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Monday, 22 October 2007

“Fings ain’t what they used to be”

That was a very popular show back in the ‘60’s. It struck a chord partly because we all moan about things going downhill.

For instance, for hundreds - no, thousands - of years, people used to get married then have kids, and bring the kids up by copying what their parents did.

Of course, some people were better at it than others and some were downright disastrous - just as in every other area of life. But here’s an absolute guarantee that things are going to get worse.

"£30m for national parenting academy

King's College London, the Family and Parenting Institute, and Parenting UK, have been awarded £30 million by the Department for Education to create a new centre of excellence called the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners, which will carry out parenting research and provide quality support for parents. Based at the Strand Campus it will be launched in October 2007."

Yes, folks, another “initiative” – no doubt based on some half-witted “vision”, and the idiots are in charge again.

And you know what? I have a better idea. Assume for a moment that people should run their own lives, for better or worse.

Assume, too, that they should do it with their own money.

Why? Because this – like all the other dopey ideas we’re subjected to – comes about as follows.

A politician, far too busy lying to think, pays a consultant plus maybe some academics to think for him or her about a problem. They go away and spend a long time thinking (a lot of it about how much to charge).

Then there’s lots of expensive research into what happens in the real world, as the politician is only good at politics and has never had a proper job, a state of affairs which allows no time for contact with reality.

Then there’s an expensive report. This is considered by a committee, whose members get well paid to ruminate and discuss. It is printed and circulated – which costs money

Then, there are some proposals – which cost money. Then something like the £30 million loony-tunes scheme above comes into effect, the money being given to more consultants and for more research.

Later, when it emerges that the square root of f**k-all has been achieved by all this administrative masturbation, a further committee is set up – and so on.

People may not be too smart, but they can’t be any more stupid than that, can they?

As Ronald Reagan said, “One of the most frightening things you will ever hear is: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help’”.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

A pig’s point of view

The first proper money I ever made was in my parents’ restaurant at the Sycamore Inn in Ashton-under-Lyne – a good 18th century pub of character which has since been utterly ruined by the tasteless halfwits at the brewery which owns it.

I was 16 or 17. I cooked pork chops stuffed with ham and cheese. Probably the home-cooked food we served in those days would never pass muster now, but that restaurant was in the Good Food Guide right from its first year.

And I’ll tell you what, the service was far better than at many restaurants today. This is despite the fact that my father, for whom the word eccentric may have been invented, used to make the whole cooking procedure almost impossible.

That’s because he was constantly going round turning down the gas to save money. I shall discuss my extraordinary parents when I get a minute, but back to the kitchen.

Well I am, quite frankly, a pig - just love eating and drinking - and maybe because of my upbringing, I’m fascinated by restaurants and how they are run. It's one of the hardest businesses in the world to get right -and one of the easiest to go broke in, believe me

Last week I took my partner to dinner at L’Oranger in St. James’ Street. They rang me in the afternoon to confirm the booking – almost the only efficient thing they did from then on. I made a point of telling them it was her birthday.

When we arrived we were greeted by a smiling receptionist who said she would show us to our table. then an unsmiling waiter came up who undid her good work by completely ignoring us – actually had his back to us. After chatting to her – but not us - for a while, he disappeared, leaving her with the nasty job of saying our table was not ready – would we take a seat?

We did, and another waiter came and asked if we wanted a drink. “No” was the answer.

Then a very pleasant man bustled up, showed us to a better settee, and offered us champagne and foie gras on the house. Then two minutes later another waiter came up with the champagne - but not foie gras, but crostini and tapenade. Then, after another few minutes the foie gras did arrive.

Half an hour after the scheduled time we went to the table. It took twenty minutes to order - and they took the the food order only, forgetting about the wine. All in all it took three and a quarter hours from the time we arrived to get and eat a two course meal with coffee. The food was pretty good, but not extraordinary.

But here’s the most amazing thing: they had about one waiter per table. With the exception of the dolt who ignored us to start with they were all quite charming and, when necessary, apologetic. But they spent most of their time rushing about to no great purpose or talking to each other animatedly, but not achieving much.

If you know much about the way a classic French restaurant is organised you will be aware that there is someone called a commis whose job is to take the food from the kitchen and give it to the waiter to serve at the table. The commis knows where it is to go because it's written down on the order that went to the kitchen in the first place.

