Friday, 24 June 2011

Laurie Anderson - There was something very familiar about Iceland

From the current Laurie Anderson tour, the track, There is something very familiar about Iceland

Recently somebody told me that the people of Iceland are made up of 2 branches that got twinned together - the Vikings and the Irish missionary monks

And since that's my own heritage, more or less Swedish and Irish, I suddenly realised why that pony farm had seen so familiar

Iceland was a combination of both those ???

Those people who tend to see things out of the corners of their eyes

Elves, . . . . . . . . thirty foot tall thunder gods

And you know how you hope that your ancestors might have been sophisticated counts, or scribes, and then you find that your actual ancestors were lonely incestuous shepherds, too drunk to leave their huts, or wandering lost, out on the moors . . . fabricators, hallucinators, their beautiful ????, their stories of elves and sea cows, all twisted together into a huge book, that's a combination of The Idiot and the The Odyssey.

And when I fell into one of their deep dark depressions; when I see a burnt out, abandoned house, or a barren coastline in the middle of nowhere, I can feel how alone I am . . . . like they were . . . in a huge house . . . .

This piece was inspired by reading Haldor Laxness's Independent People, his "epic novel" set in rural Iceland in the early 20th century - a tale of sheep farming, etc. I once read his book, Fish can sing, which I only bought because it had the word "fish" in the title. On Amazon, Independent People gets 39 5*s 3 4*s, and 4 2*s. So very much enjoyed by those who have read it. For me, 544 pages is too long . . .

Back in 1984 (I think), I saw Laurie Anderson perform United States at the Dominicon Theatre in London. What an amazing performance. I thought the version of Big Science was amazing that night. She remains someone well worth checking out every so often

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Another live concert missed - Current 93

I can't believe it. After discovering the Boris played a show in London on Sunday, I have discovered that Current 93 also played a London show on Sunday. The two bands I most want to see live and they were both on in London two days ago.

The only good thing is that the Current 93 show is available as a download off one of the live concert websites, so I am looking forward to hearing that soon.

I really do need to find a way to find out when bands I would like to see are playing shows. Still it could be worse - they could have been playing at the O2 in Oxford.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Current reading

Perhaps rather ambitiously, considering the intensity of my current work, I have just started one of the books Emma bought me for my birthday - Francois Dosse's Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives. The very little knowledge of Gilles Deleuze that I have was picked up from the article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and his book on Spinoza which i read a few years ago. So far, the introduction alone, which seems to assume at least some familiarity with thier work, has been really tough going, but I am through it now and into the biography proper - maybe this will be a bit clearer?

My other reading is slightly work related - Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to fail, apparently the "definitive" account of the "battle to save Wall Street". It is now about 10 years since I left Imperial Tobacco and the world of corporates does seem a long way away. Certainly I don't feel a close affinity to the executives involved in the book.

I do feel a bit sorry for Erin Callen, the CFO of Lehman's in the run up to its collapse. She did seem rather out of her depth.

I only mention her specifically because I think it might be the only time that a picture of her is ever used in a blog entry along side a picture of Deleuze and Guattari.

Trading - yet more research & increasing fatigue

The week away in Italy resulted in me having one or two ideas that I wanted to sort out in the trading. I really hit the work hard on our return, and during the first week back did the work required to support one small change that we introduced late that week and which results in the actual trading work during the day being slightly simplified.

More importantly, that first week back also saw me re-visit the idea of a third market being added to what we do. Weeks and weeks of data was processed and the decision seems clearcut. The third market should definitely be added and this occured mid-way through the second week back.

But we also have one other issue that has continued to bother me - the precise definition of a particular type of trade. We have plenty of examples of this trade, but have tended to use a definition based on a degree of judgement that we don't allow elsewhere.

This weekend, with Linda away on a training course, I really hit this issue. Several possible definitions were drawn up and around 150 cases of this trade were examined against these definitions. The definitions were re-worked and the cases examined again. And so on for another cycle. From this has come, after two days of pretty continuous work, a precise and unambiguous definition and this type of trade.

I took Jerome though it on Sunday for around 90 minutes but we agreed that we would not make the change immediately. Instead we would monitor the new rule in real time and get a flavour for how the actual trading of it would alter our minute-by-minute procedures.

