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Senior ConsultantSenior consultant with excellent financial services knowledge in M&A and consulting.
A talent for managing relations and interpreting information delivering imaginative and performance driven solutions. Experience gained to date within 2 leading financial organisations.
In the current political and financial turmoil, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman’s vision for the future of Europe seems like a distant memory. The financial crisis in Cyprus is only the most recent example of a string of financial and economic crises that have swept across Europe in recent years. In Italy, the government of Mr. Monti has launched a series of reforms to restore growth and financial stability. Nevertheless, the Italian GDP has recorded negative growth for a sixth consecutive quarter. The recent elections in Italy have caused political uncertainty and further dampened the economic climate. In addition to this, it has been forecasted that the credit crunch in Italy will worsen (by a further 0.5% in 2013 according to E&Y), as opposed to what is expected to happen in France, Germany and the Netherlands, which are expected to experience an average credit growth of 1% to 2.5%.
A clear indicator of the current European crisis is the increase in the stock of non-performing loans on the balance-sheets of banks and financial companies over the last few years. The two contributing factors driving the increase in NPL volume are: the contraction of the GDP (and the resulting contraction of spending by corporates) and the increase in the unemployment rate (and, therefore, the decline in consumer spending). However, the Italian banking system is yet to reach the same level of Cyprus. In fact the banking system of this small Mediterranean island is sitting on €152bn of deposits (equal to eight and a half times its GDP of €17.8bn), of which €23bn are NPLs (127% of GDP). This situation appears even more dire if it is considered that a significant portion of such deposits (in the region of €26bn) is Russian money.
In Italy, in November 2012 the stock of NPLs reached an amount of €122bn, taking the net ratio of total loans-to-customers and NPLs to 3.8%. In general, the same trend of deteriorating credit quality is apparent across Europe. According to PwC, in 2012 there was a total of €1 trillion of NPLs in Europe. Only France seemed to be able to counter this trend in comparison to the other European partners (CAGR +20% since 2008).
In this context, major international and domestic investors are carefully monitoring the evolution of the Italian NPLs market. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, more than 50% of the banks surveyed have completed at least one disposal of NPL portfolios in the last three years.
As reported by the players of this industry, a more significant deleveraging process by Italian banks with respect to NPLs seems to have been hampered in the past by a mismatch of price expectations between banks (sellers) and investors (buyers). However, there are reasons to believe that the ‘bid-ask gap’ may gradually shrink and ultimately revitalize the deleveraging by Italian banks of NPLs and, at the same time, strengthen their international competitiveness. This viewpoint is supported by, on the one hand, the steps undertaken by banks over the last few years, and especially in the second half of 2012, to increase provisioning in respect of these types of assets and, on the other hand, a growing appetite shown by certain investors (less speculative compared to traditional hedge funds) for this asset class. In this respect, Antonella Pagano, a partner at PwC, reports that although investors have focused on the Spanish NPL market over the past 12-18 months, they are now turning their interest to Italian assets.
If an agreement on pricing is found with the vendors, investors interested in the Italian NPLs market (especially newcomers) will have to take into account and deal with certain Italian legal and tax issues that are typical of these types of transactions. From a legal viewpoint, as Domenico Gentile, lawyer at Allen & Overy, points out, the first concern is the regulatory framework. The activity of purchasing receivables in Italy is considered to be a form of lending and, therefore, is reserved to banks and financial intermediaries. The key tool for doing business in the Italian NPL space remains the securitization technique, which in Italy benefits from a unique legal and tax regime (Law No. 130/1999) which addresses the main legal and tax risks associated with these types of transactions.
Norman Pepe, an avvocato and solicitor in the city of London, notes that the securitisation law came into force in 1999 in response to a growing need for instruments to facilitate the disposal of large volumes of NPLs that have been accumulated by the banking system. The objective of this law was, and still is, to promote the entry of international players in the Italian market of (performing and non-performing) financial assets. In general, securitisation contemplates that a pool of receivables is purchased by an SPV which finances the acquisition through proceeds arising from the issuance of various classes of asset-backed securities purchased by investors with different risk profiles. The securities are then repaid by using collections and recoveries generated from the securitised receivables.
Securitisation still remains an essential financing tool for the banking sector and for the acquisition of NPL portfolios by international investors, despite the fact that this technique has been heavily criticized for having precipitated the sub-prime mortgages crisis and it has been singled out as one of the triggers of the financial market crisis during the Lehman Brothers collapse.
