Monday, April 08, 2024

What's in a Nm?

 In 2021 the giant investment firm Standard Life Aberdeen decided to be more cool, cutting-edge and dynamic. Naturally, they did not bother to upgrade their systems, develop smarter market-trading algorithms or make a stand against short-termism in UK financial decision making. No, they changed their name. Out went the old-fashioned, though highly respected, name of Standard Life. Joining it in the bin were all the vowels from Aberdeen. Even the hopelessly outmoded capital letter had to go. An entity to be known as "abrdn" was born. 

This column subjected the directors of abrdn to a blast of derision and contumely, not least because I happened to be a long-standing investor in this firm and was not consulted. That should have resulted in the instant sacking of their branding consultants and an emotional reconciliation with all those discarded letters. Sadly, it did not. I had to assume that that was the end of the matter.

I was wrong. For others also found the change of name risible.  It seems that abrdn has become a figure of fun in the financial world and that though the change was three years ago, sniggers follow the abrdn managers as they queue up at coffee bars, guffaws are stifled as their thrusting young executives limber up in front of PowerPoint presentations and even in the hallowed clubs of Pall Mall, newspapers are hastily raised to mask the contorted features of rival chairmen as they chortle at the entrance of one of the vowel-less ones.  And now, the jibes and the jollity have taken their toll. Like a football manager savaging his critics after yet another dreary and well-deserved 2-1 home defeat, the man from abrdn he say "No more".

source: The Guardian

Childish jokes? Me?? I made some rather adult (in the sense of being grown-up and sophisticated, not the other sort)  comments, righly pointing out that it was ludicrous for the company to shorten its name to something unpronouncable while its chief executive continued to sport every one of the letters that he had had when he started out as a tousle-haired lift-boy thirty years earlier.

Corporate bullying? There's 5,000 people working for abrdn. All I have behind me is the occasionally useful comments of my editor, plus my trusty waste-paper basket. Did David bully Goliath? If these people, with their directors of marketing, their brand managers, their consultants and PR people, their lawyers and tax advisors, their tea ladies and postboys cannot take the legitimate comments of those of us who do actually care about words and the English language, then there is only one way to sort this out. In the car park, right now! I'll trounce the lot of them or my brand is not Rmblngs of Rslp.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Larking About in the Gulf

I had begun to hope that the Royal Navy might have shaken off its image as a bunch of incompetent dilettantes, as explored in my piece of a few years ago, but sadly they have once again lived up to form, as this news item illustrates:

Source: BBC News (edited to fit by me)

The joy of this report lies in that last paragraph (the original is longer but I have cut out the intervening text), the casual "Not the first time ... involved in such an incident".  Surely there is only other naval vessel with a similar record and we must, inevitably, reframe this whole regrettable affair as seen through their eyes.

Jaunty music. Sound of waves slapping against the hull, the hum of marine engines and background sounds of seagulls, drones, rockets fired from shore positions and seamen shouting "Cor, look at that" and "Blimey, there's another one"

Commander Murray: Getting a little sticky, I should say. Keep it steady as she goes, Chief
CPO Pertwee: Aye, aye sir, steady as she goes.
Murray: Any updates from the Admiralty, Sub-lieutenant Phillips?
Phillips:  Got the latest from Intelligence, sir. They say that there's absolutely nothing to worry about, no sign of any hostile activity. And it's absolutely gorgeous weather at Goodwood, racing hard to firm, Andy Murray's just been knocked out of the Australian Open and there's a holdup on the A47 north of Walsall.
Murray: Good, let's keep our eyes open and we should be back in Bahrain pretty soon.
Distorted voice over loudspeaker Lookout here. Harbour entrance on the port side, closing amidships, whatever they are.
Murray: Excellent. Take her in, Mr Phillips
Phillips: Oh golly. Right. Erm, port side, that's, erm, thats ...
Whispers The hand with the signet ring on, sir
Phillips: Of course, I knew that. Left hand down a bit.
Pertwee: Left hand down a bit it is, sir.
Murray: Watch for that mole thingy.
Phillips: Oh lumme, er, backwards a goodish bit, Chief.
Pertwee: Backwards a goodish bit, sir.
Distorted voice: I don't want to bother you on the bridge and all that, but there's another ship just behind us
Murray: Well, they jolly well shouldn't be there, that's our parking slot.
Phillips: Right a bit, Chief, let's slip in around the back.
Murray: You're going backwards, Mr Phillips, don't you mean left a bit?
Phillips: Do I? Now to go left when reversing we have to turn right, but does that mean right facing forward or facing backwards. Tricky.
Pertwee: Permission to point out that we are actually about to ram this other vessel, sir.
Murray: Thanks chief, yes, it does seem to be coming up a bit sharpish...Something like this happened not so long ago, I seem to recall.
Phillips: In Portsmouth, 2022. And also Devonport, 2020.
Pertwee: Not forgetting Falmouth in 2019. Twice. With the same boat.
Murray: Oh, yes, that had slipped my mind.
Collision, voices shouting,steel hulls vibrating, objects falling on deck
Murray: thoughtfully The admiral's not going to like this ...

