Business & Finance

London Skyline for Christopher Jackson's Blog, The View From Lawrence Street

 

From the 14th June, the world will witness its 21st World Cup tournament, this time hosted in Russia. Football is an odd game to have conquered the worlds hearts. A sport popularised by the sons of aristocrats running around the wet and cold fields of England’s leading 19th century public schools, is now actively played by over 270 million FIFA registered players globally while the World Cup is the World’s most watched event, with 3.5 billion people reached in the 2014 tournament.

But while the talents of the worlds leading male football players will fill the papers for the next few weeks, it is also worth taking some time to consider the impact that the World Cup has on national politics.

The World Cup can exert a powerful affect on national moods, not only on the host nations but also on those who participate. In 2006 as Germany hosted the World Cup, the nation witnessed the first large scale public displays of German flags and German nationalism, or as one German friend remarked to me, “It was the first time in my life I felt it was ok to be proud of being German”. By contrast spare a thought for Brazil, who after financing the World Cup and the Olympics, crashed out of the World Cup against Germany in a 7-1 in what the BBC called one of the “Great World Cup moments”. Not only did the tournament torpedo the reputation of Brazil, it also destroyed the popularity of the national government, and when the full details of the lavo jato or “Operation car wash” scandal first started to appear in 2014, it was a matter of time before the acting President Dilma Rouseff was impeached and the Workers Party (PD) removed from party. Incidentally, Argentina’s subsequent loss to Germany in the final also helped sour Argentine national mood and along with Brazil the country removed President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2015.

So, what is there to consider at this World Cup?  Well firstly its hosts are not exactly in the international good books.  Following large-scale arrests and investigations, it is widely believed that the Russian hosts bribed their way into securing the World Cup tournament this year.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the country remains under heavy international sanctions for its illegal annexation of Crimea, alongside its involvement in the deaths of Dutch nationals in Ukraine and its complicity in Assad’s war crimes in Syria. Given this backdrop, President Putin sees an opportunity to distract the world (and his citizens) with well-executed games. If Russia performs well, the visitors are happy and the matches are exciting, the country will be given a strong platform to re-engage with Europe on sanctions whilst also undermining domestic political opposition. However, a loss in the group stage, followed by further corruption details and stories about Russian football hooligans would further undermine both domestic and international support for Russia.

But Russia is not the only country looking to the World Cup for a reputation boost. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia would benefit from stronger than expected performances, and while the chances of any Middle Eastern Team winning the cup are reasonably low, an advance to the semi or quarter finals would still provide a large positive PR boost to these middle eastern nations.

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Food & Wine

King JOhn Inn Tollard Royal

The King John Inn at Tollard Royal in Dorset is one of the growing numbers of gastro, or bistro pubs with enough rooms to accommodate a shooting party, and good enough food and wines to make a team of guns and guests want to have dinner and stay there on the night before a shoot.  The King John Inn is just one of many such pubs.

Tollard Royal is a charming village with a 14th Century Church in the middle of what must surely be one of the largest concentrations of good shoots in a small area anywhere in the south of England.

Other ‘gastro’ pubs and notable establishments along the Dorset Wiltshire border include the Beckford Arms, near Tisbury, the Lamb Inn at Hindon,  Howard’s House Hotel at Teffont Evias, and the Museum at Farnham.  All these pubs have created comfortable and stylish accommodation and provide superb food and friendly service for frequent shooting parties during the season.

For instance the King John Inn at Tollard Royal has no fewer than 70 shooting parties per season thus providing a very welcome and substantial contribution to its turnover and profits.

Assuming an average spend of £200 per head, for dinner,  bed and breakfast with an average of 10 guests per party, this creates income of £2000 per shooting  party, which  multiplied  by 70  shooting parties per annum generates a  staggering £140,000 of income that otherwise would not exist.

It is therefore easy to understand why an increasing number of local Pubs are ‘raising their game’ and improving and upgrading their facilities to attract this lucrative market, creating a welcome source of income for the trades people engaged in these ‘up-grades’.

A Report on the economic, environmental and social contribution of shooting sports to the UK by Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC) identified the following:

  • 480,000 people shoot live quarry in the UK
  • shooting supports the equivalent of 70,000 full time jobs
  • Shooters spend £2 billion each year on goods and services
  • Shooting is worth £1.6 billion to the UK economy
  • Shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area
  • Two million hectares are actively managed for conservation as a result of shooting
  • Shooting providers spend £250 million a year on conservation
  • Shooters spend 2.7 million work days on conservation.

