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Talk Porty ~ Portobello • View topic - Rathbone's Ramblin'

Rathbone's Ramblin'

General discussion - "gossip and tittle tattle"

Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 15 Oct 2012, 08:07

Two contrasting fights on Saturday night. One I wanted to watch and couldn’t and the one I did watch and was really glad I did.

The first one was the David Price - Audley Harrison bout in Liverpool. This was being shown exclusively on BoxNation and I was too stingy to fork out £20 to view it. Which was just as well because Harrison was knocked out in 82 seconds. Not much return for your money.There was a right cross from Price followed by a right left right combination on the ropes and that was it. Harrison was on the canvas with a broken nose and it was all over. With my luck the computer would still have been buffering by the end of the match.

Over on Channel 5 it was much more interesting. James Degale defending his european title against Hadillah Mohoumadi. I usually try to catch Degale fights, more out of sentiment than anything else (we share the same birthday). I find Degale a lazy fighter and this match was no exception. I haven’t paid Mohoumadi much attention in the past. He’s not the best, technically, but he can give and take a few hard knocks and is probably worth keeping an eye on for the future.

Where it was interesting was watching what happened to Degale. Now, Degale is a good boxer. Technically, at times he is a superb boxer. But his forte is fighting from a distance and whenever he kept the exchanges in the centre of the ring he was superb. Mohoumadi had been well coached by his team, however, and kept forcing Degale over on to the ropes where he could, and did, give him a good pummeling.

The opening round was tentative, but Degale landed the more telling blows with some penetrating combinations. In the third he managed a whole series of blows which had Mohoumadi in trouble. In the fifth he landed a left hand on Mohoumadi’s head which caused some real damage. The seventh saw him catch Mohoumadi several times with crunching left hand blows.

The problem was the rounds in between, every one of which saw Degale pushed back on to the ropes and pummeled. There was nothing sophisticated about it on Mohoumadi’s part. He had discovered that he could manoeuvre Degale into that position and so he went for it every time. And Degale let him do it. From the fourth round onwards you could hear his team shouting from their corner to get off the ropes. But did he? Which is what I mean about laziness.

The match went to the full twelve rounds, which is fine if you enjoy looking at people slugging it out, but Degale could have finished this long before if he had stuck to the centre of the canvas.

The link between the two fights was Tyler Fury. David Price has made no secret of the fact that he wants to fight Fury and Fury happened to be ringside at the Degale match. Inevitably some commentator stuck a mike in front of his face and asked him for his reaction to the Harrison knockout. His response summed up everything that is wrong about boxing. Turning directly to the camera, presumably addressing David Price, he said: “You see you, you plumber from Liverpool? It’s personal between me and you, and I’m going to give you some serious harm, you big stiff idiot. Also, you’re going to need 10 plumbers to do you when I’ve got finished with you. Also you are getting it. For sure. Call me out. Call me any names, and you are getting it. And you know your gay lover Tony Bellew?”. It was at that point that the commentator grabbed the mike away and apologised.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 16 Oct 2012, 10:02

For those who have kindly wondered about whether I have been suffering from a bimbo hangover, I haven’t. I just couldn’t be arsed getting back into the routine of churning these things out whilst eating my breakfast.

I’m late posting today for another reason. Waiting for something to dry. This is a state which is well known to anyone who involves themselves in anything to do with craft. It is called tedium. Perhaps there is no agony worse than the tedium of waiting for something to happen.

The same sensation can be experienced when you go to switch of your computer and it tells you not to because it’s about to load seven up-dates. You are back there every five minutes, but it is never finished downloading. That is tedious.

Or you order something from Amazon and it says it will be delivered some time between 16 October and 5 November. So every day you are on tenterhooks wondering if it will come while you are out and you will have to trek all the way down to the home for displaced parcels. That is tedious.

In my case it’s christmas cards. Every year I hand make my christmas cards. I’ve been doing that for over forty years now. Every one is unique and hand painted. In actual fact it’s a bit like a production line. I design a prototype, work it up to see if it looks okay and then start doing a hundred variations on that theme.

This year’s is pretty simple. It’s meant to be rows of stylised christmas trees against a checker board background. All 100 have been drawn and I am in the process of colouring with gouache.

Which is where the problem came in. Those of you have used gouache will know that the pigment is mixed with gum arabic. Sometimes this doesn’t dry, particularly if it is used direct from the tube. This morning all of the cards I had done last night were still sticky. That meant that I couldn’t stack them and they were spread all over the table. I gave them a thin coating of water to soften the gum arabic (trick of the trade) and waited for them to dry. That is tedious.

Someone, and I can’t remember who (and I can’t be bothered to google it) once said that life is a very definite region, bounded on the north by history, on the south by fiction, on the east by obituary and on the west by tedium.

I presume he made his own christmas cards.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 17 Oct 2012, 07:18

The other day Tom Fraser sent me some interesting statistics about what he described as life as an unsuccessful musician. Now I won’t start a discussion on how you define an unsuccessful musician. As far as I am concerned Tom made good music with Tantrum and Fake Tan, and continues to do so with his current ventures. (You can check those out on floppyrecords.co.uk). His own definition appears to be a combination of the number of people who get to hear your music and the amount of money it cost you to make it.

Back in the 1980s when he was starting out the band had to pay venues to be allowed to play, with some promise of getting money back if more than 50 people turned up for the gig. They never did. Then there was the cost of instruments and equipment and hiring rehearsal space. Over that period (85 - 90) he reckons that the band made no money at all, had to fork out £3,500 and were heard by 3,500 people. Which works out at £1:00p per listen.

During the first half of the 90s the band started touring, mostly around village halls. They had to buy a van, pay travelling costs etc. On the other hand they were earning a couple of hundred pounds each gig. Then they started supporting name acts like Radiohead. Rehearsal space was still a significant cost, as was recording. They kept the latter costs down by sticking the labels on to the records themselves. Distributing the records cost more than making them. They also made two videos, which achieved all of 5 seconds coverage on television. So from 1990 - 94 they made £7,375 but spent £12,500. During that period they reached 145,000 people. Cost per listen £0:08p


95 - 98 saw them regularly supporting acts like Tindersticks and Mogwai and making a bit of money from that. However, over the same period the cost of rehearsal space shot up. On the recording front they now managed to do it themselves with the aid of borrowed equipment, which meant that they made a modest profit on each record sold. Despite that, they still made a loss, with income of £1100 and expenses of £2,300. Some 16,000 people heard them, making a cost per listen of £1:14p

Since 2000 they have played no live gigs and consequently hired no rehearsal space. All recording (and there has been quite a bit), has been done at home on a computer. All four albums and various other tracks have been issued as downloads. It can’t be described as lucrative, but as a means of getting the music heard it has been an enormous success. Over the past 11 years there were 488,079 downloads with income of £230:33p and expenses of £100:00p, make a cost per listen of £0:0002p.

Apart from underlining the point that no ordinary band can make a living from its music, Tom’s figures show just how powerful an influence the internet has been on the way that people search out and listen to music. For the first thirteen years of their career Tantrum/FakeTan were trudging around from gig to gig and reached, in total, 164,500 people. (12,653/year). Over the next 11 years, via the internet, they reached 488,000 (44,363/year) - more than 3.5 times as many, and with much less hassle.

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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 18 Oct 2012, 07:20

As someone who was regularly chastised at school for using americanisms, it is interesting that there is now some consternation in America that british words are now entering the american vocabulary.

Just as every year the Oxford dictionary issues a list of ‘new’ words which it is including, Brewster’s and Webster’s do the same in the States. Of the two Webster’s is probably the more prestigious.

The first dictionary of American usage was published by Noah Webster in 1806. It was Webster’s idiosyncratic spelling which then became the definitive american spelling and became the bane of spell checks in any country but the USA. We have Noah to blame for color, honor, center, defense and their ilk. Basically the man couldn’t spell, but because his dictionary was the only one on the continent his bad spelling was accepted as the correct spelling by the rest of the nation and became the norm.

Anyway, people are up in arms about the following words now being included as acceptable usage:

Autumn instead of Fall.
Bloody as a pejorative, as in ‘that bloody man’.
Bum meaning posterior, not tramp.
Chav meaning someone from a lower class background
Cheers meaning goodbye
Fancy meaning want, as in ‘I fancy a pint.’
Flat instead of apartment
Frock for dress
Holiday for vacation
Mate for a close friend of the same sex
Muppet for a person demonstrating a lack of intelligence
Numpty meaning stupid person
Roundabout instead of traffic circle
Row for argue
Shag for, well ... shagging
Skint for being bereft of money
Wonky for a bit out of kilter.

More power to the dictionaries, I say, and maybe they’ll take back some of the ones they’ve given us that I could happily do without, like Hospitalize, Outage, Faze, Ouster
and Stepping Up To The Plate.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 19 Oct 2012, 08:07

I happened to be driving around yesterday listening to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. One of the topics under discussion was the case of Colin Farmer, the blind man who was tasered by the police in Chorley.

I’m sure that you are aware of the case because of all the publicity, but just in case you’re not, there were reports to the police of someone going round Chorley armed with a samurai sword. Some over enthusiastic policeman saw Mr. Farmer’s white stick, assumed it was a samurai sword and, allegedly without giving him any warning, tasered the poor man who, naturally, couldn’t see it coming. He had to be taken to hospital for treatment. Chief Superintendent Stuart Williams of Lancashire Police said, without a trace of irony: “it became apparent that this man was not the man we were looking for and officers attended to him straight away.” What he doesn’t mention is that before the ambulance arrived the officers had already handcuffed Colin Farmer. Presumably they had already realised by that time that his white stick wasn’t a samurai sword, that he was blind and that he was now both traumatised and injured through their actions, so what did they think he was going to do that required restraint?

Now one the face of it this seems like a bizarre sort of incident which can’t be that common, but as the programme progressed and people phoned in it turns out that it isn’t. In fact there is quite a record of the police having to pay out compensation for in one way or another duffing up people with disabilities. This year they have had to pay out for being over-zealous in restraining a 16 year old disabled boy, forcing him into hand-cuffs and leg restraints when he couldn’t have fought back anyway. He had a neurological condition which they misinterpreted as ‘anti-social behaviour’. Then there was Jody McIntyre who eas dragged out of his wheelchair by the police when he was protesting against tuition fees. That was also held by the courts to be an assault by the police.

