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Friday, February 26, 2010


there i was chatting to one of the lovely young ladies who serve coffee at my local coffee place. somehow we got onto the subject of computers and the internet (no this is not going where you think it is going ems, or where you hope it is going shep).
we both agreed that the internet is a serious time killer. go on to check emails and before you know it the night has passed while you look at clips on youtube or photos on facebook.
i mention that i am not overly keen on facebook as it just serves to point out how dull my life is compared with other people's lives.
she smiled sweetly and said 'i am sure that isn't true', i didn't bother to try to persuade her that i am as dull as dishwater.
i followed this with 'to be honest i prefer myspace'.
the look on her face was priceless. i may as well have declared myself from the 1800s.

the look of pity i got.
i am so not with it.


(this is another of those blogs that you can file under – wrote it a few weeks back, did nothing with it, but now seems to have a bit of relevance again, so while i have a chance i am using it. feel free to ignore.)

no one likes a whiner.
sometimes it is just the grating tone that they affect.
other times it is the self-belief that they are being unfairly picked on, that it isn’t their fault, that life isn’t fair to them and that life owes them.

aside from members of parliament the most recent, and most vocal, whiners have been bankers (and yes i am aware that not all bankers are whiners and that a lot of them are hard working souls who do their jobs for less than stellar money, but who am i to go against the common shorthand of ‘bankers’). the old masters of the universe, as the financial whiz kids were called, have been recast as villains and they don’t like it.
long story short – the bankers fucked up and the state had to bail them out.
ouch not quite how the free market was supposed to work.
bit of a blow to the old ego. no need to worry, as bankers know how to salve the pain of a bruised and battered ego: bonuses. big bonuses.

strangely at a time when the economy is in the toilet and the state is up to its ears with debt (mostly because of having to bail out the financial institutions) the idea that a few bankers could line their pockets and live in hog heaven didn’t sit well with quite a lot of people. mostly those people were the ones who had to get on average salaries or jobs that are advertised as meets national minimum wage.
so perhaps there is an element of the politics of envy involved in the criticism of the bankers bonuses, as many of the bankers supporters have claimed.
but it may be, and perhaps here i am going out on a limb, that people could see that no matter which way you sliced and diced it you could not easily justify big bonuses in companies that were posting large losses or were being propped up by taxpayers money. while the rest of the economy was busy tightening their belts it seemed only right and proper that the people who contributed to the economic clusterfuck also had to do their bit of scrimping and saving.

nope to ask them to do that would be unjust and unfair.

so the government decided that the only way around this was to levy a windfall tax on the bonuses. up went the cry of horror. you can’t do that. what will we live on if our bonuses are taxed heavily? lots of wailing from the city.
the other thing the government has done is to raise income tax to 50% for the highest earners. why? well to get some money back into the government’s coffers to pay back some of the debt they have taken on in order to bail out the banks. crikey the gnashing of teeth and the assertion that you just can’t do that sort of thing, as it will mean the great and the good, the best of the best will leave. (personally i can’t wait to be in that 50% tax bracket.)

based on the outcry from the financial services one would have thought that their first born had been sacrificed and the rest of the family had to go around with armbands with a big £ sign on them so we could all point and go “banker”.

the result of these two measures would be catastrophic said financial commentators. the best in the industry would leave and go elsewhere, this would be the ‘best’ who got them into trouble in the first place? you can’t expect these financial heroes to work for just their basic salary, they need the bonus, they need that incentive to get out there and take risks in order to justify their bonuses. which when it works is fine, when it goes tits up isn’t fine. except when you are a banker when you expect your bonus come what may.
so lots of threats about how all these financial brains would go and work elsewhere.
do you know what? if this were a patocracy there would be a simple solution to this, the policy would be simple: “fuck off cunts”.
sadly such decisive political action is unlikely to take place just yet.