Historically the larger and longer established shoots are on estates that often had houses designed, or extended, to accommodate the large shooting parties of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and in some cases these are reserved for the exclusive use of their owners and their guests.

However, roving syndicates are more likely to stay in the local pub or small hotel where they receive a warm welcome and good service, and this all adds to the camaraderie of dinner the night before a shoot and at breakfast the next morning, and the anticipation of a great day ahead.

As far as the owners of these shoots are concerned the visiting guns provide much needed income for the estate but also for the teams of loaders and beaters who are crucial to a successful days shooting.

There are few things more appealing to a sociable soul than the shared experience of a friendly shoot in beautiful countryside on a beautiful day, but the first impression of the pub or hotel where you have arrived after a long journey is dictated by the warmth of the welcome you receive.

When we arrived at the King John Inn, it was  nearing the  end of its Sunday Lunch session, and the place was crowded with tables demanding their bills, but the efficient staff, led by Paolo Corgiolu, ably supported by Kate took good care of us, and made us very  welcome, despite the other pressures on them.  They quickly found  us a  table for a late lunch, and we  ordered two ‘starters’ from the main menu, chosen since we were saving our appetites for supper,.  Two glasses of wine appeared without delay and we could begin to relax and take in our surroundings.

 

King John Inn dining area and bar

The simple wooden tables in the dining and bar area

The place had a good ‘vibe’ or dare I say, ‘trendy’ feel similar to that found in London.  I struck up a  conversation with a couple on an adjoining table by admiring their Cocker Spaniel and I asked  if he  shot  with  it, only to discover  that he had a gun on an Army Shoot at the Central Ammunition Depot at Bramley, near the  Duke of Wellintgon’s home at Stratfield Saye which my late father ran for several  years in the late fifties, and on which I  know another current member, namely Andrew Speed.  ‘Speedy’ to  his  friends, was the Adjutant  at Sandhurst, and is now living in a  ‘grace and  favour’ house in Horse Guard’s Parade from whence he organises  all the  ceremonial events, including  the  Trooping of the Colour at Her Majesty’s Birthday parade.

This is proof, if it were needed, of the small world the shooting fraternity inhabit!

Anyway, after our modest but excellent lunch,  we retired to our very spacious double room with a King-size bed and a beautiful marble floored ‘en-suite’ bathroom with free standing roll top tub and separate shower with enormous rose.  This is the largest of the eight bedrooms available at The King John Inn, five of which are in the main building and three others in a converted barn opposite.  All are beautifully decorated with antique pieces mixed with modern touches to create rooms in which you just want to linger.

 

Te King Suite at The King John Inn at Tollard Royal

The King’s Room Suite

Bedrooms at King John Inn Tollard Royal

All of the rooms are dog friendly at a modest extra charge of £15.00

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Lifestyle

 

We were recommended to try Villa di Geggiano by a friend who knows Chiswick well and things were looking good when we found a parking space just around the corner from the restaurant, a unique experience in London, particularly on a Saturday, and put us in a good mood for our lunch.  At the moment Villa di Geggiano is only open for lunch at weekends and for dinner during the week from 6 pm but we were told that this may change when the days start to warm up and the terrace and gardens can be made full use of – they obviously know their market and when customers want to visit.

Chiswick is not an area that we are familiar with so had not known about the struggling restaurants that had tried and failed on these premises.  Some may have predicted that Villa de Geggiano too were doomed but they had not reckoned with the expertise of the Bianchi Bandinelli family.

Their background is from the highly desirable Chianti region of Tuscany, which is already a firm favourite place with the English, so much so that it is fondly referred to as Chiantishire.  The original Villa di Geggiano, after which the restaurant is named, has been run by the family for over 400 years over which they have maintained and developed the Tuscan estate, each generation taking up the mantel to preserve the legacy.

Villa di Geggiano has been running since 2014 and so far all is going well.  A combination of Italian flair and a love of fine food and wine makes for a winning recipe.

Certainly our first impression was very promising – the restaurant has a lovely large terrace at the front which in the summer would be a welcoming ‘watering hole’ on the way home after work.

Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick terrace

 

Once inside we were greeted warmly by the general manager, Lukasz Borowski  who directed us to the lounge for a pre-lunch drink.  What confronted us was a very elegant room with an eclectic collection of antique, modern and quirky decorative pieces – nothing anodyne about this room and definitely a talking point whilst relaxing over a pre-lunch drink.

