The End of the Euro?

Fear not, I am not going to wheel out some reasoned, economic treatise on why the conjoined currencies of continental Europe are doomed to impending divorce.  Though I will note that I am far from convinced that a currency organised for the City of London is appropriate for Southampton, let alone Anglesey, and so have my doubts that the ‘one size’ which fits Frankfurt would also fit Olymbiada.  No, as per usual, GofaDM will take the road less travelled by in its predictions on the future of the Euro zone.

I have spent a chunk of this last week in Dundalk, in that portion of Hibernia where the Euro and kilometre hold sway.  Unusually for a business trip, I did see a little of Dundalk itself: partly by dint of getting lost and partly by dining in town one evening.  Should you find yourself hungry in Dundalk, I can recommend Eno’s with readily available parking just outside the cathedral.  If you are going, I should warn you that Tuesday night is Date Night!  As I went on Tuesday with two male colleagues, this fact generated much innocent amusement.  You should also beware that, despite what you may have heard from Ken Bruce, Friday night is Ladies’ Night (though I suppose music may also be involved).

Anyway, prior to this trip o’er the Irish Sea, I felt it prudent to acquire some of the local currency: rather than relying on barter or my hench physique to see me through.  As a practical chap, I thought I’d visit the local branch of my bank to meet my needs.  For those lacking the two ‘O’ levels in Geography which have stood me in such good stead throughout my life, I should point out that Southampton is a major port and lies closer – as the herring gull flaps – to continental Europe than it does to London.  So, it came as something of a shock when my bank told me that they did not keep Euros in stock.  Apparently, you have to order them in advance: well, it is a terribly obscure currency – they must struggle to clear any surplus stock.  As I operate my life in accordance with the principles of kanban (or just-in-time), this didn’t work for me.  I was forced to use the Post Office: a mile further from the Euro zone, but still able to muster some faith in the continued existence of its currency.

Do the seers of the Co-operative Bank know something about the Euro not vouchsafed to the rest of us (or indeed the Post Office)?  Am I taking a terrible financial risk keeping some £50 of my hard-earned cash in Euros?  There are vague mutterings of a new market crash, should we be taking my experience as a warning?

** KLAXON **

Panic buy mattresses, now!

GofaDM is not regulated by the Financial Services Authority.  The value of this blog can go down as well as further down.

Emerald cities

Barely had I returned from one Celtic fringe than I was off to another.  This time to Ireland for “the man”.  Actually, if I must go somewhere, Ireland isn’t a bad option: flights are pleasingly brief, they know how to keep time (and defer to Greenwich), my plugs fit their sockets, free wi-fi is surprisingly common and the locals are friendly (despite the somewhat chequered history between our two countries).

I started in Cork – the airport code for which is rather delightfully ORK – which allowed me to renew my acquaintance with a couple of the locals: Murphy’s and Beamish. Well, I say locals but given the depredations of multinational brewing giants they may be brewed almost anywhere for all I know. Despite their perhaps uncertain current provenance, they still slipped down very nicely – and helped to distract me from the seriously heavy rain falling outside (still, to visit the Emerald Isle and not see rain does leave one with strange feelings of an experience only half-lived).

The following morning I was off to Dublin on the train – well, mostly on the train, but a replacement bus service took us as far as Mallow to allow emergency engineering works.  Shockingly, they allowed other people to board my luxury coach – you don’t get this with Greater Anglia, but I suppose Iarnród Éirann may be feeling the effects of the recession and thus unable to lay on a personalised luxury coach for everyone.  On the plus side, the bus did pass within little more than a mile of the Blarney Stone – I blew it a kiss, but I’m not sure this delivers the full effect of a physical smooch (only time will tell whether my tongue has been sufficiently silvered).

In Dublin, I was forced (for business reasons) to visit an outpost of the Starbucks empire (I can only assume Herman Melville is spinning sufficiently rapidly in his grave to power a small city).  The cup of Earl Grey I was given was large enough to float a heavy cruiser (though far from the largest vessel on offer) but tasted truly vile – a significant victory for quantity in its on-going war with quality.  Still, this painful incident aside, I had a very pleasant time in Dublin and the leaving of the city is considerably easier than used to be the case.  I can only attribute this to the completion of both the Port Tunnel and the airport since last I was there.

