Farewell Lloyds Bank.

I am the stupid type of person who maintains loyalty in the face of indifference. For over 30 years I have banked with Lloyds and, in that time, have seen over £13,000,000 go through my various accounts. The measure of my stupidity can be judged by various incidents which have occurred. The first was the manager who did a deal with a liquidator to close a company of which I was a shareholder. We wanted to close the company. We owed £750,000 and had assets of 800,000. After the liquidator mismanaged the affair, there was just over £100,000 left to settle with the creditors. Surprisingly, the fee the liquidator awarded himself was just over £100,000 and so there was no money for the creditors. And still I persisted.

When I offered Lloyds £500,000 in assets against loan of £200,000 for a building project the computer said no. In mitigation I would say that it was 2009 and they probably didn’t have any money to lend,  and so I stayed.

Move on to 2017 and a call to them to enquire about an account for a small company I own. After 20 minutes waiting on phone I gave up. I tried again. This time the call was answered after 12 minutes but I needed to be transferred twice so it took almost 30 minutes before I was finally connected to the right person, who then told me that, because I was on a speaker phone, they couldn’t speak to me.

On the recommendation of my accountant I called a different bank, a comparative newcomer to the UK. The call was answered in just over 1 minute. I was immediately given the details of my closest branch with name and phone number. I called him, immediately was answered, and arranged an appointment. This is looking good and I will report further when I meet him next week.

And did I mention NatWest? My little company banked with them handling a £ and a € account. What they didn’t tell me was that when I wanted to make a payment from the € account, I had to write a letter to them, put it in the post and wait for them to act on it. Just like it was in the 1970’s!

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The good news in Brexit

It is not all doom and gloom on Brexit front.  First consider the stress under which Theresa May and he fellow Brixit favouring MP are under. Stress is bad and could take years from their lives. So that’s the first good news. Then the end game. Clearly leaving the EU instead of leading it into reform is rapidly turning into a joke. As a market, the EU has 741,100,000 citizens. The UK has 64,100,000. As modern capitalism tells us, economies of scale mean lower prices. The bigger the market, the lower the costs so long term the UK is a little island with higher costs, dreaming of an empire lost 100 years ago. Of course it will survive. But, as will soon become apparent, it will be poorer. Where, you ask, is the good news in that? Well when the population finally wake up, which they will because, as we all know, you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, the Tories will be finally finished. And that really could be good news. But wait, there is more. Nigel Farage has stated that if Brexit is a disaster he will leave the UK (nice to have the money to do it Nigel, but of course you have millionaire backing don’t you).

Updating German

Once upon a time I jokingly said that if Germans spoke English they would take over the world. I now suspect that this may not be such a joke after all. With the UK out of the EU, there is little to challenge the German leadership of the block and as they increasingly embrace English as an (almost) gender neutral, easy to learn, language, the possibility that Europe can move forward towards a united continent, draws closer. Reasons for the rapid spread of this offshoot dialect of German, seasoned with French and Latin and spiced with words stolen from around the world may, at first, be difficult to understand. After all, we all have a mother tongue, absorbed along with mothers’ milk. Why do we need more? The answer is of course business, the driver of our lives and supplier of all the material things we hold dear. How much easier it is to do business with somebody you can actually speak to.

It is the relative ease with which a little bit of English can be learnt that gives it the edge over alternatives. You can go a long way with a little bit of English, not so German. And though Spanish might be equally easy to pick up, it doesn’t (apart from South American) have the global connections which English has developed over the past 200 years, first with the British Empire, then with the USA.

With eight years of teaching English in a German speaking country, let me predict the way both the German and English languages will change over the coming years. First, efficiency. It is clear that, for what ever reason, language changes are being driven by a desire to be efficient. The need now is to express ideas with precise words with clear meanings. As an example I give you zeitgeist. Count the syllables. There are two. Now look at the English translation and you get, yes its true, zeitgeist. Now if you ban this, clearly German, word from English you would need to write “spirit of the times”. Count the syllables and you get five. Zeitgeist is clearly more efficient. Similarly iceberg is more efficient than the English word for berg, mountain. The Titanic may have hit an ice mountain, but they called it an iceberg.

The second motivator for the “Anglicisation of German” is actually the size of the language. German has many compound words, words made by adding nouns together. For example, luftkissenboot. You don’t need to be an expert in German to figure out that this is a boat which kisses air or, in English, a hovercraft. So I would contend that English has more discrete words and as another example offer sicherheit, a German word which can mean either safety or security. In English they have separate meanings. Now of course, German speakers can understand the difference in meaning because they can compare the context in which it is used. Unfortunately, there is a whole industry based on context free words. I mean of course the advertising industry. Advertisers need to catch the audience with one or two words. They have no time for context. So German marketeers default to English for a snappy headline and, due to the spread of English pop songs, they are understood.

