Thursday, 11 June 2009

Dead Cats a Bouncing?

Pound at its strongest against the Euro since start of 2009, signs in some latest surveys that the economy grew (fractionally) in March and April, and Ronaldo being transferred for a champagne popping £80 million from Man U to Real Madrid - signs that the recession is all but over?

Well that was quick wasn't it?

Not quite.

Green shoots are sprouting everywhere but some reasons to be suspicious:

1. London is suffering the second day of a tube strike induced by members of the RMT union who are demanding a gravity defying 5% pay rise. 1970s all over again?

2. The West Bromwich Building Society (Britain's 8th biggest) looks set to be rescued within days by the Bank of England - the latest failed institution which dabbled a little too far into the black arts of property speculation at the height of the boom.

3. I have just come back from a property seminar day and talk within the commercial property sector remains of a protracted slump as the Bank's continue to rescure their battered balance sheets and sleep walk into a "lost decade".

So to be gloomy or optimistic?

Well, we look set for a few months of growth at least, but the V shaped recession looks ever more likely to be a W come the Autumn. Then many commentators are expecting inflation, or worse stagflation, to see us into a double dip. As for industries dependent on debt (for which read commercial property) only rights issues will get more liquidity in the market anytime soon.

The classic dead cat bounce.

Don't take my word for it - a Noble Laureate is saying just this today too glancing across at other countries ongoing dismal economic news - not good for British exporters at a time when the pound is on rebound:

Oh, and as for a residential property recovery - personally I am not believing a word of it. The long term trend has to be further falls come late Autumn and Winter.

Monday, 1 June 2009


June 1st - flaming June and the advent of Summer.

It's been a while since I last posted and much to muse upon this warm, sunny eve:

1. The feverish condemnation and public humiliation of bankers everywhere, once April gave way to May turned into the public hanging of politicians of all colours in the MP's expenses (actually an allowance) scandal. At time of writing, the Chancellor looks to be hanging on to his job by a thread for claiming for service charges on a flat whilst enjoying grace and favour accommodation at No.11. Behind the duck ponds, moats, first home "flipping" and all the other tittle-tattle from this affair, one can but assume it is all but a facade for everyone to hide behind. Times are now tough and people have been caught out - sucked in as they were to the illusion of an endless age of riches. Now someone has to take the flack. But in blaming others for their greed, people avert their eyes from the mirror.

2. Britain's Got Talent has just ended and Big Brother, that ceaseless looking glass into the lives of Z-list Summer-long Celebs starts on Thursday. The former has highlighted real talent, the latter is full of wishful wannabees who can't make the former. Time to turn off that TV - the sun is shining.

3. If the expenses scandal and reality TV has not distracted the population too much they can vote on Thursday in the Euro Elections. There is lots to vote about at the moment, lets hope they do! Much to blog about later this week.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Coughs and Sneezes

....spread diseases.

A swine flu crisis seems to be emerging this evening. 81 dead in Mexico and US is calling a State of Emergency over the scare. People have been admitted to hospital in Scotland and Spain. The press will be lapping it up tomorrow - you can see the headlines now "Just wen you thought it could get now worse......" etc. etc.

Of course a flu pandemic could have scary implications not just for everyone's health, but an already precarious global economy in terms of loss of output.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Recessionary Walk (No.1)

Last week's talk of green shoots appears nipped in the bud by a late Spring frost.

Yesterday's sharp fall, for the second quarter in a row, of GDP (which was worse than expected at -1.9% against predications of -1.5/1.6%) was as though to chuck oil on a raging fire set - in this instance set alight by the most gloom laiden budget for years.

A walk through SE1 this afternoon to catch some warm Spring sun illustrates how the figures are baring out on the streets.

The trendy wine shop on the corner of Tower Bridge Road and Southwark Park Road lasted a little over 6 months, replaced with a cheap end of lines clothing store. Truth be told, only so much expensive Cabernet Sauvignon was ever going to grace the glasses of the beer drinking folk of Bermondsey.

Coffee shops - Sobo and Coffee@BermondseyStreet are empty; the pubs on Tower Bridge Road quiet.

The boutiques on Bermondsey Street look decidedly starved of custom; this despite the new boutique hotel just opened on the Square sprinkled with Europeans spending weakened pounds with their strong Euro.

As though to compound a feeling of general malaise, Thames Water continue to dig in on their battle to replace 1000 miles of watermain by 2010 everywhere one walks. But then we are all in one big hole, aren't we?

