Work was relentless last week - three countries in three days and then a 12-hour stint in the office on Sunday (which, mayhaps, is why my immune system has since declared an unofficial industrial action and apparently now withdrawn labour).
I was in Kyiv again for 24 hours last week: glorious spring weather, before 24 hours in Warsaw. Actually, in Kyiv I had a very interesting lunch with the Editor-in-Chief of Segodnya which, although Wikipedia calls it a tabloid, is actually quite influential. His views on the future of the current Presidency and coalition Government were fascinating but, I'm afraid, not for 'public' repetition on this blog.
To Warsaw I flew, LOT, a staggering turd of an airline. The Kyiv-Warsaw leg of my trip I flew business class and, wow!, I have seen Moscow trolley cars with more élan. It must have the worst business class product in Europe's skies right now. Six seats across, in business class! Honestly, if these small countries of CEE can't do flag-carrier airlines properly, forget it!, and at least become a half-way decent discount carrier.
In the in-flight magazine - actually not bad - the deputy Treasury Minister was forlornly interviewed about LOT's 'future'. As with so much else about Poland, it seems to me at least, progress is blocked only by the ability of Polish politicians and vested interests to argue amongst themselves, not noticing the missed opportunities accumulating around them.
It was a beautiful afternoon when I arrived in Warsaw and, from my hotel room, at the Intercontinental I had a lovely view (right, is the picture I took from my room, with my HP PDA) of the Palace of Culture as it was struck by the late afternoon sunshine. This magnificent building was a 'present' from old Uncle Joe himself and was, of course, an architecturally unsubtle reminder of who the boss was. It is not surprising therefore that there was talk of demolishing it; but I am glad they've kept it. It is a magnificent chunk of sculpted space. In the courtyard, they are still ice-skating. I was in town to speak at a conference on IPOs (or so I thought); actually I seem to have stepped into a war zone between the Warsaw Stock Exchange and London's AIM market. Talk about a battle not worth fighting!
As the day went on, it seemed to me that both the LSE and WSE have missed the plot a tad; and were arguing about the wrong things. The LSE, it seemed to me, just pitched its marketing proposition to Polish firms thinking about an IPO completely wrongly (sell the idea of a London listing first, don't focus on AIM); while, on the other hand, the Warsaw Stock Exchange has missed the big picture that they need to move their butt and make a meaningful effort to become the main regional stock market for smaller-larger and larger medium sized CEE companies, wanting a stock listing, because the likes of London, NYSE Euronext and Frankfurt are soon going to be all over their ass. Their current main argument - our listings' fees are cheaper - is intellectually weak: they need to step up and talk about liquidity, investor targeting blah, blah. I said all this, bizarrely, on a couple of TV interviews and a few newspaper interviews while in town; so the debate, while the wrong one, seems to be a high profile one.
Oh right: so why am I sulking today; apart from the whole ill thing...Like most only children I make a dreadful patient, particularly when there is no-one here to nurse me :(
Well, we live in a world where one can't even be ill in peace any more. I sent out emails and SMS messages around 06.00 saying I am staying at home and planning to rest and, bugger me, when I have been awake today it has been endless emails and gmails, Skype text messages, cell phone calls and all the other half dozen electronic means there are to get hold of me.
Not only do I get to feel guilty taking my 37.5 degree-racked body to bed, but I then get stressed at all the messages bunching up which, if I don't process them today, will make tomorrow even worse. I miss the old days, earlier in my career (before email and PDAs) when a person could be sick and, hey!, actually have an undisturbed day at home trying to get better. These days, I swear, short of actually being on Life Support in an ICU, no-one respects being ill any more....sulk!
But less than four weeks until my 2-week+ vacation to Morocco, where my GPRS doesn't work for my handheld! ;-) ...Why do you think I choose out-of-the-way places for holidays!?! So I think happy thoughts then of my upcoming break here, and here, and here:
That splendid old girl is my mother; whom I took to Marrakesh last year...
Above, is the Ben Youssef Mosque, Marrakesh
Be the first visitor, in the quiet early cool of the day, to the Jardin Majorelle (above, below); Yves Saint Laurant's gift to the city
The urban oasis, below and bottom, of the Villa des Orangers, Marrakesh