288 days ago
I start on the Greek Albanian border in the 1970s. Then it is onto the dotcom boom in 2000 and bitcoin now and the idea of Institutional acceptance and validation. Then it is onto Versarien (VRS) and [email protected] Capital (SYME).
333 days ago
I hope that by now you have all ordered the last book by my late father, Nobody’s Kingdom, a history of Northern Albania. If not make sure you order today before stocks run out. Only kidding, I realise this is a minority interest. Nobody’s Kingdom is the follow up to Badlands Bordlands which covered southern Albania’s history.
334 days ago
As I recounted in my non eulogy eulogy my father published around 20 books on subjects ranging from the Brontes, George Orwell, the philosophy of leisure, Greece old and new and the Vlachs. One of the highlights of the last weeks of his life was the first copy of his last book arriving in Shipston. That book is published today.
485 days ago
I start with the economy and the idea of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson that somehow FDR shows us the way out of this mess they have created. Sure,conscript all the snowflakes, after they have finished their degrees in media and gender studies and send them to invade Albania. It sort of worked in 1939. Seriously, this is more madness. Then I look at the nature of fraud and our failure to tackle it ref Wirecast, Blur and auditor EY now being sued by 1,000 cockwomble investors who “thought they knew better.”
699 days ago
I still have not worked out what it is called these days but other than the name nothing changes.
1914 days ago
The last podcast recorded with the audience of my father for a few days sees a few comments on how he yearns for the socialist paradise of Albania in the good old days. Whatever. I look at Nostra Terra (NTOG) and what it must do and another bear point for Avanti Communications (AVN) I had overlooked, at FastForward (FFWD) and why it is such a dog with fleas and at broken business models in both new media and the European Banks. The truth is that the Emperor's New Clothes, in both cases, really are not that impressive.
1970 days ago
In today's Daily Telegraph the columnist Allison Pearson describes how when debating Brexit with multi-millionaire PR man Roland Rudd (brother of dimwit cabinet minister Amber) she was told that "Allison does not want any immigrants coming to this country". The traditional retort to those to question any aspect of immigration policy is "you're racist"
As Pearson points out, the Rudds were kids of a millionaire stockbroker and then went to posh public school and Oxford (just like Dodgy Dave Cameron himself). They have never experienced the downside of immigration: downward pressure on wages for lower earners and problems getting access to schools and healthcare in certain areas or pressure on the housing list. For them as affluent employers and consumers immigration is all upside. And thus the rich and middle classes have for years branded anyone who queried our policies as racist. The most excellent Priti Patel, who also thinks current policies are crackers, came up with the same analysis.I guess Priti is a racist too. Heck so many of us who didn't grow up in millionaire households seem to be racists these days.
And that matters in terms of Brexit at two levels.
2039 days ago
Of course my father's most helpful tip on life is that you only need three socks. Wash one a day in rotation and you will never go wrong. Having three different socks can make the process even more idiot proof. That is not my father's tip, although he is often seen in odd socks, but it is me trying to take this way of living forward.
Another handy tip from my father is to wait until you are in Greece - or even better Albania - to have your hair cut
2222 days ago
It I all very well sitting in my garage in Bristol or in the Greek Hovel writing about companies but it would be fascinating to actually go visit a few of them on the ground with a video camera in hand to report from the coalface. Right now that is not an option for personal reasons you know too well but next year I’ll need to clear my head and already two road trips are sort of planned.
I shall have family reasons to visit the Pindus Mountains of Northern Greece at some point. It would be great to pop in to see The Baker of Zitsa and have a glass of sparkling red wine and read some Byron while I am there. But from Zitsa it was just a horse ride for Byron and Hobhouse to Albania and would be a short drive for me to Kosovo and Macedonia (the ex-Yugoslav Republic).
2227 days ago
I cannot remember exactly when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I think it was around six or seven years ago. It was not a surprise. I had eaten and drink too much and the great West Ham supporting Tory blogger Iain Dale had described his symptoms and diagnosis a few months earlier. I knew what was coming.
There have been times since when I have managed it with medication and sometimes just by clean living and taking stacks of exercise. There have been times when I just let myself go. Four years ago I was a 19 stone 6 pounds blob and really all over the shop. But relationship breakdowns, work crises, near bankruptcy and a nervous breakdown did wonders for my (physical) health sending me off to walk around the mountains of Greece and Albania. I may have been a bit of a fruitcake but I sure knocked my body into shape.
Of course marriage and owning a restaurant are not good for the figure but I think I sort of have things in some sort pf check but perhaps I was a tad complacent. I know that Iain has also gone through such phases. However, the Mrs forced me to register with a doctor and last week an eye test showed the first – albeit minimal at this stage – signs of an issue in my right eye. I knew what was coming next.
