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The truths they don't want you to read....

Friday, April 30, 2010

What a day! What a week!

Close to 100 Norwegian Tax Returns had to be done over the past 10 days, as the Norwegian were late in sending them out to taxpayers and today was the deadline for filing them.

Thankfully, we have the technology to deliver!

With new clients coming in at about 2/3 a day for the past fortnight it has been utterly crazy. We are being recommended by existing clients, being found through our dedicated web site, Google Adwords and through adverts in places like Private Eye, and as a consequence this aspect of our business is ramping up dramatically with us processing Norwegian payroll for a number of UK-based employers.

On top of that, I have been answering queries today about Dutch payroll taxes, Finnish corporate and personal taxes and preparing Canadian tax returns. The first and last I am doing next week, whilst Finland remains just a possibility.

Oh yes, and we were doing all the usual UK tax/accounting stuff too.

Closed Monday to recover!

Normally we close at 4pm on Friday, but I spoke too soon - another 14 pages of faxed Norwegian Tax information coming through to be done by midnight!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vote early, vote often




Not my ballot, btw, I've already posted mine.

Debate 3

Brown did the mea culpa which appeared genuine and defused the inevitable snide comments from the others. Well done (well scripted!)

Cuts - all about what the others are planning and we are not planning. Still no-one being honest about the depth, even Cameron who professed openness and then moved onto generalities.

"Let's be clear" = "I won't be clear"

Clegg ahead again as the other two resort to general abuse rather than specific policy positions.

The Euro is getting a kick from Cameron as a way of hitting Clegg. They are all mouthing the catch phrases they have learned whether it fits into the actual questions and answer or not. Dull.

Immigration - they are all pandering to the racist tendency. I'm losing the will to live. Am I alone in not having a problem with immigration?

Is it just me or has the entire political agenda jumped very sharply to the right?

Good solid opening and closing remarks by all three, with Brown in finest 'scare the public' mode.

Summary: no mistakes, no inspiration, no clear debating winner. Clegg keeps his high public standing, which is a victory for him; Cameron was bland but unable to properly counter Brown's attack; Brown was dull, worthy and badly tainted by yesterday and his history as PM.

LibDem advance continues, just more slowly, and they will attract the votes of those who want a hung Parliament.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Memo to Gordon

From: The Labour Party

To: Gordon Brown

Dear Gordon

The revolver is in the cellar beside the bottle of whisky.  Be quick.

Miss you already.....

Martin Bell OBE

You may have seen that Angus MacNeil's election leaflet claims that he has the support of Martin Bell (he of the white suit). Well, events have moved on since that quote was made, and many Toblerones have flowed under the bridge.

Martin Bell OBE now recommends that you get rid of those tainted by the MPs expenses scandal and vote for an Independent candidate, which is perhaps not the message that Mr MacNeil wants to hear.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Visitations

Just how important is this seat to Labour and the SNP?

Much more important than they let on: at least in symbolic terms.

I am told that the planned vists by Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown are both still highly probable, subject only to volcanos and any other disasters.  If the diary managers can juggle the itinery then we are likely to be blessed by both over the coming 10 days.

Don't hold your breath, or expect anything other than photoshoots and a quick whirl through town....

Voting intentions

The wholly unscientific polls on this blog are, I feel, fairly accurate and representative, except that they understate the floating voters.

I've had lots of chats with people in all parties about their feelings and impressions of the campaign so far, and I am going to try and distill these conversations into an overall summary of the position.

The LibDems are doing very well, and not just as a result of the national picture. Murdo Murray is building a substantial vote, but quietly and through personal contact.

I'm going to forecast that they both get 10-15% of the vote, but it is where that vote is coming from that is particularly interesting.

Turnout looks likely to be slightly down, but not as much as I feared, as I think that many people are determined to vote, but just don't know who they are going to vote for.

The 2-horse race is neck-and-neck, and I am not going to call it at the moment as the floating voters will be the ones to decide who gets the job.

Labour hit a plateau at the bottom of their electoral support about a year ago and their core vote seems to be holding up pretty well. They are not so much winning votes as providing a home for those who won't vote for anyone else, and for returning Labour voters.

The SNP are benefiting and suffering from being the incumbents. They fear a low turnout, as a lot of their vote at the last election was against the then sitting MP, and voter apathy levels are very high. The are gaining from not being Labour, and being able to snipe from the sidelines, but this also highlights some weaknesses in their campaigning philosophy.

