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Why The Scanindavian and German Labour Models Work Better than England’s

In the 1990s and 00’s the UK Labour party enjoyed an extended period of power. This was accompanied by a prolonged if moderate period of economic growth.  However the legacy of their economic and employment policies in particular, left the UK vulnerable with a large budget deficit post 2008 credit crash.

Tony Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown, chose flexibility in the labout market as the key for economic growth and employment opportunities. More felxibility would get more people into work. However more flexibility means variable working hours and tenability. When unemployment benefits are a more stable form of income than pay, then a significant number of unskilled  ( or wrongly skilled) workers go unemployed and search jobs which pay better and are predictable income. Hence, Chancellor Brown introduced flexibility in payments of benefits vis a vis working hours, and tax credits for families on lower income. This was called ‘making work pay’ . It has been a disaster for the UK economy outside the south east and some other cities.

Employment and economic policy in Westminster, then as now, is lauded as creating high levels of employment. In fact though the issue is not unemployment per se, it is underemployment.

This manifests itself in two ways. First and foremost, people are underemployed in terms of working hours per week, month or year. They either have part time work, temporary work or worst of both worlds, completely unpredicatble working hours. This is now a major constituent of the regional economies of England. Secondly, people are underemployed by being in very low skilled, low productivity jobs with no opportunity for training and up-skilling.

These jobs are in areas of agriculture, logistics, retail, cleaning and  personal services.  In effect large sectors of the economy in less economically advantaged regions and deprived city areas, are being run on a crypto-keynsian basis. Companies which otherwise would not be profitable because labour would otherwise choose not to work there, gain a supply of cheap labour which is subsidised with benefits or tax credits.

The tax credit issue is particularly difficult,  because it means even average families pay less in tax than they get out from the welfare state. It is the ulitmate social democratic trap, where single people and high earners pay an increasing sum of even average worker’s costs in delivery of health, education, pensions and other benefits.

The two issues of underemployment are of course inter-related. There is a correalation between low productivity and precarious, low skilled work. There is no incentive for employers to invest in productivity, because they can have a supply of super flexible, cheap labour. They can avoid capital costs in automation and the training required to operate a more productive site. Competiing on cost alone towards customers, there is then little innovation in integration to the  supply chain, the services are commodotised at a point price.

Typical examples are working in mail order or retail warehouses, delivery driving and crop picking. However the trend for tenuous work extends into even proffessional services such as accounting.

The trouble with much of this is that in fact these jobs need to be done, and would be done within much more stringent economics of higher worker empowerment by either market shortage of labour or stronger employment laws. These jobs in care, agriculture , and warehousing amongst other things could well suit being part time, but there is no incentive to employ and train people to higher standards of delivery and hence productivity or quality. The work needs to be done, but the lowest common denominator is chosen. The employer has no obligation to diversify or innovate in order to utilise staff on more permament contracts in other areas of the busiess, or to use fewer staff at higher hourly wages who are more productive. In effect regions of England have become more like Portugal, Southern Italy or even third world countries when you compare “GDP”,  or adjust wages for living costs.

In response to higher minimum wage levels, employers are likely to cut working hours or remove hourly based pay making working days longer, esepcially when as intended, the 48 hour maximum working week is removed as is the intention of many Pro Brexiters in the ruling Tory party.

 

Why the Scandinavian Model is Better?

The Scandinavian model would not work in the UK if introduced overnight. It is successful because it has been a long term relationship between labour, industry and the government as mediator, usually on the left of centre in respect of labout law.

The model is that workers will have protection in employment law, affording them working contracts , wages based on skill tariffs, permanency, predictable working hours, right to full time work when it is available.  Such “inflexibilities”  are anathema to UK conservative economists. However, Scandinavia, Germany and the low countries practice these policies to a greater or lesser extent and have lower unemployment and in partictular more net tax payers.

This is the key thing, work pays the bills and for a life outside that. Many of these jobs need to be done in society anyway, and higher costs can be to some extent passed onto consumers who have themselves, higher income. Tax collected helps pay for a well paid, highly trained public sector and invesmtent in innovation, cand automation of public seriviceses,.

Employers of course are presented with a dilemma that labour will become more expensive over time and the domestic market may not tolerate for those tasks provided mostly locally, while international competitiveness is threatened. Therefore they must invest in innovation and improvements in productivity through investing in automation and up-skilling workers.

Now we come to the Luddite proposal, which is now rather ironically adopted by neo conservatives who do not desire such “restrictive” labour laws. They claim that higher wages, and then also the Scandinavian model, leads to greater unemployment. Then they quote the suicide ratein Swedenn and the cost of a ‘pint’in Norway.  However unemployment is low in these countries. Chronic Illness and sick leave is quite high, but that is in large part due to the climate which is detrimental to arthritis, depression and lung diseases.

As in the days of the Luddites, the introduction of automationactually  creates new jobs, by facilliating a better return on investment and more companies taking advantage of skills in the market.  It means those in that industry or service command higher pay and pay more tax than they get back from the state when they are childless and healthy at least.  They spend in the economy and their tax cirulates in the ecinomy, and they compete internationally or provide local delivery in the domestic economy at an affordable price.

Essentially Britain had this choice in the 1950s, but chose to see the issue as a labour shortage rather than a skill and investment challenge. The then conservative government chose to open up to wide scale immigration from the common wealth. For three decades they were a supply of cheap , plentiful labour at often a lower cost than their native compatriots.

Some argue that this is why  UK has voted to leave freedom of movement of labour, both ways, and enter a more restrictive immigration policy, which favours financial services industries, technology industries and R&D. Many ordinary workers expect a market mechanism will afford them better working conditions. However the removal of unskilled or semiskilled foriegn labour is quite abrupt, especially when it regards seasonal working, and the shock of the adjustment will lead to bankruptcies tather than better  working conditions. Employers are locked into cut throat supply chains and many will not adapt to investing in automation or higher productivity through training of workers. Less workers means also less tax returns and less money in local economies.

 

UK employers at this end of the market will be tempted to break the law by employing at less than minimum wage per hour, or  take advantage of higher unemployment though ‘work fair ‘ schemes whereby people have to work to get their benefits and employers get a free ride based on the notion of work experience and training.

 

Strong employment laws are vital to break the poverty cycle which Gordon Brown tried to do with ‘making work pay’.  Too many jobs which need to be done in the UK, are now subsidised indirectly via benefits and tax credits, without which employees could not make a living wage. Indeed the changes in benefits assessments undertaken mean that work is no longer paying, and debt is rising amongst that sector of the employment market as small, transient but significant. People are not making ends meet.

There is also a knock on economic effect, Skilled workers cannot retract their labour to work in a less demanding menial job, so in the laisez faire system with union and workers rights supression, their wages have not being rising despite productivity going often up in many industries. In the UK, as in many countries, the lion’s share of national tax revenue  comes from income tax and employer contribution taxes.  So low wages and tax credits mean less tax is returned from the lower half of incomes.

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Referendumdrum

Often described as emotive and even labelled divisive,  the continuing campaign for Scottish Independence in the context of the  Westminster government’s push for Brexit, throws up questions on what is democratic choice and rightful decision making based upon it?

The Indicative vote for Brexit was as we are reminded, 17 million voted to leave. Experts in the economy Herr Gove will have us believe. However of course 16 million voted Remain and in fact only 37% of the total electorate voted Leave.¨

Now let us put this back into context of 2014 , the “indyref”, where a solid No was 55%, on a relatively high turn out of the electorate. What if this indyref, or a future one, achieved a 52%  Yes, as Leave had?  There would be no end to the bickering then about what weight for politicians to decide this national divorce,  could  be placed on such a slim majority.?

Referendums (referendii to be latinly correct)  need an overhaul to have the punching weight to be more decisive tools for governments across Europe. Otherwise we risk the tyranny of the minority which we have with Brexit today. That a minority government, as in fact the UK has been for many decades with the first-past-the-post electoral system and three main party system. Furthermore we now have a minority parliamentary government due to May’s disastrously misjudged snap election which is being propped up by a strange, “special interest” minority from the region which is Ulster!

PR ( proportional representation )  isn’t much better than first past the post in many ways, it can lead to indecisiveness, and over representation of minority interests, which we otherwise rarely encounter in the UK,  but such of course as the DUP ‘s lever they exert on public spending in Northern Ireland now.