This afternoon I strolled down to the doctors,
2297 days ago
A bit of a difference this week as I explain the numerous reasons to book a holiday in Greece in 2015. I am serious. I then take you through two or three suggested trips which are not mainstream but offer you Greece with a difference. There is a Northern trip taking in Albania, Meteora, Arta and one entrance to the underworld. And a trip in the South taking in Napfio, Mycenae, Corinth, Delphi, Olympia and the mani. I neglected to say that the main entrance to Hades is at the foot of the Mani. And there is an offbeat island near Athens I recommend - Agistri. This is the year to see Greece on the cheap and there is so much to enjoy.
2776 days ago
The new scales have arrived and quick as a flash I was naked and staring at the screen. As I expected I am over 15 stone (15 st 6 llbs to be exact). Maybe after my 7th day off the sauce and after going for a walk this afternoon I shall be a bit lighter tomorrow morning but however I look at this, it is not good news.
A long discussion with Lucian Miers who is dieting hard but tells me that he is still borderline obese according to his Body mass Index ensued and my own BMI comes in at 28.5 - closer to obese than normal but technically “overweight”. Tell me something I did not know. You can check your own BMI with a fun sliding calculator which I have been playing with for a good few minutes HERE
If I can get to 14 stone 6 then I am given a BMI of 27 (still overweight, but closer to normal than Lucian/Obese). My weight when I was playing rugby or training at London Irish five days a week was 14 stone 7 and so I think that as a very first stop I’d be delighted to get to 14.6. To be classed as normal I have to get to 13.11 which seems a) an awfully long way away and b) rather more embarrassingly, is what I was in August 2012.
My weight loss then was assisted by the enormous stress of having my entire life fall apart and then by spending weeks walking around the mountains of Greece & Albania. I am hoping to avoid repeating the first part of that but perhaps the stress ahead of UK Investor Show on April 5 will be a substitute. Then it is off to Greece for the walking.
First stop, pound by pound is to get back to the 14s. The good news is that (as I know from experience) in the 15s the weight slips off very quickly indeed on a regime of Spartan calorie intake and exercise and that should continue until the mid 14s. Thereafter the battle gets harder. But first stop 14.13!
2879 days ago
My crimes? Questioning the party’s immigration policies and also its Jew hating “friends of Palestine Group”. UKIP claims to be a libertarian party. Hmmmmm. I was never a party member but now I cannot even see the rants of the faithful on its LinkedIn page.
Libertarians tend to believe in free speech. Libertarians do not want the Jews driven into the sea. Libertarians do not want to restrict free movement of people in search of work. Libertarians would reform the welfare state in order to stop folk moving just to live on welfare but also to deal with indigenous welfare junkies. UKIP is about as Libertarian as Genghis Khan.
So I have now been booted out of LinkedIn UKIP ( having refused suggestions that I stop writing any criticism of the party at all) as well as UKIP Friends of Greece. My crime there was to suggest that Greece was corrupt and an economic basket case and that Albania (low tax, relatively honest) was a role model for poor Hellas.
I also got stick in the West Ham LinkedIn Group for wanting to fire Fat Sam Allardyce last season. I sense now that my views on that matter are now rather mainstream. But at least the West Ham LinkedIn group allows free speech. You can question and criticize. I guess the Cockney Boys are the only true libertarians left on LinkedIn.
2962 days ago
Please complete your education profile shouts the latest command: “Where is Warwick School, Warwick, England located?” I am asked to enter the City name in a box to make my education profile complete.
Er, um, let me think is it:
a) Tirana, Albania,
b) Ulan Bator
c) Downtown Damascus, Syria
d) Warwick, England.
Does anyone out there need to go 50/50 or phone a friend on that one?
2983 days ago
@TomWinnifrith Reading Winnifrith articles is my guilty pleasure.
Luke, fear not I have an absolute scorcher of a story for next week. Nothing to do with Sefton but an expose of a vile creature of the deluded left. I have been saving it for a train journey and so aim to go live tomorrow. Thanks for the tweet. It is certainly worth a picture of Miss Albania.
3023 days ago
I have noted before my frustration that I always pass through Arta by bus and gaze at its spectacular bridge with restaurants at either end, but never visit the place. Thanks to my partner’s crazy plan of heading down to her sister’s in-laws in the Southern Peloponnese my frustration is at an end. We left Albania at 6.30 AM on a bust for Ioanina. It is less than 100 kilometres but a happy two hours spent at the border as officials on both sides showed their true flair for incompetence meant that we did not arrive until well after noon.
3023 days ago
A year ago I was in Butrint, a heritage site in Albania. And this year I revisited the place. The photos from last time and its history I shall not repeat, you can see them here. But there were a few changes of note.
