Tag Archives: UK

Spandex and mad people

Upon my return to Canada from the UK, I’ve been given to musing about all the sights and sounds I experienced whilst there. Specifically the urge amongst many to wear skin tight clothing, particularly cycling gear. Even if they do not own a bicycle.

If there is one type of clothing that should be outlawed by international treaty, I think it should be Spandex, or any elasticated skin skin tight clothing. Leggings especially. The frame of the modern urban or suburban human is mostly best covered to conceal its shortcomings. Which in this day and age are legion. I blame this expectation of perfection on photoshopped seventeen year olds in glossy near-porn advertising photos. The truth is that none of us over nineteen have the body we’d like, but there you have it, and it’s no use trying to look otherwise. Likewise, no female over nineteen, unless a professional model, should go in for body painting.

Excellent reasons not to wear skin tight or Spandex type clothing in public:

  1. It amplifies the size of buttocks. By at least three times. It matters not that you have a superb physique, honed by daily sessions in the gym with not an apparent ounce of flab or even the merest hint of cellulite. After the age of nineteen, Spandex worn skin tight will make your arse look like it has been half-filled with bad jelly
  2. It makes you look flabby when you’re not. The slightest wobble is exaggerated past all ridicule. Each crease, each dimple develops a motion and mind of its own.
  3. Whether intentional or not, your genitalia will be on public display. Even the most discreet panty lines are blindingly visible, and anyone ‘going commando’ will be obvious to even the least observant. For females this is not so bad. For males in cold weather – well let’s just not go there. Even the most well endowed amongst us will end up with the look of a badly decapitated turkey
  4. Even the most benign perspiration stains make Spandex riding shorts look like the wearer has had an involuntary emission, loss of bladder and possibly also bowel control. None of which should be on public display. Unless of course the possessor wishes quiet ridicule to dog their every footstep. Which it will
  5. Frankly, it looks slatternly. Like you’ve mortgaged any dress sense you might have had and gone for the uber-chav look in spades. Like a Croydon facelift and metalflake purple nail varnish

To illustrate by example. About two weeks ago I was sitting in a UK Starbucks, mulling over an Americano, just idly staring out of the window, when a couple in cycling gear dismounted outside, both in their mid to late twenties, both slimly built. Fit, bright eyed and a little rosy cheeked from exertion, all smiles and self involved chatter. The girl came in to buy them two lattes as I recall, while her boyfriend responsibly locked up their bicycles. The day was damp and the Spandex skin tight, so on the way in I got an inadvertent eyeful of female camel toe and deformed limp male genitalia waggling within their elastic restraints, on the way out the motion of half toned flab was enough to make a seasoned mariner hurl a haddock. So I hurriedly averted my eyes. From the male posterior, certainly. Out of the corner of my eye I caught the expressions of certain other denizens of the coffee shop who had also watched the cycling pair come and go. I’m no mind reader, but I can read body language and faces fairly well. The expressions I caught were certainly not those of envy. Eyes rolled, three schoolgirls looked after them and giggled mockingly, and one chap hunched over his laptop glanced their way and gave a revolted shudder. Now either the pair were well known locally as those with freakish habits or had been identified as tax inspectors, I don’t know. In a good light neither was unattractive, but the skin tight cycling gear obviously affected the coffee shops clientèle most unfavourably.

For a replicable proof, any cyclist thus clad should undertake the following experiment. When next holding up traffic while pedalling up a steep hill in low gear, take a glance behind at the following line of traffic. They will, you may observe, be meandering within their lane. This is not due to any lack of control on their part. If the cyclist were to be able to observe their expressions more closely, he / she will detect an expression of amusement hastily concealed within the following vehicles. The burning questions answer being; yes, your arse does look really big in that. Enormous in fact. Possibly even deformed. Yes, the drivers behind are trying very hard not to collapse in hysterics. Sorry, but you made the fashion faux-pas. You might as well be dressed in a dayglo pink tutu with a sign over your head saying “Comic relief – please mock”. Any beeping of horns should be considered justly earned applause for your buttocks comic turn.

