Bankers!

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“The conservative banker is an impressive specimen, diffusing the healthy glow which comes of moderation in eating, living, and thinking. He sits in state and spends his days saying, with varying inflections and varying contexts, ‘no.’ … He says ‘yes’ only a few times a year. His rule is that he reserves his yesses for organizations so wealthy that if he said ‘no,’ some other banker would quickly say ‘yes.’ His business might be defined as the lending of money exclusively to people who have no pressing need of it.” — Fred Schwed Jr.

 

http://www.gryphonmanor.com/books

 

 

 

Money Lending

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Money makes the world go round. When it does not rotate quite as quickly as you desire do you reach out to a money lender? Or do you loathe the money lenders, the usurers? In his varied and extensive career in the money lending industry, George Watson has seen money lending in all its manifestations and became fascinated by its history and by its various effects on people and societies. Money lending has become an all-embracing all consuming monolith which either serves societies or devours them depending on your view.

Living life as both lender and borrower, encountering people from every part of the economic and social spectrum, there grew a deep understanding of the extent to which money lending in all its forms affects and implicates everyone, whilst simultaneously, society candy coats the activity and avoids the moral choices.

This book examines how life connects us all to the money lenders, how it started, how it evolved and where it is now. It examines the humour, the pathos, the successes and failures of an activity that has affected us or infected us since the dawn of history.

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George Watson was born in Malawi in Central Africa and educated in the UK. He read law and was called to the Bar in 1971. Being of an entrepreneurial and libertarian nature, he went into business on his own account, providing finance to small owner-managed start-up and early stage businesses in London. In 1998 he moved to Cape Town in South Africa to establish the same business in the new post apartheid South Africa. The business was sold to a government agency and now he divides his time between London and Cape Town, consulting, travelling widely and writing. His extensive travel has shown that the money lending phenomenon is global, its moral conflicts and its social hypocricies universal. Read all about it!!

http://www.gryphonmanor.com/books

 

 

 

 

 

A Money Lender’s Tale

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They say that everyone has a book in them, everyone has a story to tell that will fill at least one book. Some people are driven by the creative process and writing a book is an ambition that becomes real. But for most of us, it is just something that sits at the back of the mind, way down the bucket list. Often we can tell a story in conversation and be met with the refrain “Oh you should write a book!”  We smile, gratified that our little anecdote was well received, but that is all. And if, as I do, you have lots of stories to tell so that refrain repeats itself. Then eventually,  one day, as I did, you sit down and write a book.

 

Writing a book is daunting. You stare at a blank screen and wonder what should the first word be. Harder than it would seem! You want something explosive but inevitably you end up with a pronoun or preposition, in my case “it”! Then it pours out like water from an unblocked drain, words engulf the screen until you realise that none of it makes sense and then the real work starts. It’s a long arduous and educational process, endlessly refined. Stories, people and ideas from long ago float to the surface of your memory and you restrain yourself from embroidering them.

 

The creation morphs from simply being a means of talking to yourself, to the point where you are happy that others will understand it and grasp it, and be able to laugh and cry and question themselves about its message. And above all, you hope that the reader will at the conclusion, be satisfied, amused, and thoughtful.

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A Money Lender’s Tale is a story about one life in the world of finance, or rather the world of “money lending”, for that is the true nature of all finance. A world that engulfs us all although we are not always aware of that, an octopus-like industry that we both need and yet despise. Its about the rich and the poor, the small farmer who fed his best breeding pig on marijuana and cream cakes, to the couple selling t-shirts in the market who build a million dollar construction and plant hire business, and of course it is about those whose lives are consumed by failure and greed fed by the money lenders. It is not a “how to” book, not a clarion call to lend money, nor is it an apologia, it’s about a life.

 

You can find it at http://www.gryphonmanor.com

 

 

Bon Voyage, Take Your Time

 

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This little gem of a greeting was sent to me today by a good friend on the eve of my departure for another journey. Those I know who don’t share my obsession with “going on a journey” as I call travelling, have got used to these regular disappearances. They have seen the familiar signs of introspection as I decide where to go and what to do. They have seen the minimal research I do in order to create as much of an adventure as possible when I arrive, and they know that the space they have made for me in their lives, will be empty for a while until I return refreshed and reinvigorated by my experience,, at which time they wont ask me how it was but where I will go next. I will disappear from their lives for a while and they from mine and normality will resume when I have had my journeying fix.

