Tuesday, 31 January 2012


I went to the launch of the True Fair Campaign launched by Alan and Gina Miller this morning. Check it out on www.trueandfaircampaign.co. It's a very good idea and I hope the government (all sides, all colours) puts their voice behind it. To cut to the chase, they want the City to be more transparent and trustworthy. Whether these two qualities are mutually exclusive I am not sure although my feeling is that if the City becomes more transparent, the public will quickly get to know they are the bunch of sanctimonious, self satisfied crooks we have suspected them being all along.

There were MPs, hedge funders, a professor from the LSE, and various other experts who spoke sagely about what needs to be done to make the City fair and true - transparent and trustworthy.

They talked of moral capitalism, getting the investment institutions to be open and clear about their costs and fees, but as I sat there I feel it's going to be a bit like trying to teach a psychopath empathy. City people do not understand the concept of truth or fairness. Their definitions are different. They live and breathe liar's poker remember. What's more, they know we don't trust them and they don't care that we don't trust them, but because they've been able to get away with it for so long, we've somehow established this level of dishonesty, smoke and mirrors as the norm. Their behaviour has become acceptable, that is until of course, we were brought into global recession by them breaking the market, although the delusional ones amongst them will dispute that.

But why should they change? Why do they need to change when their business is not suffering (there is a cartel of companies operating - so little competition - so all fees are set and agreed amongst each of them) If their business suffers as a result of not being transparent they would do it, but they don't need to, because it's not suffering - or not suffering because of lack of transparency. And yes, the public may believe the city to be dishonest but they don't care about that either, so although one journalist gamely suggested the city should be 'shamed' into being more transparent, I don't believe they understand the concept of 'shame'. They live in a bubble of self congratulatory validation which even overshadows that of show business. The City is a 'no-show' business. And when they fail, it's everyone else's fault and everyone else is to blame and pay. That's how a psychopath feels, or a narcissist - I'm never sure which one. They don't want anyone to know what they're doing or understand their business (including the government) - that's why we got into this mess in the first place.

An MP who was there, an ex hedge funder, told me the thing the City should do is to get across to the public that the work they do creates industry, creates job, creates work, does a lot of good. But then he worked in a different 'City'. A partner for a company, when his business made money, the company shared the profits, when it lost money, he would wake up in cold sweats at three in the morning realising he could, would and should lose everything. That is genuine risk, that is how business works and when it pays off, the rewards are well deserved. I feel transparency will only show in more detail how much these people are being rewarded for failing, and they know it and that's why they don't want to do it.

Gina and Alan know it too and I applaud them. By merely launching this initiative, they are throwing down the gauntlet - sign up - or you're a liar, not to be trusted and are over charging. The smoke is already starting to clear. The mirrors are getting shattered. The reality of the City is one that cannot be trusted. The past decade has shown this already.

Monday, 16 January 2012


One weekend, two films. Very different. The Artist, silent, elegant, eternal, black and white, detailed, romantic, where, every aspect, look, pout, movement, breath was studied. A fairy tale where the dog saves the day, the man saves the woman and the woman saves him right back (I kept thinking of the last scene in the film Pretty Woman at that point - a film that glamorises meaningless sex - probably not the intention of the producer) the Artist is not of our time or any time really. Just wonderful to watch.

And to a film about meaningless sex that doesnt glamorise it. I found the film Shame disturbing, I think i was meant to. I imagine couples leaving the cinema refusing to discuss it or talking about it for days afterwards. Some scenes were incredibly disturbing because they are relevant. The Internet has taken sex addiction into the sitting room not only of those like the isolated protagonist of the film who is financially and physically fit but emotionally fucked. But to the millions who are addicted to Internet porn and chat lines while their children watch CBBC in the room next door.

Shame was about debilitating lack of self esteem, misplaced values and total lack of understanding of worth, and increasing inability to delay gratification. Shame also showed to powerful effect the inability to differentiate between love and lust. The protagonist at one point holds his sister aggressively, eyeballing her, sneering at her 'what do you offer me? What do you give to me? You're a liability as though she owes him something.". That upset me. I know too many people like that. He compares his worth and achievements with the fact he has a day job and an apartment but he's so much more damaged than she is. His boss is the most insidious revolting character in the film. Judging the behaviour of others while without guile or shame betraying his wife and children continually all the while coming across as the loveable jack the lad. The film portrayed the man's need for constant gratification as addiction. Just as gambling is. Just as alcoholism is. My research has shown the jury is still out on that one amongst sex therapists. Cosmopolitan would have us believe that men are t the mercy of their libido in much the same way the Bible and all religions for that matter always seems to think it's the woman's fault that men are as addicted to sex as they are. But then it was written by men.

And as my next book circumvents the subject matter a little, I found myself looking away from the screen at certain scenes and looking at the faces of those watching to see if they were numb to what they saw. They were. The screen was full of deeply damaged characters who were reflecting themselves back at us, with a few exceptions, like a mirror. Not all the characters on the screen were damaged as I am sure not all the characters in the cinema were either, but I learnt as much watching the watchers as I did the screen. You need to be in the right mood to see this film. I'm just not sure what mood that is. And the film is called Shame. But at no point does anyone show any degree of shame. Perhaps that's the most disturbing point of all.


Christmas was spent in Mallorca at the Bon Sol hotel, a beautiful, warm, special place clinging to the coast line just outside Palma. On Christmas Eve, we segwayed around Palma, taking in the sites in a few hours that it usually takes a day to tour, and stopped for hot chocolate and those mini pizzas which aren't called mini pizzas but look like mini pizzas. And visited Miro's home where echoes of his greatness and success still linger. He's a testament that dreamers do get paid too and you can be creative and commercial and not lose your soul and sense of purpose in the process. He's a good role model to any aspiring creative who's told by fearful and possibly well meaning parents that accountancy will always be a safer prospect.

On Christmas morning we skimmed stones on the beach at Puerto Portales in twenty degrees although we didn't go for a swim as the owners father of the Bon Sol would do every single day of the year. Then we walked along amongst the bijoux shops and the market place where the healthy and wealthy wandered with their well groomed children and their well groomed dogs (they always remind me of thoroughbred horses - beautiful, fragile, good to look at and ever so slightly pointless). I drank a spiced wine and Tom ate some sort of spiced cookie and then we walked along to the large yachts where the oligarchs hid behind their tinted glass, occasionally peering out at us peering in. A lot of them came from the UK - the yachts that is not the owners, well I presume not any way. We travelled back along the coast on foot, admiring the view and the skyline. And watched Ab Fab which was good and Doctor Who which wasn't.

New Year I spent in Stratford Upon Avon amongst seventy other wannabee sleuths, on a murder mystery weekend organised by the larger than life Joy Swift who started the concept of murder mystery over 30 years ago. About eight actors act in character during the entire weekend and you mix with people, couples, families, you don't know, and are given clues, witness murders and meet police officers who tell you who did it at the end. You get prizes if you guess who, what, where, how and why. There's an incident room where the clues are put up on the walls and as the weekend progresses more are put up. Some take it very seriously others just enjoy the ride. It is incredible fun. I would recommend it highly and have done so to everyone I have met and have written about it in full for several magazines. I don't think it's suitable for young children as Joy herself would admit as the plot lines are frequently quite dark and the dialogue between the actors so realistic it is unnerving. I have since taken a very keen interest in all things Poirot, Marple and Sherlock (I knew he wasn't dead - it was Molly I'm sure on the bike) and will be returning to see if I can improve my score, this time with Tom in tow. Google Joy Swift. Her murder mystery weekends are ingenious, incredible fun and worth every penny.