Tag Archives: Family

Now, gods…….

Shakespeare had it; why bastard, wherefore base? Indeed. History is liberally seasoned with those of us of (Cough) uncertain (cough, cough) parentage who have made good against the odds. Some would even say that condition can act as a spur for success. As far as I’ve been concerned it’s always been used as a sideways ‘shut up or we’ll tell everyone, slaphead’ or ‘Bill, don’t embarass your poor old Mum’.

As an aside to that topic, today I have found myself dancing a careful conversational Gavotte with UK lawyers and tax advisers. Dipping my toes in turgid legal waters to map out a fiscal path from A to Z. Not that this is a Machiavellian ploy on my part to asset strip another family member, more a sidestep to avoid being asset stripped. Both by family and ultimately, HMRC. The closest metaphor I can come up with is it’s like tapdancing through a minefield wearing outsize divers boots. Every leaden step becomes future threatening. Every decision must be taken only after consulting at least three sources.

When I’ve told friends and acquaintances of my difficulties, it’s interesting how quickly the old chestnut ‘blood is thicker than water’ is trotted out. In other words “Oo, you can’t call him out as a lying, cheating whoreson ‘cos you share some familial DNA.” Sorry chums but that’s just emotional blackmail, in effect saying that you can’t claim your rightful and legal due because you might hurt someone’s feelings and they’ll never talk to you again? Hmm. Now there’s a fine howdy-do and no mistake. What do I choose? Modest wealth and security for myself and my little clan of wife and stepkids who I have come to love as dearly as life itself? Or do I let my originating family, with whom I have little real emotional attachment actively prevent me from managing my own assets and leave me with a massive UK tax bill? No contest really. Hell, I’ve even emigrated.

‘Coming out’ to being a public bastard rapidly opens your eyes to the faults of others, especially when you suspect they think you’re some kind of total eejit, simply through the lottery of birth. Particularly when you think they’re going to screw you over. It’s also amazing how complex apparently simple matters can become. Especially when there’s a glint of gold in the air. So here I am. Do I, in thinking that there are financial and legal shenanigans afoot, cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of law? Or do I continue to solicit, beg, cajole, play nice and gently persuade the offending party, who has so far ignored requests to deal with matters to my satisfaction?

There’s the rub. Now if the letters speed, and my intention thrive………..We shall see.

Funny thing, life

A couple of weeks ago, an old mate I hadn’t spoken to for a couple of decades tracked my real life self down. He’s dying of a lung condition, poor bastard. Since then we’ve been corresponding via e-mail. Me trying to cheer him up with a few less than socially responsible anecdotes. Him bringing me up to date with the fates of a few shared acquaintances back in the old country (Remember so-and-so? A wall fell on him back in ’99). Playing the old nostalgia game as you do with old drinking buddies. What with one thing and another, it’s making me feel, not nostalgic because I don’t have fond memories of some people, but thoughtful. Mindful of who I am and how easily I could have shuffled off this mortal coil any number of times in my half century of life. Right! Who was that who shouted “Shame!”? Spawny eyed wassuck. Go stand in the corner. I hope you brought enough sarcasm for everyone.

Also mindful of my ancestors, who, it turns out were not exactly villains, but let’s just say consistently non-conformist. My parents. My Grandparents. Great Grandad was a right tearaway so I’m told. Always in trouble which almost, but never quite, ended with him hauled up before the beak. Including an incident over a spring gun set to scare water cress poachers. A few great Uncles who were less than pillars of society. A couple who never made it back intact from WW1. One who went down on the Lusitania (and we’re not talking about sex here). I think he was one of the Deck or Engineering crew, family history is a bit fuzzy after almost a century. Granddad kept his bedroom as a bit of a shrine at the old family farm. I recall seeing it when I was knee high back in the early sixties. A sepia portrait of a young man who never came home and an ageing poster of the liner itself. A made up brass framed bed and net curtains over a small window are the only other impressions I recall.

Other family legends include a Great Aunt who ‘took to her bed’ at the age of seventy something, only getting up for that last ride down to the graveyard thirteen years later. From her family memoirs came the wonderful little tale of the late Victorian era couple who never married despite raising eight children. She took in laundry and he worked as a road mender. Constantly managing to thwart the efforts of the local Minister, who apparently thought that having such a well known couple ‘living in sin’ on his patch was a personal affront. My Great Aunt’s version of the tale ends with the couple finally agreeing to walk up the aisle (in their 70’s with great grandchildren no less), then on the day the little old road mender goes missing. The local Minister, irate at this breach of promise goes searching for him, finally finding the little Parish Road Mender at his usual resting place, lying as though asleep at the side of the road with his road mending kit and sandwich box nearby. Dead as his flask of cold tea with a smile on his face as though he’d cheated the forces of conformity.

