Brand Panned

The philandering coke-head know-it-all Russell Brand has come under attack from Joe Average following his bizarre protest at RBS last Friday. Looking like he'd arrived having clung to the side of the Eurostar for three hours, Brand accosted a guy working in RBS's office who was returning from picking up lunch.

Well worth a read and the sooner Brand pushes off to join the rest of his celebrity C listers on a foreign beach the better. He looks like he sleeps in a bus shelter every night and is as funny as anthrax. Whats more, he really should stop cutting his own hair and get a professional on the job.



An open letter to Russell Brand.

Dear Russell,

Hi. I'm Jo. You may remember me. You may even have filmed me. On Friday, you staged a publicity stunt at an RBS office, inconveniencing a hundred or so people. I was the lanky slouched guy with a lot less hair than you but (I flatter myself) a slightly better beard who complained to you that you, a multimillionaire, had caused my lunch to get cold. You started going on at me about public money and bankers' bonuses, but look, Russell, anyone who knows me will tell you that my food is important to me, and I hadn't had breakfast that morning, and I'd been standing in the freezing cold for half an hour on your whim. What mattered to me at the time wasn't bonuses; it was my lunch, so I said so.

Which is a great shame, because I'd usually be well up for a proper barney with you, and the points you made do actually deserve answers. Although not — and I really can't emphasise this enough, Russell — not as much as I deserve lunch.

Before I go any further, I should stress that I don't speak for RBS. I'm not even an RBS employee, though I do currently work for them. What follows is not any sort of official statement from RBS, or even from the wider banking industry. It is merely the voice of a man whose lunch on Friday was unfairly delayed and too damn cold.

So, firstly, for the people who weren't there, let's describe the kerfuffle. I didn't see your arrival; I just got back from buying my lunch to discover the building's doors were locked, a film crew were racing around outside trying to find a good angle to point their camera through the windows, and you were in reception, poncing around like you were Russell bleeding Brand. From what I can gather, you'd gone in and security had locked the doors to stop your film crew following you. Which left us — the people who were supposed to be in the building, who had work to do — standing around in the cold.

My first question is, what were you hoping to achieve? Did you think a pack of traders might gallop through reception, laughing maniacally as they threw burning banknotes in the air, quaffing champagne, and brutally thrashing the ornamental paupers that they keep on diamante leashes — and you, Russell, would damningly catch them in the act? But that's on Tuesdays. I get it, Russell, I do: footage of being asked to leave by security is good footage. It looks like you're challenging the system and the powers that be want your voice suppressed. Or something. But all it really means, behind the manipulative media bullshit, is that you don't have an appointment. 

Of course, Russell, I have no idea whether you could get an appointment. Maybe RBS top brass would rather not talk to you. That's their call — and, you know, some of your behaviour might make them a tad wary. Reputations are very important in banking, and, reputation-wise, hanging out with a guy who was once fired for broadcasting hardcore pornography while off his head on crack is not ideal. But surely a man who can get invited onto Question Time to discuss the issues of the day with our Lords & Masters is establishment enough to talk to a mere banker. And it would be great if you could. Have you tried, Russell? Maybe you could do an interview with one of them. An expert could answer your questions and rebut your points, and you could rebut right back at them. I might even watch that. (By the way, Russell, if you do, and it makes money, I would like a cut for the idea, please. And I'm sure it would. Most things you do make money.)

But instead of doing something potentially educational, Russell, you staged a completely futile publicity stunt. You turned up and weren't allowed in. Big wow. You know what would have happened if a rabid capitalist had just turned up unannounced? They wouldn't have been allowed in either. You know what I have in my pocket? A security pass. Unauthorised people aren't allowed in. Obviously. That's not a global conspiracy, Russell; it's basic security. Breweries have security too, and that's not because they're conspiring to steal beer from the poor. And security really matters: banks are simply crawling with highly sensitive information. Letting you in because you're a celebrity and You Demand Answers could in fact see the bank hauled in front of the FCA. That would be a scandal. Turning you away is not. I'm sorry, Russell, but it's just not.

