Tag Archives: Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Cream always rises to the top

I was in one of those ‘nothing interesting has happened this week’ moods when up popped the Oscars followed by Forbes Richest People in the World list.  The thing that caught my eye about both was women (I hasten to add not the party numbers the celebs were donning for the Oscars).   Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director for the Hurt Locker and it was made especially brilliant as she was previously married to James Cameron (who was widely tipped to pick up all the gongs going for Avatar).  In addition there are exactly six women on the ‘richest 100 people alive’ list.  None of these women are self-made; they all inherited their fortunes from their Dads.  How can this be?  At my school girls were much cleverer than boys especially in anything to do with creativity.  Given that they do so many things better than men they should be the ones inheriting the earth instead of which boys grab everything going.

While on the subject of girls my brilliant wife Sally is involved once again in a very worthwhile cause.  Trekking through Lebanon in aid of refugee and orphaned children.  You can follow her progress as she trains, raises money and gets stuck into the challenge on her blog: trek for lebanon.  I’m a huge fan of Lebanon but I don’t buy into Beirut being the Paris of the Middle East.  It’s simply not true, the people of Beirut are incredibly friendly and they know how to welcome guests and party like it’s always the weekend.  Parisians by contrast live up to their stereotype and then some!  At this point I have to mention a dark secret that has haunted me for many years.  The second greatest Britain ever, as voted by a BBC Poll in 2002, actually had a strong claim to be the greatest Frenchman ever.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Dad was French and he was educated at Lycée Henri-Quatre in Paris.  Fortunately no-one French has ever read my blog so my secret should be safe.

Turning back to Sally, she has received generous support from companies like Unilever, MBC, Emirates NBD, Emirates Leisure Retail, MMI and BASF.  In these difficult times it’s great to see companies still actively helping good causes.  Banks here seem to struggling a bit and if HSBC is anything to go by I’m not surprised why.  I mentioned last week about things happening in threes, this is my last week’s tale of woe with the aforementioned world’s local bank (can somebody please explain this slogan?  It’s absolute dogs-do on the simple premise that they are a big, impersonal, multi-national with absolutely zero personal service).

HSBC embarrassment number one.  My cash point card (AKA ATM card), wouldn’t work in HSBC cash point machines.  The advice from HSBC – try it in a National Bank of Dubai ATM; it worked!  You might say smart for offering sound advice but for goodness sake it’s absurd that you can’t get your money out from the people you bank with.

HSBC embarrassment number two.  I couldn’t transfer money through online banking from my UAE account to my UK account, their advice was try before 2 p.m.  It worked, meaning HSBC’s 24/7 internet banking service only operates for around 6 hours a day.

HSBC embarrassment number three.  Internet banking again, I couldn’t get various functions to work.  When quizzed a representative of the bank told me that their internet banking service only works properly with Windows XP, in other words two operating systems ago.  Jeepers, get a new IT department.

I was going to do top five banks but I ran out of ideas after none so having tried and failed to get a car loan from HSBC (they don’t do car loans for companies anymore) I’m going to do top 5 cars of all time.

  • Jaguar E-type
  • Aston Martin DB9
  • Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
  • Citroen DS 19 (when I was a kid I loved going to France to watch Citroens’ trick of rising when the hand brake was released)
  • Mini Cooper John Cooper Works

Which model turns your head the most when inhaling the smell of petrol and burning rubber?

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