Imbolc – return of the spring and a new beginning

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa

Ah, so much to celebrate, the joy of victory over the EUSSR, we’ve already had the Godwinian cheering in the Express about the clusterf*ck that the EU have made of their vaccine procurement compared to Blighty. They seem positively delusional falling back on the idea we are risk mavens. This is a revolver with 100 chambers and a bullet up against everyone’s heads. You can take a lot of risk if you are up against that. I would say hats off to the UK response in one area, vaccination seems to be a stand-out on the success side.

But seriously, fellow-citizens, WW2 is 90 years ago, and if we are still looking at our place in the world through that prism then perhaps we should ask ourselves why we haven’t done much of note since then? Dean Acheson observed there was a problem in 1962. Still, we are busy looking to give away a bit of that hard-won sovereignty in joining the Asia-Pacific CPTPP. Eh what?

It is just as well that we have sorted our shit out with the vaccine procurement. Because we have made such a hellacious mess of just about everything else to do with coronavirus that vaccination is our only hope. Unlike NZ’s 25 deaths to Covid, or Japan’s 5000 on a population twice our size, getting on for 100,000 people down is well up in the pack, but not in a good way. I’ve still never heard a good explanation for how the world-beating track and trace system, staffed by expensive mates of Boris and the finest management consultants £12bn can buy, hasn’t been disbanded and the £12bn given to councils. Or a conclave of mustelids for all the good it’s done. I know wingnuts don’t really like local government, but they couldn’t do a worse job that dear Dido. Take a look at her CV, and its clear track record of understanding healthcare, or even just, like, success in anything. I know scum floats to the top, but normally all it does is make things unsightly, rather than contributing to a higher death rate through culpable incompetence.

Despite all that, I would say round one to perfidious Albion. When Michael Gove starts looking like the adult in the room, you know you’re on the wrong track. Well done the EU. Just for the record, two massive EU cock-ups don’t make the massive perma-cock-up of Brexit a terrifically good idea IMO, but that train has left the station.

Fans of Sweden’s outstanding success in saying boo to the Covid19 goose and aficionados of the Great Barrington Declaration, I am going to shoot any comment promoting that sort of claptrap. Why is this? I know someone in London. The tests failed to qualify her as Covid, but the symptoms meant her doctors conclude it is.  Not so long ago, if you were that ill, you would be in a hospital, but London seems to no longer have capacity, they have virtual wards, where doctors check up on you by phone. Well, except on Sundays. So the nutjobs that post pictures of empty hospital corridors to social media and CRGs and Desmond Swayzes of this world, piss off. This shit is real and it does happen. Those corridors are empty for the same reason as the Nightingale hospitals are empty – because we don’t have enough boots on the ground to staff them, so you focus your scarce resources on what you can do. And is seems London is on a sticky wicket in terms of capacity. It’s got lots of hospital buildings, but buildings alone doesn’t do much.

Still, things can only get better. Damn, that was the other lot. And twenty years ago.

Investing opportunities

Ah Covid and Brexit, the Bash Street Kidssuper skill, Maximum chaos! The Ermine has been investing a little into the FTSE250 from about halfway through last year. On the grounds that people have hated the UK ever since 2016, and the sector’s taken a lot of punishment. On the principle that history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes, perhaps there will be a roaring Twenties. No, I can’t believe it either, but sometimes you have to invest in what you don’t believe in. I have got out of the FTSE100, because I now use VWRL for a general index, and the pandemic highlighted that the FTSE is quite sectorally concentrated1, and with some clapped out companies too. I also still have most of my original high yield portfolio. Ah, yield, that was soooo last decade, dahlink. So if I want more big fish, VWRL will do, because that’s what market cap weighting does for you.

Whereas everybody knows that the UK midcaps has been hammered by Brexit, will be hammered by Brexit, and if it isn’t hammered by Brexit it’ll be hammered by Covid. What’s not to like – well pretty much everything. Apart from the price…

It seems to have been on a roll showing a decent 10% lift since I started last year, in the Charles Stanley account where I use the L&G FTSE250 ex investment trusts fund. I figure I have enough investment trusts .

If you compare the FTSE250 ex IT with the same inc IT you see a possible case made for the virtues of active management 😉

maybe active management works – the actively invested ITs seem to lift performance

but there’s not much in it  over the period I have invested. And I am going into this chasing a particularly troubled sector with poor prospects, though I’m glad I bought a most before that mad lift at the end of last year. Are these the Lamontian green shoots of recovery?