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

Presented with a list of traditional Tuscan cocktails from which to choose, it is unfortunate that we elected to drive to the restaurant or more precisely that  I had been voted designated driver.  If this had not been the case I would have loved to have tried a Passion fruit martini or Tuscan Devil both reasonably priced at £8.00.  Perusing the impressive wine list there are 8 from the Villa’s own vineyards made predominately with the local Sangiovese grape.   In fact it is believed that the Bianchi Bandinelli family were the first to introduce Chianti to our shores as early as 1725.

 

Villa de Geggiano restaurant in Chiswick

 

The actual restaurant is quite large, serving a hundred diners in the main room and there is a private dining area at the front of the building .   The large skylight floods the whole room keeping the interior bright and although we did not see it, the restaurant stretches further back to another garden at the back – in warmer weather this will be another lovely al-fresco dining experience away from the busy main street. .

The eccentric decor is repeated in the dining room with a mixture of pendant lights and a strangely green felt covered tree structure – we’re still wondering why even now!

Notwithstanding such eccentricities, the service and meal were par excellence.  In fact I can confidently state that I have not had a better three course meal.  It being lunch time I chose lighter options and started with Burrata con Caponatina di Melanzane, which lived up to its meaning in Italian, buttery – a delicious mixture of mozzarella and cream balanced against the light spiciness of the aubergine ‘stew’.  Robert had his favourite Tuscan dish which he always orders when it’s in season, Vitello tonnato  – this time the thin cuts of veal loin with tuna were accompanied with a saffron sauce, apples, celery and baby gem – he assured me this was no disappointment.

For our ‘secondi’ I chose the pan fried Monkfish with samphire, datterini tomatoes and celeriac cream – it is no exaggeration to say this was simply delicious – the fish was perfectly cooked and the other ingredients balanced the dish, particularly the use of the speciality datterini tomatoes with their added sweetness and seasonal samphire.  Robert went off-piste with the special of the day, Pasta with lobster – being true italians, this also was exceptional.  Not really needed but we had side dishes of small roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic and some spinach enlivened with chilli.

Finally we could not resist the puddings, I had the vanilla panna cotta and hazelnut foam and Robert an apple semifreddo and jelly with white chocolate and crumble.

Naturally a restaurant of this standard is not cheap but Villa di Geggiano is overall good value as the food was exceptional.  Our starters were £8 and £12 respectively and our main courses £25  and puddings at £7 each.

Four years on and Villa di Geggiano is still going strong and I’m certain that there are many more treats in the pipe line to offer their customers.

So don’t just leave this gem to the locals – a specific trip to Chiswick is well worth the effort.  Villa di Geggiano is a special place and the closest you will get to Tuscany in the middle of Chiswick.

I hope that they have broken the curse of 66-68 High Street Chiswick – they certainly deserve to.

 

Chef and kitchen staff at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

The skilled kitchen team that produce the magic

 

 

 

Chrissy Jarman Features Editor of The Vintage Magazine

 

Chrissy studied at Southampton University where she gained a degree in Fine Art Valuation and worked for 16 years at Gerald Marsh Antique Clocks in Winchester, now known as Carter Marsh.  Following her departure from Carter Marsh she has been instrumental in the launch of The Vintage Magazine and the design of its website.  As well as being a contributing author she is the Features Editor of the magazine with special responsibility for Arts and Culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business & Finance

 

London Skyline for Christopher Jackson's Blog, The View From Lawrence Street

It was probably inevitable, but the crisis engulfing Facebook is one of the most embarrassing examples of Silicon valleys hubris in the last two decades.

A company that specialises in connecting people, an exercise that requires people to trust the platform as a place to share content, has managed to simultaneously violate that trust and act totally surprised in doing so. When Facebook was first created it was a place for university students to share stories, an occasional photo and talk to friends when they couldn’t afford to call abroad. Today it is a business platform for multinational corporates, a virtual monopoly in the global social media world (excluding the great digital firewalls of China and Russia), as well as the largest surveillance mechanism ever created by man. If the apocryphal tales that Facebook was created by the CIA ever become more than conspiracy theories, I would take the agents out for a beer. It’s hard to imagine them being more successful in manipulating billions of people to hand over the most intimate details of their life than Facebook.

