Wednesday, 16 December 2009

WTF Wednesdays

The UK has recently been graced with the pre-budget report which details the economic policies the government will enforce next year. Not satisfied with the banks they already own and the mess that is looming over everyone's Christmas, they have decided to put further tax burdens on the whole banking industry. In spirit, I am fully behind taxing bankers but the measures proposed simply hurts the graduates and middle-earners who really have had very little to with bringing on the crisis and who are already suffering from the wage cuts, redundancy, over-leveraged mortgages, unemployment etc etc. It's like all these politicians just spout out headlines that will be short term crowd pleasers. This is not a stand up comedy act - I wish they would think about what they are doing. Completely randomly, they have also decided to reduce tax on bingo winnings - WHAT??!!


What is up with the Chancellor's eyebrows? Thunderbirds was so eighties...


Do we have a right to judge Tiger Woods? Should I care about what he has done in his personal life? Morally, he does not have a leg to stand on and I am not here to condone adultery. However, he's a professional sportsman and that is what he is known for. Why is it that he is having to take time off from the golf circuit because of the public backlash when politicians, movie stars, singers and even religious leaders can get on with their professional lives after their skeletons are unleashed? Surely some of them have more responsibility as moral examples than Tiger Woods? Then there are the celebrities who make immoral decisions in their field of profession - the multitude of politicians who lie and also sports personalities who cheat in their game. Even this year, there was the Renault scandal with a driver trying to throw a race, the rugby player who faked a bleeding face injury and France's controversial entry into the World Cup. I think we should give Tiger a break - glass houses, throwing stones and all that.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Time of excess

Goodwill and cheer - it is all around. As we repent our ways through another Christmas season where our insatiable desire to borrow and spend is keeping the newspaper headlines well padded - all I see is more evidence of excess. There's an automatic reflex switch in our brains which means that as we turn the calendar to December, as we hear the year's first outing of our favourite carol on the radio, as we admire the bright lights flashing santa scenes on our neighbour's house (there's always one who goes overboard...) - we all turn into eternal optimists and every year we think this year will be the best Christmas yet. I even caught myself smiling at a horrendously hungover man on the tube journey to work the other morning - good on him for braving his way into work, he clearly enjoyed some excess the night before! It's almost certain that the O family will be in feud by 10am on Christmas Day but right now today, I am still hopeful that this year will be different...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Man flu

Man down, man down.

Instead of working through the pain like any good female of the species, I decided to succumb to the more basic instinct of staying in bed and protecting myself from the dangerous elements.

In fairness, as much as I always dream of pulling a sickie, I can't face making the embarassing call to my boss. So man flu remains an as yet unachieved goal for me. However, I did manage to have a week off work as my doctor wrote me a sick note. He's my hero.

What have I learnt during my time off? Not a lot except that you feel most alone when you're sick. If I had died, how long would it have taken for someone to find me? Thank goodness I have no pets as that removes the possibility of my parents having to identify my half gnawed remains. The new year's resolution is going to have to be getting married or making friends with my neighbours. Tough.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Zombie

What a glorious weekend. The trip to Oviedo was great - I was re-tracing the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona, just with no Javier Bardem! It was the beginning of November but the weather was glorious and the town is just too cute. The town is big on cider which is slightly less pleasant in the mornings as there's always a faint whiff of dried fermenting apples in the air. I toddled over to the town auditorium to watch the final grand prix with all the die hard Fernando Alonso fans, seeing as it is his home town. Turns out, he is less popular than I thought, or the fans are not really die hard at all, as the place was sparsely filled. The positive side was that I was interviewed by a national radio station who were very excited that someone from Button-land had travelled there to support the national hero. Er... hello? Have you seen the man's jaw line? Mmmm.

Anyway, I completely forgot that I had set my alarm clock at home for 3am to catch a silly-hour flight on Friday and this morning when the alarm went off, I got up, washed and did my hair before I realised it was only 3:30am!! Needless to say, I have been a complete zombie all day. There was this big conference today, it was me and 20 or so finance people sat around a circular table. The room was warm and the chat was dull. My eyes were getting heavy - I was trying everything in my power to keep the tiredness away. I could sense that my writing was falling down the page but even though I could see it on the page, I couldn't wake myself up. Am really worried about how I looked - for all I know, I may even have been snoring!

Some excitement in the UK today as there may be some retribution on the horizon for those banks that have had free access to national funds. Chance would be a fine thing - I 'll believe it when I see it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Facial conundrum

The head honcho - as in the man who is in charge of investments and sits like the fairy at the top of the tree - has requested to be my friend on facebook. For those of you who have skim read that first sentance, I'm going to wait here for you to read it again to fully comprehend the gravitas of the forked road that lies before me.

What should I do? If I accept, then I will constantly live in fear that someone will write something or put up weird pictures that he will associate with my behaviour. Plus why should I accept it? He's not the boss of me (outside of work...) but I can't help thinking it's some sort of test. But what's the right answer? I'm so sure I wouldn't be like this if we weren't in a job security-less recession! Also, I'm not sure I want to see personal photos of him. I mean, it's bad enough to see him in his best pressed suit but do I really want to see him chilling in his jeans or worse, beach holiday snaps?

Predictably, I'm just hoping it will go away if I ignore it long enough. Although that strategy doesn't seem to work too well with him in the office...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Witching hour

Today is one of my favourite days in the year - the end of daylight saving time! My annual ritual is to not change my clock all day until I am doing something I really enjoy. Then I turn back my clocks and it feels like I get an extra hour just at the right moment! And this year, you'll be glad to hear, I have saved it for blogging. It's such a good feeling - you can definitely see why the Doc (Emmett Brown) was so obsessed with his time machine.

The last week of summer time was a gluttonous one for me - I've managed to go to 3 restaurants I have wanted to visit in the space of a week. To my immense relief, all 3 were delicious and well worth the wait and anticipation. I may have to find a new sporty goal though, as I've not lifted a finger (or toe) since the half marathon in mid-October so all these nights out and the upcoming holiday season is probably going to take it's toll! It's weird because I've never really been bothered about it before, but I think I've enjoyed my new toned-ness and it's sad to watch it disappear before my eyes.
It doesn't take much to excite me - which probably goes a long way to explaining why I work in finance and how I can read the financial newspapers and the Economist without falling asleep - but there was a scandal this week in the business community which read like the content of OK! magazine. The head of the UK's biggest insurance company has left his wife (they have 4 kids together) to consumate his affair with his HR director who is also married - to another senior manager who works at the same company! The Aviva triangle - it's like a little bit of Hollywood amongst the pink pages..
Went on a date with the greek guy (the one who challenged me to 'impress him'). Anyway, as most of you rightly predicted but I needed to learn for myself (...!!), he turned out to be a bit of a jerk. Back to the drawing board for me!

This Friday, I am off to Asturias - the home of my hero Fernando Alonso - to watch the last Grand Prix of the year with all his local homies. Slightly less exciting given the Champion was decided last week (Button - ick!) but still, it will be more of a looking-forward celebration as he will be driving for Ferrari next year. Vamos vamos!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Duck duck goose..!

Went to the cinema to see Disney Pixar's Up in 3D. It's their latest animated movie and it was completely lovely. A grump of an old man setting off to live his unfulfilled dreams in memory of his childhood sweetheart - with a chubby little oriental kid to test his patience but who ultimately brings out the best in the old man. It's sort of like Gran Torino - but less violent and with helium balloons. Apart from crying my eyes out (it is very moving), the biggest surprise was how much 3D has evolved since I was 8, following Blue Peter to cut out glasses from cereal boxes and using green and red Quality Street sweet wrappers. I looked like an idiot and the TV screen was largely the same. Now, the plastic goggles still make me look like an idiot but the 3D element really works. Definitely go check it out.

