Monday, March 31, 2014

Photos of the day

These photographs, taken in World War II by Cecil Beaton, are from the Imperial War Museum's collection. Clockwise they show:

Self-portrait in a mirror at the Jain Temple in Calcutta (1943).

One of the Polish refugees from the Soviet Gulag at a camp in Palestine (1942).

An RAF bomber crew being debriefed by the squadron intelligence officer after a night raid over Germany (1941).

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bad joke of the day

A ventriloquist cowboy walks into town and sees an Indian sitting near his pad.
Cowboy: Hey, cool dog! Mind if I speak to him?
Indian: Dog no talk.
Cowboy: Hey dog, how's it going?
Dog: Doin' all right.
Indian: (Extreme look of shock)
Cowboy: Is this your owner? (pointing at the Indian)
Dog: Yep.
Cowboy: How's he treating you?
Dog: Real good. He walks me twice a day, feeds me great food and takes me to the lake once a week to play.
Indian: (Look of disbelief)
Cowboy: Mind if I talk to your horse?
Indian: Horse no talk.
Cowboy: Hey horse, how's it going?
Horse: Cool.
Indian: (Extreme look of shock)
Cowboy: Is this your owner? (pointing at the Indian)
Horse: Yep.
Cowboy: How's he treating you?
Horse: Pretty good, thanks for asking. He rides me regularly, brushes me down often and keeps me in the barn to protect me from the elements.
Indian: (Total look of amazement)
Cowboy: Mind if I talk to your sheep?
Indian: Sheep lie!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Age did not wither her

My friend's Granny hadn't been well for a couple of years and recently died, aged 94. The family was going through her things and found a photograph which was so surprising that they ordered a copy of her birth certificate. The year of birth was registered as 1909, not 1919. Even her daughter had never suspected her to be 10 years older than she pretended. My friend was sad. "We had a party to celebrate her 90th," she said, "but we'd have had a much bigger one if we'd known she was 100!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring has sprung

Stunning camellias in Gray's Inn Fields yesterday...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Do you have a view on Pebble watches? I met a man today who's programmed his to tell him how many seconds of his life have passed and how many it reckons are to come. The latter figure was smaller than the former. Cheerful sort of chap...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Limerick of the day

There was a young man who said, "God

Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there's no one about in the Quad."


Dear Sir:
Your astonishment's odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by
Yours faithfully,


Friday, March 21, 2014

Satire of the day

Expressing  growing concerns about their future job security, factory workers across China reported this week that they are deeply worried they may never lose their menial, hazardous positions on product assembly lines to automated machinery. "It's a frightening prospect but I'm starting to seriously believe that the day I'm replaced by a robot is never coming," 22 year old Wintek employee Jie Liu told reporters., echoing fears of thousands of his fellow laborers assembling touchscreen components on a cramped and poorly ventilated factory floor, all of whom said they were afraid that the installation of mechanized technology that renders obsolete their 18 hour workdays, subhuman working conditions and tiny, roach-infested dormitories might still be decades off. "As much as it pains me to say, I just have to accept that I'll be employed in this position for the foreseeable future. It's sad to think that jobs like these may still be here for my children." Liu noted that his most realistic hope now was being rendered incapable of working after getting his hand caught in a machine press.

The Onion

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Quotation of the day

"Scaly like an Artichoke at the first view, but more like to a cone of the Pine tree, which we call a pineapple for the forme... being so sweete in smell... tasting... as if Wine, Rosewater and Sugar were mixed together."

John Parkinson, Royal Botanist to Charles I, 1640

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Job title of the day

My colleague met a man from an MNC with this job title:

 "Global Vice-President Human Resources, Talent, Marketing, Communications, Sustainability & Water"

Not sure how it fitted onto his business card...

Monday, March 17, 2014

RIP Clarissa Dickson Wright

Sad to hear that CDW has joined her old companion, Jennifer Paterson, in what I hope is an amazing feast in heaven. She claimed that UK sales of butter and cream rose 20% during their TV series Two Fat Ladies. She looks like the sort of person who might have boiled her vegetables in Cinzano, in the fashion of our erstwhile dear Canon Michael St John Channell whose funeral was on Friday.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bad jokes of the day

I'm on a whisky diet. I've lost three days already.