Friday, January 19, 2024

Dr. Commuter Fights Your Corner

 Dr. Commuter writes:  Although I am principally a medical man, inevitably I have frequently been involved in knotty legal cases and therefore feel qualified to make an incursion into the "land of wiggery", as I like to call it.1

My attention was recently drawn to a rather preposterous claim publicised on YouTube and I feel that a thorough, indeed forensic, examination of the matter will be of benefit to my readers. This is what I was asked to review -  

We are, of course, concerned with the left middle panel. The other images are there to highlight how the innocent pursuits of someone interested in computer games and public transport may be subverted by the obscure machinations of the algorithms used by YouTube.

"Don't Say This" - these three words can harm your defence, claims "BlackBeltBarrister.2 The video is 4 minutes and 29 seconds long but what with the adverts and loading time, that's five minutes of your precious time to invest in ascertaining the secret. You need not bother. For I can reveal the three words - and much more - in just a few more seconds reading time.

Presumably we are considering someone who has been arrested and is being interviewed by a police officer, complete with notebook, pencil, pencil-sharpener, eraser and video recording device. We have reached the crux of the enquiry. The copper removes his helmet (as helpfully shown in the picture), leans back and looks directly at you with that "Alright, chummy, you've asked for it and by God you're going to get it" look, (a look I well recall from the day in my youth when asked to move off the terraces at a QPR match by a determined and rather agitated young policeman 3) and he says:

"Did you do it?"

This is it. This is where you can harm your defence if you reply with the wrong three words. The number one thing you simply must, on no account, say is "I did it" (or if you are the more traditional sort of malefactor) "I done it". Saying this will utterly destroy the cunning pleadings of your brief that it was actually someone else who looks very much like you but who has vanished. But here is the vital point that the video has utterly and inexplicably missed - for there is more than one set of words that will inevitably lead to the handcuffs going back on, the copper closing his book triumphantly and a fresh straw mattress being laid out in an empty cell below. There are, in fact, quite a few such combinations.

Here are some of the other deadly three words admissions that you must not say

  • It was me
  • Yes, yes, officer
  • I am guilty
  • Bang to rights
  • Itsa fair cop 4
  • Sorry, but yes
  • I acted alone
  • I had to
  • God made me or Satan made me. Your choice.
  • I need help
  • You got me
  • Can't deny it

Memorise this list in case you are hauled off the streets and sat down with a anglepoise lamp dazzling you and two officers just outside the door arguing about which one is going to be the good cop this time. And if I have helped keep you from enjoying a spell of hospitality at the expense of His Majesty, any suitable recompense would be gratefully received. But please, no new bank notes, no knocked-off jewellery or rare artworks pinched in a daring heist; a bitcoin deposit or a briefcase of  used fivers will do nicely.

Readers! Join Dr Commuter's Legal Team

Can you think of some suitable three word things that must never be said in an arrest interview situation? Send them in to the usual address and here are some of the valuable prizes you could win:

  •  A cardboard box to keep your wig in (legal professionals only).
  • A pencil stub just like the one real police officers use, with the end pre-sucked
  • A translation of "Not me, copper, you picked the wrong fall guy this time" into four popular European languages of your choice, in case you have a rough time on holiday
  • The address of a solicitor I happen to know who is really quite cheap and doesn't reek of cheap sherry (not any more)
  •  A copy of Huxtable's English Criminal Law (third edition, 1843) with the bits about being hung by the neck until very unwell underlined in green ink.

Terms and conditions apply, and these have not been casually lifted from any other websites, honest guv, and will be made available round the back, after midnight, just after the patrol car has gone by, and don't breathe nuffing to nobody, got it?


1. Though nobody else does: Ed

2. My next video will attributed to "OlympicTripleGold&NobelPrizeWinningDoc" and there's nothing anybody can do to stop me. 