Given the current situation of the Italian banking system, it is reasonable to expect in the coming months that there will be a further convergence between sellers and buyers in the NPL market and a wide use of securitisation in the NPL space. This would allow banks not only to get rid of part of their troubled assets (the management of which is particularly onerous) but also to obtain an important liquidity injection useful for their internal budgetary matters. Furthermore, these trends may result in greater financial resources to be available to the banking system to support SME borrowers, traditionally the most important players of the Italian economy.
As every story begins: Once upon a time on Christmas Eve I was sitting busy by the fireplace. It was cold, bleak, biting weather outside. The fog was so dense that the houses opposite were mere phantoms. Looking outside upon the street was white with snow which had fallen a few hours earlier, piled in drifts along the curb of the little-travelled terrace but the pavement was neatly shovelled and swept clean. A flare of light almost blinded my eyes. Every person in the street along the block, as far as I could see, was illuminated with a row of lighted candles across the sash. It was the traditional catholic parade coming from the nearby church. Suddenly a noise came from the library and awakened me and my letters felt on the floor. Crawling through the door, I reached the library door and looked what it was the source of that blast. It happened to be a photograph album with a wooden cover, with a wire hasp for fastening the heavy book. Half unconsciously I opened the memory book and like a river came into my mind the past Christmases. The street was quiet again and few persons passed on either side. By the fire I started to run through the photos and recall with a blissful joy the people vanished in the past Christmases.
I was happy here because I believed in the spirit of Christmas – I whispered to myself. Now we have lost the old beliefs and the old loves however we met new ones. Now we have studied books and read wise men’s sayings and our dreams are tangled and confused. However, we understand the higher criticism and the higher egoism. We don’t believe in mere giving and we don’t believe in the Christmas economics. But are you happy, dear Alessio? – I repeated raising my voice.
No, we are not happy because we have cut ourselves off from the things that bring folk together in peace and good-will at this holy time. Where are those friends and loves in those photos?
This year I want to recuperate those fond memories and believe again in the Christmas Spirit. It’s amazing how much thought, time and care goes into selecting gifts for our beloved and create the expectation for our Christmas Spirit. This year, I want to elevate myself by giving because I want to give and not because I feel obliged. Giving from my heart without expecting gratitude, smiles or something in return. I will give joy and enjoy the process of living again that deep memories.
Merry Christmas to all of you.
‘L’auto della Settimana’ – Parte oggi un nuovo approfondimento del nostro blog dedicato alla finanza e alle piccole e medie imprese innovative ed emergenti, che riguarda sia aziende che esistono da tempo sul mercato e sanno reagire alla crisi con idee nuove, sia start up… e in fondo come dice Ben Casnocha siamo tutti Start up, anzi dovremmo esserlo e confrontarci con il mondo a 360°. Il tagliando della settimana a due nuove fiammanti auto da corsa contro la crisi è affidato ad Alessio Brotto di Mergermarket, armato di PRO e CONTRO!!! Per info: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/alessiobrotto
Primi sui Motori www.primisuimotori.it
Le Small & Mid Cap italiane si sono incontrate a Lugano e hanno presentato le loro eccellenze alla comunità finanziaria svizzera. Alessandro Reggiani, giovane ingegnere informatico ha avuto la brillante idea di fondare nel 2007 Primi sui motori. La società si occupa del posizionamento delle società clienti sui motori di ricerca utilizzando principalmente un software che prende in considerazione l’indicizzazione sui motori fondamentale per la visibilità del sito internet.
Il Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – il posizionamento della propria società ai primi posti nelle ricerche – è un sistema cresciuto del 17% solo nell’ultimo anno. Secondo le stime di Boston Consulting, tra i Paesi del G-20 la crescita di internet tocchera il 8-10% nel 2016 per un totale di 4200 triliardi di dollari e nello stesso periodo le imprese che ne beneficeranno maggiormente saranno le PMI che avranno investito nei servizi online. In particolare, analizzando solo il canale dell’advertising online, ZenithOptimedia (Publicis Groupe) ha stimato che a livello globale la crescità sarà del 15.7% solo nel 2012.
