Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Cold Comfort

There has been comment about why many new graduates at present seem to be stuck in a pay freeze and have little prospect of much improvement; if any.

When I was a student we had a song about this:

Economists are  a blot on the whole human race.
You never see one with a smile on his face.
Here's my definition,
Believe me dear brother,
Supply on the one hand,
Demand on the other.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Hillsborough Coroner's Jury Verdict

Below is my post from 12 September, 2012 under the title "Bring Me The Balls Of Kelvin MacKenzie".  You will understand why.


At last we have had something like the real story behind the 1989 disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, at the semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest and the shoddiness of the handling and cover-up of what occurred.

It was during the 1970’s when there were about three or four times when I went to the Sheffield Wednesday Hillsborough ground.  One was the semi-final in 1974 when Newcastle United beat Burnley 2-0 in what was a tight technical game.  Malcolm McDonald got loose a couple of times and that was it.  In the Cup Final at Wembley that year Liverpool made sure he did not get loose and won 3-0.

Like very many soccer grounds it had a lot of unsatisfactory features arising from locations in built up older parts of the cities and occasional extensions that were not planned for comfort, for convenience of admission or leaving or for safety.  It was certainly buyer beware when you paid for your entrance.

Which is why, when I took any of the young ones it was seats that were chosen.  This arose from long experience of many grounds from the early 1940’s onwards.  There were quite a few with standing areas that were a horror and with casual policing.  The Shed at Molyneux was a bad one but typical of too many.

One ground I had been to was the old Burnden Park at Bolton, the Wanderers ground where a disaster had occurred on 9 March 1946 at a cup tie against Stoke City.  The steep bank behind one of the goals was bad at any time with a large crowd, but when the number of fans well exceeded any reasonable limit it took only a minor accident to trigger a major disaster.

There was a report into this, the Moelwyn Hughes Report which recommended that clear crowd limits should be established and adhered to with better policing.  In the next forty years this was honoured far more in the breach than the observance.  Even if a sensible figure for crowd limits was established it was common for a combination of bad management and limited policing to allow more in.

In fact in some cases where the number of those wanting to see the match was far higher than the ground could take the restricted areas outside the ground were just as much of a danger.  In cases of this kind it was not unknown for many to be let in because it was thought safer than leaving them outside with no control.

The Leppings Lane entrance to Hillsborough had always been difficult under pressure either to get in or to get out.  Which was why after a game many fans simply hopped over the low wall to use other exits at the end of a game as was often the case in other places. 

The trouble was that when pitch invasions by hooligan elements became fashionable many grounds put up strong fencing to keep the fans off the pitch at all costs, which meant that it became impossible to get to any less used exits.  Hillsborough was one such ground having had problems with local “skinheads”.

Skipping all the fancy theory of risk and the rest many grounds were big accidents waiting to happen.  The trouble was that neither the football authorities, the clubs nor some local police forces recognised this and in any case did not regard themselves as having much, if any, responsibility for real crowd control.

All this was well known and essentially just part of the football furniture.  It was common at many full grounds for the St. John’s Ambulance men to be busy and for people to be carted off to hospital or passed down to the pitch edge over the heads of fans.  All this was one reason why in maturity I avoided the standing areas.

Also, it was why when I saw the footage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 it was crystal clear to me that it was not the fans that were at fault.  The Leppings Lane end was difficult whenever it was full.  So there had to be a gross failure of control both inside and outside the ground.

But that was the whole point of organising grounds, controlling and managing the areas outside to ensure that the flows and movement of people were satisfactory and inside to ensure limits were kept and the “bunching” that could occur did not.  At Hillsborough none of this happened.

That much of the media at that time, notably the Murdoch press, could neither admit what was a well known and long standing problem nor that very serious questions arose from the whole nature of the disaster was disgusting.  In particular that of the “Sun” was filth journalism at its worst.

Murdoch and MacKenzie went on to many more profitable things and they and their friends ensured that the memory of those lost was smeared and their families robbed of any justice.  They, at the time, were probably those placed to seek and tell the truth and they did not.

So what does this tell us about our media and their friends?


I have nothing to add, or to remove.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Shakespeare In Brief And At Length

The world of William Shakespeare was a different time, but much of what we are told reflects matters of the present and recent past.  There is some of that world that is lost but a lot that is ignored, often because it is difficult to comprehend or explain or may interfere with the accepted narrative.