It has been 10 years since I went to University - the first week of October 1999 was when I turned up at Oxford as a fresher to learn the ways of adulthood. To celebrate this joyous occasion, I organised a reunion (kudos to facebook as it made everyone very easy to find) and 50 of us gathered in a gentlemen's club in London on Friday. These types of official reunions are not as 'de rigeur' as they are in the US, and it was really nice to see everyone and for them to make an effort. The variety of different paths we had the choice to follow is really inspiring. Along with several hardened academics who continue to labour on their post docs for intellectual acclaim, there was a mix of lawyers, media moguls and art gallery socialites. Strangely, no one seems to have gone into banking but me - they obviously had better career advisors than I did! Anyway, it was warming to see everyone and to hear of their successes. It still makes me wonder though, whether we follow a predetermined destiny or whether we have the will to write our own futures.

Talking of ugly ducks turning into swans, you have to read about the Belgian Miss Homeless contest. As a social experiment, they ran this contest and the winner receives housing for a year... Aside of being a headline grabber, is it really any worse or better than an actual Miss World contest? The prize may seem more meaningful (in that it satisfies our desires to be do-gooders) but are we not taking exploitation to new levels?

Then the big goose of the week - my work has banned all web based emails and facebook! I spend 12 hours a day in the office and usually more than 5 days a week! It is apparently to protect information security - I still feel like I'm being violated...
Interlagos is underway - my Fernando is out on the first lap following repercussions of another crash. All my eggs are in the red bull basket now. Come on Vettel!!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Peace out

As we reel in the aftershock-slash-glory of President Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy", it's hard to decipher whether the Norwegians have been drinking the same water as their crazeee Icelandic neighbours or whether this is a genius way of giving the busy new President a chance to pause for thought and consider the repercussions his actions can have. There's a man who must get shivers thinking of the butterfly effect!

Closer to home (mine at least!), the nation's hero Silvio Berlusconi (yes, the one who keeps refering to Obama as having a good suntan) has had his self-imposed immunity from all rules removed by the State. Some crazy Italians stopped eating pasta for long enough to see that Berlusconi, who control's the country's media already, should not have the privilege of dodging the hand of the law. Apparently this clip is really him..



A little more frivolous, but on X-factor yesterday, one of the judges made a comment about a contestant's sexual preference - it was completely unprovoked as well. I'm not sure what made her do it (it was glorious as an example of carcrash TV) but she repeated it to make sure everyone had heard her. In this day and age when everything you say is uber-scrutinised, why would she bring this bag of bricks down on herself?


And then most frivolous of all, I have bought my first grown up, significantly-pay-denting hand bag. After months and months of should-I-could-I, the deed has been done. In a most frivolous crushed raspberry. Yum...








Knowledge is power

Turns out the posh boys I work with actually are part of the English aristocracy. All this time, I thought they were just overpaid idiots with their false airs and graces and public school humour but turns out, the jokes on me! They have titles and signet rings and when their fathers die, they will inherit land and maybe even peasants... Isn't this hilarious, who even knew this stuff still existed? Anyway, ever the opportunist, I have profited from the situation as one of them is dating a girl at Jimmy Choo and she is getting me 70% off some new shoes!

The half marathon was today - there were 15,000 people running through the royal parks. Predictably, I under-trained so it was less exciting for me, but it was vaguely amusing to be running with so many people. It was nice weather at least and the views were lovely. Even London is pretty in the Autumn - lovely golden reds and browns on all the trees.

This run means I have spent a good chunk of this weekend with my colleagues. I'm already worried I spend too much time with them and this just confirms it! My work day starts at 7:30am and then don't leave until at least 7pm - and then usually only to have a drink in the bar with co-workers before coming home. That's a disturbing amount of time, but it keeps getting compounded because they naturally become my friends and we organise to do things like marathons at the weekend. Talk about having all your eggs in one basket. I need to get out more - any non-solitary hobby suggestions would be gratefully received!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Oktoberfest


Imagine the utter horror – you’re young and carefree and your boss tells you he’s sending you to Munich for a work conference in the middle of Oktoberfest... So it’s not my usual Mediterranean haunt but it’s definitely something worth visiting Germany for. We had an area booked in the Windl tent – it’s big enough to sit 8.5k people inside and a further 5k people outside. As you can see from the picture, it was fairly packed. The atmosphere is great – you order your huge steins of beer or radlers (beer with a lemonade top for those less hardcore beer guzzlers like me) and these women dressed in dirndl carry them 8-10 at a time to your table. This is no small feat – I struggled with even one, having to use both hands everytime I wanted a sip. The food was great – not a single wurst in sight – and there’s a live band in the middle who play a medley of Bavarian classics, old school pop and every other song is a Bavarian drinking song. Pretty early on, everyone as far as the eye could see was on the table, singing, toasting, dancing and generally being merry. It was really good fun and I even managed to turn up to my 9am meeting the following day in a vaguely coherent state!

The town itself is beautiful too – a real chocolate box setting. Cute little houses in pastel colours with climbing ivy and wooden window frames. One of the first things to strike you is how tidy the streets are, which just adds to the pleasantness of the city. In the same town, there is the ultra modern BMW World which showcases the latest in luxury cars in an amazing torque-defying glass structure that looks like a twisted cone and then you see the Siemens building which looks more like an Austrian stately home – I half expected the Von Trapp kids to come running down the stairs singing about their favourite things! It was election weekend, so every street corner had photos of Angela Merkel and her peers which was possibly the only scary thing I saw the whole week...

This week we are moving office. Only across the courtyard so that now we face the church. It’s very odd how many churches there are in the City of London. I work less than 5 minutes walk from St Paul’s cathedral but my office shares a courtyard with another church and from our top floor, there are plenty more church spires dotted all over the place. There’s even a masonic temple hidden in the inner bowls of one of the older hotels. Anyhow, I’ve got 4 years of paper to sort through this week. Fun fun fun!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Blessed be

My parents have been together for a handsome 29 years - during that time they have remained faithful to each other and unquestioningly loyal to me and my younger brother. I have always had somewhere safe to call home and even now, if I were to ring them and say I was sick they would drive straight over in the middle of the night with hot chicken soup. I feel very blessed and hope that they have been successful at subconsciously implanting a picture of domestic bliss in my head which I shall be able to recreate for my own. It's natural for me to think of my future as I get ever closer to 30, but it saddens me to see my parents age. My mother is talking about knee pains and my daddy is getting forgetful. I just kind of assumed they would be around forever to look after me but the balance is definitely shifting and I can feel them becoming more reliant on me. It makes me happy to give something back but still, it saddens me...

On Friday night, I was out with some work colleagues (all male) when a guy came over, told me he had noticed me and was going to give me a chance to impress him. Takes some balls to do that - the line in itself is pretty special but infront of all those banker guys.. He's given me a time and place to meet him this Friday - says he'll wait for me for 15 minutes otherwise it's game over. I like arrogance but I think this guy watches too many movies or something. But my only Friday night plans so far are Otin/Hit40's Happy Hour #3... It will be a busy weekend for me though, am taking James Bond to the big Chelsea game on Sunday.