Primi sui Motori è stato uno dei pionieri nel mercato italiano del SEO. Aver raggiunto capillarmente il territorio attraverso la sua rete di distribuzione è uno dei maggiori fattori di successo. I numeri sono chiari: crescita del 18% tra 2010 e 2011 per un valore della produzione pari a 11.52 milioni di euro e un EBITDA di 2.30 milioni di euro e una crescita del 45% per lo stesso periodo.
Il piano di Mr Reggiani è di una crescita parallela al mercato di riferimento con un inserimento di nuovi prodotti nell’offerta standard. Come già premesso, il software è il punto di forza della società, perché mentre i competitors svolgono il loro servizio di posizionamento a pochi clienti attraverso lunghi procedimenti d’analisi e di sviluppo, Primi sui Motori si rivolge ad un maggior numero di clienti sulla fascia medio-bassa del mercato offrendo un servizio veloce e semplice. Mr Reggiani vuole offrire in modo sistematico questi prodotti alla clientela ‘local’ e diffondere cosi il marchio attraverso la qualità e semplicità. Un altro punto di forza della società informatica sta nella clientela frammentata, anche se, il servizio è standardizzato troppo e l’offerta non è abbastanza differenziata. Concludendo questa nostra analisi, vorrei rivolgere la nostra attenzione sul futuro di Primi sui Motori e sui piani di crescita attraverso acquisizioni o diffusione di nuovi pacchetti. Sola debolezza: un solo investitore istituzionale che conta per il 58.3% (Equilybra Capital Partners) e presente da oltre due anni nell’azionariato.
Servizi Italia http://www.si-servizitalia.com
Servizi Italia è un’altra bella storia dell’imprenditorialità italiana è quella del suo amministratore delegato Luciano Facchini. Questa società sta consolidando la propria leadership nazionale nel sistema integrato di servizi di lavanolo, sterilizzazione e fornitura di kit procedurali e nella gestione dei poli chirurgici di
assistenza e di prestazioni sanitarie. Uno dei maggiori punti di forza del gruppo è nella crescita organica ottenuta grazie le acquisizioni mirate atte a migliorare le sue performance, anche in termini di cross-selling sui contratti pluriennali acquisiti dalle aziende incorporate o partecipate. L’ultima di queste incorporazioni con efficacia civilistica dal 1 novembre è la Padana Everest. Queste acquisizioni hanno allargato il portafoglio clienti e rafforzato ulteriormente la posizione di leadership nel settore, con una quota di mercato che a livello nazionale, da fonte Cerved, è pari nel 2011 a circa il 27% nel segmento sanità del mercato della lavanderie industriali.
Il futuro è all’estero. La società ha piani di espansione estera e soprattutto in Brasile. L’anno scorso hanno avviato la propria espansione nel paese carioca attraverso l’acquisizione di Lavsim-Higienizacao che ha riportato nel 2011 ricavi per EUR 5.3m. Servizi Italia si è impegnata di acquisire il 50% per una consideration pari a real 12.85m (USD 6.54m). Servizi Italia acquisirà il 100% delle azioni di Lavsim-Higienizacao su un periodo di 5 anni. Luciano Facchini, intervistato, conferma l’intenzione della società di focalizzare il proprio sviluppo in Brasile attraverso aumenti di capitale. Il mercato della lavanderia industriale in Brasile è ancora vergine ma pronto all’innovazione della tecnologia italiana. Mr Romulo Rodrigues, presidente di Lavsim, è orgoglioso di poter condividere l’expertise italiana attraverso questa joint-venture e di sviluppare il proprio business attraverso la qualità e l’efficenza.
Neo di questa strategia è il capitale ricercato. In questo momento storico è difficile ritrovare finanziatori e un aumento di capitale potrebbe non essere sufficiente alle richieste sempre maggiori del mercato e degli investitori. La convenzione bilaterale tra Italia e Brasile del 1980 (n. 844 del 29/11/1980) sul divieto di doppia imposizione ha funzionato decisamente bene finora permettendo alle imprese italiane come Servizi Italia di negoziare una bassa o nulla tassazione in loco e vedersi riconosciuto qui un credito d’imposta sugli utili lordi predefinito, in misura del 25% o del 15% nel caso di distribuzione di dividendi. Quando il Brasile cresceva come la Cina e gli altri paesi emergenti, l’interesse per il paese carioca cresceva. Oggi, invece, l’industria brasiliana sembra ferma al palo è probabile che alla fine della prima metà dell’amministrazione di Dilma Rousseff venga registrata la peggiore performance tra i 26 paesi emergenti.
