Cilla or Cecil; You Decide

So it was Surprise! Surprise! at the weekend when we bade farewell to ‘our Cilla.’ I was never much of a devotee but I’d agree in her prime she could throw out a decent ballad. Still, amongst other none devotees are the worlds cabin crew who have had quite a bit to say about Cilla over the years. A bit of a diva apparently who earned herself legendary ‘oh no, SHE’s on the flight manifest ,’ status over the years.

Diamonds may be forever, just not necessarily at the same price.

Diamonds may be forever, just not necessarily at the same price

Business Insider today draws our attention to the persistent drop in the price of diamonds, (actually, compared to many share and commodity prices diamonds look like a model of stability). The diamond rarity / ‘diamonds are forever’ thing is of course, the result of the best marketing campaign ever conceived. Anyone who has ever tried to sell a diamond would concur. Until the end of the 19th century diamonds were found in only a few places in the world, mostly in India and Brazil. In 1870 though, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River in South Africa and the market was quickly swamped. The mine owners quickly realised that the value of their shiny stones depended on their scarcity and in 1888 they formed de Beers to control production and supply to create an illusion of scarcity. It worked better than they could ever have hoped.

It was an advertising agency in New York called N.W.Ayer who in 1938, on behalf of the Oppenheimer’s following years of falling prices, cooked up an advertising strategy that accentuated movie idol glamour, romance and social exclusivity which has proved so enduring for subsequent generations; "We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer's wife and the mechanic's sweetheart say 'I wish I had what she has.” The story is a fascinating one. Did you know for example that the so called Eternity Ring is an entirely N. W. Ayers invention to create a market for smaller sized Soviet diamonds which de Beers also controlled, to "illustrate gems as small as one-tenth of a carat and give them the same emotional importance as larger stones," by marketing them to older women along the theme of ‘recaptured love.’

The price is of course largely illusory, well unless you walk into a Bond Street store to buy one. De Beers still holds huge inventory but the biggest inventory is held in the safes and under the mattresses of hundreds of millions of women.. If they ever decided to sell the price would collapse. That’s why hardly any expensive jewellers will buy diamonds back from customers. They will lose goodwill because of the low prices offered and they risk structural damage to their own market. So, they cleverly increased demand while controlling and reducing supply and regardless of what your dear wife / fiancée / girlfriend / life partner may think, investment grade diamonds, the ‘Elizabeth Taylor’ ones that grab the headlines at Christies are of a purity hardly ever found in the sparklies that we are encouraged to buy with ‘2 months salary,’ (Life Tip – I would encourage you not to attempt to explain any of this logic to the aforementioned, your dear wife / fiancée / girlfriend / life partner; it may end in ruinous emotional, physical or financial consequences).

Sustained demand for diamonds depends on continually creating new markets, as with the Eternity ring thing. De Beers were very successful in selling the diamond concept to the Japanese in the seventies and eighties as a path to Western values and romance. The same is happening in China and India today. Yet, the Chinese slowdown is manifesting itself in exporting deflation through many different channels. I think the price of diamonds has further to fall.

A Different Henley

The youngest Crumble Kid has been at Henley for the past four days, arriving home late in the evening. This was our last conversation.....

'So, how was Henley son?'

'Well Dad, I arrive at six, wash up 500 plates and glasses five times and leave at half eight in the evening. Saw a couple of canoes out of the back of the marquee first thing though.'

'Maybe next year Cinder's....... work on that 'canoe,' thing though and remember, it's good for the soul.'

Cunning Plan

Apologies for the absence but back and with much to say after a month in which we've said goodbye to, amongst others, the Labour party, (probably for a generation), Sepp Blatter, (hurrah!), Charles Kennedy, (anyone who described my mum as the Helen Mirran of Inverness must be a good soul) and the television series Mad Men, (bereft). What with the current series of Modern Family now ended I'm left only with the hilarious comedy Silicon Valley to justify my license fee. Anyway, we're also coming to the end of school exam season and with it A Levels and the last of my cohort to finish school. Should I be encouraged or dismayed by these recent snapchats received from said student with a cunning plan?

which was unfortunately followed by this,

"Exit light, Enter night, Take my hand, We're off to Never-Never land?"

I can't believe we really deserve this..

Here we are then. The appointed day after far too long and assanine a campaign which has lacked vision and truthfulness. The electorate have been treated like children with each party competing to scare us away from one party or the other. That they have all failed miserably to articulate a pathway that meets the hopes, dreams and aspirations of citizens is actually as tragic as it is an acute moral and political failure.

