Monday, July 28, 2008

Investment opportunities up north

I always thought that Australia was a land of opportunity, but it's got nothing on Scotland. I was there on the weekend and to all those youngsters out there hoping to strike it rich, I say take the next train to Aberdeen via the 'Burgh and you won't be sorry. In the short 48 hours I spent in town, shuffling along Princes St and the Royal Mile, I spied a bagful of excellent investment opportunities. I'll mention just a few of them here:

  • Fashion. Scottish people love clothes (they keep you warm, don't you know) but they seem to lack imagination when manufacturing them. A cursory glance along the shops on the Royal Mile illustrates this fact. Everything's made out of tartan. Kilts, sure, they're obvious tartan territory. But formal wear (including ball gowns), sleep wear, casual wear (including a surprisingly wide range of mini skirts, all made in larger sizes to accommodate the natural girth of bonnie northern lassies) and just about any other type of wear you can think of, is also sold exclusively in tartan fabric. My suggestion: open up a cloth factory and show the Scottish public that black is the new, well, tartan.
  • Furniture. The dominant architectural feature of Edinburgh is a grand castle that sits on a hill overlooking the city, looking very regal and impressive. Lit up by flames at night, it's a stirring sight and a magnificent setting for the Edinburgh military tattoo. In fact, I think it's one of the most impressive city landmarks I've seen, except for one thing - the inside is pretty shit. I mean, really, we poked around inside the castle for a couple of hours without really uncovering anything even vaguely impressive. The living quarters looked particularly drab and I wouldn't have been surprised to see a 1950s TV set in the corner, with a set of rabbit ears antennas and a small plaque saying "Here did Mary Queen of Scots watch Coronation Street of an afternoon." Home renovation shows are big down south, but obviously haven't made it to Edinburgh castle yet - bring on the reality TV I say, the Scots obviously need some inspiration. I have to admit that the regimental museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards was a bit more impressive. In particular, I enjoyed a diorama depicting desert warfare during WWII, which showed a Scottish soldier bravely identifying and then fighting off a German tank using only a metal detector (without the detector the tank no doubt would have caught them completely by surprise). I also enjoyed reading that the tremendous wartime success of the Guards can be attributed to four qualities: (1) Communication (2) Teamwork (3) Courage and (4) Weapons. I think (4) is particularly significant.
  • Children's toys. Meredith and I were the only visitors in Edinburgh last weekend that weren't part of a hen night or stag do. We were also the only ones not dressed up in costume (naughty nurses, devils and angels, escaped convicts and chasing policemen abounded). Thoughtfully, most of the hens identified themselves to the world by wearing pink sashes, halos and L plates. Equally thoughtfully, most of the stags identified themselves by drinking copious amounts of ale and marking the pavement with their vomit. During one 15 minute stretch late on Saturday night on Cowcross St, we were counting hens/stags at a rate of one per minute. Over 48 hours in Edinburgh, that makes 2880 people getting married soon. Our anecdotal evidence suggests that the vast majority of these people are extremely randy. Ergo, in 9 months there should be a proliferation of babies being born in Scotland and a consequent rush on baby toys. If you are a Scottish manufacturer of rattles, there are happy days ahead.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Magnetic Fields

Since I barely listen to the radio any more, it's getting a little harder to hook into good new music. Or any new music in fact. Did anyone else realise that Coldplay has just released a new album? Luckily I know a lot of people with good musical taste, including Meredith, who slipped me a compilation of songs by the Magnetic Fields with a nod and a wink that clearly meant "check out this band, they're hot, so get into it". In the last couple of days I've listened to the CD six times and went to see the M Fields in concert last night and it's safe to say that I'm into it. They're brilliant. If a little strange. And dark. In a kind of light, bubbly sort of way. The concert was amazingly strange. The band came on stage dressed like they were just getting together to eat pizza and watch football on TV. Then they spent 10 minutes ranting about how the airline that flew them from Dublin that morning had lost all of their instruments so they were playing with all borrowed equipment. Then they explained that the audience wasn't allowed to clap or cheer except when the lead singer had his finger in his ear (he's damaged his hearing apparently and applause really messes him up) though we were at all times allowed to show our appreciation by clicking our fingers. Odd. But odder still was the selection of gently acoustic songs they played, including a song about a gargoyle that was inspired by a chihuahua and the occult and an unreasonably chirpy ditty about necrophilia. My advice? Get into it. My favourite M Fields song? If You Don't Cry. It's awesome.