For me the nervous anticipation of pastures new, the preparation, the familiar routines of preparing to go, the nervousness that will turn to exileration as the wheels leave the runway tomorrow, and that wonderful sense of the unknown starts to fill me. What will I see, who will I meet, what challenges lie in store because of my vague itinerary, what special moments, what will go wrong as something surely will, it’s the anticipation of the journey. You start to cut away the routines and events that bind you to daily life, try to make sure that nothing will happen when you are away and turn your face to the unknown. You start to feel a different person, the flavour of life is richer because you will undoubtedly learn many things new and you wont be the same when you return.

I am excited and yes, I will take my time!

The Pirogovo Open Air Museum Kiev

 

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About 12 kms south of Kiev Ukraine lies the village of Pirogovo which contains the Pirogovo Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. It is a 370 acre open air museum showing the cultural history of Ukraine. The site contains folk architecture brought from all parts of Ukraine and reassembled there.

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The setting is rural as is the display, ancient buildings, a church that dates back to 1742, windmills, old houses, art and handicrafts. On festival days in Ukraine there are displays at the site which are well worth seeing.

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There are records of habitation at the sight since the 1600s and its setting is ideal for an exhibit like this. Rolling country away from the city although close enough to easily reach it. In summer it is beautiful with wild flowers walks, streams, horses, all redolent of the times gone by.

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It is an official state museum although the setting is far from the traditional museum building environment. It’s a rally great day out in the country with a combination of rural life, fascinating buildings and real history as it was lived.

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Travelling – Malawi

 

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Malawi sits at the southern end of the rift valley, its lake that runs the length of the country, 580 kms in length, its prime feature. It’s a poor country, in 2015 the poorest in the world and to give you an idea of what that means for a country of 16m people, the per capita GDP of the states in 2015 was $51000.00, that of the UK $41000.00 and that of Malawi a mere $494.00. That is poor. Chances are the computers we use cost more than that.

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It is a landlocked country with few raw materials in exploitable quantities, its main export being tobacco, and the huge bulk of that economy is in agriculture. The country’s existence is an accident of history, a result of the European imperial growth of the 19th century, its culture unique but influenced by Zambia, Mozambique an Tanzania which surround it. It has only ever been poor.

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Having listed all that gloom, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in Africa. The grasslands of the 2000ft Nyika plateau with its wildlife and unique flora, to the valleys and mountians of Zomba and Mulanje, and the lake itself, the centrepiece, long, freshwater and more than 1000 species of fish. It’s a place where a safari is really wild and very exciting.

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Malawi calls itself the “warm heart of Africa” and it is. Its people are renowned for their friendliness, tolerance, and acceptance. Despite all the tribulations the country has suffered in its history, politics, floods, HIV, its people are proud and feel in themselves a uniqueness which makes the country special. Poverty and pride are not mutually excusive. Anyone who really wants to see, feel, hear and experience sub Saharan Africa at its most beautiful and most African, loves Malawi.

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I need to declare in interest here in that I was born there, my parents both working there, that country and indeed Africa are in my blood as they say. Life was not comfortable, all water had to be boiled before drinking, occasional electricity in the early days, malaria and the health risks of the tropics, but the sense of freedom and space and the desire to learn were bred for me there. The beauty of nature and the people teaching so much. The contrasts for mw in Europe were enormous, I found the sight of people locking their doors to go out very, very weird indeed. The last time I visited I arrived at Lilongwe airport, the immigration officer looked at my passport, saw that I was born in Zomba Malawi, smiled, and said “Welcome Home”! It was so good to be back.

What is art?

 

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I was reading a blog about art today which started discussing the perennial question “what is art?” That question is a recipe for a looooong inconclusive discussion in which we can drain all our resources of intellectual savoir faire, as will all the others in the discussion, and end up hours later none the wiser.

Anyone who travels will visit great works of art in one form or another, The Mona Lisa, great galleries of the world, cathedrals that contain artistic masterpieces in carvings, frescos, or just the architecture. We will visit strange lands where the indigenous art is part of our journey and will be part of the enriching experience.

But in the same way that it is not good to talk about politics or religion at dinner parties since it is a recipe for a disastrous evening, so conversations about art can have that same addictive fate even when the discussion is in one’s own head. In the end it is often about perspective, we see something in a gallery or building and we know its art because we went there to see art. It is quite simple.

It all reminded me of a picture I had taken that I posted in my blog about Cape Town’s townships so I played around with the picture for a while and the three outcomes told a story. The first is just a street scene. The second a building with a mural on it, a splash of colour in the grey street. The third is what? A painting? A work of art? Should I go and ask the owner whether I can buy their wall? Should I introduce the person to a gallery? Is it a work of art or is it just a tiny splash of colour in a grey street? Or is it nothing but some person having a bit of fun with their house? Is it Banksy???

I leave it to you.