Upon my return to the UK, Greater Anglia were clearly anticipating winter once more closing its jaws upon us with some ferocity (which I presume to be an iron conurbation).  As a result, my train was heated to the sort of temperature normally associated with Scandinavian relaxation and which oft precedes running out into the snow or mild birch twig based laceration.  I was sorely tempted to go topless (or worse), but somehow resisted – though I like to imagine that my honed torso would have been greeted with quiet appreciation by my fellow, late-night passengers.  Perhaps this heat was part of a new service they are testing – no longer just a choice between 1st and Standard Class but on selected trains the new sauna coach will help stressed business folk relax on their journey back to Essex and Cambridgeshire.  I would applaud their creative approach to rail travel, but suggest they might need to spend a little more on the advertising budget before future trials so that next time I can come properly prepared.

St Patrick’s Day

Yesterday was, of course, St Patrick’s Day.  The weather here in South Cambs very kindly helped us feel properly Irish by being really rather wet: this drought is becoming so severe, I’m thinking of laying in a stock of gopher wood!  I haven’t started collecting animals yet, but it has crossed my mind.  I have also found myself wondering why Noah failed to collect any plants for his voyage: what was he planning to feed his herbivorous passengers when the flood water subsided?

Anyway, back to St Patrick.  Despite his associations with the Emerald Isle, the lad actually hailed from Wales (then again, as we know, almost anyone can play for Ireland).  As a result, I’m sure he was thrilled (as was I, given my ancestry) that the Welsh won the Grand Slam on his special day.  I must admit that I had no idea that Contract Bridge was so big in the Principality; do they use Blackwood, I wonder?

St Patrick is probably most famous, other than as an excuse for a drink or several, for banishing the snakes from Ireland.  However, I fear modern scholarship would hand the credit for this particular feat to the consequences of the most recent series of ice ages – though I fear beatifying the Younger Dryas might be theologically tricky (I have yet to have any success with an animated mouse).  Nonetheless, I do quite fancy the idea of raising a glass of something alcoholic – on the rocks obviously – to celebrate everything the Younger Dryas has done for us!

I did nothing particularly Irish to mark the day myself, though my lunchtime Spanish omelette did have a somewhat viridian hue given its significant spinach content (and as an added bonus, it also include a potato).  For the purposes of blogging, I must try and do better next year…

Irish Roots

Our cousins across the Atlantic seem very keen to trace their ancestry back to Ireland (or failing that, Scotch-land; no-one in the Land-of-the-Free™ has so much as heard of Wales).  This process seems especially popular with the incumbents of the Oval Office and the current President is no exception (though, Mr Obama does seem able to trace his ancestry to almost anywhere on earth, if required).

As a result, it seems quite tough for the more sporting residents of the Emerald Isle to represent their country as they have to compete not only against their own countrymen but also against the descendants of the Irish diaspora.  Indeed, it sometimes seems that as long as a distant ancestor once saw Ireland on a map, partook of a half of Guinness or possessed an article of green clothing, then you qualify as Irish.   It is worth noting that this same laxity in the definition of sporting nationality has been somewhat beneficial to the performance of the English – or, perhaps one should say, the South Africa B – cricket team in recent years.

This week, scientists have reported that the Irish diaspora started rather earlier than previously realised – and, on this occasion not as the result of English mis-management or oppression (so far as we know).  Analysis of the teeth and bones of long-dead Irish brown bears have proved that these (well, at least their women-folk) were the ancestors of all today’s Polar Bears.  Yes, even before St Patrick (allegedly) started purging Ireland of its zoological diversity, some of the bears had left, heading north and adopting a rather natty white livery.  I wonder if the Romans had some inkling of this link to the Arctic, as Ptolemy named the island Hibernia after the Latin word for wintry (as opposed to the Latin word for rainy, which might have been more appropriate based on personal experience).

Surely this ancient link must give the Irish a much needed claim on the resources being discovered in (and under) the Arctic?  Or at least a few royalties from the sale of Fox’s Glacier Mints?  Can it be coincidence that these mints started production in 1922, the very year that the Irish Free State won its independence from Great Britain?  I sense a conspiracy…

Ignored in Ireland

Our hero visited the Irish Republic last autumn: taking in Dublin, Newbridge and Cork on the tour.  Not so much as a column centimetre in even a local, free paper to mark his visit.

An elderly lady from SW1 visits Dublin and she’s all over the papers and television.  Where did I go wrong?  Should I have worn a hat?  Taken an embarrassing spouse?  Trust me, I wouldn’t have left that pint of Guinness to go to waste!  (Though I’m not sure I could have endured the Westlife and Riverdance “entertainment” the poor old dear had to face – revenge is truly a dish best served cold, much like gazpacho).

I’m off to Vienna soon, meeting folk who should be considered representatives of the state (well, 51% so at any rate), so I need your tips to ensure my foreign travel obtains maximum press coverage…