Of course it is inevitable that the new procedures have a great day today but that we fail to gain any of it as we are "monitoring" it, not using it. This is incredibly confidence-sapping and will be all the more so were we to introduce the new procedure tomorrow and it result in a negative result compared to not using it (as so often seems to happen in trading)

So after three days of huge concentrated effort, I am rather feeling the strain. I really need to get this change done in the next day or so. And then a few days of not doing much to recover!

Boris - new cds and a missed chance to see them live

The current issue of Wire Magazine has a review of the two new cds by Boris, my favourite band of the last three or four years. For some reason, they have released two cds at the same time. The review of somewhat mixed, generally feeling that one of the cds is not really a progression on previous takes on the same theme. But I am instantly keen to here them

Both are available from and I have downloaded them in minutes. But the emusic site now also gives details of any upcoming live shows by the artist and this reveals that Boris played a show in London yesterday! The band I most want to see live and I've missed them by a day. Not happy.

As a result, I have deferred listening to the cds until I am less unhappy about this

New release 0ne - Attention Please

New Release 2 - Heavy rocks (same title as a cd from a few years back)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dharma and Greg

In the last few days, we have re-discovered the joys of Dharma and Greg, one of out favourite comedy shows. In our relationship, I am definitely the Dharma family and Linda is the Greg family!

Yogic Dharma - wonder what happened to the address, haven't seen her in anything other than a couple of episodes of Two and a Half Men

Larry, my favourite character. he and I have the same taste in T-shirts

Friday, 17 June 2011

A great evening at Bushyleaze

My last few fishing trips have been to Barnes Lake, but the last trip there, when the fish seemed oxygen deprived and not in great shape, has convinced me to head to pastures new - in this case Bushyleaze at Lechlade. I haven't fished here for a couple of years, but with the recent rain and the promising weather, I was actually quite excited about going there again.

There were a handful of other people there when I arrived around 3:00pm. Not much had been caught since the eraly morning, but some fish were showing at the surface - especially jumpers. I'm never very sure what jumping fish are doing i.e. whether they are feeding or not. But the fact that some of the jumpers were in the 6-8lbs category, does at least keep ones interest up.

Most people seemed to be fishing deep nymphs on fairly rapid retrieves, suggesting to me that I ought to fish nearer the surface and with a slower retrieve. So on goes a "generic" dry fly - in this case a size 12 black hopper - and a dawl bach nymph on point, with a lightly greased leader which would hopefully keep the nymph just a few inches under the surface.

First fish at around 5:00 on the nymph - just under 4lbs. After catching the average Barnes Lake fish, I had forgotten how nice a bigger rainbow could be. Then a couple of takes on the dry, both of which I missed.

By now, I was settled in the bay at the south end of the lake. A nice SW breaze made casting actually rather straightforward for a change. Most of the other fisherman had left by now - its is always remarkable to me why they leave around 6:00pm with the best of the day still to come. Gradually more and more fish start to appear on the surface. More takes on the dry which I missed, then another 4lber on the dry.

A move round to the open swim nearer the car park, and the fish are going crazy. Over the last hour or so I have over 20 takes on the dry (I am fishing two dries by now, then one as it becomes harder to see them). I have one experience that I haven't had happen for over 20 years. A fish takes the dry on the dropper, and a moment later, as the point fly skims across the surface after the first fish, a second fish takes the point. Unfortunately this then fell off. I seem to remember that when you have hooked two fish, you should net the point fish first.

One take breaks the line a moment later (which is when i switched to just one fly). As it gets darker, it is harder to see where I am fishing and whether a rise is to my fly or not. Moving between the two spots and fish continue to take.

By 10:00 it is too dark to see anymore. I have had around 30 takes on the dries, hooked about 15 fish and landed 7 or 8 perhaps. Perhaps the best day trout fishing I have had since I fished Blagdon with John Horsey and we caught over 100, all on dries.

Looking from the south end of the lake - a rare boat angler in the distance

Across the south bay - the clear spot opposite was the second of the two spots where I had all the fish this evening

Around 9:15pm - a beautiful evening

Thursday, 16 June 2011

John Peel's Top 15 of 1975!

Broadcast on December 19th, 1975, this is a sort of precursor of the Festive fifty, and is a quite extraordinary selection I would say. It is during 1976 that Peel discovered punk, after which such a selection as this would appear absurd! I was 12 at the time, so do know some of the tracks quite well, but am only just beginning to start my own musical odyssey.

