Sunday, November 30, 2008


Chocoholic is one of a number of recent words formed by analogy with alcoholic, a word with an interesting history of its own. Alcohol originally came from two Arabic words: al, or 'the', and kohl, the black eyeliner widely used in Arabic countries. How this came to refer to alcohol is a bit obscure, but the suffix -ic was added at some stage to refer to a person addicted to alcohol. Since then, the word has been chopped about, and the suffix -oholic or -aholic is now added to other words to refer to various kinds of addiction.

The commonest of these is workaholic, someone unable or unwilling to stop working. Chocoholic, is another common variant of 'alcoholic', and can be spelled 'chocaholic' or even 'choc-a-holic'. Many young (and not so young) people are textaholics or addicted to text messaging.

The -oholic suffix is often used to generate new words for humorous effect. For example, a driver unwilling to leave his car behind has been described as a 'diesel-holic'. In addition, it has been said of the Rangers manager Dick Advocaat that he is a 'football-holic'.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Air Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones & Anonymous

This book, Air Babylon, claims to give the inside story about what really happens at airports and on flights. Here you have some interesting questions answered:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

One Man's Work

Justo Gallego is a man who is building a cathedral in Mejorada del Campo (Madrid) with his own hands. If you want to listen to his story, click on this link:

You can also see some photos of the cathedral here:

Word of the week 24 - 30 November 2008: EMO

Emo (pronounced /'i:m@U/) is a genre of music that originated from hardcore punk and later adopted pop punk influences when it became mainstream in the US. It has since come to describe several variations of music with common roots and associated fashion and stereotypes.

Today emo is more commonly tied to fashion than to music, and the term "emo" (short for emotional) is sometimes stereotyped with tight jeans on males and females alike, long fringe brushed to one side of the face or over one or both eyes, dyed black straight hair, tight t-shirts (sometimes short sleeved) which often bear the names of emo bands (or other designer shirts), studded belts, belt buckles, canvas sneakers or skate shoes or other black shoes (often old and beaten up) and thick, black horn-rimmed glasses. Body and facial piercings are very common among girls.

In recent years the popular media has associated emo with a stereotype that includes being emotional, sensitive, shy, introverted, or angsty. It is also associated with depression, self-injury, and suicide.

Here you can see funny Emo pictures

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Italian man who went to Malta

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A review of a book: Everything But The Squeal By John Barlow

The joy of pork
The whole hog

Oct 30th 2008
From The Economist

JOHN BARLOW, a British expatriate in Galicia, the rain-swept region of the Spanish north-west that gave birth to Franco, has an odd ambition: to eat every bit of a pig, from its tail to its snout. The ambition persists despite marriage to the long-suffering Susana, perhaps the only Galician vegetarian, despite the menace of cholesterol from all those fat-laden pork sausages and despite the threat (kindly pointed out by Susana) that eating pig brain will lead to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

What follows is a quixotic quest for the recipes that give good countryfolk—and doubtless Mr Barlow—ample waistlines and cheerful characters. The cocido (pork stew) from the politically conservative town of Lalín is nothing short of heroic in its mix of ingredients; there are kind words for Doña Aurora’s trotter stew; and an enthusiasm for blood sausages whatever the gruesome process of making them.

All this may be great fun for foodies, but the attraction of Mr Barlow’s book is that he goes well beyond the business of eating. He gives us a fascinating journal of his Galician wanderings, from village carnivals in the pouring rain to a hippy commune in the back of beyond via the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. What comes through is a deep affection not just for Galicia’s pigs—Mr Barlow singles out the long-backed Galician Celtic, hips swaying like Jayne Mansfield’s, for special mention—but also for Galicia’s people and culture.

No answer is ever a straightforward yes or no. No bureaucratic process is ever simple. No bit of history is without its compelling trivia (how many others would know, for example, that in Santiago de Compostela’s 12th-century church of Santa María Salomé there is a statue of an angel wearing glasses?). Mr Barlow pokes his nose in everywhere, and almost without exception people are kind and hospitable.