But what do we do about it? Facebook IS the only platform where everyone can find a friend, family member or old classmate from their school days. It also owns Whatsapp, Instagram and nearly brought out Snapchat (before deciding it was cheaper just to copy all of their ideas into Instagram instead). Indeed, the monopoly is alive and very well in the social media space. So much for a dynamic and free market that internet radicals long predicted.

The issue with Facebook is that it has transcended its role as a tech company and become a global public good, much in the way that GPS, SWIFT and Wikipedia have done. This conflict between its corporate needs and Facebooks public nature is at the heart of the conundrum that is threatening Facebooks future role as the global sharing platform.

There may come a time where individuals lose their inhibitions and learn to accept the flawed nature of humanity, such that the embarrassing university photos and awkward Facebook status of one young activist days become nothing more than a source of amusement. But we are not there yet.

In the interim the most radical solution may yet be the one true way to ensure the eternal legacy of Zuckerberg’s creation: turn the company into a global charity with an international non-partisan board. Such a solution has long been muted for Twitter, another social media company that serves a clear public good, but unlike Facebook has lacked the will (some would say ability) to extract the financial gains necessary to ever become commercially viable.

A world where Facebook becomes a utility like Verizon or a charity like Wikipedia is hardly likely to thrill investors and tech entrepreneurs. Then again, few people who change the world ever live to see the real fruits of their efforts.

If Zuckerberg is serious about fixing Facebook he needs to find a way to square the circle between regaining user trust and generating the returns expected by Wall Street.

For a man more concerned about his public appearance than his bank account, Mr Zuckerberg could do worse than consider what Facebook would look like if it became a true global public good rather than a Wall Street darling. The clock is ticking and the users are leaving.

Your move Mr Zuckerberg.

 

 

Christopher Jackson The View from Lawrence Street

 

Christopher Jackson graduated from York University with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Politics with International Relations, BA and is a graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and currently works on financing and developing renewable energy projects.

Click HERE to read Christopher’s impressive curriculum vitae on Linkedin.com

 

Cars

Audi Q5

 

If the Audi Q5 is not looking in showroom gleaming condition that is because it has been doing what its designed to do.  In this case it has been driven around the country lanes of the South Downs to visit some of the wonderful shooting country for which the Cowdray Estate is renowned, including the famous ’chalk-pits’ drive at Cocking.  Be assured that the Navarra Blue paintwork with black leather Alcantara sport front seats is a very pleasing combination, in fact the Audi Q5 delivers on the ‘looks front’ in abundance.

Audi have combined clean elegant lines on this 2017 model, having made it slightly larger than the previous version and added more technology – there’s a head up display, adaptive LED headlamps and the Virtual Cockpit.  However, larger doesn’t mean heavier – in reality due to the use of aluminium throughout the body work this Audi Q5 is 90 kgs lighter resulting in better performance, braking, handling and efficiency.

Better efficiency by way of fuel consumption and lower CO2 has been achieved by their latest development of the company’s famous all-wheel-drive system.  It works by allowing the engine to drive just the front wheels most of the time. When the extra grip from all-wheel drive is needed due to changing conditions, power is sent to the rear wheels via two clutches – one mounted to the car’s gearbox, the other to the rear axle.  This takes only 200 milliseconds for power to flow to the rear and shift the engine’s torque between all four wheels to keep you pointing in a straight line.  Not only does this help improve fuel economy but it helps reduce unnecessary wear and tear on the engine and gearbox.

So all this is good for everyday driving but as mentioned earlier, we put the Audi Q5 through its paces off road and the efficiency and comfort was improved by engaging the optional air suspension which allows you to raise the ride height.

These new technologies seem to have worked as the 2017 Audi Q5’s combined MPG is officially up by 16%, while CO2 emissions are down by 15% – all this and better acceleration to boot.

Audi Q5 dashboard

  • Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 Quattro S tronic

Having driven many Audis it is reassuring to find the Multi Media Interface (MMI) is very much the same across all models although with added sophistication on the higher spec cars.  On this Q5 there is a large central screen with a controller on the central console and a control pad with adorning buttons enabling easy navigation through the myriad systems – definitely need to read the owner’s handbook to discover all its functions!

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Food & Wine

Recently I went to Stockholm for a long weekend.  I am not sure if it was due to the cold weather, my habits or just unconsciously trying to stay professional even whilst on holiday, I found myself constantly in search of a decent wine in the supermarket to go with my dinner, but to no avail, nothing was found. The only thing I could see in any supermarket was terrible-looking non-alcoholic wines or beer. I did come across a wine shop on a Saturday afternoon, but guess what, it was closed at 3pm. Coming from the UK where you can buy booze 24/7, I was in shock. Who would close a wine retail shop at 3 pm on a Saturday?