Dyslexic man walks into a bra.

My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well. I was amazed. I never knew they worked.

I went to buy some camouflage trousers. I couldn't find any.

There are two fish in a tank and one says, "How do you drive this thing?"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Illusion of the day

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The the

My learned readers, when were the "The"s dropped from Crimea and Ukraine?

Monday, March 10, 2014


My friend's friend was in a state. She'd really been looking forward to staying the weekend in one of her favourite hotels but to her great annoyance they'd given her a room in the modern annex instead of the beautiful original building. In no uncertain terms she conveyed her displeasure to the manager, assuring him that she'd booked months ago and specifically asked for a room in the old part of the hotel. The manager hummed and harred and eventually agreed to move her. The only room he had left was a suite so they then proceeded to argue at length about the price. 
At last she moved into the suite and, exhausted by the aggravation, she made straight for the minibar and poured a glass of white wine which she downed in one. The aftertaste was unusual. Actually it was disgusting. She smelt the wine which remained in the small bottle. To her horror she realised it was urine. She got on the phone to the manager.
At least she got the suite for free...

Friday, March 07, 2014

Shadow banking

Over the past 5 years, banks in China have been repackaging their loans and selling them to trust companies who would then sell them on as a wealth management product offering juicy returns, sometimes as much as 40%. This rise of this "shadow banking" system has worried analysts as the banking sector has extended around $15trn credit since 2009. This year, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) refused to safeguard a $300m trust which it had sold to its customers. In the end, default was averted but alarm bells are ringing about a possible Chinese Bear Stearns moment.

Consider this conversation between a foreign investor and a Chinese credit analyst whose company analyses trust products:

Q: How do you analyse the credit risk of the local governments who've bought a third of the trust products?
A: We don't.
Q: Why not?
A: If they were to fail, it would mean the central government had failed. Beijing cannot fail.
Q: What do you think of the credit risk of the property related trusts?
A: The credit risk of those exposed to the 3-5 tier cities looks very poor.
Q: So have you rated them as poor?
A: No.
Q: Why not?
A: If those property markets were to fail, the local governments there would fail. If those local; governments fail, Beijing fails. Beijing cannot fail. QED the property market cannot fail.
Q: Where would you put your own money?
A: In Canada.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Object of the day

Large Feather Leaves Bowl was made by the contemporary Japanese artist, Hosono Hitomi in 2013 and has been bought by the British Museum. Hosono took seven months to make it. She made 1000 porcelain leaves and dried the work for six months before she risked firing it. If any cracks had appeared on the surface during the drying period, she wouldn't have bothered. Can you imagine looking for cracks everyday for six months amidst all those leaves?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


My aunt who will be 92 on April 2nd-not-the-1st visited us and told me a new anecdote. When she was at school she inadvertently locked herself in a room (I don't think it was the loo!) and was banging on the door to be let out.
"Who is it?" asked somebody outside.
"It's me!" my aunt cried. At this point she remembered whose voice it was: it was her English teacher. "I mean, it's I!" she cried.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Sad story of the moment

My poor dear friend underwent months of chemo last year and was finally given the all clear in January. In February, her left leg felt slightly numb and after a few days she went to the doctor, thinking she had a trapped nerve. She was sent to hospital for a scan and was told she had a brain tumour and that it should be operated on as soon as possible. She was admitted to the hospital in Tooting last Wednesday evening and told she must fast until after the operation on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, a trainee brain surgeon came to see her.
"Good morning," he said. "Mr X is going to be doing your operation today."
She waited and she waited.
In the early afternoon the young doctor returned.
"I'm very sorry but Mr X has had to leave for the day. Mr Y will now be doing the operation. Don't worry: he's got a medal!"
My friend wondered what he'd got a medal for. Long jump?
At 4pm the young man came back again.
"It's 4 o'clock now and far too late to be starting an operation on the brain. Also, the tumour's very close to the motor neurone and there's a possibility that you may lose the use of your left leg completely. We think you should go home and consider your options. If you still want to go ahead, we can operate next week!"
My friend was unamused to say the least and doubly so when they suggested that she should get advice from her original oncology consultant at the Royal Marsden. She had presumed the two hospitals would have already spoken to each other.
She's going to have the operation tomorrow so please pray that it will be successful.