He meets all sorts, from Fidel Castro’s favourite cousin to Mañuel Fraga, minister under Franco, co-author of Spain’s democratic constitution and still Galicia’s political godfather. The charm is that Mr Barlow is so self-deprecating: his interview with Don Mañuel is a classic encounter between clueless journalist and superior, but patient, politician; his account of teaching phonetics at La Coruña’s university will make many a teacher blush with self-recognition; his Yorkshireman’s contempt for the posh British expatriate with barely a word of Spanish will amuse anyone with a knowledge of Britain’s class system.

None of this yet puts Mr Barlow in the Eric Newby category of travel writer, but he comes close enough in this, his third book. As for Susana and baby Nico, they are sometimes there, and sometimes not. But Susana, it seems, never complains, even though Mr Barlow’s ambition is clearly to indoctrinate Nico into the pleasures of pork.

If you want to know more about this book:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Word of the week 17 - 23 November 2008: BUBBLY

BUBBLY (adjective)

1. Emitting or filled with bubbles as from carbonation or fermentation

2. Lively, full of life and energy or showing high spirits: e.g. bright bubbly children / a bubbly personality

The song "Bubbly" by Colbie Caillat (American pop singer-songwriter and guitarist from Malibu, California) is "about the feelings you get when you have a crush on someone and they make you smile all the time; they give you butterflies and you just adore everything they do." The young singer-songwriter added that the inspiration for the song came in the summer of 2006 when she was realizing that, "I didn't have a crush on anyone, and it's always fun to have a crush. So I was just thinking about missing those feelings and wanting them."


Will you count me in?
I've been awake for a while now
You've got me feeling like a child now
'Cause every time I see your bubbly face
I get the tinglies in a silly place

It starts in my toes and I crinkle my nose
Where ever it goes I always know
That you make me smile
please stay for a while now
Just take your time where ever you go

The rain is falling on my window pane
But we are hiding in a safer place
Under cover staying safe and warm
You give me feelings that I adore

They start in my toes make me crinkle my nose
Where ever it goes I always know
That you make me smile
Please stay for awhile now
Just take your time wherever you go

But what am I gonna say
When you make me feel this way
I just...mmmmmmmm

It starts in my toes makes me crinkle my nose
Where ever it goes I always know
That you make me smile
Please stay for awhile now
Just take your time
Where ever you go

Duh duh duh duh duh da duh duh duh duh dum
Bom bo da da da da da bom
Mmm mmm

I've been a sleep for awhile now
You tuck me in just like a child now
'Cause every time you hold me in your arms
I'm comfortable enough to feel your warmth

It starts in my soul and I lose all control
When you kiss my nose the feeling shows
'Cause you make me smile
Baby just take your time
now holding me tight

Wherever, wherever, wherever you go
wherever, wherever, wherever you go

Oh wherever you go I always know
You make me smile just for a while

Feist - 1,2,3,4

Sting - Englishman in New York

Shania Twain - Ka-ching

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The search for First Dog

O'Bama is Irish!


by The Corrigan Brothers

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

You don't believe me, I hear you say

But Barack's as Irish as was JFK

His granddaddy's daddy came from Moneygall

A small Irish village, well known to you all

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

He's as Irish as bacon and cabbage and stew

He's Hawaiian, he's Kenyan, American too

He’s in the White House,

He took his chance

Now let’s see Barack do Riverdance

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

From Kerry and Cork to old Donegal

Let’s hear it for Barack from old Moneygall

From the lakes of Killarney to old Connemara

There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

From the old Blarney Stone to the great Hill of Tara

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

2008 the White House is green,

They're cheering in Mayo and in Skibereen.

The Irish in Kenya, and in Yokahama,

Are cheering for President Barack O’Bama

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

The Hockey Mom's gone, and so is McCain

They are cheering in Texas and in Borrisokane,

In Moneygall town, the greatest of drama,

For our famous President Barack O' Bama

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

The great Stephen Neill, a great man of God,

He proved that Barack was from the Auld Sod

They came by bus and they came by car,

To celebrate Barack in Ollie Hayes’s Bar

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara

There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama


JFK are the initials of US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Riverdance is traditional Irish dancing, with rapid leg movements while body and arms don't move.

