Monday, 21 November 2011

Life Insurance

Thirty eight years ago, in 1973, I was conned into buying a Life Insurance Policy. I was young and green and a sharp salesman signed me up to pay £10 a month.  As I write I am looking at the 'Investment Plan Proposal' which I was shown at the time.  It promised to turn my contributions (which came to £3,876.00 over the period of the policy) into  £38,130. 00. So how's it done? Well on paper not badly. The letter I received from Friends Provident the other day told me that the projected maturity value was £33,582.70.  But it has only done well 'on paper' because of course there is the little matter of inflation to consider. Sadly £33,582.70 in 2011 pounds is actually only the equivalent of around £2,000 of the 1973 variety such are the ravages of inflation.

In other words my investment has been a pretty much waste of time. Why has my nest egg not done better? Well at a guess it is partly because of costs incurred  and partly because of cretinous investment decisions by those paid shed loads not to make them.  Incidentally the great and the good who squeal for the imposition of a so called  Tobin Tax on all financial transactions, don't seem to understand that the transactions which bankers do are not done with 'bankers money,' because strangely they don't have much of their own, but with the money which belongs to millions of small savers like me.  In other words if there was to be such a tax yet another layer of costs would be added and our returns on our investments would be even more miserly than they are already.            

Sunday, 20 November 2011

health and safety

Years ago, after the War, there was a series of famous trials at Nuremberg when it was ordained that blind obedience to orders was not a defence against charges of inhumanity. So how come the two fire officers of Strathclyde Fire Service are able to hide behind 'obediance to health and safety rules' and continue in their jobs when they left a severely injured woman at the bottom of a mine shaft to die rather than breach ridiculous rules.  If you missed it, the rule they decided they couldn't break to save to use equipment to rescue her which they had only received training in  for the rescue of members of the emergency service and not the requisite training required to use the self same equipment to rescue a civilian.  You couldn't make it up.

Now when I was in the army we too had rules which were called Standard Operational Procedures or SOP's but there was one rule which transcended all others and that was:  'SOP's are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.'  What a pity nowadays that the so called emergency services now seemed to be officered by fools.  Although are we being too kind to call Group commander Paul Stuart of the Strathclyde Fire Service  a fool.  There is another word which springs too mind which I think is a more accurate reflection of his actions - cowardice.

And also what of the the rest of the firemen who meekly accepted the order to do nothing/  Why did none of them say -'fuck off - we are going to do it whatever you say.'  Why did they accept an imbecilic order from a fool and obey it? 


Friday, 4 November 2011

British Heart Foundation & Cancer Research Campaign behave appallingly

Most days there is something in my newspaper which makes me spit with rage but today I read an article which caused me to go off the Richter scale. In case you missed it here are the bare bones:  A old couple had been living together for fifteen years but were not married. One day the elder. a 92 year old woman. died. A week before she died she gve her partner, who had been her sole 'legal carer' for the last three years of her life, a cheque for £61,000.  After her death her will was read and in it she had left her house, her car, £ 28,000 in cash to her partner with anything left over to be split between The British Heart Foundation and the Cancer Research Campaign. well there was nothing left so you would have thought -wouldn't you - that that would be that.

Not these days though.  The two Charities decided to take her partner to court as they wanted to get their hands on the £61,000 which they thought, with a bit of luck, they could persuade a Judge had not been a 'gift' but rather a loan in which case, of course, it needed paying back to the deceased estate and then they could get their snouts in the trough and have their 'fair share' of the estate. The end result is that the charites have 'got lucky' and found a Judge who agrees with them, so the 72 year old disabled surviving partner will now  have to sell the house to pay the charites and his own legal bills and give them their thirty pieces of silver.

No one, neither the judge, or either of the two charities, seemd remotely bothered about what the dead womens actual 'wishes' were regardless of the detail of the law. But then who cares for stupid sentimental rubbish like that when there is money at stake. By their actions these two mega rich Charities have revealed themselves to be greedy and rapacious it is to be hoped that others read about their behaviour as well as me and that even now wills are being redrafted to cut them out. Certainly no one representing either Charity better ask me for any gift ever again.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

St. Pauls

The shambles outside and inside St Pauls Cathedral has caused me to recall the prophetic words of Archdeacon Grantley in Trollope's BarchesterTowers:

"It is not dissenters or papists we should fear but the set of low bred hypocrites who are wriggling their way in amongst us, men who have no fixed principles, no standard ideas of religious doctrine, but who take up some popular cry as this fellow has done....."

Sadly the leadership of the Church of England, if the bunch of hand wringing tortured souls who make up most of the Bishops and Archbishops could be called 'leaders' in any sense of the word, now are virtually all are of the type which the great Archdeacon was railing against over his breakfast.

Perhaps the sort of Church leader St Pauls needs now is more of the type of the Papal Legate to the Albigensian Crusaders in the 13th century who, when the Crusading army had finally breached the walls of Caracossone and were about to storm the City and put the inhabitants to the sword, was asked by one of the Crusader leaders the perfectly reasonable question ;  "My Lord how shall we tell which of the inhabitants are heretics and which are true believers?"   

To which he replied: " Kill them all - The Lord will know his own"



Monday, 3 October 2011

Downton Abbey

Watching Downton Abbey I wished my father was by my side. He was born in 1898 and fought on the Western Front in 1917/18.  Sadly though I don't think he would have survived the experience. I can see him getting seriously angry not just at the blatant costume inaccuracies - officers wearing full mess kit during war time - when it was customary for them to wear khaki -even at he smartest dinners, or a First World War general without a moustache but at the 'anti war' bias of the programme - so the cooks nephew had been shot for cowardice (highly unlikely given that under a hundred men were shot for cowardice throughout the whole war)  - the valet had severe shell shock and was a drivelling wreck and the Chauffeur was going to be a conscientious objector and had also had the amazingly bad luck to have had a nephew killed in the Easter Rising in Dublin, Oh and the ex footman returned after deliberately getting a finger shot off by a German sniper (now I know German snipers where good but even they were not that good) -what a weird house hold!   Ok it all makes good Television but actually - contrary to modern opinion - not all soldiers who served came back gibbering wrecks - and yes - in isolation the mud - the filth - the death - was awful - but - as any one will tell you who has been a soldier - it is when the conditions are worst that the humour comes out.

Stupid people - of which there are alas many - say the War must have been terrible because men who served never talked about it. What rubbish - there is absolutely no point in 'talking about' something to people who know nothing about what one is talking about. So I very much doubt that a banker comes home at night and tells his wife about all his deals - it would just be too exhausting trying to explain something to someone totally ignorant. My father never talked about the First War either but only because I never asked him - he did tell me  one story though - to illustrate a point he was making.  When he joined his battalion he wound his way through the trenches till he found his company dugout. He parted the curtain and there were three officers round a table. 'Hello' he said 'I was told to report here, I am Tony Fulford.'  One of the officers looked up; 'Do you play bridge?'  'Eh- No ' responded my father -'Well you had better bloody well learn as we need a fourth.'