Your response to my complaint that a multimillionaire was causing my lunch to get cold was... well, frankly, it was to completely miss the point, choosing to talk about your millions instead of addressing the real issue, namely my fucking lunch. But that's a forgivable mistake. We all have our priorities, Russell, and I can understand why a man as obsessed with money as I am with food would assume that's what every conversation is about. Anyway, you said that all your money has been made privately, not through taxation. Now, that, Russell, is actually a fair point. Well done.

Although I can't help but notice that you have no qualms about appearing on the BBC in return for money raised through one of the most regressive taxes in the country, a tax which leads to crippling fines and even jail time for thousands of poor people and zero rich people. But never mind. I appreciate that it's difficult for a celeb to avoid the BBC, even if they're already a multimillionaire and can totally afford to turn the work down. Ah, the sacrifices we make to our principles for filthy lucre, eh, Russell? The condoms and hairspray won't buy themselves. Or, in my case, the pasta.

And then there is that film you're working on, isn't there, for which I understand your production company is benefitting from the Enterprise Investment Scheme, allowing the City investors funding your film to avoid tax. Was that the film you were making on Friday, Russell, when you indignantly pointed out to me that none of your money comes from the taxpayer? Perhaps it had slipped your mind. 

And, of course, you've been in a few Hollywood films now, haven't you, Russell? I take it you've heard of Hollywood Accounting? Of course you have, Russell; you produced Arthur. So you are well aware that Hollywood studios routinely cook their books to make sure their films never go into taxable profit — for instance, Return Of The Jedi has never, on paper, made a profit. Return Of The fuckingJedi, Russell. As an actor, and even more so as the producer of a (officially) loss-making film, you've taken part in that, you've benefitted from it. (While we're on the subject, I hear great things about Hollywood's catering. I hope you enjoyed it. Expensive, delicious, and served (at least when I dream about it) nice and hot.)

But still, you're broadly right. Leaving aside the money you make from one of the most regressive of the UK's taxes, and the tax exemptions your company uses to encourage rich City investors to give you more money, and the huge fees you've accepted from one of the planet's most notorious and successful tax avoidance schemes, you, Russell, have come by your riches without any effect on taxpayers. Whereas RBS got bailed out. Fair point.

Here's the thing about the bailout of RBS, Russell: it's temporary. The plan was never to bail out a bank so that it could then go bust anyway. That would be too asinine even for Gordon Brown. The idea was to buy the bank with public money, wait until it became profitable again, then resell it, as Alastair Darling clearly explained at the time. And that is still the plan, and it does appear to be on course. Not only that, but it looks as if the government will eventually sell RBS for more than they bought it for. In other words, the taxpayer will make a profit on this deal.

Of all the profligate pissing away of public money that goes on in this country, the only instance where the public are actually going to get their money back seems an odd target for your ire. What other government spending can you say that about, Russell? What other schemes do they sink taxpayers' money into and get it all back, with interest? And how many people have you met who have actually been right in the middle of working to make a profit for the taxpayer when you've interrupted them to cause their lunch to get cold?

As for bonuses, well, I'll be honest: I get an annual bonus. I'm not allowed to tell you exactly how much it is, but I will say it's four or five orders of magnitude smaller than the ones that make the headlines. It's very nice — helps pay off a bit of credit card debt (remember debt, Russell?) — but, to put it in terms you can understand, I'd need to work for several tens of thousands of years before my bonuses added up to close to what you're worth. 