Tomorrow I am travelling into the English countryside to present to the pension board of a regional corporate. They are hosting a sort of 'beauty parade' for people to pitch for their £50m fund. Let's hope my baton twirling is up to scratch!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

WTF Wednesday

WTF! Far be it for me to pass judgement (yes, the irony is not lost on me don't worry!) but the joker Derren Brown is taking over English TV at 10:30 as he reckons he can predict what the winning lottery numbers will be tonight. It would be just that little bit more interesting for me if he were to use his magical powers in time for me to buy a lottery ticket. As it is, I don't see how he'll do it - if he gets it wrong he'll look ridiculous but if he gets it right, that may be an even bigger problem for the lottery organisers.

WTF! This is pretty disgusting so start jiggling your facial muscles in preparation of pulling your best disgusted face. On my daily commute to work this morning at a time when people are maybe tired but generally sober, a couple got on and sat on the same side as me. It was too early for the free newspaper so I was doing the usual gazing round the carriage to pass the time. In the window opposite me, I saw the couple's reflection and the girl had her hands on either side of her boyfriend's head and I assumed they were kissing and thought it was a bit early in the day for that kind of public affection. Anyhow, then I began to notice that other people were also looking at them and in a pretty disgusted way. I chuckled to myself thinking how conservative the British really are and took a look at them direct. Turns out they were not locked in a passionate embrace but the girl was using her grubby fingers to squeeze the puss out of they boy's acne-riddled face. A quick wipe on her shirt then it was back for the next one...

WTF! In the world of football (soccer, whatever...), the regulators have imposed a year long transfer ban on my Chelsea for allegedly encouraging a young player to come to the team when he already had a contract elsewhere. It's a pretty dangerous precedent they are setting as they'll have a tough time enforcing their own rules across all the football teams in Europe.

WTF! Had drinks with a girl last night who falls into the work-colleague-slash-friend category - always a tricky one with blurry lines... Anyway, she got really drunk and ended up knocking her full glass of red wine across the bar and all down my pale turquoise cardigan (it's nicer than it sounds). Not only did she not get me any napkins as I stood there with her red wine dripping down my neck but she offered no support as this strange Venezuelan man-slash-stranger kept hassling me to take my top off as he could remove it with tonic water. When I had got rid of the pest, she returned from the bar with only a new drink for herself!

WTF! South African gold medal winning sprinter Castor Semenya has been told she will not lose her medal no matter what the outcome of her gender test. Why did they make all that fuss in the first place then?

C'est la vie

Working for a publicly listed company has both good and bad points. A definite bad point is that we are not just focused on the bottom-line but also on the way we spin it for the sake of shareholders. As we have a August year end, we have received a memo from our CEO to manage our pay expectations. After talking about the redundancies that have been made and the savings that have been delivered, he goes on to say:

The direct effect of the sudden and substantial fall in markets has been to reduce the company’s income during the last financial year and these will inevitably have to be reflected in bonus payments and salary reviews in respect of last financial year to the end of September 2009. We are aware that our staff around the group have worked extremely hard over the last 12 months and may be disappointed that their bonus will fall year on year.

Not what you want to hear, especially as they already used this little trick last year and I ended up with a sackload of depressed shares. Not so clever when you were hoping for cash but hopefully when I am 50, they will be worth millions.. Anyway, like a good business school graduate, having slapped us down and warned us of how insecure our jobs are, he goes on to say:

I am therefore extremely confident that next year should show a strong recovery in both overall income and, more importantly, margin, which we would anticipate would be reflected in next year’s salary and bonus review.

I shall be keeping my eyes peeled to see what remuneration he gets when our annual report come out!

Monday, 31 August 2009

Strike!

You never know when it will strike, but there comes a point in every day when you decide you will no longer do any more work.

Usually, I can hold it off til after lunch at least but it's been getting earlier and earlier until it pretty much culminated on Friday by striking at 9am! I'd only been at work long enough to buy myself a coffee and flick through some overnight emails. Anyway, I felt so guilty that I stayed until 9pm - I actually got pretty productive after 6. The weirdest thing is, there is this man who works in fixed income who I only know by name and he was there even when I left. Thinking about it on my wonderfully lonely tube ride home, he is always there when I leave and always there before I arrive in the morning. Does he go home at all? Does he not get on with his wife? Do they have nothing to talk about now that the kids have flown the nest? Is he still living with his mother? Honestly, I was having a random Tuesday thoughts rant in my head and it kept me entertained all the way home.

So, hopefully this slackness was a Summer thing and I shall be good to go tomorrow. Although I keep looking at the clock willing the moment not to come. The guilt is simply unbearable.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Goody goody gumdrops

The whole blog journey began for me as I was procrastinating my way towards some financial exams. Results were out last week and I have passed! Hooray! After the initial relief, the whole thing is somewhat anticlimatic (don't you just hate that word?) because my reward is to sit the next level next Summer - although that one is the last one after which I can stick 3 extra letters after my name. Oh goody...

My 3 summer weddings are also over. Through some cunning facebook de-tagging, I have managed to go to all three wearing the same outfit without anyone knowing. The recession has got nothing on me - although my larger European neighbours have called an end to this depressing period by reporting the return of economic growth. Not only do I not trust their statisticians, but overall it's fairly meaningless to me as the UK still has a long way to go. But to cheer us all up, Simon Cowell is back on our screens with the latest series of the X factor. Oh goody....

At one of the summer weddings, I was reunited with James Bond - no, not the international man of mystery but the guy I was sort of dating before he decided to stop calling me back. To cut a long story short, during our first date, he found out his dad had been diagnosed with cancer (this was almost a year ago now). His dad passed away in June and we hadn't seen each other since. At the wedding, he was very open and chatted about his dad and how he is now looking after his mother, his parent's house and his dad's outstanding affairs - all pretty heavy burdens for a guy who should also be grieving. He was also coming on to me pretty strong but as much as I like him, I had to hold him back. He is very vulnerable right now and I don't really want to get involved with someone who doesn't return my calls. I felt really moral and superior at the time, but I regret letting the opportunity go now. Oh goody...

The news is smothered by 2 stories. Firstly, the UK is divided over al-Megrahi, the alleged Lockerbie bomber. The Americans are outraged by his compassionate release but the British news is reporting it at arms length as it falls into Scottish jurisdiction - they wanted their own parliament so let the Scots lie in the bed they have made. Even worse, the Libyan news thinks that al-Megrahi's release is a reflection of their country's growth in power - the Libyans believe he was set free because the Western world wants to be their friends. He was not set free as an innocent man, he was sent home to die as a guilty man as an act of compassion which will forever be argued as something he does not deserve. Secondly, we are all wasting time arguing over whether Caster Semenya is a woman or not. Leave her alone. What a horrible trauma for an 18 year old girl. Very publicly, the world is debating her gender and she has taken 'tests' (I really can't even begin to imagine how they test her) which will say whether it is appropriate for her to race as a woman.

Sometimes, I am so grateful to be a nobody.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Question of the day


What is your first response to this question?

Back when I was in school, I was in fact fourteen, I received a letter through the post. This in itself was exciting because post is a joyous affair when you're young as you haven't yet learnt the dread of those monthly bills... Anyway, this letter was addressed to me and simply had 'Who are you?' typed on a blank sheet of paper. Sadly, this was during the scary nineties and I was so worried that someone was out to get me and that I would find a horse's head in my bed that my dad had to come clean and say it was from him. He had read an article about a book called 'Sophie's World' in which a fourteen year old girl receives the same anonymous letter and it begins a journey through philosophy and self discovery. I don't think he ever got over the disappointment of me not being able to think outside of the box but such are the risks when you set such high goals...