So back to the other runners in this race.

Murdo Murray is building on the Christian Party vote at the last election, and is going to do better, pulling votes from the SNP and Labour. More from the SNP in an anti-Sunday ferry backlash, and enough of a change to eat into the majority.

The LibDems seems to be gaining from those who voted SNP in 2005 having voted Labour in 2001, and those who are unhappy with the stance of both these parties for one reason or another.

I haven't mentioned the Tories. But then they don't seem to have a campaign and will be lucky to poll 500 votes as their voters are literally dying off.

To sum it all up: will the advantages of incumbency outweigh the apathy of many of those who votes SNP in 2005? Is it about substance in electoral communications, or simple party allegiance? The answers to these questions will all be answered when the undecided decide, and I feel that for many that decision won't be made until the final few days.

It is all to play for, but I sense that Labour might just be very, very slightly ahead and any deficit is being clawed back day by day.

Sadly, however, it is still a dull and boring campaign.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The right to vote



Thanks to Yahoo for proving that you can never dumb down too far in politics.

God, this is so sad that I feel like crying that these people may help form the next Government.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Psychosomatic illness

Schoolgirls faint and collapse for unknown reasons.

'Mass poisoning by the Taliban' cry the coalition.

Nothing to do with us Guv, cry the Taliban.

With a long and (un)illustrious history of people assuming that spontaneous collapses had something to do with anything other than hysteria, it is worth looking at some similar examples before jumping to conclsuions which will only exacerbate the outbreak by giving official support to a probably baseless claim.

Remember, that when you read about the 'fact' of this outbreak that it is nothing more than the evidence of how the press and spin doctors can create a propaganda point out of nothing substantive.

And apply that scepticism to the current election.....

Greece and the Euro

Does anyone really understand just how the collapse of the Greek economy will affect the Eurozone?

I suspect not, and that the potential implications for the next likely victims - Italy, Spain and Portugal - are going to be just as severe and just as devastating. But, it is likely to be the impact on the strong economies that settles the future for the Euro.

As an analogy, you live with your large extended family and your sisters' husband has run up huge debts, finds himself unemployable, and now announces that he should make himself bankrupt. Unless you bung him vast quantities of cash to pay off his debts, and he promises, honestly, that he will repay you when he gets back on his feet.

Your problem is that you have guaranteed some of his debts, and if he defaults your credit rating will go through the floor - meaning the chance of you getting a loan is lower - and you will still have to pay some of the debts. Bailing him out will affect your immediate family's standard of living, so it is pain in every direction.

That's where the Euro is.

Ideally, you would have a single bank account for all the extended family, and a right of veto over any debts taken out by the family members, and you would all work together to maximise the opportunity for each member and provide a safety net for each other.

That's where the Euro isn't.

If you believe that the Euro is the way forward, then you also need to accept that a single economic control is essential, and that means a European Government setting European economic policies for the entire area and managing taxes, money supply and interest rates across the whole zone.

Local economic control in the Euro zone is economic nonsense as the principal financial levers aren't available to you, and you are dependent upon your neighbours good fiscal behaviour to support your plans. And that is where Greece and Italy are the magpies in the nest.

But giving up economic control means that interest rate policy is set in (probably) Frankfurt to benefit the majority of the Euro population. And that means that the periphery - Romania, Greece, Sicily, Portugal and the Western Isles will all have to live with policies that are designed for the urbanised, industrial cities of Europe.

There are only two credible positions: stay out of the Euro or support complete European integration. Anything else is the triumph of hope over reality.

Friday's debate

Here's the link to the 'listen again'.

Haven't heard it myself. Yet.

Having listened: Who was the heavy breather at the beginning?

Poor Sheena Norquay was having to talk with an echo of her voice about 1 second later which can only have been wholly distracting.

The whole debate was very amateurishly delivered by Radio Scotland.

The E-election that wasn't

Every party promised that this would be the election in which they lead a grassroots spontaneous movement to support their own views.

That was - of course - nothing short of vacuous rubbish, and so it has proved.

But let's look at the local online efforts of the candidates standing in this constituency. Political websites generally are either dull boring and safe or shambolic efforts, so bearing the restrictions placed on the designers by campaign teams for 'safety' and 'no suicide notes' , the comments are aimed at the campaign, rather than the individual site designers. (I say that as I know at least one of the designers, and what he is capable of when unrestricted). My scores are as campaign websites.