I have no doubt that the police are facing an increasingly complex role when it comes to people with disabilities. Just because someone is disabled it does not mean that they are incapable of criminal activity. There are probably some criminals who actively use their disability to further their business. I suspect that the police, like the rest of us, are more likely to conceive of disabled people as the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators of disorder. The script for how to behave and react to them has not been properly written.

I’ll be interested to see what the Independent Police Complaints Commission make of the Farmer case, but more interested in what training in both dealing with disabilities and the use of tasers is put in place.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 20 Oct 2012, 08:08

Memory is a peculiar thing. Why do we choose to file away certain incidents and not others? And why do we hold on to the most trivial of things?

I’m prompted into that thought by an e-mail I received the other day from one of the lurkers on this site. He started off by saying: “Having dipped into Rathbones Rambling recently I thought I should bore you with a tale.” He then goes on to effectively apologise for an incident on a No. 26 bus, particularly “the unseemly way I barged you out of the way to get ahead of you as we went up to the top deck.” He is quite specific about the bus, the location (London Road) and the date (March 1968). Then he explains precisely what his motive was (He wanted to sit next to the girl who was in front of me in the queue).

What I find remarkable about this is firstly that something in these Ramblings prompted that memory, secondly that he has been carrying this around for forty four years and thirdly that something compelled him to explain it to me now.

Needless to say I have no recollection whatsoever of being barged past on the stairs of the bus. It happens all the time, particularly when everybody standing at the stop sees the bus is full and jostles to the front. Maybe the fact that he subsequently married the girl he was trying to sit beside has something to do with it.

But that doesn’t explain the Wood Green Cat. This is the one where I have total recall of something that happened in October 1977 and Mrs. R., who was sitting next to me at the time remembers absolutely nothing. We were driving back from friends late at night along a main road in Wood Green when I saw a cat sitting in the middle of the carriageway, staring at us. The headlights were making its eyes shine. As there was a car coming the other way I could not swerve to avoid it. It was only a few seconds and then we were over the top of it. I have no idea if we hit it or if the car passed over it. There was nothing to see in the rear view mirror. That incident has stayed with me and recurs not infrequently, when others, including knocking someone off their bike, don’t.

Of course there are lots of different theories as to why we retain memories of some things and not others. On the one hand you have people who say that we remember things that are emotionally important to us. Those emotions can be very basic: hunger, pain, fear, pleasure, etc. Or they can be much more refined: accomplishment, fulfillment, desolation, guilt, transcendence, etc.  What's clear is that it's much more difficult to store and retrieve items that are not emotionally connected. On the other there are those who say that emotional content does not necessarily mean that events are remembered more accurately. In fact, there's a lot of evidence that all memories can be altered. It's a normal process — we're constantly taking our experience and revising it, even twisting it to our own benefit.

I like the concept of memory as a big net. And in between the big strands are smaller ones
and on the smaller ones are threads. As we use a particular area of the memory the net becomes bigger and stronger. The threads are what catch familiar things. As you build up a thread it responds faster.

As an example, if I ask you to recite the months of the year as fast as you can, you hardly hesitate and trip over your tongue to get them out. You know the sequence before you can say it. If I say recite them backwards there is a definite slower process that goes on. Even though you know the same month names, you haven't recited them
backwards before. You know the process and you consciously go through it, but it takes a bit of time. Now recite them in alphabetical order. What happens? You probably have to take a pen and paper to write them down and reorganize them. This is because usually you can keep only three to five things in your conscious memory at one time.

Having just read that back I can see that it has drifted some way off the point, which I had clearly forgotten.

Anyway, Alex, as Bob Hope said, “Thanks for the memories.”
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 21 Oct 2012, 07:29

On the subject of memories, the photos from the Bimbo event have started to be posted on-line.
Here is one of Mrs. R., which she doesn't like but I think is quite good,


and one of me, which she likes but I don't particularly like.



Why do we take pictures of each other? There are now over sixty of these on flickr, none of them relevant to anyone other than the people in the room. I'm sure someone somewhere is keeping track of the countless billions which are now posted across the internet. There is a line in an old Kinks song which goes : people take pictures of each other just to prove that they existed. Maybe it's our own little stab at immortality.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 22 Oct 2012, 07:56

Just a typical Sunday lunch. This time it was Liz and Dave’s turn so off we went through the wind and the rain up the M11. Hardly any traffic so we got there a wee bit early. Not to worry. Jimaam had ‘phoned to say that he and Arianne were running late. Settled down with the ‘welcome’ cocktail and tarted discussing how Liz and Dave are going to get to the youngest Rathbonette’s wedding next month as they’ve decided to come by train. (The wedding venue is in the countryside, nowhere near a station.) We were just starting to explain the best way to the venue when the door bell rang. It was Sue.

The next quarter of an hour was spent looking at photographs of Sue’s new grandson on her mobile. He was only born last week and doesn’t have a name yet. The likeliest bet is ‘Lewis’. He did n’t look much like a Lewis to me.
Then the doorbell rang again and it was Jimjam and Arianne. He apologised, but he was selling his old Dunlop mountain bike on e-bay. We all looked at Sue’s photographs of Lewis again. Then the conversation came back to the nearest station to the wedding venue. That led on to George Osborne trying to use a first class compartment on a standard ticket, which somehow mutated into tasering blind men.

We sat down to lunch. There was much talk about caravanning in the south of France and the difficulty of reversing an airstream up a hill. Then Jimjam got up. I assumed he was going to the loo, but he came back with his laptop. He wanted to check how the bidding was going on his bike. £28.

Between the main course and the pudding the lap top was passed around the table so we could look at photographs of Jimjam and Arianne on their bikes in the Brecon Beacons. They were nice photographs but led to a discussion about the problems each of us are now having with our aging anatomies. Dave, for instance, now finds it really difficult to reverse his caravan because he can no longer rotate his upper half sufficiently to get a good look out the rear window.

Then Jimjam checked on the bidding again. Still £28. The trip to the Brecon Beacons had convinced him that he really needed a new bike, so he bought a Diamondback. It’s got 21 Speed Shimano gears with EZ fire and Shimano M131 cranks, Alloy doublewall rims on Alloy quick realease hubs with MTB style tyres. The Forks are Suntour M2025 suspension forks and the Controls Diamondback lo-rise Bar 680mm width with an Outland oversized stem. He was really enthusiatic, but it means nothing to me.

By the time we had finished eating the bidding was up to £50.

Sitting having out coffee I mentioned Alex’s e-mail about shoving past me on the bus and we discussed how you store seemingly random memories. In Jimjam’s case it was snogging Andrea, Liz’s flstmate back in 1966. It was a completely spontaneous one off and never happened again. Liz was amazed that Andrea had never told her about that and I was similarly surprised that my best mate of nearly 50 years had kept it to himself. By the end of the earth shattering revelation the bidding on the bike had touched the £100 mark.

Usually we would all be getting ready to leave by now. In fact Sue did because she had a train to catch, but the rest of us hung on for another hour just to see what the closing price would be. It went for £150:58. I’m no judge of mountain bikes, but I don’t think the buyer got a bargain.

I’m not looking forward to Jimjam and Arianne turning up to the wedding on shiny new diamondbacks.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 23 Oct 2012, 08:11

I was passing the time in the toilet yesterday reading the product labels. Three separate bottles of goo claimed to kill 99.9% of all known germs.

The immediate question was what are the 0.1% of germs that they don’t kill. Is it the same 0.1%? If so, would killing off all of the other germs give it an unfair advantage and so will the toilet soon be overrun with hordes of the 0.1%? IF it isn’t the same 0.1% in each case then why can’t the companies get together, swap 0.1%s and eradicate the lot?

You’ve probably noticed that over the last decade or so, what with swine flu, avian flu and H1N1, dozens of products have taken to bragging about their microbe-killing properties. Everything from hand-sanitizing liquids to products like computer keyboards, shopping carts and tissues tout that they kill 99.9%, or even 99.99%, of common bacteria and fungi.

One reason is that it is an advertising gimmick. The 99.99% message is more powerful among consumers than 'antibacterial' or 'germ kill' alone. Above all, it’s just a legal ploy. Even if these things did kill 100% they wouldn’t tell you. You might just be the one person who falls foul of a wee rogue germ, and then you can sue them for every penny they’ve got because their product which said it could kill 100% didn’t.

The other issue is than in many of these products, particularly the ones for cleaning surfaces, they don’t actually kill the germs, they just stop them multiplying, so that they die out over the course of about 48 hrs. In other words, the existing bacteria remain alive, but won’t develop into a larger, more dangerous colony.

It’s the same with hand sanitizer gels, like the ones they use in hospitals. JUst taking a little squirt and rubbing it on your hands is pretty ineffectual. Your hand will always have some bacteria in the crevices no matter how many times you try to clean it. In order to get rid of all of the bacteria on your hands you would have to immerse them in anti-bacteriological solution for at least an hour, and nobody’s going to do that for visiting hour.

In fact, the very act of touching the mechanism to activate the squirt of gel transfers bacteria from your hand to it and then from it to the hand of the next person who uses it.

The other point to bear in mind is that these things are tested in laboratory tests that don't represent the imperfections of real-world use. Human subjects, or countertops, in labs are cleaned first, then covered on the surface with a target bug. That is a far cry from a typical kitchen or a pair of grimy hands. Independent university studies which testing three hand-sanitizer products found that they killed between 46% and 60% of microbes on the students' hands, far short of 99.9%. The germs that weren't killed by the sanitizers aren't necessarily more dangerous than those that were. But the more that remain, the greater the chance of infection.

Legally To cite a 99.9% fatality rate, manufacturers don't have to kill 99.9% of all known bugs. Regulations don't require them to disclose which bugs they exterminate, just that the products are effective against a representative sample of microbes. For instance, many products can't kill clostridium difficile, a gastrointestinal scourge, or the hepatitis A virus, which inflames the liver. Yet by killing other, more common germs, they can claim 99.9% effectiveness. The standard test is run on 60 slides inoculated with a specific bug, and 59 of them treated with the product must exhibit the claimed rate of germ death.