But here's the key thing you need to know about bonuses, Russell: they come with conditions attached. My salary is mine to do with as I will (I like to spend a chunk of it on good hot food). My bonus my employer can take back off me under certain conditions. Again, I do not speak for RBS, so cannot say anything about the recent FX trading scandal or PPI or any of that shit. But, in general terms, bonuses have conditions attached, such as "And we'll claw back every penny if we discover you were breaking the rules." And yes, it does happen. The only bonuses that make the news are the ones that get paid. But, every year, bonuses either don't get paid or are even taken back off staff for various reasons, including misconduct. I'd've thought, Russell, that anyone who wanted bankers to be accountable would approve of the scheme.

And now, if I may, a word about your manner. 

Much as I disagree with most of your politics, I've always rather liked you. You do a good job of coming across as someone who might be fun to be around. Turns out, that's an illusion. 

Because, you see, Russell, when you accosted me, you started speaking to me with your nose about two inches from mine. That's pretty fucking aggressive, Russell. I'm sure you're aware of the effect. Putting one's face that close to someone else's and staring into their eyes is how primates square off for a fight. Regardless of our veneer of civilisation, when someone does that to us, it causes instinctive physical responses: adrenaline, nervousness... back down or lash out. (Or, apparently, in the case of the celebrity bikes you like to hang out with, swoon.) I'm sure that, like turning up with a megaphone instead of an appointment, such an aggressive invasion of personal space makes for great footage: you keep talking to someone in that chatty reasonable affable tone of yours, and they react with anger. Makes them look unreasonable. Makes it look like they're the aggressive ones. Makes it look like people get flustered in the face of your incisive argument. When in fact they're just getting flustered in the face of your face.

I've been thinking about this the last couple of days, Russell, and I can honestly say that the only other people ever to talk to me the way you did were school bullies. It's been nearly a quarter of a century since I had to deal with such bastards, so I was caught quite off my guard. Nice company you're keeping. Now I think about it, they used to ruin my lunchtimes too.

One last thing, Russell. Who did you inconvenience on Friday? Let's say that you're right, and that the likes of Fred Goodwin need to pay. OK, so how much trouble do you think Fred faced last Friday as a result of your antics? Do you think any of his food got cold, Russell? Even just his tea? I somehow doubt it. How about some of the millionaire traders you despise so much (some of whom are nearly as rich as you, Russell)? Well, no, because you got the wrong fucking building. (Might want to have a word with your researchers about that.) Which brings us back to where we came in: a bunch of admittedly fairly well paid but still quite ordinary working people, admin staff mostly, having their lives inconvenienced and, in at least one case, their lunches quite disastrously cooled, in order to accommodate the puerile self-aggrandising antics of a prancing multimillionaire. If you had any self-awareness beyond agonising over how often to straighten your fucking chest-hair, you'd be ashamed. 

It was paella, by the way. From Fernando's in Devonshire Row. I highly recommend them: their food is frankly just fantastic. 

When it's hot.

Apple iPhone 6; Did you forget to order them Vodafone?

Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse comparison for 64GB iPhone 6




I ordered an iPhone  upgrade from Vodafone a week ago, "delivery within 7 days sir." No it isn't. They haven't got any and have no clue when they will. Some quick investigation revealed that Carphone Warehouse do have 64GB iPhone 6's in space grey in stock. Thing is, how do Carphone Warehouse manage to sell them more cheaply, (and with a better data offering), on the Vodafone network than do Vodafone themselves.

That's nuts but what is even more nuts is that the Vodafone shops are full, are still selling phones they don't have to idiots like me who are too idle to shop around, and neither Vodafone nor apparently their customers care. 


Price at the Pump

The negative divergence between the oil price and what you pay at the pump is becoming more pronounced.

Two points here. It's rather unusual for the supermarkets not to be more competitive so are they perhaps under pressure from Westminster to hold prices high to maintain tax revenue? Secondly, the oil price down here would have made an interesting start to Scottish Independance if the vote had gone the other way given the SNP's sums were predicated on a much higher oil price. The oil industry is typically very sensitive to the price; job losses and reduced capex are simply inevitable as deflation continues to pulse through western economies.