Then my wine-professional-self kicked in. Suddenly I got it. For years, I have learnt that the Scandinavian countries have government regulated alcohol monopoly in place. Now I realize how it works. The Swedish government operates a monopoly on the alcohol retail sales. Anything above 3.5% ABV will need to be sold through the 430 plus government-owned “Systembolaget” wine shops.

Originally, everything, including the import and export, production and both on and off-trade alcohol sales, was controlled by the government. However, in 1995, when Sweden joined the EU, they were allowed only to retain its retail sales monopoly on alcohol. Therefore, nowadays it’s possible for business to import and sell wines to restaurants directly. But to buy wines to enjoy at home, you will need to go to Systembolaget.

As a result, my trip in Stockholm ended up with only a glass of Spanish wine, three times the usual price I would pay in the UK, from Ribera del Duero in a restaurant. But at least it was really delicious!

Museum of Spirits in Djurgarden Stockholm

Museum of Spirits in the island of Djurgården, Stockholm – Photo credit@Spiritmuseum

It seems like Stockholm might not be an ideal destination for wine travel then. However, to my surprise, I found a little gem in the island of Djurgården amongst all the major tourist attractions. It’s a boutique style Museum of Spirits (SpritMuseum – dedicated to alcoholic drinks, not ghosts). Small it might be but it is modernly decorated and equipped with a tasting room, a bar and a restaurant. I went into the special Champagne exhibition first where you could learn everything about Champagne.

Aroma pumps in Museum of Spirits In Djurgarden Stockholm

 

More Aroma pumps in the Museum of Spirits

Aroma Pumps

Just when I thought that this museum was disappointingly tiny, I turned into the main spirits section and was totally blown away. Admittedly, it is not massive. But I was extremely impressed by the well thought through layout and various aroma pumps that are on display.  Aromas of all major spirits such as Cognac, Whisky, Calvados, Bourbon are there for you to sniff. Then more astonishingly, the aromas of many rare ingredients for spirits making, for example, wormwood, which is for making Absinthe is there too for you to smell. Being a wine and spirits educator myself, I have been dreaming of such a ‘classroom’ to show students how those ingredients smell like.  Apart from the aroma pumps, there are different sections where you can learn about spirits making in an interactive way. Even the sometimes difficult to understand distillation process has been made easier to understand by the beautiful animated film that is on show.  In short, this is heaven for people who like to learn more about spirits in a very engaging way.

Slow baked hake with burned onion puree and pickled onions by chef Petter Nilsson

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the main exhibition sections, there is also a bar and a restaurant called The Dining Room headed by Chef Petter Nilsson who spent 15 years in Paris at the acclaimed neo-bistro La Gazzetta which he co-owned.

Delicious ingredient-focused, season-specific Nordic dishes are served here. After learning all about spirits, admiring the seasonal collections, it is definitely a treat to settle down and enjoy a beautiful and nourishing Nordic meal here. Not to mention that the view from the restaurant is picturesque, which is a bonus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum of Spirits in Djurgarden Stockholm

SpritMuseum: Djurgårdsvägen 38-40, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden.   Photo credit@Spiritmuseum

Current exhibitions:

 

·         CHAMPAGNE! – Until 30/10/2018

 

·         SWEDEN: SPIRITS OF A NATION – Until 31/12/ 2018

 

SpritMuseum: Djurgårdsvägen 38-40, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden.

 

https://spritmuseum.se/en/

 

Leona de Pasquale wine correspondent for The Vintage Magazine

 

Leona De Pasquale DipWSET, The Vintage Magazine’s Wine Correspondent

Originally from Taiwan, Leona has been working in the wine industry for more than 10 years as freelance wine writer, translator and educator. She wrote and translated for Decanter Magazine (Chinese Edition in Taiwan), Le Pin Magazine in Hong Kong and is the UK & Europe Correspondent for the most influential wine and spirits magazine in Taiwan (Wine & Spirits Digest). She is also the translator for The World Atlas of Wine, American Wine and Natural Wine. She obtained her WSET Diploma in 2016.

Business & Finance

London Skyline for Christopher Jackson's Blog, The View From Lawrence StreetOn the 5th of February 2018, the Dow Jones witnessed its largest one-day point decline in its 120-year history. In total, the 30 largest US listed companies from across the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ) dropped 4.6%, a percentage decline not seen since the eurozone crisis in August 2011. Nor was the Dow alone.