what made the bleating harder to take was that every other commentator couldn’t help but say “these are pointless moves anyway as most banks and individuals know how to avoid paying the windfall or the tax.”
what was unsaid was that the reason why there was so much complaining and whinging from the financial sector wasn’t so much that they were being asked to pay a little extra in the form of a windfall tax or additional income tax, but because they were being asked to pay it.
tax accountants around the country were rubbing their hands with glee as they began to kerching the work that would be coming their way.
bankers on the other hand just had to get out a sob story about how it was unfair that they be asked to pay because they got a bonus – didn’t we all know that they deserved it after the year they had?
it wasn’t the money that mattered – no what seemed to matter was that someone had asked/threatened to take some of their money away from them. they are entitled to it, and no one can stand in the way of it.
poor bankers.

just when it was all dying down and being forgotten the bosses of the banks pretty much all decided to pass on their bonuses for this year, but the bonuses would have to be paid out to all the important staff. it was contractual, so they had to pay. (of course banks have never changed how they do business at the drop of the hat when it comes to their customers – so i guess that is a different type of contract).

currently the royal bank of scotland is reporting a loss of £3.6 billion. pretty bad one would say. not that bad if you work for them because a number of very lucky staff are going to benefit from the £1.3 billion bonus payouts.
the usual reasons were trotted out to justify this large amount of bonus payments – it is all about rewarding and retaining the best staff they all say (they generally being employment consultants who work in the financial sector and who seem to have a vested interest in keeping remuneration packages as high as possible). naturally the definition of ‘best’ seems to be one that is very loose, as ‘best’ implies top notch and top notch doesn’t get you the disaster of the last couple of years where banks have had to go cap in hand to governments around the world to bail them out.
with reference to their lower bonus payouts than other banks stephen hester, chief executive of royal bank of scotland, explained "we've had a small experiment in this respect... some of our best-performing people have been leaving in their thousands…”

there are several points that come out of this. i find it hard to believe that any organization has thousands of best-performing staff, unless you stretch best to mean adequate and doing their job.
secondly, and ironically, royal bank of scotland performed much better than expected this year, and according to mr. hester has done it without ‘thousands of his best’ which proves that his best, wasn’t all that hot and the reserve team has done a much better job.
thirdly if thousands of people have left rbs – they are only doing it for the money, they want to get paid more and get bigger bonuses (and let’s be fair you can’t blame them for that we would all do the same). in effect there is a surplus of staff they have all buggered off from one company and gone looking for work elsewhere. in the real world too many staff fighting for the same amount of jobs means wages are pushed down. doesn’t seem to be the case in the financial world.
fourthly there can only be so many high paying, high-powered jobs – so what happens when all of those are filled? what do the bankers do then?

the crucial argument that gets made all the time when it comes to paying out the bonus is that the bankers deserve it. the economy depends on them (which is why the banks were able to take risks – they knew they would be bailed out) they are doing an important job, that only a select few can do and because there are only a few who can do it then they should reap the rewards.
and if they can’t reap the rewards then they will leave the country and go elsewhere.
need i remind you what would happen in a patocracy? they would be told to “fuck off cunts”.
simply put i don’t think it is that complex a job (not saying i could do it, i can barely make sure i have enough money in my pocket to do the shopping) just that i don’t think it is not beyond the wit of man to train people to do the job. i am sure there are a lot of graduates who would jump at the chance of a decent salary, sure they might want to move on and earn more money elsewhere, but as i say in reality there is only a limited number of those type of jobs out there.

failing all of that the simplest solution is one that the banks have been using for a long time in other parts of their service – outsource their financial trading to india. lots of quality graduates out there let them do it all and let them do it cheaper.
let’s be honest it is a win win situation for the banks. one they get the job done very well and at a much better price than they were paying previously. two with the jobs outsourced they get the sympathy of the public back again.

see it is win win for them.