Then my own parents and the hows and whys I got brought into the world. Which makes me aware that all of my immediate forbears have been self employed and small business owners, yet Dad wanted me in an industrial ‘job for life’. Which never really worked out as such employment doesn’t really exist any more. Nor am I really employee material, I’m a maverick from a long line of mavericks. A self motivating self starter who can self manage and just hates control freaks looking over his shoulders all the time. Nor do I play well with others, mostly because I’d rather not play their games at all.

Wonder where I get it from? (Not)

Where there’s a will……there’s a won’t

For anyone who has ever been a beneficiary in a will, or who expects to be, here is a cautionary tale.

Last year, as followers of this blog will be aware, my Mother died. Lost my dog on the same day, but well, that’s another hole in the heart. Now while my dog, being canine did not leave a will, Ma Sticker did, and a pretty penny it is too. Well it would be. If not for the Executor, my elder sibling. Who is being an idiot. And may be about to get a very nasty legal and fiscal shock. But first, let me fill you in on some family background.

Elder sibling and I share the same mother, but that is the total depth of our relationship. My mother married his father, according to family legend “Only because he had a car.” At least according to one of my cousins, who spent a gleeful hour at my mothers funeral letting cats out of bags, showing me a familial walk-in closet full of skeletons and reminding me that I am the family bastard. “But Bill, we thought you knew.” Was another family members semi shocked response to my statement of disbelief. Well kind of yes, and kind of no. Of course I was aware through a combination of guesswork, surmise and ‘why am I over six feet tall and built like a dray horse whilst everyone else struggles to get past a slender five feet eight’, but it’s a hell of a thing to get the news you’re a “Love child” straight from the horses mouth. Especially at your Mothers funeral. With all the gruesome details of how my mother was cheating on my brothers father, who did what, to whom and when. Cheers, cousin.

Well it’s true. I am the scion of an adulterous relationship. My biological parents were not married when I was conceived or born. I know this is no big deal any more, but autre temps, autre choses. It was back then. My only beef is that my parents, particularly Ma, continually bluffed and obfuscated on this topic while they were alive. Honesty on their part would have made my life so much more straightforward. Isn’t family guilt just wonderful dahleengs? There are so many things they should have done but didn’t because they thought they would get into trouble. Now belatedly I have to do the fixing myself. My birth certificate has to be changed for one. I’ve contacted the relevant court, and doing the changes means an expensive personal visit to the UK. Court fees and lawyers. Clucking bell.

What my parents’ misplaced guilt also resulted in is stuff like elder sibling going to private school and getting his university education fully funded while yours truly went to a bog standard comprehensive and a variety of technical colleges. He got the Gap year, I went straight to work at seventeen, all that jazz. Not that I resent these ‘advantages’ (if that’s what they are – I think they’ve narrowed his mind rather than broadening it, but that’s just me), it’s just that no-one seemed bothered to give me the choice when there was one. I was the one who took the beatings, both fathers not believing in sparing the rod. Such is life. You can play the ‘what if’ game until the cows come home but it won’t change anything. All you can do is not pass the bad shit on. There, having just talked to youngest via Skype, who is currently touring New Zealand, I think I may just have succeeded. So not all bad then.

So, that’s the background. I’m a genuine bastard son of a bitch, but you all knew that anyway, you cuddly little kittens you. Meanwhile, back on the subject. Legacies. Wills. Legal shizzle. Inheritances. Money. Moolah.

The good news is I stand to receive a goodly sum which will set me up for the rest of my days. If the Executor can get his act together. The bad news is, elder sibling is doing anything but. Getting anything out of the estate with him in the drivers seat is like pulling back molars with a set of nose hair tweezers. The will states the estate is an even split. No trusts, challenges or codicils. Probate was granted back in early October. All discoveries have been made and outstanding bills settled. No challenges, taxes paid, yet sibling wants to hang on to the major asset, which is a brace of rather pleasant little country cottages, officially valued at just shy of a very large sum indeed. He tells me he wants to ‘invest’ our inheritance jointly in those cottages and live off the rental income. I try to tell him they’re potential money pits which we should sell off, or we’ll end up losing money. I tell him I don’t want estate funds spent on them. I tell him he could make more money by selling up, splitting the estate and investing his share in more modern rental properties. Response? *crickets* La-la-la, he’s not listening. Even though he’s legally bound to execute the will and any losses he makes have to come out of his pockets, not the estate, for as long as he remains Executor. Which until the estate is fully paid out, he will remain. It’s not as though I’ve seen a penny so far, either. Despite there being significant liquid assets available ready for paying out.