What Are We Going To Do About George?

George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to a packed House of Commons

George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to a packed House of Commons

The news wires are burning with reports that the Chancellor, George Osborne, has gone completely doolally. In delivering an Autumn Statement that eviscerated house buyers with aspirations of acquiring property worth more than £935,000 he fired a financial exocet directly into the centre of his parties core constituency. The opposition can't believe their luck as they leave the chamber sniggering to each other.

The rate for property at say the £1.5m price point gives the buyer the unwelcome prospect of coughing up £93,750 big ones; that's as near as damn it £190,000 (actually higher), of pre tax income or a 6.25% blended rate of stamp which is scaled through the above levels. Things get interesting further up the ladder with a £3m property attracting a 9.125% blended rate. 

The £2m+ property market ground to a halt months ago because of political uncertainty. Most people though obviously couldn't care less. Apart from that is, those who rely on such transactions to fuel their own removal, decorating, building, plumbing and so on businesses. The point is, as I never tire of saying, these idiots at the Treasury simply cannot or will not focus on freeing up the economy. This is but one example. The overall tax take will anyway, fall.

I'm sure too that distortions will quickly develop in the market which at the higher price points will simply freeze up and that will have a trickle down effect with some properties becoming overvalued while others find a lower point of equilibrium. You'll probably also see a rush of planning applications to split up houses into two or more flats. 

The net beneficiary of this will again be UKIP who I'm quite sure will benefit from additional donations from frustrated property sellers and their votes....... along with those coming from citizens with laughable broadband, bins that are emptied but once a fortnight, commuters who now cough up 5-7 grand annually to get to work, redundant soldiers, (they haven't cut government departments or the civil service by 23% have they?), and so on.

So Tories, keep up the entertainment for your Labour colleagues. Build expensive railways to nowhere through your core voters homes, then start fracking under them and now over-tax them. It's so original, why hasn't it been done before? Even the old class warrior Gordon couldn't have dreamt this lot up.

On reflection, Treasury Officials agreed they might have chosen the Stamp Duty Rise Focus group with more care

A Thundering Good Read

The 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War and the recent annual remembrance parades have touched us all and each in our own way.

The casualty lists are desperately sobering though with up to 5,000 names appearing on some days.

The casualty lists are desperately sobering though with up to 5,000 names appearing on some days.

I’ll admit to a life-long interest in the conflict and like to think I’m fairly well and broadly read on the subject. I’ve taken though, to following the war  in a slightly different way. I subscribe to both digital versions of the Times and the Telegraph. The Times though has a simply awesome archive of past papers and it is through these that day by day, I’m following the war a hundred years on.

True, some of the reporting may obviously be sanitised but I can tell you it’s massively more comprehensive than anything we’ve been fed in recent decades from Iraq and Afghanistan. I find it interesting on multiple levels, not least that the war is reported from all fronts and naval actions too are very well covered.


Typical obituary notice in the Times; Lt Arthur Collins, 628 not out at Clifton when 13

Typical obituary notice in the Times; Lt Arthur Collins, 628 not out at Clifton when 13

Major H G Powell, the fifth CO of the 1st Loyals since the outbreak of war; "With a hail of shells and bullets falling around him he directed the operations of his detachment from the chair in which he sat until he was wounded."

Major H G Powell, the fifth CO of the 1st Loyals since the outbreak of war; "With a hail of shells and bullets falling around him he directed the operations of his detachment from the chair in which he sat until he was wounded."

Short obituaries of some officers are listed every day and the vast majority are regular officers, most having seen service throughout the Empire with names such as Omdurman, Ladysmith and Mafeking often recurring. That will change as we move into 1915, mostly because there wasn’t much of the pre war regular army left. Each though has a story such as young Lt Arthur Collins above who scored a remarkable 628 not out as a 13 year old schoolboy at Clifton and the commanding officers of the 1st Loyals below that.