Where was the last time I heard that? Way back in 1991, when I was freezing in the first house I daftly bought, and I had been paying 15% mortgage interest. You gotta watch those buggers, you need deep pockets to take cheer at the green shoots stage. Still, there’s lots of money flying around to make it happen. Bozza told the Torygraph that the £350m p.w. promise on his bus was a dreadful underestimate

So let’s be seeing some of that then, Vote Leave. It’s delivery time and the Kingdom is in its hour of need. Remainers have been purged, pissed upon from a great height and ground into dust. The Govester was even able to be magnanimous in victory over the EU NI Border cock-up. And their vaccine cock-up.

I can see jingoism is going to be the main dish of the day for the next decade if not my lifetime. The time will no doubt come when the boot is on the other foot, and we didn’t get a month out of the gate before the UK-EU relationship turned fractious. Since Brexit fans are on a roll at the moment  how’s about delivering some of that £350m a week into getting a working track and trace system? You’ve spaffed £12bn on getting Dido Harding and Deloitte to balls it up royally, so sack the lot of them and start again with a clean slate and £50m a day. Let’s be seeing some action, then, boys, and P.D.Q. It’s time to make good on the promise of those sunlit uplands. Let’s see the plucky li’l FTSE250 pull ahead of the behemoths in VWRL 😉

  1. Even more bizarrely, the sectoral concentration seems to go in waves. It was all banks in 2009, it’s all oil and mining 

18 thoughts on “Imbolc – return of the spring and a new beginning”

  1. New one on me “Imbolc”.
    Every day is a school day.

    The wikipedia page talks about weather divination and suggests a possible link to the USA’s Groundhog Day.
    I just cannot imagine anyone trying to pitch “Imbolc” to Bill Murray, et al.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There could be some entertainment to be had in him tackling a grumpy badger emerging from his sett 😉 Probably needs the stunt double however, powerful beasts and sharp claws.

      I ended up off by one but the time I’d finished this post, should have been 1 Feb. Arguably started on the evening of 31 Jan in the Gaelic tradition. Candlemas doesn’t have the same sort of ring, or association with the Celtic start of Spring. I know it’s a bit early for the technical start on the vernal equinox, but IMO we could use a break!


  2. Budget coming up in a month. The long term forecasts from the OBR ought to make interesting reading. £1 trillion of government debt. It will be nothing but jingoism, arguments with the EU and balancing the books for the rest of this parliament. There is no sunlit upland


    1. > balancing the books

      I figure that train’s left the station too. Isn’t going to happen, Well, perhaps via inflation, but that isn’t quite the same thing.


  3. My birthday is first of feb. I now have a new noun to describe it! Also time will tell if the uk has made a major bollocks with regards delaying second dose. Yes Oxford has evidence. No Pfizer does not and it works on a different mechanism of action. One wonders is the uk running tests on efficacy when Pfizer has washed its hands….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a tough call with that. On the one hand, it’s hard to outrun an exponential, and Covid seems deeply embedded in the community in the UK. So there is the triage argument that if you can slow it down it would improve the public health a little even if you let some people fall compared with the ideal. We don’t really like to say that sort of thing out loud, but I can see the macro argument at the expense of the micro.


  4. The ridiculous vaccine row with the EU showed up the limitations of both Europhilia and Brexidiocy. The Brexiters claim that it proves they had been right all along. The Europhiles rushed to make excuses and tired to justify the EU’s behaviour as reasonable.
    But it isn’t reasonable and the EU were never a nice organisation. They are a First World rich man’s club, which, having spent the past 3,000 years robbing the rest of the world as well as each other, now being faced with a rising power of former colonies, have huddled together and built a wall around them.
    The EU owes the UK nothing and screwing us over does them no harm. This is how third parties are treated by the EU, or the US or PRC for that matter. Big powerful blocks are bullies because they can be. Little countries have to suck it up.
    That’s why you’d have to be pretty dense to deliberately get on their bad side for no particular reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes but we will be continually be getting into arguments with the EU for the next four years to illustrate whatever goes wrong is still the EUs fault not the fault of the UK government. Politics, innit

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s worse than that I’m afraid.

        We have two groups each (deliberately?) blind to their own biases, one looking for any problem and blaming it on Brexit, the other looking for anything that can be blamed on the EU.

        Personally I think we’ll see more of the former than the latter, as it becomes ever harder to blame the EU for all our ills, but examples like last Friday will continue to provide opportunities. Most worryingly, the feeling I get is that both sides revel in the failure of their specific bogeyman regardless of the human tragedy involved.

