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Monday, September 29, 2014

You'll never guess...

I'm only on the bloody train up to Liverpool again.  It's all starting to get a little too repetitive to be fair. 

At least today, the timings are all different and there is a change in the air.  A change of lead, which will make things very interesting at least for a day or two. I hear good things, so fingers crossed. The immediate impact is that we're to have an internal planning session this afternoon, which means no reason to travel at the crack of dawn, so here I sit on the blessedly-late-in-the-day 9.50. Different bunch of fellow passengers as well. Obviously they are mostly retired and taking advantage of the off-peak rates to get wherever they are going.  If they get disruptive, I'll be sure and let you know.

The rest of last week panned out much as the previous week, with the exception of a change of hotel. Dinner in the Ship and Mitre (a burger and a pint), and a trip to a very strange placed bolted onto the side of a "5-star" hostel. Also burgers. Nothing to yell about, but mostly enjoyable.  A terrible week for sleep though. For some reason I just didn't get a good night at all, and as a result was absolutely shattered by the time I got home on Thursday night. 

I hadn't planned on having a Wednesday/Thursday club beer either, however the lads were keen to try fish and chips from the delectable "Queens" so I was persuaded, although I'm glad it wasn't a particularly late night.  

Friday came and went, I got a haircut (long overdue) and the lawn got mowed so everything got a trim.  Mrs G and I tried to watch the x-factor in the evening, which I'm finding increasingly impossible to do. We caught the return of gogglebox instead though, which really is some genius TV. Highly entertaining to watch people watching TV.  Ridiculous, but much better than you'd imagine it to be. 

Saturday meant the Smithy Open. Always good for a few giggles, a game of golf at the Gloucester country club. The weather is insanely good for this time of year, and so shorts - in Almost October?! - were the order of the day. Didn't help my game though. I think my lack of sleep in the week had basically drained me of the energy needed to get my game going and I pretty much collapsed in heap when I got home after a six mile walk and thrashing about in the brambles. In the evening we did the usual routine of a few places in Cheltenham, but again, my energy was just all gone, so I sloped off early in the vain hope of some recovery.  Great company and banter, which I just couldn't sustain thanks to too much travel. 

Sunday - the day of rest - didn't involve a great deal of rest, but wasn't over taxing. Mrs G got her "tidy" on and I wasn't much use. She is awesome, and I'm sure she doesn't realise how proud I am to call her my better half, and how I actually couldn't cope without her. Luckily we have a proper holiday coming up and I'm certain that like me, she can't wait for a decent break and some time for just us two.  I did manage to make a couple of trips to the tip, to clear some stuff we'd been hoarding, and to make space for next weeks guest (daughter number 2), who is coming to stay for a couple of nights. Also managed to get bike lights sorted, while the boy tweaked gears, and breaks and as daughter put it "He had a little party in the garden with bikes".

The two of them went off for lunch with their sisters. In the evening Mrs G and I treated ourselves to Steak and Chips - something we haven't had for a while.  Interestingly we tried some steak from Lidl...  Now here's a thing... supermarket snobbery.....

Obviously, I should be buying steak from Waitrose, because after all, it's a) posh and b) fantastic tasting steak.  Well it turns out that that is a stupid way to look at the world.  These British steaks from Lidl were both a) a bargain (A fiver) and b) fantastic tasting. You would easily pay 3 or 4 times the price for the same at Waitrose.  Clearly Lidl is the up and coming supermarket with bargains galore. Daughter performed a whole weeks worth of shopping for 25quid, and genuinely NOT rubbish either. I shouldn't be surprised, after all on the continent Lidl and Aldi are the norm in terms of supermarket shopping. It's only us Brits who are stupid enough to think that there are major differences between Sainsburys, Tescos, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose. The main difference is the price - don't be fooled by the surrounding BS.