Spotting a scam

I love Canadians. They’re so damn, well, uncomplicated. Rather like Paul Gross’s Mountie character Benton Fraser from ‘Due South‘ they’re extremely polite (mostly), easy going (except when the cable TV cuts out in the middle of the Hockey game) and oh so pleasant to deal with (when not being terribly passive-aggressive). At least in comparison to their UK counterparts who often are all too ready to froth at the mouth and throw Teddy out of the pram at the least provocation. Unfortunately this makes many of my Canadian friends all too vulnerable to every scammer and confidence trickster who sees an easy mark.

To the practised eye, scams stand out like pink sparkly searchlights in the night. Mainly because they sound like some modern day fairy tale. Long lost relative, or friend of a friend left you a huge pile of cash / winning lottery ticket / lost treasure of the Golden Behind in their will, and they just need your bank details to pass your good fortune to you?  Yeah, right.

Disney don’t make ‘em any better.  Pixie dust,  Unicorns and Rainbows rule.  Polar Bears are fluffy, huggable things, not massive slavering predators always on the hunt for protein.  Any protein.  Including human.  Oh yeah, and Dolphins are kind and gentle, if you conveniently forget about the beating Harbour Porpoises to death thing, yeah?

Now to us cynical sorts, whose eyes have been forced open by dealing with the slings and arrows of outrageous UK local authorities, the single rule to apply is; if it sounds too good to be true then it is.

A Canadian friend of ours recently got taken in by scammers. When he finally got round to showing me the email that had kicked it all off I put my face in my hands, groaned quietly and asked. “You haven’t sent these people any money have you?” He had the good grace to admit that yes he had.
“You know this is a scam, don’t you? For Pete’s sake mate, don’t send them any more.” I groaned. The scammers were asking for five thousand bucks to release several millions from a ‘locked’ bank account in the Far East.

So how easy was the con to spot? Very. Childs play in fact. I get two dozen of these missives a week, aren’t I a lucky chap? I derive considerable amusement from reading them all before throwing said missives into my yawning pit of hell-spam, ne’er to be seen this side of eternity. All right Bill smartarse Sticker, if you’re so bleeding clever, why don’t you tell all the boys and girls out in there interweb land how to spot one of these con tricks? Plaisir mon vieux. There now follows a brief lesson in scam spotting.

When one of these ‘too good to be true’ emails lands in your inbox. Ask yourself the following questions;

  1. Who is this?
  2. Where did they get my details?
  3. What is said glittering prize?
  4. Why did they pick me?
  5. How come they write such appalling English?

If any one of these questions make your bullshit detectors twitch, bin the offending email.  Or at least run a few simple checks. Does your benefactor really work at the United Nations? No matter how much their cause may tug at your heartstrings. African orphanages, baby animals threatened by eeeevil hunters or whatever. Remember, a little judicious cynicism now will save a whole heap of heartbreak later. I routinely bin these false messages of monetary gain because I never buy lottery tickets. You’d be better off betting on three legged horses at those odds. I also really used to know two people who worked for the UN in Geneva, but we don’t talk. Not even at Xmas. I don’t have any long lost relatives. Certainly none that would give me any money. Besides, any such offer would come directly from a UK based lawyer who I could check out in the phone book.  Any such legacy would also have to make it unscathed through a family who can make a shoal of ravenous Piranhas look like charm school graduates. There are specialists who trace relatives of large and small fortunes, but they write well spelled, grammatical English, and never, ever, ever, ask for your bank details or cash up front to ‘unlock’ funds.   Not even in ‘good faith’.  Nor do any of them live and work in Nigeria.   That last statement might be considered ‘raaaaacist’, but it is nonetheless correct.

If still not sure; check the originating email address.  If the organisation is a .com, why does the email address  end in .in.th?   It takes ten seconds to check out using WHOIS.com.   Is there a phone number?  Type said phone number into the search bar of your web browser and let Google, Bing, or any one of the many search engines bring enlightenment to your browser.   Then try one of the local phone directory services.  411.com for North America or in the UK 118118.com. The work of seconds.

When finding out that you are not heir or beneficiary to a massive business deal / lost millions, which the tax man would no doubt want an unhealthy bite out of, console yourself thus; it might have been real, but with all the scams out there, the odds are that it wasn’t. Add the sender to your spam or junk mail list and move on. There’ll be another one along shortly. That much is guaranteed.