Referendums are good things, we haven’t had that many in the UK or Scotland, but they are useful as indicators of public opinion on very important issues, or on such issues that are cross party and of course as with Cameron’s choice, divide parties internally and need to be opened for a more direct level of democracy which is then indicative to our elected democracy via law making in Westminster. In fact it has to be asked why Tony Blair didn’t give the country a referendum on the second Gulf war? After all it exposed more British citizens to danger and death than the EU ever has or will.

Back then to indyref, and what if that momentum had carried on from 37% start, up and beyond to 52% on a turn out of well over half the Scottish electorate, but not 80% say? If this had been the 2014 context then there would have been no end of bitter fighting over it, and the SNP being a liberal party would have not only this to cope with and sooth say and deliver concession and reasurement to the large 48% minority, they would have had the Oil Price Crash of later that year to contend with too. It would have been a hell time with attempts to appease the baying crowd of mixed English white settlers, war veterans, Orange Lodgers and general project fear believers. Doubt can be raised with retrospect, if there was any chance of an indicative Yes in 2014 ever coming to fruition.

Far wiser the SNP would have been if they had for seen the Leave vote of 2016. However that kind of crystal balling was impossible given the opinion polls, and even Nigel Farage was “resigned” to losing half way through the night, with a wry smile, and when they won he looked positively nervous. No more being the over-paid, filibustering cynic and clown in the EU parliament. The SNP failed to make a good enough economic case for security and self sustainability, which is now being made over time and with the better input of industry who no longer think they need to worry about a second IndyRef, or at least a successful one, and for some in industry, confronted with Brexit, the option of Independence in Europe with a slight uncertainty of gaining entry to the club for a while, is preferable to being locked out the club by the ruling conservatives for several parliaments.

 

Really what we need in referendums ( referendii to be correct ?)  can be found in the constitution of many sports clubs, local trade unions,  community organisations and probably the scout movement. We need to have first and foremost a quorum of the electorate to validate the vote as something binding and not just indicative for parliament to take to debate and law. This should probably then be around 75% turn out. Less than that we start to get into questions about how valid not the overall vote for or against that wins is, but how valid the margin is. So in the Brexit vote, 72 % turned out and of those, just over half voted Leave.

 

We then have that methodology so wanted by the Tories to be imposed on the trade union movement, but something they themselves would never accept for their own party, parliament, the house of lords or any other organ of power or capital. Qualified majority voting, where by only a majority large enough is binding to leadership to act upon. This is sometimes taken as 66% or two thirds, and this is the Tories’ vision of imposing a leash on Trade Union power to strike. This seems to take us away from the principle of democracy that yes, there are losers as well as winners, and they should accept two key aspects of British democracy. First past the post in the constituencies, and 51% of the votes either in parliament or via the referendum mechanism we are all a bit tired of.

How then do we qualify a majority from a referendum? Should it not maybe be a majority which represents all the electorate, ie you must get 50% of the entire potential vote? So in this case Leave would need 23 million votes , or a 69% Leave? Or do we take the mean general election turn out to be quorum for a  simple 1 % point majority to be accepted for example ?

 

Or do we factor in some kind of variance in turn out and availabiluity to vote? For example bad weather, or natural variances in turn outs, and stipulate a percent point majority via some statistical model for eliminating variance? Or should we in fact have a referendum on whether say 55% ie a ten percent point difference, becomes a mandatory threshold below which enough of the voters are so disgruntled that they wont need to accept the vote anyway?

 

Here we come back to the solid, brick wall safe NO vote of 2014. This to many was done and dusted, until Brexit came to mind. In the NO stats, there was a majority of 600, 000, which is more than 10% of the population as a whole. However there were a significant number of EU citizens in that vote, somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 who were afraid of losing their rights in new nation excluded from the EU. Also those who are UK nationals but had major reservations on this issue? Plus then now, those who see the potential loss of money due to Brexit and an unsure trade deal future?

 

The author’s preferred option then is to have a qualified majority which is set arbitrarily at 55% but reduced by a percent point at a time for every x % points nearer the total votes cast gets to 100% from a base of 75% turn out. We take a presumption that we will never get 100% and probably never over 90% turn out, so we then elect to take three thresholds up to 85% – five divided by three for each 5% above 75% who turn out, reducing the winning vote from 55% to 53.34% then 51,7% and for an 85% turn out, 50,1 %.  The logic in this is clear. We reflect the will of the majority of the people who bothered to vote, tempered a little by the proportion of those who could vote who then bothered to vote. A low turn out means a higher winning margin is needed, in case there were many Don’t Knower’s out there or there were other factors such as bad weather, a football match, an unfair , or indeed illegal argument going viral.

There are more complex statistical methodologies and some clever clogs will no doubt wow some of the politicians some of the time with something they have to sell along these lines. But a kind of common sense appeal, that as you reach a presumed maximum turn out, your majority over 50% can decrease thus making the absolute margin a sizeable number of people rather than the 1 million who made up the majority for Leave the EU.

 

It’s been an emotive time as was the Indyref. Brexit has uncovered many things. Perhaps just how insecure England feels about her place in the world and the homeland economic opportunities. It does seem that Poles and Latvians come over with their trade and do well, while British youth don’t get apprenticeships in building or mechanics. On the other hand, does UK youth turn their back on trades, and would they work for the pay and conditions the eastern Europeans do anyway? Trades in the UK has long been peed on in a push to technocise the population of the future and turn us into a knowledge economy, Only the UK’s economy is more and more dependent on rentier economics, turning round not on production and export, but purely on our needs for a roof over out heads and to consumer foods and wares to keep ourselves feeling human.

 

To me Brexit is a symptom that 30 years of Neo Liberal economic policy has failed. The welfare state now pays for people to be in underemployment, thus subsidizing marginal cappuccino café business models in the service sector, and seasonal labour in production. As in Soviet Russia, ordinary people in the street are so taken in by the allure of the politicians pouting the so called free market economy, that they believe in market solutions to most ills, and they see that too big a market, the EU, with too federal a governance and especially, too much emigration from abroad to the UK, is a bad thing.

Neo Liberalism has failed larges sections of the communities in the UK and USA, the countries where governments practice the ideology most loyally of all major economies. However it rewards the upper third very well, and keeps much of the main majority in good credit with lowish interest rates, in such a way that it can win and win again.

However post finance crash, a lingering tumour resulting from too much free market, free for all anarchy , bullshitting and corruption, the right needed a new posture and that was back to Nationalism. Rally the troops behind fear of the foreign. People feel dispossessed, wages stagnant or even falling, while they see be it Mexicans or Poles making what looks like a good living in construction and services. Here you have brexit and an 8 billion dollar wall or is it a fence ?

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding the Beasts of the Economy

Modern western economies have made an odd transition away from production industry and over to the realms of funny money and the whole mortgage and real estate pyramid. The amounts which were used to subisdise production and innovation in industry are a fraction of the bail outs of the banks have recieved in the last decade post crash of 2008. Now it is apparent the recovery in this new era,  is really all about feeding the same beasts again.

Wealthy countries of  notable populus, have by in large significant natural resources and  effective, private primary extraction and agricultural sectors. This underpins a certain stability and certainty in the economy and the currency. Above this though, there was always a tacit acceptance that the tertiary service economy would grow to overshadow the production sector, the secondary economy, post the period of hyper inflation in the 1970s in western countries. Even in China, that industrial Mega factory, services now outstrip production industries as a proportion of GDP.

We are now locked  into feeding a tertiary economy, mortgage debt fuelled escalator to sustain growth in the economies of a large proportion of western countries. Every house owner’s goal is that of building captial value in property well above the rate of currency inflation. It is a self fulfilling economic prophecy, fuelled by growth in the population, metropolisation and by a reluctance to sell if the return on investment is weak, yet the mortgage repayments are still afforded.  This is the new, seemingly inescapable beast, but it is a monster which is diseased deep to the bones and vital organs, and fundamentally unsound in its cerebral processes. When it rages, there will be a new financial crisis.

This  beast is made of pure rentier based economics – we all need a roof over our heads and in other tertirary services like transport, we need to get to work. There is no coincidence that  the costs of commuting and parking are now largely privatised, and largely free from price control. The rentier beast feeds from our need to exist and be economically and culturally active as is our human condition.  In our unavoidable sickness and old age, Health services are also on their way to being fully private, with either a direct to consumer franchise or the government tendering processes we see being rolled out today in the UK.  Privatised and in the realms of profiteering yet with restrictions  placed on supply, such as monopolies, and resrtictions placed upon the consumer’s ability to choose and arrest price rises,  and create a true free market.

