Monday 29 September 2008

It's a crazy jungle out there

14st 8lb; 6.4 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,225; Great Rift Valley.

I slept badly. My neck hurts in the place where I landed on it when I fell down the stairs just over a week ago. And now my wallet hurts owing to the nationalization of Bradford & Bingley, in which I had failed to sell my shares despite more warning signs than you would expect to find on a cliff edge in an area of rapid coastal erosion where the local authority has a bit of a fetish about Elfin Safety. It was my own fault. Pure laziness as usual. Made worse in this case by my initial indolence in failing to ask for a share certificate, and leaving the shares in some account arrangement, meaning that I had no idea how to go about selling the bloody things even when I occasionally meant to do so. I would say that I shall never make that mistake again, but clearly the chances of any other society ever going down the demutualization route and handing out free shares to its members are precisely nil, so it all seems a bit academic. Ah well, it’s only a theroretical £1,300 down the gurgler, assuming I had sold at the absolute top. And I did get the shares for nothing and collected nearly £300 in dividends before it all went tits up, so I suppose I should not complain. It’s just that, for some strange reason, I had never looked upon a former northern building society as a high risk investment.

I wrote a couple of newspaper columns this morning then took the dog for a walk, being greeted as I stepped outside the LTCB’s front door by a party of feral youths from the dreadful local school, who were dragging their knuckles along the pavement. Most of their ape-like grunts were mercifully incomprehensible, but one of the animal noises was followed by a distinct call of “dickhead”, which was clearly aimed in my direction. A witty, traditional riposte about “takes one to know one” sprang to mind, but as there were six or seven of them to me plus a small terrier, I concluded that a dignified silence was probably the best way forward, as being less likely to result in a frenzied knife attack and a spate of “Why oh why?” articles in the local papers.

The impression that I had walked out into a jungle was powerfully reinforced when we got to the River Dee, which contained the unmistakable sight of a couple of basking hippopotami. On closer inspection, it turned out that they were not, in fact, unmistakable. They were largely submerged logs floating serenely along, one with a seagull perched nonchalantly on top of it. But my error can surely be excused by the fact that they were moving quite briskly upstream, which is hardly natural behaviour in an inanimate object. The river at this point, above the weir, is not supposed to be tidal, so it was hard to fathom out how it could be defying the normal laws of nature in this way, unless someone had pulled out a gigantic plug a little further upstream. But I think that only happens with canals.

Having written a column this morning on the assumption that the US bank bail-out would go through, it was disconcerting to turn on BBC News 24 this evening and find that the House of Representatives had rejected it, sending Wall Street into free-fall. The Congressmen are evidently pandering to the wishes of their constituents, who wish to see greedy bankers suffering. Quite right, too. Though it might be better if they recognized that we are all on this plummeting aircraft together, and a desire to make the pilot know that we are angry with him for his incompetence is not going to make it any better for the rest of us when it ploughs into the mountainside. Particularly as the pilot is the one person on the plane who has a parachute, and will no doubt make use of it before impact.

A little later Peter Mandelson popped up on Newsnight, leading me to embark on one of my traditional tirades about him. I stopped to find the LTCB staring at me in silence, clearly fearing for my sanity. But that was not the most extraordinary thing about it. No, the reason I shut up was that Mandelson was asked what he thought of the Congressional rejection of the bail-out bill, and he replied “I think they have taken leave of their senses.” This is indeed a historic day. Peter Mandelson has said something I agree with. Can the world possibly get any crazier than this as October approaches?

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