I felt sorry for the commis here: they spent a lot of time not knowing which table the food should go to. Clearly the ordering system was not being operated in the classic manner.

We weren’t pissed off; just amused.

But it saddened me to see such lack of attention to detail, especially as I am chairman of a firm that arranges a lot of entertainment, and they had a superb private dining room which would be perfect for high-level clients. But could I trust them? Not really.

Having said all that, they were paragons of efficiency compared to Peter Jones in Sloane Square who have so far spent 10 months failing to make a set of curtains for us -- and can't even summon up the wit to reply properly to a letter of complaint sent to their chairman.

That hilarious tale I'll come to, not just because you wouldn't believe anyone could be so incompetent, but because it's an interesting insight into why good businesses go bad. Like fish, they rot from the head.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Merci bien, Swans: tres gentil

You don't often get anyone who'll translate stuff for nothing into French - which is what Swans Paul did with my last piece without being asked. Thank you!

My French is a joke, but not such a good joke that I trust it to make jokes in. (Shut up, Drayton - or as they taught me to say in Paris, Ta gueule, toi!)

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Irony - and your comments

Just for the benefit of anyone who's had an irreversible sense of humour bypass operation, an explanation.

Much of what goes on in the world today is far too serious to be treated seriously, so many of these pieces are ironic. If you don't know what that word means, you strayed here by accident. Leave before I upset you any more. There are many earnest blogs entirely devoid of smiles. Any that mention Al Gore or diversity approvingly will probably suit you fine.

I really appreciate the comments you make (or at least the ones I understand) and want to thank you. I often feel like responding, but of course the system doesn't reveal your e-mail address. So if you want me to agree, disagree, or thank you, leave your e-mail address.

And by the way, Michel, I've lost yours because I'm terminally inefficient, but I really appreciated what you said.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

How to solve the immigration problem: the reverse BNP solution

Before I start, for the benefit of overseas readers I should explain that the BNP is the British Fascist Party, who keep on calling for the repatriation of everyone whose colour or ethnic origin they dislike.

They are a sort of mirror image of the politically correct halfwits who run most of the institutions in Britain today

What follows is a comment on some news that came out today

I see that what I’ve always known has been finally confirmed. Immigrants work harder, are a lesser charge on the various state giveaway services and on balance bring a lot of benefit to our economy.

The trouble is that there’s something of a housing shortage, which prompts me to put forward with some confidence a simple solution to a problem that vexes all of us. What can we do about the idle druggies and beggars who infest the streets, mostly because they can’t be bothered to work?

Some particularly infuriate me, especially a well-dressed, strapping gay black one who regularly takes up space on a bench on the King’s Road which should be reserved for old farts like me. Not so long ago we spotted him going into a very expensive shoe shop that’s way beyond my reach, but I haven’t seen him for a bit. Probably on holiday in Barbados.

In the reign of Elizabeth 1st an excellent edict was passed which called for all able bodied rogues and vagabonds to be swept off the streets and locked up. Knowing the way this country works, it’s probably never been repealed, but isn't very practical as our jails nowadays are full to overflowing. On the other hand in those far off days they didn’t have the excellent international travel facilities we now enjoy, which make my simple proposal feasible.

I propose an exchange programme. We should gather up all these useless British drones and ne’er do wells and pack them off to places like Poland, Romania and Bulgaria which are sending us so many good people. Once they got there they’d soon get licked into shape, as there’s no choice there but to work or starve - and we wouldn’t have to keep giving them unemployment money and, if we’re foolish, spare cash.

In short, the BNP have the right idea, but the wrong people in mind.

Monday, 15 October 2007

What about the poor bloody workers?

I suspect this line was usd by Peter Sellers as Mr. Kite, the shop steward in "I'm alright Jack".

It certainly used to produce guffaws years ago whenever quoted as a parody of the average trades union moaner.

But when we were in Shanghai last year a friend told me that the poor sods who put together the stuff there are told to “work harder – or you will be looking hard for work”.

Not long ago a big piece in the Evening Standard about fashion week talked about how the stuff you buy for sod-all from places like Primark, Top Shop, Bhs etc. is produced by people who work for as little as 40p a day in conditions that often lead to deaths and injuries.

I was discussing this with the Light of my Life, and said, “Well, maybe these people are happier with that rather than nothing.”

This may be true, but she put me right smartly.

“Look. You can always beat these people down in price. They are usually helpless and frightened. In Cuba we could quite easily have beaten down people from $3 to $2 for a shared taxi ride – but it was wrong.”