The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, about 8 km from Cork, Ireland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of gab (great eloquence).

Hockey Mom is a term widely used in Canada and USA, where mothers (and fathers) often take their children to ice hockey rinks. Sarah Palin described herself as a hockey mom.

Canon Stephen Neill is the Church of Ireland rector.

Auld Sod is an affectionate name for Ireland, meaning "the old country".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Teacher terror

TEACHER ARRESTED - A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule, and a calculator (see picture below).

At a morning press conference, the Attorney General said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying Weapons of Math Instruction.

'Al-gebra is a problem for us,' the Attorney General said. 'They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns,' but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle.'

When asked to comment on the arrest, President George Bush said, 'If God had wanted us to have better Weapons of Math Instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes.'

White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the President.

Weird Al Yankovic - Girls just want to have lunch

"Weird Al" Yankovic is an American singer, musician, actor, satirist, parodist, songwriter, music producer, accordionist, and television producer. Yankovic is known in particular for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and that often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts. This song is a parody of Cyndi Lauper's famous hit "Girls just want to have fun"


Some girls like to buy new shoes
And others like drivin' trucks and wearing tattoos
There's only one thing that they all like a bunch
Oh, girls, they wanna have lunch
Oh, girls just wanna have lunch

I know how to keep a woman satisfied
When I whip out my Diner's Card their eyes get so wide
They're always in the mood for something to munch
Oh, girls, they wanna have lunch
Oh, girls just wanna have...

That's all they really want
Is some lunch
Don't ask 'em to dinner or breakfast or brunch
'Cause girls, they wanna have lunch
Oh, girls just wanna have lunch

Girls, they wanna
Wanna to have lunch
Girls wanna have

She eats like she got a hole in her neck
And I'm the one that always gets stuck with the check
Can't figure out how come they don't weigh a ton
Oh, girls, they wanna have lunch
Oh, girls just wanna have...

That's all they really want
Is some lunch
Don't know for certain but I've got a hunch
Those girls, they wanna have lunch
Oh, girls just wanna have lunch
Girls, they wanna
Wanna have lunch

Cyndi Lauper - Girls just want to have fun

This was a huge part of '80s culture. Not only did the song became an anthem for female attitude, but it set fashion trends as the video showed Lauper wearing bright, outrageous clothes that looked like they came from a thrift store (they often did).


I come home in the morning light,
My mother says when you gonna live your life right,
Oh mother dear we're not the fortunate ones,
And girls they want to have fun,
Oh girls just want to have fun,

The phone rings in the middle of the night,
My father yells what you gonna do with your life,
Oh daddy dear you know you're still number one,
But girls they want to have fun,
Oh girls just want to have,

That's all they really want,
Some fun,
When the working day is done,
Girls they want to have fun,
Oh girls just want to have fun,

Some boys take a beautiful girl,
And hide her away from the rest of the world,
I want to be the one to walk in the sun,
Oh girls they want to have fun,
Oh girls just want to have,

That's all they really want,
Some fun,
When the working day is done,
Girls they want to have fun,
Oh girls just want to have fun,
They want to have fun,
They want to have fun ...

The animals save the planet

Think about the enviroment

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Remembrance Day: In Flanders fields

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War.

"Remembrance Day" is the primary designation for the day in many Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada. However, "Armistice Day" also remains, often to differentiate the event from Remembrance Sunday, and is the primary designation used in New Zealand and France.

"Poppy Day" is also a popular term used, particularly in Malta and South Africa. "Veterans Day" also falls upon this day in the United States, yet many other allied nations have quite different Veterans Days.