As investors across the world saw the roaring US stock market come to a violent halt, stock markets in Asia and Europe started to collapse as well.

Why? What went so badly wrong that the world suddenly lost its cool and within a week almost all global indices had fallen by 6%-12%?

Most of the news for 2018 actually looked pretty great.

The IMF had upgraded global growth forecasts for 2017, 2018 and 2019, while claiming that the world was about to witness the “‘broadest’ upsurge in global growth since 2010”. Global Mergers & Acquisition activity was at its highest since the dot.com boom over 17 years ago, the eurozone grew at its fastest rate in a decade and manufacturing growth has exploded across the US, Europe and the UK.

Given these factors, many retail investors and ordinary people reasonably asked the question: “Why did everything collapse and what should I do with my money now”? In an attempt to answer the first part, we have to begin with separating the event itself (the stock market collapse), and the reasons behind the crash (the fundamentals).

There are many different and authoritative views on this issue, including a very easy and concise piece by Bloomberg available here. My take is below:

With interest rates at record lows, the stock-market continuing to grow at breakneck speed and the global economy expanding, people have thrown caution to the wind and invested in the stock markets. In fact, January 2018 witnessed record levels of investment in the stock-market, as confidence took over and people from all walks of life began to invest. This is where the problem started.

Everyone in the stock market had been waiting for a fall. But knowing when it would come had been a significant challenge. If investors left too early, they would be potentially giving up the chance to make more money. If they left too late, they may lose everything. On January 29th and 30th, the first investors lost their calm and pocketed their gains and as January came to a close, the US stock market saw two days of consecutive decline and its largest fall since May 2017 (a small blip in comparison to what would happen later).

But why were the professional investors sceptical of the market? Here again we must return to expectations.

The aim of a professional investor is to generate returns that exceed what could be earned by investing in a risk-free asset. In simple terms “risk free” usually means bank deposits and the bonds of the worlds most financial secure markets (US, UK, Switzerland, German). The reason they are “risk free” is because most bank deposits are covered by insurance and because these governments are considered financially prudent enough to guarantee that any money owed to investors will always be repaid. Naturally this sounds like a great deal for investors. Put your money into a bond and earn a guaranteed amount of interest. What is not to like? Well the problem is that after the financial crisis too many investors thought that this was a good idea and so as the demand for bonds increased, their price increased. To cut a long story short, when the price of a bond increases the interest (read return) gets smaller. This is where the problem started.

Risk free bonds are the benchmark for professional investors. The expectation is to beat the risk free rate and the more risk the investor is asked to take, the bigger the return they expect (over the risk free rate). But if the risk free rate is extremely low, then risky investments can look increasingly attractive if investors cannot reach their target return through traditional investments. Pension funds are an excellent example of this. Prior to 2008 a pension fund would expect to pay 3% of all its funds under management out to its retirees every year. Therefore, as long as the pension fund could earn over 3% the fund would meet its obligations. Conveniently several types of government bond from the UK, USA and across leading economies were paying around 5% prior to 2008, allowing pension funds to make a 2% profit and meet all of their commitments, with minimal risk. But the financial crisis and ultra-low interest rates changed everything.

 As interest rates dropped to nearly 0% (in some cases negative), investors like pension funds, were forced to find other ways to generate their returns and so they piled into property, real assets (gold, oil, etc) and stocks. Accordingly, the stock market exploded. It didn’t matter that a company was now generating 3% return a year (compared to 5%) because its share price had risen. The alternative was a 1% government bond.

So back to 2018, the key question for investors was this: when would interest rates rise sufficiently that large money managers would sell their stocks? After all, if the interest rate rises then the return from the stock must price in tandem at every step. But that cannot happen forever.

So the magic number was 3%. Specifically, investors began to believe that rising wage inflation in the US at the end of January would increase the interest rate on US ten-year debt to 3%. If inflation was high, the US Federal Reserve would increase rates and money managers would sell their stocks. In Germany the same thing happened when the largest German workers union negotiated an inflation busting pay rise in February, leading to significant stock market declines in the US stock market (the 2nd worst performer after the Dow Jones).

What next?

The financial markets have broadly calmed following their collapse at the start of the month, but the truce remains uneasy. It is clear that investors remain extremely uncertain whether the sharp decline in share prices remains the only price “correction” that we shall see for the year, or if it is merely an early warnings tremor before a larger financial earthquake later in the year. On this question, expert opinion is fiercely divided.