I numeri della EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) parlano chiaro e mostrano un’espansione media dell’1% nel 2011 e 2012 che lascia il Brasile dietro ai giganti come la Cina (9,1%), l’India (3%) e gli altri paesi latino-americani come il Perù (5,1%) e il Messico (3,5%).
Servizi Italia ha scelto il Brasile, solo al termine dell’earn-out stabilito nel 2013 sapremo se la loro scommessa sarà stata quella vincente.
Can a modern state have a power over institutions and media exercising pressure in a heavy atmosphere of corruption and nepotism? They defend their interests in such a way as to make citizens feel that their personal freedom and their human rights are being jeopardized by political shortcomings, violent reactions surge, which unsettle the functioning of states themselves. This is the reason why the last 20 years of Berlusconi have been compared with the Mussolini’s Ventennio.
If in modern democracies is the social order created by the holders of political rights, who exercise their will in popular assemblies and not by an autocrat who run the state for his purposes. This same principle helped inspire the Occupy Wall Street movement as well as the nonviolent “Indignadosé movement the world over, focused at the moment on Greece. In the scheme of things, this is the real revenge of the Agora.
There is now a call to complete Europe’s original political design, as a “free and united” entity, to paraphrase the Athens Manifesto. This in fact was the intention of Europe’s founding fathers.
Reaching this goal means that blind financial-technocratic governance, which so far has produced nothing but inequalities among the citizens of individual member states, yields the playing field to politics, which uses deliberated democracy to create a truly European citizenry to which all people belong, based on the values of parity and equality that I’ve already spoken of repeatedly.
This is the only solution that avoids “the Agora vendetta” and the only one that abolishes the disparities among the citizens of member states and that consolidates, in the context of a federal Europe, an authoritative and non-dispersive presence.
Such a Europe, along with the United States, China, and emerging nations, could sit down at a table and lay down new rules to fend off and fight the disasters and anxieties that the process of globalization has created.
The sovereign debt crisis in Europe that has been growing since early 2010 put a variety of EU countries under the spotlight. Nations such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland felt the heat from governments, regulators, investors and citizens who were all growing increasingly concerned over how programmes would be paid for, and which would have to be cut in order to maintain solvency. At the beginning of this year, issues are also starting to crop up for Italy as well, but few investors are likely to have noticed given the apathy that most have shown towards the nation’s ETFs. According to an analyst in Blackrock, 53 different funds offer exposure to Italian securities but just 4 has exposure exceeding 10% of their total assets to the country. In fact, only one fund offers near universal exposure to the country despite the massive size of the Italian economy. iShares MSCI Italy Index Fund, tracking the Italian markets, amazingly has less than $100 million in assets under management, even though it tracks the G10 economies.
This financial position of the country is in total contrast to other similar economies that have amassed a great deal more in assets in their most popular ETFs. The main fund tracking the UK currently has over $1 billion in assets, while Brazil’s main ETF has close to $12 billion, even though Brazil and the UK have roughly the same level of GDP as Italy.
While it is hard to explain why investors have completely abandoned Italy, we have come up with a couple of possible reasons. Italian ETF has been one of the worst performing ETF in 2010. Italy is a very mature market with low growth prospects; the country has a very low birth rate and seems poised to shrink population-wise heading into the next few decades. Political turmoil and budget issues haven’t helped matters either as investors have had to deal with a constantly changing regulatory environment and fears over the government being forced to pull the plug on expensive social programs in the near future in order to keep the economy moving at all.
However, with that being said, the nation has a wealth of dynamic assets to its credit as well. Tourism in the country remains strong while pockets of manufacturing across the nation continue to flourish and remain in demand across the world. In fact, the nation is the world’s 7th largest exporter, outpacing well-known exporters such as South Korea. Furthermore, the nation has relatively solid relationships with a number of countries in key locations, such as emerging nations in North Africa and even Russia. These deals could make the nation better able to fight through any crises than some of its more developed market-focused peers, such as the U.K.
As a result of this complete oversight by investors, we have decided to take a closer look at the main fund tracking the Italian markets, in order to give investors a better understanding of a fund that they probably have overlooked.