Why did he tell me this story - to hammer home his idea that more games/skills you had the more you would get out of life,or - if a thigs worth doing its worth doing badly.   

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Holiday in France

Just returned from a week on the Ile de Re - a largish Island just off the French coast by La Rochelle.  Some thought on the French and France:

1) Although the French are extremely greedy and seem to eat a lot I hardly saw a fat one -why? is it genetics?

2) Why is it that a new bungalow in the UK -or any bungalow in the UK for that matter - is an architectural excrescence upon the earth while a bungalow in France seamlessly fits into the landscape? - could it be something to do with the fact that the French continue to use traditional materials and do not have a love affair with 'picture windows' and PVC. 

3) We Brits wear our scruffiest and most comfortable clothes at the beach - but the French - both male and female - seemed to have taken great care on their holiday outfits and invested a lot of money in them.

4) The beaches on the Ile de Re are marvellous enormous expanses of sand - yet I saw no one making a sand castle? no one playing beach cricket - not even beach French cricket - in fact no one doing anything except lying in the sun.

5) France is bloody expensive. Even my wife recoiled in horror when idly browsing in a clothes shop. While as for the houses if you think prices in Rock in Cornwall or Salcombe in Devon are pricey -wise up -prices on the Ile de Re are stratospheric.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Racism is alive and well in our woodlands

Why is it right to celebrate the ethnic diversity of our human population but wrong to celebrate ethnic diversity in our woodlands? I asked that question of the Chief Executive of the Woodland Trust at the recent South West Woodland Show and she was unable to come up with an answer.  She is adamant that all 'exotic' species - for which read coniferous trees - should be felled, when grown on sites which are deemed to be Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ancient being pre 1660), and replaced by 'Native Broadleaves.'   Now hang on a moment what is 'native' in our country? Wheat, barley and maize certainly aren't yet no one seems to think that we should stop rowing these crops on our farmland while weirdly the hated rhododendron Ponticum appears to have been present in these island before the first Ice Age as pollen from it has been found in peat bogs in Ireland, so maybe we should be encouraging it rather than grubbing it up?

Sadly people like the Woodland Trust are in favour of the 'disneyfication' of the countryside and pay lip service only to 'sustainabliltiy of our forest and woodlands. So what is the definition of sustainable woods? Woods which are profitable and are managed .The definition of well managed woodland is one where the trees are regularly thinned and thus light is let on the forest floor encouraging all sorts of bio diversity to take place. Sadly too many of the woodlands owned by the Woodland Trust,and the National Trust for that matter, are 'slum woods' untouched by human hands and thus worthless to both wildlife and the rural economy.  

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots and Appeasement

On Sunday night the police entered into an unholy pact with the rioters in Tottenham. Carry on looting and we won't interfere -just don't throw bricks and bottles at us please and stay roughly in your own area. What a deal, and the inhabitants of Tottenham reacted with glee to the offer and took full advantage of it. Hardly surprising then that all around the country the 'yuff' on sink estates said to themselves; 'Why this is great - all we have to do is get fifty or sixty of us together in a shopping centre - cause some aggro - and the police will do nothing while we help ourselves to all the goodies we always wanted.

It was not that long ago that us Brits took pride in having the best police in the world - now we have among the worst police in the world - utterly incapable of doing what they are overpaid to do - namely keep order and protect private property. Partly this must be due to the very low calibre of officers at the top of the police -watching the acting head of the Metropolitan Police on TV trying to explain what was happening was embarrassing - he couldn't even put his cap on straight.

One other point. why is it OK to fire rubber bullets at Irishmen and douse them in CS gas when they misbehave but it is strictly verbotem use such methods on the good citizens of Tottenham when they decide to go on the rampage. Are Irishmen meant to have thicker heads or something or is it just permissable to be beastly to rioting Irishmen but not to 'members of immigrant community.'  Anyhow it strickes me as a very racist policy and one which should be reversed forwith - if it is all right to blast Paddy with a rubber bullet it must be OK to blast anyone else with one as well. 

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Searcys at the Gherkin - restaurant review

I don't normally do restaurant reviews as I don't normally go to restaurants.  But I recently traipsed up to London  to have lunch on top of the Gherkin.  Now I have a rule of thumb about restaurants - the more spectacular the site, the more beautiful the view, the worst the food and service. This certainly applies in the country when that idealistic pub on the rivers edge, with salmon leaping over the weir, turns out to offer over priced, disgusting, microwaved rubbish so I was interested to see if the rule applied to London.  When you finally get to the top of the Gherkin, after going through a sort of airport security kerfuffle at the base, the view is undeniably five star, you sit in comfortable ultra modern chairs over looking the vast panorama of London laid out at your feet. Sitting there sipping a excellent Bloody Mary was a truly great experience. but what of the restaurant?

We sat down and I perused my menu, and then I went back over it again getting ever more anxious because you know what - there was absolutely nothing on it that rang any bells with my greed particles.  It is true I was tempted by a starter which which was called Pig on toast .....etc.   I have never seen a 'Pig on Toast' and was intrigued enough to ask the waiter if the piece of toast was a very big one. Apparently it wasn't the whole Pig which went on the toast but just a bit of mushed up cheek of pig - to which I was nearly made a pooterish response that; 'wasn't it a bit of cheek to call a bit of mashed up cheek of pig 'Pig on toast' but I resisted the temptation.

At last we ordered. Mine was something to do with smoked salmon though when it arrived I was hard put to spot the smoked salmon or anything else for that matter so minuscule was the offering on my plate. This was nouvelle cusiine taken to extremes.  No danger of getting fat here I thought. Then we waited and waited and waited till our main course came -eventually - with much fanfare and an abundance of waiters. we weren't going to get fat on this course either but it was a little more substantial than the last one. Mine was something to do with breast of Gressingham duck ........etc not that I have clue where Gressingham is or why a duck from Gressingham should be in anyway superior to a duck from anywhere else. It was in fairness very good, what there was of it. We avoided being tempted by pudding and went straight on to coffee which arrived in a good sized cup and was offered a chocolate to go with it.

On my way back on the train I had a cup of tea and was so hungry that I splashed out on a slice of 'railway cake' to go with it. So what of the restaurant? well the menu gets five stars for pretentiousness and the food gets five stars for anorexics, but, put simply, an invitation to the Gherkin won't tempt me out of the confines of Devon again.   