The articulate and colourful 1914 equivalent of being dumped by text

The articulate and colourful 1914 equivalent of being dumped by text

We'll never know if she made his day.

We'll never know if she made his day.

Anyone looking for the opening line of a novel need look no further

Anyone looking for the opening line of a novel need look no further

The paper exudes social history. I’m finding the personal notices both desperately sad with parents making public enquiries about the well-being of their sons at the front, “may be a prisoner of war,” and entertaining with romantic notices, “meet me under the clock…” There are too a great many notices in French, reflecting the wave of refugees in London, (not unlike today you might think!), and as the war goes on, a growing number of “disengaged,” servants seeking work, houses and flats for rent or sale and auctions of possessions. I expect all of these will clearly grow as the war goes on.

Personal notices placed in respect of the "football" debate.

Personal notices placed in respect of the "football" debate.

The letters page also reflected the "football," debate.

The letters page also reflected the "football," debate.

There are a few running debates in the paper with one of the most strident surrounding the decision of the Football Association to continue with professional matches. This attracts lively criticism with complaints about the lack of volunteers stepping forward to enlist at league matches. There are some who defend the game asking what separates the football players and fans from those who go to the theatre, horse racing or other sports and activities.

It’s a heart tugging journey each day punctuated only by the odd uplifting piece. It’s going to be a long four years but I’m nonetheless finding it rewarding and look forward to sharing the odd piece with you.

Having discussed the Great War I should end by mentioning the publication today by the Telegraph of a "virtual memorial" to our 453 dead from the conflict in Afghanistan from 2001-2014. Their average age was 22. The obituaries from family, friends and comrades for each of the 450 men and three women are warm and friendly as befits the changed times but actually, you feel the pain in the reading. God bless them all. We will remember, always.

Stop This Futile Waste

Back in 2004, a terrific fifteen year old friend and neighbour, Sebastian English, trooped off to play for our local rugby club in a fixture against another Surrey team. Sebastian was a talented sportsman and musician, a popular young man full of joie de vivre, with an infectious smile and kind soul. He didn't make it home from the match. 

Undiagnosed heart conditions steal twelve young people from us every week. It need not be so.

Cardiac Risk in the Young work with cardiologists and family doctors to promote and protect the cardiac health of our young by establishing good practice and screening facilities devoted to significantly reduce the frequency of young sudden cardiac death throughout the UK.

CRY have just released the short movie above. Please watch it and, if you have teenage children who haven't been screened then please get it done. While doing so, you may care to lobby your children's school, your local health centre and your local MP if screening is not openly available in your area. This is the very last thing we should have any kind of health apartheid over.

In Sebastian's memory, and the many like him, lets put a stop to this futile waste.

To Comet 67p & Beyond..

Scenes of jubilation in the Rosetta control room located in Grand Fenwick in Central Europe as the team greet the news that the probe has landed on Comet 67p with great relief. 

Of course, it was somewhat unfortunate that the Rosetta craft missed its original target of the moon ten long years ago and has been hurtling through dark space since, looking for a place to land. The good news is that not only has it landed but its landed on a gas emitting comet which no one, absolutely no one has managed before and that's a first for Europe so ya boo sucks Yanks. Not only that but Comet 67p is 500 million miles away.

Project manager Tully Bascombe, Remote Pilot Norman Puckle and Head of Research Professor Simon Peach.

The UK has played a full and meaningful role in the project. Its never fair to highlight individuals but we must. Project manager Tully Bascombe, Remote Pilot Norman Puckle and Head of Research Professor Simon Peach.

This isn't the end though; far from it and back home the United Kingdom Rocketry Association are pushing on at full tilt with their R&D programme. 

Meanwhile, the curator down at the Bletchley Park museum took a funny turn when he heard German speakers discussing rockets on the television in German. Having got the wrong end of a rather improbable stick he was later found dusting down an old Enigma machine with a can of 3-in-1 in hand. He's had his medication and has since calmed down.