15. Peter Skellen, Hold on to love.

I actually quite liked this record as well, but in part I remember it best as a slightly re-written version in which one line was "hang on, hang on to your wellies", recording to Noel Edmond's show I think.

14. Laurel and Hardy, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

This is a great track. I remember seeing the film of this when it became a hit. I haven't seen it for years, but I may well have a look for it soon. I especially like the bit when Hardy hits Laurel with a plank of wood and he sings a verse in a female voice.

13. Mike Oldfield, In dulci jubilo.

I bought the 4 album set Mike Oldfield Boxed because of this single, and this might be considered my first serioud music purchase.

12. Joan Armatrading, Back to the night.

Don't know this track and not really a great fan of her. I do remember Love and affection though and quite liked that.

11. 10cc, I'm not in love.

Extraordinary choice.

10. Bob Sargeant, First starring role.

Don't know this one at all - indeed, never even heard of it.

9. Peter Frampton, Show me the way.

I bought the live album Framption comes alive during 1975 and still love one or two tracks from it, especially Lines on my face. Not sure I'd heard the studio version of this tracks before.

8. Bob Marley, No woman, no cry.

I was listening to this track just last week, after reading some reviews of a new biography of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. I have also recorded the Rainbow live concert film off Sky, which I really should watch soon.

7. Joan Armatrading, Dry Land.

The only artist in twice. Don't know this track either.

6. John Lennon, Imagine.

Actually recorded in 1970 or 1971, but only released as a single in 1975. Sounds very dated to me, and wildly idealistic.

5. Rod Stewart, Sailing.

Peel was always a big fan of the Faces and had been closely associated with them in their early days. Indeed he is quite upset by their split in 1975. I bought the album this is from, Atlantic Crossing, which I haven't heard for maybe 30 years. I prefer the earlier album, Every picture tells a story.

4. Roy Harper, When an old cricketer leaves the crease.

This remained a Peel favourite after punk. I saw Roy Harper last year as support for Joanna Newsom in London. Don't really know his music well, though I do have a few of his albums.

3. Jack the Lad, Gentleman soldier.

Never heard this track before.

2. Millie Jackson, Loving arms.

Nor this one.

1. Bebop deluxe, Maid in heaven.

Perhaps the first hint of punk's imminent approach. I haven't heard a track by them for years, but may have a dig around. I did quite like some of Bill Nelson's solo stuff though, from the early 1980s.

So there it is - quite an amazing selection. If I had known about this selection, it is exactly the thing I would have written to Peel about.

I actually had a correspendence of about a dozen letters with Peel, mainly emails, and had 3 or 4 read out on his show. Sadly these emails, and Peel's reply, were lost when a PC crashed some years ago.

Monday, 13 June 2011

An early birthday weekend

Like the Queen who has an "official" birthday at a different time to her actual birthday, so this is my birthday weekend. Emma came back from London on Friday evening in time for an Indian takeaway and a movie. Then today, she and I went into Oxford for the afternoon on a trip focused on eating pancakes and book buying.

As always, our good intentions to try a savory pancake are quickly forgotten. My current favourite is the maple syrup and banana - Emma's is the apple compot.

From there it is round to Blackwells and a half hour spent in the Norrington Room, where we each buy a couple of books. Emma gets a guidebook to Shanghai and Beijing ready for her trip this September plus a new Tim Hartford book, Adapt. I buy the new paperback edition of Sorkin's Too big to Fail plus a book I haven't seen before, Peter Brandt's Diary of a Professional Commodity Trader

My main presents this year have also been books - due from Amazon before Wednesday. Francois Dosse's Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Live, Barton Biggs' A Hedge Fund Tale and Ann Blair's Too Much to Know

Our evening is spent at the Blue Boar, our village pub.

Overall, a very nice "official" birthday

Friday, 10 June 2011

An evening fishing - more problems in "Jerome World"

After three and a half days of fairly intense intellectual effort in rewspect of the latest trading related matters, it is time to re-charge the batteries with a half day at Barnes Lake, just down the road

Conditions look perfect - good cloud cover, a bit of breeze. Could be ideal. And as I tackled up on the corner of the lake by the hut, there were several fish moving around the shallows. Some were behaving a little oddly, swimming close to the surface, with their tail and dorsel fin above the water. A good number of casts later and no luck with any of these fish. Indeed the situation seemed odder and fish would quite happily swim into the line without any concern.