As an aside; for those of you who need to make international currency transfers, here’s a piece of advice: don’t send it by cheque or in cash. Use a currency broker. Reason; you’ll get a much better rate of exchange from a broker than a bank, and they take care of all the money laundering restrictions. Broker transferred funds are available within 48hours, cheques take almost a month to clear. Canadian Banks also report cash transfers over $5000 direct to the tax man if they think the provenance of the source is a bit dodgy. They don’t like sterling cheques over CAD$5,000 either. Over a certain amount, cheques and money orders also get reported to the security services as possible terrorist activity. Believe it, the banks use special data mining applications to comply with these financial regulations. They can get fined millions if they don’t comply. RBS got caned a cool 5.6 million GBP a while back for not being careful enough. As did NatWest, Ulster Bank and Coutts. Oracle provide products for the very purpose of detecting money laundering. The only way round these restrictions is carrying large wodges of cash in your luggage, which is something the customs guys tend to frown upon.

Elder sibling does not ‘believe’ any of this. He refuses all my advice. I do not care. I just want him to execute the will and pay out my share of the estate a.s.a.p. before he manages to fritter half of it away. What he does with his own share is his business. Am I going to use my share of the money wisely? I think so, yes. I have an carefully selected Investment Fund Manager and Tax Accountant on standby. The additional question is, do I trust sibling? Well, funny you should ask that. No. His repeated failures to cough up and the way he is handling communication between us is ringing loud warning bells. I may have to lawyer up smartish. Which may prove expensive for both of us. Fortunately I have a top notch UK-qualified and based family lawyer waiting in the wings (Youngest). What I hope to gain, properly invested, will not only benefit me, but eventually our two reprobates and their families when it comes to check out time for Mrs S and I. As for who will get the job of Executor, well, it won’t be one of the beneficiaries. I’d rather pay a lawyer to do it.

You know, it’s at times like these I’m moved to reflect that I’ve never really had a close family and nowadays find myself wishing for even more distance. Maybe Canada was nowhere near far enough. The next galaxy, perchance?

A blast from my past

We have house guests over this weekend, so have been pouring libations to Bacchus like Niagara in flood. Which is nice, as Mrs S and I have had some very happy news for a change. About bloody time too. So we’re celebrating, or should that be decerebrating. Whatever. At the moment of writing, Mrs S is introducing them to ‘Lord of the Rings’ on DVD.

“Must ask you Bill.” Said one of our guests, a friend Mrs S has known since she was five years old. “You wrote a book once. About your time working as a Traffic Warden.”
“Oh that old thing. I thought ‘Walking the Streets’ was dead and buried. What about it?” I replied. How did she know about that?
“Can I have a copy?” She asked.
“It’s out of print.” I told her. “Has been since 2009.” Then I had an idea. “Hang on.” I dived off and rootled around in our bookcase. Sure enough, there was the one proof copy I’d kept, although God knows why. Must ask him some day, he seems to have all the answers. I handed it over. “Take it. My gift.” I said.
“I’ll pay you for it.” She said.
“Nonsense. I won’t hear of it.” I demurred.
“Are you sure?”
“Certainly.”
“Can I share it with my friends?”
“Err…” I replied. Our family friends are very proper people and might not take kindly to the often rather fruity and non-PC language couched within the pages. “Are you sure?”
She read one of the excerpts and giggled like the schoolgirl she’d been nearly eighty years ago. I almost blushed.
“Ooh yes.” Said our old friend.

Well, when you’ve passed your eighth decade I suppose you’re allowed a little more latitude than most. Now I’m sitting in my office typing this post, glass of Argentinian Malbec in one hand, I recall that the offending text still resides on my hard drive. There’s also a few other anecdotes which weren’t included with the 2007 edition because they were too damn near the knuckle.

Which midwifed the thought; if I put out the text as an eBook at five bucks a pop on Amazons Kindle, Kobo, iBookstore or suchlike, would anyone be interested? Just a thought.

So what are you going to do?

There’s a lot of causes out there. Some good, some not so good, and some so downright fucked up they’re over the insanity event horizon and accelerating past lightspeed. It’s easy to feel snowed under sometimes. Anyway, I’ve done contributing to other peoples causes. Those that were supposed to be good weren’t that good. Those not so good turned out to be stupid and the rest aren’t even worth mentioning. Nowadays it’s hard to find one without a vested interest behind it, so I won’t be looking any more.

