Week 375

28th February, 2016

The penultimate day of this leap year month and fairly chilly it is. Some sun but a brisk breeze brings the temperature down to a maximum of 7C/45F.

The morning’s political programmes, Marr Show and The Sunday Politics, have illustrated the bitter infighting in the Tory party over Europe. After Call Me Dave‘s petulant performance in the Commons on Wednesday, The Quiet Man savaged him (not so quietly) in an interview with Andrew Marr. The sharp thrust of his argument was:

How could Dave belittle UK in suggesting it can’t operate alone? Why would he want to manage such a trivial country?

I’m an avowed European and I would be very sorry to see us sail away from the Continent but I’m really going to enjoy watching Tories smack lumps out of each other. I think that the balance must still be in favour of ‘Stay’ but more migrant trouble over the next few months and the sort of newspaper blitz that did for Milliboots could easily tilt it to ‘Out’.

29th February, 2016

The last day of Winter – according to the calendar if not the weather. According to the Met. Office, it has been the warmest winter on record. We have learnt that there is going to be a short hiatus before we move in to our property which is causing us some grief. The builders forgot to install some additional electrical sockets in the kitchen which we had requested and then painted and clad the walls in a wrap around glass splash-back. They then sent us a photo expecting us to coo over their handiwork. Instead, we pointed out the error and they responded by saying it would delay us in putting it right. If a job is worth doing…..etc..

BT Home Hub

The knock on effect of the hiatus is that furniture which was ordered some time ago is ready for delivery. In fact, companies are champing at the bit. We are having to hold them off. In addition, today was supposed to be our final one at the Health Club. Today, we asked to extend our membership for an extra month. BT are still attending the house tomorrow to connect the phone line and deliver the broadband router which should mean that, whenever we get in, we will quickly be on-line. For me, there is little more important than access to the web. I’m just about to purchase a load of web-ready, smart televisions so the sooner we are connected the better.

1st March, 2016

Happy March. Our white rabbit is listening, optimistically, to the arrival of the Spring.


We are driving down to the south coast and have a hotel room booked so we can meet a BT engineer early tomorrow to have our landline connected and our broadband installed. It is nice to be feeling optimistic about our new home – still looking forward.

Looking backwards, the National Bank of Greece – Εθνική Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος – announced yesterday that it expected:

the local home and commercial property markets to continue their price slide in 2016.The adverse economic environment, the capital controls and the unstable tax status of the sector continue to hamper the property markets’ recovery.

As the clouds of teargas float around the Greek-Macedonian border, Greece becomes increasingly disconnected from Europe. Ironically, as a reluctant Greece becomes more isolated, the latest British polling by YOUGOV has shown huge swathes of the UK want to sever ties with Brussels.

2nd March, 2016

Up at 6.00 am. Breakfast at 7.00 am and waiting for a call from the BT Engineer. The time slot was 8.00 am – 1.00 pm. No call. We checked out of our hotel at 11.00 am and drove down to the house. We parked up and read our newspapers.  The call came …. at 12.58 pm. He was on his way. He told us that our cabinet had been superfast fibre optic enabled which is good news. Five minutes later, he had arrived, connected the line and left. We drove back to Surrey. Back in Surrey by 2.00 pm, we phoned our new Home phone line. It rang sweetly but unanswered. At least we have it.

Help! I’m going off meat.

Going away out of our comfort and custom zones makes food control difficult at the best of times and with, the stress of being out of our own home anyway, it is doubly difficult. We both feel we have overeaten recently. Today we ate meat!!! I have to confess that we looked at each other over a plate of spare ribs and agreed that it felt rather ‘gross’. We will be back to fish tomorrow. Fish and salad will be de rigeur for some time to come along with some fierce Health Club sessions. We need to be able to fit through our new door when we finally get the key to our new home in the next couple of weeks.

3rd March, 2016

Up early to test my INR. This could be the last in Woking. It turned out to be at the bottom end of acceptable at INR = 2.0 and my email to the hospital was soon replied to with a next test in three weeks. Please let me be a Sussex resident by then!

Thank goodness we retired when we did!