EWI tracks the MSCI Italy Index which measures the performance of the Italian equity market by investing in 32 Italian securities. It is heavily weighted towards three sectors; financials (32.2%), energy (27.2%), and utilities (17.1%) while offering minimal allocations to consumer staples and telecommunication firms. Its top individual holdings include oil giant ENI SpA (18.7%), electricity and gas provider Enel SpA (10.5%), and banking firm Unicredit SpA (9.4%).
Although the fund has been rocked by the sovereign debt crisis over the past year, posting a loss of 15.3% in 2010, EWI does pay a relatively high dividend yield of 2.5% and has a PE ratio of 13.2. This suggests that for those seeking European investments in beaten down countries, EWI could make for an intriguing choice given its relatively overlooked status by investors and its exposure to securities most investors probably do not have a lot of exposure to in their current portfolios
Are the Greeks not sufficiently keen on saving? According a Viennese lawyer living in Athens they save to death. A common complaint is that this recent austerity plan will never succeed because revenues are falling, and the willingness of the Greeks to cut back is being called into question. Surprise, surprise! Well, here are a few facts:
• Pay pension cuts up to 30%.
• 600 euros per month Minimum wage.
• Dramatic price hikes (for last 15 months: 100% fuel, 50% electricity, heating, gas, public transport).
• 1/3 of the country’s 165,000 commercial firms shut down; 1/3 can no longer pay wages.
• Consumption has caved in dramatically, those who used to bring home 4,000 euros to their families, have suddenly been reduced to 400 euros each in unemployment benefits.
• State officials have been getting no salary for months and are being put off until October – or “next year”. The record is currently held by the Ministry of Culture, where many employees who worked on the Acropolis have not been paid a salary for 22 months.
• The billions of euros in tranches from the EU actually flow back immediately into the EU – reportedly, 97 percent of it – as annual loan repayment instalments to the banks and as new interest charges. The burden will thus be gradually passed down to the European taxpayer. Until the crash the banks will continue to receive hefty interest payments, and they will write off the debts at the expense of the taxpayer. Money for structural reforms has not yet been found.
• Truck and taxi drivers had to pay tens of thousands of euros for their licences, for which they took out loans, and now find themselves in the new climate of deregulation, in which new drivers need pay hardly any licence fees.
• New fees have been invented: reporting an offence to the police costs 150 euros. The victim has to pay up before a complaint is even recorded.
• A new property tax on dwellings will be introduced and will be levied via the electricity bill.
• There are no textbooks in the education system. Now the students are getting CDs, and parents are to buy them laptops just to enable a class to be held. The university system everywhere has virtually broken down.
• A mass emigration of unimaginable proportions looms. The young see no future in Greece: unemployment is up to 40% among young graduates and 30% among adolescents.
Where has all money pumped in over the past decades gone? The Greek people are not unwilling to save, they simply can’t any more.
All the progress made in protecting workers’ rights has been reduced to rubble. The gates to exploitation have been flung wide open. What happens if in the future we realise that EU troika is enjoying dinner with the Greek politicians at €300 per head? The question should be addressed to the Greeks and it might be that the pressure cooker will have the lid blown off.
What happens now to Greece should give us a warning to all of Europe. A party that would have put “reasonable austerity” onto its election manifesto would never have been elected. Addressing debt reduction is necessary, so long as it remains bearable to a degree and is not bound up with financial genocide.
After nearly twenty years in politics, and ten years in power, Silvio Berlusconi has made his mark on Italy like no-one before him. According to The Economist, in an article that is already the subject of much debate in his country, the Cavaliere, his image ever tarnished by sex and corruption scandals, “will haunt Italy for years to come”.
Silvio Berlusconi has a lot to smile about. In his 74 years, he has created a media empire that made him Italy’s richest man. He has dominated politics since 1994 and is now Italy’s longest-serving prime minister since Mussolini. He has survived countless forecasts of his imminent departure. Yet despite his personal successes, he has been a disaster as a national leader – in three ways.
Two of them are well known. The first is the lurid saga of his “Bunga Bunga” sex parties, one of which has led to the unedifying spectacle of a prime minister being put on trial in Milan on charges of paying for sex with a minor. The Rubygate trial has besmirched not just Mr Berlusconi, but also his country.
