance will be sent to the client. For £100 the stand-in will also cut the grass around the tomb, light candles, burn incense and read a eulogy. Additional services include burning a paper image of a servant to ensure the dead are waited upon in the afterlife, making a toast to the departed, kowtowing three times and bellowing a specified name into the air in an anguished cry of despair.