Perhaps the most obvious for me is that I was not accompanied this time just by a rucksack but by my partner. And so, since the site is more or less deserted, whereas a year ago in the main Roman theatre all I could do was photograph my rucksack as I performed on stage this year, I bring you me performing.
And my audience of one .
3025 days ago
I am back in Albania. This is a short postcard containing the sort of thoughts that got me booted out of the LinkedIn friends of Greece last summer.
My financial video postcard will go live when I can find an internet link that does not crack up once an hour. i.e. not today! It will be on www.shareprophets.com
3027 days ago
There is no doubt that Greece is enjoying a better tourist season this year than last. Folks are used to the new normal that is bankrupt Greece teetering on Euro exit with the odd riot thrown in. As a bonus, there are more Russians here than last year. But it is still pretty dire and as I digest a 48 Euro bill from last night I say that Greece still does not get it.
The appeal of Greece of old was that it was cheap and cheerful. 48 Euro ( call it £40) bought a bottle of piss poor house rose, a nasty bruschetta followed by basic moussaka for me, a very weak tomato salad followed by a lamb spaghetti dish for the little woman and some dire service. Her starter arrived first. Five minutes later the other three dishes arrived.
A comparator offering at the Real Man Pizza Company on Saturday night would have been ½ litre of (much better) house rose and two pasta dishes a mixed salad and very good bruschetta which would have set you back £34 on the 2 course special offer (£40 without). Better food, better service in Central London at £34/40 or £40 for what we paid in Corfu. The Greek’s, I am afraid, still do not get it. Expensive and cheerful does not float my boat.
If Greece is to solve its problems it is not just the public sector that must reform (finally sacking those public sector workers) but the tourist industry needs to compete. That either means leaving the Euro or cutting prices by 25%. Either way it means a fall in the standard of living for those involved but, perhaps, having a few more customers might offset that.
Today we are off to Albania. I would have left earlier had I been in charge and would by staying longer. The same meal there will cost £25 and the food wiull be better.
3029 days ago
Well folks, that is almost it for the writing fest. The Deluded Lefty is tonight packing her bags. Well actually, when I called just now it was quite clear that she was in a bar with her pals sipping fair trade Zimbabwean Chardonnay and blaming it all on Thatcher. But tomorrow she gets on a plane and joins me in Greece and on Sunday we are off to Albania.
As such the pace of articles is set to slow somewhat as of Friday evening as I have better things to do..like have a holiday holiday. Naturally I shall log on every day to check up on the AIM bad guys but ahead of me lie Butrint then Zitsa and Meteora. There is a mad plan being concocted by the DL to drive down to the Peloponnese. I have pointed out that this is environmentally unfriendly (as well as just plain mad) but if you get another video postcard from Monemvasia do not be entirely surprised.
3032 days ago
I am now in Corfu preparing for five days of rest and writing before my deluded lefty partner arrives to whisk me off to the former socialist paradise that is Albania. I travelled here by bust from Athens – a 10 hour trip and so feel a little on the tired said as we arrived at 5 AM. Athens Bus station is a total shit hole. It is what I imagine that Stoke on Trent is like. Only hotter.
I arrived early (fleeing the clip joint) to buy my ticket and wandered into a ticket hall with a desk for each location. At that point there were four of us trying to buy tickets and I counted 11 staff manning the desks.
The Corfu counter had no-one behind it but a full ashtray (in a non-smoking building) and cup of coffee suggested that there was life somewhere. But fear not,
3038 days ago
I have explained before my family’s incredibly strong links to Greece. My father’s mother’s family were classical scholars writing books about the place 150 years ago. Both of my father’s maternal uncles are buried there: one fell down a mountain and is buried at Delphi, the other was killed in the Second World War and is buried in Athens. My father’s mother was named after a Greek island – er..Lesbos. It all had a different sort of meaning in 1900. My father’s sister married a Hobhouse ( Byronologists will understand that). My father writes books on the place and it was always a place for family holidays. It seems the family is bound to poor Hellas. And so it is where I headed off to last summer as things fell apart.
And now for the second time this year I head back. This time on my own with my rucksack. My partner (whose sister is, as it happens, married to a Greek) arrives in ten days to be shown a bit of Albania and a couple of places in Northern Greece. But first I have nine days with firm plans in terms of destination for the first four but no hotels booked at all. I shall just see what happens, try to walk a few pounds off in the heat and see where I end up.
The journey starts at Gatwick at 5.30 AM and so when I lock up at Real Man in an hours’ time, having recharged my phone, I shall head off to the station to prepare for a few hours writing at the airport. Tomorrow night I am on a bus from Corfu to Athens. I would imagine that I will be tired enough to sleep for most of the journey. And then at 6 AM Thursday the holiday really begins as I head into the Southern Peloponnese. My laptop – as ever – travels with me as does my video camera so, fear not, this website is NOT on holiday.
