Tag Archives: Switzerland

41p ?

Spotted in the Newcastle Journal of 5th July 2013… a letter from one Arnold Laing of Newcastle –

Twice in recent days I have been approached in a Newcastle street and asked for 41p.

Does this figure have some special meaning ?

Its a shame it wasn’t 42p, because as I’m sure we all know, 42 is, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of 7.5 million years. Unfortunately no one remembers what the question is.

But  it wasn’t 42.  So what significance 41 ?

Not much, it seems. It’s the international direct dialing code for Switzerland, but its probably pushing credibility to suggest that the beggars of Newcastle are making coded references to their Swiss bank accounts.

It’s an odd number to ask for, especially as it would require a number of coins – three  minimum – when it would be so much easier all round to request 50p and get it (if lucky) in one coin.

So maybe its just one of those random bits of weird shit that happen…well, just because they can.



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Thatcher Dead – Her Spawn Live On

Well, I suppose if I can find one good thing to say about Thatcher,  its that she didn’t  encourage the fruit of her loins – the terrible twins Carol and Mark – to follow her into politics.

Carol has followed some kind of career in journalism, as an author (biographies of mummy and daddy) and a “personality”.  A very annoying personality, and one no-one would have entertained on national media had it not been for her parentage.

She did have her moments.

In 2007 she travelled to the Falkland Islands and Argentina for the documentary Mummy’s War...

During her stay in Argentina she met a group of mothers who lost their sons during the conflict and stated, with all the sensitivity of her mother – “We were fighting a war; we won, you lost,” and reminded them that it was their country that invaded the islands, thus initiating the conflict. The interview ended with one of the women claiming that “God will punish her (Margaret Thatcher)”.

And diplomatic as ever, in 2009 she got the heave-ho from the BBC for making racist comments about a black tennis player.

Still, even with the insensitivity and casual racism, she’s like Snow White compared to her slimy sibling Mark.

During the mid- to late 1980s concerns were frequently expressed in relation to his business affairs. In 1984 his mother faced questions in the House of Commons in relation to his involvement in representing a British company Cementation, a subsidiary of Trafalgar House to build a university in Oman at a time when the prime minister was urging Omanis to buy British.

He has denied claims made that in 1985 he received millions of pounds in commission in relation to the £45 billion Al-Yamamah arms deal, a controversial arms sale by BAE to Saudi Arabia which was possibly the largest arms sale ever; he has not disputed that a house in Belgravia , London was purchased for him for £1 million in 1987 by an offshore company controlled by Wafic Said, a middleman in the deal.

In 1986 his mother faced questions in the House of Commons again over her son’s relationship with the Sultan of Brunei. The government’s PR advisers suggested that it would be best if he left the country !

So he was banished to Texas, and later spent time in Switzerland as a tax exile until he was forced to leave when the Swiss authorities started to question his residency qualifications.

Back in the USA in 1996 he was prosecuted for tax evasion, at which point he moved to South Africa.

In 1998 South African authorities investigated a company owned by Thatcher for allegedly running loan shark operations. According to the Star of Johannesburg’, the company had offered unofficial small loans to hundreds of police officers, military personnel and civil servants and then pursued them with debt collectors.

In 2003, following the death of his father he assumed the title of ‘Sir’ due to his Thatcher Baronetcy , a year before he was arrested in South Africa in connection with the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d’état attempt to which he pleaded guilty of breaking anti-mercenary legislation in January 2005. At this time the Sunday Times suggested that he had personal assets of £60 million, most of which was in offshore accounts.

He moved to Monaco on a temporary residency permit.His Monaco residency was not renewed as he was said to be on a list of ‘undesirables’ who would not be allowed further residency and he was required to leave by mid-2006.

He was refused a entry visa to the USA due to his conviction in South Africa.

He was refused residency in Switzerland and settled in Gibraltar where he married his second wife in 2008. In 2013 he was reported to spend most of his time in Marbella.  Arguably, anyone else with a comparable record would spend most of his time in prison.

I do hope someone at the Tax authorities is checking up to see how much UK tax he has avoided over the years.

My god, what a dysfunctional family !

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Almanac – December 04

1123 – Omar Khayyám died. Persian polymath: philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet. He also wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, and Islamic theology.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

But helpless pieces in the game He plays,
 Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days,
He hither and thither moves, and checks… and slays,
 Then one by one, back in the Closet lays.