Train appears to be stopping rather more often than it should, and regularly not at stations either. I predict a slow and boring journey, so luckily I've downloaded the first two episodes of "Glue" from the fellas at Channel 4.  I'm going to have a crack at that, I'll yet you know what I think.  Oh and on the subject of 4OD, I see they also have "GBH" available to stream, which I will definitely be watching as I loved it back in the 90's when it first appeared. A Political comedy/drama, of the machinations of the insane. A great piece of both writing and acting, my memory tells me it is thoroughly recommended. 

Until next time...  Cheerio. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Crowded House....

Just for a change I'm back on the train again. Another early-ish start, In a real "pea-souper", destination Liverpool.  Of course I have to get through Birmingham first, which can be painful, although rather less painful than having to listen to my fellow passenger - a woman whom I helped onto the train with her luggage - only for her to repay me by giving me the story of her journey and all the hell that she envisages it providing her.

The agony she had to endure when she stuck her head out of her front door this morning into the cold. The pain of dragging her luggage into a taxi for the station (she'd normally drive, but there is no fun in it anymore) and the fact that she has to pay upfront and claim it back from her company (You know, it's a hundred quid for a train and a over night stop!). I almost feel sorry for her until she announces she's going to Ashchurch (12 miles away!!) for a course...  O, M and might I venture, G!
I got heads down into writing this, just to try and keep her quite for the next 10 minutes.

For me, there's a change of hotel this week, brought about by the lack of availability in any of the usual haunts. Last week was the Indigo Hotel on Chapel street - which I might add is actually not at all bad and very reasonably priced for a "Nuevo-Boutique" style kind of place. It's in an easy location - although not that easy for the client site I'm visiting - and features all the mod-cons you'd expect. Liverpool hotels are pretty friendly places compared to London one's, and significantly cheaper, but other than that - you could be anywhere really.

Post Scottish referendum, and all hell has been let loose - which is nothing like as bad as if the vote had been a "Yes". The country was never going to be the same anyway, but now the knives are out and I predict a complete collapse of the coalition shortly before next years General Election. The population at large have completely fallen out of love (as if they were ever in it) with politics and the politicians of Westminster as evidenced by low turnouts and apocalyptic nightmares of leaving the union. While trying to maintain the status quo of a system that has become ever more complex, they're failing to innovate or advance the country in any meaningful way. I'm not saying it's easy, but I am saying that given the resources at their disposal, they're making a bit of a hash of it, all in the name of getting a knighthood - or some other such title - and a book deal.

The weekend flew by again. Friday night saw son and daughter reunited for a weight watchers curry - much much better than it sounds - and I sat and heard the inevitable chatter of the delights of car insurance. It's special to live with three people working in the same industry that you don't. Sometimes, I catch myself actually listening. other than that, it was a delight to have them all under one roof for a bit and good to see them doing well with their lot.  Daughter is steadily getting promoted, and Is comfortable with her fella - a nice chap and stupidly tall.

He spent a few days last week in Germany and was supposed to be home on Saturday but the Germans being part of the EU, means that somehow or other Lufthansa's pilots needed to go on strike and cause him a flight cancellation and an extra night on the continent. This resulted in daughter having to get up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to go and get him from Heathrow. All is well that ends well though, and luckily they both had Monday off anyway.

Now he's back from his travels, Son has walked straight back into his old job - easily it seems - and  he's re-joined the Specials...  In the longer term (ie about 12 months) I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him join the regular police force and finally get a proper job. His step-grandfather will be proud. Time will tell..

And on the subject of his step grand-father, both he and his step grand-mother are touring the outer reaches of Scotland busily spending my sister and my inheritance. So far, they've managed to send a postcard South of the border, and managed a phone call before switching their mobile phones off again so they are completely uncontactable, should an emergency arise. What is it with parents and mobile phones?  They use them on their own terms I suppose, and you can't really say fairer than that. I asked what they'd seen of the referendum crowds and Mother said "not much really, although where we stayed was a bit Yessey."...  The mind boggles.