Monday, 1 August 2011

Acute Oak Decline

As a landowner I am a member of numerous organisations which try, with varying success, to inform politicians and the 'Urban elite' about the reality of much of what goes on in the countryside.  I have just received a missive from one such body, Woodland Heritage, which is appealing to raise the trifling sum of £45,000 to carry out research into a disease called Acute Oak Decline (AOD) threatening our iconic English oak.  Now I say £45,000 is a trifling sum,  not, sadly, for me or most other foresters, but it is though surely for government.  Remember this is a government which considered that spending £2.0 million on  a fatuous survey to discover what made us 'happy' was a good use of taxpayers money.  Well it doesn't, I would have thought, need a £2.0 million survey to tell even this bunch of mental pygmies in DEFRA and government that if AOD gets going and runs rampant, causing death and destruction among our oak trees, then it will make a lot of people very unhappy indeed.

The research is being undertaken by Dr. Sandra Denman at Forest Research and she has already discovered a new bacterium which is linked to AOD and money is now needed to carry out further mapping and research which is necessary to try and isolate the causes and to find a way to understand and tackle this disease. If you are interested in this major threat to our woodlands then you can look up her research to date at;  Of course the obvious place to look for money would be from  Rachel Johnstone who, you may remember, ran the fatuous, and extremely successful, campaign against the privatisation of the Forestry Commission woods in England. Come on Rachel use you undoubted media skills to do something really about 'saving our forest' and make a couple of phone calls to your Notting Hill Gate friends and get them to write out a cheque for the whole amount neede for this research and send it to Woodland Heritage, Arundel House, Haselmere GU27 1NE.  Do this and we in the world of 'real' forestry just might begin to take you and your friends seriously.     

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Appeasement & why the 'Tea Party' Republicans are so refreshing

It has always seemed to me that Neville Chamberlain has had a raw deal. Everyone agrees that his policy of appeasement was disgraceful/shaming/disastrous, and when I say 'everyone' I include every politician both here and in the USA.  Yet actually 'appeasement' is the bread and butter of politicians everywhere.  British politicians have made a speciality of caving into Europe over the last twenty years which is of course appeasement by another name. So what is so refreshing about the current American debt ceiling 'crisis,' is that there seems to be a new breed of politicians at large in America who say what they think and do what they say. For years us poor voters have been consistently lied to by all politicians who say one thing and do the other and then excuse their actions as 'pragmatic', reaching a 'consensus' finding the 'middle ground' or some other such guff. Listening to the Tea Party Representatives setting out their stall and saying that this is it - take it or leave it - to the President is thus great. Listening to virtually every single 'responsible' commentator
 urging the parties to 'compromise' (appeasement ) in order  avoid a Armageddon of a financial crisis is also interesting as that is exactly what Neville Chamberlain did and history has damned him forever.

Personally I don't think the crisis will be as fraught financially as the great and good make out. After all if the Tea Party actually win - and it is difficult for me to see how they won't win as they seem to hold the best cards- then the prospects for the American economy will actually improve. In any event this is the highest stake poker game ever and compulsive viewing.  The really good news about it though is that it is an infallible rule that what happens today in the USA will happen here tomorrow and so, with luck some of our newly elected MP's might just begin to show the blancmange Cameron that they have a spine and like the American Tea Party representatives have principles which they are ot prepared to compromise on. Now that really would put me in a good mood.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

I.T. Botham

Last week I recorded a BBC2 programme on the Ashes series of 1981 and the legendary performance of Ian Botham.  I remember that Headingley Test Match well. . I was working as a broker in the Lloyd's insurance market and spent the whole of the afternoon glued to the Telelvision in a drinking hole called Myttons.  On Friday I watched, with my sons, Peterson make a double hundred at Lords and then later we played the Botham recording.

What struck us all was the sheer joie de vivre of Botham's innings. There he was, helmet less, belting six bells out of the Australian fast bowlers and laughing and grinning all the time as he did it.  His whole attitude, and the way he went about the Australian attack, was the purest illustration of  the definition of the word ' cavalier.'   Contrast it to KP's double century at Lords.  This was the doing of a grim puritan. It was a workmanlike and, at times, even brilliant innings but your heart didn't lift to see it played as it lifted watching Botham in his pomp.  This was a puritan at work.  A man consumed by a desire to succeed and a man who would, in order to achieve it, forgo a bottle of wine and happy night out with his mates getting completely smashed in favour of a quiet night in with the rowing machine and a sports drink. 

Friday, 15 July 2011

David Cameron and the Dowler family

Am I alone in being absolutely nauseated by the photographs of the Prime Minister 'looking concerned and being proactive' while talking to the family of the murdered girl, Milly Dowler ,in Downing Street.  Now forget, for a moment, whether spending time with the Dowler family is actually the best use of the Prime Minister's time (this was no less than the third meeting the family have had with senior politicians) -why was it so absolutely vital for the meeting to be photographed and spread all over the newspapers?  Ok - don't be so naieve Fulford - we all know why - because Our Dave wanted to appear to the general electorate as 'concerned' and - of course -'caring.'  But that raises the question about why the Dowler family are allowing themselves to be manipulated by a cynical politiican?

Actually as the Phone Hacking scandal continues to develop I find I am spending almost my entire time in the lavatory puking up my guts at the behaviour of our ghastly politiicans - not just Our Dave either- what of our ex Prime Minister Gordon Brown polemic against News International - could this really be the same man who invited -yes actually invited - four tabloid editors to the funeral of his son -and who - after the Sun had broken the story of their little boy's illness in banner headlines- invited Rebecca Brooks together with Rupert Murdoch's current wife and his daughter to a 'girly slumber over ' at Chequers? yes it could. And what about the ghastly Keith Vaz , a MP whose career is hardly unblemished with scandal, harangueing and interrogating police officers.  Now the Murdochs have agreeed to go in front of a Parlimentary Committe I have some advice for them - do your homework on your interrogators and don't just sit there and let them attack you - give it back to them back in spades - the chances are - as we now know thanks to the Daily Telegraph - most of them have had their hands in the till i.e. been caught stealing money and remember the old saying - attack is the best form of defence - and it would make cracking Television..

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

First National Countryside Week

Did you know this is National Countryside Week/ No? Well neither did I till I read about it in the newspaper  - which is surprising considering it's purpose is   " a week of celebration of the countryside and the people who care for it." Since I care for a little over 3,000 acres of it I do think someone might have let me know what was going on. After all no one, as far as I know, has ever 'celebrated' anything I have done in my life - least of all my school masters or those long suffering and misguided individuals who gave me employment in London and, for a time, in Australia.  So this is something of a unique experience for me.  Even more so as my efforts are being celebrated by such esteemed  corporations as Barlcays Bank, Waitrose, Asda, and Dairy Crest.