Common British, Canadian, South African, and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) traditions include two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:00 am, 11 November), as that marks the time (in the United Kingdom) when armistice became effective.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae was a Canadian poet who served as a medical officer in the Boer War and World War I. This poem, published in 1915, honours and commemorates the men who died in the horrific battles in Flanders. It is said that he was inspired to write this poem after seeing the blood red poppies grow on the graves of his friends around Flanders. The poppy has since become a symbol of veterans worldwide.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short day s ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Word of the week 10 - 16 November 2008: RAGE

Road rage, air rage, office rage, desk rage, work rage, bike rage, trolley rage ... rage is the word of the moment.

desk rage

The peak of office employee stress levels which ultimately starts with the screaming of vulgar language within the workplace. It can often times lead to assaulting fellow employees, abusing office equipment and/or stealing of company property, abusing sick days and ultimately poor production at work. A possible side effect is that the employee continues to take out his or her rage at their residence in the form of kicking small animals and drinking heavily.

road rage
This term is used to refer to violent behaviour by a driver of an automobile or other motor vehicle, which thus causes collisions or incidents on roadways. It can be thought of as an extreme case of aggressive driving.

This is the general term for disruptive and/or violent behaviour perpetrated by passengers and crew of aircraft, typically during flight.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Health & Fitness 'Facts'

Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?

A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

A: Well, if you have a body and you have body fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain... Good !

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?

A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!!. Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?

A: Are you crazy? HELLO ...... Cocoa beans ... another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?

A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets and remember,

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - strawberries in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming - WOO HOO! What a Ride!"

Health tips

For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting medical studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you!

Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman - Something stupid

An exercise and the lyrics to check when you finish:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why did the chicken cross the road?

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a CHANGE! The chicken wanted CHANGE!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure, right from Day One!, that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me...

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with THAT chicken! What is your definition of chicken?

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road...

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain. Alone.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. internet Explorer is an integral part of the Chicken.. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^(C% ........reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

Bye bye, George

While large corners of the world are busy celebrating Obama's presidential victory there will be some people feeling slightly deflated to see George Bush step down as US president. Over the past eight years Bush has provided us with endless amusement as a result of his faux pas or ‘Bushisms' as they've been dubbed. Here are some of them:

"Those who enter the country illegally violate the law." - Nov. 28, 2005

"We don't believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans." - Sept. 6, 2000

"I think we agree, the past is over." - May 10, 2000

"I want everybody to hear loud and clear that I'm going to be the president of everybody." - Jan. 18, 2001

"One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures." - Jan. 3, 2000

"I just want you to know that when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace." - June 18, 2002

"I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein." - May 25, 2004

"There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again." - Sept. 17, 2002

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." - Sept. 29, 2000

"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" - Jan. 11, 2000

"It is white" — after being asked by a child in Britain what the White House was like. - July 19, 2001

"They misunderestimated me." - Nov. 6, 2000

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." - Aug. 5, 2004

Barack Obama's victory speech

Interactive video and transcript of Barack Obama's victory speech:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shania Twain - She's not just a pretty face

Listen to the song and complete it with jobs. Click on the picture below to do this listening activity:

When you finish you can check the lyrics here:

Truths about parenting

A baby usually wakes up in the wee-wee hours of the morning.

A child will not spill on a dirty floor.

An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys.

Avenge yourself; live long enough to be a problem to your children.

Be nice to your kids, for it is they who will choose your nursing home.

For adult education, nothing beats children.

God invented mothers because he couldn't be everywhere at once.

God invented guilt so mothers could be everywhere at once.

Having children will turn you into your parents.

If you have trouble getting your children's attention, just sit down and look comfortable.

It rarely occurs to teenagers that the day will come when they'll know as little as their parents.

One child is often not enough, but two children can be far too many.

You can learn many things from children... like how much patience you have.

Summer vacation is a time when parents realize that teachers are grossly underpaid.

The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Palin caught out by 'President Sarkozy'

Canadian radio comedian persuades Republican vice-presidential hopeful he is French leader in prank phone call

Perhaps Sarah Palin should have realised something was amiss when the caller purporting to be France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, referred to "my special American adviser, Johnny Halliday".