This is a lady from the mid 20th Century who was very influential in her field of study. Her handling of subject material and analysis were first class and she was held in great respect by all her students and her colleagues.  For those who had thought the Middle Ages were about wars, dynasties, power and theologies she was the voice of another reality.

What she has to do with Shakespeare is far from obvious.  But the England he lived in was one were the Wool Trade was a key, perhaps even the key, economic activity beyond agriculture.  He grew up in a town that was concerned with it and adjacent to The Cotswolds, then a major centre of the trade and the wealth that it created.

A few days ago an item posted was about Leslie Stuart, a major composer, performer and theatrical impresario of his day, but one of the last of his kind.  It is possible to see Shakespeare as one of the first of these who emerged in the 16th Century and to trace a line of connections between the two.

He was a businessman, an impresario, a writer and composer who was part of a highly complex network of his time and close to the leaders of society.  More to the point, he had his work printed and in the following generations it was possible for the families who knew him to keep alive his name and works.

In a post on 25 October 2011, "Shakespeare, Family And Friends", I dealt with this.  It was long, detailed and very complicated, simply because that was the way it was and few academics or others have attempted to delve into and weave their way through all these families, their marriages and their status.

There was a short post on Friday 23 April 2010, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" which does not add much and on Sunday 15 February 2015. "More On Tudor Times", I picked up on a key aspect relating to the "Wolf Hall" TV series.

All these relate to the networks, but behind this, there are  the economics of the Wool Trade and it's connected trades, activities and crucially the financial systems of the period.

So much has been written about this period, yet we understand so little.

Friday, 22 April 2016

A Plea To Obama

Here is an extract of what David Cameron will sing in welcome to President Obama on his arrival:

"Oh!  Mr. President, what shall I do?
I want to go to Panama, but I'm stuck in an EU!

Take me back to Chelsea because I'm in a jam,
Oh! Mr. President, what a silly boy I am!"

Apologies, and there can't be enough of them, to Marie Lloyd and George and Thomas Le Brunn in borrowing from "Oh, Mr. Porter".

Wikipedia says that the song was alluded to in the book "Ulysses" by James Joyce, I suppose that makes more sense than Cameron.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Question Of The Day

Would you buy a used car from this person?

Making Choices

It is fashionable, apparently, for people to chose their gender.  Some schools think that this should be a first priority for a child in primary education.

Long ago, when at school, we had a lot of problems with the gender business, our teachers in the relevant subject could be quite fanatical about it.

It is explained here in an attempt to make it simple.  Personally, I never quite got the hang of it.

However, seeing myself as only one small part of a complex system, a participle in a way, I had another way of defining my existence as a construction of DNA.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Sing Another Song

The picture above is one that I do not have the answer to.  It is in Liverpool and the date is 1913.  There is a board claiming The Champions of England with two splendid shields.  But champions of what is the question.  

There are two men, one I know, he is the Head of Our Lady's of Mount Carmel School and boys who look as though they might have been useful footballers.  The older man on the right is Hugh Joseph Morgan, the Head, and he was born on 15 October 1865 in Liverpool.  The Laws of Association Football, as we have come to know them, were first laid down in the Freemason's Arms in Long Acre, London on 8 December 1863.

So Hugh grew up with football, all that muscular Christianity was not confined to the Anglican faith, and was prominent in Liverpool schools and football circles.  He had an older sister, Mary Jane Morgan, who married a James Callaghan, and they are said to be great grandparents to the Ian Callaghan, a star of the Liverpool team of the 1960's, when their fans decided that You Will Never Walk Alone.  But there is a twist in the tale.

The mother of Hugh and Mary and their brothers and sisters was Catherine, born Barrett, who was born in the area of Ballina in Co. Mayo, Ireland.  Another Barrett whose family came from that patch was Thomas Augustine Barrett, born 1863 in Southport, in 1871 in Liverpool living in a street adjacent to the Morgan's above.

There were quite a number of Barrett's in Co. Mayo so it is not certain that they were closely related but there are many coincidences.  These arise from those Morgan's and Barrett's being heavily involved in music and the theatre in Liverpool.  One of the Morgan's in fact was resident with Dennis Grannell a leading theatre owner on Merseyside.

