Sunday, 26 December 2010

Top tips for travellers to Euro Disney

Some essential do's and dont's for Disneyland Paris

Do get there early to avoid the longest queues.

Do take advantage of the Fastpass where available. These are free and will help to limit waiting times for the most popular rides.

Do prepare for some disapointment if you have children under about 1.40m. The height restrictions seem quite arbitrary with similar rides having very different requirements.

Don't expect any sympathy when your offspring are refused entry, you will more likely receive a curt 'Non' as you are summarily waved away.

This brings me to another Disney mystery: who decided to site the Disney Resort adjacent to a city that prides itself on having the rudest and most sullen inhabitants in Europe? Don't expect much smiling 'Have a nice day' round these parts.

Don't forget any belongings when leaving the rides. Although other holidaymakers will likely hand them in when found, some attendants appear to see recycling other peoples possessions as a legitimate perk of the job (along with refusing children entry to rides).

Do try to avoid school holiday periods. Another consequence of being located so close to Paris, are the gangs of teenagers milling around at certain times. Queue jumping becomes rife and is tolerated by most. It is also noticable how the same ride attendants that take such pleasure in policing the height restrictions quickly absent themselves when these unpleasant groups are around.

Do enjoy yourself, there's plenty of entertainment and some great rides with most ages well catered for.

Don't let me put you off (well, maybe just a little).

Monday, 13 December 2010

Cancun: Life on the beach can't be that serious.

Another Climate Change Conference ends but this time we have the prospect of achieving something meaningful.

With a Democratic White House it should be no surprise that the US has quietly allowed things to happen, but there are another 12 months negotiating before the next shindig in Durban, and the Republican Senate may still be able to impose limits to any final treaty.

But progress is fine, however small. 

One proposition that stands out is the notion of paying countries to halt deforestation.

This sounds great but how it would be funded and policed is quite another story. The issues of illegal logging and corrupt local authorities are two of the real barriers to rainforest preservation.

At least the need for such measures has been addressed, and this despite the obvious distractions of a luxurious Mexican beach resort.

Perhaps when future conferences are held, the venue could be somewhere more in keeping with the task at hand.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Global warming and the disappearing snowmen

The snow outside is starting to recede. From being over a foot deep it is now turning to slush and ice as daytime temperatures slowly climb above freezing.

This was the fourth heavy snowfall in less than two years, and for the South of England, where these events were previously counted by the decade, it's proved quite a shock. Roads and airports have been closed, with children sent home from school, and now more severe weather is on the way.

And all this as our planet is getting warmer, which raises one important question:

Where are all the snowmen?

These cheerful fellows usually arrive with the very first snowfall.

As if by magic they appear in gardens and parks, standing motionless, sporting scarves and hats, coal black eyes staring and somehow growing daily, until the local children tire of patting and pampering them. Then that's where they remain, ready to shrink and crumble as the green grass returns around them.

But not any more.

In all my surrounding neighbourhood, I have seen just a couple of these chilly chaps, neglected and lonely, each rise in temperature drawing them closer to the ground.

Children have already learned to accept the snow as quickly as they learn to use a computer or mobile phone. Yes, they still like to play and have snowball fights, but build a snowman?

That's just a childish chore.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

WikiLeaks: the Presidents defense

And so it goes on.

More leaks and embarrassment, an ever larger stock of published material, and it has to be said, that in these days of heightened security, the amount of data being moved undetected to the WikiLeaks servers is quite astounding.

The US say they have blocked the source [a State Department database] but do not yet know who the Source is and it certainly brings into question how a single email loop between cyber-smart terrorist conspirators could ever be tracked effectively.

It's all very intriguing, and in true spook style, Julian Assange (WL founder) is now wanted on various sex charges in Sweden - which just happens to be the country which protects whistle blowers and where he hopes to reside.

You couldn't make it up?
Actually you could and plenty of film makers have... Next he wakes in a hotel room with a dead hooker in the bed beside him and no memory of how either of them got there. Just hope he remembers to check under any cars he rides in.

But what's all the fuss about?

Why don't the Government just advise everyone to adopt the Ronald Regan defence.

"What conversation?", "I don't recall writing that memo" or "I have no recollection of sending that email" should do fine.

Life was so much simpler before the Internet.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Ireland's EU debt.

Anyone travelling through Ireland this century, will have witnessed for themselves, a major cause of the present economic difficulties.

Every country lane is flanked by Ponderosa style homes, far removed from the more humble dwellings of only a few years before. Roads that once required careful pothole dodging are now fit for the growing numbers of new cars, leaving detached garages, down ever longer drives.

And this is not neccessarily the rural hinterland of any large and prosperous commercial centre. A journey through the Republic's more remote counties looks just the same: new houses built to high specs and large floorplans, with no obvious signs of where the money came from.

