Friday, October 26, 2007

Capitalist Ball 2007

None of the following necessarily represents the views of my employer.

The more eagle-eyed of you will spot that there wasn't a Capitalist Ball review in February this year. This is because it was held in October. And yes, I did go. It was not until the later part of the next morning that I recalled with heart-squelching embarrassment a moment of behaviour which surpasses everything I've done before, and I include the day I didn't recognise Will Carling and told him I knew a rugby player (Simon Hogg) and more particularly the incident with the four Royal Navy officers in the swimming pool at 3am.

I was doubly and finely squired to this year's CNE Capitalist Ball. Held once more in the Concert Noble, it was a glittering affair honouring in first place, Jan Bielecki, who gave a very competent, witty and entertaining speech about why he wasn't in black tie (it turned out the airline had lost his luggage). Further prizes were given, each with their own interesting backstory. Dresses of various levels of appropriateness floated about. Dinner came and went. For the first time, the event was attended by a demonstration outside by a somewhat deluded group, I link only to offer you a glimpse of their website's charming dagger and hammer logo and "Our own folk first" slogan, who had convinced themselves that all Europe's economic decision-makers were inside, swilling champagne like capitalist pigs. We were indeed swilling champagne like capitalist pigs, but as for decision-makers, we only had the one MEP and he left early.

After the demonstrators got too cold and went home to their parents' nice suburban villas in the Flanders commuter belt, us champagne swillers spilled out onto the pavement and that's when I got talking to Tim Evans, who had been President-Director-General of CNE for three years. "So where do you work?" he said, and I said "Nextdoor, would you like to come and see?" and marched the poor fellow 25 meters down the pavement. "You know" I said, slurring slightly from all the capitalist champagne I'd been swilling and waving expansively at the posters of refugees we have up outside the office, "market access isn't just for big industry. It's also for these people. Norberg knows this, it's the basis of his In Defence of Global Capitalism. Amartya Sen would call lack of market access an unfreedom. Palestinian refugees, for instance and they're not alone in this regard, those in quasi-permanent camps in Jordan and Lebanon, are not granted work permits, they can't even start their own businesses within the camps, and this is a, a, a crying shame, and whilst here in this office we spend a lot on advocating their basic human rights and providing them with ways to try and secure a livelihood (giving barbers hairdessing equipment, for example) the wealthier nations among us should be doing something about advocating their rights to work and trade like any other resident in their host countries, or we should sort things out and get them home to allow them those same rights. And not enough is done, and it's not fair, and it's not even economically sensible, because they're just as valid an emerging market as any other".

At this point, my kind escorts broke us up (apparently they'd seen it coming) and I was led away to a warm ballroom and handed more champagne. The memory of lecturing a senior market economist on market access surfaced at about 12pm the next day with the thickening sud of a flooding soap powder factory. I wonder whether I'll be allowed back next year.

OK. I know you're all waiting. Piccie of frock.

Cecilia goes shopping

I've been offline a while, not because of the disappointment of the rugby (to tell you the truth, I didn't think we'd get out of the pool, so I was dead chuffed just to see us reach the final) but because I've been brought low by an 'angine blanche'. This illness has recently had a political outing, because according to the Elysée's press machine, the reason Cecilia Sarkozy, ex-First Lady of France, could not attend a picnic with the Bushes, was because she too had an 'angine blanche'.

Now none of us would want to attend a picnic with the Bushes. There'd be the obligatory ants, there'd be far too much toe-curling small talk, laboriously relayed through interpreters (although I have it on good authority that Sarkozy is merely feigning incompetence in English) but most of all it would be teetotal. One shudders at the white-gloved, forced-pleasantries social awkwardness of the thing. I would probably be forced to commandeer a tray of sandwiches from a passing waiter just to allow me to get away from the hosts.

What is just plain stupid, if you're going to use 'angine blanche' as an excuse, is to be caught out shopping the next day. I can tell you that when you have an 'angine blanche' the bug in question eats away through the back of your throat and launches itself down into your glands in a bid for general mastery and domination of the lymphatic system. It takes three days for the antibiotics to kick in. You can't swallow, you are exhausted, you can't sleep for snuffling snot that is maddeningly lurking just between the sniff and hawk ranges and you can't get up even to feed yourself. Between that (although Scouse Doris tried her best, bless her) and the fever, in three days I lost three kilos, (there's always a silver lining). You are in any case in no condition to slip on your high heels and have a quick blast around the shopping centre with the girls.

There must be plenty of plausible excuses for not having to attend a picnic with the Bushes. Having a 'family' prior appointment (i.e. to rearrange your sock drawer), for instance, or being virulently allergic to Chicago School economics. What amazes me is that no-one ever seems to have the courage to tell the Bushes straight that they've got better, more useful, more fun things to do than waste an entire afternoon on diplomatic niceties over ant-filled obesity-inducing American stodge. Like governing another country, for instance. No wonder Cecilia went shopping.

So what would your excuse be?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

England 14 and France 9, and going, ahem, home.

Would someone who can reach please give Chabal a hug? I would, but I don't think having his knees hugged would help.

Also I'm English, which might not be favourite right now.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Christmas shopping recommendation

Zoe's book is out. It's a very cute little hardback with an alarmingly accurate, as far as I can tell, Lucy Pepper cartoon of Q and Z on the front. Buy it here.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


The French have sent the Kiwis packing. Now THAT was unexpected.
Obviously standing up to the haka properly, and not going into a girlie huddle like the Italians, is what a team needs to do.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

We're through

How I don't know, but I suspect the Australians are beginning to hate Jonny Wilkinson's left boot.
Well done guys.

Friday, October 5, 2007

"Big girl's blouse"

A British general election is looming, and the cut and thrust of political debate in the mother of all democracies (Except, as they would have it, Greece. And Iceland. And....) is beginning to heat up again. It's within this context that the Conservative party seems to think its recent Conference opinion spike will cause it to gain from an earlier snap election. Traditionally the bastion of highly educated wordsmithery, it has unleashed a veritable barrage of Pythonesque French taunting at the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in order to try and sting him into calling a general election as soon as possible. Boris Johnson has called him "a great quivering jelly of indecision" and that if he didn't call a snap election this weekend he'd be "a big girl's blouse". George Osborne suggested he'd "bottle it".

Firstly, what sort of language is this for the Party of Tradition? No wonder they're leaving themselves open to accusations of hug-a-hoodieism. They might as well saunter up and say, "Yo, Gordon. Yo' Mama" in an upper-class accent. Risible.

Secondly, what sort of a glove in the face is this to a dour, religious, uptight Scot? An absolutely ineffective one, that's what. Brown's blood runs much colder than that. If the Tories really want a fight, they should stop sitting on the policy fence and produce a manifesto. None of this "Are you thinking what we're thinking" business. Let's see the colour of their flag. THEN we'll be squaring up for a decent scrap.

I LOVE British general elections.