However, for people interested in following the stock market closely its worth looking at whether any of the large companies, famously called “Unicorns” choose to finally go public this year. Traditionally private companies go public when they believe that valuations are at record highs, not when they believe that there is space to grow. So if you see AirBnB, Uber or even Spotify go public, then maybe consider putting some more cash in the bank and out of the stock market.

Important disclaimer here: This piece merely reflects the views of the author and should not be considered as financial guidance or advice.

House & Gardens

At Landford Stone we’re lucky enough to work on some truly breath-taking projects in properties across the South-West. There is no greater joy for us than the reward of seeing the highest quality natural stone taking pride of place in beautiful properties.

Natural stone is much more than simply a ‘worktop’ or ‘flooring’ material, it is, to us, a ‘natural masterpiece’, a geological work of art that not only brings the outside world indoors but brings with it both character and charm. Each individual natural stone slab is unique in its patterning and colouring, which is why we encourage all our private customers to visit our yard to hand-select the slab that is perfect for their project.

We’re thrilled to be able to showcase a recent project, completed at the end of 2017, at a magnificent Chandler’s Ford home. The incorporation of a trio of natural stone materials – granite, limestone and marble, has really delivered both an air of sophistication and wow-factor in this impressive home.

This particular project not only involved a full kitchen worktop installation with striking limestone flooring but also an absolutely jaw-dropping marble entrance hall, staircase and first floor landing.

Magnificent Marble

Arabescato Corchia Marble Entrance Hall

 

Arabescato Corchia Marble

The marble we used for this stunning staircase is Arabescato Corchia, originating from Italy. Arabescato is a white marble with striking grey veins that certainly add a touch of luxury to any project! The individual tiles for this project were pre-cut in Italy from matching slabs, transferred over to their new British home and painstakingly fitted by our expert flooring team. The Arabescato Corchia is complemented by a contrasting Nero Marquina, dark marble inset/border (originating from Spain). The bespoke treads and risers were manufactured at Landford Stone’s factory.

Marble is a winning material when it comes to elegant flooring. It has been used for thousands of years, from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Rome and Constantinople.

Marble is of course a higher priced natural stone which conveys an air of grandeur. It is incredibly hard wearing and represents an investment, contributing to the resale value of your property.

Landford Stone Staircase

 

 

Granite and Limestone in a bright modern kitchen

 

Kinawa White Granite and Baobab Ebony Limestone Kitchen

 

Kinawa WHite Granite Baobab Ebony Limestone

 

This stunning kitchen features our 30mm Kinawa White granite worktops with pencil edge detailing, as well as a bespoke shaped granite kitchen island with incorporated breakfast bar /sitting area.  Kinawa White granite has been hugely popular over the last 5 years and it is easy to see why!

 

Kinawa White Granite Kitchen Island

 

One of our most popular light granite materials, Kinawa, features beautiful grey patterning throughout and looks equally brilliant in both modern and traditional kitchens – this versatility is definitely a contributing factor in its popularity.

 

Kinawa White Granite Windowsill or shelf

 

In this kitchen we also installed a large up-stand behind the work surfaces that runs seamlessly into a windowsill. This added feature of an incorporated windowsill or shelf is a very popular detail and a fantastic way of showing off a bit more of your natural stone.

 

10mm thick Baobab Ebony Limestone Tiles

 

The kitchen flooring is 10mm thick Baobab Ebony limestone tiles, supplied by our major flooring partner Ca’ Pietra and installed by our experienced flooring team.

 

Kinawa White granite Baobab Ebony Limestone kitchen

 

 

CONTACT DETAILS:-

Giles Lane,
Landford,
Salisbury,
Wiltshire
SP5 2BG

Phone: 01794 324232
Skiing

We were introduced to Louise Waldron, the founder of Snow Finel Ski Wear and couldn’t help but be impressed not only with her, but with her range of ski wear.   She certainly has spotted a gap in the market for quality thermals, layers and accessories but without the very high price tags of those up-market brands which we aspired to but somehow couldn’t quite justify.

Made from the finest Merino wool and styled with an understated good taste and stamped with her own unique detail, we’re sure that Snow Finel Ski Wear will  be recognised in the same way that a flash of red on the sole of a shoe is unmistakably, Christian Louboutin.