Thomas Augustine Barrett is better known as Leslie Stuart, see Wikipedia with the word composer attached.  He became not simply a composer but one of the leading theatrical impresario's of his time with many popular songs and major productions to his credit.

He was Catholic up to a point, let us say that if champagne and the company of chorus girls bought time out of Purgatory he would have gone straight to heaven.  A fellow impresario was George Edwardes, see Wikipedia, whose contribution to the future aristocracy was to introduce The Gaiety Girls to London theatre and Society.

It is a pity that in the search for an anthem in the 1960's that Liverpool were fixated on the pop songs of that period.  Going to the works of Leslie Stuart would have given them a rich and varied choice.

This one might be historically more accurate given that the word "Kop" is short for the original Spion Kop, originating in the location of a major battle during The Boer War of 1899-1902.  This lasts two and a half minutes  However, he wrote other songs any one of which would have served.

Try this one. for example, which gets going after a minute of introduction and also is just a couple of minutes long.  It is a clip from the film "The Way Ahead" about the Desert War in World War Two when his works were still the stuff of sing songs.

My idea though would be to take one of the leading songs from his "Floradora" of 1899 and I ask you to imagine the Liverpool fans taking the part of the men's chorus with the Everton fans, or perhaps Arsenal or Manchester United being the women's.  There are only a couple of clips on Youtube for this.

It begins "Come tell me pretty maiden do, is there anyone at home like you......."

Oh, wouldn't it be lovely?

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Way Ahead

There has been a run of major earthquakes which has a number of people wondering they are a precursor to something much bigger that will be one of the exceptional geophysical events of our era.

Who knows?  Personally, I have been thinking it has been a little quieter recently.  But given that the incidence and type of event are not predictable and are variable this might be just a busier phase of activity.

It does serve to remind us humans that we are not really in charge.  Whether any deities are involved or as science suggests that's the way it is living on a speck of dust in an outer galaxy.  Our problem is that we think we are in charge of many things when there is still scope for doubt.

Nowhere is this truer than in relation to our monetary, financial. political and other matters.  We allow or put into power on the whole people who say they are able to fix things, give us what we want and ensure it all goes well.

But what suits some people does not suit others.  We are happy to take but no so happy about giving.  Also, we are prone to changing our mind in ways that are departed from rationality or sense.  Last but not least we can be violent if provoked.

The present business of the EU Referendum is a case in point.  A flip promise made to buy a few votes by David Cameron has become a real and major political issue at present .  But in a couple of months things can happen, especially unexpected ones.  Also, a lot of other people are into the act with their own ideas and motives.

President Obama and the US State Department is said to want the UK in the EU.  This is not for idealistic reasons.  Wall Street and the US tax havens have The City of London and its allied havens to compete with.  The City also controls our government, of whatever party.  If the EU can assume effective control over the City this could well suit the USA very well.

But Cameron and his Lightweight Infantry and some in The City feel that in the EU they will hold the winning cards and can dictate policy towards financial services.  Perhaps there is the blissful idea that Luxembourg and Monaco etc. could come to be in the realm of City activity.  If so this is a huge gamble with the future of the UK.

In all the remonstrance and railing against the alleged risks and firm predictions about the unpredictables there has been little mention of what might happen in the critical area of financial services and control over the markets and their operations.  If it did go wrong in these sectors the UK would be badly affected, which would suit the USA.

With all the problems and volatility out there at present and the experts can see a great many areas of risk, the next year or two could be fraught.  If the vote was to stay in and then major disruption occurs how far can Brussels be trusted to either understand or deal with the consequences?

It is possible that by promising a Referendum David Cameron put himself into the position that he would have to be leading the In supporters.  Had he not done so and there had been no vote, if the big bad financial crisis does occur he would have been in a position to go for the Out option.

On the other hand, if the shaking of the earth means another Tambora, Krakatoa or Laki volcanic event, it will be purely academic.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

You'll Never Sing Alone

A modern mystery that has exercised the minds of men is the question of how and when Liverpool FC supporters took to chanting "You'll Never Walk Alone" as part of their devotions.  A Guardian article of 2003, little researched, said "Gerry and the Pacemakers" were a key factor but claimed that before then people did not sing at football matches.