Where does the money go?

Having just got back from the UK, I’m wondering about all the taxes on, well, just about everything. These extra taxes acting as a drag on the rest of the economy. So I asked myself, where is all this money actually going? Cui Bono? Who benefits? Does taxation, as so many of its advocates claim, actually increase, or decrease ‘fairness’? These are all fair questions which need fair answers.

At present UK public spending outdoes the tax take by an estimated £84 billion per year. Most of that disparity is interest payments an the estimated £2.2 trillion public debt if you factor in the public ownership, liabilities and support of RBS, Lloyds TSB etc. Total 2012-13 tax take by HMRC, about £468 billion. According to their own figures. So where’s the £648 billion figure come from? Confused? Join the club. £180 billion isn’t just chump change. Besides, government doesn’t make money, it has none of its own and only spends taxpayer dollar.

The approximate 2013 UK public spending breakdown is as follows. Public Pensions for well, people the workforce has decided it no longer needs. Let’s ignore all those overpaid leeches on salaries well above their real pay grade for the moment; £139 billion. National Health Care, you know, for that wonderful ‘free’ service which includes such joys as the ‘Liverpool Care Pathway‘ and compensation payments to Ambulance chasing Lawyers; over £124 billion. State Education, the edifice which no amount of political meddling seems to improve; over £87 billion. Defence, for all those wars the UK really can’t afford to fight, including the one the EU wants to declare on Russia; about £42 billion. Social Security, which includes all those ‘tax credits’ which would be cheaper to run if the tax wasn’t taken in the first place; over £117 billion. State Protection, whatever that means; over £31 billion. Transport about £17 billion. Which is a lot to cover cones, contraflows and potholes. General Government, an opaque description if ever I saw one; over £14 billion. Other Public Services, hmm, large Rattus Norvegicus smelt here; over £54 billion. Public Sector Interest, on the money the Government borrowed to buy the votes of the ill informed and lazy; over £47 billion. Additional Balance, or should that read ‘petty cash’; over £2 billion. Total Spending about £675 billion, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. The UK’s EU contribution hidden somewhere in those figures is about £8.7 billion. Source here. Somewhere in that lot is the electronic money ‘printed’ by ‘Quantative easing’ of well over £60 billion and paid direct to banks. No wonder we hear about planned raids on savings and other legalised theft like ‘Green taxes’. It’s a financial plughole of doom. Which will be the last metaphorical straw on the proverbial taxpayers back? Bank accounts raided at will?

According to this neat little infrographic from the Guardian, the difference is £84 billion, which needs to be ‘borrowed’. No idea from whom, but £47 billion in interest payments alone? My one remaining reader will note the disparity between the two sets of figures referenced. Hey, but what’s the odd billion or three between friends, eh?

The discerning reader, having done a little digging, will also note the step increase in UK taxation that happened back in 2000 and the flattening in public spending since 2011. So yes, Slaphead and friends are trying, but the purchase of the banks and resultant QE have doomed the UK taxpayer to ever increasing interest payments. Unless those debts and liabilities are sold off, those interest payments will continue to head for the stars faster than a Saturn 5 booster with a nuke up its arse.

Last time it took the UK eighteen years to bring the taxation rate and public spending into financial balance. 1998 / 9 I believe. Then Blair and his pile of grinning idiots were voted in, public debt skyrocketed and the tax take hasn’t caught up since. Figures don’t lie. No wonder the politicians are trying to skim off more and more all the time. We were told all this extra spending was all about ‘fairness’. What it has done is lumber current and future generations with an escalating debt bigger than World War 2. Which I don’t think has been fair at all.

If the answer is tax

Just taking my usual Sunday meander through the frothing unreality of the Tellytubbygraph. I see Vlad Putin being lauded as the current object of the UK medias eleven o’clock hate as they try to stir up the populace. The herd of elephants in the room of course being EU intervention in Ukrainian affairs and massive skimming from pipeline contracts by Ukrainian politico’s. Which monies somehow never got back to the Ukrainians, while certain of their politicians became billionaires. Mm-hm. Over here in Canada, the local Ukrainian population are being heard muttering over their plates of Perogies about how the more things change the more they stay the same. Pass the sour cream. So it is with us ex-pat Brits.