Unfortunately, none have the kind of comments that got Stuart MacLennan removed as Labour PPC for Moray (NSFW = Not Safe For Work).

SNP - Not even an election campaign site, this includes a wonderful typo of the candidates name in a Press Release. Contact details are sketchy, and it appears unfocused on what it is trying to achieve. Policy lite. 4/10

Labour - An 'out of the box feel' which is what it is. Why a co.uk address? A fair degree of content and local policy, but the site appears to be more as something that had to be done, rather than a considered way of getting the message across. Link to the candidates Facebook page doesn't work. Provides some contact details. 5/10

LibDem - No website that I can find.

Tory - No website that I can find.

Independent - Now this is more like it. Clean, simple and with a clear message, there is no vacillation or ambiguity and no punches pulled. All of which befits a candidate who is always going to be an also ran, but will definitely affect the outcome for the others. Clear and direct contact details. This is clearly a major element of his campaign, as many people don't know exactly what he stands for, beyond the religious message. Facebook link works! 8/10

Overall, the campaign hasn't really hit the web, except through the traditional method of issuing press releases to the traditional outlets.

Nationally, the picture is equally mixed and I can't see any party actually looking a the web as being anything other that another way of issuing press releases.

Overall score for all parties - exceptionally poor, uninteresting and underwhelming. 3/10. Must do better in the future, and that means starting now for the next elections.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Second debate

They have all been taking serious coaching in being touch-feely and empathetic, and they all showed the training very well.

Cameron seemed to be out of the debate, letting the other two say what they wanted to say. He was good at the set piece questions, but not at butting in. Ability score: dull wallpaper

Brown oozed practised relaxation, and the happy pills were obviously working, as he seemed to be relaxed an enjoying himself. Deadly earnest (zzzzzzz), well informed and impeccably well read on the policy issues (zzzzzzz in spades). Public interest score: personality-free accountant

Clegg grew in stature from a low standing start some two weeks ago and appeared to be the most confident of the three. Perhaps not so sure about the impact of his policies, but was able to put the knife in where it told. The target of the other parties, he found himself in the unexpected position of appearing to be doing well. Electability score: nice guy in the pub who you think should stand as Councillor, but might not actually vote for.

The winner? Anyone who didn't watch this version of PMQ with the prepared answers to prepared questions.

Roll on debate 3.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Pairc Trust

With the community representatives on the Trust at loggerheads with the Landlord, Barry Lomas, and with recent accusations and counter-accusations flying around, I was grateful for some documents that reached me recently, and to which I will be giving detailed consideration shortly.

I looked carefully at the Pairc Trust website and was interested to note that the footer reads:
Copyright (c) 2009 Pairc.co.uk. All rights reserved.
So who owns pairc.co.uk?

A quick look at whois.co.uk produced an astonishing answer:
Domain name:
pairc.co.uk

Registrant:
BJY Lomas

Registrant type:
UK Sole Trader

Registrant's address:
Lomas
14 Offchurch Lane Radford Semele
Leamington Spa
CV31 1TN
Unknown
United Kingdom

Registrar:
Easily Limited t/a easily.co.uk [Tag = WEBCONSULTANCY]

URL: http://www.easily.co.uk

Relevant dates:
Registered on: 20-Jan-2000
Renewal date: 20-Jan-2012
Last updated: 04-Mar-2010

WTF is going on???

Why do the parties seems to be playing at being opponents at each others throats when there appears to collusion between the parties, not just in the simple matter of the website, but in apparently secret deals behind closed doors which apparently seek to benefit some of the Trustees interests and the sellers interest in a mutually beneficial way? (More on this to follow)

As a charitable trust, the Trustees have to show an even higher standard of probity than company directors, but the public in the Pairc area need to be make any decisions in the full knowledge of the full facts. And the politicians need an even higher level of knowledge before public funds and public approval are bestowed on the deal.

Of course, I may be wrong, and I will happily publicise any further information that may shine light on the nature of the dealings, if I have got the wrong end of the stick.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Censorship - who knows?

I am tickled to find that reading my blog is an unapproved activity in the Comhairle offices.

Some managers have been told to stop staff from reading this blog, and that some of them are enforcing this instruction from the top.

Why is this happening? Which other websites are unapproved reading? And, who took the decision? (I know the answer to the last one, but why haven't they told the Councillors?)

