I was intrigued by Forbes’ list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Not only by who’s included, but also by what it purports to be. Sadly, I’ve heard of only five of the top ten ladies:

  • Angela Merkel
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Janet Yellen
  • Melinda Gates
  • Christine Lagarde

The other five of the top ten are business leaders but I’ve as much interest in the business league as I have in the Football Association Premier League – none at all.  Though the latter is  an important client (they use expense@work for their expenses) so I should pretend an interest of a kind.

Out of the next 90 I’ve only heard of only ten. But that’s a measure of my ignorance rather than of anything else. I counted my way through the list with the intention of comparing my ignorance of powerful women with my ignorance of powerful men, but I searched in vain for the equivalent list of 100 most powerful men. I found only a list of the 73 most powerful people in the world.

But of the top ten men in this list I’ve heard of nine, so I suppose I’m less ignorant of men. Sadly, only nine women feature in the list, and one of these is Dilma Rousseff (she’s being impeached, so currently she possesses no power at all).


But what is power?

Wikipedia says of these Forbes lists that ‘Slots are allocated based on the amount of human and financial resources that they have sway over, as well as their influence on world events.

But what is sway? What is an event? What is influence? And does ‘amount of human resources’ mean number of people? These are lamentably vague ideas, even if the list makes for a good topic of conversation.

Looking at the list I can find various kinds of power.

  • Military power (Obama, Putin, Xi Jinping, Jong un)
  • Political power (Merkel, Obama, Xi Jinping, Moon, Putin, Netanyahu, Cameron,  Hollande, Modri, etc.)
  • Moral or religious power (Pope Francis, Khameini)
  • Power to do practical good in the world (Bill & Melinda Gates, Chan)
  • Power to sway political opinion (Trump, Clinton, Murdoch)
  • Economic power (Yellen, Draghi, Buffet, Bezos, Brin, Cook, and all those CEOs)
  • Power to change day-to-day behaviour (Page, Zuckerberg, Cook, Brin)
  • Power of invention (Musk, Cook, Page, Brin)
  • Legal power (US Supreme Court Justices)

But I find it hard to identify the kind of power that the Queen possesses. She comes 29th in the list of powerful women despite the fact that she’s forbidden to express an opinion.

And I miss the power of entertainers, writers, singers, the makers of sweet drinks, purveyors of fast food, makers of cigarettes, distillers of alcohol, pharmaceutical companies, designers, doctors, cooks, sportsmen and women, and artists. They surely influence us and inspire us in small and big ways every single day.

And then there is the devil and all his works.





Goodbye to 2015!

I’m always sorry when the year comes to an end. It means there’s one fewer to go, at least, for me and you, if not for the unborn and the dead. When I was eight and calculated that I would be 42 at the end of the century (let’s not quibble about how the new century actually started in 2001), that seemed unimaginably ancient. The last century ended sixteen years ago, though it still seems like yesterday. (The painful memory of the Queen and Tony Blair linking arms and singing Auld Lang Syne in that pointless white elephant, the Millennium Dome, is still horribly raw. )


When the next century comes I will be unimaginably ancient by anyone’s standards (142), but who knows, with good progress in geriatric medicine and cosmetics, perhaps I’ll make it.

I’m a determined optimist, so I won’t dwell on the terrible things that happened in 2015. We all know what they are. Rather, I’ll list some of the best things that happened (the order below is insignificant):

  • An accord on reducing carbon emissions was reached in Paris by nearly 150 nations. Perhaps there’s now a chance that humanity might survive the threat of global warming.


  • Angela Merkel did the RIGHT THING and welcomed nearly a million refugees into Germany.


  • Same-sex marriage was legalised in the USA after the Supreme Court rejected the Defence of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. In Ireland, and for the first time anywhere by referendum, a majority voted in favour of gay marriage.

gay marriage

  • The best-yet photographs of Pluto were taken as a NASA’s New Horizons probe sped by.


  • England won the Ashes.


  • Extreme poverty (as defined by the United Nations) fell for the first time below 10% of the world’s population


  • The African Ebola epidemic was defeated, albeit after massive loss of life, and anti-viral remedies were rapidly developed and seemed to work.


  • Myanmar moved a step closer towards democracy.


  • Cuba moved a step closer towards rapprochement with the USA. (I include this rather reluctantly since Cuba will soon be just like everywhere else and very like the USA. But who are we to deny the Cubans this privilege?)


  • Africa, for the first time, went a year without a new case of Polio (I took this from Bill Gates’ list).


  • Russian Athletics got booted out of world competition


  • Sepp Blatter was banned from involvement in football.


  • ‘You ain’t no Muslim, bruv.’ The vast majority of Muslims denounced violence committed in their name.


  • At Marks & Spencer’s Wenceslas Square flagship store in Prague the food section got bigger and better.


  • A rocket sent a satellite into space and returned safely and vertically to earth.


  • Hillary Clinton announced her candidature for the Presidency of the United States.


These are all great examples of scientific ingenuity, political principle,  international cooperation, courage, determination against corruption and violence, progress towards equality, sporting splendour and gastronomic possibility.

Any dissent?

I shall be celebrating the New Year with Petru, Zdenek, Cedric, Remi, Tom, Revaz, Flavia, two roast chickens and an apple tart. Have a good party!