I saw two things today that convinced me this country has utterly lost even a fleeting glimpse of the plot.
First, a restaurant review by Feargus O'Sullivan said a place called The Urban Turban in Notting Hill was "a good place for a superswift authentic Indian nosh-up with pals" - which means a quick Indian meal if you don't follow London journalese.
The service only rated one star out of five, the food only four out of five, the "vibe" - which maybe means the number of odious braying twats in the place - only three out of five and, wait for it, it only costs £80 ($120!!) for a meal for two. Actually, they serve "Indian Tapas" - a mongrel Indo-Hispanic concept.
What planet is Feargus on? I'll tell you: the planet Other People's Money. A few weeks ago my friend Professor Srikumar Rao took Joe Sugarman and me to one of London's five Michelin-starred Indian restaurants, the Qilon. That certainly was worth that kind of money, but come on, Feargus. £80 for a few snacks?
Well I'd barely swallowed Feargus's load of rancid biryani when along came some more indigestible crap. The papers said today that the government plans to pay obese people to eat less. With what? Other people's money again.
Hey, wake up, Gordon baby and smell the toilet. We're in it. There's a financial disaster going on. You nurtured it. You've had our money already. We have a massive deficit. Surely even someone as arse-marooned as you must remember it as you swan around telling the world what to do (who gives a shit what you think, by the way?)
Tell you what, if you want to pig it up, friends, be my guest. It's absolutely none of the government's business, but if it were I have a better idea. You should be paying us, not the other way round.
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Thursday, 24 January 2008
I saw two things today that convinced me this country has utterly lost even a fleeting glimpse of the plot.
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
If you want to see a bit of smart marketing and have a quiet gurgle of glee, go to http://blog.figleaves.com/2008/01/pants-for-paxo.html.
Everyone in Britain will understand the jokes, but I‘m afraid I must give a boring explanation to those who are not British.
The word “pants” is slang for “no good” and “Paxo” refers to two things: a self-important, humourless TV interviewer who has been marooned up his own arse by success, and a brand of stuffing. Stuffing is what the English stick in chicken and turkey before roasting it.
The link I gave you is to the blog on a site that sells underwear. I thought it an excellent piece of opportunism. It’s one of the few commercial blogs that’s any good. Make sure you go and read the piece in The Times it refers to. Very good light journalism, which is hard to do.
Incidentally, Paxman is right. M & S underwear is lousy, and they will end up regretting the way they have ignored quality.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 08:57
Saturday, 19 January 2008
Whilst doing my shopping this afternoon I glanced at the front page of Le Monde - one of the two main serious French dailies
The opening to the top front page news item was a neat example of that wit which none but the French deploy quite so well - and of how a carefully phrased sentence can convey a little innuendo.
It was about Bush, and read (in French, obviously): "The President has decided to take action to prevent a worldwide recession etc., etc."
Now imagine the way an English or US paper might have reported that story. They would have said something like "President acts to stem recession." Something simple, straightforward and implicitly positive.
What is the difference?
It is simple: that tiny reminder in Le Monde's phrasing that everybody has known of the dangers of a recession for months but only now has our boy got round to deciding to do something.
I must say, by the way, that it's hardly possible that George Bush could be as stupid as people make him out to be, but I did find that little touch in Le Monde amusing.
Which I guess will have you thinking what a trivial mind I have. True.
But then again most British papers - even the serious ones - nowadays seem to lead with stories about football managers. We get the papers we deserve.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 20:47
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
"What we never expect always happens," said Disraeli.
Having been known for years as Drayton effing Bird because of my foul language, I am amused to be asked by Ian Denny whether people should use words like f**king or fucking (take your pick; you know what it is with or without the asterisks) in blogs.
I think "sticks and stones may hurt your bones but words can never hurt you" - or at any rate, not words like that. I suspect being told you're a half-witted insensitive buffoon* will do a better job there.
I also think a blog is above all personal; if you can't express yourself as you wish there, where can you? Nobody is forced to read. Then again, there is the question of why you are writing a blog. Many - perhaps most - do so for commercial purposes. I do it for fun - that's it. If I were aiming it to attract a certain type of client, I would moderate the language perhaps.
