Week 317

18th January, 2015

A grey, damp and cold day all day – just the sort for staying in and reading the papers. This time next week the Greeks will have voted in a general election that could cause the country to default and leave the single currency. The Sunday Times, this morning,  had a lovely explanation of how the perfect bailout might work:

There’s a village in Greece where everyone is in debt. One day a German tourist walks into the local hotel and puts a €100 note on the desk, saying he wants to inspect the rooms before deciding whether to stay. The owner gives him some keys and as soon as the visitor walks upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and dashes next door to settle his debt with the village butcher.

The butcher takes the €100 and runs to repay what he owes the pig farmer. The pig farmer uses the €100 note to pay his drinks bill at the taverna. The taverna owner uses it to pay his barmaid, who is staying on tick at the hotel. She pays off her room bill with the €100 note. Then the hotel owner replaces the €100 note on the counter, so the German will not suspect anything is amiss. That’s when the traveller comes downstairs, announces the rooms are not to his liking, pockets his €100 and resumes his journey.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt. That’s how a bailout should work.

Now that’s how the Greeks would have liked it to work. Unfortunately, life’s not that simple as the 60,000 or so Greeks who fixed mortgages in Swiss Francs are finding now they are 20% more expensive. There is no substitute for straight, honest dealing.

19th January, 2015

Gloriously sunny but cold morning. The air is sharp and clear. We are out early to the supermarket and then off to the Health Club before coming home to clean and tidy the house. This evening, we are hosting a pre-residents meeting to set the agenda for the residents meeting tomorrow. It is one of those necessary evils we have to go through twice a year. A number of our services are communally funded – heating and hot water come from a heat interchange unit centrally sourced and maintained. Our refuse goes to a community bin store. Our car parking space is in an underground car park where other residents park as well. Our grounds are maintained by a communally hired gardening team and they are lit by centrally funded lighting. It is all very economical but policy has to be agreed across 38 property holders which can be frustrating. It is one reason that we are intending to move to a detached property where we can take full responsibility for our own lives.

20th January, 2015

Our coldest night of the Winter with temperatures down to -5C/23F. The Times featured an excellent photo to illustrate this in today’s edition:

frost2

Now, at 11.00 am, we have a beautiful, sunny day with frost largely gone.

The Greek election appears to be increasingly going to the far-Left, Syriza party. Three opinion polls last night saw the anti-austerity party increasing their lead to somewhere between 4% – 6%. This is outside the area of statistical error and really firms up their chances. A poll for Mega Channel put them 4% ahead. A poll for Pro Thema put them 4.4% ahead and a poll for Skai Television put them 6.5% ahead. The only real question is whether they will need coalition partners or can manage alone.

21st January, 2015

We had a long meeting last night and were very late to bed. Consequently, this morning we weren’t up until 7.15 am. We did go out for a tough session at the Health Club but Pauline still had the strength to make a wonderful meal of roast vegetable and tarragon soup followed by home made baked beans and Cumberland sausage.

Interesting news from the Economic Summit in Davos where the head of BP has said that oil prices could remain low for up to three years. He added that that could send UK petrol prices below £1.00/€1.30 per litre. Every little helps! It also looks as if the European Central Bank will embark on a policy of Quantitative Easing to the tune of 500bn euros / £382bn. This policy will tend to drive down interest rates which will also make investors less enthusiastic about investing in the currency. Recent depreciation of the euro is largely due to anticipation of QE coming down the line. All in all, it should be good news for we Brits.

22nd January, 2015

Had to perform my least favourite husbandly duties this morning. To her credit, Pauline doesn’t ask it of me often so, when she does, I comply uncomplainingly. So it was, we went off to the Peacock’s Shopping Mall to look for clothes.

pshop

The funny thing was that, no sooner had we entered the shopping area but a tannoy message told everyone to go outside because fire had been detected. We were back in very soon afterwards and I managed an hour and a half during which time Pauline failed to find anything to her taste. On our way up to the roof top car park, we passed a new butcher’s shop which had opened in Market Walk and we bought four pheasants at £3.25 / €4.30 each which is an excellent price.

pheasant2

I installed my new Sky Router this afternoon because the switch to fibre optic super power is supposed to take place during tomorrow. Switching routers usually results in temporary reductions in speed and so it is for me. I will wait and see the outcome over the weekend and do a speed test on Monday. I’m sure you’ll wait with bated breath.

23rd January, 2015

Woke up to the heaviest frost of the Winter so far. It registered -6F/21C where we live although a little Oxfordshire went down to -9C/16F. The day gave way to beautiful sunshine although it was still only -2C/28F as we drove to Sainsbury’s at around 10.00 am. We were just turning into our lane on the drive home when I noticed an Openreach worker fiddling around in the Fibre Optic case on the corner. I knew instinctively that he was linking me up.

btfibre

I rushed through the front door to check, barely noticing that the burglar alarm wasn’t set. Sure enough, my 5Mbps had leapt to 32Mbps download and upload had been transformed 10 fold to 10Mbps. It was only then that Pauline pointed out the burglar alarm problem. It is linked to a call centre by phone. I checked the phone and it was dead. The service department made light of it and soon had me back on and sailing along. The whole thing strikes me as distinctly odd, though, as I have a sky phone line rental (on a BT installed line) and a Sky fibre broadband connection using wholly BT infrastructure based in a BT cabinet. How can this really be considered privatisation?

24th January, 2015

Feels like Spring in Surrey. The skies are blue, the sun is shining and the birds vigorously being birds all round the woods. For Greece, however, the final supper looms. As Sky (Greek)TV called the election for Syriza by 7%, today’s editorial in The Times says this morning that Syriza is:

a leftist movement that believes it has overcome the laws of arithmetic. If any Greek government after the elections, either as a single party or as a coalition, implements Syriza’s programme, it will do great damage.

Certainly, the markets look as if they are bracing for trouble. The Euro has settled at £1.00 = €1.34 for the weekend. Thank goodness we sold last Summer and bought Sterling. The British currency is strong as many, panicking Greeks have realised and seek to get their money out by buying it.