Odd that. I remember I had to sack Barclays as my bank some thirty years ago as they then didn't seem to appreciate at all my efforts to 'care for the countryside' and as for Asda, and Dairy Crest, we in the countryside rather wish that, if they appreciate our efforts so much, they would pay us a bit more for our produce.    

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Agricultural Investmernt

You can't open a financial paper now without someone trying to flog you Ukrainian farm land.  Agriculture is now flavour of the moment with professional investors and they are keen to get you to invest in their funds. But hang on a moment. Why tell us now. I mean why didn't they tell us five years ago when land was seriously cheap and no one wanted it? Well not quite no one. I am rather proud of the fact that when I gave the after dinner speech at the Oxford Farming Conference some four and a half years ago I ended it by telling my audience: 'To go out and buy land, it's cheap.'  Those who acted on my advice will have seen their money treble.

But let's take our hats off to a really canny investor who not only guessed the market right but put his money where his mouth was, investing an eye watering £50 million in farm land in 1999 when he brought the Prudential Insurance agricultural estate of some 28,000 acres of Grade 1 & Grade 2 land.  The name of that clever man - The Duke of Cornwall who, of course, is rather better known as the Prince of Wales.

Incidentally you will not go far wrong with your investment strategy if you always do the opposite of the Prudential Insurance company. The duchy of Cornwall I expect sold equities at near the top of the market and invested in farmland at the bottom, the Prudential sold farmland at the bottom and, i suspect, invested the proceeds in equities at the top - you don't get much dumber than that. 


Monday, 13 June 2011

Organ Donor

I have just filled in a form for a new driving licence and ticked the box asking whether I would be willing to donate my organs in event of ending up in a bloody mess on the road.  Coincidentally my boys came home for the weekend and proudly displayed their Donor Cards which they had signed up for at school.  Now as I believe in the principal of 'Do unto others as you would be done by' it follows that it would be rank hypocrisy not to sign up as a potential donor unless I had some religious belief which precluded me accepting a organ in the event of my kidney or whatever packing up.

I have not though signed up as donor, nor have my sons, to allow National Health hospitals to dish out our freely given organs to foreigners.  According to the Sunday Times Kings College Hospital in London has been paid over  £1.0 million for carrying out some 22 liver transplants on foreigners over the last two years.  Now there are two points here. First the Kings College Hospital seems to be undercharging by a ridiculous amount. I would suggest rich foreigners in need of a liver would happily cough up ten times the paltry £50,0000 the hospital is currently charging. The second point is that we offer our organs free. If the certain NHS hospitals want to make money out of them then they should pay the heirs of the recently dead person for the privilege.  Why shouldn't someones grieving wife or family not receive a cheque if the beneficiary is not a Brit but a fat Arab? 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Overseas Aid

I think I have cracked where Cameron is going wrong. The Spectator informs me that a pollster -one Alan Cooper - has the ear of the Prime Minister - now that I think is the problem. the Overseas Aid fiasco is a typical example of how polls can mislead - ask an average Brit if they think it is a good idea to give 0.7% of GDP to third world countries and they will probably say -yes - not wanting to look mean and anyway 99% of those asked wouldn't have a clue what GDP was anyway.  Tell them though - some years later that - say - the Paras coming back from a tour of Afghanistan - must lose their 'para' pay in order to make an annual saving of £4.0 million to help pay for this vast amount of Overseas Aid and most Britswill be f  ****** furious.

Cameron's mistake is not to realise that opinions are like the wind. One minute the wind is from the South and seems set fair - the next it has veered to the North West and there is a gale blowing which could sweep you out of office.  If he has a brain he will back down on Overseas Aid otherwise it will come back to haunt him. Various newspapers have declared open season on Overseas Aid and it is an absolute racing certainty that a succession of scandals will be unearthed over the next year or so. Lastly, of course, it wouldn't be so bad if African, Middle Eastern and Asian potentates brought Jaguars and Range Rovers to drive around in, but what really pisses off the average Brit is seeing his hard earned taxes recycled into Mercedes Benz. 

Monday, 30 May 2011

My new Printer

I have brought a new printer for my computer as the old one - after six years loyal seervice finally gave up the ghost - no big deal - except of course it is a huge deal when it comes to installing it. Forget 'Plug and Play' - when I try to make anything work it is more   'Plug and throw a Tantrum' - I am now on Day 2 of trying to get my top of the range HPofficejet 7500A to actually communicate with my computer and print something  and it obstinately refuses to play - telling me that the USB is not connected when it bloody well is. I have often thought that I ought to be employed by firms like HP to actually write an 'idiots' guide to their machine. The mistake manufacturers all make is employing people who understand the bit of kit too actually write the manual - when the person who ought to be writing it is either me - or if you really want a complete technological illiterate - my wife.

Monday, 23 May 2011


I am a member of this network site but I cannot remember how I joined - I can though remember why, it was in the hope that by doing so some freelance writing work might come my way - fat chance- and to date- nothing. I admit I never look at my site and that frankly I doubt its effectiveness but obviously those in the know know different as how else can you explain how this nonentity of a business can suddenly be worth $10.1 billion on the NYSE just a week after floating- I must be missing something.  So I have resolved to be more proactive on Linkedin to try to discover where the value in the site lies for idle freelance journalists like me.       

Monday, 16 May 2011

Wellington College school library

I can't walk past a bookshop without going in for a browse, but my principal addiction is second hand bookshops.  I can happily spend hours roaming narrow corridors of bookshelves and pulling the odd volume out, here and there, because either the title or the binding hits some inner cord and causes my hand to shoot out and size its spine.  Now I am not against the wonder of the electronic book readers such as Kindle, and if I was a squaddie in Afghanistan I would have one in my Bergen, but I think those, like the headmaster of Wellington College, who think the days of the printed book are numbered and is thus planning throw out 80%  of the books and re order the Library to be 'relevant to the electronic age' or some such rubbish -are wrong.

I just don't think people will 'browse' an electronic library like they browse a normal bookshop or library.  and it is by 'browsing' that you suddenly come across a new author or new subject which catches your imagination or interest and opens up, over time, a whole new world.  For an educational establishment  to cull  it's library so ferociously is not only therefore criminal, it is far worse, it is gross stupidity.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Bye bye Scotland and good riddance

So with an SNP majority North of the Border the prospect of a Scottish referendum being held on leaving the United Kingdom is a real possibility.  Now what Scottish Nationalists don't know is that I am an ardent supporter of there's, what's more I am not alone, in fact, doing a straw pole I have yet to find anyone down here in Devon who isn't a closet SNP supporter.  Why is this? Well, of course, we are bored with whining, whinging Scots bleating on about how hard done by they are, when in reality they sit up there, North of the border, guzzling down English subsidies and doing absolutely sod all work. This is not all their fault of course.  It was the great Dr. Johnson who said; "the noblest prospect which a Scotsman ever sees, is the high road which leads to England."