Like Leninist Marxism, the Free Market is a utopian vision, in reality it is subject to monopolisation, price parity and  worse than this, outright collusion and political corruption. At its’ fringes of supply chain in the third world, its’ ends are served by slavery and child labour.

Privatised services such as health and transport,  become highly inflationary to government and consumers as demand rises, yet mysterioulsy this does not by in large translate to inflationary pressure on currency. There has been was is called the great moderation in the consumer price index as the old RPI is now called. Are then production based, secondary based economies with unions and internal inflation bound to collapse then, and we must all pray to the pyramid-selling, mortgage beast ? This vision for a utopia of small, weak government and corporate freedom?

The answer to the question of a production based economy being doomed to inflation and diminishing returns, is  both yes and no. Contradictory to the inevitability,  you can see fairly clearly that the (western) German economy has thrived on manufacturing in a land with relatively limiting natural resources since entering  this new century.  They have focused on qaulity engineering, high value products and niche technical business and consumer market sectors. On the flip side of the tiger industrial nations in the post war era,   Japan has reached some natural limits on resources, and is in a period of ‘de-growth’, yet ironically this has not seen an actual reduction in standard of living, in contrast to austerity UK and US where average employees have seen their spending power eroded in the decade post the great casino crash.

Moderate growth, and moderate inflation are two of the keystones of the Neo Conservative economic policy, but another fundamental had been the mantra of global free trade. This has become the other great beast and has lead perhaps inevitably to the vast trade deficit between the USA and EU economies and Asia, following the rush to Low Cost Countries, mainly meaning China.

This is where the vast hipocrisy of the Neo Conservative era has come home to roost, and lead us to the Post Neo Conservative agenda, which we will come back to. We see very clearly that in the most ultra Neo Conservative countries, UK and USA, this so called ‘free trade’ with a command capitalist country run by the communists, has lead to the rust belts and resulting sentiment which ushered in the concurrent farces of Trump and Brexit. More on that Alt Right later as well.

China and to some extent the other asian tiger economies, have become the new production sites for even advanced, innovative products which we were promised by Neo Conservatives in the 1980s,  would be enabled in our home lands. By freeing ourselves from the heavy industry and unionisation of the past, we could realise new super productivity in the knowledge based, production economy.

The Beast from the East arose instead of a science based secondary economy. Even companies making reasonable profits in the west, are relocated to China by their boards who pander to investor demand for higher profit margins from lower production cost, via of course cheap labour. China , where of course the economy is almost a Tito Market Socialism, or Neo Keynsian model where the banks print money yet inflation is tagged by price controls and means of increasing supply via government steered national and global supply chain strategies.

Neo Liberal poltical-economies rely on cheap consumer items subject to low inflation and high competition in order to keep workers satisfied with their spending power on those meagre and often stagnant wages, and to fuel that other great monster of course the credit card beast, and for larger purchases, the remortgage / equity release credit supply.

However what is interesting here is that the secondary sector has remained constant yet if you look at its’ sources of income, government has in some countries become the biggest direct buyer or first link away customer, funding these industries via purchasing. This is in areas of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, military, transport, IT where the government is a major buyer. Secondary demand to this are things like Medicare where the government is either directly paying employees contributions, or a large source of income is from public employees.   That is what was acceptable to investors upon privatisation. Further  we  then branch over to the keynsian nature of services, recylcing money from a very great deal of public sector spending and wages, and of course the primary sector is moved to rentier services such as commuting, and housing. So for example commuting for governmental employees to the metropoles,  which now is by in large in fact along monopolised transport corridors, or subidised roads for personal cars.

So we have these Beasts, we accept them as if they are necessary evils, and know that they are always hungry. No one can make them go away, because that would be upsetting the cosey way things work.  The way it all works, yes. That an upper third of society in terms of wage income and multiple property ownership,  feel they are free from oppressive tax regimes, while the middle third would like to be that top third, but have such high medical insurance and educational costs that they never will, and the lower third are just proletariat service sector and unemployables who are useful due to their aggregate demand as a portion of society.

All the time a top few percent in society can perpetuate their greed in actually owning the means of extracting wealth, and evading taxation,  from national economies.  While in the UK many hourly wages have stagnated for a decade and take home pay for many is reduced, the wealthiest 2% have been able to triple their capital value since 2008. Pure Marxist comment? Yes but you play the game in the economy where you will in full knowledge of this is how it works, and you just accept that this is all as said, necessary evil. Beasts we must live with and can never change.

If we dont feed the beast of property and capital values, then the whole economy breaks. If we don’t reap the benefits of cheap, inflation free products from China – the beast from the east – then we get retail inflation. Most of all if the beast of consumer credit is not fed by a rising population, then economic growth stops up.

The last point is the back to basics core of the whole rentier philosophy behind Neo “liberal” Economics. That industry is no longer important in the west when the lowest common denominator in labour costs can be found globally, and that very lowest is subsistance living and indeed slavery. That capital value, and in particular real estate, can grow without creating currency inflation, in fact the reverse, currency can gain value offsetting other consumer and supply side driven inflationary pressures. Capital can then do nothing in particular which is more than living off our existence, our basic needs. Or rather it does very much indeed to ensure some key drivers are in place for this.

Firstly metropolitisation driven by government policy of centralising services and administration, and awarding contracts to larger players in the metropoles. Hence demand for housing can be focused, and the ladder of escalation of value exploited more efficiently at a lower risk to investors.  Secondly the privatisation is not in fact reducing inflation as far as the government or consumer is concerned. The best examples of this are in power and railways in the UK, where price rises have risen ahead of underlying inflation yet subsidies to infrastructure and innovation are also higher than three decades ago when adjusted for CPI inflation. Thirdly the removal of irksome legislation – worker’s rights to organise as unions and associations, and collectively bargain ; environmental protection laws which add costs; freedom of speech which leads to demonstrations against corporates. Just this week we see the Scottish Police’s Special Branch have labelled Anti Fracking Demonstrators as ” domestic extremists”  .

The term ‘rentier’ used to have its’ own Wiki entry, but not has been subverted to being soley associated to Karl Marx, in an attempt to marginalise its’ meaning by adding the long term negative sentiment about ‘Marxism’. You can eqaully well call Margaret Thatcher a ‘Marxist’ because she understood how the mechanisms of capitalism can be used to explout a work force and render the ‘entitles’ richer while wages could slow in growth and stagnate for even average workers.

https://rcooley123.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/we-now-live-under-the-rule-of-a-rentier-capitalism-by-paul-street/

There were two inevitabilities from feeding the beasts of the western rentier economies. Once was the massive trade deficits, the other was the crash of 2008. Eventually such a crypto keynsian cycle of private debt stimulating demand, would collapse due to some small bugs along the way which would reveal the corruption in the credit pyramid and erode confidence. The consequence of these inevitabilities is the disaffection of the the lower third of society and the realisation amongst mid income earners that their prospects for personal capital were being threatened.

The political answer to this was the end of Neo Liberalism. The end to small government, rather a new form of big, corrupt government serving the corporates. A new ultra arrogant political era came to be with that old chesnut, xenophobia as the rallying call to the disaffected. Blame immigrants. Blame assylum seekers. Use fear of terrorism, of cultural conflict, of overpopulation diluting wages. Build a wall to keep the people out who have been giving you cheap gardening, house building harvesting, and food processing for years.

Brexit is finally looking like the farce many warned it would be, but it is not until the little Britain , or rather sleeping electorate, start to see that their pockets are being drained of money while the rich just move their capital over borders. In polls amongst the highest brexit stronghold constituencies, it was immigration which was the major concern, yet those self same north of england places had the lowest levels of immigrant workers living there. Xenophobia, fear of the unknown, and scapegoating – blame some other poor sod just not the rich who are so pleased to feed all the beasts. It was an assylum seeker who forced you into a zero hours contract.

Even ultra social democratic Norway is at the beginning of a slow journey towards realising a Neo Liberal political economy. The cuts in budgets to local authorities and now hospitals, plus the senseless competitive tendering betweeen one state’s rail company and another, are moves along the way, with the 30 billion Euro series of tax cuts to the wealthiest in Society being the gold rush.