They appear to be having a marvellous time, and I can't help but be a little jealous of their lot. Settled and seeing the world without having to slog anymore - sounds like a retirement made in heaven to me.  One day.  In the meantime. All change at Brum and onwards to the Pool.
At least it's not raining yet.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Message reads....

Wednesday... half way through a tough old week, but nothing new there. Last night (Tuesday) involved a bite to eat in Jamie's Italian - which to be honest, is exactly the same in Liverpool as it is in every other town or city that there is one. It's perfectly good food, if a little overpriced and I easily hit my expenses budget with just a main course and two beers. the hunt continues for the perfect work related dining experience.

 After dinner, I trotted across town to meet up with an Architect and a Transition exec for a quick beer - and ended up in a gem of pub called the "Ship and Mitre". Very friendly bunch and a vast menu of beverages to choose from. Still maintains that "spit and sawdust" feel and seems to be a place that time has mostly passed by, but still manages to attract anyone who's interest in a large selection of interesting (and tasty) beers and largers. A couple of pints and a stagger back to my hotel ready to be up at the crack of dawn in preparation for a client session - what can possibly go wrong ?


Most interesting today however - at least to me - is the imminent release of iOS8, which I've been playing with in it's beta incarnations and have been enjoying greatly. It'll be good to see a final version and make the most of app-continuation across devices - which is one of a whole host of improvements to look forward to. The Fandroid's will of course say that they've had this feature or that feature for ever - but I'm so done with that conversation that I've learned to ignore it now and get on with doing productive stuff instead. Of course you could say, that just mentioning that fact here is in a way "getting involved" in the argument, but all I can say to that is "pah! Whatever"



While we're talking Apple for a minute - the iPhone6, 6 Plus and Apple watch... at least two of those things are on my shopping list, but it's all about timing. If the 6 hadn't sold out already, I might be placing an order for it. As it stands, I'll hang on a bit I think. However, with regards to the Apple watch - having had a Pebble for a while now - I can honestly say I'm a convert to the smart watch and will be as close to the front of the queue as I can get for this particular piece of tech. Message ends.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My own private Idaho....

Uncomfortable.  That's how I'm feeling today.
It's an early start on the way up to Liverpool, on a "cross country" train and it's not that bad a ride.  It's actually vastly better that "First-and-not-so-Great-as-in-bloody-awful-Western" into London. It features a little more leg room that FGW, but that's about the extent of the improvements.

Some of them have wifi although this one doesn't and I'm not upset about that for a change. I'm not really in the mood to be online so far today. Mostly because I'm sick to death of hearing the name Alex-dickhead-Salmond. (well there's nothing quite like putting your cards on the table up front).

Thursday's referendum has the potential to destroy a union that has been a bedrock for growth of our land over the past 300 years - and that is undeniable. As much as there has been plenty of banter (or bant's - to use the lingo of the kids) about the English hate the Scots and the Scots hate the English, as far as I'm aware, it's always been just that - banter - and not something to be taken seriously. As an Englishman I love he scots, they are a great example of the diversity of our nation - and I will truly be heartbroken should the unthinkable happen on Thursday and they take the banter way beyond ever being funny.

Try to understand it from an American perspective - it would be like Idaho suddenly deciding it no longer wants to be part of he United States, but in fact wants to be its own country with its own government and all that that entails...  Not a part of the Federal system in any way. It's almost unimaginable, and yet here we sit on the edge of a precipice in which that exact scenario - albeit on the western edge of Europe - may well be played out.

If we take this to logical extremes, then why not everywhere?....  yes yes... I might be onto something here....  I think I'll hold a referendum and ask the people of my household if they would like to leave the United Kingdom (such as it is) and become its own nation.  "Should my house become an independent nation?"