Not just England actually, in the 19th century every Scotsman with 'get up and go' got up and went, much to benefit of America and the British Empire generally but sadly, the result of all this emigration of the best of the Scots, was to diminish the 'gene pool' and as what was left behind was , by and large, the idle and the feckless, and as any farmer or horse breeder will tell you, if you breed from rubbish you get rubbish, that is the result. 

But seriously if our Dave is serious about campaigning vigorously to 'save the Union' then he has got his tactics all wrong. Most Scots are under the illusion that most English actually want the Union to continue, that we actually enjoy paying far more in taxes than we need in order to subsidise the Scots.  As long as they continue to believe this they will continue to press for Independence.  So if Dave really wants the Union to continue he must vigorously campaign against the Union. In fact he ought to have a referendum in England asking us to vote to abolish it, and once every one understood, that if we got rid of the spongers North of the border we halve the income tax rate, I think the result would not be in question.   


Friday, 29 April 2011

Reflections on the Royal Wedding

Firstly did you notice how smartly turned out the police where who were lining the route?  - no nauseating Health & Safety high visibility jackets for them - they looked very smart and professional (the exception being the motorcycle escort to the various coaches who - for some reason - kept their bilious yellow coats on). I do think that one of the reasons why the police are now held in such low regard is that they look like a lot of overweight dustmen. When I was a boy the police everywhere were as smart as paint and respected and admired - now they look like slobs and are reviled and despised by nearly everyone - is there a connection I wonder? 

Secondly next time you hear someone question the value of the monarchy get them to ring up the owner of Land Rover/Jaguar. Behind every official car or coach cruised an immaculate Range Rover bursting with security men with all the kit - how much I wonder would an advertising agency have charged Land Rover for that 'product placement?'  And how many extra sales will that free advertising generate - quite a few I suspect. 

Thirdly even I - reluctantly dragged off by my wife to watch the whole affair on a friends giant TV 'with surround sound' - found my cynicism was gradually warn away by the brilliance of the pageantry, the beauty of the bride, the charm of the bridegroom and the  whole 'tout ensemble' of the event - hurray that has put those idiots who yearn for a republic back in their box.

Lastly the Duke of Edinburgh is a most remarkable man. So many people say that they dread getting old - well not if I am as fit and as good looking as the duke is at ninety.   

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

is Cameron a phony?

According to the Daily Telegraph David Cameron will wear a 'lounge suit' rather than a morning coat to the Royal Wedding- what a plonker?  The problem with Cameron is that he has never had any connection with 'ordinary people' (if there is such a thing).  If only he had been a soldier or done something - anything - which brought him in touch with some of the great unwashed he would have found out something very strange- the one thing people hate more than anything else is a phony - someone pretending to be something they aren't. the other thing he might have discovered is that no one 'respects' you for 'dressing down' in fact - if he could be bothered to ask the Queen for some advice during his weekly audience - she would tell him  that 'ordinary people' don't want their monarch to dress as they do and nore - she would say - do I think they want their Prime Minister to 'dress down' either.   Still Cameron persists in nauseatingly wearing a 'hair shir' in public -so the long suffering Samantha had to slum it recently in a three star hotel in Spain to accord with this new 'image.'   come back Tony Blair - all is forgiven - yes you too were a phony but a least you carried it off with style and not like a wet blancmange.

Saturday, 16 April 2011


Politicians can't resist meddling. So 'Our Dave' apparently is considering a change in the law so 'Kate & Wills' first born, if it is a girl, will become Queen rather than her younger brother if she has one.  Now as a beneficiary of primogeniture - the custom by which the eldest male inherits the title/house/estate or, in the case of Prince William and his wife, the crown - you would expect me to support it and I do.  Primogeniture is a simple rule which is understood by everyone and therefore brooks no argument. My eldest son will inherit my house and estate, all my children have known this since they were old enough to understand and they accept it as fair. They know the only reason that there is a house and estate to inherit is because generation after generation has followed this rule and that the only fair rule of inheritance, as far as estates go; is to give as you received.  In other words if you received your estate because you were the eldest son it is not for you to wee wee and have change of heart and 'try to be fair' by dividing your inheritance or, just as bad,  deciding  that one of the other siblings is 'more suited' to inheriting the estate.

According to a fatuous survey in Country Life magazine (can't be much good if they didn't ask my opinion) some 43% of landowners now feel 'primogeniture to be either less important or not important at all, preferring ability, fairness and equality.'  Actually all that proves is that 43% of landowners are pretty mentally retarded, something I suppose many people suspected anyway. There is nothing 'fair' in cutting out your eldest son (unless of course he is entirely useless and degenerate) if you yourself inherited solely because you were the eldest.  As for 'equality' pass the sick bag.  As for the offspring of Prince William and Katherine why change a rule which has, on the whole, worked well for a thousand years?  No doubt 'Our Dave' assumes that if they have a daughter she will turn into a clone of the Princess Royal, Princess Anne but think about it, what if she turned out like Princess Beatrice or Eugenie? no better not.

Monday, 11 April 2011

National Trust 2

Yesterday morning we showed thirty three people round the house and then gave them coffee.  It was great fun and provided a bit of cash to help towards the house upkeep. The unfun bit is the lead up to the arrival of the visitors. It is true that it was only the previous evening that I happened to mention en passant to my wife that,shortly after breakfast, a coachload of some thirty odd people would be descending on us for a 'tour & coffee.'  It is also true that due to the burst pipe damage of the winter much of the interior is a building site rather than a pristine historic house. Lastly the children are back on holiday so passages are blocked up by trunks which appear to have vomited half their contents over the floor.  Still, as I explained, to my wife this is what visitors want. Simon Jenkins, the Chairman of the NT is on record as saying that he wants NT properties to have a more 'lived in air' and judging by the rather pathetic effort in this detraction made at Saltram, which I visited the other day, NT staff need to take lessons from me and my family.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The National Trust

As an owner of the proverbial 'stately home' there is nothing I enjoy more than snooping around other such houses which is why I am a member of the National Trust. The other day I drove over with a cousin to a marvellous National Trust house in South Devon called Saltram.  Sadly our enjoyment of the interior was frustrated because most of the rooms were so dark that they rendered the pictures which adorned the walls almost invisible to the naked eye.  The reason of course is that the NT dreads the effect of sunlight and its ultra violet rays on the fabrics which cover the walls and furniture. Now I know  that sunlight rots and fades such fabrics but I do query this modern obsession with 'preserving fabrics' which were never intended to be preserved for ever. I also wonder why the NT don't try putting a film of ultra violet light excluder over their windows as I have done in a couple of rooms - so far it seems to have done the trick but perhaps they do not trust modern technology.  So, at Saltram, the walls of a couple of rooms are covered with a very faded and worn red velvet which, for some reason, the Trust thinks must be saved for posterity. Why? it is just boring old red velvet, why not do, what any private owner of such a house would do - rip it off and replace it with brand new dazzling red velvet?  This worship of fabrics in NT houses is being taken to such a ridiculous extremeism that in future I intend to always take a torch whenever I visit one of their houses - and I advise all of you to do the same.       

