Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Our firm allows us a fixed number of days off every year, but in recognition of the fact that “some individuals may like to be flexible with their holiday entitlement,” they also allow us to buy or sell holiday entitlements up to a limit. The price of a holiday is the same whether you are selling or buying, and it is a function of your salary.

Most people – that is, most normal people – would be satisfied to go along with this arrangement. But these are finance lawyers we are talking about. I know of people who buy holidays, and years later, when they have been promoted and have a higher salary, sell them off at a higher price.

In fact, since an employee’s future career progression is indeterminate, and since the salary even for a given level is revised every year, I think I see the possibility of a futures market in holidays. Hmm...

In related news, a Google search for <"life, liberty and the pursuit of" -happiness> produces some interesting results: Life, liberty and the pursuit of broadband; Life, liberty and the pursuit of nachos; Life, liberty and the pursuit of catgirls.

Friday, 26 November 2010

I’ll only buy a book for the way it looks / And then I stick it on the shelf again

“It’ll be freezing out there! Go someplace warm, like Spain or Greece.” “It’s way too late you idiot. Ticket prices will have gone through the roof.” “Oh, but it’s a shame not to spend Christmas in London.”

And last but not least, our vacation destination has a system of issuing visas on arrival, which may well be perfectly reliable and legitimate. But I am paranoid about visas and things, and visa-on-arrival looks decidedly shady to me. I am convinced we will be turned back at the airport.

But despite everything, the Quaker and I booked tickets yesterday. No doubt, he has his own reasons for wishing to visit a faraway city at the coldest time of the year. For me, it all comes down to a book. Or more particularly, a book cover.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Fox in the Snow

We are now well into November (in case you haven’t looked at a calendar lately) and London has become decidedly cold. This morning in the lift, another trainee remarked, “It’s so cold! I don’t know how you can come in wearing only a jacket. Brr.”

I did not know that people said ‘Brr’ in real life.

* * *

Last night I saw a fox, just outside our housing complex. It was strolling along the street, as cool as you like. I knew there are foxes in London; I just wasn’t expecting to see one in a locality as irredeemably urban as Canary Wharf.

There are not many things that can make me smile when returning from work at well past midnight, but this did.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


The early history of automobile legislation makes for diverting reading. In the United Kingdom, the Locomotive Acts passed in the latter part of the 19th century stipulated that self-propelled vehicles must be preceded by a man on foot carrying a red flag, to enforce a walking pace and to warn others of the approach of a self-propelled machine.

In 1895, John Henry Knight built Britain’s first petrol-powered motor vehicle and while driving it through Farnham, Surrey, was stopped by the Superintendent of Police and charged with using a locomotive without a licence.

On 30 July 1896, the House of Commons debated the speed limit for light locomotives (vehicles with an unladen weight of under 3 tons, i.e. what we now call ‘cars’). Many members considered that 10 miles an hour would be sufficient, but the reckless Mr. Chaplin had other ideas:

On the other hand, 14 miles as a maximum he did not think was at all unreasonable. [Cries of "Oh!"]

The Locomotives on Highways Act passed that year finally repealed the notorious Red Flag Law, and on a wet Saturday in November that year, thirty vehicles set off from London to Brighton to celebrate the event. This tradition still continues in the form of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the longest running motoring event in the world, open only to cars built before 1905.

On Saturday, the cars lined up on Regent Street in all their glory. The grand old ladies, who bore names like Miss Elizabeth and Genevieve, were the cynosure of all eyes, but as is my wont, I was taking photos of the people.