If my mother heard about any other children with an infectious disease we were off round there like a shot and ordered to catch it. Presumably, she would be looking to save the 99.9%
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 24 Oct 2012, 07:44

It was a big truck and he was a big man. The only available space to park was between him and another truck. Psychologically the space between the two appeared smaller than it actually was and I felt a bit intimidated.

We got out of our vehicles together. He was at least six foot, muscular and swarthy. We were in the car park of an industrial estate on the edge of St. Albans. I assumed he was making a delivery. I was heading for a warehouse which acts as a ‘vintage emporium’. The younger Rathbonette’s wedding is ‘sixties’ themed and the intention was to find possible bits and pieces which could be used to reinforce the theme at the reception.

As we crossed the car park I noticed that he was carrying a plastic Morrisson’s bag with something in it. He got to the vintage emporium before me, so he obviously wasn’t making a delivery.

The emporium is quite big, subdivided into areas for clothes, furniture, knick-knacks, records, books and so on. I started making my way round the knick knacks. The trucker disappeared into the clothes section. We seemed to be the only too people in the play other than the woman at the counter by the entrance.

About ten minutes later I turned a corner and found that I had a clear view down this aisle into the ladies clothing. There was the trucker, stripped to his boxers, holding up various dresses in front of a mirror. If he saw me he didn’t acknowledge it. I carried on up and down the knick knack aisles. There wasn’t much sixties stuff other then a few tea-sets, which wasn’t what I was looking for.

I have to admit, my curiosity did get the better of me. I casually wandered down through the racks of clothes. He was now dressed in a black evening gown with jet and diamante decoration, a pair of court shoes, and was getting a blonde wig out of the Morrisson’s bag.

He was clearly aware that I was there. He finished adjusting the wig, then took a pair of long black gloves out of the bag and put them on. Once he had finished he swung round nifty on his heels and said :” How do you think I look” in a broad Geordie accent. “Um, fine”, I replied and moved off down the aisle.

And he did, apart from the swarthy complexion and the fringe of chest hair which filled his décolletage.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 25 Oct 2012, 08:00

I’m not a Rangers supporter but I am enjoying the Ticketus story. Perhaps more accurately I’m getting more and more amused by the accounts of Craig Whyte’s alleged shenanigans.

Whyte, you will remember, bought Rangers from Sir David Murray for £1 and paid an £18m debt to Lloyds Bank by selling three years of season tickets to finance firm Ticketus for £25m.

One month after Rangers entered administration in February, an SFA-commissioned independent inquiry, led by Lord Nimmo Smith, concluded that Whyte was "not a fit and proper person" to own a football club. He was subsequently fined a total of £200,000 for a range of breaches of the association's rules and banned for life from "any participation" in Scottish football. Referring to the fines totalling, £200,000, Whyte said: "There's no chance of paying.They haven't written to me officially, they haven't asked for any money - but I've made it very clear that I will never pay the SFA £200,000."

Craig Whyte has laid the blame for Rangers' financial meltdown at the door of former owner Sir David Murray and the old board of directors. Murray's decision to use Employee Benefit Trusts, which saw the club hit with a multi-million pound tax bill, was "ruinous" according to Whyte, who says that he was only "driving the train when it crashed" and did not set it on its path.

Rangers operated its EBT scheme during the period 2001-2010. This provided more than £47m in payments to players and staff in the form of tax-free loans. HMRC contends it has proof, in the form of documents and emails, that the payments were contractual in nature, which would make the scheme illegal. In that context, Craig Whyte is probably right in saying that he therefore wasn’t to blame for Ranger’s bankruptcy.

But he was responsible for the selling of the season tickets to Ticketus. The condition attached to his purchase of the club for a nominal £1 was that he pay off the outstanding £18m debt to Lloyds. It was assumed that payment would be his own money, as the new owner. In fact, by using the season tickets, the debt was paid off with the club’s own assets ( and, it can be argued, higher ticket charges which would be paid in future by the fans).

Whyte claims that the fact that he was not using his own money to fund his purchase of Rangers had been laid out in sale documents. "There was also mention of third party funds. So, it wasn't me somehow pretending that I used my own money when I wasn't. It was clearly documented. All the advisors on my side of the table knew about it, the takeover panel knew about it. It was not a secret. The only people who were misled were the media and the fans. I wouldn't say that I lied but I maybe wasn't as open as I could have been”

After HMRC rejected proposals for a creditors agreement that would have allowed the old club to continue, Duff and Phelps negotiated a sale of assets to a consortium led by Charles Green for £5.5m. Craig Whyte now claims he introduced Charles Green to Duff and Phelps as the administrators searched for a buyer for the club. Green says that Whyte “paints a misleading picture of what actually happened".He said his team contacted Mr Whyte as it thought his shares might be needed.

Whyte also claims that the Administrators, Duff and Phelps, who were appointed to wind up the club, knew all about the ticket deal. Duff and Phelps say Whyte's claim is "false, malicious and without foundation".

Whyte responds that “Duff and Phelps knew everything, they attended meetings, they were copied into all the emails, they were there on the day of completion. They knew from the start."

Duff and Phelps come back with "The allegations should not be given any credibility given the source. It should be remembered that Mr Whyte's takeover of Rangers is now the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and we have provided evidence to that inquiry.”

It’s all good punch and judy stuff.

Maybe Whyte is the man to negotiate a school on the park.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 26 Oct 2012, 07:50

Tales Of The Completely Expected #96

My enjoyment of dealing with utility companies continues to know no bounds.

On 27 September, completely out of the blue I received an e-mail from BT saying that they were changing my broadband package. It would all be to my benefit and there was nothing I needed to do because it would all be automatic. The problem was that there had been no consultation whatsoever, and there was no mention of what this new package would cost, so I ‘phoned them up.

Chris was a nice young man in a call centre somewhere. He explained that there were only two people still on my current package, me and the lighthouse keeper on Muckle Flugga. As one of the pioneers of broadband in my region I still had separate accounts for the landline and the broadband. It was now BT policy to merge these. In fact it should cost about £10 less a month for the combined package. It would all happen automatically and I would receive a confirmation within 24 hours. That all sounded straightforward.

No confirmation arrived. What did arrive a fortnight later, was a bill for £150:58.

I ‘phoned them again. This time I spoke to a nice young man called Ryan. He took the two account numbers and checked if they had now been merged. They hadn’t. That was because there was an outstanding amount on the landline account (which is interesting because I pay by direct debit). If that was cleared then the merger would go through. So I cleared it over the phone using my debit card. He gave me a tracking number and then said that I would then get a confirmation in about 24 hours.

No confirmation arrived. What did was my bank statement, which showed that my monthly direct debit had gone up by £28.

I ‘phoned them again. This time I spoke to a nice young man called Mark. He took the account numbers and checked if they had now been merged. They hadn’t. He also checked why my direct debit had been increased. That had been an error. He apologised and put me on hold while he discussed the situation with his supervisor. His supervisor then apologised to me then put me on hold again while he negotiated with the appropriate people in Billing. I was then transferred back to Mark who said that everything hd now been merged and my direct debit restored. If I went into my on-line BT account in 24 hrs everything should be on there.

That was last Monday. I decided to give it a day or two. I went into my BT on-line account yesterday. What I got was a red triangle with an exclamation mark in the middle and an alert message saying sorry but I was unable to access that account.

I ‘phoned them again and this time spoke to a nice young man called Anil. He took the account numbers and put me on hold. When he came back he said that because these accounts had now been merged the computer no longer recognised me as a customer. I would have to go in with a new user name and password. He would e-mail those to me. Given previous experience, I expected that those wouldn’t arrive, but to my surprise they did, within seconds. I re-registered as a BT customer and got into my account. All of the merged package details were on there, but nothing about the direct debit, just a notice saying they were unable to display billing details because of a fault which BT were currently trying to rectify. If it isn’t rectified by Monday I’ll be on the ‘phone again.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby Sceptic » 26 Oct 2012, 11:57

Rathbone, what were you expecting, something that actualy saves you money? All you get is that is broader, wider, faster and above all lets you download a DVD in seconds. Mind you to do thid will either cost you lots or you break copyright law. Oh, and to make the most of it, you will need the latest supersonic Windows 8 supercomputer again which will cost you dear. All so that you can send a post to Talk Porty. Oh well, c'est la guerre!
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 27 Oct 2012, 08:19

Absolutely Sceptic, which is why I headed that post Tales of the Completely Expected. Another ‘supplementary’ bill arrived this morning for £75.

Our garden backs on to the local playing fields which is surrounded by a tree belt. Every year we have to pick up about 8 - 12 garden bags full of leaves, so making an early start on the leaf clearance is usually a good idea.
Today was supposed to be dry but very cold. That’s not bad for leaf clearance. Just wrap up well and get out the rake and the plastic bags. The drive to the composting facility at the tip is also okay when it’s nice and sunny.

So I got up full of enthusiasm, raring to go and am now sitting here watching the rain lash the window. It’s coming down in torrents. So that’s leaf clearance out. Which is a problem because I’m otherwise engaged next weekend and the following one is the younger Rathbonette’s wedding, so that’s out as well. The clocks change tonight, so doing it in the late afternoon/early evening is out. It’s going to have to be first thing every morning, weather permitting, and soggy leaves are a delight.

The BBC on-line weather forecast for our area is still saying “Very cold in strong blustery northerly winds. For many, generally dry and sunny.” The hourly graph shows little sun symbols all the way up to 1700 hrs, when they turn into a cloud symbol for an hour and then clear again.

If you go looking for an explanation, they tell you that:
“the data observations from weather measuring instruments are collected and processed into a model that covers all areas and the change in weather over several days. Quite often not all data is available, but the models fill in the gaps. Complex mathematical equations are used to predict the physics and movement of the atmosphere and to determine the rates of change in the atmosphere over time. The rates of change predict the state of the atmosphere a short time in the future. The equations are then applied to this next atmospheric state to find new rates of change, and these new rates of change predict the atmosphere at a yet further time into the future. This is called time stepping. This time stepping is continually repeated until the desired forecast time in the future is reached. Computation time for a regional weather model is from a few seconds to a few minutes. Tiny errors in the initial data input, such as for temperature and wind, double for every prediction within numerical models. This means that a forecast for the next few hours is more accurate than a forecast for next week.”

