Tag Archives: UK

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.

Some things should not pass from memory…..

Just a quickie for all you youngun’s out in jolly old Interwebland. A small antidote to the doom and gloom about insane mass murdering death cults, inept Presidents, the dunderheadedness of bureaucrats, radical vegetarians, idiots who still believe against all evidence to the contrary that CO2 driven man made global warming is real, professional protesters and the general lack of worthwhile cerebral activity in the online world……

A pre Python Michael Palin introduces the legendary, the phenomenal, the so incredibly awesome Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band from Do not adjust your set (A 1960’s children’s TV show? Link to playlist here Oy gevalt already).

How can you not love a show that invented the ‘electric spoon’ concept? Which was so good someone had to invent one.

Well, they were more innocent times.

Orwells World

Friends, wossnames, countrymen. Lend me your thingummyjobbies. I come, not to praise liberty, but to bury it. That’s right. Freedom is dead, or very much on life support. Shakespeare himself might have done a quick rewrite to outline the situation (Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 1, Mark Anthony’s speech)

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of truth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest concept
That ever livèd in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that drained this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy—
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of Twitter—
A curse hath lit upon the voice of man.
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Doth cumber all the online world.
Blood and destruction is so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That Mumsnet shall but smile when they behold
Their infants smothered by the nanny state,
All pity choked with accusation of sex crime,
Yet Freedom’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Whatsap by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the words of war,
That these foul deeds shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

I think Bill the Quill would have approved. Or what’s that whirring, buzzing sound from the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon?

Seriously. I woke up thinking this morning that the country of my birth has turned into a warped version of Orwell’s nightmare 1984. This isn’t me being paranoid, it’s so in your face it’s not true. Twitter storms have become the “Two minute Hate”. People are regularly arrested for “Hate speech”. Voicing legitimate concerns has become “Thought crime”. Constant warfare. Near ubiquitous CCTV. Surveillance of e-mail and web activity. Webcams that can be remotely switched on. I don’t need to provide links. The evidence is in plain sight everywhere. If you don’t see, then you ain’t looking.

The UK, now rebranding as Orwell’s World theme park. Try the Grauniad rollercoaster, where tribes of shrieking lefties throw shit and outrage at everyone. It’s a blast. Thank you for not smoking or drinking. Or thinking. Anywhere.

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?

Is he funny?

Every so often I pop out for the evening, then I do my zip up before I get arrested. No seriously. The most pertinent question of modern times is; is Russell Brand funny? Or even profound? He certainly thinks so, and is determined to tell the rest of us just how funny, profound, caring and intelligent he is (Yeah, right). Very loudly. In a profoundly irritating in-yer-face hectoring manner guaranteed to put backs up. Even if he knew where to find the right targets (Which he doesn’t). Especially when the guys bankrolling him were the very people he’s railing against. There’s a curious kind of irony there.

My only reason for speaking out is because at present his ghost written garbage is clogging up downtown Victoria bookshelves. Which rather puts a damper on what should otherwise be a pleasant Saturday afternoon bookstore experience. Placed in large end of aisle displays, Brand’s deranged eyes follow you around the store, making you want to plant the blade of a very large logging axe very firmly between them. Or take a chainsaw to in self defence. Not that I’d waste the energy. Having on one occasion picked up a copy and skim read some of the contents, I was unimpressed. That’s three minutes of my life I won’t get back.

Brand is like so many others of his ilk whose acts I’ve actually seen live, crap. I’ve seen these so-called ‘big names’ and found myself wondering why they’re so famous if they’re so rubbish. These media darlings can’t handle hecklers and their material is as tired as Ben Elton shouting ‘Thatcher!’ very loudly. Wasn’t funny then, isn’t funny now – one trick pony’s never are. Nowadays even the hecklers don’t have a go because there’s either a ‘no heckling’ rule in the club (which is really very sad, and very poor training for would be comedians) or the audience can’t work out what the imbecile on stage is ranting on about and are bludgeoned into a kind of stunned silence punctuated by nervous laughter. Known as the ‘Let’s laugh at the nutter until he goes away‘ type of faux-hilarity. As for ‘edgy’, sorry folks, I’ve seen ‘edgier’ custard tarts. He’s only on the tired old wall to wall media because he has the ‘correct’ lamestream political views popular with a small Fabianesque London-centric clique of media influencers. Who are so lacking in any real form of wit that they form a curious kind of anti-intelligence. Part of the dumbed down cultural Alzheimers afflicting the western world. Proof of Rory Bremner’s assertion that satire has died. I cite Brand, the X-Factor and Simon Cowell as proof that this is so. They may also be at least partially to blame for the UK’s ‘obesity epidemic’.

On the whole I’d give the failed hairdressers model a big thumbs down. Wouldn’t even cross the sidewalk to give him a toonie to stop busking. Brands kind of un-hilarity strikes as more funny peculiar than funny amusing. Like the occasional crazed street beggar with a bad case of Tourette syndrome, more to be pitied than laughed at.

Things I’ll miss about England….. Part one

I’m in a bit of a nostalgic mood at the moment. Missing my dog a lot, even over four months on I’m still having the odd little moment when passing displays of pet food in the local supermarket. Funny that. Having lost two close family members this year, you’d think my mind would be constantly referring back to them, not the family pet. On the other hand, the revelations I received about my parents and what they did have tempered my grief somewhat.