But the trouble is that you can’t feed all the beasts all the time, and when you actively call those beasts, as Trump and Brexit have, then you start to play with fire. The key driver of that rather dull but secure economic growth in the UK has been a rising population. Demand for the necessities of life increase, and capital value grows on a multiplier due to the loan-thrice-income escalator.

In the UK though, hat steady growth is not coming from indigenous Britons. They are not anywhere near having that stereotypical 2.4 kids, they were by the early 00ies down at 1.7 and some believe it is now as low as 1.4 per arbitary couple . That means the UK population would decline, and in the course of two generations be half of that it was in 2000. However immigration has abated this, especially from the EU, and in particular eastern europe. They bring with them too a culture for women having children earlier, having over two on average by age 32 when married, and focuising on motherhood and not career.

Why hasn’t the economy crashed as those terrible Remoaners would have had us believe? Well Brexit has not YET happened and all the signs are that this week, the chicken run has begun in earnest. Banks are bowing to the laws on capital holding in main trading zone, ie EU not UK, and moving jobs to the continent. Major companies are moving their HQ out. Inward employee migration is halting.  Warnings about supply chain disruption and resulting factory closures and food infaltion are abounding. The threat of an Irish veto on any hard border or fake open border is present. The most pro EU member state representatives may want a more restrictive and therefore  punitive deal, like that between Canada and the EU. Those trade deals with ‘over half our exports outside the EU’ are now so desperately needed by politicians, that concessions and poorer terms than the current EU umbrella deals offer. Also a great deal of that trade, both export and import,  is linked to supply chains and logistic centres in the EU.

The average conservative MP is now a very wealthy person, with  both capital interests and strong connections to corporates which will offer them a career post parliament. Most don’t have to worry about a crash in the pound, they can transfer much of their liquid wealth to other currencies or assets abroad. Their inland capital wealth, in homes and estates, is a relative wealth which barring complete catastrophe, will remain relatively high value when seen outside the international context. You either own a bit of Belgrade or you don’t darling.  They don’t have to care about the short term effects of Brexit, they play to international corporates who are looking to gain a fifty first state of the USA where they can extract value without having the difficulties of ‘restrictive’ democratic policies in employment, environment and off shore profit exporting ie tax evasion via ‘loan and import’ mechanisms. They are securing the privatisation of the NHS in England as the brexit farce plays out, a long term major gain for their silent corporate sponsors.  Distraction politics.

In effect the Neo New Right, the Alt Right and its’ normalised political power in the UK, Hungary, Spain and of course the USA, have been able to divert a potential class war which was brewing, into a Race War.

 

Immigrants are a very visible force in a local economy, when they are the ones who go knocking door to door at employers and work long hours with little if any time off for sickness. They come with practical skills often in short supply as the culture for a (often useless) University education rolls throughout society. They work cheaper sometimes, but often they go self employed and soon are competing with their old employers on building sites for supplying labour and whole contracts.

 

 

The Malts, they are a-changing…..and not all for the better

I am a mere hoi palloi amongst malt whisky drinkers. I began on standard was it 10 or 12 year old Macallan and that was a fine tiple in its time, and moved onto Aberlour and other Highland styles from the NE corner. I dont collect whisky, I enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I have though an axe to grind. No-Age-Specified malts.

A tour through the Islay Malts, which I used to avoid due to the irritating sasenachs so proud of their bottles of ‘Leapfrog’ , lead me to a very nasty night , an OD on a fine middle aged Bowmore which meant smoke was off the menu for several years due to the matters described by Pavlov, Hughy and Ralph. Now it is back, but I am very glad for the continuing journey through Ben Riach and Glen Dronach county where I happened to live before I took up with anything better than bog standard Glen Morangie. Auchetoshan, far from a Romantic western isle idyll, produces a fine la’land whisky

That whiskies from the stable could vary not just by age was a discovery on a flight somewhere where my boss was tucking in to a wee green bottle of Glen Fiddich. Usually I find the standard product to be a peppery item, a little devoid of true character and living off its’ brand name and three sided green prism. Howevver the ‘export’ at a little stronger 43% was a far superior product, with a richness and depth that left me pleasantly surprised.

Now though things have changed. Malt whisky could one day soon displace blended mash crap whisky in value of sales. But the expansion is driven by greed and the marketing guys and accountants have been able to koibosh the blenders and expert tasters into making a far inferior product.

It started with Macallan. Their wonderful bright flavoured, sweet nectar of years gone by was first hidden away by the oak finish and other releases, and around the late naughties it quietly became a far inferior product at the 10 yo or was it 12 standard product. To my palate it became a nothing whisky with the 18 being an interesting side show, but not the sherry finish perfection of what was a whisky which did what it said on the bottle, it was Macallan. Insiders toldme it was the shortage of not only sherry barrels, due to aunty bertha loosing her taste for the later afternnon tiupple and container-donor, but also good enough sherry barrels to facilitate the economic production of a mid priced 12 yo. All sherry barrels are not created equal and Macallan no doubt found themselves competing for a diminishing supply of the best. They then have an issue. Double the price to keep it the same , or decrease the ahem, user experience. I would have been brand loyal and gone to 80 quid a bottle my self.

Some say that Macallanin Japan is the good ol’ girl we all knew.

Anyway that was then and several standard products like Oban or Dalwhinne have actually improved, and the malt content of some blends seems to be so high that you could , when the palate is otherwise overloaded, satisfy the wee heid mellowness with a double-cheap-skate after that vindaloo.

What grinds my gears is also not the silly brand blended malts of unknown origin. Things like Monkey Shoulder. They are smooth enough, cheap and cheerful. They also have soemthign of much higher valuie to eduicate the pallate. They have a slightly sickly , barley sugar and camphor ‘finger print’. These malt scotches are to my knowledge, mostly no age statement. That means they are based to some extent or not , on a young 3 year old spirit, the minimum legal age for Whisky in the UK. The plot would suddenly thicken. ProfessorPlumb, in the library wiht the barley sugar candle stick.

I only remember it was Bowmore of all wee dear places of pagodas and craftsemen, was out without an age statement as goes the single malt marques. I actually think the taster I go I tasted seemed much better, in terms of concentration and length of taste, than the bottle I took home and opened. Maybe my palate was more in the mood at Glasgow Airport’s tax free.

It seems many more distilleries, or rather their conjumated marketing power dressers, have siezed the concept. Brand by suggesting something almost spiritual rather than branding on the age of the spirit. Where as an earlier gentleman’s agreement that Malts would be only sold over 8 y.o. maybe existed, it has been blown away and single malts are wrapped up in a travesty which is maybe in the direction of a nightmare based upon cutting open the stomach of the golden goose to get the eggs out quicker.

The economics are there, if you can make a pallatable product which in particular, reaches new users, 30 somethings or frequent flyer business folk, or dare I say woman folk, and gets them buying malts. Establishing a franchise with the brand. Buying into the heritage via a short cut fancy brand name on a cheaper product in terms of maturation and all the high costs and risks in that.

Barley sugar. A slightly sickly and a wee bit citrus taste, with a decided camphor or sandal wood note in it. A good sweetness and roundness like what good malts should have. But there you have it, a sickly taste with a little after effect which is not all that pleasant.

What have they manage to achieve? What frankensteins monster will destroy the franchise with loyal, 10 to 12 y.o. Malt whisky-drinkers? Who else will enter the market with 3 y.o. sherry and burbon finished concoctions ?

I don’t quite know what they have got up to in the stills, the nosing and tasting room and the blending buildings. The barley sugar is the fingerprint. I have just opened a bottle of Limited Cask, or Casg Annamh, Aberlour and it is not a bad drop,. It is a dark colour, which is promising, a kind of ruby brown rust, a nice brightness to it. At 48% they are near cask stength for an older whisky with a nice pair of figures on the bottle, like 12 , 15 or 18. It has character and is reminiscent of the stable product, but it has those little notes underlying it.

I would not have bought it myself, it has no age statement. I am no longer buying malts with NAS, unless they are a tenner at the barras. What have they done with Malts ?