But now we know what most of us suspected.

The Celtic Tiger was financed the same way that the housing boom was; with 'cheap', borrowed money.

Now, in the UK this boom and bust has been part of a natural economic cycle, where the rich get richer and the poor get shafted, but in Ireland there had always been lower, more realistic expectations which had prevented such disasterous economic mismanagement.

So what has changed?

How have the prudent and generally thrifty Celts, allowed themselves to be so seduced by the spend it, even if you haven't got it, mentality?

The EU must shoulder much of the responsibility for this cultural change.

Euro inflation, such as Spain and others have also experienced, has left prices climbing to some European norm, beyond any rational or sustainable level.

Why though, just because the currency is the same, do prices need to be similar?

Prices in the North of England have traditionally been significantly less than in the South, yet it is the same country with the same currency. Why then, do member states of the EU find prices skyrocketing to meet those of their EU neighbours?

The other great contributor has been EU policies on grants and subsidies.

Farming and 'developing' communities have long been used to these handy little earners, and it's not difficult to see how the business of making the most of what was availble led to them taking advantage of easy loans, simply because they were there.

But the day of reckoning had to come, and Ireland is now finding the difference between accepting free handouts, and taking loans which eventually have to be paid back.

And isn't it also Murphy's Law which states that this will happen "At the worst possible time"?

Friday, 29 October 2010

Barack on the Box

Serving first term US President appears on popular comedy show.

Initial reaction to this headline might be 'Does he not want a second term?'

But no, this was Jon Stewart's Daily Show and President Obama was seeking a much needed boost to his party's popularity, before the coming midterm elections.

Here in the UK it's rare to see the President in such 'relaxed' settings and it was good to note that he still has the look of the knowledgeable and determined politician that we saw all those months ago, but things have moved on and the initial euphoria has certainly subsided.

He is starting to adopt the world weary air that comes with the territory but it was abundantly clear that his team are there, not to tell him what to do, but rather, how to get things done.

What puzzles me is how the Democrats have cornered the market in personable and intelligent presidents, when the majority of recent Republicans appeared to need an adviser to tell them when to pee.

Very strange.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Benefits of Housing the poor

So it's official, Boris Johnson has gone native.

He's only been in the job a few years and now he wants to keep the poor and undeserving in their plush London houses, paid for by our taxes.

Interesting thought, but what's really going on here?

Boris has complained that low income families will be forced to leave the capital in some Kosovo style exodus.

If the Cap fits

Now, it's not for me to be cynical about this sudden change of heart from our elected Mayor, but it's difficult not to speculate that his real issue is not the re-locating of probable Labour voter from the Tory constituencies, but the removal of so many people working for minimum wages.

As with any other old Etonian, Boris must indeed be mightily concerned that this pool of poor workers will be forced to leave the Royal Boroughs and their surrounds, but the 'Ethnic Cleansing' that most concerns them is possibly nothing more than the worry of how much extra they will need to pay their East European cleaners for their extended journeys.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A Texas Hold Up at the Stretford end?

So the deal is done, Wayne went all-in and the Glazers folded.

Sounds easy, too simple to be true, but that's exactly what happened, and who is any the better, or worse, for it?

Rooney is certainly better off.

His lack of form and extra time activities, have led to a valuation spiralling towards the £25m that Everton sold him for, as a mere 18 year old. Now he earns more than he's worth, with his club again hoping that their investment gamble will eventually pay off.

And United?

Well, they've taken a punt in the hope that Wayne's world will turn full circle and they can sell him on or win enough to keep him on-board.

But if the decline continues, they are in the deepest of deep doodoo.

How long before those playing better than him demand similar wages? How long before his very presence becomes divisive and demoralizing?

And what about Paul Stretford?

Agent provocateur, man on a mission, touch me and I'll chop yer legs off, or disgruntled businessman out to prove he's worth his percentage.

There's little doubt that Joe Cole's recent free transfer from Chelsea has made clubs wary of players refusing to sign new contracts, and this strengthened the player's position, but it still takes some bottle to go all in, and win.

It may be some time before the Glazers know if they gambled wisely, but I already know who won't be invited round for a 'friendly' game of poker at my place.

Number One

Well, here we are.

Half term and the kids are home, it's tipping rain so I'm about to try this blog thingy.

What's been happening then?

Recent announcement of £80bn cuts over the next four years, a significant figure but far less than we lent/gave to the banks. There's also speculation that those forced investments may turn to profit over a similar time-frame, hmm.

Does that mean the next election will be preceded by hefty tax cuts and other inducements with special thanks to those wonderful bankers and captains of industry who made it all possible?

I'm already getting tired of this blog thingy.