Right so the votes have been cast, and it's a 50/50 split between me and the wife...  However. Son has returned from his round the world travels and is living here, so (just like in Scotland) he gets the right to have a vote - imagine he's a Pole, or German, or from any other part of the EU and is living here while working part time in a bar, or as a brick layer or some such....  unlike daughter, who having lived here most of her life, has moved "South of the border" to her own household, so sadly no longer has a say....  That doesn't sound very fair does it ? - however thats how the scotchies are playing it. Oh and apparently the cats might even get a go too! (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11094592/Concern-as-child-aged-three-registered-to-vote-in-referendum.html )

So he gets the casting vote...  And it's a YES...   Oops..  what have we done?

Well, first things first - removal from the Union. Where do I start?   Guess I need to secure my borders - otherwise all those people in Calais who are trying to enter England (ie anywhere outside of my house) might tunnel up under the floors and out through my front door. This sounds expensive. And I'll need passports. Oh - but apparently only for me - the wife doesn't want one because her English passport works just fine and she's thinking of moving because she's fed up of having her bag searched every time she pops out to work..   Waste of money having had it printed now..

I've got this piggy bank though, which has got most of our savings in it.  Unfortunately it's a shared piggy bank now, because I made some bad choices a few years ago, I had to let the Unionist government manage it for a while, and now they've got it working again they're saying I can have it back as long as I pay the going rate for it....  I've asked the wife and she says she'll pay a bit every month, but she's not happy about it.... As a result we'll have our own piggy bank again, and I might try and persuade some of he neighbours to save some pennies in it, but they're not keen at the moment..  They say my financial skills cant be trusted after the last debacle. Hmmm, they might have a point.

And of course work is a problem....  I'm alright, I can work from home - much like a Scottish banker - and we can occasionally have guests round to look at the "lovely tapestries" we have hanging in the hall, and buy a postcard in the "gift shop". Unfortunately though - every single penny has to go into the tax coffers. I have to import almost everything. Tuition fees (something that was previously provided via free view) are through the roof as apparently it costs more to make programs on the telly specifically for me and in fact the BBC are suggesting they may not broadcast to my house unless I keep paying the TV licence (something I  was hoping to avoid having left the Union). The postman says unless I pay more he's not prepared  to climb the stairs around the outer battlements more than once a week. None of my previous (local) retailers want to set up shop in my country - too expensive they say - and I'd charge them too much tax they say.

Thank God for my underground petrol tank which enables me to sell fuel to the neighbours far cheaper than they can get it at their English petrol station. Although I'm not sure how I'm going to refill it once it's empty...... On top of that, son has been spending what little pocket money I've been able to give him, on incredibly cheap booze from the bloke next door and is spending most of his time in a drunken stupor - and he's still wearing that "Vote Yes" t-shirt... That's not much help. If only he had a job.

But it's a different story for the wife. She has to cross the border to work in England and while she might earn more over there (and pay less tax) she's less than amused at having to then pay a chunk of her salary to me to help feed us and fund my parliament, which she says is unnecessary and she tells me that I'm also not very good at managing the medicine cabinet. Whenever she wants some new headache tablets, I have to buy them in at great expense which ultimately means that she ends up paying for them.....  I can't help it. It's only me and her with the income. She's got a point that it was easier when the costs were shared with the old union.



Clearly I've made a mistake in being both the king and prime minister of my own private Idaho - let's call it "Home".  I think I'll go back to the way it was.....  whats that?  I can't?  But, surely it's just a case of changing it back again?  The constitutions been rewritten?  Oh bugger.....  Perhaps I'll move to England.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Scottish Independence and what a really rubbish idea it is for all involved….

....not least because they can’t afford it without raising significant Taxes.

Finally, something has stirred me enough to bother to write something here. I know I've been away for a long time, but I've dusted down the old keybaord, dug out the password and swept up the cobwebs...  and look!! it's still here.....



To the subject.  Scotland - which is a place I love - and politicians - who are people I...erm... don't.

