Tuesday, October 22

Closing the stable door

Too late, Trevor, matey. It’s too late. That ship has sailed.

To infer the local metropolis is full of ‘wackos’ would only be a slight exaggeration.

Monday, October 21

Nailing your colours to the mast, preferably HMS Victory's

“Jonathan Swift said you couldn’t reason a man out of a position he hadn’t been reasoned into in the first place, and this is why most politics is tribal, not rational. What has always, ultimately, been my politics was absorbed like the lore of a tribe, not taught to me or even suggested to me, or much discussed, just known, very deep down, as essential and desirable. ”

“Someone should have taken me in hand, I suppose, and given me a normal modern upbringing, all about shiny new hospitals, equality, and the United Nations. But they came too late. I had already heard the distant trumpet call of a much more seductive, much older world view. And I am glad of that. I wouldn’t have missed any of it, and if now I can laugh cheerfully at the absurdities of our politics, tiny figures scuttling through cavernous halls built for much greater men, it is because for a few short, dreamy years I was given a glimpse of a lost past, just before it vanished forever. And from then on I knew what I liked.”

It sounds like a tragedy of misunderstanding

The “Brexit shambles” has been imposed on Ireland and Europe by a “self-regarding and imperially-minded English elite”, the leader of Fianna Fáil has said. Eh? I thought it was down to the fruitcakes and loonies, the knuckle-dragging basket of deplorables that were in revolt against the English elite.

Saturday, October 19

The writing on the wall – rising prices

Following my previous post regarding dispiriting statistics… Queen of the grape, Jancis Robinson, says her readers’ sweet spot for a bottle of wine (presumably the 0.8pct) is between £10-25. In reality, however, “it is becoming increasingly difficult to find wines of real interest under £25.”

The impossibility of squaring the inequality circle

Read an article by economist Tim Harford this morning… He was musing on Michael Kremer’s O-ring Theory of Development – it’s based on the failure of those pesky rubber O-rings that destroyed the Challenger space shuttle in ’86. The idea being that for many production processes the weakest link matters. Harford uses a fancy restaurant scenario to make his point that, however good the chef, a sloppy waiter can ruin the meal – ergo good chefs won’t work with crappy waiters and vise versa. As a single failure can doom an entire project, it is necessary to assemble a top-notch team to be successful. To spread such talent far and wide is to squander it. The implication of course is that inequality is endemic. Since the most skilled workers will have the most skilled colleagues and the best equipment, they are vastly more productive than others who are only fractionally less skilled – a modest variation in skills leads to a huge variation in wages. This is why, says Harford, blue-chip companies recruit only from elite colleges and universities. Why take a chance on someone whose face doesn’t fit? Policymakers trying to create a more equal society have to struggle against this logic. For the individual, Harford opines, the question is how much education should you try to acquire? (I’m thinking not just the bottom third here.) If you can’t reach a job market full of highly competent people, there is little point in wasting time and effort developing skills that will be wasted.

And while we’re on the subject of restaurants… I’m rarely impressed or surprised by restaurant food – what it says on the tin is what it usually does. You don’t so much go to restaurants for the food but the company – the conversation, and to avoid any washing up. So it’s interesting to read Anthony Demetre (Chef of Wild Honey) confirm another of my long-held views, that the kitchen accounts for >40pct of what the customer experiences. “The rest is up to the wine list, the restaurant’s atmosphere and, most importantly, the attitude of the waiting staff.

Perpetuates the ‘Girly Swot’ line and is unhelpful to boys

Rural Scotland has some of the most severe teacher shortages in Europe, EU researchers have found. There is a recruitment problem throughout the EU with a perception that the profession is low-status women’s work, according to the European Parliamentary Research Service. The ratio of about 13 pupils per teacher in Scotland is in line with the OECD average. The European parliament report, Why boys do not want to be teachers, found that 72 per cent of teachers in the EU were women. In Scotland women accounted for 77 per cent of teachers, rising to 90 per cent at primary level. The Scottish government said the report offered no evidence that Scotland’s shortages were worse than other rural areas of Europe. 

Not really conducive to encouraging boys, particularly those in the bottom third, to take education seriously.

Friday, October 18

Hell will freeze over before...

I don’t know who’s funding the LibDems but they’re not short of money. Rarely a day goes by without a pamphlet in the mail. Today’s letter and enclosed questionnaire was a doozy. It was from our local MP, Dr Sarah ‘that traitorous bitch’ Wollaston. I normally throw these things in the bucket but couldn’t resist passing this one to Mrs G. Wollaston always writes to the man of the house and never bothers with wives, something that’s always irked the ladies of the parish. As you can imagine the questionnaire was returned by The Boss with lots of appropriate advice regarding the coming election. 

More dangerous than Donald Trump’s tax policies

For Parisian restaurateur Alexandre Callet, it was the la dernière paille – the last straw. He had just opened a bottle of wine for a customer at his restaurant Les Ecuries de Richelieu in the 16th arrondissement. Having uncorked a fine white Burgundy – a Chardonnay La Chevaliere Pays D’oc – a favourite bottle from his proud but modest cellar, having sniffed the cork and given his customer a taste in a glass that perfectly suited the wine’s dry yet fragrant character, he retreated to the bar. It was a fabulous wine. Monsieur Callet looked forward to opening a similar bottle after service. But then the customer beckoned him back. “May we have some ice, please?” 

People can be too snobby about wine. I’m of the opinion that if you’ve paid for a bottle then it’s yours and you are free to tip it down the drain if you wish. If you drink wine at the ‘correct’ temperature, however, you can’t go wrong. As for Barbarians and Philistines… I still recall opening and sharing a bottle of whisky – a 1956 Speyside malt – with a bunch of friends who came to dinner. Two asked for cola as a mixer!

Thursday, October 17

A veritable superfood

Out early this morning for a leisurely two hour jog across the moor. Très wet, the archetypal mire – a much longer run-up required for streams. Returned home barely five minutes ahead of another deluge. The major part of today has been spent on paperwork I’d been avoiding – as with Brexit, these things get done an hour from deadline.    ...Black pudding and sweet potatoes for supper. A weekly staple this time of year, good source of protein, low in carbohydrates and high in zinc and iron. Of course the saturated fat and excess salt could kill you.

Wednesday, October 16

Most dispiriting statistic of the day

Of all the wine sold in the UK only 0.8 per cent costs more than £10/bottle.

An unlikely destination for a tourist boom?

Move aside, Paris and Venice, it’s time to consider Aberdeen for your next city break. That’s according to Airbnb’s top trending destination report. Despite a reputation for being slightly forbidding, the travelling public appears beguiled. The granite city has seen an impressive 119 per cent rise in bookings year-on-year for its medieval lanes and narrow streets. Come during whale watching season (end of March to end of September) and head up to Torry Battery and Girdleness to view bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises and minke whales.

Monday, October 14

Experts...what do they know?

Scientists have found that Britain began to get happier after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister.    ...Following the “Winter of Discontent” it wasn’t difficult.