PS. I am naturally wearing my It’s Time to Leave T-shirt as I head off. I feel sure that the odd Greek would agree with the sentiment.
3068 days ago
It was a year ago today that the first article appeared on this blog. Most blogs fold after a period of months but I am still here. And to celebrate a glass of bubbly for breakfast! The toast “to you dear readers for continuing to read this site”
A year ago my life looked unimaginably bleak. At a personal and health level it was a mess and I was days away from leaving Rivington Street and t1ps the company I founded. To the victors the spoils and so it was repeatedly asserted that all t1ps’ problems were of my making and that new management was turning it around. Yes I have read the interim results released at 6PM on Friday. Hmmmm. You might say that but I could not possibly comment.
That however was a former life for me. My line in the sand was drawn in September. By then I knew who my friends were. To folks such as Richard Poulden, Abbe Aronson, Darren Atwater, Steve Moore, Clem Chambers, Monisha Varadan, Chris Potts, Amanda Van Dyke, Lucian Miers, Chris Booker and Zak Mir I am forever in your debt. To you I say “cheers” – another toast.
I chatted yesterday to most of the above and life has changed pretty dramatically. At the Real Man restaurant we were losing £5,000 a month when I took it on officially in September. There is now just one of the staff at that time still working here and I have hired and fired aggressively and made a stack of other changes. Having just enjoyed our busiest Saturday in memory we are now happily making a profit, our customers like us and we serve far better food. That was achievement one. I guess that “new management line” is true sometimes. Miaow.
Achievement two was getting the UK Investor Show organised in just a few months and it went well. Now with my friends at ADVFN we are well on track to deliver an even better show on April 5 next year. And I now rather suspect we will be the only show featuring master investors happening next spring. Miaow.
But perhaps the biggest win has been in writing. It is what I do best (although I can knock out a fantastic Risotto con salsicce e funghi these days as well). The launch of the www.shareprophets.com site has exceeded expectations. After 50 days it has half as many registered users as we managed to attract in one year at UK-Analyst. More join every day. And gratifyingly more and more writers seem to want to join the team and write for us. Another two will debut this week. Meanwhile other websites…no that is enough miaows.
But www.Tomwinnifrith.com is my real love. It started as therapy but being able to write exactly what I thought without some corporate hissy fit ensuing soon became an addictive drug. The fact that I use the odd naughty word or talk about birds does not appeal to everyone – notably Google and PR prude Kay Larsen of College Group – as you may remember here and here.
But it is me. I do use naughty words. I do find myself drifting into the vernacular of my favourite TV show (The Sweeney) now and again. And I do have strong views on Israel, welfare scroungers, the EU, global warming and civil liberties. Why hold back? I had been gagged for so long that the release was joyful and still is.
But there was also a release in that I ceased to by a City insider and became an outsider. As such there was no need to kiss arse – anyone and everyone was fair game. The past year has shown me that not only is it fun to constantly expose and poke fun and to say what you want but that I can earn a reasonable living doing that and looking after Real Man Pizza. There is no need to hold back. While I might have been tentaitive at first I am now in 5th gear and will not be slowing down or getting softer in my approach.
And so looking back I reflect on those who have brought inspiration and pleasure to me:
1. The visit to Butrint (photo article)
2. Damian Conboy of Alecto hooking up with the Playboy PR girl
3. Kay Larsen PR prude at College Hill
4. Sefton Resources & Jim Ellerton – thanks Jim you have made my year ( see you in court Bitchez)
5. Taking a contrary view on the Olympics
6. Vroula – the fascist Greek athlete and defending her right to free speech
7. The visit to the Berlin Jewish Museum
8. Standing by St Paul’s for Lady Thatcher’s funeral
9. The start of the AIM Cesspit campaign
10.Going on stage with Nigel Wray and Nick Leslau at UKInvestor show – feeling I was with friends.
11. Being complimented by the Goddess
12. The Guardian and deluded lefties everywhere
13. The Baker of Zitsa
14. Albania - National Leave your Gun at home day
15. Financial PR firms & the AIM Cesspit - another fight picked
I am sure that I have missed out a few highlights.
At a personal level, many of you met my partner at UK Investor Show. She may be an utterly deluded lefty. No okay she is an utterly deluded lefty but she has been a rock at all times. She even now knows who Joe Cole is and that Mark Noble’s veins are claret and blue. What more could a man ask for?
Thank you all for reading this website over the past year. Year two starts on Monday. What will it bring?
3116 days ago
In Greece youth unemployment is c60%. Ditto Spain. In Eire 30%. But these figures dramatically understate, yes I repeat understate, what is going on and it is the Euro that is to blame. An entire generation across much of Europe is being pulverized, systematically smashed and it is the Euro worshipping leaders of the same countries who are to blame. This is almost a crime against humanity.