However shameful the sexual scandal has been, its impact on Mr Berlusconi’s performance as a politician has been limited. But it is now clear that neither the dodgy sex nor the dubious business history should be the main reason for Italians looking back on Mr Berlusconi as a disastrous, even malign, failure. Worst by far has been a third defect: his total disregard for the economic condition of his country. Perhaps because of the distraction of his legal tangles, he has failed in almost nine years as prime minister to remedy or even really to acknowledge Italy’s grave economic weaknesses. As a result, he will leave behind him a country in dire straits.
A chronic disease, not an acute one
That grim conclusion might surprise students of the euro crisis. Thanks to the tight fiscal policy of Mr Berlusconi’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, Italy has so far escaped the markets’ wrath. Ireland, not Italy, is the I in the PIGS (with Portugal, Greece and Spain). Italy avoided a housing bubble; its banks did not go bust. Employment held up: the unemployment rate is 8%, compared with over 20% in Spain. The budget deficit in 2011 will be 4% of GDP, against 6% in France.
Yet these reassuring numbers are deceptive. Italy’s economic illness is not the acute sort, but a chronic disease that slowly gnaws away at vitality. When Europe’s economies shrink, Italy’s shrinks more; when they grow, it grows less. Only Zimbabwe and Haiti had lower GDP growth than Italy in the decade to 2010. In fact GDP per head in Italy actually fell. Lack of growth means that, despite Mr Tremonti, the public debt is still 120% of GDP, the rich world’s third-biggest. This is all the more worrying given the rapid ageing of Italy’s population.
These are my early days for my plan of my new project submitted to the editor-in-chief of one of the highest English paper, he seemed astonished that an idea so journalistic—that was his word—should have been evolved from the brain of this uncomplicated man. Decidedly, I had made some progress in my short story and started thinking at this as a new XIX century feuilleton, even in my two weeks’ plot scribbling. Once I came to Britain years ago, I had in a drawer poems, dramas and half-finished tales with the hope of becoming a great writer. That person, me in another form – believed in Literature with a capital “L;” in the Ideal, another capital; in Glory, a third capital. He is now dead and buried. Would he some day, his position assured, begin to write once more from pure love of his art? Possibly, but for the moment I knew only the energetic, practical me, who had joined the procession with the idea of getting into the front rank, and of obtaining as soon as possible a reasonable income to live in this city. When I was an uncomplicated child I had sent some verses and stories, got the refusal of which by four editors had finally made me decide to enter the field of journalism and became eventually a doctor and a man of arts for hobby and a PR for profession.
In one of the early spring days I was walking down the stairs at the National Gallery towards Trafalgar Square. My eyes were gazing the Nelson column while I was making my way through small crowds in the square. In those days a Dutch festival was on which gathered more people at the usual crowded square. Seven pleasure-loving women chatted gaily around the fountain surrounded by admirable sculptures of art. The sun was shining across the public space and I was enjoying the small breeze coming from Whitehall. The beauty of the spring wind has power to rekindle the frozen heart of winter. I love to repose on a bench and think with rapture of the sunbeams. Spring is like a new begin, a new existence with each dawn. Forgetful of our past, still intoxicated with the violence of yesterday’s pleasures, I embrace a new life of happiness, a life filled with love. The woman sitting next to the fountain looked at me with flashing eyes. She was silent. We exchanged our smiles and we didn’t have to think more and we exchange our ideas of the world and then she started laughing; but a comfit dish of marvellous workmanship was shattered between her nervous fingers. She is claiming now after few weeks of our meeting that this ‘pushy’ man with love for arts give her calm and a fresh new breeze. Was it the spring breeze? It was an early passion, but an implacable growing wind. Is this the age for love?
It seemed to me—it may possibly have been an illusion—that at the announcement of the so-called title of my novel, a smile and a shadow flitted over her eyes and mouth. A vision of this young woman coming from Germany I had met in that sunny day at Trafalgar square is the inspirational muse for this so-called novel. Was me, the author of so many great masterpieces still in the drawer about to live a new book before writing it? I had no time to answer this question. That day, I have been caught by other ramblers mumbling something like ‘there is no such thing as an age for love, because the man capable of loving never ceases to love. Well, I am convinced that if we could try a similar experiment and photograph one upon another the pictures of the different women whom the same man has loved or thought he had loved in the course of his life we should discover that all these women resembled one another. The most inconsistent have cherished one and the same being through five or six or even twenty different embodiments. The main point is to find out at what age they have met the woman who approaches nearest to the one whose image they have constantly borne within themselves. For them that would be the age for love.
