Sunday, 17 February 2008


I have taken to writing haiku as I find it a very short and fulfilling way to rant about something in a curtailed and cultured way. Some things really annoy me but I feel if I were to try and write a blog article about them it would either be very short and pointless or be very long and rambling so I have decided to write haiku to fill the hole in my soul that is left by un-ranted subjects.

Haiku are Japanese ‘poems’ that have a total of 17 syllables that are arranged into 3 lines, the first of 5 syllables, the second of 7 and the third of 5. It is harder than it might seem and quite rewarding when you get it right. It is also a good way to increase your vocabulary as you sometimes have to look up new words to fill a gap.
I am going to post some of my haiku (Haiku sounds like it should be a plural but haikus is also acceptable as a plural) to the blog to lend it an air of culture although the subject matter might well counteract any culture.

One of my latest haiku is about an interview that Michael Portillo gave to the Guardian.

Portillo falls. Funny.
But from grace or from a wall?
Hoist by schadenfreude.

The taxman

Income tax in the UK is high. I have heard it said on a few international job forums that the UK tax authorities are the biggest pirates around. Relative to a lot of other nations it is very high and it is one of, if not the main issue come election time. But we do get value for money, don’t we? Despite what opposition ministers and Joe Public say some of the services we get in the UK are priceless. We have, in theory, the most wonderful health care system in the world and although it does have its flaws it is still far superior to most health care systems in the world’s other developed nations. The fire service provides a service that cannot and should not be measured in a monetary sense and there are a multitude of other services that are paid for using money gained from taxation.

Some countries have a pay as you go system when it comes to tax and things like healthcare and it may well seem preferable in the short term because of the reduced level of taxation and the increase in your weekly or monthly wage but when you are in a position where you cannot find health insurance and cannot afford to pay for an operation, our system is better, and more humane. Personally I would probably benefit from a system where you pay for what you use more than most as I am young, fit, healthy and rarely need to visit the doctor, dentist or hospital, I maintain my smoke alarms, have no dependants and have no involvement with the police, although I do concede that accidents can happen at anytime to anyone. I would however oppose any such system. I mean what sane person would rather take their chances with hospital bills or trying to get household insurance to cover the cost of the fire service bills for extinguishing the pile of burning embers that used to be their house?

The system in the UK needs tweaking but wholesale changes would be silly.

But even I, liberal, socialist, humanist would object to paying for these fantastic services if I couldn’t use them.

If you notice I said couldn’t not didn’t.

The general public would love a tax rebate every year based on the amount of times the police had to be called to their address or the number of times the fire brigade had to rescue your cat from a tree, I’m sure there would be plenty of false claims too! John Simpson mentions in one of his books that he did indeed get offered (and I’m sure accepted) a tax rebate from the Inland Revenue because he had not been in the UK for an extended period, he suggested that it was due to his not using public services such as hospitals etc.

The reason I said couldn’t and not didn’t is that I fully expect to have to pay income tax even if I don’t use any of the services that are paid for by that tax. It is having these services at our beck and call that makes the tax payable. But if you were unable, as Mr. Simpson was, to use these services then surely you would object to paying for them, wouldn’t you?

My girlfriend is currently experiencing the strange phenomena of being charged for the privilege of not using the public services in the UK. After filling in a mountain of forms to announce her leaving and subsequent returning to the UK she was presented with a tax bill. We were both out of the UK for a period of around 15 months working and travelling but, according to the tax office she was resident in the UK. Why that sounds stupid you say. Well, yes it does and after getting repetitive strain injury from dialing the same number for the tax office to get an answer, we finally got one. Because we hadn’t been out of the UK for a full tax year (April to April) we, or rather she, as I haven’t had any letters from the tax office, was presented with a bill. Our firefighters are worth a lot more than they are paid but not so much that we should get a bill for services not rendered, or with no possibility of rendering.

I think the jobs-worth at the Inland Revenue didn’t fully understand the question or dismissed it because she deals with hundreds of these kinds of inquiries every day and I am just an ant in the colony and can be fobbed off, well not this ant. The ₤800 or more isn’t getting paid, at least if she listens to me and if I have to hand my passport in, strap myself to the under carriage of a lorry and illegally stow away into another country then that’s what I’ll do.

Why should she but handed a tax bill for not using services. A cynic might say "why does she have to pay for someone to have a boob job or a stomach stapling operation". People who lie and cheat and steal from the government seem to get rewarded with help for self inflicted conditions and big houses for their 13 children and honest people who fill in forms accurately get a bill fucking tax bill. Injustice isn’t nearly a strong enough word.

I hate the way the government makes me sound like a Daily Mail reader because that couldn’t be further from the truth. I will always champion the little man, the dissenter over the government and condemn the millionaire who resides abroad for tax reasons but when the little man gets stepped on, it really pisses me off.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


A few days ago I was in a pub in the town I grew up in. I went to the toilet and whilst there I noticed there was graffiti on the walls. The usual stuff, someone had written MUFC and someone else had scratched out the M and written an L next to it. Someone else had written ‘Soul crew’ a few times - they are the hooligan element of Cardiff city and someone else had written Munich Cuntz (nice spelling), referring to Manchester United (The landlord is a fan, maybe that’s why). It made me wonder what kinds of people live here?

Now as I mentioned someone had taken the time to scratch the M from MUFC and replaced it with an L but they had not defaced, if that is the right word for graffiting graffiti , what was written right next to it. Someone had written ‘Gay love is happy love’, which may or may not be true but I wonder what kind of people would deface a football team's initials but not an open proclamation of homosexuality. The town is not known for being particularly tolerable when it comes to anything different let alone being gay so again I wonder what kind of people live here. I am thankful that whoever wrote it seems to have a sense of humour at least. Well, the answer to the question ‘What kinds of people live here?’ could be in the same toilet as this graffiti. The mirror above the sink had an anti rape sticker on it. I can’t even begin to tell you what is wrong with our society if we need to have stickers to tell us rape is wrong but to make matters worse someone had tried to remove it. As unbelievable as it sounds, a patron, whether it was a one time drinker or, more likely a regular had tried and failed to remove a sticker telling us that rape is wrong. He couldn’t even be bothered to finish the bloody job never mind the fact that this act would indicate that he was offended by such a sticker. I really despair when I think of the kind of people who live in close proximity to some of my closest friends and family members.

But graffiti isn’t only the territory of the bigoted or the rapist it can be used as a medium for funny people too. In a bar called ‘Deep in’ where I used to live in Korea the toilets were covered in graffiti but this time the graffiti was sanctioned and the walls of the whole place were covered in graffiti. The one example that really sticks in my mind is the quotation from a Simpson’s episode that someone had written in the male toilets. It comes from one of the greatest comedy creations of all time, Ralph Wiggum and it is:

"Me fail English, that’s un-possible"

Now if you’re going to graffiti somewhere make it worthwhile and entertain, educate or amuse.

Rant over.

The Englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain

Watched this film the other night for the first time, bloody good it was but thing is apparently there aren’t enough actors in Wales see, so they went and got a bloody Irishman, Colm Meany to play the lead role in the film! Now Colm has played some good parts in the past including the father of Jimmy in the commitments but he was playing an Irishman and so had a head start. He cannot do a Welsh accent to save his F*****G life and stood out like a sore thumb. What a stupid decision to cast him, very good film up until the 2nd minute when I saw him. Before he even spoke I knew he would be shite and he was.

Talk tidy. I don’t think so.

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