The song is heard in the film "Carousel", which came out in 1956, based on the stage show of 1945, which had enjoyed long runs.  It was filled with popular tunes and was very sentimental. One reason the film gained a large audience is that it was one of the early big screen movies with state of the art sound track.

At that time community singing of one sort or another was still part of the way of life although beginning to lose out to the mechanical music of the media.  We were taught to sing in schools and sing songs of one sort or another were part of very many social things in fact you could not escape them.

A key date is that in 1962 the BBC series "Z Cars" began, a major police social realism programme designed for a mass audience.  This entailed the BBC having a full production facility in Liverpool.  Added to this the BBC went "Scouse" for working class items.  The Beatles owed their break to a BBC special featuring them.

At the time the BBC had to recover viewing figures to keep the license fee, ITV commanding the market with quiz shows etc.  So on the BBC we had Cilla Black and other Liverpool pop groups, such as Gerry and the Pacemakers who put out their single, "You'll Never Walk Alone" late in 1963 which went to Number One in the Charts and stayed in them for some time.

It was in 1963 when the Everton club at Goodison Park, the other side of Stanley Park in Liverpool, began to use "Johnny Todd", the theme tune of the BBC "Z Cars" programme as an anthem.  They had attempted others which were not welcomed.  A jaunty tune easy to remember, although associated with Merseyside it the  disadvantage of original lyrics that were not entirely apt.  It has remained though despite the programme being long since gone.

At the time the unkind might say that it was only right for the Evertonians to represented by a tune that related to television GBH, assault and battery, burglary, car theft etc. among the lowest orders but a Liverpool anthem had to be more respectable and inspirational.  At least that is my excuse.

It was in January 1964 that the BBC "Top Of The Pops" began, quickly followed in October 1964 by ITV's "Ready Steady Go".  By 1964 Beatle's mania was in full swing.  On July 4 at the premiere of "A Hard Days Night", now hard to watch, graced by Princess Margaret, 10,000 fans gave the London Metropolitan Police a hard time.  On July 10, the Liverpool Police had the worst of it when 150,000 fans welcomed The Beatles back to Liverpool.  There were 300 injuries.

In the football, Liverpool were promoted to Division One in 1961-62, after seven long years in Division Two; narrowly missing promotion in the previous four seasons and made their mark in Division One in 1962-1963 finishing 8th with local rivals Everton as Champions.  In 1963-64 Liverpool were Champions and Everton 3rd.

On 22nd August 1964 the first BBC "Match of the Day" came on screen with Liverpool at home to Arsenal and the BBC wanted coverage of the crowd as part of this coup and to present the games as part of their populist programming.

Again, community singing was a norm and had been for decades.  It was common for crowds to sing.  Football clubs very often had bands playing before the game and at half time.  It was usual for a band master to conduct the crowd for a couple of things.

In live theatre variety shows and pantomimes there was usually an item where the audience sang with the words on boards held up.  Coach trips often meant singing, on holidays sing songs were usual, Christmas parties, I could go on and on.

I went to both soccer and rugby matches.  The Welsh in particular insisted on singing.  When many games had lots of fans just out of the pubs there was often desultory singing of this or that.  Leicester City played the Post Horn Gallop over the tannoy when the team ran out.  If a game was boring fans might sing to make the point.

I recall in the late 1950's being at Wembley Rugby League finals when we were given song sheets for the pre-match sing song.  For FA Cup finals there was community singing before the game, finishing with "Abide With Me".  Some of this spilled over into routine games but it was random.  Newcastle United fans sang "Blaydon Races" but nobody else did.

But when TV arrived in 1964 of league fixtures this meant the screening had to be livened up and varied one way or another. Liverpool were in the top flight again rejoining local rivals, Everton. The Kop made very good TV; Scouse bands were top of the hit parade, recently the big one being "You'll Never Walk Alone", so the Liverpool anthem was born.

Might there have been a "fixer"?  Brian Epstein was manager of both The Beatles and Gerry And The Pacemakers, had an inside track into the BBC and  was clever and creative in managing opportunities for his clients.

The Liverpool area had a number of marginal constituencies, there was a General Election in October 1964.  Although not called until 15 September, the talk was in the air and seemed likely after Churchill had left the House of Commons in July leaving Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home as his political heir.