Why the understatement?
3136 days ago
I do not actually have anything new to say about Imagination Technologies (IMG). I just wanted to ensure that when Kay Larsen does a google search on another of her clients, her after lunch outburst from today on what she deemed pornography and sheep shagging comes back to haunt her as this prudish PR bird sees another of her clients next to the sort of picture a serious journalist would never run. This time it is Miss Albania.
If you really would like to see some serious analysis on Imagination do not bother reading arse-licking journalists on the “serious financial press” as they know that it is Kay who decides how articles are written with what language and where they appear and with what image. The 4th Estate would not want to annoy the PR firms as one day they too might a well-paid job on the dark side. And you would not want to miss out on those spoon fed scoops would you?
3143 days ago
Yesterday David Cameron climbed down and agreed to the demands of Labour, the Lib Dems and Hacked off Campaigners like Hugh Grant (who was not at the time getting a blow job from a roadside hooker) and has agreed to State regulation of the press. Indeed it is worse than that since the new body set up will also cover anyone who publishes news related information in the UK. So that might get my Dad involved. The Shipston on Stour Parish newsletter is within the scope of this new legislation and should my father wish to moralise about the domestic arrangements of local celebs Tessa Jowell MP and David Mills, now happy reconciled as of one week after she stepped down from front line politics, Jowell could in theory report my poor father to the new regulator. And any blog is potentially within this remit if its primary discussion matter is news related – which includes celebs and hookers.
The press were not involved in agreeing the new Royal Charter and oppose it. But most big news organisations will eventually sign up to the code although the Telegraph appears to be. If you do not and the political stooges who manage it find you have breached you could face company destroying damages. And as things stand you may have to pay damages if you are hauled before the new body and found innocent.
This is therefore a fundamental assault not just on the press but on free speech.
It is a sad day. It will make it easier for the same MPs who have pushed through this legislation to lie, cheat and steal. It will make it easier for celebs to portray one image and get you to buy their merchandise while doing whatever they wish on the side. It will make it less likely that the crimes of future Jimmy Savile’s, expense fiddling MPs, hooker using politicians (Archer) or celebs (Grant) will be exposed. It truly marks an acceleration towards the world of Airstrip One.
3174 days ago
My current laptop is, I think, almost four years old. I remember it arriving shiny and new. Heaven knows how many words I have tapped out on it over the years but it must be well in excess of three million. Gosh I have written some turgid old crap over the years. The poor computer has lived in a rucksack travelling around Greece and Albania cushioned by very smelly clothes, it has travelled by ferry, train, plane and car across three continents and above all it has had to suffer my typing. I am not a delicate touch typist but hammer the keyboard hard – I often get complaints in trains from passengers who I seem to disturb: “can you type more quietly?” they say. “No. Can you be less ugly?” I want to say but don’t.
The result of my hard typing is that the letters on my keyboard have almost entirely disappeared. This is my excuse for any spelling mistakes you might spot. The keyboard now reads: QW_ _ _ U _ _ _ New row: _ _ _ _ G J K _ New row Z X _ V B_ _ Actually the U , V and X are disappearing fast and the G and K are also only just half still there. I reckon that by the end of the summer I will be down to just five visible letters from 26.
The only time I really have a problem is when entering a logon password when dots rather than letters come up on screen. Am I hitting R rather than T and so getting refused entry? Such are the trials of life with my keyboard. But since I hate the process of transferring records, reconfiguring a new laptop etc, etc I shall stick with my old friend for a while yet.
If it causes the odd ettot I am truly sotty.
3284 days ago
As you may remember, having been booted out of the LinkedIn friends of Greece ( for pointing out that Greece was bust and uncompetitive – hardly a revalation) I am now a keen member of the LinkedIn Friends of Albania ( also LinkedIn West Ham Supporters, Friends of Israel, UKIP etc). But i am beginning to have second thoughts.
As it happens my Dad has bought my spare Albanian Lekke from me and landed in the country on Sunday night for a 10 day working holiday.
3290 days ago
EU commissioners will this week debate proposals that would force quotas for women on corporate boards. The “Justice Commissioner” of the Evil Empire Viviane Reding (an ugly old trout with zero business experience hailing from that hotbed of tax evasion Luxembourg) wants to make it mandatory for companies to reserve 40% of seats for women. Assuming that this bunch of losers agree to the plan (they will) then another bunch of losers (the MEPs) will then push this law forward across all member states. Where do you start on this insanity?
3304 days ago
I could not hold out. The dulcet tones of Steve “the customer host” lured me to wander along to the “customer service (food and beverage) interaction zone”, formerly known as the buffet bar. Okay, I made that last renaming up but I am sure that if I drop it into a suggestion box, First Great Western will take it seriously.