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Eagle

So do I go to see this film or not?  My immediate reaction is no if only because it is based on a child hood favourite book, the Eagle of the Ninth, by that marvellous children's historical novelist,Rosemary Sutcliffe.  My father read it to us children sitting by the fire after tea when I was, I suppose, about five years old. Most children of that age then were still on 'soppy childrens books' but my father refused to read anything which he did not enjoy personally so we three children were brought up on a superb diet of historical fiction.  Sadly though whenever I have been to see a film of a favourite book it has been wrecked by the directors/producers who insist on making it 'relevant' and 'sending a message.'  Rosemary Sutcliffe would never have dreamt of writing anything 'relevant' let alone 'sending a message' which of course is why she was such a brilliant writer. Reviews I have read speak of a suggestion of a  'homoerotic' relationship between slave and master something totally absent from the book of course where actually Marcus, the hero, becomes romantically involved with a British girl. 

But the best reason for not going is that they have bowed to pressure from the American publicists to change the title from Eagle of the Ninth to just The Eagle as they were frightened that many Americans would otherwise think it was a film about golf. Well how thick is that?  Now they have shortened the title to just the Eagle presumably most Americans will think it is a story about a bird and - at a guess -as there are far fewer ornithologists in USA than there are golfers they would have been better off sticking to the original name.


Monday, 28 March 2011

Call Centres

Now there is English and there is 'Indian English.' Frankly it is high time those moronic companies which use 'call centres' in India realised that my, and I suspect vast numbers of other peoples,  immediate reaction when we pick up the telephone and hear the sing song tones of an Indian speaking our name is to put the bloody receiver down. This is not because we have anything against the poor enslaved soul at the other end of the line it is just that we cannot be bothered to spend the next five minutes of the day saying 'what'  every few seconds as we try and make out what the hell he is on about only to find out that he is trying to sell double glazing, which I certainly don't want.  The telephone call I have just received was apparently on behalf of Scottish Power who I happen to buy my electricity off.  It was all about reading my meter and no doubt it was important but frankly life - I thought - is to short so I said goodbye and out the receiver down. Now I live in fear that I will be cut off.

Now come on Scottish Power how much are you really saving by relocating your call centre to India?  Not nearly as much as you think because so many people react just as I do.  In essence all your notional savings are flushed down the toilet by the number of your customers who just put the receiver down and say fuck you.  I simply do not believe that the economic case stacks up. Surely among all those unemployed youths in the UK you can find some who not only want to earn an honest crust but have a diction which is understandable by the vast majority. Though I must  counsel you not to relocate to Glasgow - if there is one form of English which is even more incomprehensible than Indian English it is surely Glaswegian. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

housing ladder

If there is one phrase which makes me reach for the sick bag when uttered by a politician, or anyone else for that matter, it is 'I want to help first time buyers on to the housing ladder.'  So when George Osborne uttered these words in his budget today I had to make a hasty exit for the loo. I mean let's not forget that the reason we are  up to our necks in the financial proverbial, is precisely because the entire population of virtually every country  became convinced that they had finally discovered the philosophers stone and that the secret of having untold wealth was to borrow as much money as you could and invest in property. How often have I sat round dinner tables over the last decade and groaned as yet another mother boasted how her son had 'got on the property ladder' only to discover presumably in the last few years that, just as in the board game, there are snakes as well as ladders in the property market.     

In fact of course George Osborne was being highly 'economical with the truth' in saying he wants to help 'first time buyers' as his financial help is restricted to helping only those who buy new homes not old ones. Come on George what have you got against second hand homes?  Or are you really trying to help home builders rather than home buyers. 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

academic standards.

Recently friends attended a briefing by an new headmaster at a public school.   The first thing the new broom said was that he 'aimed  to raise academic standards.'  Now I suppose most people would think this is a praise worthy aim but I am afraid I am in a minority who think it is deeply suspect.  Firstly of course any boarding school can 'raise academic results' if not 'standards' by the simple expedient of increasing the number of hardworking and intelligent Chinese in the school - a race who seemingly have an insatiable desire to fill every boarding place in the UK.  Alternatively he might simply try raising the bar at the Common Entrance (CE) stage to get rid of any 'thick' boy or he may  indulge even further in the 'great con trick of modern public schools.'  This 'con trick,' which nearly all top public schools now operate, is that they are quite willing to take your boy aged 13 provided he passes  CE but what you don't know, as you celebrate, is that they are planning a big cull of these little boys if they fail to achieve 'necessary grades at GCSE.'    They will do this as they can easily fill the VI form with bright boys and girls from overseas or the State system, thus improving their A level results. 

But enough of 'con tricks' why are 'improving academic standards' at a successful public school important anyway?   For some reason we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into thinking the most important thing in the world is academic achievement and that only those who have achieved high academic achievement are the best people qualified to rule over us. What bollocks. The banks - who fucked up - were - and are - simply stuffed with people with academic brilliant brains and -as a result -virtually devoid of anyone with that under valued commodity -common sense. As for the Foreign Office - recently in the news because of it's incompetence -it selects only from the finest brains in the country.  The track record in fact of 'acadmic brains' versus 'thick school rejects' is appalling.  Look into the history of most companies big and large and you will find they have been started and run by 'rejects.'  This of course makes me belive that if only the Foriegn Office
had had a policy of always recruiting thickies - like me  -rather than clever little shits we might still have an Empire and we certainly would not have gone into he Common Market .

Friday, 4 March 2011

Barnsley by- election

Didn't we do well? my new party UKIP I mean- coming second- hurray and the Liberals  beaten into sixth place - my cup over floweth. Well politics is once again becoming interesting.  I always thought that once the  Liberals became part of Government their support would whither on the vine as so many people who voted Liberal in the past didn't do so because they were signed up sandal wearing Europhiles but because they couldn't stand the other two parties - and it is hard to blame them.  But 'protest votes' have to find a home and what better home than a party which actually has an agenda which is not only simple to understand but which the majority of people in this country probably would sign up to.  Oh dear - for years the Liberal Party wished to hold the balance of power - then when they finally got their wish they realised too late that it was a poisonous chalice likely - at the next election -to stuff them back into the taxi from which they have so recently emerged.  Good riddance. Now on to my bookmaker. What odds UKIP getting the most seats in the Euro elections? what odds UKIP winning a by -election? I think I will find out as I do like and easy way to make money.  