Come to think of it, since business thrives or fails largely on the basis of how well you get on with those you work with, maybe a blog could be a way of filtering out the unwanted - or encouraging the right kind of associates.
But that word - in fact many words - seem to be seen in quite different ways, depending on the context, the person or the culture. An Irish friend uses "focking" all the time - even in meetings with very straight-laced business people. I try to restrain myself. Maybe I'm getting old and staid.
* On the subject of insults, Dr. Johnson was once asked to coin his idea of the perfect one. He came up with "Sir, your mother, under pretence of keeping a brothel, is a receiver of stolen goods."
This in turn reminds me of one of my favourite cartoons which is hanging in my house in Somerset - I say "my" house though I am currently embroiled in an absurdly - and needlessly - expensive divorce, after which I will get it back.
Anyhow, I think it's a Rowlandson, dating back about 200 years, with the title "Politeness".
A man has burst into a room to discover a couple frolicking in bed.
He says: "Sir, are you aware you are in bed with my wife?."
The man in the bed replies: "A thousand pardons, Sir. She shall be with you in the course of an instant."
For me an exchange like that makes life worth while.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 10:46
Friday, 11 January 2008
Stu asked me to let him know what I'm doing in Oz ... clearly a covert way to arrange a lynching.
The answer is that I am definitely doing most of a day in Perth and also I think a keynote speech, for fundraisers, on February 22nd and 23rd respectively. A happy coincidence because the first time I ever did a solo full day in my life (and was I shitting myself - or what?) was in Perth, 23 years ago.
I believe I am doing some breakfast talks for Australia Post who've been my genial hosts regularly since that first terrifying day in Perth. I'm also going to Sydney and maybe Tassie - not sure yet where or when I'm telling my jokes, but the last time I did one for them it was in one of the toughest venues on earth.
It was a beautiful private room in a restaurant neatly perched near Circular Quay. On one side, a glorious view of the Opera House; on the other, the Harbour Bridge. No distractions at all:-) Now THAT was a challenge!
Posted by Drayton Bird at 16:20
I'm off to Australia in a month for one of my regular little speaking trips.
My partner there, Malcolm always takes perverse delight in winding me up. No opportunity is lost to point up the glory of Australia's sporting achievements (the rugby made a pleasant change again) but he always seems to go into overdrive just before I go over there.
So this morning he sent me the above picture as an example of REAL buffoonery. I don't understand how he got it.
My partner took it in our flat, so she is clearly the culprit. Heads will roll!
What the hell is that on my face? Wrinkle remover? It didn't work.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 12:29
Thursday, 10 January 2008
This picture proves it.
My partner took it of me wearing one of her more, stylish, on-trend hats in the office just now.
It made a pleasant break from preparing for an interview in half an hour on what I think about market research.
(As usual ignorance will not stop opening my big mouth).
The journalist says he wants a photograph later, so if they manage to make me look more intelligent than this (not hard) I’ll show you what it comes out like.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 15:36
I just saw this internal e-mail from “Jamie” Dimon who is the boss of J.P. Morgan Chase, the bankers.
He must be the same “Jamie” who is responsible for the banks multi-billion dollar losses through crappy sub-prime paper, but who blithely said he was not worried last autumn.
Actually, I think I hate almost anyone called Jamie, but that’s another subject.
Anyhow, whatever his name is, his memo says he is “very pleased to announce that we have appointed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a Senior Advisor to the firm. He will also be joining our International Council.
In this advisory role, Tony Blair will work with us part-time -- advising our Operating Committee and Board; participating in key client events; and helping our bankers on senior-level client matters worldwide.
We're honored that Tony Blair has chosen to work with JPMorgan Chase. He plans to advise a very small number of highly respected companies -- we're the first, and we'll be the only banking institution -- and it's a reflection of all we've achieved together that we are his top choice.”
Christ, if I heard I was the bliar’s top choice I’m not sure I’d be pleased. I’d probably throw myself in front of a bus.
The question is, can the old maestro do for a bank what he managed to do for us?