        I’ve stopped reading the readers’ comments on news websites as it is just too depressing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. > reading the readers’ comments on news websites as it is just too depressing

        A word in your shell-like. RSS eg feedbro or feedly. It’s a better way to read news, and a better way to read a lot of things like that on the web. Because generally no tracking until clickthrough, often no ads, and no cruft. What’s not to like?

        Can’t help with the basic problem of fractious relations, sadly. If only it were that easy…


    2. “The ridiculous vaccine row with the EU”: more ‘by’ the EU than ‘with’. It started with the EU criticising Pfizer: they presumably moved to a different target once the US told them to lay off.

      So they invented dirty deeds by AZ and at the same time disparaged the AZ/Oxford vaccine. “Quasi ineffective” was the expression used by Micron. Since he believes it’s no use for the over-65s, who are the people who most need a jab, why is he so keen to get more of the vaccine that the French state has anyway proven to be inept at using?

      Then they decided to obstruct the export of the vaccine, which they had under-ordered and anyway didn’t have much of because they had ordered it late in the day, across the border with Northern Ireland. So their worry was purportedly export from the Republic, which is short of the vaccine, to Northern Ireland, which has plenty.

      When I was a boy people would have said that the EU, and the politicians of many of its constituent nations, had gone “crackers.”


  5. Come on chin up fella, drag yourself out of the doldrums. Followed your blog for years and thought it was the best out there, your posts are not exactly uplifting of late though. Understandable with respect to what’s going on with all this covid stuff but life’s what you make it and all this Brexit doom and gloom is only harming one person, trust me life’s better if you just move on…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, aren’t I buying it?

      > It’s time to make good on the promise of those sunlit uplands. Let’s see the plucky li’l FTSE250 pull ahead of the behemoths in VWRL

      Long shot, maybe, though a 10% uplift isn’t too shabby 😉


  6. Good to see the use of the word “hellacious” which I have not seen “in print” for a while, it goes well with mess. I could have used that in past years for some code reviews at work if I had remembered it!

    I didn’t know there was a FTSE 250 tracker ex-ITs – I hold the VMID tracker for FTSE 250 and watched it go down and a lot of the way up again. I mostly just sat on my hands with investments through the whole of 2020 apart from doing some “bed and ISA”which gave a chance to dump some stuff and put into VWRL and VHYL. The worst mistake was not to watch closely something called SQN (now KKVL) which went bad while I was out and about birdwatching – a nasty rotten apple which was great for monthly dividends until it wasn’t. Oh well, we live and learn!


  7. @Ermine, you’re a long time quiet, are you Ok? Can we have a proof of life so we know Priti hasn’t deported you for some newly created free thought crimes or walking near ancient landmarks without the correct documentation.


    1. Thanks for the concern, no , still slumbering in a curl, lockdown means there’s ‘owt really to report. OK, I drag a sharp claw to the old PC and inquire of iWeb that I haven’t gone bankrupt yet, and it appears not. At least I have a more conservative spread of asset classes, more gold – on which I am taking somewhat of a bath, but so what, gold is there to stiffen the spine in a Kipling-esque manner, fewer equities. Too much cash though. Some blighter seems to have put a rocket up the backside of BWRM, RCP and RICA that seems to be beating out the gold, and VWRL seems to be doing its stuff. It’s a mad, mad world, eh? Curiously there’s nothing that’s doing really miserable in there, though this time last year had been an opportunity to clear out a lot of mediocre stuff. But everything is up in the sky, and I can’t help feeling it isn’t going to end well, notwithstanding the comments above of chin up…

      > walking near ancient landmarks without the correct documentation.

      We’ve actually got the rather fine circles of Stanton Drew in the county, and in normal circumstances a perfectly undemanding half a day out. But I can’t really say in good conscience that it’s local 😉 So it’ll have to wait, though not much longer. I even cleaned the green algae and crap off the camper van…


  8. Ah, all good then, you haven’t succumbed to despondency from the national enforced idleness, that’s the main thing.

    But if you have a little more time for contemplation, check out this website:

    This guy is a fellow deep thinker and hugely knowledgeable, it’s fascinating to see glimpses of our future in the murk of his crystal ball musings, get flashes of life meaning (why the momentous events happened) and generally marvel at human psychology, he may not be always right, but it rings true most of the time and is certainly always interesting.


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