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Monet Markets

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Since last week’s shock triumph on Donald Trump over rival Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential election and his subsequent confirmation as Command-in-Chief-in-Waiting, the world financial markets, that of the US in particular, have been a little nervous.  It’s perfectly understandable. 

He’s not only a new broom, pledged to sweep out the Augean stables which is American politics but he’s a complete unknown quantity.  Though a familiar face in the tabloids and economic papers for decades, he has zero political experience and so the world, and the money men wait, to see what might transpire and while they wait, there’s a fair amount of panic selling in a volatile marketplace.

 

Much the same thing happened just after the UK’s Brexit vote in June.  Bankers and brokers, ever erring on the cautious side, drummed their fingers nervously on their keyboards, hitting ‘sell’ and sending the pound sterling on a downward trajectory. 

 

It soon stabilised and though not yet back to its former glory, it will no doubt claw its way back once investors realise that Britain is still geographically in Europe, there is no anchor to slip and sail away and in the end it will be business almost as usual with a few adjustments here and there.

 

But what any savvy investor or financial advisor knows is that like umbrellas, what goes up, must come down and vice versa.  There are bear markets and bull markets; stocks, bonds, barrels of oil and pork futures are bought and sold and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  

 

This is the reason that brokers and consultants always advise erring on the side of caution in the down times, and sitting on your falling investments, hedging your bets that they will rise again in good time.  All things, including higher stock price, come to those who wait.

 

But the one area which always does well in bear, or falling, markets is that of solid investments – diamonds, gold, rare art and precious antiques.  Should a rare Fabergé egg or a Ming vase come up for sale, for example, pretty much whatever the well-heeled collector forks out for their rarity piece, will hold its price or even rise. 

 

The trick is having the considerable readies to snap them up when and if they become available.  No surprise then, to read of this record art sale in the United States, only days after Trump towered over his rival:

 

‘A Claude Monet painting, "Meule," part of his famous grainstack series, sold at auction in New York Wednesday for 81.4 million dollars, a record for the French master, Christie's said.

The previous record was in June 2008. At the time, "Bassin aux nympheas" ("Water Lilies") took $ 80.4 million at a sale in London. The final price, which includes fees and commission, crushed Christie's pre-sale estimate of $45 million. The auction lasted nearly fifteen minutes, an unusual length for a sale of this format. 

 

A woman in the room stayed in the running for some time before making a last offer of $53 million and leaving it to buyers being handled over the phone. This painting, of just one haystack with a conical top, at twilight, is part of the series of grainstacks painted by Monet during the winter of 1890-1891 from his house in Giverny, Normandy.

 

It is one of the rare works in this series to still be in private hands, Christie's said. Most of the others are in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, or the Art Institute of Chicago. This painting was acquired in September 1891 by the Knoedler & Co. art gallery, which brought it to the United States. 

 

In recent years, prices for works by Monet or other celebrated Impressionists have shot through the roof. You may or may not be familiar with the school of French Impressionism and the master, Claude Monet.  The style became popular in Fin-du-Siecle France and its muted colours and hazy impressionist style, soon gained popularity through Monet and his contemporaries, Manet, Renoir. Lautrec, Dégas and many others. 

 

Their works are much sought-after but nevertheless $81.4m (almost P900m) is an awful lot of money for a picture that can’t exactly be hung in the hallway and admired as you enter and leave the house. Rather it is destined to spend its time in an air-conditioned underground vault, and the only satisfaction it will lend its new owner is that of the pride of ownership itself. 

I am reminded of Gollum, of Lord of the Ring fame, avariciously hugging his ‘Precious’ to himself and saying ‘This is mine’   And that is exactly the point, of course. Possession is not only nine tenths of the law but when it refers to something so valuable, so sought-after and so rare, should the owner at some point in the future decide to sell their ‘precious’ they will pretty much be able to name their price and it will almost certainly top the record sum just paid.

 

And in case you’re thinking, that’s all very well but I don’t even like art, neither may the Monet’s new daddy or mummy!  And in the world of appreciating collectables, there is anyway something for everyone – vintage cars, property, rare stamps, large diamonds, rare coins – the list is long but if something comes with good provenance and is one of a  very finite number, someone, somewhere will be prepared to cough up a bundle to possess it, which is more than be said for stocks and shares, notoriously volatile and of the yo-yo variety of investments.

All of which only goes to prove the old Scottish adage that ‘there’s Monet a good tune to be played on an old fiddle yet’!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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Columns

A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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