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Green Shoots in SE1

Mint Street Park

Mint Street Park

Trinity Church Square

Red Cross Street Garden

Mint Street Park

Mint Street Park

An Iris struts its stuff off Borough High Street

Red Cross Street Garden

Mint Street Park

Mint Street Garden

Mint Street Garden

Merrick Square

Mint Street Park

Well, it is a month since the last post. April has thus far been an interesting month. Obama, Brown, the G20 and all that - perhaps contrary to hope, it does indeed appear to have marked a turning point in our economic woes.

The newspapers finally seem more interested in finding those elusive "green shoots" than shooting down our economic prospects. Peston appears to be on holiday. The month seems to mark a subtle but important turning point.

Sentiment seems to have improved - people are now resigned to things being tough, but perhaps no tougher than at present.

And of course sentiment is everything - where optimism dawns, confidence may just follow soon enough.

With this in mind, on a beautiful sunny day in London, I went in search of some of my own green shoots. SE1's parks and gardens are in full Springtime flow, and I have snapped then in all their glory.

From Mint Street Park, to the Redcross Garden to Trinity Church Square the message is simple - This is Spring, This is London, so forget the recession and enjoy!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Economic Implications of the Casserole

It seems that Britain is going back to basics with the weekly shop and cooking again. Only we are not cooking the stuff of celebrity chefs who have epitomised nightly TV fodder for the past decade, but the meals we all remember from our childhoods - real food: stews and casseroles. So not surprising that sales of some basic provisions - potatoes, carrots and, most of all, onions, has shot through the roof.

Indeed, sales of onions, ravaged by a bad harvest in 2008, risk seeing supply not meeting demand, whilst sales of some stock cubes are up 1000% on this time last year.

But it is not all good for the supermarkets. Sales of TV dinners have fallen sharply; after all, why not do homemade when it's so much cheaper than readymade? Plus with less work, the flipside is that we all have more time on out hands to cook. And our American cousins are at it too - one of the hottest blogs in the bloggosphere tells a growing army of readers how to cook for less greenbacks:

But the earthenware cookpot revolution occuring in the nation's kitchens is only part of a very real back to basics cultural shift which appears to be underway.

Just see the supplements in the weekend papers over the past 6 months. These have been on "simple pleasure" subjects as diverse as camping, knitting, cooking and allotment gardening (for those not on a waiting list). All a pleasant change from the gluttony and excess of recent years, and may prove a very good thing indeed for the environment in its time of need - all this simpler economic activity is apparently having an alleviating effect on emissions (though one wonders if anyone has factored in the power used for all that slow cooking?) Added together though, maybe soon we will all be delightfully Cockatoo Dreaming:

But it is not all good news - this same back to basics cultural downsizing also risks further slowing demand in the economy, and making the recession we are all experiencing even deeper and more painful.

Alas, Britain's unsustainable upward spiral of immediate gratification, perpetuated over many years by cheap credit, will be a painful thing to descend back down from. But many will no doubt discover that at least their cheap and tasty homemade Irish Stew may prove some consolation this St Patrick's Day. For which see an unbeatable video guide below.

Also see a fantastic colour guide at the superb

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Well worth it?

Today is the day the Bank of England embarked on its first auction to buy debt off financial institutions in return for that new cash it is generating to the tune of £150 billion.

The great quantitative easing experiment has begun and we can only keep our fingers crossed that it works. The reality is that this is the biggest economic event since the end of World War Two, and nobody knows whether it will achieve the desired result, and if it will quite what the side effects of the medicine will be.

There is much talk of inflationary pressures building up in the system, but perhaps a price worth paying in the medium term if it saves jobs and the descent into depression.

Elsewhere some positive news from Dorchester.

Here was one of the few Woolworths stores which closed down in December that actually made some money. It has reopened today under the new guise of Wellworths under the auspices of a landlord led consortium who are relying on the know how of the old store manageress to make it a profitable going concern.

There has been much joyful excitement on the news this evening about the return of Pick n' Mix. If all else fails, at least the economy in Dorchester can rely on the sale of cola bottles and chocolate mice to keep it going. There is also much talk about Wellworths marking a new chapter in the return to a new local economy embodied by farmers markets and grow your won. Perhaps more Wellworths coming to a high street near you?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Green Custard

For posterity here is that custard being thrown at Lord Mandelson. Perhaps better entertainment however was Mandy's response: "I quite like custard, just not when its thrown in my face." Bizarrly, the custard thrower has only this afternoon been arrested after she walked away form the scene unapprehended to carry out a series of media interviews. Efficiency cuts at the Met may have been a little too savage?

Her cause is of course Heathrow, or rather stopping its future expansion. Noble, but best served by words rather than custard.

Law of the Jungle

Exposed today is the treatment of Binyan Mohamed at the hands of the CIA, and it appears, by consent - MI6.