I was reminded of this today as I was chatting to my friend over a coffee, having dragged her round Nike town as I tried on every pair of running shorts going. She is probably the most religious person I know and we were killing time until she had to go to church for evening service. She was telling me how last week, the sermon had been about identity and how we choose to identify ourselves. How do I answer the question 'who are you?'? I am a daughter, a sister, a banker, a European, a female, an athlete...etc etc. The sermon was saying that some identities are not forever - ie your parents will pass away, you may change jobs - but if you identify yourself as a Christian then this is an everlasting relationship.

I'm vaguely aware that I have written 2 consecutive posts that are loosely based on religion but I think this is interesting for everybody. Given my track record, I probably wouldn't define myself first as a blogger (although I am trying!) but I really couldn't decide what to choose first. If I was a believer of mantras then I guess I could make myself into anything as long as I say it out loud enough times! Although it makes you think about all those AA meetings where they make you say 'I am an alcoholic' before you say anything else which seems to be a somewhat negative form of self-branding. However, I'm off to polish up my positive outlook on life - I am afterall an optimist!

NB. Usain Bolt has just run 100m in 9.58s - it seriously takes me longer to get out of bed. Immense.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Summer camp


This is not something I personally have to worry about but it's that time of year and the great American summer tradition has made it across the pond to little ol' England. The camp in question is called Camp Quest. Set up in the US in 1996, this is a camp for children who don't believe in God. Now, I am a Roman Catholic but I never bring this up in normal conversation and I make a point of not discussing my views with people I meet during everyday life (this is probably some suppressed catholic guilt but that is a whole other story which we can tackle another day!). My point today is why on earth make a camp for children that is specifically made to promote atheism, which is in itself a choice to not believe in God and a choice to not have faith. Can a 7 year old child really decide that they don't want to believe in a higher power, any more than they can choose to believe that they do?


The founders of Camp Quest allege that atheists are not allowed to join Scouts or Guides. Is this true? Apart from usual camp activities, they teach the scientific beginnings of the earth and attempt to dis-prove the existence of things like unicorns to nullify the existence of God by association. Come on, throw me a bone - this is the most ridiculous thing I have seen in a long time (even more so than the green shoots of recovery!!). What is the world coming to? Just send your kids to the same camp their friends are going to. Let them sit round a fire and sing ging-gang-goolie after a day kayaking on the lake. They have plenty of time to sit round their fraternity common room arguing over existentialism and heaven/hell whilst smoking banned substances as they come of age. In the meantime, let them believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. The race is not to have the freakiest kids who know the truth about everything, it's to enjoy the fact that they are KIDS and to protect their innocence as long as you can. I find the idea of Camp Quest about as appealing as Bible Camp. Shades of grey people, shades of grey!!!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Time is like a waterfall


always flowing down,

we have but one moment,

to swim and not to drown


In response to dear Otin who always knows what is at the forefront of my thoughts, I am going to respond to his comment through this post. This weekend was the last of the Formula One races before the summer break in Hungary. It's very popular as its central location means it is easily accessible to all European fans and thus attracts a variety of F1 fans. On Saturday, the man Alonso managed to get his car on pole, thanks to a few car improvements but also a light fuel strategy. This however was marred by the tragic accident which saw a 1kg spring off a formula one car go bouncing down the track to hit Felipe Massa on the head when he was driving at racing speed. He lost consciousness and drove straight into a barrier. He was air-lifted to hospital and is now in intensive care - the latest is that he can move his arms and legs but can not speak. He is not expected to race again this season. Spookily, a week earlier, Henry Surtees (son of former F1 champion John) died after being hit in the head at racing speed by the loose wheel of a fellow F2 racer. To add to the general bad karma of the weekend, Alonso had to withdraw from the race on Sunday after a bad pit stop saw his wheel fly off in the middle of a lap.


As an Alonso fan, I am devastated that he is being suspended from the next race (which incidentally is his home race in Spain) but as an F1 fan, I am truly devastated by what has happened to Massa and hope for his speedy and full recovery. Everyone knows the sport is dangerous but so far we have been lucky with a good run without any serious accidents.


And because I can't end on something sad, here's a quick journey into the ridiculous. A group of children were made to walk backwards into the sea, arms linked and singing a song as part of a confidence building exercise. It all went rather pear shaped as the tide pulled out the sandbank from beneath their feet and the whole group of 40 were only just rescued by coast guards. The camp organiser's reponse: "Obviously we've pulled that exercise and it will never be done again"

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Riddle's diary

Harry Potter mania is alive and well here in London - everyone is crazy about Ron's swine flu episode, Hermione's latest dress and the sexual preferences of Professor Dumbledore. The longer I live, the more impressed I am at the commercial machine that is JK Rowling. Not only are the Potter chronicles an amazing work of fantasy fiction but she really knows how to keep the media interested. Those tales from Beedle the bard (?) which were sold at auction for some crazy price - a stroke of genius. Even more so now that they have been released to the general public (I'd be pretty peeved if I was one of the 6 original owners who thought the tales would not be made available to the general public!). And now, JK is telling everyone that Dumbledore is gay which of course is like a magic word to generate publicity (yes I know, amazing that it still has that effect..). Anyway, to quote from the original JK "if there must be madness, something may be said for having it on a heroic scale". Amen to that.

There's a Potter story which is based around an enchanted diary that belonged to a boy called Tom Riddle. This diary gets into the hand of an innocent child who finds solace in the responses that appear to her diary entries. As it turns out, Riddle is on the 'evil' side of the war and uses the diary to influence lonely teenagers. As I was reading it, I thought thank goodness for internet blogs! Don't think Riddle's diary would have gotten far if left unattended in a school today as everyone can blog, tweet, facebook (is this a verb now?) etc. Having said that, I honestly think I haven't heard of a chatroom grooming case for a while - not sure if this is so common now that it is no longer news-worthy or if children are becoming more savvy about information on the internet. I like to think it's the latter - knowledge is a great argument to fight the 'nanny state'.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Holiday!

If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be, it would be so nice!
I have had a most relaxing week in a mountain top villa in the Sierra Nevada - some may say it's the traditional British summer escape, but it was truly lovely. All the wonderful sea views without having to face the crowds. There's something very calming about being so close to the sky - I think I am definitely a mountain (as opposed to sea) person. Whilst I was mildly excited by the sliver thin resurgence of the British Pound, it didn't really matter because the cost of food was so cheap. The Spanish wine that I buy in my local supermarket in London (Tesco for those that are interested) is 60% cheaper - I can infact buy the Reserva for less than I pay for the Crianza here. Between the wine, gazpacho and sea views, it's been a very liquid week!

On the Sunday, I went to a Spanish bar to watch the German Grand Prix and experienced something I never get in London - the warm embrace of fellow Fernando Alonso fans. All the warmer for its rarity. Apart from this one indulgence, I was pretty sure I would relish the isolation but I discovered I have one further addiciton. I am addicted to news. Every morning, no matter how hard I tried to distract myself, and much to the amusement of my addiction-free friends, I had to get to a newsagent and buy an English newspaper. The only newspaper that makes the daily journey to Spain is The Sun (this is the most widely circulated tabloid in the UK, read by the masses, often based on hypotheses, with dubious journalism quality but with a fair chunk of sarcasm and some genius headlines - incidently my brother works there). So, mostly I read about how swine flu is inflitrating the nation, how Jennifer Anniston has found herself another man and how Cheryl Cole is prettier than Dannii Minogue. There were little snippets that covered the Indonesia bombings which I could use to piece together the pictures on Spanish TV. What language barrier I say...

