Thursday, July 29, 2010

Think of others by not paying tax

Apparently a local Toy Library won’t accept voluntary reimbursement from parents who offer to pay for lost or damaged toys.  The reasoning for this is because “some people wouldn’t be able to afford to pay.”

How ridiculous.

Mind you, thinking of those who can’t afford to pay does potentially have advantages.  I’m thinking of not paying tax, rent, and other bills because I don’t want to discriminate against those who can’t afford them.  Don’t let it be said that I’m not the caring, sharing type.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Awkward Situations for JP

I’m a big fan of Danny Wallace and have very much enjoyed reading his latest book, Awkward Situations for Men.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a collection of columns in which he’s written about funny and awkward moments in his life.  I’d highly recommend it, but it has got me wondering why my writing career hasn’t developed beyond the glory days of the Columnsphere in Bath Impact.  After all, I could be Danny Wallace.  I even sort of look like him (in that we both wear what he terms ‘Media Glasses’) and my life is full of awkward moments.

I had one just recently, in fact, when I discovered the potential pitfalls of going somewhere with your brother’s girlfriend but without your brother.

As I learned at DisneyLand when I was younger, “it’s a small world after all,” and Mavis* has moved nearby for the summer.  So we now attend the same church.  A couple of weeks ago, we rocked up together and sat in the same pew, behind some friends of mine.  Conversation flowed after the service, and a dinner invite from my friends was forthcoming – which I didn’t hesitate in gratefully accepting.  So far, so good.

But then as the invite was also kindly extended to Mavis I started to realise** that perhaps my (married) friends had misread the relationship between us.  Somehow I hadn’t found it necessary to prefix the earlier introductions with “this is my brother’s girlfriend…” and I’m not even sure it would have sounded too good if I had.  But now, as I put the date in my diary, panicked thoughts were running through my head.  How was I going to let on that Mavis and I were not an item?  Would it be really awkward when my friends found out? Did they even need to find out?

It may surprise you to know that I managed to keep my mouth shut at that point;  “when in doubt, say nothing” is probably quite a good policy.  Mavis and I confirmed arrangements for our hot date and I was left pondering what would happen next.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long.  After Mavis had gone home, my friend asked, in quite a knowing tone, how I knew her.  The way he then said “Oh, she’s your brother’s girlfriend” in a much more surprised tone implied that the situation wasn’t what he expected.  There was nothing to worry about, however – the truth was out in a manner reminiscent of ripping off a plaster, and everyone knew where they stood.

A further twist was later added when Mavis’s sister was also invited.  My friends were amazing hosts, and I had a lovely evening out with my brother’s girlfriend, her sister, and a guy called Pete.  Good Times.


*Following Danny Wallace’s example, names have been changed.  It could have been worse, I could have called her Colin.

**I nearly wrote “realise with horror…” but that may have appeared as an unfortunate slur on my brother’s taste in women, or wrongly given the impression that I am uncomfortable being seen with girls.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Microsoft may now be forced to offer users a choice of web browser, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped them mucking around in an uncompetitive manner. 

Internet Explorer came pre-installed on my computer and I have opted to keep the 64-bit version just because it is the only 64-bit browser I currently know of.  That doesn’t mean I use it very often (Firefox 4 has won my heart) but each time I do, it has started to complain about my choice of search engine.

IE Blog 

Apparently I originally chose Bing.  Obviously I didn’t, because no-one does, and I’d rather that Microsoft would leave me alone rather than kindly resetting IE to use its own product.

Interestingly, the message also tells me that Bing can be found at  If Microsoft employees think that, it’s no wonder that they are proud of their search engine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


One of the costs faced by rail companies is that of cleaning graffiti from trains.  As part of my work, I had a visit to a rail depot last year, and I learned that such vandalism can be extremely costly.  It’s probably another reason why your last rail ticket cost you a lot of money.

Anyway, some artist has had the cheek to proudly post his attempts at railway vandalism on his website.  If I was Prime Minister, I’d follow Obama’s example with BP and ensure that the artist was fleeced for every last penny of the clean-up operation.  Why should the average rail traveller foot the bill? 

Unfortunately, I’m not Prime Minister, and I learned this morning that Mr Cameron has instead decided to promote said artist by donating some of his work to President Obama.  Good one, Dave.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tax is for Christmas, not just for Life

Following on from yesterday’s post, I hear that Mr Cable has said that it’s "unlikely" that a ‘Graduate Tax’ would be paid throughout a graduate's working life.

Hmmm. If that could be guaranteed then the system is slightly more appetising (in the same way that raw beef is slightly more appetising than raw chicken).  I’m not convinced, however, that the bureaucracy involved in deciding who pays what, and which Universities get what will lead to a simpler, cheaper and better system.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Graduate Tax?

Predictably, the proposal of a Graduate Tax has caused some controversy.  The idea has some good points in theory (like Communism) but the FT outlines four flaws which might be a problem in practice.

I certainly don’t like the idea that having a degree could see me paying extra tax for life.  Neither do I like the idea that this extra tax could be funding thousands of Media Studies students and their binge drinking habits. 

Forgive the flippancy in that last sentence, but I think that the Labour target of 50% of people going to University is ridiculous, and attaches a stigma to those who don’t.  I might have been able to scrape my way through a Physics degree, but I can’t do anything practical to save my life.  We’re all different.  I’d much rather see investment in useful non-academic qualifications than University places for the sake of meeting targets which sound good.