Which presumably explains why the chart is showing sun symbol when it’s peeing down outside.

Mrs. R. has just come in and said : “I thought it was meant to be sunny today” and I’ve been able to reassure her that’s what the BBC thought as well.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 28 Oct 2012, 08:53

Time to get rummaging in the attic I think. Maybe you will too after the sale of the Peploe roses.

Peploe, like the rest of the Scottish Colourists went out of favour after the Second World War and you could pick up their paintings for a song. Most of their stuff was relegated to the attic, or, if it was really lucky, the back bedroom.

Which is precisely what happened to the pink roses that Sam Peploe painted. Back in the early1960s the woman of the house wanted a painting of roses to go with her new decor and sent her husband out to find one. He went round various shops and came back with this painting of pink roses in a vase. The family can’t recall how much was paid for the painting 50 years ago - but said it was "not significant enough to remember". Unfortunately his wife didn’t like the painting and it was relegated to the spare room.

Now, in recent years the Scottish Colourists have been going through something of a revival and are back in fashion. Last year there was a sale of their work which made a total of £3m, which Bonhams' managing director in Scotland Miranda Grant described as "an amazing result".

Sam Peploe’s piece The Coffee Pot took the record for the most expensive Scottish painting ever, selling for £937,25. His Flowers and Fruit sold for £512,800.

Which presumably is what prompted the family with the roses to go into the spare room and take another look at it. It sold last week for £225,000.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 29 Oct 2012, 09:09

I was watching a documentary on Ken Loach last night when one of the people being interviewed came out with the phrase ‘the remembrance of commitment’. The context was looking back to a golden age of trade union involvement. Now I’ve been actively involved in trade unionism since I first joined a union at the age of eighteen and there was always a golden age somewhere in the past. During the 1980s I was secretary of the local Trades Council and, as such a member of the TUC. This was during the Thatcher era. I read something a few months ago which was referring to trade unions and their fight against Thatcher in glowing, nostalgic terms. It wasn’t like that. It was dpressing, debilitating hard work.

In England there is still a certain nostalgic ‘remembrance of commitment’ within the Labour party. (In Scotland it’s a little different because things are distorted by the independence issues) Attitudes to the unions within Labour fall into four broad categories. Sentimentalists are nostalgic about the party’s roots in the labour movement. Critics want to cut the union link. Ignorers accept it but see the unions as an interest group to be managed. Corporatists want the unions to play a more mature, constructive role in the economy.

My own position is that crucial elements of the party’s economic agenda—workplace democracy, vocational training and state-backed lending to businesses—make a good relationship with organised labour essential.

However, the Labour party’s current policy seems to be to distance itself from the more belligerent union leaders, and hope that the awkward squad pipes down. It might work. Over the past four years union membership has fallen by 400,000, to its lowest level since the 1940s. Union bosses are competing for a shrinking pool of workers willing to pay subscription fees. In these conditions, protest and bluster function as marketing tools. Assuming that the party holds its poll lead, the prospect of invitations to 10 Downing Street for beer and sandwiches could have a calming effect.

Part of my difficulty with looking back is that what I see is that the link between Trade Unionism and Socialism (which is what I believe in) is actually pretty tenuous. The key flaw of trade unionism is the flaw of all representative politics. A top-down structure develops almost of necessity, and the leaders learn to understand the capitalist’s position just as well as the worker’s position. Consequently they try to mediate. That mediation means that they are not the voice of organised labour, but have the duty to regulate class conflicts and to secure industrial peace. In effect they are trying to moderate capitalism into something ‘nicer’. Thus, turning a trade union into a revolutionary union is a near-impossibility, given the interests it develops as an entity.

It is those single workers who are important. They are part of the wider working class, whose interests lie not in a better managed, ‘nicer’ capitalism, but beyond it – in a free, classless society. I realise that by saying that I can be accused of being an anarcho-syndicalist seeking to promote mass participation and collective decision-making. The limits of such activity are, ultimately, up to individual discretion. As an arbitrary measure, I would say that they correspond to the limits of rank-and-file influence within the unions. So, quite obviously, a full-time official who is answerable to the bureaucracy and who makes decisions with no democratic mandate is beyond these limits.

Which take me perilously close to to the moral of Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom, in which the Spanish Civil War is lost by the socialists because they start fighting among themselves about who has the correct ideology instead of fighting their common enemy. It’s a scenario which has been played out over and over again since Pierre Leroux first coined the term socialism back in 1827. Nothing golden age about that.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 30 Oct 2012, 08:42

It’s almost Halloween so I’d better go looking for the spare shoe under the bed. There’s a paragraph in Frazer’s The Golden Bough about Scottish superstitions, one of which is if you take a shoe by the toe and throw it over your house on Halloween, the direction it points when it lands is the direction you are destined to travel in the coming year.

I like shoe superstitions. In the main shoes are thought to bring good luck. This probably goes back to the Middle Ages when footwear was expensive and the common practice was to bequeath your footwear to members of the family. The saying “Following in your father’s footsteps” is thought to have arisen from this custom and implied the good fortune.

Bare in mind too that in the Dark Ages, the strong smell of human odor was considered to deter the workings of the devil, and the smell of feet was particularly potent in warding off evil.

Throwing shoes after someone going on a journey was also thought to bring good luck. Tying old shoes to the wedding car follows from this, as it brings good luck to the couple as well as chasing off evil spirits.

Squeaking shoes are supposed to be particularly lucky. Good luck is also guaranteed if discarded shoes fall flat on their soles.

You’ve got to be careful when putting them on, though. Custom dictates the right shoe should be put on first and removed before the left shoe otherwise bad luck. Dressing the left foot first is bad luck with one exception and that is dressing the left foot unintentionally on a Friday morning, otherwise you are sure to have a quarrel. Putting shoes on the wrong feet will foretell an accident. Walking around with one shoe on and the other off will bring bad luck for a year.

Never place shoes higher than your head or keep shoes under the bed for both are bad luck. Slippers and shoes should never be put on the bed for the same reason. Shoes placed on a table are thought to be a bad omen and either a quarrel in the house, or a storm of thunder and lightening will come. Leaving shoes in the shape of the cross is also considered bad luck. To counter the bad luck another person must pick the shoes up. Tying shoes together and hanging them on a nail is also courting bad luck.
 
Which begs the question of how you do store them. In my case under the bed. (I’m not superstitious). It’s just my luck if I can find two that match.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 31 Oct 2012, 09:07

Who’d be a curator? Mrs. R. and I went to the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate yesterday. In some respects it is a very good exhibition. For a start it is difficult to think of any of the major works that are missing. It also includes pieces by the less well known artists of that movement, like Simeon Solomon, which made the visit worthwhile. But there was something unsatisfying about it. We both felt that and ended up discussing it while munching our sandwiches in the cafe.

Our conclusion is the way in which it was curated. Instead of presenting the work in chronological order, which admittedly is the conventional approach, the exhibition had been split into themes. History paintings in one room, religious paintings in another, Mythology in one, paintings of Paradise in the next. Instead of making you focus on the interrelated nature of the paintings in each section, it became impossible to work out when things were happening, who was influencing who and why that particular work was painted at that particular time.

That might not seem important, but with the Pre-Rafaelites it is. They were rebelling against the mores of their time. Paintings like For Madox Brown’s ‘Work’ and Henry Wallis’ ‘The Stone Breaker’ are making real social comment. Hunt’s ‘The Awakening Conscience’ is doing the same for Victorian morality. All of that context was missing.

Unfortunately, tucked away in the middle of the exhibition was an aberration from the rest of the hanging. There was a whole room devoted to a single artist, William Morris. Here was the whole range of his work, from easel painting to wallpapers, painted furniture to embroidered bedcovers, tapestry and stained glass, book design and sketches. Suddenly it all made sense, and you gained a real insight into Morris. Then in the next room you were back into a hotch-potch. Given the wealth of material by each artist, a room devoted to each might have resulted in something truly stimulating rather than the unsatisfactory muddle in which they had been shoe-horned into the arbitrary ‘themes’.

I started by saying that this is a very good exhibition, and it is, but mainly because of the strength of the work and the chance to see them all in the one place. Some of the paintings have been brought over from american collections and it is the first time I’ve seen them ‘in the flesh’ rather than reproduction. Others are so familiar that it is like that phenomenon that you get with records you listen to over and over: you stop really noticing the detail. This was an opportunity to have another look. The Stonebreaker, for one was worth a second glance. This man is dead to the world, in a sleep so absolute he does not even notice a stoat crawling on his foot. The beauty of the twilit landscape almost mocking him is cruel. That baby’s hand poking out the woman’s shawl in Ford Madox Brown’s The Last of England is still genuinely touching.

So, a morning well spent, but one which could have been so much better if the art curators hadn’t been so artsy fartsy.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 01 Nov 2012, 14:31

This has been a day of distractions. I started off first thing writing about fish and chips. Not just any old fish and chips and not really chips at that.

As you come off the ferry from Likoni to Mombassa, if you turn sharp right, about 100 metres along Mama Nginga Drive there is a shack which does really great fried fish and freshly made potato crisps. I don’t know what the fish is but it comes fresh from the Indian Ocean. It’s lightly battered and tastes delicious. The best I’ve ever had (and that includes the chip van which used to park next to the tunnel between Niddrie Mains and Bingham.

I was reminded of it yesterday while rummaging through the underwear drawer looking for a fresh pair of pants. There it was tucked away at the back - a hat that I had bought at the stall next to the shack back in 2005. It’s a small skull cap thing in a dirty white material with black embroidery. It didn’t really fit me then and it doesn’t now.

I’m not a hat person and I only own two. This one and a tibetan fur one that I bought in a street market in Nepal. I’m not sure where this aversion to hats came from. It’s not that I mind my head being covered. I have a number of garments with hoods and actually quite enjoy the feeling of walking around enclosed in a little micro-room, especially if I’m listening to the i-pod at the same time.

That was the first distraction.

The next was a squirrel which was trying to poke the birds’ fat balls out of their holder and getting quite frustrated in the process.

Then there was the e-mail from Amazon which came in asking me to rate an item which still hasn’t been delivered. I took time out to go into my account. It should have been here over a week ago, so I dashed off an e-mail to the supplier.

