July Pond Life on Hampstead Heath

Tom Winnifrith Wednesday 17 July 2013


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My old pal Robert Sutherland Smith, now aged 167, is off on a summer break for a few days. Before departing he offered up his thoughts on life from Hampstead Heath. He has also served up two articles today (on G4S and Tesco) on  Over to RSS.

Now that the great heat has come, the ponds more closely resemble the Ganges with seemingly half the population of London seeking its cool liquidity, except that the water no longer has that cool crispness which bites back in less sunny days. 

Crowds as we know are prone to madness - we have just had an example of that over Ben Bernanke's comments on tapering (or was that the work of poorly programmed, 'high frequency' trading computers) in which the market's response was decidedly less than rational. The madness of crowds; the madness of markets the summer madness of bathers in the Hampstead ponds. They are either part of a divine plan or evidence of a possibly imbecile universe? I leave you to be the judge. 

What is it that persuades Homo sapiens to leave large quantities of flip flops behind at the ponds like; looking like the collection of skeletal remains at Pompeii? Could these artefacts have belonged to actual people?  I found a pair in the grass, positioned just as if the owner had stepped out of them; side by side and pointing in the same direction!!! Is it evidence of being captured by aliens; a theory that has never been proved despite a large percentage of the US population reportedly believing that it has happened to them.  

So where are equity markets and equity investors now? We know for example that the US Fed will start to taper QE (what abducting aliens would make of this I do not know) once the US economy is well out of the woods. It is not going to do any 'tapering' before then and that seems some time away. A sustainable US economy and economic recovery, clearly needs much lower unemployment. And in the US it was still 7.6% in June - up slightly from May's 7.5%. - clearly still too high to render QE tapered. You do not hear much if anything about the 'fiscal cliff' which was the talk markets as the destructive barrier to US economic recovery. I suspect that 'QE tapering is from the same drawer of self-interest induce market hysteria.  

Meanwhile, commentators are contemplating throwing themselves under trains because the Chinese economy is only growing at 7.5% - about twelve times greater than in 'Athenian' Osborne's Blighty. It was my understanding at least six months ago that 7.5% annual economic growth in China was on the cards. It is an assumption I adopted a year ago! My own simple view is that a magnificent 7.5% growth in China's economy is a price that any rational man or woman should be happy to pay for the creation of an economy dependent less on exports - which lowers employment elsewhere - and more on increased domestic demand and consumption, which is also likely to benefit the export efforts of other nations. By the way, the laws of arithmetic tell as that something growing at 7.5% doubles in value in ten years! How bad is that?

Finding no solace at the Hampstead ponds because it is overcrowded like much else of the earth, I wonder off. Perhaps one of Castro's fine Cuban cigars will bring me a little equanimity? My low cost solution to the pensions and NHS spending crisis is that a government agency to send every man over sixty five years of age six boxes of Cubans each week, with instructions to smoke them all by the end of each month. It would in due course bring down government spending whilst bringing joy to the older members of the community.

Meantime tomato red London denizen wonders from the pond leaving his flip flops on the grass. Is that a great circle of light above us? 

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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