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

losing weight

Every winter I put on half a stone - then -when Spring breaks - after several false dawns - I get my saws, hooks, and other assorted cutting implements out and set about attacking the garden - the shrubbery - and the woods. Young trees I planted in my comparative youth i.e. twenty years ago or so - now need the attention of the high pruner which I  go armed with on my walks - stopping to prune up trees until the dogs make their boredom so obvious that I am forced to 'walk on.'  This work -I think -no I am sure - helps the tummy muscles and arm and shoulder muscles as it makes you stretch as you reach for the furthest offending branch.  Then of course there is acting as labourer (unpaid and bolshy) to my wife in the garden and carting all the rubbish which a winter of neglect has caused to accumulate to a bonfire -all this an attacking invasive laurel and ponticum in the shrubbery as well causes those pounds to begin to slip off. So now I leap gaily on the scales whilst -only a month or so ago - I avoided them.  The result is a loss of between three or four pounds to date and more - hopefully - to come.  Why is it I wonder that rich men spend a fortune on indoor gymnasiums and the like when all they really need are a few saws and hooks and a shrubbery and a garden to play in?   

Friday, 25 February 2011


I have just had two teeth out at the dentist- God how I loathe going to the dentist - which I suppose to be fair is probably why I have just said goodbye to two teeth - a little more regular attendance and a lot more 'flossing' would have made yesterdays operation unnecessary.  Still no point in crying over...etc. In any event the whole think was comparatively painless - the pain being virtually all in the anticipation and none in the actual operation - but then - as far as dentists go - I belong to a generation which (a) eat far too much sugar - all those puddings and cakes which mothers used to make  - not to mention delicious tinned peach segments in syrup and (b) remember visits to dentists which where anything but painless.   Not that they were anything like my father's account in a letter to his mother of having  teeth pulled  out on the Western Front in 1917:

" I rode over last Wednesday ,tied up my horse and went expecting to find gas. Instead I sat down and a burly Australian injected into my gums which hurt a lot, before it even had time to freeze he seized the tooth with his nippers and got it out in a bout six heaves, by the end of which I was halfway under the chair, it hurt like blazes until it came out and then, except for being sore,  not at all & I untied my horse and rode home.  Today a different fellow at the same place removed the others but did it in only two pulls, hurt very little except when it unfrooze, however it cost me nothing, Harris would probably have charged me 5 Guineas. "     

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Coming Out

I have Come Out - No not out of the 'Closet' but out of the Conservative Party. All my life I have been a Tory but I am afraid I can no longer stick being a member of a party led by 'Call me Dave' so I have switched to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).  Oh the relief.  At last I pay my dues to a party which actually believes in something and is prepared to fight for it. No more wishy washy phrases, no more half lies by a leadership to a membership who, when they get office, find excuses not to carry out their election pledges, no more -in short -appeasement - to the Guardian/BBC/Notting Hill Gate/Islington Intelligentsia, which thinks it has a monopoly of acceptable political thinking.  It is odd but I suspect that some 80% of the current membership of the Conservative feel as I do and would support the all UKIP manifesto but still - like I did until recently  - stick with the Tories in the hope that perhaps 'Dave' really has got a spine after all and that one day he will actually come out fighting for the interests of his country and for values which his party members hold dear. Forget it.  Dave is too frightened of being hated ever to be loved.  So I appeal to any Conservative Party member reading this to Come Out as well and join a party whose policies you truly believe in, you will find a ready welcome.  You will also have the comfort of knowing that the leadership and management of UKIP are not just, like the leadership of the 'New' Conservatives,  taking your money and using your services while laughing up their sleeves at your 'antideluvian opinions' and your naivety.  

Monday, 21 February 2011

the chainsaw and the smoker

Ten years ago I set off on a trip to America and stubbed my last cigarette out on a paving stone outside Exeter St. Davids Station - kissing my wife goodbye she vowed that she to would give up as well.  The problem was that she didn't believe I would give up so - when I returned a week later -a reformed smoker - I found that not only was she still puffing away but had made no effort to give up.  Ten years later she was-until yesterday - still a smoker consuming between 20 -30 ciggies a day at a vast cost to the family finances not to mention to her health. So why the change of heart. Well the log shed being virtually empty I decided to get the chain saw out and cut up some wood.  Now K is a health & safety nut - she sees disaster and injury in virtually every activity - and she has absolutely no faith in my ability to handle a chain saw - so when she heard the buzz of the saw she panicked and immediately assembled an emergency first aid package.  On my safe return she ranted and raved a bit on the 'how could you be so stupid ....' line and 'why can't you get someone else to do it ..' etc.  so I then pointed out that there was no spare money about to pay 'someone else to do it'  because it was all going up in smoke and as 'for being so stupid..' who was the stupider - she for continuing to smoke or me for having an occasional play with the chainsaw?  A deal was struck and sworn by the greatest oath in the family - on dogs death - that if she gave up the fags I would give up the chain saw - so far it is working.      

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Save our forests II

David Cameron has, it seems, caved in to the Save our Forest campaign so I have written a letter to Rachel Johnston (soon surely to be granted the coveted title of 'National Treasure') and it occurred to me that I may as well publish it on the blog as well -hope you enjoy it 

Rachel Johnston
The Lady
38 -40  Bedford Street
The Strand
London WC2E 9ER

17 February 2011

Dear Rachel


we who actually own woods and manage them wonder whether you are really concerend about  ‘Saving Our Forests’ or are just interested in running a high profile PR campaign which has been distinguished by its complete flagrant disregard for the facts and its twisting of the truth?
If you really are interested in Saving our Forests - which I have to say we in the forestry and woodland world would love ,  here is what you ought to be campaigning for:

1.      A complete ban on the importation of plant material into this country.  You may not be aware of it – why should you as you patently know absolutely nothing about the subject you are campaigning on - but there is at this very moment a virulent pathogen at loose in our forests and woods called Phytophthora Ramorum which arrived in this country via camellias imported by Dutch Nurseries from China.  The result is that tens of thousand of acres of larch trees – mainly in the South West and South Wales at present are being clear felled – it is in short a Woodland foot & Mouth .  There is also a particularly nasty pest called the Processionary moth which is currently alive and well round Kew and came in via cypress trees imported from Italy and- if it was allowed to spread into our woodlands would make access to them a moot point as no one would want to go into them.  Nor must I forget the  Daily Telegraph who distinguished themselves by importing a large consignment of Acer trees from China as a ‘reader offer’ some which carried the deadly Asian Long Horned Beetle The trade in horticultural plants is – in short – the primary risk to our forests. 

