Monday, 20 February 2012


I am not sure that the appointment of the ghastly Les Ebdon as Gauliter in charge of the 'Fair Access ( a oxymoron if ever there was one) QUANGO is going to make a lot of difference in the long run.  I say that because an increasing number of the young and their parents are starting to realise that a University education is not all it is cracked up to be. Sure you spend three years drinking too much alcohol, shagging around and, quite probably, end up shacked up with the girl who will one day be your wife, but with tuition fees of £9,000 a year plus another £10,000 for lodgings and living allowance actually it is beginning to look a tad expensive especially as a 2:1 no longer guarantees you a job while a 2:2 is frankly worth a bucket of the proverbial.   Why is this? Well perhaps because most of those who are sitting behind the desk interviewing potential employees now are themselves products of the University system and know what most degrees are worth - i..e. fuck all - a big change from say only ten years ago when the chances were that the guy doing the interviewing hadn't been to University and thus thought it meant that you were intelligent and hard working  

The alternative to University is of course the University of Life.  Now as a graduate of this University with first Class Honours I have always upheld its merits not least because whenever I read about an entrepreneur who has made millions by setting up his own business the phrase -'left school at sixteen' - normally crops up while the phrase 'got a double first at Oxford' hardly ever does.  In fact you could make a very good case that the best thing you could do to get the economy going would be to demolish most of the Universities  and let the young take their chance in the big wide world as they used to when Britain was great.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The High Street

Apparently there are over 14,500 empty shops on the High Streets of Britain's Towns and Cities - that is not counting the charity shops either - who as everyone in business knows - get them rent free in exchange for saving the landlords the cost of paying business rates on empty premises. David Cameron is so concerned about the state of the Britain's High Street that he appointed a TV personality - Mary Portas - to advise him on what to do. Actually - being a bit of TV personality myself I think he would have been better off appointing me - and here is what I would have told him. The High Street - as we know it today - is finished and good riddance to bad rubbish, because that is what most of the chain shops sell - either overpriced or dirt cheap depending on the strategy of the Chains management. Councils have not helped the High street either by making their town centres anti car and thus, not only putting off people coming to shop, but actually driving businesses out of the town centres as well. The old post war idea that the centres of market and county towns would act as shopping hubs is over and government has to accept that the future is Internet shopping or out of town shopping centres where you can park your car and enjoy your day outwithout living in fear of neo fascists parking officials.

So my advice is accept the inevitable and reinvent the High Street. First take all councillors and planners to look at cities where the High Street concept works, somewhere like Bath in fact. Bath works because it is full of beautiful architecture and - now this is the real revolutionary thought - people like to live in beautiful houses and -even more revolutionary - not in ugly badly built modern developments. People also don't mind living in narrow streets in terrace housing providing it is beautiful. Because people like to live in the beautiful houses, which proliferate in Bath, they create a demand for restaurants, bars, boutique shops, delicatessens, decorating shops etc. So the AIM should be to get prosperous people to move back into the city centres from the suburbs. The way to achieve this is firstly to allow offices to be converted back into houses and then to allow new build houses on redundant fifth rate post World War development- oh and don't forget to throw away all the 21st century 'planning guidelines' and go back to 18th century building densities and town planning practices because - actually - that is what people like - and actually -while we are on the point of building what people like - they also like classical architecture.

So get young professionals and the like living in the towns and cities again and a virtuous circle will be formed. They will demand services and shops and new life will be restored to the High Street and, because some of those shops will be extremely high quality people from outside the town/city will be attracted into it to visit, browse and buy. It is not rocket science, it is common sense David Cameron - so next time you want a TV personality to advise please give me a call - the advice will be cheaper and - though say it myself - a hell of a lot better.

Friday, 3 February 2012


Now I am thrilled that I installed a new central heating boiler. All winter to date I have begrudged the £12,000 which I had to spend on replacing my old faithful but now - hurray - it is finally earning its keep. Yesterday I turned it on for the first time this winter and as I write - in comparative warmth - I can hear it chugging away merrily next door - although - I hasten to say - that the warmth - welcome as it is - is really just a secondary benefit and not the primary  one, that is to ensure that the house is warm enough so that the pipes don't freeze and then burst - as happened last winter- which caused much grief.   Also I hope that this cold weather will persuade the flowers to go back to sleep for another month or so - only the other day I stumbled across a primrose which had unwisely decided that spring was here! I do not like my flowers to be out in February - let alone January.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mr Heston's bonus

Finally Mr Heston got the message and generously gave up his bonus. Oddly there seems to be a school of thought in the City pages of the press that he has been subject to some form of witch hunt and journalists are saying that 'to get the best' it is necessary 'to pay the going rate.' Well hang on a moment, presumably all those bankers whose cretinous financial activities actually got us into this mess where - at the time - thought to be 'the best.' So on what basis is Mr. Heston judged to be the best? the same basis which gaves us our Fred ? or is it some other basis? I only ask because whatever his merits as a banker he seems to be a singularly stupid man not to have realised that his bonus was going to cause an almighty row especially as - to date - he doesn't appear to have achieved any real success at RBS which is still a sceptic tank bank full of underwater loans. The time for Mr. Heston to take a bonus is when he has actually turned the bank around - caused the share price to soar -thus enabling the us - the poor tax payer - to get back our £45.0 billion investment and - with luck -more besides. Do that and it would be mean to begrudge him not just a mighty bonus but a knighthood to boot. But till that time comes I would have thought he could rub along happily on his salary which is - after all - £1.3 million a year.