At the far end of the smaller lake, I managed the first fish of the day on a Diawl Bach nymph, always my first choice - a standard stockie of about 1 1/2lbs.

A quick wander to the other lake revealed no fish rising at all, so I was soon back at the smaller lake, where the behaviour of many fish remained very odd. A possible hypothesis was that they were distressed due to low oxygen perhaps?

A second fish from the corner by the hut, which took about a yard from the edge of the lake. I got talking to a bloke who had just stopped by for a quick look, and we noticed that some of the fish at the surface seem to have white marks on their back - some sort of fungal growth perhaps?

Back to the top of the larger lake and I am found by the owner, John Barnes. He confirms that the problem is fungal and that the fish swimming at the surface are distressed, but there is not really anything that can be done about it. As a result of the poor fishing conditions, he only charges me £10, but is then surprised to hear that I have caught two. Apparently vurtually no one has caught anything for the past couple of weeks.

From the top of the bigger lake

The smaller lake

Later on, I managed a third fish. All three fish today took nymphs, though I think I did rise a fish to the dry on one occasion. And all the fish I caught were in good condition - maybe it is only the distressed fish that aren't feeding.

Meanwhile things have taken a turn for the worse in "Jerome world" where he has been preparing for a day in court where his custody arrangements for his children are due to be settled. He has had a strong expectation that the current arrangements will be set into law, but last minute, it appears that the mother of his children has launched a strike for sole custody.

I have decided to avoid finding out about the details of this, but it can't be good.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Italian Holiday Part 3 - the journey home

First stop - the service station just north of Pisa

Approaching the Alps after Turin

Mistakenly going through the card payment bay - too busy taking pictures to notice

The open road

The last petrol station before the tunnel at Sastriere - the largest tic tac lorry in the world

Sunnier on the French side of the tunnel

The service station with the totally delicious steak and chips for 8 euros

Towards Chambery

Preparing to leave the Aire de Crocs - early Sunday morning

Last photo in France - sunrise Sunday morning

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Italian Holiday Part 2


We are inspired to have a day out, even after our jog along the lake shore this morning. Our selected target is Orvieto, via Castiglione del Lago, location of a hypermarket full of nice, cheap, Italian wine. No trip into the old part of the village, where previously we have also bought loads of wine - this left for later in the week.

Orvieto is a quite stunning town perched in the top of a hill. We have been there once before, but had arrived during the siesta and hadn't been able to go in the cathedral.

One of the most amazing facades we have come across

Then for pizza at a place we found last time - now officially the best pizza we have ever had.

Back to Passignano via another supermarket and dinner tonight takes place on our hotel balcony. There has been a funeral in the town centre for much of the afternoon. More reading, but tonight would have been an ideal night to watch something on our laptop, had it been working.


My main reading remains Simon King's Shetland Diaries. I am pretty sure I have a copy of the tv show that goes with this book.

Finally I have been forced to contact Jerome about the trading and a couple of points for next week. The hotel lets me borrow their office PC. Otherwise, the day is spent sunbathing and reading again.

Tonights meal is at the more gourmet restaurant in the town square - the started of scallops in a cream, proseco and saffron sauce was amazing. I bet I could make something like this.


More reading and sunbathing. Today's book is the one I part read before the holiday about Bobby Fischer and the world chess championship in Iceland. I feel the Russians should have adopted tactics like Fischers, every time he raised objections to things.

Some dark clouds and rain late afternoon - thunder in the distance.

Dinner at Il Molo - argument about how much tip to leave.

A quick chat with Emma tonight and agreement to postpone a possible trip to the Lake District in the next few weeks. Instead, Emma will come home for a visit.

Yet again, drinks at the bar by the lake shore!

More antipasto di mare

The view from our balcony over the "old town" on the cloudy evening.


Clear weather again and a morning by the pool. Linda is beginning to get stressed again about our return to the UK.

It clouds over in the afternoon and we go the Castiliogne again for more wine buying. We are particularly impressed by the 6 x 1.5L bottle of Montepulciano that we acquire for 9 euros in total. This is probably not the best quality wine in the world.