One latte please.
That will be £2.30 sir. Mein host was a smooth and pleasant. Wish I could say the same about the faux-latte.“No need to put it in a bag” I said because I am, as you know, a bit of an eco-warrior.
3324 days ago
You may remember that I was evicted from the LinkedIn Friends of Greece Group for saying that Albania was a better value holiday destination than poor old Greece. This mortified me, as a long standing Hellenophile, but I know when I am not welcome and so two months ago applied to join the LinkedIn Friends of Albania group. This morning, in a frightening display of efficiency my application has finally been accepted.
I see that the trending discussion is on how to combat drug and alcohol abuse in Tirana. I am ready to contribute my two lekke worth.
I wonder how many other folks on LinkedIn are Friends of Albania but also participate actively in the Friends of Israel and West Ham United supports groups. I suspect that a Venn diagram of these groupings would show me all by myself
3368 days ago
Many folks might think this phrase refers to the conundrum scousers face as they try to cross the Mersey. The answer in that case is of course you and me via the welfare system. But classical scholars such as Evil Knievil will instantly recognise this as a reference to Charon, the character who transports the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron and into Hades, the underworld. Because Charon did not work for free, when a Greek died it was customary to place a coin in his mouth to settle that bill and give him or her passage.
You did not have to be dead to go to Hades. Certain heroes travel there and return, most notably Aeneas. Thus in book six of the Aenid (which I had to study for O-Level Latin – grade A natch), Virgil describes the ferryman thus:
3368 days ago
Yesterday, I recounted my epic journey from Butrint to Greece. But I start with the journey of Aeneas in Virgil’s The Aenid. The great man approaches Butrint ( the world heritage site I visited yesterday in Southern Albania) and says:
I saw before Me Troy in minature, A slender copy of our massive tower, A dry brooklet named Xanthus…and I pressed My body against a Scaean gate. Those with me Feasted their eyes on this, our kinsmen’s town. In spacious colonnades the King received them, And offering mid court their cups of wine They made libation, while on plates of gold A fest was brought before them.
Ahem, yes well up to a point. In fact up to no point, that is all cobblers. This place had nothing to do with Troy. It would have had no towers, at that point no colonnades and about as many plates of gold as there were left in the Bank of England after Gordon Brown has been in charge for six months. There is a Scaean gate but this is simply a gate in the wall, given this name by a modern archaeologist after the gates of Troy – there is no suggestion that the gate here was in fact based on anything from Troy (and was almost certainly built well after the fall of Troy). But that is not to say that this was not an amazing place for many hundreds of years, in fact for two millennia.
It was founded several hundred years before Christ as a sort of health spa. The clean fresh waters from the lagoon that surrounds Butrint were meant to have medicinal properties as well as being a rich store of fish.
3369 days ago
It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was 2.30 PM at Butrint and the man said that the Greek border was only 20 kilometres away. Am I man or mouse? Within a couple of hours I rather wished that I had decided that I was a mouse. Those 20 kilometres were 20 Greek/Albanian kilometres. In other words 30 kilometres. It was 40 degrees. My rucksack seems to weigh a tonne and bites into my shoulders. And having peered down the road to check that it was flat, I discovered after a bend at 5 kilometres (i.e. just out of eyeshot from the start) that it was uphill all the way. Oh, as a bonus for the last 10 kilometres the road turned into a gravel track. But the real problem is that my trousers are falling down.
3369 days ago
I am back in Greece, a country I adore and which my family have been writing about for 130 years (See AC Bradley Aristotle’s Conception of the State 1880 – a book that I have yet to get around to myself). But here is the bad news for a country that depends on tourism for its survival. You are just not competitive. Albania is a better place to go. And, god forgive me for saying this, so too is Turkey.
My last few days have been spent in Saranda in Southern Albania and then walking south from there to Greece. Sarandra and its environs offer me sun, sea, beaches, nightclubs if I want them, peace if I want it and a pretty decent food and drink selection. Most Greek resorts offer pretty much the same. Sarandra offers me culture via Buthrint – a world heritage site (pictures coming later) which is a 40 minute and 70 Euro cents bus ride away. Most Greek resorts are far further away from Hellenic glories.
So why does Albania win?
3370 days ago
I went to pay my hotel bill. For four nights in a pleasant three star – 140 Euro. And no extra charge for a chair collapsing underneath me. Not bad. Credit card? Er… no cash only. Hmmm, I have 7 Euro on me so I wondered if they accepted Albanian Lek. We are, after all in Albania. Sure. She did her sums and asked me for 196,000 Lek (half the annual average wage in Albania). Er, surely shome mishtake?