At the moment the current UK media bogeyman is not salt, alcohol, tobacco or fats but sugar, which is found in just about every processed food there is. No surprise there, then. Sugars of one form or another are part of the elements of life. Monosaccharides (Simple sugars) include Glucrose, Fructose and the sci-fi sounding Galactose. Disaccharides (Complex sugars) include Sucrose, Maltose and Lactose. Most plants, as I recall from various biology courses I’ve taken, have a certain amount of sugars tucked neatly away in their edible parts. Starches (Polysaccharides), like the ones used in all those ‘Healthy Option’ ready meals as filler are little more than complex sugars.

So the dilemma for the ‘tax everything’ brigade becomes what sort of comestible will be sugar tax exempt. Of course those poor people need their lives regulating by their elders and betters, they’re such children don’cha know. So which foodstuffs need taxing and by how much? My goodness, what a target rich environment.

Okay, so where will all this new tax revenue go? Back in the pockets of the poor, who will grow more numerous as the tax rates increase, said revenue first having been heavily skimmed to pay for new, personnel heavy government departments to oversee ‘fairness’ and sending out ‘revenue neutral’ cheques? Maybe into the UK’s ‘wonderful’ NHS, the one you don’t want to end up in the care of lest your intimate details are sold to marketing companies and your elderly relatives starved or neglected to death? Whilst ensuring sufficient Management for ‘compliance’ with increasingly engorged cobweb encumbered databases of rules and regulations. Top rates must be paid to the managers of course to get the best ‘talent’, even if their only real talent is managing to navigate the HR departments Byzantine recruitment process. A new tax would come in handy to fund them, and their new staff no doubt.

On the face of it, this is a great idea. Tax sugar because it’s so unhealthy. Reduce consumption, cutting obesity at a stroke, and the costs to the NHS will go down. Fewer sick people to treat, right? Simple, elegant, and logical. Ah, but what was that shadow? The law of unintended consequences is lurking in the wings, awaiting it’s entrance in a puff of smoke, bringing chaos and confusion to the lofty utopian plans of the puritanical tax advocates.

It’s not a leap of genius to see that governmental costs (and hence the cost of living) will have to go up because now there will need to be an extra layer of compliance and enforcement for each new tax, easily gulping down the tranches of revenue thus garnered. Unfortunately the overall tax take will reduce because of the tax inflated prices, meaning that government has to borrow to fund these new government departments for command and control. Higher taxes and borrowing act as a brake on the economy, further lowering the tax take and therefore moving more people into the ‘Poor’ category, requiring more government intervention. Requiring more taxation and borrowing, yah-de-yah, etcetera, etcetera. The money has to come from somewhere. Maybe ex-pats savings. Damn those soon-to-be-poor rich bastards, eh? Just don’t forget to tell your influential friends to start moving their money before the new regs come in. Those middle class bitches can take the bite. Again. Those pensions are unsustainable anyway. By the way, where did all these new poor people come from? Anybody know?

Excuse me, I have a boat to buy, boarders to repel. All that jazz.

A conspiracy theory everyone can believe in

Awoke this morning to brilliant sunshine and mini avalanches sliding off the roof, thumping loudly onto the deck like bankers committing suicide. I think one of these slides may have taken four metres of guttering with it, so will report to the landlord. No biggie.

Now this is interesting. Over at ZeroHedge I read this, then went here to get the full skinny.

While these revelations are all very sinister and discomfitting, and as I’ve noted before, if the security services are out looking for trouble they’ll find it everywhere. Ultimately this gives you the uncomfortable feeling that we are all potential ‘targets’. Reminds me of working a particularly tough street where you knew the insults and abuse were going to start flying at some stage. Only to find the abuse throwers turn out to be the very people tasked with keeping the peace. Although they will claim not to be. Which raises the question; how is anyone to tell friend from foe any more? Because at the moment there is a distinct feeling going around that those supposedly tasked with public protection are actually the bad guys. Especially when one hears tales from our cousins in the south about getting put on by the tax man for being critical of the current administration.