The Greeks are revolting ………… about changes to their retirement pensions. What would they do if they were in England? Here, retirement ages of 75 or even 81 are already being discussed. The Office for Budget Responsibility, the financial watchdog, has forecast that the pension age will have to rise to 69 by the late 2040s before increasing again to 70 by the early 2060s. Future rises will be linked to life expectancy but Royal London, the pensions provider, has just published research suggesting that today’s workers will need to retire as late as 81 to enjoy the same standard of living enjoyed by their parents. The findings raise the prospect of some people having to “work until they drop” to sustain their current lifestyles.

Official statistics suggest average life expectancy is at its highest ever in England. A new report by Public Health England finds that

  • men can now expect to live for a further 19 years at age 65, 12 years at 75, 6 years at 85 and 3 years at 95
  • women can expect to live for a further 21 years at age 65, 13 years at 75, 7 years at 85, and 3 years at 95

As we both hit 65 in the next few months, I can expect to live until I am 84 and Pauline can expect to live until she is 86. I suspect I may go sooner and Pauline go later than that but I have always been pessimistic.

4th March, 2016

Dreaming of Wardrobes?

A beautiful and sunny Spring day. We went out early to a fitted bedroom showroom in Farnborough. Ironically, the company, BetaLiving,  was founded and is still based in Oldham. We met a saleswoman who had never been to Oldham but who now lives near where we are going to live in West Sussex. These ironies in life are delightful. So were the bedroom products on display. In the next couple of weeks we will invite someone to come round a measure up all four bedrooms for fitted furniture and, possibly, to supply fitted furniture to the Study/Office downstairs.

Snow in West Yorkshire

Drove back – and how the sunshine transforms the experience – to watch news of our previous stomping grounds in the North being blighted by heavy snow. Television reports were beamed from a very white Ainley Top bridge over the M62 which always seems to be used by local television crews. More schools were closed in Oldham and across Lancashire than West Yorkshire and there were plenty of incidents on the M62 including one that required a medical helicopter’s assistance. If I am ever sentimental for our former lives in Yorkshire and Lancashire, days like today teach me to keep it in the past.

5th March, 2016

Saturday Rant – Got to get it off my chest!

Most of my adult life, I have opposed, in principle, the institutionalised and formal Charity Sector often known as the Third Sector. Third Sector refers to:

  • Voluntary sector, the economic sector consisting of non-governmental organizations and other non-profit organizations.
  • Public–private partnership, a company jointly owned by government and private interests.

I believe that elected governments  cannot abnegate their responsibilities to their electorate by handing over whole swathes of care for its citizens to the unelected and patchy protection of the charitable sector. How can anyone believe a government is doing its job if it leaves matters like poverty, hunger and homelessness to organisations that rely on the voluntary contributions of the population? Charities tend to target symptoms, not causes. The causes are the responsibility of government to address but they prefer to hide behind the process of charities addressing the symptoms.

In the case of the rise of Food Banks as a result of an increase in poverty, Tories even felt it necessary to criticise the charitable sector for drawing attention to the poverty. It is suggested that Food Banks make even the poor more feckless and less likely to get a job. Treat them mean and keep them keen appeared to be the underlying message. I do not subscribe to that view either. However, I am vehemently opposed to letting the government off the hook. The effort put into charity might be better devoted to pressuring governments to bring about needed change. Governments might be more likely to focus on dealing with poverty if they weren’t being helped by charities.

The relationship between charity and the tax system can do real harm. Tax incentives for charitable giving can worsen social inequalities, by reducing the revenue that the state has available for social projects. It is open to massive abuse at all levels in society. What on earth can be the justification for subsidising Britain’s public schools to the tune of £700m a year? We might as well subsidise five-star hotels. They’re both the preserve of a small, privileged elite, the difference being that five-star hotels don’t shore up a centuries-old system of institutionalised inequality. At the other end of the pile, Charities accused of supporting jihad in Syria and other forms of terrorism have been paid millions of pounds by British taxpayers. Groups under investigation for allegedly aiding Syrian militants have used the Gift Aid system to claim large sums from the public purse.

Equally, I strongly disapprove of the methodology built in to the formal charities structure. I hate their fund raising methods. British people feel  ‘bombarded’ by charity fundraising appeals although most ignore most of the charity fundraising letters and emails they receive, a recent A ComRes survey found. Of the money they do get in, too much fails to reach its stated target. National charities have become third age job prospects. If poor people, heavily cajoled into ‘giving’ part of their meagre incomes, really knew how much the managers of these ‘charities’ creamed off, (Last year 32 charity bosses were paid over £200,000.) they might think twice about donating.

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