Well an insider who is not involved directly with the process of blending or tasting, tells me that those processes concerning no age statement batches have become a more hush hush affair than in years gone by, perhaps asking how it was going with the 12 and maybe being invited in for a dram or just a nose after coffee break. Conspiracy, the smoking gun being locked doors and sealed lips.

I suspect and this is with the disclamier to my palate’s experience of these, that they have found a way to make a 3 year old carrier scotch which blends ‘well’ with select casks of well matured malt. I have heard that some barrels of 18 plus are undrinkable on their own, but used in small amounts add a mystique to the blending process ( very few ‘single’ malts are marketed as single barrel. Rather they are blended at one single distillery from various barrels and on an age-declared malt, the YOUNGEST is that age by law) . We are in effect getting a vodka whisky with some extra flavour in it from good barrels. Rather than dilution per se, we are carrying a good tune on a rather rubbish casio keyboard.

This is actually so far as the sharp suited marketeers are prepared to boast about. That not being tied down to an minimum og age maturation, frees them to make exciting products picking from select flavours in the library of barrels they have to hand. They claim they can then present a better, more intriguing product at the key duty free price point of about 50 -80 euro bucks or so per bottle.

I’d say good luck to them, not for me, but good luck BUT, there are two rather large flies in the ointment. Firstly these sly products eat up shelf space and tasting lines in that key duty free shop, where I buy about half my Malts and most of the higher price ones in that. Secondly someone pointed out on a forum, these hipster facsimilie bottles are stealing from the malts of the future.

What do we mean with this, stealing from the future? Well it has to be said that there MUST be a significant amount of 3 y.o. carrier spirit in these malts, vodka whisky if you like. It means that the margin equation can be worked on in capturing people into the brand, but will those punters become franchised into loyalty and up-buying? Or do they want to have wee orgasms of selling to churn customers wandering like sheep through the globe’s tacky taxless shops?

Back to the future, maybe they plan to have a more expensive 12 y.o. upgrade from these , but surely it is plain and simple economics that you can turn over more from your capital assets pushing out at three years rather than 10 or 12 for your volume product??

Some say that todays 3 yo cast up in a funny name brand NAS, is tommorrows loss from the shelves of 12 yo and up over. I suspect worse, that this carrier spirit is a little different in fact from the product which would be matured to 12 years. Perhaps it is better in some way, a smoother distilliation, more select concanamers, a more careful or longer mashing the ‘wort’??

The answer to this dear distiller, is to let me taste three year old malts, or indeed if it is so good as a standard product, bloody well market it Age Statement on the bottle. What is wrong with following the micro distillers and doing some smoother, light matured Gins instead? Or like classic and new cola, is the whole thing a subetfuge to get more shelf space and more excitement going in duty free and super markets.

I might like it if these new, “ageless” malts could debunk the pseud’s and reveal that the product is good as gold without it needing all those damp, dark days in the bond maturing until it makes the magic number which is in consumer’s minds only a sign of quality and brand equity. Unfortunetly many of us and right proper aficionados have lived with the age declaration and loved its vargieries, and lamented some products sliding while others came with new wonder bottlings like Glen Dronnach 18 yo. Malt whisky has been marketed upon a minimum age per batch and bottle for very good reason, because that is when it is best.

As whisky gets older, beyond 15 and 18, it gets much darker and the chemistry developes in new directions, and in fact I am not all that keen on the 18 plus I have tried which are rather dear and not to my pallette, a bit like Malbec versus a matured Bordeaux, I dont like leather and too much dried fruit in my red wine, I like fresh and bright, and yeah ok, some green pepper corns or some tobacco smoke, but I like a fruit in the body. The same goes for Scotch, I love good 10 to 12 yo, a light inspiring drink which takes me back to mellow moments and the odd flirt in my home land of West Scotland.

On my third dram of Casg Annamh and it doesnt grow on me. It is a fantasy whisky made up as a limited cask, with a good colour, but it is not a true heritage malt,. In fact I prefer their standard 12 yo, but this is different and offers something once a tea spoon of water is in it. But I wouldnt buy it myself not just on principle but because I have tasted enough of these NAS malts to be fed up with it all, and like any cheap product, the after taste soon takes away from the initial flattery on the tongue.

Lumix LX 100 mark 1 musings…..

A month in and I am still loving the camera….

but first the drawbacks

First up is the default lens extend when on, which renders the camera cumbersome and it mneeds to be shut down to pop backin a pocket True it does seem to keep the last settings up and there are a lot of hard dial operatiuons I use. I find it annoying between viewing . I will look into all this, it gets all hard and pointy out at the merest tap on a wrong button!

Secondly there is the zoom reach. It is about 30mm short of ideal, which would be a camera with a 24 /105 mm reach. That would be a bigger camera, cannae defy the laws of physics if you want to maintain say f 1.7 to f 4 in that range,. I suppose the camera would be even more pleased to see me when it auto extended.

Here is though where the new Mark II comes in, with bags more megapixels, it makes post cropping more attractive. But I think 24 /90 would be a magical camera.

Thirdly there is the wifi transfer which is awkward and I see it delivers compromised jpges!!! They are down at 2 megabytes. Raw needs direct exchange of body fluids.

Then there are the luxury issues………

Depth of Field.

As you can see the camera offers a wonderful shallow depth of field wide open. However that leads to a luxury problem, quite a few shots look like they have camera shake, because SO much of the image is unsharp!

See below for what I mean.

Here the image looks unsharp beccause the edges of the lead are out of focuis. With no edge cues to help the eye , it fights to find some ‘hard ground’

The other luxury problems are in choice paralysis, but luckily menu and settings resume make for some easy progress when you are a little innatentive.

Next non luxury issue is the ISO and associated to that the dynamic range. High ISos of 1600 upover, are to my eye, unusable in jpeg mode. Perhaps RAW work can save that, bnut you are in the realms of ‘documetning something happened’ like the dgitial crop zoom.

Dynamic range is ok, It is better than many cameras from ten years ago, and better than most all mobile phones until the latest ones which cost twice that this camera does. The HDR mode does not use wide enough a bracketing to do anything more than tickle the scne, and my two year old mobile does a better job. Manual work after bracketing for hyper dynamic range, but for my preferred extended dynamic range, there is plenty detail and little noise in the three quarter tones *light shadows , so you can easily lift the dynamic range to that of APSC standard like the D7000 series for example. Which is very nice.

I hear that the Mark II has better dynamic range so that is better again. Not that I would rush out to buy it. I am very pleased, and know what I wan.t. An FZ1000 type bridge camera with the same sensor !!!

Canon have come oh-so-near to trumping the lx100 witheir G1 X , but it doesnt live up to what it could, is expensive and much bigger.

2HFVA Nøkkel Læring II Helse GH1

Behovsirkelen  / Behovspyramide

Fysiske, Psykiske, Sosiale og Åndelig Behov

Psykiske behov – øverst er TRYGGHET  –

  • TRYGGHET følelser at fare eller andre trusler er fraværende.  Følelse av å være tatt vare på og i stand til å takle utfordringer.
  • KJÆRLIGHET  – og OMSORG av familie, venner eller hjelpepleiere
  • INKLUSJON  – å bli sett og hørt i familie, sosiale krets og inkluderte i samfunnet

Sosiale Behov  –

  • SAMSPILL OG DIALOG MED ANDRE MENNESKER ,
  • RESPEKT I KRETS OG SAMFUNNET- besøk av familie og venner, kontakt utenom besøk, å bli i et nettverk av mennesker,

Åndelig og Kulturell Behov

  • Trosfrihet – rett til å praksisere troen din
  • Å føle felleskap og at begevelse og meninger bidrar til positive virkninger i sammfunnet  ( tro og politikk )
  • Delta i og erfarer kulturelle begivenheter
  • Erfarer det estetiske i kunst og musikk

Maslows behovspyramide viser at fysiologiske (dvs biologisk) behov er grunnlaget for liver og danner bunnen av pyramidet.  Ovenfor det kommer våre behov for trygghet som husly, så sosiale og så kultrurelle, og på toppen er det anerkjennelse for våre tilværelse og bidrag til samfunnet eller familien og krets, og så selv realisering gjennom yrket, det sosiale eller gjennom tro.

Levekår

Ytre Rammeverk rundt våre livet.

Objektive og nokså bestemt som en forutsetning.

Trygghet skapt av felleskapet. Samfunnets systemer, lover, moralske grunnlag og sosiale velferd og tilbud.

