The business lunch seems to have gone the way of the fax machine, filofax or knocking off early on a Friday afternoon, a relic of a bygone time. I’m lucky if I get two in a year, so two in a week is riches indeed, and two in consecutive days comes around as often as Halley’s Comet.
But this is the situation I found myself in last week. Given the fact that my companions were people I had known for many years, and I was not needed to impress them with either my etiquette or flashness of the restaurant, the conversation naturally turned to families, shared experiences and laughter.
The Neil Woodford story is the latest, if most high profile, crisis to hit the pensions and investment market. It is too much to call it a scandal because, as far as I can make out, he hasn’t actually done anything wrong.
What Woodford had been offering appeared to be cast iron investments, not some get rich quick Ponzi scheme. He wouldn’t have been able to become as successful as he has without stockbrokers and fund managers wanting to invest their clients’ funds in his portfolios, and being too lazy to actually assess whether the results would be there.
So the finals of the two major European football competitions will this year be contested solely by English teams. A great achievement you might think, a shining example of the quality of the Premier League and back-up evidence of the progression of the English national football team?
But that’s not the case really is it? The clubs are English in name only, with the vast majority of the players involved recruited from overseas, with Chelsea and Arsenal by far the worst culprits.
This has surely got to be one of the greatest pieces of management-speak ever, from the Chief Executive of one the Welsh rugby regions.
“The Ospreys are adequately funded for the foreseeable future and will continue to seek a more equitable distribution model which, at the moment, is weighted towards subjective criterion capable of improper manipulation, rather than an objective formula based on impartially quantifiable metrics and success.”
It was quite disheartening to read the recent coverage of the appointment of the new Chief Flight Director at NASA. The successful candidate has worked at NASA since 1998, was the “outstanding leader in the group” and the unanimous choice. She also happens to be a woman.
This is not newsworthy. If a child, or a chimpanzee, or a single cell amoeba had been appointed to the role, that is newsworthy. The headlines should have read “most appropriate person gets job”, but that’s not very interesting is it?
I don’t know which was the first Masters tournament I watched the final round of. I think it was Bernhard Langer’s win in 1985, because I definitely remember watching Jack Nicklaus’s astonishing win the year after. Thereafter, with one or two minor exceptions, I’ve watched every one.
Within each one, there is a little routine, normally involving far too much red wine (record set during the Faldo/Norman encounter in 1996) and a very late night as the tournament is not over until the final putt, such is the trickiness of the course and the pressure that leading can bring to bear. I vividly remember Tiger Wood’s first win, in 1997, the only time it really was all over bar the shouting at the beginning of the final round. Often the drama is not so much in the thrilling strokeplay as in the mental disintegration – for every Phil Mickelson charge there is a Rory McIlroy or Greg Norman combustion.
Last weekend saw possibly the biggest betting weekend in the UK calendar, with the Grand National, Boat race and two FA Cup semi-finals taking place on Saturday and Sunday. Ordinarily you would expect it to be a good weekend for the bookies, but with Tiger Roll winning the National, Cambridge the Boat race and Manchester City winning the first semi-final, it was probably a bad weekend for the bookies.
Not that we should shed too many tears for the bookmaking industry; after all, it’s much more rare for them to lose out than cash in. It’s always the stories of a fluke result (Leicester City anyone?) or a lucky accumulator (the punter who won £182,567 from a £2 bet at the Cheltenham festival recently) that grab the headlines rather than the results of the betting companies (bet365 posted turnover growth of 25% and 26% growth in profit for 2018, £2.86bn and £587.6m respectively).
To mark the fact that today should have been the first day that the UK spent outside the EU since 1973 (really, did nobody spot the irony?), we are pleased to announce a very special competition.
We will be giving away free flights on BA to anywhere in the world (well probably just Edinburgh given their recent track record) to the first ten callers who can give us a concise explanation of exactly what Theresa May is trying to achieve by constantly putting the same Brexit deal in front of Parliament.
Yesterday witnessed one of the most astonishing games of rugby in the history of the sport, not just the history of the Six (or Five) Nations championship. England scored five tries and a penalty in roughly 40 minutes, Scotland six tries in pretty much the same time.
Rugby is a mathematician’s dream, with the scoring system based around prime numbers (2, 3 and 5 points). It is therefore a game like any other (American football’s system has much more differential between the points) when one team can score more often than the other, and yet still not win. The irony yesterday is that England scored all their kicks, accumulating thirteen ponts in the process, but Scotland missed two of theirs and therefore only accumulated eight points from them.
One of my oldest friends called me the other day. So far, so not unusual, but there was a tone in his voice that I couldn’t quite place. After a round of meaningless pleasantries, he suddenly said “So I guess we’re not going skiing this year then?”
He and I haven’t been skiing for 16 years, and haven’t even discussed the possibility for at least ten. Confused, I asked him what he meant. “I saw on Facebook that you were in Austria”.