Then the postman arrived with a load of letters for the two Rathbonettes, neither of whom live here but still use us as a postal address. Another couple of e-mails dispatched reminding them to let people know their change of address.

By this time Mrs. R. said that if I wanted to gather up the leaves befor the rain started again I’d better get out now.

After that I went down to the town centre. At the roundabout a police car drew up along side me. When a silver BMV came round the roundabout the police car immediately put on the blues and twos and set off in pursuit. By the time I got further down the road the BMV was on the verge sandwiched between two police cars and two guys were being interrogated. I spent the next half hour working out a fantasy scenario whie touring the shops.

So I got back here thoroughly distracted and not really interested in writing about fish and crisps any more. Maybe another time.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 02 Nov 2012, 09:06

Who’d be a migrating bird in these changing times? At the moment we’ve got the flocks going over. I hope they reach their destinations. (I’m assuming that they didn’t watch the BBC4 documentary on the South Atlantic Anomaly last night and so don’t know what’s happening.)

The anomaly is apparently the precursor of the expected reversal of the earth’s magnetic poles. This happens every million years or so. The last time was 724,000 years ago.

Now our planet's magnetic field is vital to lots of wild life. As a tool for navigation, it helps bees find their hive, while eels, turtles, birds and butterflies use it to migrate over long distances.
The magnetic field also acts as a protective barrier between us and some of the dangers of space, shielding us from radiation in the solar wind.

The Earth's magnetic field has been steadily weakening over the past 180 years. And in some places it is weakening faster than others. One of these is the South Atlantic Anomaly (an area about the size of Europe which straddles Brazil, Argentina and a chunk of the South Atlantic) it has already happened. When scientists mapped the Earth's magnetic field down to the level of the outer-core, they discovered that under the South Atlantic Anomaly the simple north-south divide we know at the surface has broken down. There are patches where the field has actually flipped and points north instead of south.

If these patches continue to deepen and spread, the entire Earth's magnetic field could reach a tipping point and flip. It is not something that would happen overnight - it could take thousands of years, during which period the magnetic field would be pretty confused. For us that could brings all sorts of problems, not least with the satellites on which our communiucations systems now depend.

The Earth is surrounded by a pair of concentric donut-shaped clouds called the Van Allen radiation belts which store and trap charged particles from the solar wind. They are aligned with the magnetic axis of the Earth. Above the South Atlantic Anomaly, because of the changed polarity, they don’t work in the same way. Satellites and other spacecraft passing through this region of space actually enter the radiation belt and are bombarded by protons exceeding energies of 10 million electron volts at a rate of 3000 'hits' per square centimeter per second. This produces glitches in astronomical data, problems with the operation of on-board electronic systems, and premature aging of computer, detector and other spacecraft components. Astronauts are also affected by this region which is said to be the cause of peculiar 'shooting stars' seen when they close their eyes. (radiation hitting the back of their retinas) During a prolonged shift in the magnetic axis all satellites could become affected.

Back to the migrating birds. They use the Earth’s magnetic field to help navigate their way on long journeys. It is already becoming apparent that some of them are taking extended migratory flights which may be due, in part, to the South Atlantic Anomaly. If their nesting islands are off southern Africa they would need to traverse the magnetic aberration. Too many left turns in that magnetic field along with altered winds for their flight feathers will make them consume a greater amount of energy for what was once a traditional flight path for these birds.

So I wish them well ( and I promise I won’t start on the number of human airplane flights which have come to grief in the anomaly in recent years.......... but there are a few!)
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 03 Nov 2012, 09:13

Anyway, as I was saying before I was distracted, just off the Likoni ferry turn sharp right and about 100 metres along the road there is a shack which backs on to the sea and sells truly great fish and chips.

Most of the really good food I’ve had in Kenya has been in roadside shacks. These are where ordinary people eat. The restaurants in the centre of Nairobi or Mombasa are geared to tourists (i.e. watered down native fare and overpriced) and those in hotels are just tarted up western food.

The kitchen part of the shack is open and your meal is cooked while you watch. To an extent you take your chances with whatever fish you are served. That’s because it’s fresh off the boats and changes from catch to catch. My favourite is Tilapia which looks a bit like a herring. After being gutted there are slices cut into the flesh and stuffed with a mixture of garlic, black pepper and salt. Then a batter is whipped up with lemon juice into a thick dough which is smeared across the fish. It is then fried in a frying pan until it is brown on both sides, flipped out onto a plate and plonked down in front of you. You can’t get much fresher than that and the taste is wonderful.

You can have it with Ugali or Bajias. Ugali is the Kenyan staple food ( a bit like tatties for us.) It is made by boiling up corn meal until it turns into the consistency of wallpaper paste then allowing it to solidify and cutting it up into chunks. Over the years I have offended many of my Kenyan hosts by declining the Ugali. That is because not only does it look like wallpaper paste, it tastes like it as well. Bajias are different. These are very thinly sliced potatoes, seasoned, battered and deep fried then covered in tomato salsa.

For a couple of shillings more you can add sukuma wiki, which is a sort of boiled kale and onions or Waliwanazi, which is white rice and grated coconut.

Unfortunately the shack on Mama Nginga Drive doesn’t sell Mtuzi Wa Samaki, and of all the stuff I’ve eaten in Kenya Mtuzi Wa Samaki is the best.

Maybe I’ve just been spoiled. Whenever I go to Mombasa I stay at the YMCA in Nyali. The cook there is a lovely lady called Evelyn and it is Evelyn who cooks me Mtuzi Wa Samaki. This is her recipe:


Ingredients:
Oil -- 3 tablespoons
Fish fillets, cut into serving portions
Onion, chopped or sliced
Red or green bell peppers, chopped or sliced
Garlic, minced -- 6-8 cloves
Tomatoes, seeded and chopped -- 1 cup
Coconut milk -- 1 cup
Garam masala or curry powder -- 2-3 teaspoons
Tamarind paste or lemon juice -- 1-2 tablespoons
Salt and pepper -- to taste

Method:
Heat the oil over medium-high flame in a large skillet or pot. Season the fish
with salt and pepper. Sear the fish fillets on both sides and remove to a plate.
Do not cook through.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and peppers. Sauté until the
onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.
Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, garam masala or curry powder, tamarind
paste or lemon juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low
and simmer for 6-8 minutes.
Add the fish fillets, cover and continue to simmer until the fish is cooked
through, 5-10 minutes. Serve with rice
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 04 Nov 2012, 10:43

As someone who has considerable experience of changing flat tyres due to the overzealous DIY activities of a neighbour who likes to make things on his drive and scatter stray nails and screws over the road, I view with considerable concern the current trend for car manufacturers not to provide a spare tyre.

My current car is coming up for replacement and I have been flicking through the on-line brochures looking for a replacement. Of the mainstream car brands available in the UK, just Hyundai, Mercedes, Toyota and VW offer spare wheels in their current model range. At the opposite end of the spectrum, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Mini, Skoda and Subaru all don’t offer a spare at all, instead opting for a puncture repair kit. The others offer a spare tyre as an optional extra for varying amounts of dosh.

I presume that there's now a lot of cars out there without a spare wheel, just an ‘inflation kit’. Almost 23,500 of AA’s callouts last year related to its members using tyre repair kits, with most phoning because they’re not confident using them.


Like the in-car cassette player, winding windows and car alarms that squawked when you pressed the key fob, the spare tyre is vanishing. It seems that for the car makers, the necessity to offer anything that will get us home after a puncture is an evil one. After all, a spare wheel is heavy, rarely used, and takes up luggage space. The weight means more petrol use, which, as we all know, is bad for the environment. Our quality of life would undoubtedly be better without them. There could be a safety issue, too, as anyone who has changed a wheel on the hard shoulder will testify. The alternative, as you will know if you’ve delved beneath the boot floor of many new cars, is the diverse world of (in tyre industry talk) Extended Mobility Solutions.

This can work in two ways. Either you get a space-saver deflated tyre that takes up less room by needing an air compressor to inflate it. Or you get no tyre at all, only a kit that will inject foam to seal the puncture and use the compressor to reinflate.

Of the spare tyres which are still fitted there are ‘Run Flats’ which have a rigid sidewall which enables the driver to continue after a puncture. According to tyre industry research, they’re 100 per cent reliable. Then there is ‘the space-saver’, a narrow temporary wheel that takes up about half the room of the traditional full-sized spare and is about 7kg lighter. They might look spindly and faintly ridiculous but they have become common. Only slightly less successful is the new kid on the block, ‘the self-sealing tyre’. This invention employs an airproof layer inside the tyre. The material inside the self-sealing tyre stops air escaping through the tread area. (Not much good, though, if you have a puncture in the side wall).

An Industry Spokesman has said: “we see the improvement in tyre repair systems as beneficial as they liberate even more luggage space and save even more weight.”

Personally, I just want a good old fashioned spare tyre. With Renault I can have one ...... if I pay an extra £50.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 05 Nov 2012, 08:52

Isn’t it interesting how corruption becomes pervasive and we have to keep using the word allegedly in order not to be caught up in it?

Allegedly Denis MacShane broke the law in his abuse of parliamentary expenses. The investigating committee found Mr MacShane had submitted 19 false invoices "intended to deceive". He has repaid the money, all £7,500, and was keen to stress that he had not gained personally, but wanted to take "responsibility for my mistakes". However Commons authorities insisted that damning letters from Mr MacShane to the standards commissioner could not be used against him in court, as they were protected by parliamentary privilege. In other words, because he is an M.P. he can get away with things the rest of us would be locked up for.

You wouldn’t get that in other countries. Allegedly you would get it on a much bigger scale. Take China for example. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao takes great pride in having come from a very humble background. His father tended pigs. Now his widowed mother is reported to have a personal fortune of $120,000,000.

The details of how she accumulated this wealth have not been disclosed, but it appears to have happened over the ten years that her son has been in power. Allegedly she is not alone. In fact most of the Prime Ministers relatives have become extremely wealthy. It is thought that between them they now have some $2.7 billion.

They have controlling shares in most of China’s banks, telecommunications companies, infrastructure projects, and manufacturing. Official statements from the Government insist that all of these businesses (including those by his 90 year old mother) have been personally built up through the personal efforts of the individuals concerned and that the Prime Minister has played no role whatsoever.