What a chilling thought.

I’m also given to think now that this querulous moggy is well and truly out of the bag, every sad little troll who doesn’t like what someone says will start making sly asides, trying to give the impression that they’re working for the security services. Who have guns. The trolls aren’t and haven’t. There’s simply too much information out there, and security budgets are not unlimited. The tactics outlined will only be implemented by government agencies against hard targets with inimical intent. Or someone who annoys a politician. Or… oh dear. Imagination brake failure! O. M. G! Don’t panic. Don’t panic!

Seriously though. In the end it all boils down to trust. If you can’t trust the people tasked with public protection to mind their own gosh-darned business in their own country, who can you have faith in? No wonder other countries are laying cables, building their own Internets and people are developing ‘Blackphones‘.

This does not change my mind about the rest of the conspiracy theories, faked moon landings, flat Earth, 911 false flag, Area 51, aliens, man made global warming. They’re still all bunk.

To close;

Variety

There’s a jokey little local saying over here on Vancouver Island; “If you don’t like the weather, go inside for five minutes.”

Over the last week we’ve gone from needing snow shoes and ice skates to go outside, to webbed feet, thence sunglasses. This morning the rain clouds have pootled off to bother someone else, and the sun is up. Out on our deck it’s T-shirt weather, if still a little damp after the rains. In the kitchen, it’s simply too bright to sit down. In short, typical BC weather. The odd damp basement. Nothing to write home about. Although I’m seriously thinking about buying a sea going boat. Nothing to do with weather, I just fancy spending some non-working time pootling up and down the coast, that’s all.

Reading the news from the other side of the pond and hearing relatives complain about having to evolve fins and gills, I’m inclined to count my blessings. Yet I remember similar floods from late July 2007, when on the last working day of our UK careers, Mrs S and I almost had to swim home. In the mid 90′s, when floods turned a twelve mile commute into a thirty seven mile detour to get home and dozens of occasions before and since.

Here’s my thinking; every year in the UK there are floods. This has gone on for millennia. Over the last twenty years, it seems, every year there are hosepipe bans. Every year, reservoirs are decommissioned (Don’t take my word, Google it for yourself). More expensive PR friendly ‘wildlife sanctuaries’ take their place instead of simply replacing or maintaining ageing Dams. Less active dredging and water management. More housing built. Bigger floods. Is it just me, or is there some form of correlation here?

I ask myself; what’s the point of creating a habitat for voles and grass snakes, for example, when the very critters the decommissioned reservoir is meant to preserve will get all drowned, and very dead, when the next, and inevitable, seasonal flood comes around? Well, Duh! I find it rather ironic that ‘ecological diversity’ can be so easily transformed into ecological uniformity (underwater) every time it gets a little damp.

Smoking in cars, a modest proposal

Was meandering around the Tellytubbygraph website, and came across this little gem by Boris Johnson, a UK Tory politician who says that he is a Libertarian (Cough, cough, cough, snigger). In it, he argues, that smoking should not be allowed in any vehicle because of the damage second hand smoke is alleged to do to the delicate bodies of children. Whether the vehicle will be used for their carriage or not. Having read what he had to say, I was moved to key in the following comment:

Boris. Why not a law to keep children out of cars instead? Let the smokers have some sanctuary for pity’s sake, the poor dears being addicts, and addiction, as we are told, is a sickness not a crime. Besides, keeping children out of motor vehicles will protect them from poisonous exhaust fumes leaking in through every vent, seal, and window. Even the most eco-friendly vehicle is not air tight.

The regular reader of this blog will note tongue being inserted firmly into cheek at this juncture. Although I am moved to propose that any vehicle marketed as ‘eco-friendly’ should be made completely air tight to protect the occupants from the errant exhaust fumes of all the other vehicles on the road. This is only right and fair. Why should the eco-pious be forced to breathe the polluted soup of the worlds highways and byways? They should have their own space and atmosphere. And windows that won’t open. Sealed vents that will not share the pollution from other road users like in inferior vehicles, such as those only smokers will be allowed to drive. For the hand wavers own protection of course, which will spare them the merest whiff of the dreaded tobacco smoke, no matter its source.