i should be in charge.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


every now and then i do a good deed. i know, i know it hardly puts me in the nobel peace prize category. call me parable pat.
there i am in the local newsagent. i am chewing the fat, shooting the shit, setting the world to rights. when my flow is interrupted by a request: “can you show me how to get to x?”
the street name rang a bell, but we couldn’t place it. so we consulted one of the shop’s a-zs (the newsagent being a good egg and generous chap). (a digression here: as i get older i am finding the a-z a more and more mocking publication as it cries out – you need new glasses.)
road found, journey planned, directions written down, explanation given.
it didn’t take a genius to realise that my directions were falling on deaf ears. (yet another digression here – this is something that i find happens a lot when i am explaining things, obviously my english is not as clear as i think it is.)
decision time.
bloke needs to get to a street that isn’t far off my trip to the coffee shop in brick lane so i do the good samaritan bit: “don’t worry mate i am going in that direction, follow me.” well in for a penny in for a pound as they say.
it is an easy route as well: along whitechapel high street, up vallance road, into dunbridge street and just need to turn a corner and he is where he needs to be.
so we walk, we chat. he has come over from uxbridge, visiting his aunt. never been to this part of london before. i tell him i have not been that far west for years. he tells me he came to england in the 90s. we walk down vallance road. he tells me he was robbed on the tube over from uxbridge – his mortgage payment. i am sympathetic. he tells me he was punched in the face the other night. i am still sympathetic. he tells me he hasn’t eaten all day, i begin to think i have stumbled into a misery memoir.
we are closing in on pedley street when his phone rings. he tells them where we are, then hands me the phone so i can tell them where we are. a curious broken conversation ensues – not helped by the poor reception and the poor english at the other end.
upshot is get to bethnal green over ground station.
not a problem.
down dunbridge we go, to get to bethnal green station.
now we just have to wait for the call, he can’t call, as he has no credit.
while there i check the station map. shit we have walked in the wrong direction – didn’t need to come down dunbridge, should have turned left into cheshire street.
have to go back.
can tell he is a little worried about this. try to put him at ease.
he sees a fellow asian. they tell him to go in a different direction. i insist i am leading him right. he still looks worried, but is trusting.
he tells me how no one has been this kind to him before. i shrug it off as hyperbole.
we cross valance road again.
little further on and we find the street he needs to be on.
now just find the street number.
his phone rings.
another awkward conversation as i try to get him to tell them to come to the front door so we can see them (and they can see him), it falls on deaf ears, he hands phone to me, i tell them to come to the front door so he can see where he has to go.
eventually they do.
family reunited.
job done.
he thanks me, he is grateful. we shake hands and about to go our separate ways.
he says something about seeing him tomorrow. i think not.
i wander along cheshire street safe in the knowledge that i have done a good deed. like the samaritan i have been good to my neighbour, like the lion i have done a small kindness.
the coffee tasted better than usual.

but the real moral of the story? check the map first, write better instructions and don’t offer to be a guide.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


just listened to the member of parliament for macclesfield, sir nicholas winterton. what a total tosser.
a glowing example of a conservative mp.
(and i never thought i would say this) hats off to stephen nolan for giving him a grilling over his expenses and his upset at being told not to travel first class on the train. sir nicholas came across as a very petty person who doesn't want to mix with the common folk.
a traditional tory - i hope that everyone who sees him on the train doffs their caps to him, he deserves it - nay he demands it.

sir nick - you are the current holder of the 'twat award'.


winter olympics are on.
curling is featured. it is a big event because in a previous winter olympics team gb won a god. big woop!
sadly it isn’t all going to plan the two gb teams have lost a game (still time for them to get through to the final though).
of course such a loss is a good excuse for the radio to drag out a motivational specialist to give us all tips on how to turn our lives around.

the, oddly, less than confident motivational guru basically said it is all about visualisation. you become what you think you are (in sociology it is called a self-fulfilling prophecy; darn i could have turned that degree into gold).
hypochondriacs are ill because they think about being ill (though it could be argued that they are excellent visualisers).
if you lose it is because you think you will lose.
winners think about winning.
so all that talk about putting a 'game face on', 'being a tiger' or 'eyes on the prize' all serve a purpose.

if you take anything away from this blog it is that you too can be a winner – if you just picture yourself there at the top, clutching gold. you are number 1, don’t just dream the dream live it.

what have i taken from this nugget of wisdom? i now know why people call me a wanker.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


infaltion has gone up.
the governor of the bank of england has to write to the government to explain why it has moved beyond the agreed limits.
so the vat rate has returned to its normal level. check. it was expected. move on no worries here.
mmm price of oil has risen. one of those peaks and trough things. not too much to worry about there. well at least not in the short term - oil maybe running out on the planet - but hey let's not worry as we can be sure that all those oil companies who have been making record profit have been doing their level best to find alternatives. of course they have, haven't they?