There is a certain irony in the fact that the son of the leader of the world’s leading communist nation is the head of one of the world’s leading private equity companies, New Horizon Capital, which in itself is worth $2.5 billion.
With all of the election action focussed on Obama and Romney it’s easy to overlook the fact that it is also election time in Beijing (not quite so open a process). Wen Jiaboa’s second term is coming to an end. As part of his campaigning for re-election he has called for new measures to fight corruption, particularly among high-ranking officials. I suppose that will depend on the definition of how high is high.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 06 Nov 2012, 09:06

I had a cold last week which has left me with a tickly cough that comes and goes, but never quite disappears, so I go into the chemist for cough lozenges and ended up with Covonia double impact berry blast. They taste quite nice but don’t appear to be doing much for the cough.

So I thought I’d see what the various on-line sources had to recommend.

The first site I went to said that tickly coughs used to be ­simply written off as ‘unexplained’. But doctors have recently ­discovered that in some cases the problem is hypersensitivity in the upper ­airways, triggered by a reflux of gas from the stomach. This gas is like a mist containing air, bits of food and stomach enzymes, which irritate the upper area of the throat. Once this hypersensitivity has set in, sufferers will have a coughing fit if anything such as dust or cold air touches their throat. Some antihistamines and might help. For immediate relief, suck a strong menthol ­lozenge, such as Fisherman’s Friend.

Another said the most likely cause is stomach acid splashing up the ­gullet. This affects about 25 per cent of the adult population. As the lining of the gullet is extremely soft and sensitive, this leads to inflammation, which triggers a coughing fit. Over-the-counter antacids can neutralise acid in the stomach.

Then there was the one which said the likely culprit is asthma. When someone with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways, the muscles around the airways tighten. An asthma cough can be triggered by a cold, exposure to certain foods or irritants, such as pollen. The first line of treatment involves inhalers to open up the airways and make it easier to breathe. If inhalers are ineffective, inhaled steroids reduce the inflammation in the airways.

The next blamed post-nasal drip. Normally, we produce up to four pints of clear thin mucus every day from the glands which line the nose and sinuses. This usually drips unnoticed down your throat. However, when mucus becomes thick or if there is a lot of it usually due to an allergy or infection, such as a cold, it triggers a coughing reflex as it drips down the throat. A non-steroid, can give immediate relief by reducing ­swelling in the nose and the post-nasal drip. However, it advises only using these for a few days because if used for longer, once you stop you get a rebound effect and the condition gets worse.

On the other hand the cough may just be the aftermath of the cold and caused by increased inflammation in the airways. In most cases, it should go away by itself after a few weeks. Lozenges can help as they will promote salivation to help coat and soothe a sore throat. Symptoms might also be eased by leaning over a bowl of boiling water with a towel over your head, as moisture from the steam will soothe and lubricate the airways.

I’m taking no chances. I'm sitting in the bath with a towel over my head. I’ve got my inhaler, my steroids, my anti-steroids, my antihistimine and a packet of fisherman’s friends. With a bit of luck I should be clear in a few weeks.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 07 Nov 2012, 08:49

As Margo Channing said in All About Eve: Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

I’m writing this while watching the television news about Obama’s victory in the American elections. While the focus seems to be on the fact the he is the first president re-elected with fewer electoral votes than he won the first time, I think it’s an achievement that he won at all.

Conventional wisdom says that you shouldn’t win an election when your country is going through stubbornly high unemployment, painfully slow economic growth and widespread unease about the country's future. Currently Obama has 303 to Romney’s 206. In any other election that would be described as a landslide. The fact that it isn’t says more about the size of Obama’s majority last time.

Obama was more than just the better campaigner, he actually had a good record. He earned re-election by keeping the country from falling into a depression and persuading Congress to enact vital reforms to healthcare and the financial industry. The path forward he laid out was far more reasonable than Romney's too-good-to-be-true promise to shrink the deficit while cutting tax rates and pumping more dollars into the Pentagon. What caused him problems and clouded the issue was the persistent actions of a Republican House in blocking what he was trying to do.

Unfortunately he still has a Republican Congress. The immediate challenge facing Obama is to defuse the time bomb that's set to go off at the end of the year, before the next presidential term begins. That's when more than $570 billion worth of tax increases and spending cuts are scheduled to kick in automatically, potentially sending the economy back into recession. This "fiscal cliff" is the product of that Congress’ repeated failure to come up with a credible long-term plan for closing the enormous federal budget gap caused by the recession, two wars and the Bush tax cuts.

It’s not going to be easy. In fact it’s probably going to be well nigh impossible. The Congress is heavy at the extremes and light in the middle. The result over the last four years has been a breathtakingly inept Congress, one that flirted repeatedly with shutting down the government. It’s likely to be even more extreme in the coming four.

As Margot said, a bumpy night.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 08 Nov 2012, 08:51

I really enjoyed the wonderfully named Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson-Wright talking about Breakfasts through the ages on BBC4 last night.

You might remember her when she ran The Cooks Bookshop in the West Bow. It was a tiny place which was a joy to visit and she was great to talk to. Unfortunately it never made money and she had to close it in 2004. This followed a disastrous spell at Lennoxlove House, the family seat of the Duke of Hamilton in East Lothian, where her catering business, Clarissa’s Company, ran a cafe. She fell out with the Duke, lost the Lennoxlove contract, was forced to fold the business and left with debts of £25,538 connected to the venture. She had reportedly turned down £1 million for a promotional deal with a major supermarket chain because of an issue of principle.

Those sorts of problems seem to be a pattern in her life.

She qualified in 1968 as the country’s youngest ever barrister. She took up drinking after both of her parents died in the 1970s and she drank heavily for the following twelve years. Then her partner Clive, also an alcoholic, died of kidney failure. She lost her job as a barrister and by 1983 she was homeless. She took a job as a housekeeper, but was fired from that because of her frequent drunkenness. That led her to join Alcoholics Anonymous and then to go into a detox centre. After leaving the detox centre she got a job in a shop which sold cookery books and was there for seven years until it folded. Then she moved to Edinburgh and The Cooks Bookshop. It was there that she met Jennifer Patterson and the pair of them teamed up. In 1994 they were spotted by a TV producer, who offered them a series talking about cooking and Two Fat Ladies was born and became an immediate success. After Jennifer Patterson died suddenly in 1999 Clarissa went on to become a tv star in her own right.

As recently as last month she appeared on television discussing the nutritional value of badgers and how to cook them after the cull.

Anyway, apart from the really greasy all day fry ups at the Ace Cafe in Neasden, the breakfast that really appealed to me was the following:

Take the flesh of a hinder part of a hare, or any other venison and mince it small with a little fat bacon, some pistaches or pine-apple kernels, almonds, Spanish or hazle nuts peeled, Spanish chestnuts or French chestnuts roasted and peeled, or some crusts of bread cut in slices and toasted like unto chestnuts; season this minced stuff with salt, spices and some sweet herbs; if the flesh be raw add thereunto butter and marrow or good sweet suet minced small and melted in a skillet, pour it into the seasoned meat that is minced and fry it, then melt some butter in a skillet or pan and make an omlet thereof; when it is half fried, put to the minced meat, and take the omlet out of the frying pan with a skimmer, break it not and put it in a dish that the minced meat may appear uppermost, put some gravy on the minced meat, and some grated nutmeg, stick some sippets of fryed manchet on it and slices of lemon. Roast meat is the best for this purpose.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 09 Nov 2012, 08:54

The youngest Rathbonette has chosen to have tomorrow’s wedding in a country retreat miles from anywhere. Which is fine, it’s a nice venue and I’m sure everything will go off well. But because it is in the countryside, up miles of winding country lanes, I thought I’d better let the guests have detailed instructions on how to get there.

Almost all the responses I got were “thanks, but no thanks. I’ve got a satnav.”

I admire their confidence. According to an AA survey sat navs have misled over 80% of UK drivers, as a result of which over half of British drivers admit to either ignoring their sat navs altogether or have ended up shouting at them. Over 2/3rds of drivers end up clocking up more mileage than necessary due to longer journeys and 45% of British drivers confess to feeling angry and frustrated when behind the wheel and using their sat nav systems to find a new destination, a result of which is 31% end up having accidents. Due to misleading directions from sat navs, it is claimed that over £203m worth of damage has been done to drivers vehicles on UK roads.

Now I have heard the argument that a wonderful side-effect of satellite navigation in cars is that it provides living proof of one of the most remarkable characteristics of the human male – whilst they will not do anything they are told to by a woman, if a machine tells them to do something they will obey it without question. I imagine we have all heard those horror stories about satnav systems sending male drivers through a five-bar gate on to a narrow track running across the side of a mountain, with a 300 foot drop on one side. Can you imagine the man’s reaction if a female passenger, holding a map, had suggested this route? But because they are told by a machine to use it, they hop out of the car like little lambs and open the gate.

But, of course, that isn’t true. Paula Ceely, of Redditch, Worcester, tapped in the postcode of the address of her boyfriend, Tom Finucane , in Hebron, Carmarthenshire, before setting off on a 150-mile trip. As night fell, the machine's voice directed Miss Ceely into a country lane in West Wales. "I drove up to a large metal gate but the sat nav insisted it was the correct way so I opened it and drove through." When she got out to close the gate she heard the sound of a train's horn and noticed she was standing on tracks. She said: "I just had time to get out of the way as the train slammed into my car and carried on down the tracks. I'll never use a sat nav again."

Then there was the woman who thought she was being taken to a Chelsea game  at Stamford Bridge but ended up 230 miles away in rural village of Stamford Bridge near York. Not the record for a satnav diversion though. That belongs to a truck driver. Bird watchers at Gibraltar Point in Norfolk looked on in astonishment as the truck driver drove a 32 ton vehicle down a small road towards the North Sea.  When stopped he said he was trying to get to Gibraltar – which just happens to be a small island around 1,600 miles away off the coast of Spain. When questioned he said he had typed in the directions for Gibraltar into his GPS device and went off on his merry way.  It is not known whether he still works in the haulage industry.