2.      You have also –in your campaign – made use of the emotive photograph of a red squirrel. In your total ignorance you are obviously not aware that the only people who are doing anything to protect the red squirrel and to try to expand its range and even re introduce it into new areas are private woodland owners – the Forestry Commission gave up controlling it in most of their woods years ago 

3.      Ergo perhaps you and your unholy Notting Hill Gate meets Islington alliance might like to get behind a campaign to eradicate the grey squirrel thus (a) allowing the reintroduction of the Red and (b) improving vastly the health of Britain’s deciduous forests as the grey squirrel – by stripping the bark off young trees – is the single biggest enemy of woods and forests in the UK – but how should you know that?  

4.      You might also like to muster your troops behind a campaign to eradicate the Muntjac (do you know I wonder what that is) which likes nothing more than eating blue bell bulbs and the like and is a major threat to our woodland – currently its population is on course to double over the next eight years (it breeds all through the year).  No doubt though you and your friends are too cowardly and squeamish to propose such a necessary policy in order to Save our Forests.

5.      You  should  realise that contrary to your emotive rubbish that woodland in the UK has always been worked as an economic resource and actually needs to be worked in order to provide much of the benefit which you ridiculous Urban people take for granted- there is an old adage – the wood that pays is the wood that stays – in short woods ‘do not look after themselves – foresters look after them. To make woods more profitable we need you luvvies and second rate celebs to buy and promote products from them 

6.      You might also discover –if you had asked – that the Forestry Commission currently loses some £40 m annually by mismanaging its woods and that strangely I and others in the private sector make money out of ours and manage them far better as well – tarring private woodland owners as some form of asset stripping idiots  as you have is a travesty of the truth .     

That’s enough for now  - give my regards to Ivo and tell the stupid bastard to give me a call when he is down here as would love to see him and – when  next he is down taking journalists round that monstrous white elephant of a house – Castle Drogo – to call in – It is only ten minutes away

Yours in Despair



Friday, 11 February 2011

grey squirrels

Now is the the time of the year when everyone who loves their woods and trees; 'stiffens the sinews, summons up the blood and lends the eye a terrible aspect'  (Henry V before Harfleur) and goes out to kill grey squirrels.  The grey squirrel is the principal enemy of  foresters having an appalling habit of stripping the bark from young trees in the early summer when the sap is rising which leads to, what would in time (hundred years or so ) have become truly great and noble forest trees instead developing  into stunted, disfigured, ugly stumps.  There is truly nothing more dispiriting to anyone who loves trees than to see a wood they planted fifteen or twenty years earlier, and is finally taking on the characteristics of a wood rather than a plantation, suddenly, in a matter of days, wrecked by an attack of grey squirrels.   What puzzles me though is that when I was in America in New England I walked through their woods and saw no squirrels and no sign of damage to any of their hardwoods.  Plant American Black Walnut or Red Oak or Sugar Maple over here though, as I have, and you will very soon rue your decision as the grey squirrel will attack them with enthusiasm.  So if you love trees and woods kill grey squirrels, by trap, by poisoned bait, or with gun it matters not a jot as long as they are killed.    

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

dogs death

Today I dug the grave for my old Labrador Reggie - he was just sixteen which is a great age for a dog and had been in fine form till the last few weeks. In burying him I expect I have fallen foul of some ghastly environmental regulation but it has always seemed to me that giving your faithful hound a decent burial is the least you owe him. Besides I always find the effort in digging a grave for ones dog a cathartic experience.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Save our Forests

When ever I read something in a newspaper which I really know about the truly frightening thing is that the article is littered with inaccuracies and the conclusions, when drawn, are normally grossly unfair.  The row over the govt. 'consultation' on the 800,000 odd acres of land managed by the Forestry Commission (FC) in England is a case in point.  The 'luvvies' and second rate 'celebs' have rushed to sign up for something called 'Save our Forests' when there is actually - in the government's proposal nothing to save them from.  Public access to forests will continue ,even if they are sold, as it is enshrined in law, the  FC has not, strangely, either been the superb woodland manager of legend and so, if these woods are sold they may well end up better managed than before and, consider, over the last thirty odd years many industries have been privatised and all now give a better service to their customers and provide a better return to their owners than when they were in public hands -so why should the sale of public forestry estate have a different outcome?

No if the 'luvvies' and 'celelbs', plus -oddly- the Archbishop of Canterbury, really want to Save our Forests then they should be campaigning for the total ban on importation of plant material into this country.  Such plants -imported by so called 'nurseries' in the UK too idle to grow their own -are a enormous threat to the health of the UK's woodlands.  Already tens of thousand of acres of larch trees are being felled throughout Wales and SW England because of a disease called Phytophra Ramorum   brought into this country via Camellia plants imported from China via nurseries in Holland while a ill thought out reader offer by the Daily Telegraph  of Acers imported from China resulted in several of the plants being found to be carrying the deadly Asian Long Horned Beetle which, if it became established, would devastate the UK's hardwoods.  So come on the 'luvvies' and the 'celebs', plus all those MP's who have suddenly decided to become experts in trees, do something which will really help to Save our Forests - campaign for a ban on the importation of all plant material.     

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


Febuary is the most dismal month of the year. The weather is bloody, winter seems unending and all our friends
head off for some winter sun to recover from the shooting season which has just ended.  How I wish we too could join them - though having said that I know I would very soon get bored lying in the sun and having nothing to do but read a book.  The answer is to grit the teeth and 'fight through Febuary' in the hope that March will herald a marvelous Spring.      

Friday, 21 January 2011


We have - so far - avoided a repeat of the burst pipe incident - but one of the silver linings of our water disaster is how very good our insurers, Hiscox, and our insurance broker, RKHarrison, have been.  People often forget the reason you have insurance is that when the 'shit hits the fan' the bloody insurance actually works - as it certainly has in our case.  How often have I heard friends, who once boasted how little they paid in premiums, bemoaning how, strangely, these discount insurers make every effort to wriggle out of the claim when disaster happens.  The other benefit of having the disaster is meeting and talking to the experts who have come to view the damage and make recommendations so the other day I had Patrick Baty the foremost paint archaeologist in the World ( who I once played soldiers with years back) clambering over the scaffolding in my Great Hall taking samples of paint witht he aim of establishing what the original colourt scheme was. all very exciting and proving once again that every cloud has a silver lining.