The Meaning of Wealth

“The great weakness of the West is that it has nothing with which to inspire loyalty except wealth. But what is wealth? Another washing machine, a bigger car, a nicer house to live in? Not much to feed the spirit in all that. What is the West but a gigantic supermarket?”

John Burdett Bangkok Tattoo

Chris

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William Tyndale School: Returning after 64 years

On the 16th of May 2017 I returned to the brick lined alleyway, which led to the school building. There were two entrances one for boys and the other for girls. This was historically true but obviously, in 2017, sexual segregation has long since gone.

Mel, one of the teachers, came and introduced herself. She had arranged for me to speak to two classes about William Tyndale sixty years ago. Needless to relate although the buildings were, more-or-less the same, everything else was different. Strangely enough the “Herring bone parquet-flooring” floors I had walked on so many times before were the same.

The children were told I was a special visitor who had attended the school when I was their age sixty-four years ago. In 1953 everyone was regimented. We had to stand to attention whenever a teacher entered the room; when our name was called in morning registration and especially if a teacher spoke to us. Everyone marched smartly to or from the hall from our classroom. There was absolutely no running, talking or pushing in the corridors.

Miss Carpenter, my form teacher, was nice but posh. She didn’t always understand our Cockney accents. None of us sounded our ‘aitches’ and sometimes just for devilment we’d speak in Cockney rhyming slang. My example was saying “apples and pears” instead of stairs. The children were very excited by this and hands were shooting up in the class. The teacher calmed them down by reminding them of the question time at the end of the talk.

Miss Reason was a much older teacher who’d taught for many years. Miss Reason made me the ‘ink-monitor’, and each day I took the big enamel jug of ink from the cupboard and filled up the inkwells in front of each pupil. Nowadays, of course, no one uses ink pens and so the children didn’t really know what I was talking about. This is another example of change in an everyday school matter.

Miss Latham, who had a terrible reputation was my form teacher from 1954 to 1955. She always had her hair, tied in a bun. She always looked quite fierce because she wore a tweed jacket and skirt with brown brogue shoes. And boy could she stamp those shoes. On more than a few occasions when she caught me not paying attention, she would scream “Davis, go and stand in the corner, with your hands on your head, you stupid boy”. This was usually followed up by “Face the corner, you are not going to show off to the rest of the class!”

After registration Miss Latham gave us a ‘mental arithmetic’ test. She would pick on any boy or girl. The question s were completely random like “What is nine times twelve or what is seven times eight?” This lasted 30 minutes but felt like two hours. This was followed by a half hour spelling test. Usually only those that could do spelling got the really hard words.

After my talk one little girl said that “ Miss Latham sounds as bad as Miss Trunchbowl in the book Matilda by Roald Dahl.” “Yes,” I said, “that is how she was”.

The children were very excited to ask their questions, which they’d been ‘saving’ up for me.

What subjects were you taught? English, Composition-English exercises-Reading-Recitation, spelling, grammar. Arithmetic, Geography, Nature Study, Art, Handiwork (raffia weaving).

What did you wear to go to school? I had my first pair of long trousers, at the age of nine, my two older brothers had worn them before me.

What did you eat? School dinners were horrible, but we were made to eat them.

What punishments were there? Write lines, you could be shouted at, slapped, or caned.
What does it mean to be slippered? Hit on your bottom with a trainer shoe
Were you ever slapped? Yes, I was once slapped very hard around my face by a teacher.

How many were in your class? Forty to forty-five, sometimes more, sometimes fewer.
Did the teacher have an assistant to help? No, there was no such help for the teacher in those days.
Question time took a long time but I think that they enjoyed it as much as I did.

My wife, who accompanied me, distributed copies of my school reports to the children to read. We made enough copies for the children to keep as a memento of the talk.

Before we left school the school secretary showed my entry record into the school with my name and address and my Fathers name. Strangely enough my Mothers name didn’t appear. As I looked down the other names of children who joined school at the same time as me, I saw the name of my very good friend Mickey Bishop. Many years later we worked for the same employer.

Mike

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Theresa May: Money+Power=Irresistible

Theresa meets her strong and stable mentor Donald

Chris

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What you need

What you need, is her
Strong and stable leadership-
willing to make the difficult decisions
Just read MY manifesto,

I have been very clear
I am the only safe pair of hands
For this country to trust
I’ll do what I must.

Dementia tax! Don’t be daft!
Social care you might need
We can level the cost-
against your disposable home.

It’s clear – in our manifesto
Strong and stable leadership
Only I can provide, not Labour
They are not strong – like me.

Heating allowance for the old
Take it away, see that shows
I don’t care about the pensioners vote
If you vote for me; I’ll have your free travel pass next.

Err, well I didn’t actually mean
Your home will count as assets
Of course we will cap care costs
To affordable amounts.

Let me be clear, this is not a U-Turn
I don’t care what’s in our manifesto
Listen this is merely an adjustment
I have made following advice.

I always listen to “The Great Unwashed”
That shows how strong and stable, I am
I’ve only U-Turned on a couple of –
Issues I’ve previously pontificated on!

I take no notice of “Opinion Polls”
It’s all “fake news” you know
Strong and stable leadership
Is clearly what you need.

Mike

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An Outraged Husband in the Wild West

A guy walked into a crowded bar, waving his pistol and yelled, “I have a .45 calibre Colt 1911 with a seven round magazine plus one in the chamber. I want to know who’s been sleeping with my wife.”

