Sunday, 24 October 2010

Fair enough?

George Osborne informed me on Friday, via my radio, that the cuts are in fact going to be fair, because (I quote, though not verbatim) 'richer people will pay a higher percentage of their income than poorer people'.

OK, let's do a worked example.  All the following numbers are, of course, entirely made up (you don't expect me to do proper research, do you?  For goodness sake!), but the principles hold.  So, take two people, P and R.  P earns £10,000 per annum, R earns £100,000.  Now assume that the cuts affect P to the tune of two per cent, and R by three per cent.  This is what George is calling fair.

So,  my calculator informs me that P will take a hit of just £200, while R will be stung for £3,000.  What could be fairer than that?

Quite a lot, actually.  The problem is that this balance sheet doesn't balance.  To make it do so, we need to consider the impact on each of these people.  So let's introduce the idea that there's a minimum subsistence level - a breadline, if you like - that applies equally to everyone (the basket of commodities used to calculate the Consumer Price Index, for example), and purely for convenience let's set this at £10,000.  To be completely fair, let's give R some credit for achievement and add in an extra bit: three per cent for example.  So P's breadline is £10,000 and R's is £13,000. 

You can see where I'm going, can't you?  When you deduct George's cuts, P is left with £9,800, and R with £97,000, of net income.  P is now living £200 below the breadline, while R has £84,000 of discretionary income above the breadline, as opposed to the previous £87,000.  Hardship if not penury for P.  Slight inconvenience for R.

Fair enough?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Brazilian butterflies in the supermarket

Chaos theory, one manifestation of which is sometimes called the law of unforeseen consequences, demonstrates mathematically something we all know in our hearts, that great oaks grow from carelessly dropped acorns, sometimes undermining your foundations and causing insurance claims which prove to be the last straw that breaks the back of the global financial camel, etc etc.

Something of this sort must have happened at head office when it was decided that my nearest branch of that top-of-the-market supermarket shall, henceforth, sell 'large appliances'.  This, I was told, means hoovers, fridges and such, rather than obesity trusses.  The shop had already been extended about four years ago (with the principal result, as far as I could tell, of reducing the number of checkouts from twenty to twelve), so that wasn't an option.  Cutting down the stock range was obviously not on either, though I'd personally have settled for a halving of the selection of toilet paper, kitchen roll and washing powder.  So everything else had to be squeezed up to make room for range cookers or whatever.  (Imagine the conversation:  'Darling, have we got everything?'  'I think so, darling, but - don't we need one of these?')

The methodology employed (I always thought that word should refer to 'the study of methods', rather than its common usage, which is a posh way of saying 'method', but in this case I let it stand, as very little actual study seems to have been involved) was not, as it first appeared when I entered the place today, to draw a large map of the store and throw a load of little icons, representing the products, at it to see where they landed.  No, they took a more structured approach, just as a butterfly does when it decides it's time for a wingflap.  If we move the greeting cards up there next to the tonic water, and put one of the two sorts of celery over there by the mangoes, and, and ...  Then, miraculously, a whole empty aisle appears - see? - ready to be filled with freezers and jumbo-sized toasters.

The unforeseen consequence, for me, was that I wasted twenty minutes searching for breadsticks, which turned out to have been moved seven aisles to the south from crisps and snacks, where they'd always been perfectly happy, to reside alongside canned soup and croutons, and I was late for my lunch.  I didn't even have time to drop a new tumble dryer into the trolley.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Caravan Is Closed

I get anxious about all sorts of things, future things, that grow in my mind like little weed seeds over days or weeks - then I get disproportionately euphoric when a simple squirt of the paraquat of real life comes along and solves them, just like that.  Does that make me bipolar or manic/depressive or one of those labels, or maybe just normal?  I don't know.  Do I care?

Closing down the shiny new caravan for the winter was one of these.  Once you grow up, you no longer want to break your shiny new toys, especially as you paid for them yourself.  Drainage was the main issue.  The old van required me to perform contortions that could easily have become another new Olympic sport (blind unscrewing of drain taps with head below ground level, something like that), and then, when I opened up in the Spring, pipes would have burst anyway.  The drain taps on the new one are much more accessible, but carry with them a totally useless set of instructions, which are worth quoting in full:  "Remove binding strips.  Remove insulation surrounding drain taps.  Drain system.  Replace insulation in reverse order." 

Joseph turned up to collect his rent and electricity bill.  "How does this work, then, Joseph?" I asked him.  "Well, ignore all that.  I usually just take the taps off and leave them inside the van," he told me, and showed me how.

So now, that's all done.  The caravan has been drained, cleaned and cocooned until Easter.  Midnight, Saturday night, I looked up, at the last time I'll see the Milky Way until April.  Still, there are comets coming, apparently.  Something to look forward to.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Bored with Blogging

I've been doing this for a while now, never prolifically but always because I felt I had something amusing, or provocative, or at least whimsical to say.  But now, I feel the opposite way.  Actually, that's wrong - 'opposite' suggests only two dimensions, whereas my problem is that I'm getting crowded out by an increasing, potentially infinite, volume of stuff I might write about.  Today's options, just frinstance, have been: final salary pension schemes; Roman warrior's face helmet and the implications of its sale on contemporary moral relativism; George Osborne's possibly botoxed smirk; oddball guitar tunings; and ladybirds (pestilence of).  And those are just the ones I can remember.  (Actually, add in 'neighbourhood watch' and 'wireless video connection' and ...)

You get my point.  How the f am I supposed to choose from that lot?  I'm off to Devon tomorrow, then Kent, then Wales, before I start to settle in to the autumn pre-Christmas hibernation.   So you all have a ten day break from the pressure I know my posts invariably place you under.  Please feel free to inundate me with topics on which you're avid to see my literary gems.  Basically, I just like pissing about with the words.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Rodgers and Hammerstein

I had a long conversation today with a schoolfriend who I hadn't seen for, literally, fifty years.  It was a bit weird to begin with, as you can imagine ("so, what have you been up to ...?")  But we ended up agreeing that the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals were probably the greatest body of artistic work of the twentieth century.  Discuss.

The question of which of them was the very best was left unresolved, but, just as a clue, I stuck on my DVD of "Carousel" this evening, and my many layers of tears of emotion and delight are still welling up. 

What's your vote?