She’s right of course. But I don’t think the people who run these big fashion firms give a shit about anything except where their next billion is coming from – and beating the competition.

"There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money" is something Dr. Johnson said which I think was plain wrong.

Consider, for instance, King Leopold of Belgium, who enslaved most of the people in the Congo to satisfy his bestial cupidity – an approach its rulers since independence have followed with such zeal that it remains one of the most destitute places on earth.

Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others.” I think that is true of free enterprise, having seen communism in action.

But why can't all the filthy rich just occasionally ask themselves what is the right thing to do?

Sunday, 14 October 2007

If you ever want to know what those a***holes have been doing with your cash ...

... for the last ten years, don't ask Gordon Brown - he's just in charge of stealing it. Read this utter garbage. But after doing so, why not ask yourself a few questions, like:

Is this not just a giant public wank at our expense? Should people who can't even explain in decent English what they do or why it matters be given a penny of your money? Do you think they're anything but a bunch of grasping time-servers? What the hell is an "expert in empowerment?" Would such drones not be better employed cleaning pub lavatories after a good Saturday night's piss-up? Will you contribute to a fund to pour a bucket of shit over Hazel Blears?

Expert partnership on empowerment launched to support participation agenda
Release date: 18 Sep 2007

A body of experts in empowerment have developed a partnership to support the Government’s mission to increase levels of participation at local, regional and national levels.

The National Empowerment Partnership (NEP) which aims to improve the quality, co-ordination and evidence of empowerment across England was announced today in a speech by Hazel Blears MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, at the DTA conference.

Currently there are a number of community empowerment activities and projects taking place, across England, but they are often scattered, have unstable funding and are of variable quality. Some are brought forwards by communities themselves and others stimulated by government. However, there is little central information about what works in practice at a local, regional or even national level, or co-ordinated action to stimulate and support activity where it is absent or weak.

The National Empowerment Partnership seeks to address these problems and support existing projects by improving the quality of practice through exchange of information and good practice, quality assure processes which aim to achieve empowered communities and citizens and centrally gather information about community empowerment. By doing so, the partnership intends to increase the numbers and capacity of people able to influence the decisions that affect their lives and improve the quality and function of relationships between citizens and government.

The Community Development Foundation facilitated the development of the partnership which brings together representatives from the Community Sector Coalition, Urban Forum, Community Alliance, I&DeA, the Young Foundation, Federation for Community Development Learning, Community Development Exchange, the Take Part Network, ‘V’ youth volunteering, Academy for Sustainable Communities, and Involve.

Alison Seabrooke, Chief Executive of the Community Development Foundation said: “The Community Development Foundation welcomes the government’s support of the development of the National Empowerment Partnership. Empowering communities is an essential starting point for encouraging engagement and participation. Therefore, the National Empowerment Partnership is pleased that the government has recognised its important role in achieving their vision of a strengthened participatory democracy for all. The National Empowerment Partnership very much looks forward to supporting the government in implementing its vision.”

Tom Levitt MP, Chair of the Community Development Foundation said: “The National Empowerment Partnership will provide vital evidence and promote good practice which is an essential component to achieving the Government’s aim of a strengthened participatory democracy for all. I am delighted that the Community Development Foundation was instrumental in the development of the National Empowerment Partnership and look forward to working with the partnership and government to improve the levels of participation in England.”

For further information about the NEP, email Alison.Seabrooke@cdf.org.uk
Release date:
18 Sep 2007
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Monday, 8 October 2007

Oh, God – not more of Drayton’s bloody holiday snaps!

You can skip this one if you like, because you know all too well what’s coming, but I did promise to say more about Cuba so here goes, with a few illustrations

Everybody loves those ancient American cars that sheer mechanical ingenuity keeps running there year after year – and so did we. They represent one aspect of the transport system – in Havana, anyhow – which seems to consist of three alternatives.

First, buses, and for that matter trucks, which are almost as old as the old Chevrolets, Fords, Plymouths, Chryslers and Buicks with their dollar grins on the fronts. We never tried the buses and trucks - they were too crowded and we had no idea where they were going.

Second, pretty new “official” taxis, which operate with meters and cost much more than the third option, which you might call “stop me and buy one.” You stand by the road side and thumb a lift. When someone stops (you hope in a wonderful old classic, but sometimes in a battered old Lada or Fiat) you tell them where you’re going and they take you if it’s convenient. No problem if other passengers are already in the car or they join on the way – it’s like a shared taxi, and it costs about a quarter of an official taxi.

