Les Tres Riches Heures (11): November

So many pigs. I think there’s at least 18, and unusually for Les Tres Riches Heures, the only building is a small nondescript generic castle. The peasant in the foreground is dislodging acorns by throwing his stick at them – a technique still employed by conker hunters to this day. Apparently a pig can scoff 10kg of acorns a day. Over to a fascinating jamon iberico website:

Many centuries ago, the rulers of western Spain decreed that each town and village should maintain pastures studded with oak trees, called the dehesa, for the long term stability of the region. This forest/pasture continues to serve many purposes. The holm and cork oaks provided firewood for the people, shade for the plants and livestock, cork products, and acorns (bellota) during fall and winter. During the spring and summer cattle and sheep graze the fields. During the fall and winter, when the acorns are falling from the trees, the pigs are released to fatten up. This ancient human-maintained ecosystem survives intact to this day.

It’s generally held that the painter of this one is Jean Colombe, not the Limbourg Brothers, and it’s certainly less exquisitely crafted, though still terrific. The landscape seen through the trees is an early example of the classic ‘blue landscape‘ later reaching its apogee with the enigmatic and wonderful Joachim Patinir.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda



Knifonomics (part 37): inflation (and income tax) should not be regarded as normal

Here’s a recent letter from Michael Romberg in the FT. Perhaps it is too unrealistic, but we should always revisit economic concepts that government would prefer us to think are set in stone. The Overton Window can always shift. Income tax is another – why do we hand over our dosh in such huge amounts, when it began as an emergency levy to fund war? Who realises that it “remains a temporary tax, which expires on April 5 each year, and has to be renewed as a provision in the annual Finance Bill. “?  Just saying…

This is Mr Romberg’s smart letter:

Sir, The year 2015 was one of zero inflation for the UK (FT.com, January 19). I suggest that zero inflation should be our target for the future.

We have now had 100 years of continuous inflation since the start of the Great War. But for a period of more than 200 years before then, prices were broadly stable in the long term, with periods of rising prices offset by periods of falling prices. The average price in London of a loaf of bread was about 5½d in both 1694 and 1894.

There are two main economic arguments for inflation. First, it makes downward wage adjustments easier as workers will accept a fall in real wages but not in nominal wages. However, relying on money illusion is hardly an ethical policy. Second, unanticipated inflation moves resources from “unproductive” savers to “productive” borrowers. But with only one-fifth of UK debt held by non-financial corporations that argument is overstated.

Zero long-term inflation would bring benefits. Long-term planning would be easier. Relative price movements would be clearer. The economy would be neutral between borrowers and lenders, with the interest rate reflecting only time preference and the balance of supply and demand.

Nor should we worry so much about deflation, periods of falling prices to offset previous price rises. Concerns about deferring spending apply only to investment goods — few would skip lunch because it will be cheaper next year. Eventually everything needs to be replaced. And many pay extra to have the latest piece of kit. Those who draw apocalyptic lessons from Japan are looking only at gross domestic product without considering the falling working age population.

Not bad. I quite like price stability personally, and I’ve certainly had a fall in real wages.

Everything 51/2 d!

Wildlife special: sea eagle eats seal?

On holiday and out for a run this morning, came across this raptor eating a dead seal. It was a very big bird, I reckon the choice is between an osprey, or just possibly a sea eagle.  Ospreys don’t really eat carrion though. Any offers?  Pics not great as on mobile, but very impressive in flight.

Taking off
Taking off
Not happy at being disturbed
Not happy at being disturbed

Horsemeat: breaking news

A while ago, The Knife pointed out just how prophetic and pertinent Dickens’ Great Expectations was about aspects of modern life.

Here he goes again, given tonight’s ongoing news about horse meat etc etc

Supper was comfortably served and hot, . . . and consisted of a roast fowl, a steak, and some vegetables, to all of which I did ample justice, and which were all excellent. But my aunt had her own ideas concerning London provision, and ate but little.

‘I suppose this unfortunate fowl was born and brought up in a cellar,’ said my aunt, ‘and never took the air except on a hackney coach-stand. I hope the steak may be beef, but I don’t believe it. Nothing’s genuine in the place, in my opinion, but the dirt.’

‘Don’t you think the fowl may have come out of the country, aunt?’ I hinted.

‘Certainly not,’ returned my aunt. ‘It would be no pleasure to a London tradesman to sell anything which was what he pretended it was.’

That was David Copperfield, 163 years ago.