Having just been through a double bereavement with all that entails, I’ve been re-evaluating what I want from my life. Where I’m going, what I might do when I get there sort of thing. Becoming the joint senior member of our little clan has come as a major culture shock. No excuses, no deferment, it’s my ball and I have to make the rules now. If they need making. Which more often than not they don’t. My work as a parent has, and continues to be largely done. I’ve morphed role from family guard dog and occasional shepherd to long distance shoulder to cry on, which is as it should be. No doubt grandchildren are somewhere on the horizon, but please, not just yet. What gets me most is the odd sensation that I now have no-one to defer to, which makes me mildly uncomfortable. Adrift and hollow. Much better off financially, but directionless.

So, that begs the question. What do I do now? The world beckons. I’ve a hankering to live in Paris for a month or two next year. Ride those wonderfully curvy Swiss motorways on something like a Triumph Rocket III. Meander through Southern Europe, park the monster 2.3 litre sports cruiser motorcycle outside a little Bar Tabac and let the local kids stare slack jawed at it. Dance the centre line a little along the coast road from Marseille to Genoa. Thence down to Rome, see Naples and live a little. Maybe down to watch Stromboli and Etna spit fire before heading up the coast road with Venice and Vienna in mind. Wander round Prague and Berlin with a side trip through Warsaw. Up through Denmark and across the big bridges into Sweden. Visit a cousin of mine who lives in Gothenburg. Catch a freighter to Immingham and grey, damp olde England. Pay my respects to the wider clan. Ride a container ship back to Canada and run Highway One from Halifax Nova Scotia to mile zero again. Perhaps even zipping south of the border to revisit New York and swing in a wide arc from New Jersey to Texas then North through Nevada. Indulge my wanderlust. Write about what happens as it happens. Perhaps. Then I’ll pitch up on the Pacific shore again and think about the other side of the ring of fire. China, Japan, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Of course these are all mere dreams and may never come to pass, but I’ve done some instalments of that trip at various times in my life and truly want to do them again. While it’s still possible to do so.

Secrets & Lies

Busy reconnecting with estranged family members at present following my Mother’s funeral. The ceremony was a Church do which was well attended. Close on a hundred packed into a small English Parish church for the public goodbye. A day which saw me standing around with siblings doing the duty. Greeting old family friends and occasional relative at the church door on an uncharacteristically sunny English day, wishing protocol allowed sunglasses and a hat. Feeling numb and heavily jet lagged.

Having shed my tears two weeks before, I found myself standing in the front pew at parade rest in my best jacket eyeing the closed coffin bedecked with white roses and lilies, wincing as the organist muffed hymn intro’s and wondering what Mum would be thinking if she could have seen all the fuss. Listening to siblings trying to sing with shaking voices unused to the exercise of a tune. Admiring the architecture of some late medieval robber barons ornate tomb. I think the Ma Sticker I knew would have laughed herself senseless at the irony because we’ve always been such a cheerfully agnostic bunch. However, the local societies wanted to say thanks for all the voluntary work our family and specifically my mother put into the village, so I kept my mouth firmly shut and let priestly platitudes rattle past.

My major issue is there’s a lot of highly personal stuff coming out of my particular woodwork right now making me a deeply unhappy bunny. Why our little clan couldn’t have sat down and talked it all out years ago has left me feeling like Tim Spalls character from Mike Leighs “Secrets and lies“;

There’s been quite a bit of “But we all thought you knew, Bill.” Recently.
Well I didn’t. Much was kept from me by my parents and I am desperately trying not to be very angry with them indeed. Which has taken the edge off my grief. Inheritance isn’t the issue. That’s down to probate and settling the estate. It’s just money. The tax man will no doubt take his bite, but I’m more seriously pissed off at my extended family for keeping me in the dark all these years. I’d suspected of course, but no one took me aside and said; “Bill, there are a few things you should know.” That’s the kind of conversation I’m having with several of my cousins and aunts right now. Clucking bell. First mother in law dies. Next we had to move house and fast. Then my my car gets trashed. Mum dies. My dog dies. Now all this. If I didn’t know better I’d think someone had it in for me. It’s been a tough few months with only a few brief respites.

Notwithstanding, I’m trying very hard to look on the bright side. Be positive. Letters have been written to mend fences. I’m trying to do the right thing and move forward keeping my chin up.