Now there can be no doubt that the security services have had their work cut out over recent years, and have had an unenviable task post 9/11 and 7/7 to ensure that the bombers do not caste indiscriminate carnage again for their higher purpose. All well and good so far, and thank heavens for the work they do. Yet it appears that the rendition saga has plummeted depths of depravity for which no civilized nations should dare ever be proud. Today's papers are full of allegations of torture straight out of the Bad Boy Book of Uncivilised Treatment, the pages of which are normally fingered by the grubby hands of despotic regimes.

I am not normally one for inquiries, but it does seem here that one is needed here - with answers - if we are ever to be able to hold our heads up high again and talk to some higher purpose in the international arenas of the UN the next time some runaway state brutalises its population. At least one person in Harare must be lapping up every sordid morsal of this story this morning?

In short, we cannot decry bad treatment elsewhere if we turn a blind eye when we descend to it ourselves. That, alas, is the descent into the law of the jungle.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Planned Closure on All Lines

A phrase to stop a beat in the heart of any self respecting weekending Londoner - "Planned Closure".

"Planned Closure" is of course is a euphemistic phrase. Behind it lies a whole self satisfied TfL lecture which actually reads:

"Dear Customer. Your journey is completely buggered. You know you are better heading straight home, but you are through the barrier now and its charged your Oyster Card. You are too mean to turn back now so you must carry blindly on into a void of despair. This includes an interchange at Elephant & Castle - lucky boy. And all because you thought it might be a good idea to go to M&S in Oxford Street to buy some new socks that you could have bought on Monday. Anyway, your socks would have lasted another week. Shouldn't you be darning the holes in them anyway? There's a recession on, or have you forgotten that? Oh well, too late - Loser!!!"

Were I in the marketing department of TfL I am sure there would be a better spin to put on this weekly farce. My money would be on advertising on electronic display boards "Surprise Openings". Today these occurred on the Central and Northern Lines. There, that's more like it.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Off to St Ives

On the overnight sleeper at 23.45. Over and out. Arrive St Ives at 8am. Fresh air and relaxation here we come.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Sword of Damocles

Another one has bitten the dust at work today - a strange gallows hunour now pervades the corridors: nobody is safe. One might think better to be made redundant now than when the money runs out leaving you with the statutory minimum, but equally it pays to be optimistic. However, as the banking crisis deepens day by day, and Sir Fred-the-Shred Goodwin's wallet grows at the taxpayers expense, alas the Sword Of Damocles looms large over everyone.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

An Ash Wednesday crocus

Ash Wednesday - and very nearly March. March means Spring. Spring means sun. Sun means happy days are here again.

If proof were needed that this interminable Winter is soon coming to an end (notwithstanding that most British of threats - "you can get snow at Easter you know?!"), there are at last some crocus in the garden. See above.

Heading to St Ives at the weekend to welcome in March - cannot wait.

I am putting up some pictures of St Ives too today because if anything can cheer me up on a dank Wednesday evening at the end of February, then St Ives surely can - a fantastic place. A couple of pictures from May 2008. Happy days!

As an aside, did pancakes last night with Delia Smith's foolproof pancake recipe on BBC Online. The secret appears to be in the hot butter poured into the mix - nothing sticks at all - they were flippin' marvellous!

Link at:

Monday, 23 February 2009


Sunday took us to the Westfield Centre - west London's new temple to the Gods of credit and debt. It is at once mighty impressive (and huge) and strangely past its sell by date. Had it opened 5 years ago you would have been wowed; that it opened before Christmas 2008 leaves you somewhat bemused and concerned. As though to underline the peversity, the Dow Jones Index has sunk today to an 11 year low, the FTSE is nearly hitting bottom. Some shops had ashen faced assistants looking more concerned about the date of their impending P45 than how on earth they were ever going to find the time to serve the next customer. If they cannot fill this place on a cold grey Sunday afternoon in February, then what hope a Wednesday morning in May? Anyhow, I took a picture of the incredibly impressive central square - at least it is nice to walk around.........

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The London Eye

Marian is over from Oz and here are some great pics of her and Andrew yesterday on the South Bank. What a better way to spend an unseasonably warm February day than to take our Antipodean visitor for a trip up the London Eye?! A perfect afternoon.

Why oh Why oh Wye!

Here are some pictures of the beautiful Kent village of Wye where we'll be spending a lot of time (and a great deal of time indeed if the economy keeps heading south) in 2009. At least economic armageddon has some benefits. Wye is quite simply a perfect village. I'll be blogging about country life from April. Now, I'm off to buy a Barbour..........

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The-Public-Sector Goes Live

So here it is at last: the private wit and wisdom of the Public Sector laid bare, and it comes to you all care of the wonders of the world wide web. I'll try and update it as regularly as possible with anything that takes my interest, and hopefully for that matter - yours.

The Public Sector, 18 February 2009