I suspect the fear comes from the knowledge of the unpleasant facts about the activities of senior staff to which I have access and evidence. But the senior staff should have thought about that before they did what they did.

For instance, why is one department continuing to suffer huge financial losses for reasons that have been pointed out to higher and higher management over a number of years? Councillors have been given a completely incorrect picture with the real facts hidden, and I suspect that internal and external audit are unaware of the reports that management received. Want to know more Mr & Mrs Councillor, or will you accept the reassurances that you don't need to know - or can't know - about the real situation. More to follow on this one fairly soon...

Brown -v- the volcano

Their is joy and glad throughout the land as Gordon has beaten Vulcan and the Icelandic vandals who have been spreading dead, destruction and political chaos across the land.

As the PM promised, the Ark Royal has been tasked to leave the war games off the coast of Lewis and to travel to Northern Spain to rescue potential votes stranded tourists from the flesh pots of Costa del Chips.

Except, the Ark Royal has received no orders and knows nothing more than what they have seen on the TV, on what appears to have been an on-the-hoof comment.

Listening to Willie Walsh tonight, and reading today about how the entire closure decision was based on a theoretical model with little or no testing of the evidence, there will be questions about how this whole matter was handled.

But, they will be on the other side of the election and only after the grateful voters thank Gordon for his decisive leadership.

Nicolsons senior

The senior members of the family are stuck in Madeira, having been due back on Monday and now facing plans to travel 'probably' some time this week, but certainly within the next 7 days.

The most senior Nicolson had vocalised his view on the week-long holiday to his sister befroe he departed, in way that is sure to have the proverbial ripped from him when he gets home:
Harrumph: it hardly seems worth going all that distance for just a week!

I hate Iceland

Monday, April 19, 2010

What the candidates say....

Thanks to Hebrides News for getting the candidates to make their profile and public policy statements available to contrast and compare.

I will do the contrast and compare shortly, but I would encourage all voters to try and stave off the tedium and read what is being said.

Gordon Brown in laughing shock

Twice in the past 24 hours I saw him on telly laughing, in what appeared to be an entirely genuinely manner.

It's a bit frightening, like the mad uncle who has been released from the cellar and is being dosed with happy pills. sidling up to you and saying "Little child, little child, would you like to see the skinned rabbits I keep in the shed?".

I suspect he's seen some polls and the impact of the LibDem advance on the Tory advance....

Bizarre questions on tax retruns

1.5.11 Did you own a power station in 2009?

No, honestly. It looks like you get a tax-deduction if you did. I suspect it applies only to nationals of that country, but I need to check.....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The local election campaign

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Mostly.

LibDems - the new target

Clegg dominated and won the first Leaders debate, as a debater, and as a consequence the LibDems are now being targeted relentlessly by the other two parties just in case, perhaps, they managed to grab some of the votes.

Being the best or most successful debater first time doesn't make you the winner in a three stage race, it just gives clues (targets!) to your opponents for the later debates, and those who really control the process - Labour and the Tories - will simply close ranks and squeeze the outsider.

I've seen it too many times, and had it done to me on a number of occasions, to never mix up successful debating with voting success. They are two aspects of the same process, but they are not necessarily interlinked.

Nor, as some comments have suggested, should my admiration for debating ability be assumed to be an admiration for the party of the debater. IMHO, Margaret Thatcher was one of the most able and successful debaters of her generation, and was especially good when the resources that a Prime Minister can command were made available to her. That doesn't mean I agreed with her in the slightest way, but I did have grudging respect. With hindsight.

The next two debates will be (1) an anti-LibDem conspiracy, and (2) a last desperate plea. The third will be the best, as some (hopefully) will have nothing to lose and will speak more openly and freely; and in a less stage-managed way.

In search of votes....

Spotted just a few miles East of the Magic Kingdom (insert own joke here)....

Councillor Donald Manford

I'd forgotten I had this photo until I was downloading from the camera today, the driver must have thought we were lunatics, as I was hanging out the window trying to get this snap before settling for through the windscreen.

The only complete family photo we managed to get was one with all of us with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy. Embarrassing, I know, but these things have to be done. I got a slightly less/more photo of me with Jake (and Elwood) on a mission from God....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Election debtates

I watched with some interest the first election debate between Brown, Cameron and Clegg, and I must say it was much more entertaining and informative than I ever expected.