hold on what is this?
price of cauliflower has gone up by 60% and has thus impacted on the rate of inflation.

crikey i am just pleased that they haven't included the cost of my regular coffee tipple - if they had then inflation would be in double figures.
coffee shops: the new robber barons.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


we all do pointless things.
currently i am engaged in two pointless things.
the first of them is to work through the 19 days worth of music i have on my ipod and then when i have done that delete it all and start again. i seem to have a lot of laurie anderson on the ipod.

the other pointless thing i am doing is reading a book.
not that reading a book is pointless. i love reading books, i love owning books, i love looking at books, i love holding books, i love the smell of books. oh hell i just love books.
now i don't make any claim to the quality of my reading, mostly it is graphic novels and genre fiction.
there is little that compares to finding a new author, especially one that has a back catalogue.
so years ago i tried a james patterson 'alex cross' novel. i'd enjoyed the alex cross movie i had seen. patterson is incredibly popular. the two things together seemed to indicate that there was a good chance i would like the book.
it was shit.
very shit.
total shit.
so patterson was never going to make it to my list of authors to read.

fast-forward a few years.
i am in sainsbury's checking out their book section. there are times when they have a nice bargain.
there is one of the latest james patterson books. i say latest as patterson has turned his name and fame into a factory operation. several series are co-authored. it means he can have several bestsellers on the go at the time. curiosity got the better of me. so i had a look. it is part of a new series of books featuring a new york detective with ten kids, yes 10 kids: the brady bunch in nypd blue. it is written in a pacey first person style.

so what is the pointless thing i am doing?
i am reading it while it is on the sainsbury’s shelf. the co-author, michael ledwidge, has done nothing to improve the style or quality of the book. even with speed-reading it i think i am wasting too much time in sainsbury’s.

but it is one of life’s little pointless tasks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


happy birthday heavy metal.
40 years ago today black sabbath released their genre defining album and the world was a better place.
40 years of air guitar.
long may it live.

Friday, February 12, 2010


the forthcoming euro lottery might be the biggest ever lottery pay out in the uk, and i would be lying if i didn't say i hope it is me (in it to win it).
at camelot there is an advisor who is there to help you decide what you will do with your winnings.
spend it comes to mind.
i can't believe that anyone who does the lottery - hasn't planned what they will do with their winnings.

i remember when my mum did her first lottery. she didn't win. he question was, did she keep hold of that ticket for next week? she was a tad upset to discover she had to buy a new one each week. then there would be the conversations that would start off with: "wouldn't it be nice to win £5000. i wouldn't say no to £10000... £25k would be lovely". as the conversation progressed so would the amount my mum would have liked to win. she never did with that £1 million, £5 million or even that £10 million.

i know what i would do with my winnings, but i will share that with you when i win the big one.

camelot suggest that you go on holiday to mull over your options if you have a big win.
so they are telling you to start spending straight away. good for them.


it always worries me when i agree with the conservative party, though not as much as i am frightened that i will agree with the daily mail. yet here i am thinking that the conservatives have it right with their demand that john healey, labour’s housing minister, apologises for his comment that for some people having their house repossessed "can be the best option".
that he also said it on a day when repossessions hit a 14-year high, either shows callousness on the part of the minister or, worse, demonstrates an idea in government that they can ‘justify’ repossessions. neither is something you want, or expect, from a labour government.
mr. healey is right that repossessions are a fact of life and that when you buy your own place there is always a risk that you may default on the payments. of course one of the problems of the housing market has been the move from the house being a place that people live in to the house becoming part of an investment portfolio.
even so you just don’t expect a labour minister to try to spin such an event into having a silver lining. i guess that when he is in his constituency surgery the level of support and advice he gives is: “smile, it might never happen (and if it did it will probably be the best option)”.

logically it follows that if you can’t keep up with the rent it will be the best option that you are made homeless. mr. healey must be cursing his bad luck not to be alive when the workhouse was still in existence, so he could say that ‘for some the workhouse can be the best option’.
perhaps i am being flippant.