Later in the call, maybe, she could have guessed that even the real Sarkozy would be unlikely to refer to his wife, Carla Bruni, as "so hot in bed" or talk about a supposed mutual love of hunting by saying "to take away a life, that is so fun".

The would-be vice president was, of course, speaking to Canadian comedian Marc-Antoine Audette, part of a radio duo who have made prank calls to a series of world leaders over the years.

Palin didn't give away anything of real note – except perhaps an ambition to be president herself "maybe in eight years" – or suffer any real embarrassments.

It is interesting, however, to hear Palin's eager tone of voice and exaggerated politeness ("We love you! Thanks you for talking to me!") which seemed to go beyond courtesy into sheer fandom.

Maybe Palin – like many others - still can't believe the position she's in right now.

Source: The Guardian (November,2)

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Here's a popular British rhyme often quoted on Guy Fawkes Night, in memory of the Gunpowder Plot:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent
To blow up the King and Parliament.
Three score barrels
Poor old England to overthrow;of powder below,
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

A penny loaf to feed ol'Pope,
A farthing cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down,
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar,'
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head,
Then we'll say: ol'Pope is dead.

[Not so] Funny: How the Markets Really Work

Like in America, some of the greatest British journalists and analysts also happen to be comedians. Watching The Last Laugh with John Bird (in the guise of investment banker, George Parr) and John Fortune (together known as the Long Johns), the same can certainly be said in Britain as well.

This is a transcript of this insightful comedian team who brilliantly and accurately describe the mindset of the investment banking community in this satirical interview. It was especially insightful considering this was recorded last year.

The second video at the end of this entry is the same as the first but it's subtitled in Spanish.

Here's the script:

John Fortune: George Parr, you are an investment banker.

John Bird: I am yes.

Fortune: And as such, you have your fingers right on the pulse of the financial markets.

Bird: Yes, very much so yes.

And during the summer, there’s been a great deal of turbulence, some volatility in the market.

Yes. A tremendous amount

Yes. What has caused that?

Well, you have to remember two things about the market, one is they are made up of very sharp and sophisticated people who are some of the greatest brains in the world. And the second thing you have to remember is that financial markets–to use the common phrase, are driven by sentiment.

What does that mean?

What does that mean. Well the thing is, let’s say things are going along as normal in the market, and then suddenly, out of the blue, one of these very sharp and sophisticated people say, “My GOD! Something AWFUL is going to happen! [Grasps face in despair] We’ve lost EVERYTHING! My God, what are we going to do, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

Shall I jump out of the window?

Shall I jump out of the window. EXACTLY! Let’s all jump out of the window! SELL!






Sell. Yes. Precisely. And then a few days later, this same sophisticated person says, (calmly and pleasantly) “You know, I think things are going rather well.” And everybody says, “You know actually I think I agree with you.” “You know, I think we’re rich.” “We’re rich.” “Yes!”

Rich! Yes! BUY, BUY, BUY!

BUY, BUY, BUY! Yes. And that is what we call market sentiment.

Yes. Well, surely we are exaggerating just a bit, aren’t we?

Well, I don’t know. IN August of this past year, when the market actually plunged in London, the well-known city firm, the State Streets Global markets issued a statement in which it said, and I quote, “Market participants don’t know whether to buy on the rumor and sell on the news, do the opposite, do both, or do neither depending on which way the wind is blowing.”

Yes. And this is the kind of rigorous analysis we’ve come to expect and we’ll pay huge salaries for.

Exactly.And a few days later when the markets have gone up a little bit, the senior equities advisor on ABM Ambro Morgan said, “We’re back to happy days again.” [Smiling pleasantly]

Well, no price is too high for that kind of mature wisdom.

Certainly. This kind of people are paid millions of pounds in bonuses.

Yes of course. There have been actual causes behind the volatility in the markets Specifically and especially in America, granting vast numbers of mortgages to people who can’t afford them on properties which are diminishing in value.

Yes. This is the so-called, sub-prime market.

How does that work in fact?