Now is an excellent time to visit the Snow Finel website as there are some timely offers for this season! (Just click on the photos or logo to go to the site and view  the  whole fabulous collection)

We asked Louise to tell us her story which we are delighted to share:-

Snow Finel Ski Wear

 

I started Snow Finel quite simply because I couldn’t fine anything I wanted to wear!   I was lucky enough to own lots of lovely ski jackets and ski pants but when I stopped for those long lunches or apres ski drinks I was rather embarrassed about the scruffy old fleece and T-shirt combos.

After visiting lots of factories in the Uk and persuading three of them to work with me, I started in 2013 with a small range of ladies jumpers and hats. I launched at the Spirit of Christmas Fair and attended a small number of small fairs.

Having been well received I realised that stylish thermals and mid layers were lacking in the marketplace.  My aim was to create  stylish, coordinating layers which looked fantastic on and off the slopes.

Snow Finel Ski Wear mid layer tops

The range has grown to include base layers, mid layers, gilets, leggings and a range of accessories for men and ladies.

Snow Finel Ski Wear Mid Layer Top

Merino Wool Mid Layer with Contrasting Zip and matching Cashmere Hat 

 

I design all the garments myself and have everything manufactured in the UK. I felt very strongly about this as I want to support British industry.

All the garments are made from high quality merino wool.  Merino has fantastic qualities as a fibre to wear for sport.

  • It naturally regulates the wearer’s body temperature.
  • It wicks moisture but doesn’t cool the wearer.
  • It retains heat but you won’t ever overheat in it!
  • An added bonus is it never smells.

The business is growing organically, I am proud of the products that are designed for skiing but are worn by anyone who enjoys sport. The quest for new products and colour ways makes the design process exciting, as does trying out all the samples on the slopes to ensure they perform well.

Snow Finel Ski Wear Mens Top Layer

Men’s Top Layer in Merino Wool

 

Snow Finel Ski Wear Made in UK

Food & Wine

Lisbon

Lisbon

Recently in Millesime Bio (the world’s largest organic wine fair) in Montpellier, I overheard a conversation between a visitor and a Portuguese wine producer.  After tasting some of the impressive wines which were mostly clean and showing pure fruit characters, the visitor challenged the producer by asking, “with a wine [pure] like this, where is the Portuguese ‘terroir’?”

The question is not an easy one. Famous for its Port wine and infamous for many cheap and cheerful Rosés, Portugal wine industry have undergone some dramatic transformations in the last few decades. Huge funding had been injected into many different regions, which helped to improve winemaking techniques, equipment and vineyard management.

But the Portuguese, long been criticised by some marketing experts for their unpronounceable and difficult-to-sell grape varieties, continue to guard and cherish their native varieties and slowly but surely prove to the world that you don’t always need Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc to win sales.

Focusing on what you have, embracing new technology as well as protecting ancient traditions, one can make impressive wines and proudly show the ‘terroir’.

Portuguese native grapes

The Portuguese are the guardian of their native grapes

 

During my short stay in Montpellier, I thoroughly enjoyed trying the below Portuguese organic ‘terroir’ wines.

Mica 2017 Vinho Verde Vinibio

 

 

 

 

Mica 2017, Vinho Verde, Vinibio

 

Made by a group of four organic wine producers in Vinho Verde region in the northern part of Portugal, Mica is their flagship wine made by a blend of Loureiro and some Azal and Trajadura. “Loureiro” means “laurel” and typically shows aromas reminiscent of laurel flowers, orange blossoms, apple and peach. It has refreshing acidity balanced by some residual sugar (19 g/l).

I asked the producer Antonio Sousa Pereira if Mica is always off-dry?  The answer was, “it depends”.

He told me that 2017 was a very dry year in the region and Loureiro had lots of sugar accumulated by the time of harvest.

Every year, Mica has different style ranging from bone dry to off-dry. They just let the nature take its course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phaunus Palhete 2016 Vinho Verde Aphros Wines

 

 

 

 

Phaunus Palhete 2016, Vinho Verde, Aphros Wines

 

A blend of 80% Loureiro and 20% Vinhão made by this biodynamic producer. This is not your usual Vinho Verde! It’s quirky but it’s also ‘traditional’.

Using the ancient method of blending white and red grapes, fermented dry with ambient yeast in clay amphora, the wine shows some funky aromas initially, leading to fresh cranberries and herbaceous and earthy notes.

I also admire their wine label which shows a Faun (a mythological half human–half goat creature) enjoying some music whilst the vines and grape juice are working hard together to produce delicious wines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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