No. The girl, who always looks very glum and I have asked to smile every time I have passed reception while here, was sure. She had used a calculator (situated on her web connected phone). We agreed what the exchange rate was and she calculated again. 196,000 Lek. I was about to offer to do the washing up for six months/go to the cashpoint machine and beg when I had a better idea.
3370 days ago
Greetings from Albania. I hope that I am getting the hang of this video recording technology. Sorry if I am a little dark in this shot but the only place quiet enough to record is my hotel room. I would like to given you, ahem, beach shots but there is too much shouting/background noise from the road and the mosque out there. A strange place.
On the Agenda
3370 days ago
According to Virgil’s Aenid, the City of Buthrint in Southern Albania was established by folks associated with Troy as a miniature Troy. Of course this is all cobblers. The Aenid is essentially a story of a journey. Rather like another book entitled “A Journey” it is pure fiction dressed up as historical fact.
According to the great Roman author, when Aeneas fled Troy with his band if followers he popped in here to find a mini Troy before heading off to Carthage for his fling with Dido before moving onto Rome via Scicly. Of course, in Rome, the Trojans hook up with the Latinus tribe and the rest is history. Yup. If you believe that you also reckon there were WMD in Iraq capable of hitting British bases in Cyprus within 45 minutes. And no-one would fall for that would they?
But it suited the folks in Buthrint, then known as Buthrotum in honour of a bull that escaping sacrifice tried to swim here from Epirus and then died on the beach here (this time not a Blair myth but one from Teucros of Cyzicus), to be associated with Troy and thus Rome as the Roman empire expanded. Thus while the place pre-dates Rome, its glory rose after Caesar landed in 44 BC.
3371 days ago
This is nominally a Muslim country – 80% of the population are believers in Islam with the rest split between Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism. But most surveys show that the vast majority of Albanians, including Miss Albania pictured above, do not really care. But you cannot avoid the symbols of Islam, even if its effect is hard to see. As I arrived at Sarandra the building that stood out among the 6-8 story blocks that make up the City was the minaret of the Mosque. And, however many times a day it is, the Imam calls the faithful to prayer over loudspeakers. Not with much effect.
The behaviour of the folk here would shock any resident of Tehran or Whitechapel. In three days I have seen one woman wearing a Hajib. But I have also seen one shop selling the sort of ladies underwear that leaves very little to the imagination and which, I imagine, will not be opening up a second outlet in Cairo, Bagdhad or Gaza City any time soon.
On the beach women go topless although that tends to be when lying face down on a sun lounger, in the sea modesty is preserved. But the young ladies wander around in the sort of short skirts you associate with Geordie lasses on a night on the town
3372 days ago
I celebrated becoming one of the top 18 million most followed folks on twitter (titter ye not, after 7 weeks I have way more than the mean number of followers) by wandering off in search of the Mosque here in Sarande. More on that tomorrow but it was hard to find and I kept ending up at the synagogue (ruined for 1500 years). Perhaps that tells you something. Eventually, post Mosque, I got lost again and found myself at the tourist office where I enquired about buses to Butrint, my next stop and how I go from there to Zitsa. The place was also a bookshop and so I had a butchers. Dad, sorry to report that none of your Albanian epics are on sale.
Prominently displayed was Mein Kampf in both German and Albanian. What is the market for Hitler’s crazed blueprint for a Nazi world among Albanian speakers? I hope that it is rather small. And which Germans want a copy? Does that guy giving the interesting salute to the Kraut team at the Olympic opening ceremony, holiday in Albania and feel the need to brush up on the basics of racial purity? The mind boggles, but both versions were positioned where you could not avoid seeing them.
Under Hoxha the Albanians were not allowed any exposure to Western media bar the films of the late Norman Wisdom, known here as “Pitkin.” As far as I can see Wisdom only had one joke.
3372 days ago
I am trying to find a map of Southern Albania and Nothern Greece to plan my trek over the border. Naturally I go to Google and enter that exact term. And I am offered an exact match. I click and what do I find but a long and worthy article on “Southern Albania, Northern Epirus, Survey of a Disputed Ethnological Boundary.” Gripping stuff. And its author? Dr TJ Winnifrith, my Dad, who has only just learned to use email.
Is this some clever SEO manipulation by the Society Farsarotul, the Vlach Society of the USA or does Google just think that all I am interested in is myself, Tom Winnifrith. If it is the latter, Google you are wrong I just want a bloody map. If it is the former, I am shocked that my father mixes with such SEO geniuses. Should you wish to read this excellent article by my father you can do so HERE.
3372 days ago
As you know, on my first day here I, inadvertently, withdrew from the cashpoint machine a sum equivalent to 1.5 times the average monthly after tax Albanian wage.. Most of my Lek is in 5000 Lek bills which are proving hard to use. My breakfast bill including coffee was 350 Lek (£2). I rather desperately offered the waitress at the Magic Mushroom cafe (none served sadly) a 5000 Lek bill. Given that she has 5 tables and most seem perennially empty my guess is that it takes her about a day and a half to haul in that amount and so she flapped. I somehow managed to find 350 Lek in loose change but that is it.