My expectations were very low, fearing boredom, repetition and prepared answers to the expected questions.

Instead, I found it constructive and filled with thinking on the hoof to twists on forecast questions.

It was as if they were given a script, but they then had to extemporate as the debate progressed, and that made it interesting because it always gives the opportunity for error, misstatement and outright abuse.

They became slightly unguarded at times, but no-one landed the killer punch, BUT I think that the next two debates will be even better, as they know the grounds on which they will be attacked, and those attacks on opponents which are successful, and that will allow better targeting. And more opportunity for vicious unexpected questions.

The debate winner: Brown, I think on almost every level, probably because so little was expected from him and he avoided a televisual suicide. The best debater was Clegg, but he won't win the election (emphasis added and updated after first comment). But Cameron has done enough to win overall, by avoiding anything any mistakes and by building on a satisfactory standing by making the right noises, even if they were intellectually weak.

Update: as I type ITN are carrying their poll of candidates. The low score for Brown should be compared to where he started from, which probably means that the Labour result will be slightly better than I thought some time back, by encouraging some disaffected Labour voters to actually turn out and vote. But I still think that Cameron will win the floating vote and will still win the largest number of seats in the election.

Missing presumed jet-lagged

FFS, it was all going so well with us travelling over Sunday and into Monday, but then the jet-lag kicked in.

I had no sleep as I tried to keep the boys entertained; wired into the tv sets in the seats; and fed, watered and toileted.

Tuesday was spent opening the post - three hours plus just to open the mail before I could even start to sort it into urgent, ultra urgent, later and bin.

Yesterday I fell asleep at the desk, until caught by Mrs N.

Mrs N is used to this, having in a previous life spent one week a month working in New York, and utilising the red-eye flights in and out. She had warned me, but ......

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lack of ability in the House of Commons

Alex Salmond has some damning criticism of the House of Commons as he opts to collect a £65,000 retirement package - about £1,000 for every day he has been there in the past three years.
When I went there at first, when you went into the chamber of the House of Commons there were folk worth listening to. You get none of that now, none of it at all.
Does our MP (seen here in the background) agree that he and his colleagues are not worth listening to?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Rockets (2)

The pattern of the coming election is making itself clear, as intel makes its way across an ocean and some timezones to my computer.

The SNP are going to pin the blame for everything on Gordon Brown and Labour, and fairly fertile furrow to plough, and one that lends itself to every sort of attack, whether justifiable or not. Some of it can be fully justified and these are the strongest elements; such as fuel duty rises, where the SNP don't have to justify any sort of contrary policy. At least not at present.

Labour are going to focus on the record of Mr MacNeil, and the criticism of his role in the Rocket Range issue is very, very powerful in Uist. Some of it may not be true – but, as I said to a senior SNP member who made that comment – it's not truth but perception that is important. This plays exceptionally well in Uist, and I am not sure that the SNP realise the impact it has had on their vote, but my direct feedback from friends, clients and people I bump into tells me that it may be a pivotal election issue.

The LibDems will plod along making earnest, honest, statements and almost no headway. Which is probably undeserved for Jean Davis and her serious workload.

The Tories will appear, get their quota of votes from an ageing and dying voting base, and disappear until weeks before the next vote with another anonymous candidate.

Murdo Murray will earnestly knock doors, attend Church services and shake hands in an old-fashioned politician kind of way. I have a huge amount of respect for Murdo as a man of integrity and sincerity, although I do not share his views or his aspirations. He will probably meet the most voters in a one-to-one situation and his votes will reflect this.

At the turn of the year I forecast that the Christian Party would cost the SNP the election, purely through the spending power.

Illness, incompetence, a lack of transparency and finally a complete change of tack will dull their performance, but I still think that they will tip the election.

My forecast was for a Labour victory, and I still stand by that prediction, but if they win it will be by a very tight and small margin; but I plead a large margin of error from undecided voters at present.

My justification for this is that whilst Labour have pulled back in the polls in a way I didn't think was possible, some of the attack on the SNP will be dulled by repetition and the passage of time and it really is all to play for.


The importance of the seat to both parties is evidenced by the draft lists of big names that will visit the islands in the next 4 weeks. Our job is to screw the biggest and best promises out of both parties, and then hold them to those promises. Remember the competing promises over ferry fares at the last elections? If they want our votes they are going to have to promise big and persuade us that they can deliver.