A voice from the back of the room called out, “You need more ammo!”

Chris R.

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George Osborne, VAT and Conservative Extremism

On 4th January next year (2011), the main rate of VAT will rise from 17.5 to 20 per cent…. This single tax measure will by the end of this Parliament generate over £13 billion a year of extra revenues. That is £13 billion we don’t have to find from extra spending cuts or income tax rises*. George Osborne 22nd June 2010

George Osborne’s first emergency budget brought a 14% increase in VAT**. VAT is a consumption tax on goods and services which disproportionately effects low and middle-earning people. Increasing VAT is normal Conservative extremism as they try to delude voters that they are a ‘low taxation’ party. In the UK (2016) VAT was the third*** largest provider of revenue for the Treasury and is vital to government finances. Osborne’s extremist programme was aimed at reducing the welfare state at the expense of those who depended on it most: mothers, average earners and those living in rented housing. Osborne was driven by his desire to reduce the size of the state in Britain. The 2008 banker induced financial crisis made it politically possible to do just that.

The quotation above shows Osborne’s contempt for every low and middle-earning person’s standard of living. Three sentences raising £13 billion of additional taxation! VAT isn’t charged on all goods and services **** but citizens and tourists are bound to pay VAT at some point. Conservative governments love VAT because it’s very easy to collect. Osborne’s ultimate plan was to reduce Income Tax, which affects the highest earners most by raising VAT, which increases the tax burden on low and middle-earning people. This effect was a matter of indifference to Osborne.

VAT is blind to personal circumstances. Toys, DVDs, cinema tickets, Rolls-Royce cars, gas, electricity and water, takeaway meals and so on are all subject to VAT. The only way to avoid VAT is to not consume. In a modern society it’s very challenging to live without gas, electricity and piped water and therefore VAT is, in reality, unavoidable. Gas, electricity and water are taxed at 5%, because Gordon Brown reduced it, (a quarter of the standard 20% rate) to make sure they’re affordable. This reduction recognises the political fact that if essentials became unaffordable because of government taxation it may provoke civil unrest.

The possibility of civil unrest illustrates a powerful truth: taxation must be broadly acceptable. The Poll Tax, an extremist Conservative policy, was totally unfair and provoked riots in 1990. Many people who wouldn’t dream of rioting nonetheless felt that the rioters had a point. People will pay a fair tax even if it’s a ‘burden’. Currently VAT is charged at 20% and Theresa May said, (30th April 2017: TV interview: Robert Peston show) that that is a political maximum in Britain*****.

George Osborne made Income Tax the centre of his chancellorship. He created a political atmosphere that meant Income Tax rates only ever go down. The Conservatives want to raise VAT but can’t because the political price is too high. The two other critically important sources of revenue are Income Tax and National Insurance. Both may well rise to solve the problems Osborne created. The political consequences of Osborne’s six years in office can now be seen in the quality and scope of public services. There has been a visible worsening in public services to the distaste of many non-extreme Conservatives. Osborne’s obsession with Income Tax is haunting the Conservative Party as they face a Britain with government engineered poverty and a failed economy.

VAT is an efficient tax raising very large amounts of revenue. Unfortunately VAT also indiscriminately reduces the standard of living of low earning and middle-earning people if set too high. Osborne’s utter failure has been written in the Conservative manifesto (2017) with the unannounced but heavily trailed increases in both National Insurance and Income Tax both of which were anathema to him and Cameron.

*http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/budget/7846849/Budget-2010-Full-text-of-George-Osbornes-statement.html
**George Osborne British Chancellor of the Exchequer 2010-16. He raised VAT from 17.5% points to 20% which in real terms is 14.28% though most people focused on the more palatable 2.5%.
***https://www.ft.com/content/a389842a-e9f8-11e5-888e-2eadd5fbc4a4 Income Tax is the largest source of income followed by National Insurance. It should be noted that most British people don’t identify National Insurance as a ‘tax’ as they believe that that money is ear-marked for the NHS, which it isn’t.
****http://www.helpwithhmrc.co.uk/index.php/vat/vat-rates-zero-rated If you find this fascinating then you can see what is zero rated and what is exempt at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/vat-notices-alphabetical-order
***** See https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/vat-rates-in-europe for European rates, which range from 8% (Switzerland) to 25% (Denmark)

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Lenin’s cushy exile in Siberia 1897-1900

He… received a steady stream of books on extended loan from libraries in St Petersburg and Moscow, via the good offices of his sisters, to supply his voracious appetite for reading. Despite his frustrations with the speed of the postal system (it took about thirty-five days to send a letter to the capital and receive a reply), Lenin devoured texts on politics, economics, industrial history, agriculture and statistics, and…. left Siberia at the beginning of 1900, (with) 225 kilogrammes of books…. Lenin bombarded his mother and sisters with requests for creature comforts: warm socks, a mackintosh cape for when he went hunting. He needed a straw hat and kid gloves …. When not immersed in study, Lenin (liked) hunting and skating with the dozen or so fellow exiles…. By the end of 1897 his companions were commenting on how he had put on weight, and that his healthy suntan made him look ‘just like a Siberian’.

Beer, Daniel. The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars (Kindle Locations 6442-6446). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Beer, Daniel. The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars (Kindle Locations 6434-6441). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Chris

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