Given that the Conservative P.M. Alec Douglas-Home was facing the economic problems of the period, the financial uncertainties, the Sterling Area under stress and a bad coming winter with the Trade Unions, notably the dock workers, and the American's had launched into Vietnam it made sense for him to try his luck a year early and it was a very near miss.

I believe that Harold Wilson, the Labour Leader and a local M.P.; who made a great show of liking The Beatles, was in the Director's box at Anfield for that first 22nd August TV game.  Meanwhile, on the Glorious Twelfth of August, the opening of the grouse shooting season, Alec would have been seen on the moors.

It would have made a real contrast in terms of political propaganda.  I wonder if Brian Epstein might have prompted the local Gerry fan's and pop music lovers to enjoy a special sing on The Kop to liven up the game coverage?  One of those accidents of history.

The picture above is of the Liverpool 1946-47 team who I saw play a few times when staying there, when popular music was more Vera Lynn or Gracie Fields; better than the US options of "Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette" or the "Too Fat Polka".  "Oklahoma" or "Calamity Jane" do not quite fit.

But it could have been different as this report on their visit to the USA in 1946 says.  It was felt that the food they ate in contrast to the limited rations at home set them up for the season and had a crucial effect on their strength and stamina.

There is a different look to the team than modern ones.  As for what to sing then there were other options from the further past, but that is for another post on grounds of length.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Holy Smoke

The latest "Private Eye" just came, in the shops in the next day or two, and on the first page has a Quote Of The Decade citing David Cameron in 2008.  It states: "The vast majority of (the City's activities) are extremely healthy for the world's financial systems. My father was a fourth or fifth generation stock broker so maybe that this is inculcated from an early age, but I do believe it."

Doing a quick count on the fingers and toes it appears that this takes us back to the mid and late 19th Century, an interesting period in the history of finance and banking.  My first thought was the major crash of 1866 involving Overend Gurney & Company, see Wikipedia.

But it became more interesting.  His forebear, Sir Ewen Cameron, after qualifying as a chartered accountant, joined the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, see Wikipedia, in 1866; later becoming a Director and then Chairman.

Another forebear, Emile Levita, in the same general period, became a Director of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, see Wikipedia.  What these two banks had in common was a major interest in the financing of the extensive opium trade.  There is no smoke without fire.

Yet another, Alexander Geddes, made a fortune in grain dealing in Chicago before returning to Scotland in the 1880's.  In the history of finance and trading this was certainly the Wild West, red in tooth and claw, unregulated where everything could be done and was to fleece the unwary, unwise, widows and orphans.

The history of China, also, in the period of the mid, late 19th Century and early 20th Century is far from being a happy one.  Among their serious problems was extensive drug addiction to opium.    The Chinese are very conscious of this and when our Tory boys are doing deals they need to be careful.  Revenge is always best taken cold.

Religion may be said to be the opiate of the people, according to a contemporary of those mentioned above, but banking may be the opiate of our present elite.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Who Am I?

The search for the inner self is a common human failing.  It hardly ever works and if it does is usually bad news.

So perhaps it might be better to seek outside expert advice.  Well, expert up to a point.
On the BBC Proms page at the bottom under Bite Size there is an item which says it can match you to a character in Shakespeare.

It is very brief and being from the BBC and the RSC must be reliable, I think.

This link should take you there and asks simple questions.

I am not telling you what mine was.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Cameron Calls For Change

You do not have to look far around the net to see reports that there are a lot of major problems out there in finance and trade.  Our government does not seem to be aware of them and the possibilities.

They have just sent me a booklet about Europe which, if anything, suggests they are in cloud cuckoo land.  If the big one hits, or even a not so big, or as Zero Hedge calls it The Great Reset neither we nor Europe are ready for it or probably able to cope with the fall out.

Until 2015 Cameron could blame the bungles on the Liberal Democrats and the need for the Coalition with them.  But in the last year it has become clear that he needed no help from them to make a mess of many things.  Not that this does the Lib Dem's any good, but that's politics.

The Conservative Government he has presided over has divided the party, again, over Europe, offended most of its members, chickened out over many difficult decisions and has begun to make Corbyn's Left Labour look respectable.  Now there is the offshore tax malarkey which has so many running in ever decreasing circles.