We loved Cuba, because the people are charming and for the most part it has not yet been ruined by tourism. Parts of Havana are a bit commercial, but tastefully done. I mentioned last week the artist Salvador Gonzalez, who has decorated an entire street.

We bought two pictures off him, but not one that we wanted, which had a small picture of Pavarotti, who had died the day before, inset in the middle. Salvador said we couldn’t have it because he was off to Turin the next day to do a mural, and was going to give it to the Pavarotti family.

I won’t bore you about the seminar we did, but the delegates, who had flown from Kiev, Moscow and Minsk, arrived late at night and turned up the next morning at 9:30 ready for a day that didn’t end till 6:30 – followed by another day starting at the same time. Talk about stamina.

Our translator, Vladimir, told me he had once been corrected by Putin – who apparently delights in catching interpreters out. The place we stayed was a bit like Club Med in the ‘70’s but without the good food.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

"Blood and stomach pills!"

My father sometimes used this phrase when feeling a trifle heated about one thing or another - which was pretty often, starting with the choice of tunes on the Light Service, which is what they called radio 1 in medieval times.

It sprang to my lips when I realised I have mislaid somewhere in cyberland a painstakingly prepared, utterly riveting description of our trip to Havana, complete with enough boring holiday pics to put a regiment to sleep.

Don't imagine you've escaped, though. I shall reconstitute the whole thing and slip it in when you least expect it. Come to think of it, that sounds trifle obscene, doesn't it?

But enough of these preliminary frolics. Let us turn from the obscene to the ridiculous, of which I saw a couple of examples in the past 48 hours. The first was a ludicrous little invitation from some halfwit in local government inviting "Black and Minority Ethnic Elderly (Over 50) to attend an event where they would learn about their "entitlements".

I saw this on a bus between Roedean and Brighton Station. I was on that bus because I had just been to see my black and minority ethnic granddaughter playing net-ball and it happens that more than half my family is black and minority ethnic; and in fact I have been mingling with black and minority ethnic people since the age of 18 when a black and minority ethnic bongo-player called Bizi passed me my first joint in a rather dodgy Moss Side jazz club.

And you know what I learned from my intimate acquaintance with these black and minority ethnic folk? Many are quite as bright as everyone else, and would feel as insulted as you and me if some patronising twat from the council with absolutely nothing useful to do but piss away tax-payers' money thought us so thick we needed to have our own little get-together to explain these things.

But of course the minute most people get that little sniff of authority they seem to imagine we're all as thick pig shit. Gordon Brown explained he's not going to hold an election not because the polls said he will lose, but because he doesn't want to be judged on his "competence" but on his "vision".

Er, pull the other one, Gordon. This one's got bells on it.

Who knows what might happen if you were really judged on competence? Would you get three cheers from the soldiers in Iraq you arranged a photo-opportunity with last week? I looked at their faces. Were they all thinking how competent you were to keep back the funding to supply them with better body armour? Who knows? Or were they thinking you were using them to try to look good? Who knows?

But you want to be judged on your "vision".

Haven't we had enough of vision in this country. Tony Bliar had one every week, as far as I can make out - and many were not just "visions". They were strategic visions. I bet many were so strategic and visionary they were downright iconic.

I have no brief for Cameron, but I'll lay odds that the chief reason why many voters started to think he might just conceivably not make a total balls of things was that he stopped talking vaguely and started being specific.

If you want to persuade people, one fact is worth a truckload of waffle. Why do politicians find this so hard to understand?

But I digress, because it seems visions are far more relevant nowadays than competence. I read that, allegedly, the man who got fired from BBC 1 last week
lost his job because his boss was likely to end up in trouble. His boss? Who could be more important than the guy running the programmes? Why, a woman whose job is "Head of Vision".

Head of what ?

Thursday, 4 October 2007

A true Chihuahua story - specially for Aussies

Did you know Chihuahuas were used to kill snakes? I found out the hard way

Just over 21 years ago I was on my way to make a speech at a posh club in Melbourne. It was a blazing hot summer day.

As I walked through the car park outside the club I saw a little Chihuahua tethered to a car door in all that heat. I felt really sorry for the dog and bent over to pat him (or her – I didn’t stay to find out).