the real problem with mr. healey’s statement is that it reminds you that members of parliament are in a very privileged position, they get paid a lot, they get hefty expenses, and when they lose their seat they also get a generous golden handshake. in short they don’t have the worries of most of us.
if you want a reason why there is a disinterest in parliamentary politics then you don’t have to look much further than the attitude of members of parliament like mr. healey.
if he were to lose his seat at the next election it can only be the best option.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


i have done 1200 of these things.
not sure if that is a good thing or not.

oh well many many more to come.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


now i confess i started writing this a few days ago. then it was somewhat more topical and there was even a touch of humour in it (i know i know – but i thought hey why not try something new). for some odd reason (laziness) i never finished it and now it has been voted for and carried through.

oh sorry i haven’t told you what it is i am on about.

a few days ago gordon brown made the surprising and, slightly, radical proposal that members of parliament would vote on a proposal to change the method by which we elect parliament. the idea is that we would move from the current ‘first past the post’ system to the alternative voting method (basically you rank candidates in order of preference, if someone gets more than 50% they are elected, if no one has reached that target the candidate with the lowest vote is eliminated and their second choices are distributed among the remaining candidates. this is done until the magic 50% is achieved. simple).
parliament passed the vote today, february 9th, and the plan is that the public will now get a referendum to choose between the two methods.

of course the announcement was greeted with the usual level of derision and scorn. the liberal democratic saw it as a ‘deathbed conversion’, albeit a small step in the right direction. the liberals want full proportional representation; it is their only hope of touching power. the conservatives talked about how brown was trying to fiddle the system (they don’t say how, they just say ‘fiddle’ – which is a nice word and carries the implication that gordon brown is a thief and untrustworthy). the conservatives are happy with the ‘first past the post’ system, i tend to agree with them (i know a bit of a shock there).

one of the reasons for this proposed change, according to gordon brown and jack straw, is an attempt to let the electorate know that politics and politicians are aware that their standing is pretty low and that they are prepared to change in order to win back public confidence. another reason given for this change is that it is a sop to the liberals, a shout out that tells the lib-dems that labour cares about electoral reform, so if there is a hung parliament you know who to work with.

ok, ok i can hear you muttering where is the conundrum, where is the humour, what is the point of all of this.
i first heard about this proposed change on the radio. one of the commentators on the change was from one of the, seemingly, many organisations who are concerned with/ interested in electoral reform and they said something along the lines of ‘without troubling the public for their views, ministers hand-picked the voting system they favour’.
and this is where the conundrum and an irony pop up.
the irony? a bunch of self-selecting unelected and unaccountable talking heads can pontificate about electoral methods. quite why i should favour their opinion over those who are elected is beyond me.
the conundrum? their basic criticism (aside that the preferred option isn’t one that they chose) is that a decision has been made, an option presented and the opportunity to pick offered.
i can picture them now. sitting down, discussing the various methods of voting weighing up the pros and cons and then making a decision as to which is the right one.
hold on but how do they come to that decision?
do they just say, “this is the right one”? not very democratic.
they must vote. surely?
do they have a vote on the voting system used to vote on the best voting system? after all they can’t just use ‘first past the post’ as they have told us it is not good enough for parliamentary democracy, so it can’t be good enough to vote on the method to vote for the method that we are going to use to vote for parliament. even before they vote on the vote for the voting system, there has to be a vote to make sure that the vote for the vote for the voting system is the best one to use. though that also implies that there should be a vote on the vote on the vote for the vote for the voting system.
and i haven’t even complicated this by asking if there is a voting system to make sure that all the potential voting choices have been correctly voted onto the voting choice ballot. of course once you have asked that you need to check has the right voting choice been made for the voting system to make sure all the potential voting choices have been made. which leads to the question: was there a vote on the vote… oh hell you know where i am going with this.

as much as it may annoy the self-appointed guardians of the pure flame of purity (or something equally wonderful) there is a reason we have an elected parliament – we put them there to make choices for us, but at the same time we have them there because they are accountable.
we can vote them out.
whatever voting system there is.

(you can file this under – was it worth the wait? you decide.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


a sigh. a sob. a choke. a tear.
alastair campbell has a moment on the andrew marr show.
not a great start to a sunday for mr. campbell.
or is it?
lots of coverage for mr. campbell.
which means lots of coverage for his new novel.

cynical me?
of course.