At the centre of those doing so seem to be Cameron's special advisers and spin doctors.  They want things to change but are not quite certain what, how, why, when and where.  Unlike "Pagliacci" where the clown and comedy are finished, he has begun to remind me of another comedian.

Yes, Old Mother Riley, doyen of the British cinema who in one film made it to Parliament and set about changing things.  Perhaps this should encourage Cameron to follow her example or even pursue it to a logical conclusion.

He should play the Transgender card, at least it would tick the right boxes.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Spitting Tax And Project Frit

Ah well, so much for Project Frit, about how staying in the EU will bring us certainty, security and all the benefits of rule by the wise men of wealth and money for the good of everyone.  That is everyone who was anyone and the only thing to fear was fear itself.

The picture or cartoon that I would like to see is that one of the Bullingdon Boys of Oxford that includes Cameron, Osborne and Bojo tagged with all the offshore locations of their own and their family fortunes.  Perhaps, though, it might be too big or too complex or worse offend a judge who has a sensitivity to privacy matters as well as his or her own investments to consider.

The Onion has a short and very funny comment on the general issue.  It does invite ridicule.  The trouble is between the mocking and derision and all the other clatter a small point is being missed.  That is much of what we think to be wealth is now digital bits being bounced around bank computers of the world.

The other wealth can be many things.  There are antiques and art and odd items that for some reason people collect and value.  Also there is property.  The UK financial sector is enmeshed in this to a degree where one is supporting the other and it has become a major objective to keep both propping each other up.

Quite why the Remain (in the EU) people believe that we have to stay in to keep this going is a puzzle.  To do this means control and of the critical detail.  The EU is on course to deny this kind of control and as we have seen too often does not do critical detail.  It is why so many of their big ideas bite the dust when reality occurs.

Project Frit has been about picking out issues deemed dear to the heart of ordinary people, avoiding the real questions, and saying that bad things would happen.  One example is holidays.  But one reason why foreign holidays are cheap is because the pound has been strong.  Another is that so many places now have "invested" in tourism to create jobs that move the money around.

Whether we are in out or roundabout, changes in the value of the pound can affect this and more to the point, the tourist industry may now be faced with decline.  How many of our younger generation will be able to either afford it or want it?  A great deal of it is based at present on debt because we do not save.  This industry could be overdue for a serious "correction".

Given the range and nature of uncertainties at present the idea that a rogue EU bent on pursuing policies that demand radical change can provide us with security and certainty is lunatic.  Just as the hope now of preventing the extent of tax avoidance or even evasion is lost, it has gone too far and is technically way ahead of any government or its agencies.

So just what is the government going to be able to tax reliably to meet all the growing bills, especially if we stay in the EU and have to pay more and more year on year?

Start worrying now.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Losing Energy

The question of Energy Policy seems to have minor interest in our politics and government, perhaps because we think we can leave it to the "experts", or rather the commercial and political interests.  This is not working well.

The link is a long post on the confused energy policies of the UK and in particular Scotland.  Euan Mearns considers the degree of risk of blackouts, notably the prolonged ones where they are so extensive and complex to deal with.

Below are his suggestions for the consequences based on what has happened elsewhere in recent years.


In the scenarios described below it is assumed that hospitals, emergency services and financial services have emergency backup generation. It is possible that some of the failed services I describe may also be supported by diesel generators.

Heat and light

All electric lighting will fail. In Scotland in January it gets light around 9 a.m. and dark again around 3 p.m. Without candles or a battery torch, many will experience total darkness for 18 hours a day. Old people will fall and break arms and hips.

Most heating in Scotland uses natural gas boilers, but these require electricity to function. And so most homes will be left without heat and will equilibrate to outside temperatures which are typically between +5 and -5˚C in January. Those unable to don good clothing or stay in bed will freeze.

Its possible that a gas hob may work, although gas supplies may fail without electricity.

With hard frost, pipes will freeze and burst.


Street lighting and traffic lights fail. A spate of minor accidents leaves traffic in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen at a standstill.

Within hours, those cars that were running on empty run out of fuel and the passengers begin to freeze. It is not possible to refuel since petrol pumps run on electricity.

Hundreds are stranded in lifts.

All trains come to a standstill since even the diesel lines have electric signals. Thousands are stranded in transit at night fall and temperatures in the trains begin to equilibrate with temperatures outside.

All flights leaving Scottish airports are cancelled, all inbound flights are diverted to Newcastle and Manchester.


