My history of British Manufacturing

My history of British Manufacturing
My history of British Manufacturing

Wednesday 13 October 2010

On Green Dolphin Street - Sebastian Faulks

I had avoided this book, having loved both Birdsong and Charlotte Gray, but then Engleby won my wholehearted respect. I took both On Green Dolphin Street and Ian McEwan's Enduring Love on holiday and started both. I am going to commit heresy. I found McEwan so well researched it was contrived, but Faulks, surely equally well researched, came to me natural from the page. It had more flavour, smell and touch.

Monday 4 October 2010

Children of the sun

Simon Head offers an illuminating critique of the evolution of English elite to take full advantage of the extraordinary phenomenon of London as the global financial powerhouse.
Societies will always have their elites, but in England in the final third of the twentieth century, it looked as if the elite was broadening and becoming more porous. Head shows how the elite evolved from being simply the aristocracy to include leaders of the professions and financiers. Many of the elite families survived the transition and reinvented themselves. The public schools and Oxbridge  all serve to perpetuate this evolving elite.
What emerges is a society much closer in division to eighteenth century England, with an elite holding the majority of the wealth served by the remainder.
The banking collapse might have been seen as an end to this; in the event the elite not only survived but gained yet more strength.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Stop bashing bankers' bonuses

Today's Guardian reported Lord Turner running to the defence of those whom he had previously termed socially useless. This is all in the context of Vince Cable's speech to the LibDem conference where he stated his intention to shine a 'harsh light into the murky world of corporate behaviour.'
Turner rightly calls for policy changes to bring in the tight regulation which is vital if these massive institutions are to act in the interests of the customers and economies they serve.
It is a stark comparison to suggest that a bank might be bigger than the economy of the country in which it resides.
This is more than the anxieties over complex financial instruments about which I am writing in Broken Bonds, and much closer to Edward Heath's condemnation of the unacceptable face of capitalism which I recall was directed at Lonrho.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Broken Bonds at Port Eliot

At the Port Eliot Festival I read the first scene of the first draft of my novel. The unmoved sea of faces in the audience told me how it needs to bring the taste of breakage. The breakdown of trust is so damaging in many different areas of life. Its web reaches out and grabs the most unexpected bystander.
If we look now from a 2010 perspective, all the cuts about which we rightly moan have their origin in the down fall of the banks. Their collapse triggered the drying up of credit which in turn sent the economy into decline. But what was the real reason? The breakdown of trust?
I also read a completely different reflection on the festival. Can they connect?

Sunday 13 June 2010

Tulip Fever - Deborah Moggach

At the heart of this book is painting, portraiture. The writing seems to emanate from this heart with description that is often breathtaking and always illuminating.
The present tense delivery moves from one point of view to another, as each tiny section of the picture is composed and executed.
The plot is neat; at times it is exasperating, but soothed always by the prose which draws the reader on.

Thursday 13 May 2010

The Little Stranger

I listened to Sarah Waters talk about this her latest book at the London Book Fair in 2009. I had enjoyed The Night Watch and looked forward to her exploration of yet more recent history; The Night Watch is set in WWII and The Little Stranger during the post war Labour Government.
The Little Stranger is written in the first person from the point of view of a middle aged bachelor GP. Its first sentence tells you that it is going to be about a country house, Hundreds Hall; its first paragraph adds the setting of the turbulence of the class system in the aftermath of war.
It has the remembered pace of my childhood: cars that start only with care, doctors with bags, council houses, sensible shoes and heavy clothing. Waters honours the different vocabulary of only sixty or so years ago.
It is a story in which everything changes. Hundreds Hall starts, albeit in memory, as breathtakingly grand and finishes in complete decay. Mrs Ayres begins young and beautiful and ends taking her own life. A similar decay affects Caroline and Roderick, the heirs to the house. What is the cause of the decay? Mr Attlee and the Labour Government, or something sinister? Waters said it was a ghost story. What then is so clever is that whilst this offers the simplest explanation of the strange occurrences, all the time the reader finds herself aligned with the less fanciful explanations offered by the narrator and others. So much so that there remains a hint that the narrator is in some way responsible. The final paragraph possibly supports this.
It is a book written with the weight and texture of a good tweed coat. We spend time with people and places, yet the plot is always near to draw us on.
I look forward to her next one.

Sunday 18 April 2010

FSA watches Goldman Sachs case after link to city trader

The Observer article suggests that the authorities are pursuing the 'architects' of the exotic financial instruments that helped to cause the credit crunch. I would suggest that the architects merely designed the tools for others to use. Isn't it the case of the bulldozer equally useful in clearing brown field sites and removing settlements in ethnic cleansing?

Monday 12 April 2010

Avarice: true villain behind global slump

Now, this is scary, to read in The Guardian the argument on which much of Broken Bonds is based that forget bonuses and deficits, the root cause of the banking crisis is greed. The article points to those looking for a comfortable retirement, amen to that! The point throughout, though, is that investors will always seek the best possible returns and a banking industry geared to serve this market will seek to produce it. The answer is radical and is about fair shares for all. The question is how might that be achieved.

In the run up to a General Election it will be interesting to see whether any of the major parties follow this as a vote catching issue. The point is that we are not talking about bad people. It was easy to point the finger as massive bonuses and crazy senior executive salaries, it was easy to get steamed up about tax havens, but this stuff is too close to home. It's about you and me.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Ordinary Thunderstorms

I met William Boyd at the London Book Fair and had been looking forward to reading this book in spite of some reviews which cast a little doubt over its quality. I think that what he achieves in this book is significant. There is the tension that you would expect from what is I suppose a thriller. It comes very early on and I worried a little that it might lose strength. However, the energy is maintained by the introduction of deep characters and the slow emergence of the 'real' plot. There is revealing description of low life London. It is a book that takes you out of a safe place into one outside normal society.