One of my favourite satnav stories is the one about the workers from the Cheltenham and Gloucester building society who decided to celebrate Christmas with a day out to France – but ended up in Belgium after driving to the wrong place.  Unfortunately the village of Lille in Belgium is quite different to the city of Lille in France, but these daft workers ended up driving 98 miles off course in their fun bus. Eventually the intrepid explorers managed to get to the right destination where they only had two hours left to do their Christmas shopping. 

And the one in Salzburg when the chauffeur decided he would completely trust the satnav. According to the driver, he believed that he could drive straight to the entrance of a busy shopping centre but ended up taking himself, the limo, and his boss down a steep flight of steps instead.  Nobody was injured, but apparently the chauffeur now has a new career in air traffic control. 

And finally the van driver who was taking his van’s satnav directions as gospel whilst driving in Switzerland and ended up getting stuck up a mountain path. He was quoted as saying that “I kept hoping each little turn would get me back to the main road.  In the end, it told me to turn around, but, of course, I couldn’t by then”. The hapless van driver had to call upon the Swiss mountain rescue team to get him out of this one, with the rescue attempt involving a whole team of mountaineers and a helicopter.

So those guests who read this blog (and there are some), you have been warned. I will not accept the fact that you ended up in San Marino as a result of your satnav as a valid excuse for turning up late.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 12 Nov 2012, 08:56

The youngest Rathbonette’s wedding went well. There were no glitches ( well, only a little one when Heston dropped the rings). No-one was naughty (not even the kids who disappeared under the top table with a big plate of sausage rolls from the buffet). No-one got embarrassingly drunk. And she wasn’t even upset when she threw her bouquet and it went right over the heads of the bridesmaids and landed on the roof.

As father of the bride I inevitably had to circulate, which meant that I was weaving in and out of conversations. The Linlithgow crowd seemed to be focussing on fitness training for the over 60s. The Sheffield table were on what was happening with Uncle Herbert and why he didn’t come to the wedding. The Abingdon table was talking about Mr. Blobby. I didn’t join in that one. The Cornwall lot were discussing out of town supermarkets and the Hatfield one on why Ben Ten got his nick-name. The Grooms mates were having a laugh about those two middle names they never knew he had, but they soon grew tired of that and started a discussion on whether The Exploited were punk, thrash or metal.

It was all going well until the Portobello table, where the topic was Build It On Baileyfield. Is there no where I can go to escape that bloody school for just one day? Really the problem was the difficulty that the minority who follow the various school threads here and on Facebook were having in getting the significant majority who don’t to take it seriously. The more they tried to explain the sillier the whole thing sounded. First there was the problem of trying to keep the discussion suitably serious when you are constantly referring to Little Miss Moffat, Seashell and Jefferson Zwanka. Gravitas goes out the window. Then there is the proliferation of acronyms. If you haven’t been involved then you have to keep asking to be reminded what PFANS and PPAG stand for. There is the difficulty of trying to objectively summarise the arguments on both side without either making them sound trivial or being rude. The hardest part is stopping the whole thing from sounding childish, or raising too many difficult questions about why supposedly intelligent grown up people allow themselves to take seriously what is obviously a piss-take, and to let it wind them up so much.

On the other hand, the people round the table who are not involved in this farce found the whole thing a hoot. Especially the suggestion that the next meeting of the BIOB executive is being held in a bus shelter on Baileyfield Road. And for the record, I just love the crest in pink.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 13 Nov 2012, 08:45

Become a gardener and if you manage to get your dahlias to bloom in the kind of weather we've been having this year, then have a stab at selling them.

You might remember that David Cameron asked the office of national statistics to carry out a ‘happiness’ survey last year to determine the quality of life in Britain, and the interim findings are now out.

The questions they were asking were things like: Are you satisfied with life?, Are you satisfied with your husband, wife or partner?, How satisfied are you with your mental and physical health?, Are you happy in your job?, Do you feel involved in your neighbourhood?, Are you happy with your personal income? Are you satisfied with your education?

Like most of these surveys, for some unfathomable reason they didn’t ask me, but presumably the interim results are based on statistically accurate data from the people they did ask.

It seems that gardeners and florists are the happiest workers in the UK. Those in banking and finance said they were the least happy.

Almost nine in 10 florists and gardeners said they were happy in their job. Most said it was because they were able to manage their own workload and daily tasks. 82% felt that being able to use and hone their skills every day helped to boost their job satisfaction.

With the bankers, just 44% reported they were happy. IT and data processors came in second from bottom, with 48% saying they were happy. Despite the presumption that these professions are often well-paid, largely desk-based, high-pressure jobs do not appear to provide workers with job fulfillment.

Nor does earning loads of dosh. Only half of people earning over £60,000 a year said they had a good work life balance. This compared to 65% of those earning £20,000 to £25,000 a year. And three-quarters of those earning less than £15,000 a year said they thought they did.

The comments from the guy who supervised the survey are interesting: "At a time when both happiness and employment are high on the government agenda, we wanted to link the two areas and look into what affects levels of happiness at work and in life. Most people spend half of their time working, so we wanted to find out what makes people happy at work and how that differs by job role. It's particularly interesting to see that those who have taken the vocational route are happiest and feel the most pride in their work”

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 14 Nov 2012, 09:07

My mate Roger wants a James Bond Union Jack Bulldog for Christmas. If you haven’t seen Skyfall yet, it’s the one that M has on her desk and which survives the explosion which destroys her office. Perhaps to Roger (and certainly the film’s producers) is symbolises the resilience of the British nation. To me it just symbolises everything that I don’t like about the Bond films.

Don’t get me wrong, I go along and watch them, and enjoy the experience at the time, but it’s a bit like acid reflux, the bad bits keep coming back to irritate me.

Just think of Roger Moore snowboarding to the sounds of the Beach Boys, Roger Moore climbing into a submarine that’s disguised as an iceberg, Roger Moore climbing into a submarine that’s disguised as a crocodile, Roger Moore in space. Roger Moore (do you sense a theme here?) driving a motorised gondola.

In fact that gondola scene sums up all the things I don’t like about the ‘jokey’ bits in Bond films. It occurs in Moonraker. During a bit of the action in Venice Roger Moore’s gondola turns into a speedboat. Did we really think it wouldn’t? If that wasn’t bad enough, it also morphs into a hovercraft and rises out of the canal, thus allowing Bond to whisk around St Mark’s Square. Then things really take a detour into the doo-doo when a pigeon starts double-taking; and a diner looks first at Bond and then, horrified, at his bottle of wine. (He thinks he’s had too much to drink! Do you see!?) When a waiter — distracted by the sight of a secret agent driving a motorised Gondola around the most famous square in Venice — pours vino over a customer’s head, you have to conclude that even the later Carry On movies would have binned this as below-par stuff. By the way, during the gondola chase, Alfie Bass has a coughing fit on a bridge and is billed in the credits as ‘Consumptive Italian.’ Which says it all.

It’s not just the bad jokes either, it’s the absurdity of some of the plot lines. Moonraker also provides a good example of that. After crashing Rio’s Sugar Loaf Mountain cable car through a wall (don’t ask), Jaws — a seven-foot-two assassin with steel teeth who, until this point, has erred on the psychopathic side — is rescued from the rubble by a bespectacled blonde pigtailed poppet called Dolly. He then falls ‘in lurve’ with her to the strains of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture. It’s just wrong on so many levels.

So is the sequence in You Only Live Twice where Bond disguises himself as a Japanese fisherman complete with kimono, dyed skin, slanty eye-pieces and a Beatles-style fright-wig. Only one teensy problem: Bond, in this case, is being played by a six-foot-two Scotsman: “Yesshh… thish ish my schecond life!” and isn’t fooling anybody. (apart from which it is blatantly racist).

But what I was originally going to write about is product placement, which has become more and more blatant as the series has progressed. Who can forget the exchange between Bond and the femme fatale in Casino Royale, where she looks at his watch and asks “Rolex?” and he replies “Omega”. Two loads of dosh in one exchange and no plot relevance whatsoever.

Anyway, if you’re interested, what Roger wants is a Royal Doulton Bairstow Manor Winston Churchill Bulldog, a snap at £17.99

To find that I googled Bulldog Paperweight Skyfall. Among the pages which came up was this blog review of the film from an Italian source. I’m not going to criticise because the blogger’s English is better than my Italian, but I find it charming:

“I comprehend which to be unhappy by a final action of Skyfall is to confess enthusiasm during a preceding dual hours. Grading Bond drive-in theatre is not a priority of a critic, who, similar to a rest of a world, tends to devour them similar to multi-hundred-million-dollar TV shows (with a most product placements substituting for commercials). So a single could call this a Best Bond Ever, as a small reviewers have, as well as not meant it as a top praise. Better to see it as a acquire defibrillator for a princely franchise. On a approach behind from a dead, similar to Bond, a aged dog has schooled a small brand brand new tricks.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 15 Nov 2012, 09:49

Would you have played it? I would.... it was too good an opportunity to miss.

I held back on forming a final view on the ‘Taxman’ debacle until I had read Hibs official statement. Instead of clarifying things it was couched in language that just added to my disquiet. There seems to be more than a little of the thought police about all of this.

Just in case there is anyone out there who hasn’t been following this or, heaven forfend, does not know anything about football, towards the end of the half-time interval at Hibs’ 2-1 win over Dundee United on Sunday – a result which took them to the top of the SPL – the stadium announcer played The Beatles’ track ‘Taxman’. Fairly innocuous you might think, but then Hearts are currently suffering serious financial difficulties, having been served with a winding-up order over unpaid PAYE and VAT bills. So while Hearts desperately attempt to get their fans to invest in a share issue and buy up tickets for upcoming matches, Hibs supporters were revelling in a joke at their expense. After the game, Hibs announced that the stadium announcer who had played the track, Willie Docherty, had been terminated for what was described as “a breach of contract”.

So how have Hibs justified sacking the DJ for something that was firstly quite witty and secondly entirely in the long tradition of team baiting?

“The action has been taken because the individual chose to willfully disregard specific instructions given in the pre-match briefing which itself was consistent with guidance given during the week in the run-up to the match, which was broadcast live on television... The club was left with no option but to take the course of action it did... This is not an issue about having or not having a sense of humour.”

No explanation of what these specific instructions were, how they were willfully broken and why that led to dismissal, not a warning. Personally I would like to know the answers to all three of those questions. (And I do think not having a sense of humour comes into it.)