Økonomi – muligheter for arbeid og tilrettelagt systemer for tilgang til bolig , velferdstjenester osv.

Demokratiske Lovverket, politi og rettsystemet. Brannvesenet og Helsevesenet. Rett til skolegang og videre Utdanning og sosiale tjenester.  Tilrettelagte muligheter for trening og fritidsaktiviteter.

Livskvalitet

Livskvalitet er mer subjektiv enn levekårene man befinner seg i.

Livskvalitet er hva enkelte mennesker mener og opplever som positive eller negative i sine liv.

God livskvalitet dreier seg om trivsel i hverdagen. Det er å oppleve livet ditt som noe godt med glede og mestring når det gjelder utfordringer eller ferdigheter.

Det er bygget på personlige omstendigheter og følelser

  • Å være Aktiv
  • Å ha sosiale relasjoner
  • Å ha positive selvfølelser og selvbilde
  • Å kunne få glede fra livets hverdagen alt ovenfor

Personlighet er en del av det som bidrar til livskvalitet.

Livskvalitet kan måles ved bruk av spørreskjemaet og observasjon. Skandinaviske land og andre land med statlige ordning for velferd dvs høye levekår formidlet av staten i en  demokarti, er de høyeste når livskvalitet måles.

Mennesker med sykdom eller nedsatt funksjon kan opplever forholdsvis bra livskvalitet og å opprettholde en så god livskvalitet som mulig,  er et stort formål i helsepleie, vernepleie og omsorgsarbeid generelt.

Levekår og Livskvalitet?

Livskvalitet er mer subjektiv enn levekårene man befinner seg i.

Livskvalitet påvirkes ofte av Levevilkår i et samfunn, men enkelte kan mene eller erfare negative påvirkninger fra samfunnets regelverk som ellers er til felles godt.

Noen kan mistrives til tross for at det finns veldig bra levekår i deres samfunn. Livskvalitet  er bygget på personlige omstendigheter og følelser . Det er da basert på hvordan man som enkelte opplever livet innenfor levekårene omkring.

Gode muligheter for helsetilbud, skolering, videre utdanning og jobb bidrar veldig til livskvalitet.

Livskvalitet kan måles blant annet ved bruk av spørreskjemaer. Skandinavisk land og andre land hvor staten har gode ordninger for utdanning, helsetjenester og hvor det er lav arbeidsledighet og fattigdom, er høyeste i poengsum år etter år i flere store undersøkelser som utføres av anerkjent organisasjoner.  Dermed er det en klar sammenheng mellom levekår, velferd og de enkeltes livskvalitet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Does It Go From Here on the Water??

To be honest right now I don’t quite know where to begin in even setting some new challenges, technical goals or bucket lists in sailing.

I am at a stage many racers find themselves, that racing is like another day at the office and why bother when there are new experiences to be had elsewhere in life When your budget is typical of our generation, struggeling to buy a house big enough for the bairns and inlaws, then why go to the expense of a monster mortgage on house and boat? What is there to be bothered about?

Well I am not quite so cynical but I am too fond of rationalising things away into the old time, money and payback for investment equation. If I have the time off, will I be making enough money? For the time off I have , will I be able to train enough to win races at the nationals? If I use so much time on doing next season as this,will i even enjoy it ?

There are admittedly a lot of impractical routes I could choose which would just not be very rewarding. Dinghy racing sixty miles away. Delivering boats using holiday allowance. Jumping ship on the Melges to sail more often and with better sailors. These just dont work on the end of the equation, I am down on time and money but not a lot up in enjoyment and to be frank, social fulfillment.

I know I have a lot to learn still, but feel I have so much better a grounding now, like my shoulders can drop again as they did in my most successful years 1997-2008. But I need to learn how to learn. it’s hard being old and cynical and a bit know it all, or a bit down on concentration. Where to start? Planning seems like one way to get moving, but all those practicalities versus what I want and need to do in fact?

I have a share in a 27ft cruising boat, which could be brought up to racing standard, but it would be a waste of time. Or would it? Perhaps thats the project I need as they do race them OD around the place. I’m looking for someone to really enjoy chilling out on it, some pals or just a girly who can play guitar. Go to some anchorages I want drop the hook in and sleep by the gentle rocking

So deep in me now, after opening boxes of old family sailing holidays, I have a need to do some cruising and some general seamanship. That fulfills the equation. Racing is dear, time consuming and very much in diminishing returns and low return on large investment for me right now for the next two years ahead.

I have always had a deep need to cruise the Hebrides and follow in my father’s footsteps, despite having done four or is it five west highland weeks, Round Shuna with race past Easdale and Seil, and Round Mull with a stage win. We rushed past the fabled family places such as the Tresnish, Eigg and Tinker’s hole to get over the finish as quickly as possible. You are aware of the wonders of the west coast when you are racing passages, but you dont stick the bow in to look at waterfalls or find a tiny wee hook for the night all to yourselves. The excitement of racing in a fleet is hard to beat, but when you have done it a lot then beaten it can well be.

It is all a bit touchy feely, there are other things in sailing I need to achieve to get my own level of self satisfaction and confidence in my abilities up. So there are some practical learning issues, but in facty most of those can be learnt while cruising. Of course there is that old ‘performance plateauing’ which is necessary, putting in hours at one level just to be so damn ingrained in your helming that the next level can play out, while you are then in part on autopilot and in part prepared for the unexpected.

Manoerves, gear changes, and of course tactics all need polishing and refining, but really it is wind and tide strategy that I need to put my head back into, and I can do this by in large when cruising.

The wind then is a fickle mistress as any sailor worth theiir salt will tell you, It has shift patterns which are the most difficult to get your head round , or rather to get a routine for checking and responding to them drilled in for your racing and with your crew. When you throw in wind bands, and wind bends too, then you start to get a much more convoluted game of chess on the water than your usual boat on boat stuff. The beauty of windshifts and bends when cruising is that you have more than the easy time to gather data, and even change course to confrim where a band reaches, or the centre of a bend is, or if the shifts are really able to be timed with a stop watch.

Back to costs. Now I have a bit of a plan. Draw to the Hebrides and hire a boat and play out the wind shifts, stay still and time them, go into the wind bends, and most of all go to all the wee places my Dad did. Plan out passages, do some at night. Use only the compass and the depth sounder as my Dad would have done , with paper charts.

Set out and answer your own questions. How do I get better at sailing, how do I enjoy sailing more? How do I get out of the another day at the office rut? Perhaps in five years time you will have had a little spark and found a boat you can train up in to be world class, but what do you want out of sailing next season, and what weaknesses or gaps in knowledge and skills do you want to overcome?

The money, time and ROI equation stands infront of you,. Do you then give up most all in life to campaign a 49er ? Do you drop off shore crewing for helming a solo on a local lake? Do you take a year out from a train of the usual regattas and the usual frustrations and go cruising?

Any road will take you there if you dont know where you are going., Conversely if you know where you are eventually going, like me, then many roads seem like blind alleys and you are cautious at the crossroads,. I want to be a better helm, to win a few races here and in Scotland, to run a bigger boat in an OD fleet or to have a cruiser and a small racer with good racing at the side. I know I have been going that way for the last twenty years, I have had some cool diversions along the way, and some excellent building blocks in that time.

This blog is a bit touchy feely, and that is because sailing evokes a lot of emotions. Competition, the search for wisdom, joy, deflation, comradeship, fear, love. They are all in there. In sitting down to write I have been able to answer my own question. So I want you to ask yourself how do you feel about racing or sailing in general? Do you know how to define your ambitions and how to list your weaknesses? Are you able to learn from those you sail with or against now? Do you have mentors and teachers available? Or are you frustrated and don’t know what you are doing wrong? Do you need to do another year of be it travellers, Cowes Week, Scottish Series, Cork Week, Fastnet…..? Or would that be treading water for you?

The best advice I can offer is find a mentor, and that usually means sailing on said mentor’s boat, and dropping your own ego and ambitions a little. Sneak off maybe, dont ask the crew to come along. A typical managment tactic that, training budget for the department gets spent most on management with us plebs in the dark. Also eat your ego and down size your racing boat, go race dinghies in fact, the crack of the whip is harsher when you are reacting in the fraction of the second to wind and competitiors.