Thankfully, the heat has broken here as you all predicted. I have come back to a much milder climate complete with drizzly showers - everyone is still walking round dressed as though it is 10 degrees hotter though, which is probably adding to the swine flu statistics that The Sun continues to churn out. When I was young, I had a Korean nanny who swore on my many dead ancestors' lives that if you went to sleep with a fan on, you would not wake up in the morning. I used to think she was crazy, but I've never been able to go to sleep with the fan on. You may laugh, but this is serious folklore in Korea - like the Bogeyman, or throwing spilt salt over your shoulder, or not walking under ladders. It's known as fan death - read the wiki-link.

As an aside, an American won the British Open today at Turnberry. It was a day of despair and disappointment - firstly for Ross Fisher, the local lad, who managed a double par when he was 2 shots in the lead to rule himself out of play. However, the real tear-jerker was 59 year old Tom Watson, an old school hero, who had been leading the competition and threw it away on the final hole to lose to another American during the play off. Sport can be so cruel.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Humid


It's hot, like horrible Far-Eastern-just-before-massive-monsoon hot.
Sticky, wet, overcast hot.
No-tan hot.

I've been working 14 hour days and I come home and it's roasting. Top floor flats with closed windows are not what one should have to come home to. Plus I can't sleep with the windows open because of a phobia I have harboured since watching To Catch A Thief - who knows what/who will climb in through your top floor window!

Anyway, all I have to eat is low fat chocolate mousse - I really don't know why I bought this. It's clearly indulgent so I may as well have gone all out. This low fat version is really hideous and completely doesn't satisfy on any level. Who drank all the emergency wine? If only my mum could see me now...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Zen...


...the only thing keeping me going is the photo of Alonso and me which I have taken to carrying around in my handbag! Every stranger I meet gets the full story. I'm sure I will get bored of it one day... haha

Work is super busy. After graduation, as I stepped into the warm embrace of the financial Centre of Europe, I deliberately steered away from investment banking where my friends commonly stay at work until 2am and then boast that they get to take a company-paid cab home. Instead I chose to be a fund manager - something equally important sounding at all important high school reunions yet with friendlier hours. But somewhere, I think I've been conned!

We're doing a big acquisition - taking over a company that is far bigger in size than we are. Don't even get me started on the politics involved of integrating 2 separate teams - one of which is significantly higher profile and better paid. You know what they say: Change is good. But not in my back yard!!

Lots of news over the past week but it's all just passing me by without giving me a chance to make sarcastic quips. Michael Jackson, Bernard Madoff, Air France... But the one I've chosen to highlight is the story of James Amburn, a fund manager much like myself. He was tortured and held hostage by a gang of pensioners for 4 days for losing their pension money.

His excuse? "Due to market conditions, unfortunately [the money is] gone"

Damn it, that's my line!!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Silverstone!



I can't find the words to describe what I experienced yesterday. I am in search of a new life dream - let's just leave it at that! Come follow me down the Grid Walk!!

Pole sitter and eventual winner Vettel arriving at the coveted front spot.
Former Champion Kimi doing his pre-race preparations:
Fellow Ferrari driver and very close runner up last year, Massa:

And a final treat - Double world champion Fernando Alonso. Can't wait for his talent to be released on a half decent car!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

So many men...

...so little time...

Having spent the last 3 weeks of May planning my post-exam social calendar, I am now completely exhausted. I'm not complaining, but I wish I had had the foresight to pencil in some time to sleep!

After a week of university reunions, tube strikes and wine tastings, Friday night was my night out with the short Ribero del Duero man. To put the height thing to bed, I wore my usual heels just to see how odd we would look and arrived fashionably late to our rendez-vous. He had been really excited about taking me to a bar he knew, and being a man in the wine industry, I naturally had high hopes. He showed up even later than me wearing the same clothes he had been wearing the first time we met. We walked round for ages as he wasn't quite sure where we were going. He finally found his bar and my heart sank - it was Waxy O'Connors. I had lost the will to argue by then so just went in and asked for a house white. He then proceeded to talk me through the noses and bouquets in my glass of house wine from Waxy O'Connors. The whole while I was looking down on him thinking my life had reached new lows. The last time I had been here was 12 years ago for my first under-age alcoholic drink. It's a funny old life...

After this car crash of a foray into dating, my friends and I were out for someone's birthday on Saturday night in South Kensington at one of those nouveau bars where you hope someone else is picking up the tabs. As usual with these places, the heating was up high to encourage alcohol consumption so I was driven to stand outside for a while with the smokers. There was quite a commotion as an American banker had refused to pay his bill and the waiter had taken him outside to get the money. Now, the waiters at this place are known for their guns - the house special is a watermelon martini where the fresh watermelon is put in a shaker with ice and broken down into liquid from vigorous shaking alone. There were punches thrown and the police were called. There was quite a crowd gathering and an American man started chatting to me about what was going on. The incident was resolved, the banker's friend paid his tab and his friends started to drag him down the road. He then turned round and yelled out for Brad. Turns out that whilst the banker was being hit by the waiter, his best friend, who is a lawyer and could no doubt have been quite helpful to his cause, was hitting on me! What a great guy - I have all the luck!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Fort Frick

Once upon a time there was a young man called Henry Clay Frick who vehemently opposed all organised labour unions. Dubbed the worst CEO in American history, Frick was so unimpressed by the steel unions that he went face to face with the rioting masses back in the 1890s leading to several employee deaths and an assasination attempt. I don't know if this led to him lending his surname to grade 2 insults but he's generally regarded as an unpleasant being.

Well, I wish he were here now to sort out the sorry state of London Underground. For 2 days now we have had no underground metro system. Doesn't sound very scary I know, but it took me 2.5 hours to get to work this morning because I ended up walking the whole way! I don't mind a spot of exercise but not at 6:30am and certainly not if there is a whole day of work awaiting me. The journey back has been no less enjoyable.

What is making the underground workers so miserable I hear all you labour-friendly people ask? Well, in the middle of a global recession which has left most stones thoroughly turned, the underground union is demanding a 5% pay increase and a guarantee for no redundancies. I never make out like I am anything but a heartless capitalist but this is too much even for me. I would rather walk 5 hours a day than see them get job security ahead of the rest of the economy. The underground union have replaced Gordon Brown on my dartboard. Long live Henry Frick!

Completely unrelated but check out the amount of moolah being moved around in Spain - a so called bust economy. Now that's a dream team!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Dongle mania

Better late than never - I am a child of the noughties!

I have bought myself a laptop and a dongle - it seems to make everyone laugh but they really named it that! Apparently it is because the brains behind it didn't have quite enough creativity to give it a geeky name so just named it dongle. Anyway, it gives me mobile broadband which can only be good.

Just a quick one today but here is my keepsake story. This summer I am funding the O's first holiday abroad. Both my parents worked very hard to send me to [what they thought were] the best schools so I am very happy to be able to do this. It's not that we haven't all travelled separately but we have never had the time or money to all go at once. Our annual summer holiday used to be a Sunday trip to the seaside setting off at 4am but we always had to be back in time for them to go to work at 6pm. Then my brother and I became teenagers... This is a big milestone for me, but obviously I am not yet mature enough to let it go as an unsung act of greatness. Maybe next year I will be big enough to do a good deed and keep it to myself - although I wouldn't put money on it!

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Fear

... is here

400 hours and 40 minutes til exam day - calculated using my overqualified Texas BA II plus which can apparently do much more useful things such as tell me the time value of a dividend today relative to a capital gain tomorrow. The joys...