I could see the point of not antagonising Hearts fans, but this was not a match against Hearts and it is highly unlikely that any of their supporters were in the ground.

So the guy played 30 seconds of a song mocking the Merricks. It put a smile on the faces of fans at the game, including visiting Arabs I suspect. It’s not as if he read out the report in Uncyclopedia that “there is no financial turmoil, cause we are a bank, and we owe the debt to ourselves and Mr Romanov says that he can come ashore in his submarine anytime he wants with loads of big bags full of money, cause he lives in a house that is made out of gold bricks and the windows are diamonds and he has a pond that is just filled with Tennent's Super, he plays poker on a tuesday with bill gates, warren buffet and richard branson and they all support hearts and they are all going to put 1 trillion pounds each into hearts and we are going to buy a 25 storey stand that has got a hotel and a swimming pool and a foyer and the players will all have jetpacks to land down on the pitch for kick off.” The word ‘gunt’ was not used once. (All of the above I consider deliberately offensive and would expect to be disciplined for.)

I was once at a match between Watford and Middlesborough where the Watford DJ played Embarassment by Madness as the Ref walked off after the match. That got a few laughs as the fans realised what was being played. He wasn’t sacked.

One has to assume that there is more to this than meets the ear.

I only hope that it is not an attempt to suppress football rivalry, which is one of the reasons for the game in the first place. If you can't mock your rivals when they're in trouble who can you mock? Perhaps the Hibs heid yins think it's wrong to mock a lonely Hearts club and if you do you get banned.

I just hope that next week the Hibs fans start singing Money For Nothing by Dire Straits, or even Little Willy by Sweet:

Cause little Willy, Willy won't go home
But you can't push Willy around
Willy won't go, try tellin' everybody but, oh no
Little Willy, Willy won't go home
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 16 Nov 2012, 09:12

I had to change a light bulb last night, an increasingly rare phenomenon. We now have just two old incandescent bulbs left in operation. I assume that they will go in the next year or so. The box that the new fluorescent bulb came in said it had a ten year life expectancy.

A few things occurred to me as I took the old bulb out its holder and put the new one in.

This first was about mortality. I can probably now count my life in light bulbs. With a bit of luck I should last about another twenty years. So I only need to buy two more bulbs for the upstairs landing.

The next was: will we get to the situation that as the time span between changing bulbs grows longer, children will grow up not knowing what to do when the bulb goes out? In fact, might that not already be the case? It may sound silly, but I decided to google that. It turns out that a survey by HomeServe and the Daily Mail found that 25 percent of people under the age of 35 aren't sure how to change a light bulb.

If you go looking for internet sites which will tell you how to change a light bulb you get 21,700,000 returns, which gives a whole new meaning to the old joke: how many internet sites does it take to change a light bulb.

Of course the sceptic in me doesn’t really believe that these bulbs will actually last ten years. It does not make good business sense. Nor is it borne out by the history of the light bulb.
The original tungsten bulbs were designed to be everlasting. According to the Guinness Book of Records there is a bulb in Livermore California which has allegedly been burning for over a hundred years. It is now monitored constantly by a webcam. The bulb is in the fire station and was first switched on in 1901. It now has historic status and is protected by law. It is known as the Centennial Bulb and is cared for by the Centennial Light Trust. Nor is it the only one in existence. These bulbs were made by the Shelby Electric Company in the 1890s.

However in the 1920s the various companies who made light bulbs realised that if you make something everlasting, then you’re not going to make any money from it. They came together as a cartel and colluded to make lightbulbs that would not last more than 1000 hours. This appears to be the first instance of planned obsolescence.

One cynical definition of planned obsolescence is “Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary because an article that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business.”

Now we take it completely for granted that our camera, a phone, lap-top or printer will konk out just outside the warranty period. We’ve all had the experience of taking something to a service centre, only to find out that it costs a bomb to repair it, and it’s cheaper to buy a new one.


Which is why I expect my virtually everlasting new bulbs to go phut faster than I think.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 17 Nov 2012, 09:26

I’ve been following my nephew’s adventures in Dubai on his facebook page. He’s out there allegedly working but, if he is to be believed, seems to be spending his time either lounging with a beer next to a pool or else in a nightclub with a beer ogling scantily clad girls.

I’ve been to Dubai four times now. It’s probably the most disgusting display of excess that I’ve ever seen. It starts with the gold topped palm trees inside terminal 3 and carries through to the artificial islands and completely over the top hotels. It already has three of the world’s largest buildings, the world’s largest shopping mall, the first underwater hotel, an indoor ski resort, the world’s largest theme park along with those two artificial archipelagos in the shape of a palm tree and the world map. It also has the world’s only 7-star luxury hotel and is building the world’s first spaceport. As a result Dubai currently employs 15%-25% of the world’s cranes.

It’s the perfect example of what you do if you have too much money. First you decide to rebuild the world by casually knocking out a bunch of islands from scratch, and then chucking them into a lagoon in the shape of planet earth. Not content with that, you follow up by erecting the world’s tallest tower, the unnecessarily soaring Burj Khalifa. Burj Khalifa stands proud at 829.84 m – that’s nearly 3 times the size of London’s Shard.

And yet still not satisfied, they are constantly dreaming up more schemes to fritter away their wealth. All well and good you might think, if they want to fritter away, let them fritter away. Actually it’s maybe not so much a case of frittering away their wealth; I mean they’ve got to have somewhere to put it, you can’t just stuff it under your pillow can you? Without reinvesting it, your dosh depreciates, hence money breeds money, and more money, and you can use that to leverage more money, and what do you get? Really, really big towers and super show-off underwater hotels, straight-out of a Bond villain’s wackiest and most decadent megalomaniac fantasies.

Unfortunately , and this is where I find all of this disgusting, this eye-popping luxury was built on the backs of foreign workers who are paid a pittance. Over a million men and women from India, Bangladesh, Nepal have turned Dubai from a sleepy village into a shimmering Arabian Las Vegas – and have been rewarded with next to no rights and meagre pay. They sleep in labour camps, each one crammed with 3,000 or more people. In the strict hierarchy of the emirate, their role is to serve the expats and wealthy natives. It is all but a slave society.

On top of that Dubai, like the rest of the emirates and the other Gulf states, has not used its enormous wealth to develop its own people, they just import what they need ready-made. So the oil-rich Gulf states buy in the architects and the chefs who might present the glitzy front of a westernised society – skipping out the awkward intermediate stage of nurturing the talents of their own people. A choice example is Qatar, which solved the problem of sporting achievement, not by training its children in athletics, but by paying foreigners to become Qataris. It worked a treat when Saif Saeed Asaad won an Olympic bronze for weightlifting. Only the pedantic among us pointed out that Asaad was actually Angel Popov of Bulgaria, competing under an assumed name.

For me Dubai is a symbol of everything wrong with our present culture. Rooted in a finance and real estate bubble, planned as big for the sake of bigness, artificially opulent, and only saved from disaster by unsustainable oil revenues
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 18 Nov 2012, 08:54

I’m trying to give them up. For a start they aren’t good for my health. They are addictive. They take up a disproportionate part of my income and they are a source of friction between me and my wife.

We have an occasional table next to the couch. On it are a rather scabby potted palm, a bowl of oranges, usually a notepad and pen and a series of coffee rings where I have over filled the mug. Underneath the table they just pile up, accusing me.

They come in all sorts of varieties. There are ones on current affairs. There are ones on countryside matters, on architecture, on boxing and, mostly, on music. I buy them compulsively, flick through them glancing at this and that and then stick them under the table to be read later. They don’t get read.

Every time I come into the living room they are there staring back at me, a neatly stacked pile of knowledge and intellect that I haven’t touched in months, mostly because I’ve been busy watching Strictly Come Dancing or endlessly surfing the net. They’re a constant reminder of everything I could be if only I applied myself.

Even if I try to catch up it isn’t easy. Yesterday was a good example. It was absolutely pouring here yesterday, so gardening was out. The rain was washing the car without any effort on my part. Mrs. R was out shopping with the elder Rathbonette. I turned up the heating, put on some background music and curled up on the couch with the top of the pile. By the time she came back I had got through three and a half of the magazines, really complimenting myself on the breadth of my interests.

I was then accused of wasting all day reading magazines when I could have been changing the washer on the tap in the bathroom. Life isn’t easy.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has this addiction. It would be interesting to find out how many of the magazines sold each year actually do get read. Perhaps we could set up a self help group.

In fact there may be one. On Facebook there’s a good page called Our Lady of the Liquor Box and Unread Magazines which is based in Minneapolis and will help poor addicts like me. Unfortunately I can’t afford the air fare.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 19 Nov 2012, 08:48

Let’s just get this misapprehension out of the way. I am not Oregano Rathbone.

I’ve now had to explain that point a couple of times, usually to people who didn’t believe me anyway and then started berating me for being too modest. Yesterday it was to my next door neighbour, of all people, who had put two and two together and got five.

I wouldn’t mind being Oregano Rathbone: I quite like his work, but not quite as much as Inky Truscadero, another person whom I’ve been accused of being. In Oregano’s case his prose is just a wee bit too florid for my taste and I do not share his uncritical admiration for Prog Rock.

Oregano writes regularly for Record Collector magazine (as does Inky). I’ve often wondered why they go under pseudonyms (the other reviewers don't). Maybe they are well known journalists who are contracted to other magazines. Maybe they are just doing it for a laugh. Maybe they are the same person (though their different styles and internal evidence in the texts suggest they’re not.)

Inky Truscadero as a pen name I can understand. If it’s a guy, he obviously has a thing for Pinky Truscadero. You remember Pinky..... she was Leather Truscadero’s big sister who always wore pink and dated Fonzie in Happy Days. If it’s a woman, she also obviously has an empathy for Pinky.

But Oregano Rathbone? How do you get there? In my own case, as avid readers over many years will know, the name comes from the now demolished Rathbone House on Portobello Promenade (No.1) which was where my grandparents lived and my mum grew up. I doubt that Oregano has any connections with that. Any why a pungent green herb of the mint family?

I suppose that I could contact Record Collector and ask, but in the way of these things I’m unlikely to get an answer. People are usually reluctant to offer up their pseudonymous secrets.

So, just to make it clear ..... I am not Oregano Rathbone
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