Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Life imitates racing

Never mind boozenomics, there is a especially piquantly named horse running at Cheltenham today. Quantitative Easing is, at the time of writing, the 7/1 favourite for the Coral Cup. Lots of punters will be hoping for a cash injection to stave off disaster, but failure will certainly bring about widespread deflation and maybe even a depression.

Unlike real life (I hope), in this race if Quantitative Easing fails, Deutschland could be ready to step into the breach. Beware Wishfull (sic) Thinking, however.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trollied Tuesday: here we go again

It's that time of year of again, when one's thoughts turn to the equine Elysium, the punters' Valhalla that is the Cheltenham festival.

And, among the other bets on offer, Paddy Power has the customary novelty market on how many pints of Guinness will be consumed over the four days (last year it was a shade under 200,000, which is only a couple of pints per person over the four days - I blame the difficulty getting served there). While in betting terms this is just a bit of fun there is an interesting bit of boozenomics at play here. The number of Irish visitors this year could well be a factor; higher consumption could well indicate that people are feeling that they're over the worst economically speaking.

Interestingly, I heard one of the racecourse people on Radio Five Live last night saying that attendances were up this year, and said this was because at least now people knew where they stood financially. Of course, this doesn't mean either the British or Irish economies are out of the woods (they aren't), so increased consumption of Guinness at this year's event should not be taken as proof of economic health.

There are other factors that might affect the number of pints downed. Unlike last year, St Patrick's day falls during the festival (you can bet on the pints consumed on that day alone); which should raise the level somewhat. I will also be going to the festival this year, and shall try to get the level into the 250,001-220,000 band. (Then again, I've just watched an odds-on Irish " "banker" lose in the Supreme Novices Hurdle so the drinking might be somewhat subdued).

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Me? I've backed the winners in the first two races so I will doubtless lose money solidly for the remainder of the festival. However, there is a horse called New Alco which looks to be decently handicapped for the William Hill Handicap. I'm not sure it will win, but it should make an appropriate Trollied Tuesday each way bet at 18/1.

UPDATE: Predictably enough, New Alco staggered home in last place, reeling like a tramp wondering why Kilburn High Road keeps moving. (My Champion Hurdle punts failed dismally too. Thankfully a winner in the last saved the day for me).

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Quote of the day

This is something I wish I had said.

Politicians who are obsessed by our waistlines, hospital targets, school exam results, health and safety legislation and rationing our fun should beware. This is what Gordon Brown has missed in his quest to woo Middle England. He assumes that we are all Dursleys, desperate for drab uniformity; that no one minds living in a bossy, finger-wagging, repressive, restrictive country if we think it will be a tiny bit safer; that we feel reassured by signs over hot water taps saying “Danger” and we want to be lectured on eating five bits of fruit a day and breast feeding because we cannot be trusted to get it right ourselves.

Bravo Alice Thomson (though the idea that little Cameron will seize this argument strikes me as insanely optimistic). Really, we need more Charlie Wilsons and fewer Charlie Whelans. Should I ever stand for election, I will pledge to do all I can for wastrels, reprobrobrates and deviants.

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Question of the day

Via one of Roy Greenslade's stand-ins: Why on earth would any newspaper, especially a tabloid, be interested in mystery involving the police being called to the house of a major Tory donor after being contacted by an escort girl who claimed she had been cheated and assaulted?

Perhaps I am being a little unfair to Stephen Brooks, and he is merely expressing his disappointment that there is not a proper, full-on Tory sleaze story here. Perhaps.

If we are to have a Tory government - which I strongly suspect we will - one does at least hope for a better class of scandal than Labour has managed. Complicated tax affairs don't really cut it. Although the old rule that Tory scandals are about sex and Labour ones about money doesn't really hold in an era when the other dividing lines between the parties have become blurred, one thing is clear: if you really want proper scandals bring back the Liberals.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Trollied Tuesday: more puritans

One hears some extremely distressing news:

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, is under strong pressure from 10 Downing Street to "make an example" of whisky, gin and vodka drinkers when he makes his Commons statement next month.
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Under the "nuclear option" plan for increasing duty – designed to appease the health lobby and show that ministers are serious about tackling the problems caused by binge drinking – the cost of a bottle of spirits would rocket, along with the cost of spirit-based alcopops favoured by young drinkers.

A bottle of Bells whisky could rise from £14.79 to £23.73 while Gordon's gin, another favourite of middle-class drinkers, would increase from £12.79 to £21.17.

In other words, a pointless gesture designed to be seen to do something, at the risk of annoying large numbers of people. Let's ignore the obsession with what "middle class" drinkers like; we might even overlook the detrimental effect upon those with slighter more discerning tastes - though one shudders to think how much Laphroaig would cost if little Darling caves in.

Making booze more expensive is the least annoying aspect to this proposal; the utter pointless is what really grates. It's not just that gin and whisky are not generally assumed to be the main cause of drinks related problems; nor is it the fact that the recourse to this type of puritanical gesture is generally the last recourse of the political scoundrel.

Gin makers and - even more so - whisky distillers are small but significant business in which Britain is a world leader. (And one notes that this sector does employ quite a lot of people in the one part of Britain where the Prime Minister is not utterly despised).To jeopardise hundreds of jobs in this area for the sake of a gesture does not add to the aura of statesmanlike competence that generally surrounds the doings of Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street. One trusts this story was leaked by the chancellor precisely to give him an excuse to ostentatiously not go along with Mr Brown's lunatic plan; were he to do otherwise he would deserve to suffer the full wrath of the forces from hell.

One does realise that the government has to raise some more money somehow, but the fact that there is no effort to spin this story as a money-raiser does lead one to suspect that the sums involved are paltry in comparison to the totals needed to get the deficit down to... you're not going to carry on reading now are you? Have a drink instead.

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Never mind contributing to the Exchequer. There is something drinkers can do to help lift the country. According to Time Magazine the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver have been the booziest ever.

(Well the writer couldn't find anyone with first-hand knowledge of the Moscow games - being Yanks they couldn't attend, after all; but it's hardly likely that the Russians would have been habitual drunkards, is it?)

Still there we have it. London's challenge for 2012 is to make sure the Brits outdrink the British Columbians. And if our female Olympians can outdo Canada's women ice hockey players, so much the better.

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