Dinner at La Locanda (??), the gourmet restaurant.

Beef with truffle enfused olive oil - delicious.

Our nightly ice-cream purchase at the bar by the lake shore.

And all set for the drive to Pisa in the morning for Linda's flight, and the start of my long drive home.

Italian Holiday Part 1 - Driving down

Thursday night

Last day for various admin things in Oxford, then a 9:00pm departure, perhaps the latest we have ever set off on holiday. We arrived at the Premier Inn nearest the ferry port at just after midnight - a very tiring drive


Early awake and down to Dover well in advance of our departure time. We are offered the chance to be the last on the ferry about to depart. It is an extremely flat crossing. Linda is reading Emma Kennedy's 1970s camping memoir and occasionally laughs out loud, much to the surprise of our fellow travellers.

First target is Lens, followed by St Quentin and Reims. Lunch is at the Aire de Champagne, which we feel could have been fancier to live up to its name. As Linda dozes through the afternoon, i ponder on various trading related ideas. But the plan is to avoid too much work-related thinking during this week if possible

We have a quick drive round the centre of Bourg-en-Bresse, our overnight stop. Our hotel is in the north near the ring road on a small industrial estate. Despite this off location, it has a very decent restaurant and we are easily persuaded to stay there rather than get in the car again. One negative - Linda's laptop gives out completely, so we might not have internet access or the ability to watch anything in the evenings.

The restaurant is unusual in having a buffett starter and dessert, so technically we have 10 starters and 8 desserts each tonight. And surprisingly good we thought. I have a quite wonderful steak with bernaise sauce (but is it wonderful because it comes after the drive)


Another early start and a drive of a couple of hours to Chamonix for breakfast. Neither of us have been here before but it is extremely well-known of course and lives up entirely to its reputation, though we are only there for a couple of hours. Great views of Mont Blanc on the way. I have been pondering on going on a treking trip to the top of this.

Breakfast in the sunshine in the town square. I have pancakes with chantilly cream and chocolate sauce - the perfectly balanced breakfast in my view. After a wander round the town we buy our first goodies in the local supermarket - two bottles of Raspberry liquor and a bottle of Cassis (all for less than 20 euros) and a guide book to walks in the area. Next time, we should definitely stop here for a day or two.

Linda consulting the menu.

The first glacier I have seen in years.

From Chamonix we travelled through the Mont Blanc tunnel and headed throught he Italian Alps foothills towards Turin, then Genoa, Livorno, Florence and finally Passignano, which we arrive at around 5:30. We have discovered that it is 1,145 miles from our home to the Hotel Lido on the shores of Lake Trassimeno.

It is not long before we are out at one of the bars by the lake, taking in the late evening sunshine. To Linda's embarrassment, perhaps, I have insisted in wearing one of my hippy shirts. I look totally cool of course

Still cool, despite the long drive (and resulting back ache)

Our meal tonight is at the hotel's restaurant at the end of their jetty. Two pizzas. We are saving our first visit to our favourite restaurant for tomorrow. Then back for the second half of Man Utd versus Barcelona (a very one-sided match).

The sun sinks across the lake and behind the hotel's restaurant.


Linda can't do her exercise DVDs as the laptop remains broken, so has persuaded me that we should go jogging round the lake shore each morning before breakfast. I remain unpersuaded, especially since there is not really a path as such.

We do nothing but sit out by the pool in the sun and read books. I read Ken Babb's On the Bus and a copy of The Philosophers Magazine. Then I leave Linda for a couple of hours so I can watch the Monaco Grand prix in the hotel room. It is virtually incomprehensible, but seems a very exciting race.

At our favourite restaurant - Il Molo - we are remembered by the waitress from last year. And we both have the same starter as last time - the antipasto di mare.

Linda's second wine of the night as the lake shore bar.

The wonder that is Il Molo's antipasto di mare.


Another "restful" day i.e. spent by the pool reading. I have finished On the Bus and started Simon King's Shetland Diaries. We also have Saturday's Times and Mail. Both of us are a little bit pink at the end of the day, but nothing too bad.

Some trading ideas today which I spend an hour or so scribbling down in my pad.

Dinner is a snack at the Mayfair bar tonight - spaghetti carbonare and ravioli.