Tuesday, January 24


I am with VER, also known as the State Pension Fund of Finland - picture taken from a conference window (The pension located at Mikonkatu 15 and I can envision Soviet tanks filling the plaza ; Russia a stone's throw east ). VER is external to the state budget (ie, Govt has no control over their investment decisions) and established in 1990 ; their long-term liabilities are aprox. €90 B while the investment portfolio mkt value is €20B. In short: they need returns, and so have invested with my friends in Paris and why I am with them today.

My driver , Schwarmi, picks me up from Terminal 3 : Radio 4 announces that Salman Rushdie's address to the Indian people, which has become a battle for freedom of speech, cancelled as a small bunch of religious zealots threaten violence. I ask Schwarmi what he thinks : "I am ashamed to be Muslim" he tells me.

Schwarma from Northern Iraq and a Kurd; his father had an import-export business in the 1960s which brought the family to London; Schwarmi immigrated 18-years ago (he is middle-age).  I ask if England racist ? "Never. I have always felt safe here." And : "I will never go back to Iraq. I returned once and it is the end. It is the uneducated who wish violence. It is always them." I ask if Iraqis hate Americans ?  "No. Iraqis love Americans. Northern Iraq is booming, there is lots of businesses. It is because the Americans and the British are there. Some Iraqis want the Americans to leave our country but I say - why? We should let them come here and stay. They have helped us. They have invested in Iraq."

Madeleine , nonchalantly, tells us over dinner that David Cameron at Saturday's paint-ball birthday party (confirmed by Alex's mum). Turns out Cameron's oldest about paint-balling age.