So I would say, she inspired me to take on my project and become who I am, a man in the age for love. I am this great artist inspired in a beautiful, noble and wealthy young English woman. She will be my muse like Petrarch or Dante. Look at Goethe, at Lamartine and at many others! To portray my feelings on this novel, I must give up the process of insignificant observation which is the bane of the artists of to-day and portray my new muse as Pablo Neruda would depict
The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.
This restaurant in Covent Garden is an astonishing mix of high class clientele, two centuries of history and good traditional British food. The first impression of this place is a welcoming and cosy atmosphere with a hint of friendly and professional staff. After sitting on an extremely comfortable chair I thought I could hear the whispering of all the famous people who have dined here. I realised that I was sitting in the same place where Charles Dickens used to spend his suppers. Their menu offers mainly meat dishes, although it is possible to taste here traditional tarte tatin and steak. I have definitely a penchant for Steak, Kidney and Oyster which I ordered. It was an affordable dish considering the average price for this type of food in a normal restaurant. The main course came with a nice crunchy bed of salad. The meat was exceptional, fresh and nicely cooked outside, fresh and raw inside. For dessert I had the Lemon tarte – nice and simple -. This was nice – rich and gooey, the creme fraiche was runny and not extremely flavoursome. Presentation was poor though unexpected for a restaurant with its reputation. I cannot comment on the wine-list because I did not touch it. The Whole bill was £50 for two courses, including service charge. It is expensive but it worth it. I would recommend this restaurant just for the experience of dining in a historical place. Overall it was an enjoyable experience.
This year’s words belong to this year’s language and next year’s words await another voice and to make a suitable end we have to make a new beginning. The advent of the new year is the most pleasant epoch. There is always a bunch of people who let the New Year comes and wait for the old one goes. It is more flattering, both to the old year that has rolled away, and to the New Year that is just commencing to sunrise upon us, to see the old chap out, and the new one in, with merriment and delight. There must have been some few occasions in the year to go which we can look back with a feeling of sincere gratitude. We are now bound by every rule of justice and equity to give the New Year praise for being a good one, until he proves himself undeserving the confidence we repose in him.
This is my view of the matter; tonight I will entertain myself seated by our fireside on this last night of the old year and will stare outside the hackney-coaches rattling up the street and down the street in rapid succession through the mobs each one heading for their gathering. I can fancy one of these parties, I think, as well as if I was duly dress-coated and pumped, and had just been announced at the drawing-room door. As a fortune teller or a fool I would have joined the party rehearsing a story of my 2010. This year’s words would be about that woman in my past. Pleasant person at the first encounter – perfect ladies’ man – such a delightful companion, too! Unfortunately, I have not recognized very soon that was a chronic liar. When I met her, she convinced me, my family and my church that she was a victim of her family. We all had so much sympathy for her. Just after few months I have discovered missing tiles of the puzzle. I am lucky enough to have realised this before further damages. I have now regained my life, my self-esteem and my kindness. I say goodbye to the old year and lay great expectations on the year to come.
‘I would ask you a favour my dearest reader, please feel free to fill your glass and toast. I would love to make one of the most brilliant and poetical speeches tonight that can possibly be imagined, about the old year and the new one. Dearest reader please toast again and notify how much all these folks have been delighted by the glittering display of elegance and beauty which the drawing-room has exhibited this night, and how their senses have been enchanted, and their hearts captivated, by the concentration of female exquisiteness which that space has displayed’.
‘I wish you a pleasant 2011; be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let each New Year find you a better man’.
The toast is drunk with acclamation, I have barely put on paper the last phrase of the previous sentence, when the first stroke of twelve, peals from the neighbouring churches. There surely – we must admit it now – is something appalling in the sound. Strictly speaking, it might not be more imposing now, than at any other time; for the hours steal as swiftly on, at other periods, and their flight is little heeded. But, we measure man’s life by years, and it is a solemn knell that warns us we have passed another of the landmarks which stands between us and the grave. Disguise it as we may, the reflection will force itself on our minds, that when the next bell announces the arrival of a new year, we may be insensible alike of the timely warning we have so often neglected, and of all the warm feelings that glow within us now.