As an aside, during my week off, it has come to my attention that the greatest slacker film of all time is selling a little bit of real estate. Sub prime spares no one - click on the photo if you have a spare $2.4m and want to be Ferris Bueller


Saturday, 30 May 2009

Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife

Isn't it ironic?

I started getting outrageous calls from EDF Energy (my electricity provider) last week saying I was seriously over due on my bills and if I didn't pay within 5 days they would take me to court. When I got home there was indeed a bill dated 28th April saying I had to make my payment before May 12th. How am I supposed to meet this deadline if I receive the letter 2 weeks too late? Inside was also a leaflet outlining the huge benefits of paying by direct debit - the day I trust utility companies to take money out of my account automatically is the day I start wearing Burberry baseball caps. Backwards. With a matching Chihuahua.

The Government expenses scandal has reached fever pitch and we are on the brink of seeing the 13th casualty (I still like it when something reaches the number 13) - and I, the good apathetic citizen that I am, am getting bored. It was funny to see them squirm at first but it's just unbelievable what they've been getting away with. The Labour MP who claimed expenses for a house with no remaining mortgage, then the Liberal MP who claimed for a house for his daughter, then the Conservative MP who claimed for a house for his ducks! Look to your left to see what £1645 will get for your feathered friends these days. All this while they are trying to make Bank CEOs take less pay.

There is a man in Texas called T. Boone Pickens. One of the big wildcatters of yore, Pickens made a small fortune in the oil industry taking him onto Forbes' Rich List but is now campaigning for renewables of all things - investing his own wealth into wind farms across Texas which has seen the US recently overtake nuclear Germany as the highest renewables generator in the world. But this is still peanuts if you consider the US uses 25% of the World's daily oil production for 4% of the World's population. I am no environmentalist - my green credentials stop at separating out wine bottles and newspapers from my household garbage. I don't understand Boone Pickens - maybe he is trying to make up for his past carbon footprint or maybe he is laughing at us all - but I can't argue with Pickens' Plan. So what if he makes money out of it too? It's a whole lot better than financing the likes of Paris Hilton.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Cogs

This is what I would rather be doing today - can you imagine the satisfaction of having it all come together?

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Blue skies

When you're waiting for the kettle to boil, mail to arrive or other inspiration to strike - do you ever wonder what other people are doing at that exact moment? If I am having a really lazy day - you know the kind, when you're still in your pyjamas after lunch - I can normally shame myself into getting dressed and out the door by thinking of how I am wasting a day compared to the likes of Warren Buffett, Tiger Woods or Anna Wintour.

The Formula 1 Grand prix this weekend is being held in Monaco. Whilst it's not my favourite track of the F1 calendar, there's still something special about Monaco with its F1 history, the annual drivers dinner hosted by the King and the decadent buildings all round the track. I also love that it is a street course so everyone drives on it for the remaining 51 weeks of the year. There's something pleasing in thinking that they are the same roads that Maxmillian de Winter drove in Rebecca - I inted one day to drive round them myself - hopefully in a Bugatti Veron!


Watching it on TV, all you can see in the background are these fabulous yachts docked in the harbour full of people wearing Ray Ban Clubmasters sipping champagne.

How come our Saturday mornings are so different?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Thou shalt not covet...

So pretty....

Summer wedding season is fast approaching and the powers of facebook mean that one dress will not suffice for 3 weddings on consecutive weekends!

Obivously I am busy studying, but on my well deserved breaks I was looking at dresses and I love this pale pink one from the Miss Dior perfume advert. The dress is beautiful in itself but I'm also sold on the Miss Dior lifestyle as she flits through the cobbled streets in her dress enjoying all things Parisian. The full length gown you can see a snippet of is completely stunning too. For those interested, the ad was directed by Sofia Coppola and the song is a Brigitte Bardot classic - moi je joue. So happy!

I know you can't wear white to weddings but are there any other rules? I've heard no black and no red too - is this true? So many rules...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

This is no ordinary promotion...

I guess this joke will be lost on all non-British TV watching folk but it's the tagline for Marks & Spencers, one of the UK's biggest retailers. 125 years ago, a Jewish man in Manchester set up a penny stall to sell household bits and bobs. From this, M&S grew to become the darling of the British high street providing good quality basics in clothes, homeware and food. They even dabbled in the US when they bought Brooks Brothers, but they've since let that one go. Their international dreams cost them their domestic focus and they lost share in their customers' wallets to the likes of Tesco, Topshop etc.

But now, M&S are on a charm offensive headed up by Sir Stuart Rose - who has quite the illustrious history himself. He's not been very popular, but he always wears an M&S suit when he does public and shareholder appearances - I know that's pretty trivial but you would be surprised by how many CEOs preach about the quality of their products but don't choose to invest in the lifestyle they're trying to sell (a bit like Wagoner, Nardelli and Mulally choosing private jets!). Do what you want on your own time, but don't think that you're better than your consumers and they will keep coming to your store if you look down on your own products!

Now, TV adverts show Twiggy and Erin O'Connor prancing about in meadows wearing and eating M&S. To top it off, they are celebrating their 125th birthday by going back to their Penny Bazaar roots and offering a selection of 20 items for the princely sum of 1p (about 1.5c). I think this is a great marketing idea and ties in well to the current frugal lifestyle we are all trying to adopt. But take a look at these comments to a newspaper article - there's just no pleasing some people. As for me, I'm off to do my Christmas shopping for the next 20 years!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Slick thinking

Although there's nothing like a good fiction novel, I've been reading a fair chunk of non-fiction of late - mostly biographies of people who inspire me but also the history of large corporations. Have you ever wondered how Exxon started life? A man in Ohio called Rockefeller sowed the seeds for what is now the largest public company in the world. Over a hundred years of history seeped with family feuds, public humiliation, Government intervention, forced break up... could almost be the storyline for the next Dallas series.

It's particularly interesting within the context of OPEC and the controlled regime with which we produce oil and gas globally now. Although having said this, we like to think there are regulations in place to protect us but really the balance of power is shifting to the emerging markets who still have reserves of oil to drill. In the US, imports of oil are now more than double what is produced nationally.

Which brings me on to Peak Oil - probably most famously associated with Hubbert's theory that predicts the point at which any given oil field hits peak production after which, it goes into decline. People have tried to apply this on a global level to see when World oil fields will go into terminal decline with varying predictions from the pessimist "it's already happened" to the optimist "won't be til after I'm dead". Answers on a postcard please!

The price of oil spiked at $160/barrel last year which had people stocking up at petrol stations and saw our electricity bills and transport costs go through the roof. And yet we pay $3 for a litre of bottled water which is equivalent to $475/barrel. I don't even pretend to understand the complexity behind setting oil prices (one would like to think it is just a by product of a free market) but it's scary to think there are people out there who do this for a living and can have such a big impact on our daily lives.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Make it a Blue day!

Jubilations!

Although my dear football team have finished third in the league, today is a momentous day in my life as I have FINALLY made it to the top of the list! The credit crunch obviously serves a purpose as enough people have gone bankrupt for me to get a season ticket - I've only been on the waiting list since 2002. I have been saving to buy my dream Miu Miu handbag but I figure it is already almost out of fashion and I can't really turn down this ticket - who knows when I'll be offered it next. I'm going to keep it forever and create a legacy. My future children will fight to be the one to inherit it...

