Nov 2021 – Omicron emerges

I never studied Greek. But I thought I’d learnt of most of the letters of the Greek alphabet by the time from my secondary school maths/stats education.

The full Greek alphabet

So this ‘omicron’ variant has befuddled me. It turns out that the Greek letter looks like a lower case o, so it would have been the most confusing thing ever in my school maths classes – thank goodness I’d never come across it (nor all the other variants after Delta) before. Now I’m trying to avoid coming across it in a different sense.

But it’s not just me that has been befuddled, it turns out, because the stock market has been almost as befuddled by the recent developments. But as the month turned out, things looked fairly straightforward – equities down, AUD down, and safety (gilts & USD) up.

Market movements in November ’21, constant currency

My overall return for the month was actually up slightly in the month, with currencies and my tech stocks helping counteract the hit from equities. My subportfolios tell a slightly more granular story:

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Oct 2021 – Covid gets me

It was only a matter of time, some people argue. Which ignores the vaccine efficacy stats. But for those of us with the Astra vaccine, which is only 60% effective at preventing catching symptomatic Covid Delta variant, perhaps it is true that it was only a matter of time.

Does 60% effective mean: if you meet 10 infected people, you have a 60% chance of not catching covid? Or does it mean that you have 60% chance with the first person, then 60% chance with the second person, then 60% the third time, etc. If the latter, then absolutely it is only a matter of time – even for Pfizer jabbees who are extrovert / risk-taking enough.

In any case, my time struck earlier in the month. I got a sniffle, then slight flu-like symptoms, progressing into a headache. I did a lateral flow test. It was positive. Ho hum. Another lateral flow and then, a few days later, a PCR test result all confirmed the picture.

Thankfully the virus has progressed in me in a pretty typical way. The flu wasn’t too bad, and then quickly became a cough, which has slowly been dying down. I’m back to normal, or at least 95% normal – I haven’t got my full sense of taste, and very little sense of smell. Apparently that can take weeks. Which leaves me much more aware than normal of foods’ texture – rather like, so they say, the Chinese appreciate certain foods.

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2nd homes: folly or fantasy?

I spent a fair bit of the summer thinking about second homes. At times it seemed as if every second person I knew had a second home – with plenty bought since lockdown started, as a getaway from urban London. They are (see map below) for the most part 2-3 hours drive form London; the Cotswolds just beyond Oxford and the Poole/Bournemouth coast in the southwest are particularly popular among my London circle.

I have had longstanding views on 2nd homes, so I found James Max’s summer FT article to be very thought-provoking on the topic.

Locations of 2nd homes of friends of mine

2nd homes as hassle and/or social problem

James Max starts with my position – that 2nd homes are fundamentally a hassle. Complexity. Things that can go wrong. Costs. An asset that is more of a liability. Like James, I don’t see myself letting a home out, via AirBNB, VRBO or the rest – so I wouldn’t see any income to offset the additional council taxes, utility bills, and occasional maintenance to deal with. Builders to find, gardeners and cleaners required.

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