Personal and undiluted views

3444 days ago

Dan Hannan, Greeks and Corsets

The crooked pie-eaters who run Greece have served up the usual offering once again today: “Give us the money we need but just a little bit more time to implement the cuts/reforms demanded.” This should ring a bell or two since we have heard this numerous times before. And each time the Greeks have got their dosh, so becoming more indebted, and then found excuses not to implement the reforms fully. At some stage someone must call their bluff.

Ever helpful Eurosceptic MEP Dan Hannan is again offering helpful advice to the Greeks, viz get out of the Euro.


3450 days ago

The Economic Debt Driven Crisis started 41 years ago yesterday

It was 41 years ago yesterday that President Nixon scrapped the Bretton Woods system. Until then you could exchange 35 US dollars for an ounce of gold. The US could only print as many dollars as it had gold reserves and all other currencies were linked to the US dollar, so they too were restricted in what they could print by how much gold they sat on. As a result we enjoyed fiscally responsible Governments that did not spend more than they could afford.

Nixon scrapped the link because the US Government needed to print dollars to finance the folly that was the Vietnam War. Since he did that the purchasing power of the US dollar has fallen by 82%. The purchasing power of other currencies where the Governments have been even more profligate (er…the UK) has fallen by more.


3460 days ago

Greek bankers on strike – this country is in dreamland

Throughout my travels in Greece during the past six weeks one thing has become apparent: the Greeks are completely deluded about their fate. They just simply do not get it. There is a large swathe of opinion that wishes to keep the Euro and believes that this can be done merely by slashing public sector jobs and Government waste. They do not think that austerity and the need to be competitive applies to them. Why they are so attached to the Euro which has brought them such misery baffles me. I think some associate it with the vast grants Greece used to get and think those days will come again (dream on).

Others see being part of the Euro club as a matter of national pride. So let me get this straight, Germany is telling your politicians how to run your country stripping you of independence, will soon send over “observers” to oversee the state, you have been bankrupted and humiliated – in all thoroughly buggered by Berlin. When this happened 1943-45 it was not a source of pride, what is different now?


3461 days ago

Greece v Albania for my next Holiday: No contest. Albania wins unless...

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?


3462 days ago

Generation gap – currency scare

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.


3464 days ago

The 5000 Lek Note is a Pain and Smoking Crime

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.


3470 days ago

Real Greek Tragedies. Petra’s Friends

You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met you. Blah Blah blah. Well actually Petra is working as a waitress in Zorba’s taverna and after she clocked off work at midnight we hit the town. I am feeling a bit jaded as a result. It is not that I had too much to drink, just too little food before it. These days three glasses of wine and I am anybody’s. But for the record not Petra’s. Anyhow I suffered for you dear readers. It was all in the name of research.

You see the riots in Athens. You hear the dreadful economic stats. So how about a couple of real lives. You have, I suspect, no idea of how the basic rules which you and I take for granted have just broken down completely. Thus trust and faith in anything is no longer possible.


3473 days ago

Reasons to stay in Greece for at least another month – D Day

I see that Greece is set to run out of money and go bust on August 20th. That is unless it gets more international cash to repay loans due in less than a month. And since it is not sticking to the austerity programme in a meaningful way it may not get the cash. Hmmm what to do?

Of course this is insanity. Greece is borrowing money to repay money. A sort of payday loan. The condition is implementing measures that will send unemployment from 27% to well over 30% so cutting tax receipts and prompting even more civil disorder which is a) costly to control and b) scares off the tourists at the peak of the season so slashing tax receipts even more/ creating more unemployment with associated costs so pushing the country further into the merde. It is sheer insanity.

Clearly there will be chaos and disorder as the deadline approaches. I am your man on the spot. It is a hard life but I feel obliged to spend another 25 days on the beaches before trundling down to Athens for D Day. That is D for default, debt, destruction, damage, deranged, disaster, doom, despair, deliverance (from the Euro), death (of democracy?), drachma (return of), demise Day. Meanwhile I think I shall be converting the £20 pound notes I carry with me in only small batches.


3485 days ago

My Greek 1 Eurocent I shall not spend

Somewhere I have a 5 trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe which is, apparently, worth quite a bit on ebay although it never had much value in Zim. I now find in my pocket a 1 Eurocent piece minted in Greece which I also intend to treasure as a bit of a currency geek. It will soon be absolutely worthless (right now it is worthless to all intents and purposes) but that might give it a strange value.

It is a pretty little coin about half the size of a 1 penny piece with a picture of an ancient Athenian ship (a trireme) on the reverse.