Boating Weekend in Fabulous Weather at Randoysund

There she lies, the Melges 24 on which I am the luckiest ‘extra’ crew ever, because its regular crew often cant make events!

TIme goes on and it is now six years since I started with the boys, and a couple of quiet years for me show. I got the initial feeling that I was suffering from dementia because I couldnt remember how things were done. Neither could I pick up new routines or running rigging so quickly,. However at the end of the first day as stand in tactician I was able to follow all the work, pitch in when needed and get my head ‘out of the boat’ a little.

The Melges seemed a daunting task to me, having sailed on rather better ballasted boats and one or two man dinghies. However there in lies the stregnth in sailing the Schmelger, if you can sail a dinghy, and your crew know what they are doing. I remember seeing ‘clapped out toy-boy” struggeling in west highland week’s usualy top of five day, and then disappearing over the horizon on a Croabh feeder. It seemed a twitchy beast which needed dedicated crew, prepared to be ragdolls on the rail strop.

The boat was just far too pricey for the UK market. You can go plaining and have fun without a carbon mast and foils, as the Cork 1720 and Hunter 707 showed, at less than half the price of the Melges 24, But now the second hand price is down, and some people are turning to them as syndicates or thinking of them as what they are – Porsches of the sea. You dont buy an eight seater Porsche to go and do sporty driving with, and you dont really want a cheap but cheaful Mazda do you?

This year is a very special year because the Nationals will be local to our waters in Kristiansand for the first time (I beleive). So places onbord are at a premium since local strategy is a must have and everyone wants a bite of the action. Sickness means though that I am a likely runner as crew, so dont get well soon guys!

A few things had changed in the boat. The hoists are now behind the shrouds, which is where the smart money has been, it just takes some care in feeding it out so on the one hand you dont go fishing, while on the other you dont get the halyard on the leech of the mainsail. As ‘tactician’ I had few jobs, but they kind of evolved to doing the pole out during the hoist, which is cooler than after it is up, and gybing the jib over when it is up in windier conditions.

The Melges is kind of a post-graduate boat. You need to have a ‘bachelors’ of art and science reading sailing, to be able to step into one and get around a course safely. And that goes for the whole crew. It is a lot eaxier to sail than I actually expected but difficult to get 100% right in part due to the very tunable rig, in part the fact that some very good sailors with extreme attention to trimming compete in the boat. It has been the little grand prix boatfor ovber quarter of a century now, filling the place where once Dragons, Solings and Etchells ruled the roost.

At the end of the weekend, my R&R pass having some time on it, we sailed back over the great ‘forth of Kristiansand’ having negotiated Randoy Sund with its fickle winds and rocks. I got to helm the whole way and we did most of it underspunnaker in the NE wind stream, giving us evventually a near perfect reach right over from Dvergsnes south to the town’s guest harbour where the melges fleet are packing in to show the boat off before the nationals. My tacking anlges were ok, but my gybe angles where spot on, it seemed very easy to line up a perpendicular on the waurter as the best time to gybe and go through about 100 degrees today. We dropped spnnaker in the narrow entrance to the harbour to show good form, and sailed onto the pontonn.

I started the weekend feeling like I was slowly loosing my brain cells, and ended it fgelling like an expert helmsnan, so that all in all was a good experience/ Also we had coaching from an English chap, Ed Streeter I think his name is, while th woner chilled out atokimageofu. , on the first day, to help us shaedo. I wsig wd. Dytw as gutg20 knot so it was moreemangu h ownrkethscvo nw d m ghgybing inatilaaa variety of takdoni soudoRado.

training sessions in displacement boats in light to medium airs have seemed a bit pedestrian in the past, when racing was not being used for training. A little unserious as they say here. But in a melges with a good understanding of a kind of course to sail, it is a good sjhake down and time to dwell on mishaps as well as just drill the crew. esrna o quit ero ebfor, whey e us aesora.

Getting On Your Bike ?

Norman Tebbit is quoted as saying, rather infamously , that the unemployed should get on their bikes. In fact I believe this was a paraphrase from him saying “When there was no work locally, my dad used to get on his bike” to look for work elsewhere. Just how easy is it to ‘get on your bike?’ It is a mantra of many older tories, that the unemployed in the North should just tootle on down to the prosperous south east and get a life there.

 

In the last interview I heard with Tebbit, now being 87 and perhaps out of the media circus for all time, he had mellowed and said the miners had been treated unfairly in terms of the closing of so many pits and economic devastation reaped upon whole communities. He thought there should have been more done for them,  perhaps he meant buying them bicycles so they could pop down the road to look for work? Oh, that north english or central scottish town has also had a pit closure or steel works mothballed…..

As any business leader will know if they have geographically spread locations and markets, you have a fixed investment and cost base in plant in one place where perhaps there isnt a market, so you hope for better communications ie roads these days, such that you can get your goods to market or punters will come for your service. However transport has a cost, which may errode profit margin enough to render it unattractive. Then you have your capital investment potentially making a big loss when it is sold if you close up and relocate.  It can be painful and risky then to relocate because the initial investment may be far higher in moving to an economic hot spot like the South East, and also you may find you cannot recruit the skills you need, or more often, the wages you need to make a high gross margin the investors are looking for to get ROI. Why then should a Tory look any differently upon someone moving job?

In a jobless community or region, you have three choices if you own a house or your family are imbedded in schools, activities and friends. You can daily commute enormous distances and times. You can weekly commute, Or you can move the whole shabang. In the UK, for a while the wise money was on the latter, because if you moved ‘darn sarff’ you got better pay, and despite your mortgage being costly, you also earned very well from the steep value curve of the property market.  However that is a purely financial decision, you leave your community behind for the temple of Mammon.

 

I have really done all three variants, all be the long commute not actually that long and it was in a fully expensed company car so I cannot really complain with that luxury, driving 90 -100 miles a day total. It took less than an hour and a half usually. Weekly commuting I have done, and it just does not add up when you take the costs of the flat, travel and your own ‘bachelor again’ food together with the psychic and emotional stresses involved. The benefit is getting valuable work experience. The same was true of just upping roots and moving, which I have done in fact six times, the last time to totally reduce my mortgage leverage to spend more QT with the family, but lack of work lead me into my first proper weekly commute.

There are a lot of hidden costs within the weekly commute equation. Firstly there is the fact that a single person actually costs more than half that of two people very often, in terms of food and heating (/ electricity) in a flat. Then if you have a car, you may find that the combined daily commute if you have one, and the weekends commute put a very high mileage on your car which brings forward depreciation bgit time, and you loose many thousands in a shorter period of say two years – as goes for long distance commuting, which many folk who live along the main English arterial motorways do.  Then you have the home front, where your absence can result in more running around in the second car, from cold, and perhaps more wasted food as families back home refuse to eat left overs ! You then actually have on the one hand the ability to work over time, or even have two jobs while away, and so earn even more. BUT the converse of that in a fixed salary bullshit job with long hours, as is typical now in the UK and USA, is that you work hard and loose opportunities for extra work, because you are travelling Friday nights when service industry might need you behind the bar.

The biggest single financial pitfall of weekly commuting, is actually not money per se or ‘gross margin’ with all monthly expenses in the picture, it is rather cash-flow-is-king. Twice I have moved or weekly commuted and been wondering why I was always skint at the end of every month, until I had worked over a year ( and towards 18 months I always wanted to move on, the company goes bust, the boss has a niece for the job….etc) is that I was paying all the initial ‘investment’ off. Flat depost, first months rent, moving costs, first months commuting daily costs, first month’s weekly travel, first months’ food for the flat. You can find yourself in a lot of debt having just moved and not passed Go! So you either sit with that debt, or more likely you pay some of it off, or owe family and mates with no interest, but a moral obligation to pay back asap! That negative trough on the cash balance sheet takes a long time to work off, because weekly commuting erodes so much of your monthly gross margin anyway in the months after, and you still have all your home costs to contribute to back on the ranch.

Now you could just say as Norman Tebbit would surely nod to, well that is just a fact of life. However what you could also do is sod all that extra time traveling and use all that initial outlay you have for partial relocation of your body, and put it into running your own business along with all the energy you are likely to put into a new job. Many say that starting a business and being an owner-employee eats up loads of time, and you will be away from your family, BUT you are embarking on that anway in weekly commuting. Also if you think jobs do not include selling, you are kidding yourself on in the modern service world, or the corporate structures or even in trades as an employee. You are going to be doing sales, or selling yourself internally or selling yourself onto the next contractor with the next big contract. Why not sell yourself ?