But wait; what of the benefits to road safety? No children allowed in motor vehicles would mean a considerable improvement in quality of the parents lives as follows;

Such legislation would have the benefit of lowering the blood pressure of parents, sparing them from the back seat quarrels, unfortunate little gastric accidents, demands to be driven to unhealthy fast food outlets, and querulous whining and driver distracting litanies of “Are we there yet?” Thus improving road safety at a stroke and saving the NHS billions.

Boris, me old china, this is genius! By banning children from all vehicles, several modern major social scourges are solved at the stroke of a pen. By forcing children out of cars, they must take more exercise and therefore become less obese. Lowering parents blood pressure means fewer circulatory disorders in later life. Fewer distracted parents on the roads mean a reduced accident rate and a further lowering of the UK’s national health care budget and insurance premiums. Children would be insulated from the evils, whatever they might be, of second hand smoke and grow up healthier. Furthermore, the tobacco smoke would be contained inside a controlled environment, to wit the smokers car or house, thus not affecting anyone else. Fantastic! Win-win. Time for tea and a knighthood methinks.

Fortunately, or rather un, depending on your viewpoint; the only other problem such legislation would leave behind would be what to do with the bodies of all the self righteous planet savers, suffocated in their air tight mobile eco-prisons. Still, I’m sure it’s a sacrifice, considering how doomed we are through over population as we’re continually informed by eco-worriers, a salutary price a lot of the remaining population wouldn’t mind them making. Just think of the emissions they’d be saving.

I don’t normally go in for gloating, but…..

In the UK, über green trougher and griller of climate sceptics MP Tim Yeo has just got it in the neck from his constituency association, prompting the following little bowdlerisation of Alice Coopers ‘Elected’.

Once a prime cut of meat, Cameron’s choice,
Yeo’s been deselected,
Top golfing dandy with a ‘green’ Rolls Royce,
He’s just been deselected,
Party wants a saviour, don’t need a flake,
He’s just been deselected,
No-one’s gonna rock to the rules that he makes,
He’s just been deselected, corrected, deselected.

Grilling climate sceptics who won’t think like they’re told,
He’s just been deselected,
Said it was getting warmer, ignored all the cold,
Yeo’s been deselected, rejected, deselected,
Hallelujah, he’s been deselected,
By the majority of his local association!

Yeo’s lost this one, because outside there’s storms,
He’s just been deselected,
Tear down all those windmills, everyone stay warm,
He’s just been deselected, deselected,
He’s just been deselected, disrespected, call collected,
He’s just been deselected.

“And if he is deselected
He’ll have only his green directorships for company
Toppling windmills, soaked solar panels
He knows we have floods,
They got flooding right there in Somerset
They have flooding on the North, South, East and West,
Yorkshire, London, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire,
Devon and Cornwall,
Everybody has floods,
And personally, he don’t care.”

Well, it put a smile on my face.

How stuff works, a song

Oh Grandpa’s a wealthy land owner
And Uncle makes windmills that spin
My Aunty she sells Carbon Credits
My God, how the money rolls in!

(Chorus:) Rolls in, rolls in, my God, how the money rolls in, rolls in!
Rolls in, rolls in, my God, how the money rolls in!

Oh Daddy’s a Parliamentarian
Raising tax on the singlemost whim
Every night he’s out schmoozing accountants
My God, how the money rolls in!

(Chorus:) Rolls in, rolls in, my God, how the money rolls in, rolls in!
Rolls in, rolls in, my God, how the money rolls in!

Oh Brother he works out in Brussels
Saving gorgeous Hungarians from sin
He’ll save you a blonde for ten Euros
My God, how the money rolls in!

(Chorus:) Rolls in, rolls in, my God, how the money rolls in, rolls in!
Rolls in, rolls in, my God, how the money rolls in!

My Mother’s a Harley Street Doctor
Gives pills to the famed with a Gin.
She owns a renowned rehab clinic.
My God, how the money rolls in!

(Chorus:) Rolls in, rolls in, my God, how the money rolls in, rolls in!
Rolls in, rolls in, my God, how the money rolls in!

*Sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”