Starving Baboons on South West Trains

Now, I have no idea who this chap is. He must though be a man of fortitude and self reliance for given the way he was gorging on that giant burrito thing, and gurgling from his water bottle like a dehydrated water buffalo, on the 19:30hrs to Portsmouth last night, I have to think that he had just returned from 2 years in the Serengeti or 6 months up the Limpopo without a paddle or bag of chips to his name. Oblivious to all around why wouldn't you buy the messiest, smelliest food available and then proceed to eat it in the close confines of a railway carriage like a starving baboon? He did and to keep him company the girl in front was wading her way through  some Asian creation just opposite the American girl who was yapping away on her telephone while glugging her bottle of red wine (large). 

The thing is, individuals can mostly do what they please in the confines and privacy of their own homes. Why though, can't they wait on returning home to make their call or wolf down some street food?

Given they display zero consideration for their fellow commuters we need to change the rules, or in fact impose some rules. Travellers should be made to sit a test in front of a board of senior commuters to ratify that they are fit and proper citizens before being allowed to acquire a season ticket. They'll be questioned on platform etiquette, enquiries to the guard etiquette, attitudes to adopt in moments of severe disruption and delays, allowable snacks and refreshments, courtesy to fellow travellers (including use of electronic devices and allowable films), and correct use and storage of umbrellas.

Bravo Charlie Webster!

The television presenter Charlie Webster has resigned as patron of Sheffield football club as a result of their decision to allow convicted yet unrepentant rapist Ched Evans to train with the team following his release having served half of a five year sentence. Two further patrons, sixties pop star Dave Berry and health expert Lindsay Graham have also resigned during the course of the day.

Have the board of this "family and community orientated," club completely taken leave of their senses or is their moral courage so diminished that they have folded like a wet paper bag to the demands of the contemptible Players Football Association? The head of the PFA, an odious individual called Gordon Taylor, has a somewhat original view of the world, ‘If he earns money he'll pay taxes. Those taxes will go to help people who maybe can't get a job.’

Seriously? These people don't think so.

The statement issued by the club is jaw dropping. Are they really suggesting that there is a fair and reasonable case for a convicted rapist to return to a role as a public figure? Read the statement yourself and judge.

I'm absolutely speechless. 

These are the culpable men although news reports suggest that among them there are those who are uncomfortable with the decision. They should simply resign and walk away forthwith. For the others, what exactly would your mothers say?

Owners; Abdullah bin Musa'ed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (50%), Kevin McCabe (50%)

Co-Chairman (Group);  Kevin McCabe,  Jim Phipps

Chairman (Football Club) ;  David Green

Director (Football Club);  Scott McCabe

Vice President; Mike Blundell,  Ian Cameron,  Martin Green,  Andrew Laver,  Martin Ross, Christopher Steer

Operations Director;  Dave McCarthy

Head of Football Operations;  John Stephenson

Finance Director;  Craig Burns

Commercial Director;  Steve Coakley

Head of Group Coordination;  Carl Shieber

Director (Plc)

 Prince Abdulraham Bin Abdullah

Director (Plc);  Selahattin BakiJeremy Tutton

All of you are utter cowards. What's next, a goalkeeper from Broadmoor and a couple of ABH's on the wing? I hope your wives, girlfriends, golf, masonic, wine and gin clubs, sling you out on your ear. You've proved yourselves not to be responsible people acting in the best interests of your club and community. You are morally bankrupt and your actions reflect badly on your town, your sport and indeed yourselves although its evident that you long since stopped caring about any of those things. You had better be quite sure about your actions because on these rest your legacy for it is this for which you will be remembered.

Charlie Websters fund raising effort earlier this year.

Light shines through though in the form of Ms Webster. Others should follow. Some of those men will be decent family guys; they need to prove that; to themselves more than anyone.