A missed opportunity doesn't come close to describing the paucity of original thought which is badly needed to meet the demands and accelerating evolution of the domestic and geopolitical world which is pressing in on us. Not to mention economic fragility, demographic pressures and a continuing technology revolution which will see 50% of white collar jobs replaced by a commuter chip or robot within 20 years. Westminster and all it encompasses; politicians, advisors, spin misters, lobbyists, the media - either they are all deeply cynical in a contemptible and mendacious way or they are simply self obsessed stupid people. We have in fact, after all that campaigning, very little hard evidence on which to make a decision and the consequences may be grave. 

another contrived and stage managed talk

Here then, are my top gripes from the last six weeks,

  • "I've talked to lots of ordinary people up and down the country." How many times have we heard that, (insert name of major party leader here). No you haven't. You've purposely been kept in a bubble away from normal people because you don't know how to communicate with them and your minders want to avoid any blowback from any disgruntled individual you might meet. 
  • Ed Milliband telling us the NHS will suddenly disappear under any other government. This rings all the bells. Untruthful, scaremongering and cowardly. The whole population can see the NHS is unsustainable in its current form for all the reasons that are evident to every family in the land. Free cradle to grave health care without restraint for every citizen employing every single facet of pharmaceutical and medical engineering advance is simply a black hole that will swallow the entire economy. Thats been known for decades. Its obvious that none will have the stones to face up to the problem right up until we reach the point of crisis. That means people will suffer and die before we begin to come up with creative solutions to meet the challenge.
  • Odd how minor matters such as Defence, Britain's role in the world in respect of foreign policy and our relationship with organisations like NATO and the Commonwealth have all but been swept under the carpet. Sure, we sent HMS Bulwark to the Med under the "Something Must Be Done," flag but I haven't seen for example, any earnest debate about the vast migration from Sub Saharan and North Africa which faces Europe and which too, has been forecast for decades.
  • Surgin' Sturgeon, that irritating women whose head wobbles like a Thunderbird puppet has done a spectacular job for someone who isn't even standing in the election. The media have of course fed the monster rather than doing their job in unpicking and unravelling the absurd demands, promises and fantasies promulgated by the SNP which for some bizarre reason are accepted as factual by all except those who quietly brood in the stillness of their own homes, worrying about the nasty and intolerant place their country is becoming. 
  • The BBC found, probably by accident, some mitigation in the Leeds debate but overall their coverage has been anything but fair and balanced. The journalists simply can't help themselves and their in built institutional left wing bias always finds a way of seeping through. As I mentioned in a previous post, Andrew Neil is probably the hero of the campaign and one of the few who has called the political class to account. He's been a joy to watch.
  • A glaring characteristic of the campaign has been the vast array of political figures who have been kept in their box throughout. Obviously, the spinmeisters decided early on that anyone with the least bit controversial views should be hidden away. They were, which has made the whole thing very dull indeed. How many times have you seen Ed Balls for example, Michael Gove or Eric Pickles?
  • Talking of Mr Pickles, just think Eric, if I may call you that, how easy a runaway election this would have been for your party if only you'd kept your promise to get the bloody wheelie bins emptied every week. This is the United Kingdom yet rubbish collection is more irregular than it was fifty years ago and more in keeping with that seen in a Peruvian shanty town than a modern advanced economy. Yes, just hand over two grand a year in council tax and drive your refuse to the recycling place yourself because we can't be bothered. Perhaps they kept Eric off the box in case someone nailed him on that, I certainly would.
  • Perish the thought but this incidentally, is not an election that anyone should perhaps actually want to win. The incumbent is most likely to remembered in history for a thousand years as the man who presided over the break-up of the United Kingdom. He will definately face a recession and probable economic crisis, that is simply as unavoidable as it is cyclical. A cursory glance at the numbers tells us that and no, the next one won't be a surprise, "none saw it coming." Plenty of people are writing and warning now. I find it beyond reason that all the parties happily expound their views on how to spend more money but not not how to create wealth. Beyond our shores, after years of ill thought out meddling by the West in the Middle East, it is now on fire. We can't ignore it indefinitely although our political elite are doing a pretty good job of it.
  • The amount of spending plans resting on taxing houses within the Circle Line is just madness; don't they realise houses can simply fall in value? Perhaps they might like to acquaint themselves with the deflation monster which is being exported from China and which is pulsing throughout western economies creating fiscal havoc.
  • If the major parties care as much as they tell us they do about the United Kingdom, why has no one discussed or debated the potential for a short term government of national unity to see off the SNP?
  • Who on earth thought it was fair or reasonable to give that deluded looney Trotskyist from the Green Party a national platform while ignoring the DUP from Northern Ireland? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
  • Russell Brand, seriously?
  • The smell of corruption surrounding postal votes which remains unaddressed. 

Well, we are where we are and goodness knows where that leads us to this time next week. There will be surprises and moments of incredulity aplenty tonight. Myself, I'll be at the Guards Museum for dinner following a talk on the battle of Waterloo, the battle that really cemented this nation as one, banished the Napoleonic threat for ever and provided the security on which the Empire was built. I shall enjoy that a good deal more than I have this election.

Close Your Eyes & Listen

Brandi Carlisle, live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony. Close your eyes, listen and lose yourself. Just don't forget to come back.

An old friend told me a sad story yesterday but a story with some blue sky at the end. Here's a song for my friend. I hadn't heard Brandi Carlisle until recently but she's blessed with a great pair of lungs and the song, well there's something for everyone in it, especially this version, whatever the mood. There is a superb Radio 4 series called Soul Music. One episode is devoted to this, Leonard Cohen's epic Hallelujah. It really is worth downloading.

I'm Here To Help Son

So, one of the Crumble kids fancies himself as a bit of a dude in the kitchen. He's planning Beef Wellington for 18 in his student house for his birthday dinner party tomorrow. Crumble Men don't flinch at a challenge. He asked me about veg. Discard the cookery books son, your fathers here and I'm here to help. 

Read on: 

courgettes stuffed with carrot..... Go Dad

courgettes stuffed with carrot..... Go Dad