The tiny beast leapt forward and sank his teeth in my brand new trousers, just below the knee. I don’t like to boast, but a couple of inches more and it could have been a lasting personal tragedy.

But enough of that trouser-snake story - which is absolutely true, except the boasting, ladies. It was just an intro to this excellent joke.

Two friends were out for a Saturday walk. One had a Doberman; the other
had a Chihuahua.

As they sauntered down the street, the guy with Doberman
said to his friend, "Let's go over to that bar and get a drink,"

The guy with the Chihuahua said, "we can't go in there. We've got our dogs
with us." The one with the Doberman said, "Just follow my lead."

So, they walked over to the bar and the guy with the Doberman puts on a pair of
dark glasses and starts to walk in.

The bouncer at the door said, "Sorry, Mac, no pets allowed."

The man with the Doberman said, "You don't understand. This is my Guide

The bouncer said, "a Doberman Pinscher?"

The man said, "Yes, they're using them now. They're very good."

The bouncer said, "OK, Come on in."

The buddy with the Chihuahua figured, what the heck, so he put on a pair of
dark glasses and started to walk in. He knew his hound would be more unbelievable.

Once again the bouncer said, "Sorry, pal, no pets allowed."

The man with the Chihuahua said, "You don't understand. This is my guide dog."

The bouncer said, "A Chihuahua?"

The man with the Chihuahua said, "A CHIHUAHUA?!!"

They gave me a f*****g CHIHUAHUA?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

My secret bodybuilding past

Well, I never knew so many people were so seriously fed up with gyms. This confirmed my maxim: "Nothing fails like success" (© Drayton Bird) - which I find applies to most industries and people.

Before enlarging on that, I have a confession: forty odd years ago I was partly responsible for the success of a gizmo called the Bullworker. I worked with a very large man called Dave Prowse who later played Darth Vader. It is not true that I was Mr. Before to his Mr. After.

Ads I wrote ran all over the world - to such effect that two years ago a US internet whizz called Joe Vitale did a one hour interview with me, partly because he bought one. I get lots of e-mails from Joe who seems to specialise in miracles as far as I can tell, but sure knows how to sell them.

Anyhow, reverting to my maxim, somebody wise - maybe Warren Buffett - said a good trigger for getting out of an investment is when you see the firm has built a big fancy office - giving the example of Sears, Roebuck.

(No chance there with us; our office is a former basement brothel in the West End. Same principle; less pleasure for the clients.)

I think a good indicator of impending catastrophe is when the person in charge starts rushing around giving speeches about how wonderful he is - a good example being Mr. Bannatyne. Another was the late Saint Anita Roddick whose principles had far too little to do with her practice.

Before you lot in the back row say it, yes, I do make speeches - but if you ever catch me telling you I'm wonderful, shoot me.

Monday, 1 October 2007

More sweaty armpits and addled brains

I am really thinking there is a market for books about the topsy-turvy world of gyms. Last week my partner and her sister went to one called KX which was wonderful. It is an absolute snip at £300 a month – plus a trifling £1500 for life membership.

They are perfect, says my partner. “Their attention to detail is impeccable. You get lots of really expensive free toiletries. They even give you flip-flops.”

To be honest, at that price I’d expect free blow-jobs – but there you are.

Tonight we all trooped off to check out somewhere called The Third Space near Piccadilly Circus. The guy who showed us round – William - did a great selling job, but his skills were wasted, as the yoga man was extremely rude, greeting the girls with a snappish, “You’re late!”

Considering this joint costs over a hundred quid a month you might think a little politeness was in order but clearly the arrogant twat hasn’t yet worked out where his money comes from.

In fact that graceless greeting was about the only thing they did hear clearly, as the freezing air conditioning drowned out his whispered instructions. Mind you, they needed some air-conditioning; the place was amazingly crowded, except for the swimming pool, which is excellent and empty.

On balance the girls think the most expensive place they’ve tried is the best value. I think they should save the money, buy a nice new car instead and ride round on bikes to keep fit.

Incidentally, the clowns at LA Fitness, having totally ignored them when they were there, rang to ask if they'd like to become members. Rather like an 18th century whore asking if you'd like a dose of the pox.

That’s quite enough about gyms - but isn’t it odd how half the population is trying to eat, drink and drug itself to death while the other half is pelting round Hyde Park, doing aerobics, eating seeds and falling for utterly bogus tripe about de-toxing.

Odd creatures, people.