In a haze of blue glory, I'm going to dedicate this post to all things sporty in my life. I'm an avid golfer (yes, don't worry, I already know it spoils a good walk) but it started as the only way I could spend 4 straight hours with my dad without threatening to disown each other, and for some reason, the game comes very easy to me. To balance out the cardiovascular side of life, I shall be running the London half marathon this October - I'm glad to have found marathoner81 as I'm now relying on her to shame me into training through her own rigorous regime!

I also love watching Formula One races - it's just something about the speed, the cars, the slight smell of petrol you can smell through the TV screen... It's been tarnished of late by several 'scandals' involving fraud, dishonesty and general confusion . Even worse, a few teams including Ferrari are threatening to pull out on the back of spending restrictions - it's all turned into a political off-track nightmare. It doesn't help that ungrateful drivers are comparing it to being in prison. What a complete idiot thing to say - he earns more than I know how to count up to, he drives a car worth more than my life insurance, he's dating a pussycat doll, he's giving his family the life they always wanted and he's living his dream of being a Champion driver. The boy needs to learn some perspective on life. My loyalties remain firmly with the great eyebrow-ed one...

Anyhow, here's hoping for a great season for Chelsea next year!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

More Vino?

On Friday, a few colleagues and I were invited down to the International Wine fair (held in the same location that my exams will be in a few weeks!) for 'business' and we carefully selected a 4pm slot so as to have some time afterwards to enjoy the rest of the fair. There were wine producers galore from all over the world, and we were more than happy to sample their wares.

As a big supporter of European trade, I hit the old world stalls with a vengeance and found a small Spanish producer of Ribera del Duero - Rioja's lesser known sibling - which I absolutely love. Even better, the guy on the stall was gorgeous - deeply tanned with dark hair and these amazing long eyelashes that were tinted blonde at the tips (no doubt from all those hours spent under the sun tending the vineyards...). In his broken English with a beautiful thick Spanish accent, he was telling me the history of the 'terroir' in Valladolid but he could have been saying anything to be honest because all I was thinking was... how short is too short? Granted my sense of perspective may not have been 100% at the time, but I'm pretty sure eye-contact involved no head tilting.

He's offered to take me out next week but I'm not sure I want to date a guy who affects my choice of shoes. On the plus side, and this is a big plus, I will probably never be short of wine!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Someone say Cupcakes?

Is this not the cutest picture? Who can say no to a cupcake, let alone one that is covered in frosting and being lusted after by Bambi?

Thanks to Otin for sending me his deer cupcake award - rules (since when have awards come with rules? Although I guess the silent rule to any award is maintain the status quo, be it for Nadal to continue beating Federer or for the beauty queen to continue facilitating world peace...) are to respond and rework. Answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention, and add one additional question.


1).What is your current obsession? Broadening my horizons - I think I am having a recession-driven epiphany.
2).Where are you right now? A strangely sunny London
3).Coffee or tea? Coffeeeee!!
4).What's one of your favorite movies? Roman Holiday
5).What's one thing you're looking forward to? June 8th (day after my exams) and the start of the summer - rock on!
6).Who was your childhood crush? The enduring crush is Jensen Ackles (he's now looking mighty hot in Supernatural) but with age has come a desire for substance. I like high achievers now.
7).What is your current favorite Song? The man who can't be moved by the Script. Trends find me slow...
8).What would you like to get rid of? Self-doubt. I am woman - hear me roar!
9).What in life are you waiting on? An early retirement with an intelligent man (who will also happen to be a mediterannean millionaire) in a Tuscan villa surrounded by cypress trees. We will drink wine from our land and I would blog every day - haha
10). Why did you start your blog? It was one of many tactics to delay revising! It's strangely captivating though - I can see how people get addicted.
11).If money was not an issue, what is one thing you would purchase for yourself? A Formula One team.
12).If you could live in a foreign country, which one would you choose? Italy - I want la dolce vita!
13).What is one trait about yourself that you wish you could change? Probably a little too probing for the morning after the night before...
14). Tipple of choice? I love cold and dry white wine. I like my cocktails fruity although on a first date I would probably go for a martini to be less girly and my best holiday ever was drenched in limoncello!

And now, for the nicest part of all. You don't have to do the questions, but your blogs are deer to me!
Otin - I offer you the option of answering the new questions and I love Otins Chat
Cris - In the bleak days when I was a blogging newbie, you gave me much joy by leaving me comments. You know what they say, you never forget your first.. haha
Hit 40 - I think you already receive every award going - but here's another just because teachers shape our futures.
Madeline - I don't know where you've gone, but I really enjoy your snapshots.
Marathoner81 - Like Hit40 on the awards front but keep up the training - I want us both to finish come October!

Friday Funny

Can I pretend it's still Friday somewhere in the world?

I was reminded of this because someone was having frozen pizza for dinner last night.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Bad Vs Evil

Welcome to the House of Shame.

The war between the bankers and the politicians continues, and as biased as I may be, the bankers seem to be winning by default. The government have shot themselves in the foot once again this week as their frivolous past manipulation of allowable expenses has been brought into the scathing eyes of the general public. Hot on the heels of their intention to raise taxes to 50% next April, we find that our taxes have been used to pay for politicans' late night pay-TV, home improvements (someone even had a new wet-room installation paid for!) and fine dining experiences. Even our Great Leader has been paying his brother £3k per year to clean his house.

Words that spring to mind are rocks and glass houses. Pretty poor form to be advocating national belt-tightening and quantatative easing when the Government are using our taxes to pay for their second, third, fourth homes. Some politicians are exploiting some pretty dubious loopholes to try and justify the £15k kitchen they've had put in, but it all sounds a bit Enron-esque which I'm fairly sure they all deemed morally corrupt at the time...

I've got nothing against rewarding people who are doing a good job but I don't think any one in politics is deserving of that accolade just now.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

It's as easy as A - B - C

I have finely honed revision skills that involve leaving everything til the last minute whilst accumulating a growing level of stress (inversely proportional to the number of days left) and then working through the night on d-day whilst my pencil races against the dawn - it takes a week after the exam period to rebuild my sanity!

It all started in high school when exams used to stretch over 3 weeks. It was a time I used to look forward to because for those 3 weeks of the year, we were allowed to come to school in our own clothes. It was supposed to help us feel comfortable, but going to an all girls school, this was an open invitation for us to wake up an hour earlier to match our belts to our pencil case, straighten our hair and showcase our newest jeans. One time I was so exhausted and sleep-deprived, something had to give. There's still an urban legend at the school now of a crazy, one-eyed, hunch backed girl who suffered a mental breakdown and came to school in uniform on own-clothes-day. *shudder*...

It all switched at university as the only time I was told what to wear was during exam time. I kid you not, I had to wear a black skirt, white shirt and a black ribbon round my neck whilst the boys had a wear a full black suit and a white bow tie. Can you imagine anything more stressful on the morning of your exam than trying to tie a bow-tie? We also had to carry our graduation hat to every exam - even though we're not allowed to put them on until graduation day. This proved quite useful as it turned into my pencil case - as an engineer I had rulers, calculators, protractors, compasses and as a hypochondriac I had 10 super sharp pencils, just in case... If we weren't dressed properly, we were turned away from exam schools! Those sleepless nights ironing shirts to be granted exam entry - best days of my life...