Well, imagine if you can, let us say an unemployed man, sitting on a crumbling porch somewhere in Alabama in his string vest, and a chap comes along and says “Would you like to buy this house before it falls down and won’t you let me lend you the money?”

And is this chap who says this, is he a banker?

Oh no, no, no. He’s a mortgage salesman. His income depends entirely on the number of mortgages that he can arrange.

So his judgment to arrange mortgages is completely objective.

Completely objective. Yes. Absolutely, yes. Yes.

And what happens next?

Well then this debt, this mortgage, this debt is taken, bought up by a bank and packaged together on Wall Street with a lot of other similar debts.

Without going into much detail about what is actually…

Without going into any detail. No, that’s far too boring. And so this is put into a package of debt and then it’s moved on to Wall Street and this is, it’s extraordinary what happens and somehow, this package of dodgey debts stops being a package of dodgey debts and starts being called a Structured Investment Vehicle.


An SIV, exactly.

Yes I see, and then someone like you, comes along and buys it.

Yes, I buy it yes, and I’ll ring up somebody in Tokyo and say, “Look, I’ve got this package, do you want to buy it?” And they’ll say, “What’s in it?” I’ll say, “I haven’t the faintest idea.” And they say, “How much do you want for it?” and I’ll say, “I want $100 million dollars,” and then they say, “Fine.” That’s it. So that’s the market.

And presumably this package–that kind of thing can happen several times to the same package.

Quite possibly yes.

And, every time it does of course then you or someone like you would get a fee, and a mark up and–

And a profit, yes. You don’t expect me to do it for nothing. It’s hard work…

In view of the fact that in these packages is a lot of dodgy debt, what is it about it that attracts the financial risk takers?

Well, because these hedge funds as they’re called which specialize in these debts–they all have very good names.

You mean they’re responsible companies.

No no. It has nothing to do with their reputation. They have actually very, very good names–the names they think up are very good. I’ll give you an example. There’s a very well-known American Wall Street firm called Bear Stearns, who have two of these hedge funds which specialize in these mortgage debts and they lost so much money, well, lost so much of the value that Bear Stearns announced they would have to put in $3.2 billion dollars into one of the funds to try to keep it afloat.

$3.2 billion dollars?

$3.2 billion, yes. And even then, they said the investors couldn’t get any money out of it, and they were going to let the other fund go. BUT, one of these funds was called The High Grade Structured Credit Strategists Fund, and the other was called the High Grade Structured Credit Enhanced Leverage Fund.

Well that sounds very good. That sounds very trustworthy.

This is the magic of the market. What started off as loaning a few thousand dollars to an unemployed man in a string vest has become the High Grade Structured Credit Enhanced Leverage Fund.

I like the sound of it.

It is good. It sounds very trustworthy. It’s got good words in it. It’s got words like High.

High is good.

High is good. Better than low anyway, and structured is another good word.

Very good.


I love enhanced. I’d buy anything if it said ‘enhanced’.

Absolutely. It might have been different if you’d have said the Unemployed Man In A Stringy Vest Fund, but–

Well, yes because then alarm bells might sound…ring. Despite these very plausible names, surely the reality is that the people that lent all this money are being incredibly stupid.

Oh, no. NO, no. The reality is what’s stupid is at some point someone asks how much money these houses are actually worth. If they hadn’t bothered to ask that question, then things could have gone on as perfectly normal, but unfortunately they did.

I see, but now people you see are saying the crisis is likely to turn into financial meltdown, I mean can that be avoided?

It can be avoided, provided that governments and central banks give us, the financial speculators back the money that we’ve lost.

But isn’t that rewarding greed and stupidity?

No. No. It’s rewarding what Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the ingenuity of the market. We don’t want this money to spend on ourselves. We want this money just to go into the market so that we can carry on borrowing and lending money as if nothing had happened, without thinking too much about it.

Yes, but if the worse came to the worse and you didn’t get this money, what then?

Well, then there’d be another market crash and then I’d say to you what I always say to people I meet–that it’s not us that will suffer. It’s your pension fund.

Thank you very much George Parr.