Dog Days and Plane Days

wp_20160914_002A fair hunk of my time recently has been spent on aeroplanes, instead of at home with my dog.  Right now, I am in Santiago, for the third time this year. The first was for the DRBF Conference, and this trip it is just passing through (both ways) from the SCL Conference in Sao Paulo.

Myponga Beach to Sao Paulo is a fair old haul. In terms of miles, it is closer than London, but here’s the thing. I drive to Adelaide airport (an hour). I wait for a plane. I fly to Sydney. More waiting. Then across the Tasman to Auckland. Ditto. Then across the Pacific to Santiago.  Ditto. Then over the Andes to Sao Paulo. A bit of immigration control, which was not too bad at all. Then a taxi between the airport and the venue (allow 1 ½ hours, said the hotel). 2 ½ days at the conference, barely seeing the city outside the conference hotel, and then the whole thing in reverse. So in time terms, the journey is about the same as to London (just one plane stop on the way to there)

This is sandwiched between Continue reading

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No rush

BulletMy children (or at least one of them, presumably speaking on behalf of them all?) have promised to buy me a new Bristol, as and when they have earned enough money.

The latest Bristol is the Bristol Bullet, which is a 2 seater open top sports car.  It does look stylish, but I will be very happy to wait until the next 4 seater is available, which is apparently going to be very high-tech, and might be a while yet in the gestation.

So there is really no need for my children to be in any great rush to Continue reading

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Daughters in the Frame

annabel with sharksMy elder daughter Annabel’s piece about getting up close and personal with great white sharks in South African waters has appeared up on the MailOnline Travel page.  That was just a few days ago, but a quick search reveal that the Mail has since published another 10 pieces by her. So she has been busy with both her keyboard and her GoPro.

Meanwhile, my younger daughter Lucy’s recent short film A Piece of Cake has been already Continue reading

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Unigh Stays I – The Smell of the DoI

fireworksI had some business in London, and decided I might as well fly home via New York and then Houston.

My own past experience of New York is that it is a hard place to like. For my money, it is too noisy, too ugly, the people (or at least some of them) are too graceless and I do not cope well with the smell of urine and vomit in the streets being never far away.  But this time, surprisingly, I enjoyed myself.

Partly, of course, this was because it was such a pleasure to spend some time with my son Charlie, and to see how happy he is with his beloved. And partly it was because the Penn Club, where I stayed, was very civilised, with a decent library.

But there are things I do not understand about New York. For example, why do the immigration officials need to be so gratuitously unpleasant. Unlike Heathrow, where one is met with a smile and a, “Good morning. May I see you passport, sir?” the reception at JFK is as though one is a felon being processed for a period of incarceration. Not all New Yorkers are like this, of course. The servers in restaurants are typically helpful and charming. Then again, the servers in NY restaurants rely on tips. Perhaps they should stop paying the US immigration officials, and make them rely on tips?

It was 4th July, so we planned to go to Charlie’s girlfriend’s roof terrace to watch the fireworks. But it was raining. So we didn’t. Being 4th July – Independence Day – the New York Times back page reproduced the whole of the Declaration of Independence of 1776. Including Continue reading

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Brexit on the Track

Lewis

Lewis Hamilton Unrepentant

Just a few days after the Brexit decision by the voters of the UK, German driver Nico Rosberg attempted to run English driver Lewis Hamilton off the track in the Austrian Grand Prix.  It was on the last lap, when the faster Hamilton was overtaking the slower Rosberg. Rosberg’s brakes were already damaged and the result of the collision was that Hamilton won the race and Rosberg limped home 4th with his car even more damaged.  As I write this, the stewards are considering whether to further penalise the German for his poor behaviour.