Now I'm sitting for a professional qualification that is supposed to make me a better financial analyst and give me three more letters after my name. As a US corporation, they charge us $1000 for the pleasure of sitting a 6 hour exam on a Saturday (my company is paying, for those of you thinking I really am a crazy, one-eyed hunch-back) and you have to pass 3 levels to get the qualification. So whether I pass or fail, I will still be taking another exam next June! The same crazy long exam is sat across the world on the same weekend and in London alone, there are 40,000 people who turn up at this huge warehouse where all you can see are rows of desks stretching back to infinity. As zero hour approaches, the shutters start to roll down and desparate candidates roll under the gap (very Indiana Jones) and I begin to frantically re-sharpen all my pencils. Only a month to go - wish me luck!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Is it too soon...?

Got an email from the exam regulators this week saying they are taking into account the recent flu epidemic and they are working hard to ensure there will be no disruptions on exam day (a 6 hour exam on a Saturday that takes place simultaneously all over the world - I'm sure there's an arbitrage opportunity there somewhere with the time differences but I haven't quite figured it out yet...)


Monday, 4 May 2009

Cow Economics

Something funny just because it's Monday. I tried to google an original source for these jokes but all I got were many many many variations. Think I need to relocate to France or Italy. Have fun adding your own
SOCIALISM
You have 2 cows. You give one to your neighbour.
COMMUNISM
You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.
FASCISM
You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

NAZISM
You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.

BUREAUCRATISM
You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away…

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM
You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies. You then employ someone else to do the work and you graball future profits to fund your indolent lifestyle.

SURREALISM
You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION
You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION
You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows. You break for lunch. Life is good

A JAPANESE CORPORATION
You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION
You have two cows. You re-eng ineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. A beautiful woman walks past. You decide to have lunch. Life is good

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION
You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION
You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows. You worship them.

A BRITISH CORPORATION
You have two cows. Both are mad.

AN IRAQI CORPORATION
Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of Democracy….

AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers and a barbeque to celebrate and ponder why none of the cows have pouches for their young

A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION
You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Let it be me

This week involved interviewing interns. Those who have made it through the rigorous screening process, which every year sees my colleagues hanging about after work one day with a few bottles of wine as we sift through the many CVs. My team is young, with the majority of us being under 30, so it’s not that long since we ourselves were the interviewee. Life is tough – there are slim margins between applicants on the academic side as they all seem to be excelling at top notch universities – so more often than not, it comes down to that special chance that one word somewhere on the CV makes a connection with the interviewer – be it a shared interest or the same home town. At the end of the day, they are all plenty smart but you want them to fit in with the existing team but also to bring something new.

At university, I was much like any other student, with that subtle arrogance from the belief that I was en route to something big. The place was full of high achievers who spent their free time perfecting their tennis serve, protesting for human rights or running for university president – all things I believed I could achieve too if I chose to. Then comes graduation, which for many is the final curtain on their childhood, and we are released to once again, become the smallest fish in a very large pond. My self belief is eroded away with every unsuccessful job application and I’m left with regrets. I had a unique four year window of opportunity where I was free to chase after any dream but was too lazy to take advantage of it.

And now it gives me great pleasure to meet these hopeful interns, who are trying to plan their summer vacation to include experiences that will help them on their road forward. Their new suits, straight postures and eager eyes takes me back to a happy time – although with every passing year, the edges become a little more frayed with thoughts of what could have been.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

What is life...



"What is life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare"

Just hearing the first 2 lines of this poem slows down my breathing and brings me a sense of peace. I can't describe it any other way but I often recite it to myself when I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed - easily done in these inpatient times we live in. I'm back at my parents' house this weekend and my dad came down to the canal with me this morning on my run. I hadn't even noticed that he wasn't following me but I jogged back to find him chatting with a canal boat owner at one of the locks. He was like a child - completely enthralled by how the lock was controlling the water levels to allow the boat to pass. I was jogging on the spot, stretching, shuffling my feet and generally acting like a spoilt child when he asked if I had ever seen this before and understood how it worked. I only just stopped myself from answering yes, because on reflection, I don't think I have. I just think I have because I've obviously seen it on TV at some point - maybe in a geography class in school when I was much younger. Don't get me wrong, I am and will forever remain a huge TV addict and it lets me into worlds that I would never otherwise see. But it's also de-sensitized me to the real world - I could really do with some standing and staring...

In case I'm coming over all zen, I'm going to end with a mini-rant. Our great leader has pushed through an incredible 50% tax rate to begin next year on any income over £150k. This comes after having made every £1 in my pocket worth substantially less than it ever has been at a time when all food and commodities are priced much higher. Sure, copy the Italians with their Robin Hood tax and placate the masses but how many high earners does he think will remain UK domiciled if they have to pay 50% tax? Discourage the high earners and high spenders, and all he will be left with is a huge deficit created by his own over spending and his sell off of the UK manufacturing industry (currently one of the only countries without their own steel production which is arguably a national defense issue). I don't know, it all seems very complicated and vicious-circle-esque. I think I'm just bitter because despite my best efforts, I don't make it anywhere near the £150k line! My lack of career progression has been effective tax planning all along...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Recession dating

Another effect of the financial crisis has been the change in the dating scene. Gone are the days when 2 girls out at a wine bar in the City could almost guarantee being offered a drink by some well heeled banker - they are much more calculating over their discretionary incomes now. Also, there's probably a lot less of them around. Bankers are either moving on to pastures new - the cheese shop they've dreamt of running, the new start in a new country or even moving into teaching where bankers are being offered a fast track option to lessen the shortage of science/maths teachers - or they are even more tied to their desks as the fight for survival gets tougher and tougher.

I've always been a big believer in opposites attract so have generally tried to avoid dating anyone in finance. Can you imagine how dull life as a couple would be if your common interest was limited to work - especially if you work in an industry that encourages high competition and high stress. Plus now there's the added risk of both of you being unemployed. No no, the best piece of advice now would be diversify your assets and spread away those risks...

The man I am currently pretending not to like is a government employee (safe as houses!) - and this is the first time I have dipped my toe in Her Majesty's pool (so to speak). I always say I am far too mature and sensible to be dealing with boys who play games, but secretly I love all this will-he-won't-he-call-me angst. The James Bond affair has been one hell of a long game, I think we've met up all of 6 times in the last 8 months but he's incredibly witty and very confident. He came to meet me after work one time, to have a drink I thought, but he took me to this small museum which has recreated a London house in the 18th Century (sight, sounds, smell - the lot). You walk from the servants quarters in the basement all the way up past the kitchens, living room to the top floor bedrooms and you're not allowed to talk. I never even knew it was there - I love that he is so different.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Chicken Licken


It's amazing how much of a difference a four day week can have on your general well-being and goodwill towards men. After several months of chicken licken mania when all the media were running round telling the world that the sky was falling down, there seems to be a sort of reprieve at the moment. Maybe the markets are still sleepy after gorging on too many eggs but there is a definite calm and sense of peace. I think people are ready for some good news and willing it to happen. If we collectively wish for it hard enough - then maybe it can happen.

Sadly, fairytales don't cut it with me - I blame the years at an all girls high school where being the first to denounce santa claus and my little ponies was vital for survival. Moments of calm like these just make me worry about the impending storm. Whilst everyone else is enjoying the sun, I'm scrambling about buttoning down the hatches. You should have seen me entering the new millenium when Y2K was allegedly going to cause a global meltdown as all the sophisticated technology we rely on wouldn't be able to cope with a change of year... It was not pretty to say the least.

I've found a journalist who shares my view - have a read of his piece on how big corporations are still able to get away with accounting shenanigans. Have we learnt nothing from Lehmans, Enron, Northern Rock etc? Our ability to forget pain is often bandied about as a blessing in reference to child birth but it would probably be wise to keep a rubber band around our wrists to remind us to be more vigilant.