Monday 28 April 2008

Plenty of petrol

I was a little nervous about yesterday's planned outing. There was enough petrol in the tank to do about 150 miles. To be on the safe side I reckoned it would be OK to go for 60 miles and then head home via a different route if petrol wasn't available. The point of no return was Moffat. If I couldn't fill up there I would return to Edinburgh via Selkirk.

But what was this on the south side of town? An Esso garage with no queues and a full complement of the Sunday papers! I put in £34 pounds worth, my previous maximum being around £25. The lady told me that supplies were fine down there but that there'd been a bit of a panic back on Monday.

So, plan "A" continued. On to Dumfries, then Southerness, which I knew as a child, and next I went to the John Paul Jones Cottage. This is a very nice little museum and was the birthplace of the "Father of the American Navy". Jones also served as an admiral in Russia and eventually died in Paris. I wonder what he'd make of present-day Scottish politics...

John Paul Jones Cottage
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Onwards to Rockcliffe where I once spent part of a holiday in a darkened hotel room suffering from chickenpox or measles. Then to Kippford, which was nice and misty.

Originally uploaded by David Farrer

I returned via Dalbeattie, Castle Douglas, St John's Town of Dalry, Moniaive and Thornhill - where I had a break and saw some of the Celtic v Rangers game. I saw absolutely no sign of any petrol shortage during this quite extensive tour of southern Scotland.

Other photos from this trip are here.

Monday 21 April 2008

Oban Airport in the rush hour

Better than Terminal 5...

Oban Airport
Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Sunday's photos from Glencoe and Oban are here.

Saturday 19 April 2008

Boy's day out

Mrs F & W is away visiting her mother and I spent the day doing some things on my own. You know, the kind of things that we men get up to and that some folk consider a bit odd...

Like train journeys to exotic places.

I started from Edinburgh Haymarket at 0818 and did the following:

Haymarket to Glasgow Queen Street
Queen Street to Dumbarton Central (via Anniesland)
Dumbarton Central to Helensburgh Central
Helensburgh Central to Dalmuir
Dalmuir to Hyndland (via Clydebank)
Hyndland to Hamilton Central

Beer Break!

Hamilton Central to Newton
Newton to Glasgow Central (via Maxwell Park)

Second Beer Break
Borders Bookshop Break
Apple Shop Break

Queen Street to Haymarket.

Just a typical boy's day out.

Billable hours face scrutiny

That's the title of a piece in today's Financial Times:
Partners at firms such as Freshfields and Clifford Chance now command as much as £700 per hour, with senior associates charged out at as much as £500
£700 per hour! Nice work if you can get it. But why are these lawyers able to charge so much?

I suspect that this book will provide some clues. Most or all of the law is no different from other public "services" and it's not surprising that we see inefficiencies and excessive costs. I've read about a quarter of the book so far and will report on it again when finished.

The FT article also claims that:

“Lawyers, hookers and plumbers are the only people who still charge by the hour.”
Hang on a moment! I charge by the hour and I don't fit into any of those three categories. On second thoughts, I did connect a new shower hose in our bathroom last week...

Tuesday 15 April 2008


I recently came across this site. Recommended for those who like ships and Scottish scenery.

Praising the Devil

I was a bit horrified when I read this:
TEN years after the death of the brutal Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, his grave has become a symbol of spiritual comfort to some in the village where he died.
Shocking news, I thought. But perhaps not too shocking. Here in the sophisticated West there are millions of idiots who praise the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao. Some of the communist leaders have inspired rich fashion designers. Reading people like Hayek - who explained how society could be organised peacefully from the bottom up - is considered a bit difficult but wearing a "Che" t-shirt is somehow cool. What a strange world.

Sunday 13 April 2008

Thought for the day: Luke 11:31

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon
Oh yeah.

Friday 11 April 2008

How do they sleep at night?

Yes, the granny muggers are out again.

In force:

EXPERTS have warned of a looming recession and accused the Bank of England of failing to do enough to boost the flagging economy after it trimmed the base rate by only a quarter percentage point.

Here's the first one:

Julian King, of the National Homebuyers organisation, said the "timid" interest-rate cut was a "cruel snub" to thousands of British homeowners struggling to meet their mortgage payments.

And another:

Frank Blin, head of UK Regions at PricewaterhouseCoopers, also warned the Bank needed to do much more.
And Stephen Robertson, the director-general of the British Retail Consortium, said that because changes take months to have an effect, further cuts were "needed sooner rather later to avoid a hard landing"
And an economist (sic):
Economics professor David Bell, of Stirling University, said: "The rate cut will bring some benefit to the Scottish economy
Another one:
Iain Duff said the cut would "help maintain positive sentiment and reinforce the housing market, and make sure that the Scottish economy comes in at around trend rate of growth this year". He expected more cuts.
And how about this?
Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the organisation hoped the cut would boost confidence and investment, and added that it would "come as some comfort" to Scottish firms facing rising transport and energy costs.
And finally:
But the British Chambers of Commerce said the cut was "overdue" and called for a cut next month to 4.75 per cent.
Let's get this straight. The house price bubble has been caused by money printing. In today's world, that means as a result of the Bank of England keeping interest rates artificially low. That's why the money supply is growing at more than 10% a year and this money has to go somewhere. Lots of it has gone into the housing market. And the "solution" from all of the above is more of the same!