Ok, well I am pretty terrible I think at this, but in fact I just lack motivation to get over the threshold and am a bit naive when it comes to sussing out who is worth spending time on during a round of knocking on business doors or networking in a sports club. But you dear, younger reader, or dear highly skilled and experienced older reader, you can sod weekly commuting and get either local work or do remote home office, digital commuting as it is called these days.

I sound like a Tory! Well yes if you are Norman Tebbit, but no if you are today’s breed of corporatist Tory who is primarily concerned with a fat pension from helping companies and individuals evade tax, while keeping up a small business friendly front and now of course, collapsing into BritNatz identity politics verging on outright racism, scapegoating and scare mongering.

I’m not talking aboujt the hipster  e-yuppie alone here either, very much at the young person who hasnt really thought about trades, or the older DIY maniac who is a dab hand but with no papers. Very often you can be sub contracted in self employed as a ‘labourer’ and end up picking up enough skills to then be able to take part time education as a plumber, or brickie, or joiner or something specialist in property like ‘framing’ (tømring in Norwegian, building heavy wooden beams and columns for either expensive new houses or refurbished ‘period’ houses) Recruiting is a pain for employers because they often want disposable staff these days, and have come to expect to be able to lay off most of their work force at the end of one project rather than offer any job security. As the population ages, and post Brexit, they may have to change their attitude to this down time, and the state may pick up less of that tab of churn unemployment.

So self employment is a real alternative if you think about it, and are felxible in your local market. I would suggest that Mr Tebbit senior actually toddled off on his bike down the road in the 1920s and depressed 30s and worked on the black for cash in hand, but today you do not need to do that because the employer saves so much in not using a VAT liabel company or sole trader. It is risky and can be shitty getting money out of people, but you can often get a simple, legally binding contract there and then as the deal is signed literally.

Many countries need a bigger business birth rate in areas where there are skills gaps and high pricing, especially the trades. However enterprise and investment companies are run by middle class graduates, who had like Storming Norman, parents who push them to get on and up and out of their blue collar or lower white collar backgrounds. The whole school system too is biased towards university level education, and away from what is the trades. We presume that is what thickos do, and the poles can take the jobs if they want. However these jobs pay a lot better than most graduate start jobs, and with over time can rival many a masters’ degree graduates pay after several years.

In the long run, graduates apparently earn more and move into management, which is partly true, but plumbers start their own firms and employ people themselves and do very, very nicely and work probably a lot less hours than an average corporate middle manager.

 

On this kind of point of burn out, relating to lifestyle, there is something very woeful happening to my late baby boomer compatriots. This is anecdotal, but those outside Law and Medicine are struggeling. There are some with ill health, in fact a surprising number are out of work on health grounds or have down sized their ambitions or jobs. Secondly there is then downsizing by firms, and also a deal of people running out of steam. My generation are becoming over experienced and under qualified. Times now are changing too fast for many to retrain and keep up. Outsourcing cuts the cost of those forty and fifty something technocrats and managers who were in house. Employment becomes more tenuous as companies merge, get bought out or restructure. My generation were also not equipped with the sharp, self centred tools of the modern world, where winning, even if that includes outright cheating, is what matters. Entitlement is something I have had to deal with before with so many mediocre bosses in marketing, but now it reaches into areas including so called liberal establishments like the UN. A young, sharp, egotistist generaion (or two) lie below us now, who are entitled by being highly qualified in modern masters programmes, corporate iternships under their belt, and into the fabric of organisations with a power base made by basically cheating , being greedy and conniving.  They see millenials as their cannon fodder, and want to manage the robotic, algorythmic revolution which perhaps threatens to prove the Luddites finally right, or perhaps will free us from mundanity and the surly checkout girl.

Moving on then for work, also means through life being prepared to change career and being opportunistic when the personal balance sheet of money, family and health is in the picture, with quality of life as the bottom line. We have had our own local version of t’pit closing, with the loss of 180 direct jobs and maybe another 40 contractors etc, and a knock on to local spending and a decline of around 1% in the population, but also a marked shift towards the over fifties with now a drastically falling school roll.

Living out on a wing, or in a pit town isolted up a valley or just surrounded by other former coal towns, does not lend itself to getting on your bike, and you can unfortunetly end up sitting with fixed assets which make it hard to be flexible with moving. So Norman Tebbit spoke of a two wheeled bicycle of course, riding up a two way street, where in fact it doesnt always work out that you can tootle off round the next village or borough and get work, whistling home with a jaunty aire and a jolly whistled tune on your lips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh – Twee and Touristy

Edinburgh is becoming one of our favourite desitnations as a family, as in turn before it was my favourite get-a-away city as both child and younger man.

Edinburgh is very different from most any other town in Scotland because it has so many buildings from the 18th century and even before in the old town.  In contrast to Glasgow and its’ managed and manicured grand parks, Edinburgh has mountains in its midst and south boundary. Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands set a wild back drop for this otherwise most civilised city. On our visit the ‘Seat’  was salt and pepper dusted while the Pentlands were pearly white despite it being well into what should be the great scottish spring.

We arrived via a long journey via Oslo, and I booked a cab. This was the first thing that was cheap as chips. Twenty three quid plus four quid pick-up-parking. Back home in Norway it would be twice that. Also the Norwegian driver would have started the meter most likely when we had arranged to be picked up, and charged us for the international calls and texts to contact us, Norrie our cabbie was a good old sort, with those flat matter of fact stories of Leith and what have you to relate. I relasied I was nearer him in eras we have lived through than I am today’s students. The deltics in town, pubs open late with real ales. The cold wind runing up Leith walk and tearing up George the IV. Memories of lovers and loves that could have been.

Thursday was good weather so we took ourselves up to town via the Leith walk and the edge of Stockbridge, taking then a Dog Leg to the back end of Cannonmills and Bonnington, through the small parcel of George IV park. Edinburgh is a place you can follow your nose, the generally raidal pattern of peripheral arteries leading to either the Royal Mile from the South , Lotian Road / Princes Street from the West, and The new Town from the North and east. We got as far as the Elephant house where Harry Potter was likely first penned, but a chance to tick off a touristy thing was denied me. Instead children wanted to that evil of city holidays, SHOPPING. ooof. Forbidden Planet and so on.

For Returning home to the digs,  we bought a family day ticket from the office on Waverley bridge, a good old fashioned scratch off card, reminiscent of the dozens I had as an itinerant locomotive enthusiast as a teenager. Eight fifty may seem a lot for a local bus, but that is only £2.17 each and it is unlimited for the day within the boundaries. We ended up buying them at least four times!

Friday was a reunion with two old School Pals who are based in Edinburgh and love it very much. I always feel at the end of these that it has been great to meet up, but guilty I ddi not ask much more about their kids or jobs or what ever. We just spend time and reminisce.  We probably did Lidl for malt whisky that day. Not a bad drop, could always be diluted with ‘ginger’ if it was aweful, and I was nervous becasue no more was it Glen Moray, Elgins finest light drinking whisky, but a dark own label Ben Bracken. Hmmm. Not bad at all compared to many of these non aged declared which have peary drops or even coconut esters and what have you which have a sickly taste. Lidl was not as super cheap as I remember it from before, but as with many shoppings, mine came to thirty seven pounds something, for wine , beer, puddings, some food , easter buinnies and that whisky. The drink alone would be 70 quid in Norway!

It seems that thirty-seven-pounds-sixty-four-pence is the average shop in the UK. As soon as the basket goes over half full then cha-ching, two dinners, sweets, Irn Bru and some beer add up to thirty-seven-pounds-sixty-four-pence. Things are no longer that ‘hey wow, gasp!’ cheap in the UK. It pays to shop around and read menus. However our pasta chain meal down at Newhaven Harbour came to about twenty a head for two courses and drinks, plus we bought some extra wine.  Some places were Norwegian prices and some bars were up at a fiver a pint of , admittdely, craft beer.

My UK spending money though was whittered away incredibly quickly.  I had 200 in my old account and 200 cash, and it was nearly all gone with a day to go, only we actually had two days to go. Slip of the finger on the cheap booking calender buttons apparently. Oh joy! But ooh dear, bit skint and wee man with a stinking cold.