I understand that there is a need to review funding for the education system.  But I have worked hard for my qualifications, and as I look out of my window at the many truant kids on my street and think about the fact that taxes pay for their housing and their Sky TV, I can think of better ways of fixing the financial problems than ‘Graduate Taxation.’

JP talks BP

The new BBC News Page tells me this morning that BP faces an offshore drilling ban, thanks to new measures agreed by a US Congressional committee.  Although the measures do not mention BP by name, they seem to be well crafted to target it, and this has really annoyed me.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the Gulf oil spill is a disaster and that lessons need to be learned.  Do I doubt that BP made mistakes? No.  But neither do I doubt the fact that BP were under immense pressure to feed America’s insatiable appetite for oil, or the fact that many of the non-BP contractors also had their part to play.

If Mr Obama was a real man, he’d be finding other ways of improving the safety of all offshore drilling – and not just focussing on BP.  He’d be considering the fact that the average US household has an annual carbon footprint of more than double the European equivalent, and wondering if such greedy demand for oil should continue to be encouraged.

Thanks to Obama’s bullying arrogance, American companies are relieved of their competition, the American people can still think that $2.54 a gallon is a lot to pay at the pumps, and the ignorant among them probably think that the British are entirely responsible for the Gulf Oil Spill, Global Warming and all sorts of other nasty disasters.

Lovely stuff.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Caption Competition


This picture comes from the BBC News coverage of the Raoul Moat incident.

The caption given by the BBC is

“After Moat’s death, police praised residents of Rothbury for their resilience in dealing with an armed police presence – and the threat of a gunman on the loose – in the town.”

That’s all well and good, and it’s nice to know that the residents of Rothbury were credited for the way in which they dealt which what must have been a difficult and traumatic week.

However, in my eyes, the picture above has a slightly comic edge – aiming a gun at two ladies on a jolly in their Nissan Almera seems like overkill to me.  Notwithstanding the fact that the events of the last week have obviously been very sad, I think there is an opportunity to have a bit of fun here and suggestions for alternative captions would be most welcome.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


“I tell you what. The Lords is a place of class, no doubt about that”  [Lord Prescott]

I think, what he meant to say was “The Lords was a place of class.”

Shame that he’s gone and ruined it.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Re-lighting old fires

So, Jeffrey John is potentially going to become Bishop of Southwark.  The news saddens me - but before I am accused of being homophobic, let me say that Dr John’s sexuality is not the real reason I am upset.  In fact, I have three big concerns about this latest news.

1) Much is being made about David Cameron being in favour of Dr John’s appointment, with reports suggesting that “it will be good for the image of the Conservative Party.”  As far as I know, our Prime Minister is not a church-goer, but even if he was, it doesn’t seem right that he is able to choose a church leader for political gain.  Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy contains some good points about choosing a church leader, and someone who “improves the image of the Prime Minister” is not one of them.

2) Some time ago, I was privileged to be in a group invited by Dr John to drinks at his house in St Albans.  I’d been looking forward to meeting him, and was determined to try and put my prejudices aside.  He had been described to me as a “great candidate for a Bishop” and someone who was “humble and people-orientated.”  Perhaps he was having an off-day, but when I started a conversation by complementing his house the rather grumpy response was “I’d rather live in a Bishop’s house” and as he bumbled through some small talk which included unnecessary sneers about Bath Abbey being “Evangelical” he didn’t endear himself to me.

Of course, one must accept that he’d had a tough time, and that it’s natural to feel bitter.  But I’m afraid that I saw a man who is a career churchman, with his own agenda.

3) The liberal wing of the church has the Henry Ford attitude to tolerance.  We can have any view we like, apparently, so long as it’s theirs.  It seems that for some people, their idea of holding together the Anglican Communion involves being prepared to welcome others back with open arms once they have changed their mind.

The issue of homosexuality and church leadership is a divisive one, but whatever side of the fence you are on, it doesn’t seem right that the liberal agenda is being pushed through in spite of clear agreements not to ordain gay bishops for the time being.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Loose grammar costs lives

I have just looked at the photograph in the last post I published and realised that there is an apostrophe.  Thus, it is probably only one farmer who is fearful of Chinese lanterns. 

But, as I have commented here before, the world is increasingly full of people who don’t use apostrophes appropriately.  Somehow many Tom’s, Dick’s and Harry’s still get a C or above for their English Language GCSE.  This sad fact of life means that I cannot be certain that the journalist was only referring to one farmer. 

I’m not worried enough to buy a copy of the paper just to put my mind at rest though.  So there.

3 things I have learned today

They say you learn something new every day, and I’m pleased to announce that after spending a very pleasant morning in Billingshurst I have learned almost enough for a whole week.

1) Black PVC insulation tape is much, much cheaper than you fear it might be.  If you were me, that is.

2) Billingshurst has a new Italian Delicatessen-cum-coffee shop. ‘La Dolce Salata,’ I believe it is called, and if you are ever opposite Budgens you should pop in.  I had a very pleasant chat with the owner whilst he let me sample a range of cheeses and made me a sandwich for my train journey.

3) Some farmers have some fears about Chinese lanterns.  I didn’t actually see the paper, and cannot comment further.