All internet, television and radio communications are down. Forget about the battery in your laptop since your WiFi router is switched off as is your local BT telecoms exchange.

There is absolutely no information available about what is going on. Most will think this is a power cut and do not realise that it may take over a week to restore power. Anxiety after 12 hours gives way to fear after 24 hours.

No email, no iPhone, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Energy Matters, no news papers. Just creeping cold.


People can’t get to work but there is no work to go to. Most work places are closed.

Some shops are open, but food stores will eventually run out of food. Refrigerated and frozen food is moved outside to the freezing conditions where members of the public simply help themselves.

Electronic payment is down. All transactions are by cash or cheque.


With all alarms off, petty criminals begin looting.

Organised gangs take advantage by raiding jeweller’s shops and a couple of banks are raided in Glasgow.

But the main security risk lies with the old and infirm who are deprived of social and medical care during the most adverse of circumstances.

Some simple lessons

Keep a small stash of cash at home and make sure you have a cheque book. Apple pay and a contactless card just won’t cut the mustard. Food and drink will still be available if you can pay for it.

Keep a supply of petrol or diesel in your garage (but note legal restrictions and requirements). The ability to drive to England could become a priceless commodity. Petrol pumps will not be working.

Have two or three battery torches to hand with a supply of batteries. These help you find your candles and matches.

Have a supply of utility candles to provide light and warmth + matches.
Buy a wood burner and have an ample supply of wood, or….

Have a means to keep warm in ÂșC conditions. Hat, gloves, two fleeces, long johns, two pairs of woolly socks and a good duvet or sleeping bag.

Be a good neighbour.

We live in a society grown accustomed to electricity 24/7. Years ago, when power cuts were more common in the UK, many households would have equipment to hand.

A little preparation may mean the difference between surviving in relative comfort and falling down stairs in pitch black.


Wait and see, or rather not see.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Going A Stage Further

The not so big news is that Jeremy Corbyn is listed for Glastonbury this summer, the music festival where the baby boomers of the upper classes play in the mud with the few plebians who can afford it.

That it coincides with the Euro Referendum this year is said to have escaped him, but I am not so sure.  He might be safer there.  In any case his audience will be too bombed out of their minds to care.

Also, it is reported that Jeremy proposes that the UK should impose direct rule on the Crown Dependencies in order to stop their use by financial firms as tax havens.

How that might work when so many other tax havens are entirely independent of the UK and would welcome the capital flight that would happen is not clear.

There is another problem in that some in the Caribbean have an inflow of migrants from Haiti that is impossible to prevent.  Many would welcome the chance to become subjects of the Crown and move on, say, to Islington.

Another difficult issue is that the Crown Dependencies have their own systems of government who in representing their electorates might not agree.

The Isle of Man, for example, has the Tynwald that is rather older than the English Parliament. Perhaps it might retaliate by taking over England on the grounds that it is the junior partner.

The great question is how far Jeremy might chose to celebrate the anniversary of the very English William Shakespeare and avoiding criticism of elitism.

Perhaps he might try this routine with John McDonnell that was so popular in 1949, the year of his (Jeremy's) birth.

Then we might take him more seriously.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Oh We're In The Money

No sooner had I put up a post, 1st April, "Back To The Land", what seemed to be an improbable tale about poor and old grannie pensioners propping up a complicated structure of companies that go back to The Cayman Islands, a tax haven, than a documents leak from one of its neighbours hits the web.

This one is much bigger and more interesting to the main media as it involves top people in many places.  The Mossack Fonseca Panama caper is nothing new.  It has been around a long time and it has many parallels elsewhere.  That David Cameron is involved via his family is par for the course.

A few years back when the Euro currency was created, I recall trying to explain to some Swiss bankers, over lunch in a tax haven, that it had basic flaws.  My interest in the history of money, especially major busts, led me to this view for the simple reason if it has happened before a few times it can happen again.

Sadly, their bank has gone bust, leaving me with the smirk on my face but at least I am still in credit having ignored their opinion.  All their customers are not.  There are many questions about Panama but how many answers we shall get may be rather less.  One minor matter may or may not be connected.

That is the British Steel business presenting the government with one of those "no right decisions" problems.  It does seem to be having a lot of them these days.