I am out of shrapnel and down to 5000 Lek bills. My biggest bill here to date has been 800 Lek (supper and a stack of coffees), my second biggest 500 Lek ( an Enver Hoxha mug). And so I now face the prospect of having no spendable currency at all. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have just bought 5 packets of cigarettes ( cost 1350 Lek, £8). And now I have 3650 Lek in reasonable sized bills to keep me going for another 3 days.
3373 days ago
Er… when it is in one of the countries which has, or has had “issues” with brave Hellas: Turkey, the FYR of Macedonia and here in Albania. Last night for supper I wanted, naturally a salad. A tomato salad, that is tomatoes with er… more tomatoes, was not really going to assist with meeting my 5 a day target. And so I ordered the only other salad going, a “Country salad.”
And for less than 2 Euro I enjoyed the best (and cheapest) Greek salad I have devoured since leaving London a month ago. Why is it termed a “country” salad? Is that because it is normally eaten by country folks rather than townies? Or is it a reference to another country, a country that dare not speak its name here in Albania. I have no idea.
PS The chair in my hotel room has just collapsed beneath me. Clearly in Albanian terms I am still grossly overweight. Better stick to the country salads.
3373 days ago
The ferry was late arriving and so I have only been here a few hours but already I have been surprised. The little port town of Sarande cannot be described as picturesque. As you approach on the boat a skyline of 6 storey buildings suggest that you could be sailing up the river Sherbourne into Coventry. Perhaps that is unfair, I have not really explored in daytime. More tomorrow. Leaving the port I walked up Enver Hoxha street. They seem to have a bit of a soft spot for their former dictator. I have already bought an Enver Hoxha mug to take home.
Having no Lekke I found a cashpoint machine and approached it nervously given that I had been lectured by Spiros and every other Greek I met about how Albanians are congenital thieves. But the ATM spoke English and offered me a choice of how many Lekke to withdraw. At which point it struck me that I had absolutely no idea what a Lekke is worth. I opted for the second highest amount on offer. I am now sitting on about 6 weeks wages for the Average Albanian. I may stay here a bit longer as I work my way through them but that will be tough as this place is very cheap indeed.
As I wandered towards the town centre a man asked me where I came from?
3374 days ago
One of the minor matters that I have resented during the past few years has been the idea of dressing to a corporate standard. There are greater issues that have caused me angst but this is an easy one to address going forward. When I started t1ps my attire was T-shirt and shorts/jeans. When the office was in my home I used to work in my underpants. It was a time when life was simple, work was fun in that I did only what I enjoyed (mainly writing) and was – I think – quite good at what I did. And no-one told me what to wear. I remember Algy Cluff being a bit surprised to find me wearing Irish rugby shorts and a T-shirt with some vaguely controversial message across the front, but most CEOs judge you on your work, not on what you wear.
Gradually, the pressures increased to smarten up. I found a review of a talk I gave a long time ago where I was lambasted for wearing a crumpled shirt. Heck did the reviewer know that was an upgrade? Looking back I can see some inverse sort of correlation between freedom to wear what I want & to write what I wanted and my move to do other things and an increasing sense of frustration and unhappiness. However that was suppressed at the time. Maybe weight gain was a symptom of that.
And so, going forward, whatever I do it has to be on the condition that I will be looking rather casual as I do it. I guess that rules out a career at Morgan Stanley. Drat. But my lifetime love affair with the T-shirt can once again come out of the closet.
3376 days ago
For some reason I keep thinking of the Dead Kennedys’ classic “Holiday in Cambodia” as I prepare for a trip across the straights of Corfu early next week. If you cannot remember the number/never heard the tune, it will not appeal to all, but you can listen below.
If you cannot make out the lyrics it is this verse to which I refer (although the two that follow on the nature of work are pretty good)
“ It’s time to taste what you most fear
Right guard will not help you here
Brace yourself, my dear
It’s a holiday in Cambodia
It’s tough, kid, but its life
It’s a holiday in Cambodia
Don’t forget to pack a wife”
Of course Albania has moved on from the days of good old Enver Hoxha when machine gun posts on the border were there to keep people in, rather than out.
3387 days ago
I check out Tom Winnifrith as a google search now and again just in case my new pal, pouting hackette Anna White has been a naughty girl again. And in the past few days I see shooting up the rankings a new video by Tom Winnifrith. Since I have not recorded anything for a while, this came as a bit of a shock until I discovered that like quite a few other google entries it refers to my Dad, the old silver surfer himself (Dr) Tom Winnifrith.