1872 – The crewless American ship  Mary Celeste is found by the British brig Dei Gratia. The ship had been abandoned for nine days but was  in seaworthy condition and still under sail heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. She had been at sea for a month and had over six months’ worth of food and water on board. Her cargo was virtually untouched and the personal belongings of passengers and crew were still in place, including valuables. One lifeboat was missing, along with its 10 crew and passengers, who were never seen or heard from again.



1971 – The Montreux Casino in Switzerland is set ablaze by someone wielding a flare gun during a Frank Zappa concert.  The incident  inspired the Deep Purple song “Smoke on the Water”.

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground



1993 – Frank Zappa died. American composer, singer-songwriter, guitarist, recording engineer, record producer and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, orchestral and musique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. He produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band The Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist.



Frank Zappa was one of the first to try tearing down the barriers between rock, jazz, and classical music. In the late Sixties his Mothers of Invention would slip from Stravinsky’s “Petroushka” into The Dovells’ “Bristol Stomp” before breaking down into saxophone squeals inspired by Albert Ayler
The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll

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Almanac – November 16

1724 – Jack Sheppard executed.  Notorious English robber, burglar and thief of early 18th-century London.  He was arrested and imprisoned five times in 1724 but escaped four times, making him a notorious public figure, and wildly popular with the poorer classes. Ultimately, he was caught, convicted, and hanged at Tyburn, ending his brief criminal career after less than two years.

His slight build had aided his previous prison escapes, but it condemned him to a slow death by strangulation by the hangman’s noose. After hanging for the prescribed 15 minutes, his body was cut down. The crowd pressed forward to stop his body from being removed, fearing dissection; their actions inadvertently prevented Sheppard’s friends from implementing a plan to take his body to a doctor in an attempt to revive him. His badly mauled remains were recovered later and buried in the churchyard of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields that evening.



1873 – W. C. Handy born. Widely known as the “Father of the Blues”,  Handy remains among the most influential of American songwriters.. While he was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from a regional music style with a limited audience to one of the dominant national forces in American music.



1933 – Garnet Mimms born. American singer, influential in soul music and rhythm and blues. He’s responsible for one of my favorite Northern Soul numbers – “Looking For You”



1938 – LSD  first synthesized by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland.



1971 – Edie Sedgwick died. American actress, socialite, fashion model and heiress,  best known for being one of Andy Warhol‘s superstars. Sedgwick became known as “The Girl of the Year” in 1965 after starring in several of his  short films.

Bob Dylan‘s “Just Like a Woman” and “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” from his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde are purportedly about Sedgwick, and  his 1965  single “Like a Rolling Stone” was also reportedly inspired by her.


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Almanac – July 14th

Bastille Day in France.
The storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris   on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison  represented royal authority in the centre of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint of the French Revolution. In France, Le quatorze juillet (14 July) is a public holiday, formally known as the Fête de la Fédération (Federation Holiday). It is usually called Bastille Day in English.

1881Billy The KidWilliam H. Bonney ( but born William Henry McCarty, Jr., also known as Henry Antrim )   shot and killed by Pat Garrett. According to legend he killed 21 men, but it is generally believed that he killed between four and nine.


1912Woody Guthrie born. Singer-songwriter and folk musician whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and improvised works. He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his guitar. and his best-known song is probably “This Land Is Your Land.” Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg, Jeff Tweedy and Tom Paxton have all acknowledged Guthrie as a major influence.
1918 Ingmar Bergman born. Swedish director, writer and producer for film, stage and television. Described by Woody Allen as “probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera,” he is recognized as one of the most accomplished and influential film directors of all time.He directed over sixty films and documentaries for cinematic release and for television, most of which he also wrote. He also directed over one hundred and seventy plays. . Most of his films were set in the landscape of Sweden. His major subjects were death, illness, faith, betrayal, and insanity.

1933 – The Nazi eugenics programme began,  with the proclamation of the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring that called for the compulsory sterilization of any citizen who suffered from alleged genetic disorders. Those  targeted were identified as “life unworthy of life” (German: Lebensunwertes Leben), including but not limited to the criminal, degenerate, dissident, feeble-minded, homosexual, idle, insane and the weak, for elimination from the chain of heredity. More than 400,000 people were sterilized against their will, while 70,000 were killed under Action T4, a “euthanasia” program.
1957 – Rawya Ateya takes her seat in the National Assembly of Egypt, thereby becoming the first female parliamentarian in the Arab world.
1959Grock the Clown died. Born Charles Adrien Wettach, was a Swiss clown, composer and musician. Called “the king of clowns”  and  “the greatest of Europe’s clowns”,  Grock was once the most highly paid entertainer in the world.


Mr. Frankenstein

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