Yet the biggest problem which is hitting the German language, particularly in Austria, is its gender bias, and the struggle to overcome it. Formerly the word “Österreicher” meant Austrian people. The drive to eliminate gender bias now dictates that “Österreicher und Österreicherin” is used. Clearly this is a bit of a mouthful. We may yet come to a time when “Austrians” is adopted as the simplest solution!

PS, actually, the German word for kiss is küssen not kissen, kissen is a pillow. In my mind the hovercraft “air kisses” the sea but for Germans, the air is a pillow on which the hovercraft rests. As they say, “the devil is in the detail”!

My vision for 2030

Walk down any street and it soon becomes clear that people are not equal. They come in all shapes, sizes and opinions. Is there any single idea to which, if not all, then a substantial majority can ascribe? Governments now would have you believe that there is, that money and cash value fit the bill perfectly.

And so everything is monetised, everything privatised, with profit only as the yardstick by which everything is measured.

It might appear that this is the greed factor in action yet I believe that the reason goes beyond this. In an increasingly complex world it provides a simple and understandable measure with which to judge. The happiness index is totally subjective. Money however is easy to count and everybody can understand it. It is with this seductive simplicity that neocons and their fellow travellers have managed to capture political power.

There is however a even simpler concept which not only most people can understand but is the cornerstone of a Liberal Democratic society in 2030. It should be fair. The simple concept of fairness appears to be almost innate in European society and this is the message that must be shouted from the rooftops. We want a fair society where the only real equality, that of opportunity, is offered to all.

So say it proud and say it loud. A fair society where merit, not nepotism, rules. A fair society where the income disparity between the rich and poor is embarrassing. A fair society in which honest work is lauded, a fair society which we can all be proud of.

Motor mouth Farage does it again!

So F*&*!?age thinks that the Schengen treaty should end because the killer from Berlin managed to get to Milan. What rubbish and, more to the point, what has it got to do with him? Britain is not in the Schengen area and looks even less likely to join but that is not the point. Did you know that there are no borders between states in the USA, an area of 8,080,464.3 km compared with the Schengen area at 4.312million km²? Of course you knew that. So for what possible reason should there be borders in the Schengen area? Come on F*&*!?age, spit it out. Exactly why should there be borders, apart from the fact that it gives you some exercise for your mouth?

Doomed to failure? Maybe not.

The vaguely liberal, vaguely centralist consensus under which we, in Europe, have lived for the past 70 years looks like coming to an end. The rise of so called “popularism” which is perhaps better termed, the rise of the ignorant, will see to it.

Increasingly I blame the internet – and I’m only half joking. The gift of anonymity has freed the population from any of the social restraints which once operated. Now, anything can be said anonymously which gives us look into the darkness which is, for many, the human soul. Just read any of the discussion comments on newspaper articles to see the venom and bile which seems to be the motivator. As liberal, socially conscious people, we are at a distinct disadvantage. We limit our actions through consideration and thought. The others have no such constraints. So obsessed with the “rightness” of their cause they would take any action, make any statement to further it. The Nazis didn’t burn down the Reichstag for fun, they did it as a means to an end, the end justified the means. For the charismatic confidence tricksters, the puppet masters of the new reality, the aim is power and in pursuit of that, any thing goes, and anything can be said. Their foot soldiers are the voters seeking simple solutions in a very complex world. The thoughtful and rational stand a good chance of being defeated.

On the bright side, it looks like Trump is willing to stand up to China. Their claim to the South China Sea is reminiscent of, again, Hitler. “our territorial ambitions extend no further than the Sudetenland”. And we all know where that ended.
And on the bright side again, I have, of late, been suffering from extreme tiredness. I had considered that it might be a sort of lassitude as precursor to death but last night I had a revelation. I think the problem is the statins I have been taking to reduce my blood fat levels. Checking the internet (yes, it is good for something) I find that, indeed, tiredness is a possible side effect. I feel better already! And so I say now, to borrow the famous lines of Winston Churchill,  “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”.

The truth is out there.

What Trump won’t do.

We have to be very clear about Donald Trump. He would say ANYTHING to win a deal, and that is exactly how he saw the campaign for the Presidency. Another deal to win. So you should forget Hillary in prison and forget the Mexican Wall and forget the end of trade with China. Donald has already forgotten it, and you should too. The problems is of course that a lot of people actually believed him. How will they feel in one or two years’ time when nothing has changed? Who can say. There are a lot of crazy people out there and many have guns . . .

A good test of Trump’s intentions will be what he does with Chris Christie, the crooked New Jersey politician who connived in closing the road access of a town whose mayor failed to support him. It seems that two of his aides will  go to prison for this though Christie has escaped punishment for now. He supported Trump’s campaign. If Trump takes him into the administration you can kiss the USA goodbye for the next four years. Meanwhile Nigel Farage has intimated that he will accept US citizenship to serve in Trump’s administration. Perhaps we should start a fund to pay for his ticket.

English in Vienna