3486 days ago

Striking Miners, Baroness Thatcher & Spanish Madness

I was planning to have another pop today at Louise Mensch MP for being so thick but I shall save that treat for another time. Instead my mind wanders to Spain where the Prime Minister, Mariana Rajoy is implementing austerity measures with vigour in return for another bailout or twenty. This is not going to be fun. It is sheer madness but we are talking about the EU here so I guess that is par for the course.


3504 days ago

Cash as Money in 2012

I find myself reflecting on how odd it is, the way that we use paper money at all in 2012. Most of my transactions are, these days, done by card or online. Once every two weeks I draw out £200 from a cash machine and then steadily spend it. Once I quit smoking (again) that should be once every three weeks that I visit an ATM. Cash as a means of transaction is becoming less and less relevant to my life.


3510 days ago

Greece – Now a total sideshow & Election 3 on the way?

It looks as if New Democracy (yes to the Euro, run by fat old crooks) will win the Greek election if it can form a coalition. But who cares anymore? Reading the wires Pasok ( yes to the Euro run by fat old crooks) has said that it will not join a coalition unless Syriza (no to the Euro, not sure if thin youthful leaders are crooks but as they are Greek politicians I assume so) joins too which it will not. And so quite amazingly Greece might actually need to have another election. Clearly this is the last thing it needs but the nation that gave us democracy is now showing us a variant where nothing ever happens because you keep on having elections. Madness.

It may be that the Pasok and ND crooks can get it together, for once putting the national interest ahead of lining their pockets. There must still be a few things left for a Greek politician to plunder. But this is now a sideshow. Do not get me wrong. I feel sorry for the Greek people but I have believed for eons that it was in their best interest to default on the sovereign debt, go back to the Drachma and rebuild from behind a competitive currency. Now, I suspect that will be forced upon them.


3511 days ago

Beloved Hellas on the road to Hell

As you cannot fail to have noticed there is yet another Greek election on Sunday. The choice is clear: one of the two “old” parties (Pasok and New Democracy) which are both run by crooks and who will sign up to more austerity/another bailout or a variety of fruitcakes who will reject the EU’s kind offer. Some of the fruitcakes have some utterly repellent views on other matters.


3517 days ago

The Pain in Spain falls mainly on the Germans and French

Yes I love My Fair Lady. A wonderful film and I remember seeing a stage version with Tony Britton and Liz Robertson which was pretty stunning. But this is about PIIGS not Pygmalion. A while back the leaders of the Evil Empire told us that Greece, Eire and Portugal would be bailed out of “local difficulties” and that a line in the sand had been drawn under the Euro crisis. At the time some of us suggested this was a big fat Euro lie and it has not taken long for we sceptics to be vindicated.

In the 3 lead PIIGS the people are rebelling against austerity measures. Let’s see if Greece stays in the Euro and avoids default. I cannot see why or how it can stay inside the single currency but only time will tell. Meanwhile austerity measures implemented elsewhere (Spain) as a result of EU diktat have pushed Spain ( and others) into a mega recession which now shows just how flaky are the balance sheets of most of its banks ( something we sceptics also called correctly a while back). And so the EU ( via the European Financial Stability Facililty – EFSF) is to hand over £80 billion to Spain to allow it to bail out its banks.


3520 days ago

The Greek Political Elite in action?

Why is it that most senior Greek politicians seem to be extremely fat? Did they eat all the bailouts? As my beloved Hellas heads for another election next week, heaven knows what will happen. Will there be a coalition which opposes being totally buttfucked (sorry I meant bailed out) by the EU or is will there be one which signs up for national humiliation, more austerity, etc. I do not know.


3522 days ago

Laurent Fabius – French Idiot

The EU has failed to come up with any solution to the crisis yet again. The Germans seem happy to go down in history as the volks who pushed Europe into a re-run of the 1930s (I still think they will blink before midnight) and everyone else is in denial. But prize idiot of the day award goes to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who is demanding that America sort this out (i.e. US taxpayers ignore their own gravity defying National debt/deficit and write a mega cheque) because:

“The crisis did not start in Europe. Lehman Brothers was not a European bank. We should not shift responsibility.”


3522 days ago

A Visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum –going home to Oxford

It seems as if my cats and I are going to relocate to Oxford. It is the City of my birth and I grew up in a series of villages within 40 miles of here and went to University here so I know the area well. And now I am back here. There are worse places. Cambridge obviously springs to mind. And so on this cold bank holiday a family trip was organised to the Pitt Rivers Museum.