Sunday, 28 November 2010

100. Allegiances

28th November 2010. Gawd, 100 posts.. I really should get out more..

I see from studying the local weather data (trying to find out when this monsoon we seemed to be locked into is going to end) that the visible moon phase in Bayonne today is Waning Gibbous - which, if I were into howling at the moon, has a nice ring to it and could easily set me off. However, if you don't know what Waning Gibbous means, come and see me afterwards. (let me put you out of your misery - here) Waning Gibbous could easily be an American Country & Western singer as well!

Just to stop us from getting bored, this morning we were treated to hail - in addition to the more usual rain. Is there no end in sight..?

Now, rugby.. ah yes. Last night France were surprisingly hammered by the Wallabies 16-59 (and that's no misprint). I don't think I've ever seen such a one-sided points avalanche in such a short time involving two of the best sides in the world - in the second half the Aussies scored 46 points in 30 minutes (to France's 3). I started thinking this morning about who I support - as, I have to confess, last night I was supporting - wait for it - Australia. Friends in England have previously made jokey comments to the effect that, since moving here, I must surely now be supporting France - but that's not the case. My answer to them? Moving across the Channel hasn't changed a thing..

This is how it works:

When England play, I support them irrespective of who they're playing.
  • When the other home nations play each other - I'd support Ireland first, with Scotland an extremely close second. 
  • When any of the home nations (Wales, Scotland, Ireland) play a non-UK nation, I want them to win. Except for a France-Wales fixture - in which case I might support France (but doubtful).
  • I support France against any northern hemisphere non-UK nation.
  • Now introduce the southern hemisphere.. I'd support any northern hemisphere nation (except France) against any southern hemisphere nation
  • Southern hemisphere nations playing each other? I'd support Argentina if they're playing - otherwise I couldn't give a toss.
In the event that I can't decide who to support, then I usually support whoever plays the most attractive rugby with the fewest fouls. Foul play automatically swings my allegiance to the sinned against team. I must confess that I've never been able to warm to the All Blacks. Look at the haka on YouTube from 20-30 years ago and it was just a bit of harmless folklore. Now? It's been "improved" upon such that it embarrasses me to watch a serious rugby nation like NZ having to resort to the haka as a psychological weapon.. something that their opponents are supposed to "respect" it.. Give me a break! It's laughable. I think their opponents should ignore all this hokum.. and simply continue with their warm-up, read a newspaper, have a burger or whatever.       

Complicated this armchair sport isn't it..?!

29th November 2010. Finally, at last, am I dreaming..? Blue skies are back today - but according to the forecast we're set for 3 days of rain again as of tomorrow. As it was finally dry, I took the dog for a long run along the beach at Anglet as he's been more or less housebound for the last few weeks. On the way home I saw that the Pyrenees - which form a backdrop to Bayonne - were covered in snow..
I read this article today about the precarious financial situation in some parts of the Eurozone.. I wish I could say that I understood it all (or even half of it) - but I don't. For countries to take part in monetary union they had to satisfy economic convergence criteria - public sector borrowing, budget deficit, inflation, interest rates and much more had to be held within agreed limits. I always thought that these were only the technical financial deal-breakers. How about the efficiency and productivity of the underlying economy? Here's a prescient quote taken from a very readable article written in 1997 by the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements:

There is a widespread belief in the economics profession that nominal convergence - as expressed by the convergence criteria - is less important for a successful monetary union than real convergence. Real convergence encompasses factors such as labour mobility, price and wage flexibility, exposure towards external shocks, industrial structures, and so on. Judged by these factors, convergence among future members of the EMU still has a long way to go. This is important because to be successful a European monetary policy depends exactly on these factors. Without a high degree of real convergence, monetary policy is bound to have different effects in different parts of the monetary union. The very idea of a single European monetary policy would thus become unrealistic. The ECB would come under political pressure to accommodate mutually incompatible wishes from different parts of the monetary union. The result could only be a less than optimal monetary policy and rising inflation and interest rates.

For purely selfish reasons (pensions paid in £££s), I'd welcome a return to the former European currencies - the D-mark, the franc, the guilder, the peseta et al.. When we arrived in France in September 2007, a £1 was worth a worthwhile 1.48€. Just a few short months later, the rate had plummeted to around 1.03€, which equates to a fall in value of 31% (ouch!). It now stands at 1.18€ - which is a 21% fall since September 2007 (OK, a slightly lesser ouch! but still painful). If the French franc were to be re-introduced and the £ returned to its former trading position against it - somewhere near £1 = ~10Ffrs then I for one would be delighted. I'm not holding my breath though about the possible demise of the euro and a return to those old currencies - I think there's too much political capital invested in the Euro for it to fail. If it does though, I think the first country in the eurozone to display any cracks from the strain of supporting other less efficient economies would be Germany.

Wouldn't you agree though - just purely on the look of the former currency - that a 50 franc note featuring Racine:
or a 10 franc note with Voltaire:
is far more stylish than this anonymous and utilitarian 50€ note (worthy of East Germany):
As Del Boy might have put it: "Je reste ma valise.."
1st December 2010. Back to rain again this morning. It's preferable to snow which is what much of the rest of the country has to contend with but I'm starting to get a bit fed up with it now.

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