A New Vision

In the middle of this battle for financial confidence, all hands are on deck fighting to preserve capital.  Now that the battle is being waged, rather than spending all our capital trying to eke out a return, it may just be time to dream.

What kind of a world do we want to live in and what will it take to make it happen?  Beyond the mark-downs, beyond the lay-offs, beyond the bursting of this over leveraged bubble, how do we really want to live?

On the BBC web-site today came the following announcement:

Mammals facing extinction threat

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Barcelona

Caspian seal (Simon Goodman/Leeds University/Caspian International Seal Survey)
The seas are one of the ecosystems threatened by human activities

At least 25% of the world’s mammal species are at risk of extinction, according to the first assessment of their status for a decade.

Whilst we are all impacted by the events taking place around the globe in the financial markets, we could be in an even worse position.  Do we want to create real lasting wealth or do we want to create ilth? 

Rather than strangling business with more regulation and taxation, now is the time to increase rewards to those who create real, lasting value.  Which ever candidate wins the White House, this should be the real focus of the platform – wealth and value creation – in people, in education, in health, in the environment, in art, and in science.  Rather than creating hostile forces that punish companies for the business they are in, create incentives for transforming each and every business.  Rather than relying on government to clean up every mess, let the private sector take the risk and reap the reward. 

The deal between WB and Wells should be allowed to fly and it should be allowed to take place at speed.  Dithering only reduces the value of both institutions.  Together, they will be able to set an example for others to follow.

In fact, this may be the beginning of new co-operation around the globe.  It is clear more than ever before that we are all interconnected.  If we work together, there will be no end to what we can achieve.  Forget the talk about the coming recession.  This is the time to sow the seeds of a new beginning.  Americans cannot live in a world without hope.  They don’t need more talk about reality which is staring them clearly in the face.

As I look out my window, the mountain beckons from across the lake. A mist is rising to meet the clear blue holes poking through the clouds.  Sheep are grazing below in a green field peacefully.  The oak tree stands tall beside the water with its limbs seeking to touch the sky.  Contrary to all the evidence in our financial markets, the sky is not falling.  The earth is full of God’s glory.  Perhaps it’s time we sat back and took stock of the vast wealth that resides in our backyards.  Every journey starts with a single step.  Take off the black hat of doom and breath the air while you still can. 

This is not 1929 and we will not be down for long.  We have a golden opportunity to dream a new dream and each and every person on this planet is part of the story.  Let America start the ball rolling.  And when we dream, let us follow through and help everyone we meet along the way realise their dreams too.


A Sharp Merchandiser Could Cure SHLD

SHLD is a languishing star and needs a good kick up the backside.  No yard sale can cure its ills. It has strong core assets – Lands End, Craftsman Tools and Kenmore Appliances are stalwarts.  The problem is lack of investment in people, property and merchandising.

Go into a Sears store and you will not find anyone to help you and those souls stuck at the till are forced to do nothing but ring up the sale.  No knowledge is being deployed on the floor or off. I tried to find infant clothes for a one year old child while shopping this Christmas.  Other than seasonal garments, I found the organisation of apparel appalling.  It was impossible to find light cotton clothing in an infant size 1.  What I wouldn’t have given for a properly organised display and some help on the floor.  The sales floor was completely empty.

Properly trained and motivated staff on the floor could go a long way to stem the bleeding.  Add a touch of merchandising and a little spit and polish and SHLD will sparkle brightly again.


Time for Galt’s Gulch? European Vultures Feast on MSFT

Europe is hungry, hungry for cold hard cash.  MSFT has just the dope.  No, they haven’t committed a crime.  Is anyone forced to buy MSFT?  Have they hurt the consumer?  The last time I looked, prices for new PC’s had cratered to all time lows.  I walked into PC world to pick up a portable hard drive the other night and there were systems marked down in boxes stacked three deep by the till for £230.

The cash generated by MSFT is being used for Africa.  This charity bandwagon was clearly resented by the snubbed noses of the European Commission who said, ” We have poor fellows too.” Aid not trade has backfired.  Too much aid and not enough trade in Africa and now even the nouveau riche want aid.   

Where are those cigarettes with dollar signs?  Where is John Galt?  Certainly not in the bleeding EC.



The animals continue their quiet take over of our realm, though their boldness grows daily.  Under cover of the long grasses in the meadow leading down to the lake, an insurgency of alarming proportions is under way.  In the mild winters, the rabbits no longer need to burrow, so their young are streetwise from the start. They hang about chewing weed with flagrant disregard of farmer or passing tourist.  To the north of the fileds, where a prime heap of muck was gradually worked to the ground last year, the grass is shorter, but lush and fat. This is quality dope to these teenage long ears. You might think it would be enough to satisfy their cravings for sensation, but not a bit of it. They have set their sights on the herb garden to the south. This is the ˜hard stuff” of the plant world, so it is well guarded with stone walls and wire fencing across the old sheep gate. The rabbits can break through defences of this sort on their own, so they’ve enlisted help. From the north a clear and determined track has appeared through the waving grass of the meadow.  The wooden sills and posts of the gate are under attack from that JCB of earth movers, the badger.  Old Brock has no business of his own down here, so he evidently been persuaded by these layabouts to show the gang what he’s capable of.  It’s most unfortunate.

Meanwhile, after months of harassment from mother swallow, and her rather embarrassed husband (who, after all, did choose to build his nest just inches from the lintel of our door and then scream at us every time we went in or out), the young have fledged.  Having tiptoed in and out for so long, and been dive bombed by a screeching mum, it’s a relief to go by without getting an earful, albeit that we now have to wade knee deep through guano.  The kids do come back to the nest in the evening or during the persistent downpours of this lamentable summer, but we feel sorry for them. They now seem to be the ones getting the earful. I fear they’ll go the way of the rabbits and become bolshy. Come September mum will be trying to get them lined up for that old tradition – family Chritmas in Morocco.  But they’ll be unimpressed with the thought of 3,000 miles of sweating it out trying to work out where they are by sun and stars – all that trigonometry and parental chiding – and nothing but foreign bugs and dust storms at the end of it. They’rere clearly already discussing the benefits of Sat Nav, GPS and i-phones with the in-crowd at the north end.  Maybe our Christmas card will have a swallow on it this year!



What do you do when it has rained for days with no sign of stopping?  I was on the phone with a friend from across the water when I heard a bleating sheep pass my window.  Not so unusual for the Lakes BUT not in front of my window.  I looked out and there was a whole herd running down the road.  Sally, our Estate Manager, quickly reined them into a holding bay.  HELP!  They were eating the trees and literally taking whole cleavers and sucking them down.  I raced downstairs.  A local farmer just happened to drive by.  We walked them back to their field in the pouring rain – me with a stick looking stern at the back, Sally bravely opening the gate, and Bill leading the gang in the car.  Three fields down there was a two meter gash in the wall.  A couple of pallets were found to fill in the gaps…. Onto the real story – Crag Head, part of the Brantwood Estate, is total heaven.  The path is a feast for the eyes – every colour of green sparkling in the wet cloud.  The terraced landscape and earthen rock paths (it is solid rock beneath) make each step a treat.  The higher one goes, the more varied the landscape.  The closer to Crag Head the more open the moorland.  Right now the bog asphodel is bright yellow, there are a few pink flowers on the heather, the orchids are tall and bold in their pale purple splendour and the juniper trees look wild in the wind.  The glacial erratic at the top reveals a 360 view of all the mountains surrounding.  Now I know why Ruskin said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather only different kinds of good weather.” Brantwood, Coniston, 7 July 2007

Previous Letters