Could he get them into a couple of wars? Can he teach them anything about bribery – always useful in certain markets? Have they any involvement in education, crime-fighting or medicine? His track record in those areas is remarkable.
A friend has already predicted one possible “initiative”.
Morgan take over a small, defenceless bank in the middle east - fearing they could launch a hostile takeover bid in the next 45 minutes with lunch money.
They’re paying him $500,000 a year – part-time. If that’s for him to stay away three days a week, it's a start. They should bite the bullet and pay him more not to turn up at all.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 11:20
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Go and have a look at:
It features my daughter Martina singing, and my son Nick playing.
All my life I've loved music; I have absolutely NO talent for it. But they have.
I'm not sure whether this is one of the songs they wrote together, but they've done quite a few.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 15:41
Saturday, 5 January 2008
For decades connoisseurs of municipal folly could confidently rely on the loopies at North London’s Camden council for a few laughs.
For 30-odd years these corrupt incompetent rogues managed to combine the highest taxes in Inner London with the most abysmal service. You could be sure they’d come up with something ludicrous and expensive at frequent intervals. In fact, as Tony Bliar long lived there, I've always wondered if their policies inspired his larger, national schemes of wasteful futility.
It was a bit of a worry, then, when last year the voters finally threw the Camden rascals out, giving the majority to the liberal-democrats. Where would we turn to for samples of urban idiocy?
What a relief, then, to see a string of expensive, pointless posters today round the corner from my modest offices in Newman Street. A splendid example of needless, irrelevant and ill-considered expenditure in the great Camden tradition. Perhaps they were initiated and designed by the council’s design consultants who are, for reasons only an astrologist could fathom, called Dogstar.
To explain why they are such a stupid idea, I should tell overseas readers that last year our Government in its eagerness to stop as many things as possible without starting anything apart from a catastrophic war, decided to ban smoking in public places.
To be fair, though, to even things out, they also introduced round the clock drinking, so what we lost in lung cancer we gained in cirrhosis of the liver and thuggish violence.
Anyhow, for months the proposed smoking ban was a big topic in the press, on TV, on the radio, amongst smokers, non-smokers – anyone alive and not deaf or blind with even the vaguest interest in what was happening in Britain knew about it.
What's more we not only all knew about it long before it happened - but afterwards, too. Its consequences have been debated ever since in the media, always desperate for something trivial rather than real news. Was it going to kill the restaurant or pub businesses? Was it fair? Would they extend it to everywhere? What would they ban next? Farting?
Anyhow, you get the idea. This was one of the most talked about domestic topics for ages.
Judge, then of my joy, to see these posters yesterday, months after the ban was introduced. One is reproduced above, glorious in its irrelevance and political correctness, down to the black model (Camden’s black population is about 4%, by the way).
If there is anyone who can tell me in what way this nonsense serves any purpose, save wasting time and money on asinine self-congratulation, please do.
I have no doubt that the buffoons who authorised it believed that it was "marketing" and would do a lot for their "brand". Stupid bastards.
As a fitting final touch part of this inane exercise has been funded by the national health service. This gives us all a tiny clue as to why that bloated wankocracy has failed to improve its service in the last decade despite having twice the budget it used to have. They pissed the money away on such irrelevant "initiatives".
Posted by Drayton Bird at 18:14
Wednesday, 2 January 2008
It’s all go here in London, believe me.
This evening I had an experience which has never come my way in nearly 47 years of living here.
My bus driver got lost.
I had just left my partne, who is currently on an urgent important international mission, on Oxford Street. She is looking for a dress for a wedding in Italy which is taking place in May.
She has already spent over two days on this task, drawing a blank at Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Why the urgency? Because although the wedding is months away, the sales will not last forever. Perfect sense.
At South Kensington I got on one of my usual buses, the 345. For some reason it didn’t seem to be going in the right direction, which the lady next to me pointed out. It seems there had been a fire at the hospital we nornmally go near, so it was being diverted.
But diverted where? We eventually reached Fulham Broadway, which is quite a way from where I live.
“Does he know where he’s going?” asked the lady.
Eventually a man went up to the front of the bus.