Those who are going to pay for this mess are the prudent, those who haven't lived beyond their means. Their savings will be inflated away to bail out the welfare bums, many of whom are economic illiterates infesting the business world.

Monday 7 April 2008

The Disunited Kingdom

I promised to get back to Ken Adams who commented on this post from last week.

I must admit that I didn't know that the National Trust for Scotland had broken away from the original UK-wide body. But the point I was trying to get across wasn't so much concerning the origins of Scottish and British institutions but rather how they are perceived in Scotland and what the implications of that may be.

I've been reading the Scottish papers for close to forty years. In the early days the idea of Scottish independence was essentially a non-issue. But week after week, month after month, and year after year the same points were made in articles and letters to the editor. I put it like this:

This presumption of the English norm, as I have dubbed it, is intensely annoying to Scots. Being English is seen to be such a natural state of affairs that it's the exceptions to Englishness that are defined, not Englishness itself.
I think that the point isn't whether or not there is a presumption of an English norm, it's that many, many folk up here deeply feel that there is. They may well be wrong, as Ken tells us in the National Trust example. But these beliefs have political consequences. I believe that they're a major cause of the rise in support for independence.

Now, most English folk aren't very interested in Scotland. Why should they be? But what I don't understand is why Scottish, Unionist politicians have been so incompetent. People like Gordon Brown.

If I'd devoted my whole life to becoming Prime Minister of the UK I'd have taken a few basic precautions to keep my fellow Scots on board. I'd have been reading all those articles and letters and would have done something about them - to take the wind out of the Nationalists' sails. I'd have renamed the Bank of England the Bank of the United Kingdom. I'd have made speeches suggesting that England-only bodies should proudly describe themselves as such. Just like in Scotland. I'd have made Scottish bank notes legal tender in England. I'd have strong words with the Foreign Secretary to sort out those buildings that proclaim that they are the "English" Embassy. I wouldn't have patronised the English (and really annoyed the Scots) by claiming that Gazza's goal was one of my favourite sporting moments. And yes, I'd produce a proper set of UK accounts that show the whole financial picture and avoid the endless rubbish that I've read over the last year or so. If Gordon Brown wants to enhance "Britishness", he doesn't have a clue about how to go about it.

But he doesn't and it's probably too late. David Cameron will no doubt serve as Prime Minister of the UK. But anyone else after him? Probably not.

Here we go again

Oh no, here we go again:
HSBC is facing a possible investigation by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) after admitting that it has lost a disc containing details of 370,000 customers.
You'll no doubt all know that F&W has been keeping a database containing information about our readers. Names, addresses, bank details, NI numbers, dates of birth, mother's maiden name - all that sort of thing. In fact I've got the disc right here on my desk; err, somewhere on the desk; let's see, it looks like I might have filed it away. Somewhere. Oh my God - I think I left it down the pub.

The housing crisis

Here's more of this "affordable" nonsense:
THE cost of renting property in Edinburgh has soared as the city's affordable housing crisis deepens.
Unless houses are empty, they're affordable by someone. There's no God-given right to be supplied with a house wherever you want and at a price chosen by you rather than by the market. I'd like to live in Heriot Row, but it's not affordable for me. For some, it is.

Anyway, where there's a will there's a way:

A MAN who lives in a house subsidised by taxpayers has made a £200,000 profit from selling other properties in the last year.

It is understood Derek Fyvie pays only £200 a month to live in housing association flat in the Grange.

But the Evening News revealed last year that the 59-year-old, originally from north Edinburgh, also owned at least five properties which he let

Surely everyone can do that. The "affordable" problem is solved. Or am I missing something?

Friday 4 April 2008

A modest proposal

A new weapon is being unleashed in the battle against Neds:
IT WILL be music to the ears of residents plagued by vandalism and anti-social behaviour – a Scottish supermarket is to blast out Beethoven and Mozart in a bid to deter loitering teenagers.

Staff at the Co-op in Port Seton, East Lothian, plan to rig up speakers to play classical tunes to put off the groups of youths who are congregating around its doors at night.

Yes I can see why that may work, but I have a more radical proposal.

First we need to hire a group of specialist workers. It may even be thought necessary for them to be paid out of taxation although I'm far from being convinced on that point. These workers would wear a distinctive outfit; perhaps we could call it a "uniform". We'd probably pick large men rather than small ladies for this role. The new recruits may even need to be provided with stab-proof vests. Perhaps the Home Secretary could suggest a design. I propose that these new workers be called "policemen" and it would be their job to "police" the streets and catch criminals. Yes, I know, a really radical suggestion, isn't it?

Next, we'd employ a second group of specialists. From my reading of ancient history we might find it appropriate to call these folk "judges" and "jurors". It would be their job to establish the innocence or guilt of those deemed by the first group of workers to have committed an offence. Needless-to-say these "offences" would, of necessity, require that there had been an actual victim, and the whole system would operate under a philosophy that I've dubbed "the presumption of innocence".

Well, I know that's a really radical plan. But who knows? It might just work! And if it does, may I please get the same kind of royalties that those Beethoven and Mozart chaps should have earned?