A major financial issue is the pensions fund involved.  While the government is knocking many private and public pensioners for the sake of the future it is being asked to fully protect the British Steel pensions fund which has run up a massive deficit and is a major liability.

But this fund will have investments and those will be a variety of fields.  Is some of this involved in Panama based investments and is some of it in the same things as the Cameron family investments?  Answers please on the back of your latest tax demand to 11 Downing Street.

Like the British Steel crisis and so many others, the Panama leak has been coming for a long time.  Our short term politicians whose first thoughts are for their own investment funds and second for their friends and third for massaging the media and fourth for keeping it all very quiet, now invariably fail to see or remotely understand the world we are living in or how it really works.

Meanwhile grannie wonders if she can any longer afford the stamps to send out the family birthday and Christmas cards.

Try this three minutes from the mid 1970's, a green group called Steeleye Span singing a folk type song.  It might settle the nerves.


Friday, 1 April 2016

Back To The Land

Yesterday, I was saying that out sourcing the Land Registry was a bad idea.  Today the question is why it has arisen now which in turn asks who might be involved, to what purpose and to wonder at the need for relative secrecy in the matter.

Just a short time ago, "Private Eye" produced a large survey of who owned the land in Britain at present and the nature of foreign buying and control.  To do this meant using the Land Registry.  Also, there are others asking questions about property ownership and its impact on the housing market in various ways and again the Registry is vital as a basic source of information.

Something largely ignored in the media in recent days is that a small group of M.P's have raised the issue of sorting out the problems and difficulties arising from the present forms of tenure in England and Wales, the leasehold, commonhold and freehold system we have had since 2002 which was just a retreading of an ancient one.

None of this is good news to the very large, complex, largely tax avoiding and evading financial entities that are so active in the UK and for whom the current property market is central to the economy and politics of the UK.  It is not simply about selling houses and properties.  They are a major asset base for a great deal of the complicated trading and financial services.

The recent scandals of M.P's playing the property market with their expenses claims is a symptom of the extent to which the political class are attached to it.  The parties depend on money from not just their own dealings but from the financial support of the corporates to prop up our present party system.

This recent article gives a choice example of the coming and going of financial dealing involved.  Carlex, the Campaign Against Leasehold Exploitation, is a vigilant group who attempt to be a voice for those at the wrong end of the market and to lobby for reform and fair treatment for leaseholders.

Briefly, many blocks of flats and some other properties are leasehold, that is part owned for a fixed period agreed in the contract with the actual freehold ownership being invested in others.  In particular it is a feature of retirement housing and it is in this sector where some of the financial arrangements have become most questionable.

There are other parties involved.  One is property management companies that may or may not be owned or controlled by the freeholders, another are various agencies and interests who see opportunities for business and financing.  The retirement housing sector has become a major target for those engaged in predatory financial operations.

So aged grannie who has down sized to live quietly in a retirement flat pays dues to a property management service.  This is a subsidiary of a private limited company that is wholly owned by holding company that is financed by a limited liability partnership and a private equity company.  The holding company is owned by family trust traders based in the Cayman Islands.

The freehold of her flat is owned by another limited liability company, wholly owned by another that is also owned by the same family trust.  The Land Registry has the interesting entry that the freehold ownership is subject to a lien by Deutsche Bank, who some say are the most indebted bank in the world and could bring down the Euro.

Our government go on a great deal about property, so you can see why.  What also has escaped notice is that while in recent decades it had become common for houses to be sold freehold, in a number of developments, perhaps in the "affordable housing" part, leasehold has returned.  Is the government actually in favour of this, not just because it affects the asking price for property, but because it suits the financial sector on whom it depends?

It might also explain why apartment, flat, projects are so much in favour for the expansion of housing.  It creates an asset base for leverage upon leverage and money movement around the trading and financial sectors.

What helps all this along, inevitably, is that when grannie or her family look at the annual charges, there are parts of the accounts which defy explanation and seem to add to the costs, in fact a lot.  It is not so long ago that the freeholders also insisted on using an in house insurance company that had no reserves as required by law.  It did not matter, they never paid out on claims.

Unluckily, there are people out there who are exercising their critical faculties about what the UK property market is for and who benefits and are prepared to do the research from official records.

Which is why the government would like to disappear the Land Registry or at least give it to its best friends.