“Are you lost, mate?”
“Mutter.” This was an assent I imagine, since the man was literally going round in circles.
“Don’t worry. I’ll tell you where to go.”
And so he did, to a small burst of applause from the lady and me.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 21:27
Tuesday, 1 January 2008
This is a true story that really cheered me up after the barrage of tripe in the media about celebrities or sub-celebrities, many of whom seem pretty trashy people, inculcating worthless values.
Maybe you will like it too.
My partner’s sister Maura is a tango lover. By “tango” I don’t mean the disgusting vaguely orange-y drink; I mean the not-in-the-least-vaguely sexy dance. Not long ago it was her birthday.
The best tango dancer in the world is Pablo Veron. Some judges think he is the best dancer of any kind in the world. You can see his picture at the top, looking somewhat piratical with Maura.
She looks pretty happy, right? Let me tell you why.
Pablo was appearing till recently in Carmen at the English National Opera here in London.
So my partner somehow got hold of Pablo’s mobile number and arranged for her sister to have a private lesson with him. It was to be a birthday surprise. All she told Maura was that they would both go to one of Pablo’s public lessons.
They stood outside the venue having a cigarette and waiting for Pablo. When he arrived the conversation went like this.
Partner: “Hello Pablo, I am the one who rang you about the private lesson.”
Pablo said hello and kissed my partner, to the astonishment of her sister, speechless when faced with the man of her dreams. And utterly speechless when he kissed her too.
Partner: “This is my sister Maura who’s having the lesson.”
Maura (finding her tongue): “No.”
Partner: “Yes; it‘s your birthday present.”
Maura: “No” (These girls from the south of Italy are persistent).
Eventually she allowed that the lesson might indeed exist.
Anyhow although he gave a public lesson, they couldn’t have the private lesson that night. Pablo had a film director friend, Sally Morgan, with him. Nor could it be done the next night, as he had to fly to Italy.
“I will call you on Tuesday to arrange it,” said Pablo.
But he didn’t.
Maura was in despair. Her sister was in despair. They rang - repeatedly - both of them. (These girls from the south of Italy are really persistent) but Pablo didn’t reply.
Unkind words were said about Pablo, I’m afraid. I tried to be comforting.
“Let’s face it, Maura, the man is extremely busy.”
But eventually he rang. We might have guessed the truth. He had booked his return flight with Alitalia, leading contender for the much-contested title “World’s most useless airline”.
To be honest I admire his courage. Would you reply to someone who – together with her sister - had rung about 56 times and was clearly a demented stalker? I thought not.
He said he would try to fit her in, but could make no promises. He was a hero again! We took back the unkind words.
He asked her to go to a milonga (that’s a venue for dancing the tango) to make arrangements. She went and they danced together; then he told her it would be almost impossible to fit in a lesson.
Maura was resigned – but she was already happy that she’d danced with him - see picture above. So she forgot about it.
But after a couple of days she received a call at 6pm one evening. “Hola! Soy Pablo Veron”. And she replied “Yes, and I’m Lady Diana”. He said, “No, soy Pablo Veron and I can meet you tonight at 8 because I moved my ticket to tomorrow morning”.
Now, there were one or two problems. First she had no money, improvident creature. Second, the only place where she could have the lesson was our office – but she didn’t have the keys. Third, the only people who could help were her sister and me, who were on the train to dinner in Teddington.
A crisis! But these girls from southern Italy always have plan A, plan B and plan C because nothing works down there.
My partner leapt off the train with seconds to spare and caught the next train back to Clapham Junction to meet Maura and solve everything.
In the meantime Maura took a taxi to go to Clapham.
They met there, my partner got the money, paid the cab, gave Maura the keys, and put her on the train to Waterloo (not before stopping at Superdrug in the station to get some make-up).
Maura rushed to the office, cleared the meeting room (moving a table and 8 chairs) and then waited for Pablo.
He came. They danced. It was wonderful.
And you know what? Afterwards he put all the furniture back.
There aren’t that many nowadays. Maybe they all went to Buenos Aires.
Happy New Year, everyone!
And thank you for the kind messages you send.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 11:33