3. Nothing personal, he was trying to get everyone off the terrace

4. Yes, I know, it is four words really but cut me some slack on this one, alright?

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A Promise Fulfilled

 I promised - nay, pledged - to find suitable accommodation for my long-time literary collaborator and amanuensis, the personage known to these columns only as "the Editor", when we upped sticks and left beautiful Ruislip for the rather more beautiful Warwickshire countryside. And here at Ramblings we stand by our pledges. I am delighted to reveal that, after considerable effort and painstaking research, a suitable property has been found.  

It is, perhaps, a little grander than I had first envisaged. Placed close to the river Alne1 and with delightful views over the surrounding flood-plain, it comprises an entirely open-plan living space constructed of sustainable local materials. The property is fully air-conditioned using only natural sources of air and there's no irritating time-wasting required to clean the windows. Although not yet connected to the National Grid, there are ample supplies of bracken, gorse and bog-plants to permit an entirely self-sustaining lifestyle and fresh water is but a few steps away (in the winter it is freely available inside).

There is ample parking just two hundred metres away in the lane that comes fairly close to the bog that leads into the marsh in which the property is situated. Residents may enjoy a high degree of privacy given that nobody in the area comes anywhere near but local services may be readily found once one has put on heavy hiking boots and trudged a mere three miles to find them (Early closing day Monday, Closed Tues-Sun).

I have no hesitation in commending this site as being entirely fitting to the editorial contribution made to this blog over the past 19 years.

1. Or in it, any time it has rained heavily in the previous 24 hours

Friday, December 01, 2023

Implausability Corner

 The award for most unbelievable denial of the year goes to author Omid Scobie whose book Endgame has recently been published. It recounts the goings-on in the Royal Family with particular reference to the squabble between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the rest of them. A few years ago Prince Harry alleged that "senior royals" had made comments about the skin colour of their expected baby but did not name names. Endgame does not either - but somehow the version published in Dutch does. Or, rather no longer does, because every copy has been seized by the publishers and pulped.

Pic: Daily Telegraph


The British press are being coy about it but of course there are no such restraints on the internet. Photocopies of the relevant page have circulated, names have been named and social media is doing what it always does in such circumstances.

Whether the "what colour will it be" question is racist or not has exercised people ever since the revelation was first made on a popular US chat show. This columnist does not think it was, assuming it was a genuine question and asked in the same way that people always wonder about whose features a baby may inherit, and not followed up by a "hope it's not too much on the darkish side" which I guess is the implication the Sussexes meant us to understand. 

The fascination with the current imbroglio is that Mr Scobie has been at pains to deny it was he supplied the names that appeared in his manuscript. Apparently he had no intention of naming anyone and is utterly baffled that the names of a well-known reigning monarch and the wife of his heir were added to the text. It is being blamed on the translators who have pointed out that they all they do is translate. There is said to be a "full investigation" going on.

We at Ramblings have a well-placed source and can exclusively reveal how this investigation began.

Scene: Amsterdam. A publisher's office. Behind a desk piled high with manuscripts, moodily chewing on a raw herring and gulping the occasional schnappes, sits Sherlock van der Valk. Seated in front, the author.

Valk: Please be at ease Mr Scobie. We just need to clarify this matter.
Scobie: I've no idea how I can help but fire away.
Valk: You submitted the manuscript without including the names of the royals who so distressed the Sussexes?
Scobie: Of course. I haven't the faintest idea who they are. Nobody does. I couldn't possibly have included the names because nobody knows.
Valk: And they were inserted by someone else?
Scobie: Yes. Obviously. I wrote 'And so the names of the royals who were so cruel to Harry and Meghan must forever remain a mystery.' Someone must have sneaked in here at night, picked the lock of your door, found the right page in the heap, tippexed out what I wrote and typed over it 'are King Charles and the Princess of Wales'. The next day the manuscript went straight to the translator.
Valk: And who on earth would do such a thing?
Scobie: A sinister force, that's who. Someone very, very close to the truth who has the means and the motivation to ensure that the names came into the public domain. Someone - or maybe it is two people - with a huge grudge against the royal family, determined to keep this story alive and on the front page. Two people who have already made millions on chat shows using their unique position and who hope to make millions more. But I haven't the faintest idea who they might be, although there is a chance that they might be named, entirely by accident, by a ham-fisted typist doing the Czech translation of my new book.
Valk: New Book?
Scobie: Provisional title The Prince Strikes Back. But I haven't the slightest idea which prince that might be, of course and any speculation on my part would be utterly inappropriate.
Valk: Mr Scobie ... I am convinced you are correct. We shall never find this 'sinister force', as you name him, that is for sure. I think we must close the case. Let us instead turn to the question of who is to publish this new book of yours - I think I have a contract form to hand....