The Austrian crowd booed Hamilton as he took his prize.  Unsurprisingly, Hamilton was Continue reading

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A Tower of Babble

Press conference by Danuta Hübner

Press conference by Danuta Hübner

Now, here is a fun story. Danuta Hübner is the Chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, and she has just announced at a press conference  that, following Brexit, the English language will disappear from EU documents. She noted (speaking in English, by the way) that “The Irish have notified Gaelic and the Maltese have notified Maltese, so you have only the UK notifying English”.

There are 11 Irish MEPs, and it is a fair bet that, for some of them at least, their Gaelic might be a bit rusty.  My research suggests that only a minority of Irish population as a whole can speak Gaelic at all – even Polish is more widely spoken in Ireland. One can well understand why they Continue reading

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A Topical Test Case for the EU

On Independence Day +7, the EU is legally obligated to fix a bit of its own malpractice. Will this happen, or will the EU continue down a path of continuing failure, fraud and cover-up?

Here is the skinny. It is a long story, and I will tell it as briefly as possible. Why am I telling it? Because it represents in a demonstrable and unequivocal way just how corrupt the EU is, and how hard it will be to reform it into an honest and respectable organisation.

In 2003, Robert McCoy was Financial Controller of the Committee of the Regions, one of the many arms of the EU octopus. He had been working in various capacities for institutions of the EU/EEC/Common Market since 1974.  The Committee of the Regions is something that might have been invented by the writers of Yes, Minister. It has a budget of several tens of millions of Euros a year, and (these days) 350 members whose role is, well, shall we say, nebulous. The Commission and the Council can, if they want, consult the Committee of the Regions whenever new proposals are made in areas that have repercussions at regional or local level.  So, members of the Committee of the Regions travel around the regions at EU expense. To be regional. It is, in short, a very expensive talk shop.

440px-Cllr_Sir_Albert_Bore

Sir Albert Bore

Robert McCoy’s job, on its face, was to identify, report on and stamp out financial irregularities in the organisation. He was to verify the accounts.  He was responsible to the President of that Committee, the improbably named Sir Albert Bore, a Scottish Labour party appointee, and a mayor in Birmingham.  With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that what Robert McCoy was actually expected to do by the Committee of the Regions was to turn a blind eye to those irregularities. Continue reading

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Playing FTSE FTSE

FTSESo. The nation (yes, that is the whole of the UK and that includes you, Scotland) has voted for Brexit.

There were dire warnings of economic chaos. But, at the end of a bumpy day on the markets on Friday, FTSE ended higher than at the beginning of the week.  So the market apparently does not think Brexit is a big problem.

The Remainians, whose support for the EU suggests a somewhat lukewarm affection for democracy, now want to overturn the result the democratic vote of the people, and many of them have been signing a petition for a rematch.  That is not going to happen any time soon.

It looks like Boris is in the box seat for Continue reading

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Eurotrash

eurostarThere are no absolutes in these things, but in my own experience, pretty much every interaction I have ever had with any organisation with “Euro” in its name has been bad news. It is a sort of linguistic stigmata of ghastliness. The scent of Euro is the scent of corruption, incompetence or the sort of bureaucratic obstructionism that induces irritation bordering on rage. The sort of rage that one feels when someone who keeps swinging their heavy bag at the back of your knees on a crowded tube train. Or when, after waiting for 45 minutes on a “help line”  the voice at the other end is not only incomprehensible, but plainly belongs to someone who knows sweet Fanny Adam about the problem your rang up about in the first place.

Today it was EuroStar who made a determined bid for my Eurotrash company of the year. I want to go the Brussels, to meet some old friends. I booked on the EuroStar. BAD, BAD IDEA!

So I get to St Pancras in plenty of time. There is a bank Continue reading

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Taking French Leave

In London on the eve of the Euro Referendum, I have been talking a fair bit about it with old friends.

The polls seem very evenly balanced. So no clear answer there. Surprisingly, the bookies are still giving fairly long odds against Brexit, and the bookies are often more reliable than then pollsters.

Pretty much everyone whose opinion I value is agreed about this: there will be no catastrophe either Continue reading

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