Mrs S and I are back in Canada and heavily jet lagged. Stepkids are good and making their own lives. We have kept nothing from them. My wife still loves me, although sometimes I wonder why. And I’m quite well balanced, insofar as the chips upon both my broad and brawny shoulders are in a state of perfect equilibrium.

The curtains of darkness have been stripped from my past and they have revealed a tangled emotional forest that would give the Brothers Grimm nightmares. One which I have to traverse alone. So I think I’ll be taking a chainsaw with me. With extra gasoline and maybe some Gelignite. Bring it on.

I’ll be back in due course. You know how it is. Dragons to rescue. Damsels to slay. Providing the next media scare story doesn’t get us all first, or stupid EU politicians don’t talk us into a war.

Regards

Bill

Chilled

Mrs S and I have finally moved in properly to new Victorian gaff here in BC and just delivered our first weekend guest safe home. To celebrate we took a bus downtown and did a little bar surfing. While we were on our way, the oddest feeling crept over me. A sense of complete calm, serenity, even a sense of being touched by God. A veritable nexus of null anxiety, to the point where my paranoia kicked in and whispered salaciously to my hindbrain “It’s been a wonderful day so far-so what’s going to go pear shaped? Who is going to screw it up?” You know what? Nothing did.

In Iraq, 800 crazies, including three holders of UK passports so we are told, are murdering all they choose while an army flees in front of them. The Ukraine crisis lumbers on. The USA seems weak and vacillating. UK Civil liberties are eroded with every half baked directive from the EU Commission and everywhere the media are complicit in the decline.

Yet none of that matters, because at present we’re having a lovely time. Walking here and there, enjoying the locality. Don’t take this personally, but I won’t say ‘wish you were here’. There’s only just enough happiness for me, Mrs S and the dog.

Jail the parents!

So says a journalist in the Barclay Brothers Beano. Apparently two parents in East Anglia are to be hauled up before the beak for allowing their child to reach fifteen stone. It is worth noting that the original article in the Wail says that the boys father is twenty stone and out of work. Apple not falling very far from tree, methinks.

A more reasoned discussion has been carried out here on debatewise but the principle of state intervention to cut costs for the ‘wonderful’ NHS should be asking the greater question. Which National Health Service? Oh, you know, the ‘wonderful’ NHS where patients can be neglected by nursing staff whose focus is more on paperwork than actual care, and where the elderly can die a nice, lonely but tidy death in a hospital bed from dehydration and starvation in their own urine and faeces, that sort of thing. Don’t believe me? Start here.

The greater questions should be; how does the family benefit from being prosecuted and their child being put in ‘care’? How much money do these court and care processes take away from the UK’s ‘wonderful’ NHS? Let’s do some joined up thinking here. Police manpower, cost of lawyers and court time, costs of appeal, fines, jail time for being unable to pay fines. All on the public purse because the parents in question are not exactly high earners. Criminal records further damaging their prospects of employment, thus keeping parents out of the tax contributing workforce (If there were suitable work to be had). That’s even without factoring in the costs of God alone knows how many social workers. The cost of long term ‘care’ (Meals, facilities, security) with all the fees for a swath of behavioural interventionist consultants whose services are not exactly free.

What the screaming interventionists don’t seem to understand is that all of these things don’t come cheap. If your principal goal is to save the NHS money, even a fairly cursory analysis demonstrates that intervention of this kidney isn’t really the right way to go about it.

One is left with the thought that on balance it will probably prove more economic to treat the child for any conditions that crop up when they actually do, not trying to second guess what conditions will arise because it’s not unknown for the fat kid at fifteen to discover girls, or get so hacked off with being ill that he spends a couple of years getting into shape off his own bat, living to a ripe old age. Either that or the young man will die young, thus actually cutting the long term treatment bill. No prosecutions required.

Think of the savings to the ‘wonderful’ NHS.

Hi-ho. Lovely sunny day here in BC and the weekend beckons. Done with unpacking and am thoroughly enjoying being able to walk to the nearest pub. Now there’s a thought

Cream crackered

Totally tired today for some reason. Worn out, shagged, knackered like I’ve been burning the candles at both ends with a flamethrower. A heavily sedated slug has more energy than I do at present. It’s not as though I’ve been eating or drinking to excess. I haven’t. Modest exercise, lots of vitamins and vegetables. Sunshine and early mornings. Hmm. Maybe that’s my problem, too healthy, with excess blood in my alcohol stream. Have to do something about that.

Almost done with the packing for Friday’s house move. Then twenty four hours without Interweb and then back up and running. Afterwards I may just sleep.