Here's my observations. If Scotland becomes an independent state…

Passports and Citizenship
If your resident in Scotland at the time of independence - you’d become a Scottish citizen and therefore be eligible for a Scottish passport - and possibly a British one as well.
If you live in Britain but were born in Scotland, you’d also be eligible for a Scottish passport.
You would be expected to apply for a Scottish passport when your British passport is due for renewal.
If you voted No - you might not even bother getting one.
So that sounds like a bunch of money the Scottish parliament will have to spend on a system that half the population won’t want to use.

Banking / Finance
Taxation - Corporation Tax
Companies suggesting they will move out and Corporation tax would be payed to Britain
The banks that have lost out during the crash are still owned by British Government
Biggest worry for the banks is someone to back them in the event of a crash - something that once again, the Scottish parliament will have to find the money to do.  Two of the major banks are mostly owned by the british government as well - so for them to become Scottish, the Scottish government would have to buy back their shares….  Mr Salmond says the banks are scaremongering…  but it still requires yet more money.

Currency Union
UK Government will not allow a full currency Union with the BoE in charge
Scotland could use the pound without the consent of the Bank of England, which would mean no support from the BoE to bail-out Scottish institutions. Big risks involved here. especially as there are currency stability rules as a pre-cursor to membership of the EU.
Scottish Currency would potentially still be legal tender, but not sure how any licensing to print currency to be used as legal tender in Britain would work in a foreign state.

Health Service
The NHS spending is driven by decisions from the British Parliament
Scotland would need to build up larger reserves to maintain the level of spending the British government currently do, because they have currently not increased spending over the last 5 years (unlike Britain throughout the period of austerity). The Institute for Fiscal Studies says an independent Scotland would probably have to spend less on the NHS than if it remained in the UK. So that’s a cut - unless they can raise… you guessed it - yet more money.

Royal Mail
Scottish Government would want to maintain the same service as today, but in reality the two operations would be separated, and this would involve yet another deal between the two parliaments. Such transformations are not cheap…  I think there’s a pattern here.  

Jobs 
Corporate domicile (the brass plaque) would move for Taxation reasons, not the jobs
Both John Lewis and ASDA have said their prices in Scotland will have to increase and Tesco will (along with the big name banks) move their banking HQ’s into England.  This has been roundly rejected by John Swinney - The Scottish Finance minister.
Asda has 61 stores and depots in Scotland and employs 22,000 people.
Asda’s Director, Mr Clarke said he accepts the vote is a matter for the Scottish people but added that he would be "ducking his responsibility" if he did not offer an "honest assessment" of what independence could mean for his company.
"It will be no surprise to voters that if Scotland votes for independence, it would be imperative to establish a separate Scottish business," he said,
"Currently, our systems are set up for one single UK market, we use the same currency and we operate under the same rates of VAT. By operating in a market serving 63 million customers we achieve major efficiencies and economies of scale.
"If we were no longer to operate in one state with one market and - broadly - one set of rules, our business model would inevitably become more complex. We would have to reflect our cost to operate here."
Mr Clark added: "This is not an argument for or against independence, it is simply an honest recognition of the costs that change could bring.”

Policing
No extradition treaty, should be straight forward assuming that an Independent Scotland can become part of the EU. Separate jurisdictions will of course provide cover for criminals on either side of the border, and policing the border itself is going to cost yet more money…

So basically it’s prohibitively expensive - especially given that we’re emerging from a recession.
Of course Britain could benefit finically quite well in the short term - as Scotland will have to dig deep to pay for a lot of the effort required. But ultimately it’s a fool’s errand.

I don’t even get a vote - but if I did…  well you can work that out for yourself.
I see a repeat of the Darien Disaster in the future.... (google it if you have to ask)  and that's what got them here in the first place. 


If you want a vote - have one here: http://vote.pollcode.com/66779936

Should Scotland be an Independent Country?

Should Scotland be an Independent Country?
 

Where is Golfyball?

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