Rockets (1)

Having been berated by a contributor for not taking three small children on an all-night journey to sit around in a car for a few hours, for a few minutes excitement that the smallest one wouldn't understand, we (partly) redeemed ourselves today with a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre and a turn on the Shuttle simulator. The three boys went on the five minute 3g+ trip to the edge of space.

Expertly done, I think I was more scared than the boys, at least according to Mrs N who was able to watch the proceedings through close circuit TV.

Mrs N learned to drive in the US, so she has done most of the miles on the wrong side of the road, but I have been allowed to make a few trips, as she grips the edge of the seat and the hand grips ever tighter, muttering increasingly loud expletives (at me, rather than other drivers) until the Margaritas (hers) take effect.

Photos I wish I had taken (2)

Daughter (aged 30 months) sitting on a motorbike, sprawled down on the tank assuming the rcing position, opening the throttle fully, and leaning into the curves at 160mph.

I was pillion.

It was at Disney Quest, where our passes gave us free access to five floors of electronic games, and she was one of 8 contestants linked together in a free-for-all electronic race.

With Mummy, Grandpa and Uncle Ken-San having all been bikers in their time, it seems to be in her blood already. Most scarily, she chose to drive a Ducatti Monster, the very same bike as her mother used to have all those years ago, before kids.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Photos I wish I had taken (1)

With the puritanical Americans havign a drinking age of 21, I was bemused to see a sing in the local WalMart. I didn't take a photo for fear that they would think I was a foriegn terrorist and confiscate the booze from the trolley, but it read:
The legal drinking age in Florida is 21 years. If you appear to be under 40 years old, then proof of age will be required.
No, really.

Mrs N was secretly pleased to be asked to prove that she was old enough to purchase a few bottles of wine.

Election coming

I hear a rumour, about item 47 on the news headlines after "Dog saves family in Apopka from minor fire" that there might be an election in the offing...time to sharpen the claws and the wit and up the posting rate....

Monday, April 05, 2010

Shuttle launch

This morning we stood on the balcony at 6:21am and watched the shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral, along with probably half the other guests.

It was truly spectacular, and with the temperature being over 65F it was gloriously warm for the kids in their pyjamas.

Shuttle Launch April 2010
The launch site was about 50 miles away, but the sky was lit up from the moment the engines were fired. (I have a video but at the low-speed here it was taking forever to upload the 189Mb. It'll have to wait my return to civilisation.)

The birds went crazy as the craft soared, and just ahead of the arrival of the sonic boom, they went really berserk for just a few seconds.

Going to the launch site really wasn't an option, as traffic was predicted to have been very heavy and we would have had to leave about midnight to find a non-ticketed spot.

A once in a lifetime opportunity, that we hope the kids will always remember.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Nothing profound

It has been great to have been largely out of circulation for the past couple of weeks, albeit partially enforced and partially optional, as it has given us an opportunity to do stuff other than work and being ited to the computer.

I've no profound observations on American culture, at the moment anyway, but it has been an *experience* in every sense of the word.

At Disney Hollywood Studios we got to see the Muppets in 3D, using a new laser technology that required a unique set of glasses in what was (presumably) an experience that can't yet be repeated in ordinary cinemas.

It was utterly, utterly, fabulous, with the effects being utterly realistic. I think that the effects were done in such a way that there were multiple deliveries of the 15 minute film across different sections of the theatre.

We were in the front row, and at one point the boys were jumping up and trying to catch the bubbles that were floating across in front of them.

I don't know how they did it, but it is quite obviously very expensive, complicated and requires huge productions costs to deliver. If only it could be repeated everywhere.

Following that, at 10:30 one morning we went to see "How to Train Your Dragon" in 3D, HD and enhanced sound in the cinema complex at Disney. At $55 for all 5 of us it wasn't cheap, with popcorn, Coke and sweets on top, but it was delivered using the now-standard 3D format and the usual 3D glasses.

The film was fantastic, but the effects were so poor in comparison to the Muppets, although they were still great. Based on an island in the Inner Hebrides, the wild and hairy Vikings were voiced by Gerrard Butler, Craig "Bing Hitler" Ferguson and David Tennant, with the others having incongruous American accents.

The kids loved it too, and we may go to see another 3D movie just of the sheer enjoyment, and I would encourage anyone who has a chance to experience the technology.