Having recently sworn the oath, signed on the dotted line etc, this is the time to count ones blessings and take note of why Mrs S and I walked the path that we have. While I’m in this reflective state of mind, I thought I’d list a few things I miss and don’t miss about the country I was born in.

The weather; there’s actually quite a lot of this in England. Microclimates by the bucketload. Morning sunshine almost inevitably followed by a cloudburst around teatime and leaden grey skies the rest. Nonetheless, despite having been stuck out in some pretty inclement stuff at all times of the year, I have a genuine affection for it. Particularly the last week of April and first two weeks of May when all the buds have broken and the air is laden with heady Maythorn blossom, new mown grass, the first scent of roses outdoors, keeping all those whiny hay fever sufferers inside.

The countryside; Outside of the urban centres the UK can be quite a pretty little place, when the inhabitants are not busy fouling their own nests with windblown garbage. Doesn’t take much to find it either. Just a small step off the beaten track with a mind to wonder and an ordnance survey map. Leaning on a gate, reading the landscape for the plethora of hidden history. Lumps and bumps in pasture that could be a hidden Roman ruin, Medieval fishponds or last years silage heaps. As a long time fan of Time Team, I’ve always been amazed at how chock full the British countryside is with the remains of civilisations long gone.

The class envy; Canadians are, on the whole, not really bothered about whether someone has an educated accent or not. Education for most is a thing to aspire to, rather than be jealous of. But the whole unthinking “He’s posh / poor so I think he’s a tit.” or “I went to Eton / Inner city compo so I’m better than you.” (Having met a few public school types, this is so often not the case. Likewise for its inverse) attitude is not so embedded or widespread as in the UK. We have no real equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson.

The crowding; If I want to get stuck in a people jam I’ll go back to a rainy Oxford Circus tube station on a Friday at rush hour. Then there’s the narrow little roads full of narrow little houses and a lot of narrow little people. Not all, but they’re a dying breed. Here we all give each other room, and it’s not unusual for there to be a metre gap between people in the Tim Hortons queue, although the Canadian habit of leaving two car lengths between vehicles when stationary at traffic lights can get a tad frustrating. This is where Jeremy Clarkson’s attitudes might come in useful.

The bad manners; No, don’t miss this at all. Not a whit or even a gnat’s bollock of a smidgeon. Don’t miss the long faces, the bitter petty jealousies, the petty race-baiting. Yeah, well we get a bit of that, but not much. Everyone seems to be pretty relaxed about race and sexuality over here, apart from the odd fruitloop. Love the customer service over here, all the “Have an awesome day.” and “No problem.” (either Canadians are a nation of bloody good actors or they really mean it.) Apart from when dealing with cell phone companies, but that’s a global problem. Or is it just related to T-Mobile? Or Bell? Were they trained by Jeremy Clarkson?

Who knows. Maybe that’s something else to be happy about. Or not. TTFN.

Regards

Bill

P.S.; Watch this space….. or not.

Slight technical hitch

With regard to the possibility of putting out an updated copy of ‘Walking the Streets – the book, not the blog’ there’s a bit of a hiccup. I’ve had three ‘pooters since I went to press back in 2007 so the original files are sitting on salvageable hard drives tucked in my chaotic filing system.

However, the original blog can be resurrected zombielike to a shambling version of existence and made visible to the general dyslexic should enough people request its return. It would save me the problem of finding the original MSS and reformatting for eBook. Any takers?

Halloween and stuff

Halloween is a big deal over here. People deck their houses in carved pumpkins, fake cobwebs and all sorts of foolery. Lots of kiddies dress up in silly and totally unscary costumes, students put on Zombie makeup and totter around the streets muttering “Brains, brains.” Are they asking for a donation or lunch? So I thought I’d get into the spirit of things. Join in the fun. For a given value of ‘fun’ (Evil snigger).

This whole trick or treat business however, has always struck me as rather mean spirited. A “Give us sweeties or we’ll kick your bins over, spatter your windows or scratch your car” kind of meanness. Which isn’t really fun at all and simply encourages tooth decay and hyperactivity.

My Halloween tradition circulated around bonfire jumping (Small bonfires), bobbing for apples, pub crawls, cider drinking games and general horseplay between consenting youth. No one went round banging on doors demanding candy with menaces. The older folk were always part of the festivities, but mostly as spectators while the youngsters made bloody idiots of themselves. Those who didn’t want to play stayed home and no one bothered them. Well, apart from drunken singing stumbling past at two in the morning. The only real fallout was massive hangovers and the odd inexplicable bruise the following day. On one rare Halloween when it wasn’t raining, a bunch of us ended up on top of a local hill having a howling contest at the Hunters Moon. No-one called the cops. Although I recall one old farmer type did turn up in his Land Rover with Purdey on the front seat. He took one look at us, muttered something about ‘bloody kids’ before promptly turning round and going home to bed. We got the hint and dispersed. Of course this was a long time ago. Nowadays we’d have a bloody SWAT team round our necks. Which begs the question; when did people become such wussies?

This year my fancy dress is going to be a ‘biohazard’ sign for the front door, hooded painters overalls flecked with a little red, breath mask, face shield or safety glasses. Perhaps Wellingtons or even these to top off the ensemble. Which can all be used if and when I get round to a little DIY, or there really is an Ebola epidemic. So win-win there I think.