Saturday 25 August 2012

Friday 24 August 2012

Picture Daily 84

Inspite of how it's come out, this window was as straight and flat as the one in your front room


As Disqus continues to be a general pain in the butt, I've disabled the latest version...not usre it will be any better with the old version, but if you've been trying tom post a comment and haven't been able to, please try again...if it doesn't work I'll just turn off Disqus all together....

Thursday 23 August 2012

Little friends

I found these little folk on the canals opposite the Olympic Park...they are, or look as though they are, made of bronze so I'm delighted that no one has pinched them in the six weeks or so that they've been quietly put there by their street artist creator.  To some extent they all are gazing at the events over the other side of the canal...perhaps they are celebrity spotting because they are near the BBC studio...except the one that's just sunbathing, and I'm truly puzzled by the random this a sign that they are the Three Wise Men?

Picture Daily 83

It's just a picture of a pub...but it's really pretty isn't it?

Wednesday 22 August 2012

I am a pile of steaming cow dung

That can be the only explanation for why I attract so many flies.

It's strange: I look like a human being.  I smell like a human being (especially after an hour of cycling in the hot sun).  I sound like a human being (especially when I'm shouting at someone).  I probably taste like a human being...although as yet I've not offered my services to a cannibal.  And The Cat's Mother says I feel like a human being.

After yesterday's run in with Islington Council, I had another little challenge last night.  We jumped in a taxi and when we reached the destination the fare was £5.40.  I said "Make it £6" and prof erred a £20 was all I had.  Although it was mid-evening, he had no change and expected me to offer him the exact money.  "You wouldn't go into a shop without the right money would you"  Well, erm yes I would.  I didn't see why I should pay a 10% surcharge for a credit card.  A bit of a stand off developed until eventually he reluctantly went and got some change from a nearby newsagent.  Not surprisingly he didn't get his tip after all.

This morning I opened the office post to find a debt recovery agency chasing me for £43.13.  Attached were two invoices.  One for a ticket for an event (oh the irony of it) with  the author of a 'Free economy' book in 2009, the second, dated March 2012 was for £3 and simply said VAT and had been sent to the office we had moved out from 5 years ago.  I rang them and asked what was going on.  The explanation?  HMRC had been inspecting their books and told them they should have charged VAT.  Hence the £3 invoice.  Because they had sent it to the wrong address and we hadn't paid, they had passed it to their debt collection agency.  She still wanted me to pay the £3 plus the 13 pence interest it had accumulated since 2009.  I said I didn't think so, and that I doubt her boss Michael Heseltine would notice if they simply cancelled the was after all their mistake not mine.  She says she will speak with her boss and call me back.  I doubt she will...I quite fancy taking this one to court......

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Islington Council: not fit for purpose and an absolute disgrace

Oh must be time for a rant.  Feel free to leave this page, and never return.

A few years ago when I lived in central London I rented a car parking space.  For this privilege I paid not just  the rent, but also Council Tax technically it was 'Non Domestic Rates'.  Now given that the space  was roughly 6' x 10' you probably think the Council Tax was not a lot.  In fact for that tiny area I paid more than most people would pay for a four bedroom detached house in the leafy suburbs.  Eventually we moved and I gave up the space.  I wrote to the council and they ignored me for many months, other than sending me increasingly aggressive Demands.  I kept writing and they kept sending demands.  Eventually I went up to their offices and explained in person together with the correspondence.  A few weeks later I got a court summons.  I arrived at Court and the council offered to postpone the proceedings, but I declined.  In court the Council explained that they needed to place an orange stripy traffic cone in the space so it wasn't used and over the course of the previous 12 months had not had the time to do that.  They acknowledged all my correspondence.  It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the judge laughed them out of court.

 A few fewer years ago Islington Council decided to pursue me for the Council Tax for The Boy's dead mum's house.  I had never been responsible for it and the Trust responsible for looking after the house paid the due Council Tax.  Extraordinarily, for no reason, the Council refunded the Tax to the Trust and issued me with a court summons.  You can imagine the rest.

You may understand then, that any time Islington Council is mentioned I get a twitch.

Some weeks ago I has a telephone call from someone claiming to be from Islington Council asking for my address.  I pointed out that if they had my name and my telephone number they should be able to find my address.  I asked for proper identification before I divulged any information.  They declined and the telephone call ended.

This morning I received a Council Tax demand for some £1200.  For the car parking space.  For 2005/6. I rang them on the number on the bill 020 7527 2633.  The person at the other end couldn't identify the account number on the Demand and put me through to someone else.  I asked "What makes you think I am liable for this?"  "Because it's on the system" was the reply...I tried to go further but beyond  "Because it's on the system" I got no further.  At that stage it was clear someone else needed to speak with me, but before I let them call me back I went through the two scenarios above and suggested that Islington Council was harassing me.  I asked the man, Jamial Kahn to write this down before he spoke to his supervisor.  But he refused.  He also refused to give me their telephone number so I could call back if I heard nothing.  He refused.  He did say someone would call me back within the hour.  End of call.

In the meantime I spent a frantic 45 minutes going through all the files on my computer to find the previous correspondence.  One name came up.  Ian Barrett.  And indeed when the phone rang the man introduced himself as Ian Barrett.  I explained why his name was familiar to me, and he proceeded to tell me that the reason I had received a Demand was because the owner of the spaces had reduced the number from 16 to 11, the council had therefore closed the property references for the 16, creating new references for the 11.  Obviously as new accounts no money was credited to them so it appeared I owed the money...although he said in fact I didn't because "someone's working from home and as they reconcile the payments to the old property references, the debt was being cleared before my very eyes".

He didn't see any problem in them devoting time and costs to tracking me down and then issuing a demand.  I, in no uncertain words, explained exactly why it was wrong and a waste of council tax payers' money and how they were incompetent, unhelpful and unreasonable.

I hope you agree.

Monday 20 August 2012

Losing your Virginity

When I was a small lad I was a Leeds United supporter.  It all came about I remember because there was an FA Cup final and Leeds were playing Chelsea.  My brother decided to cheer on Chelsea which inevitably meant I HAD to support Leeds.  I think at the end of the game (Chelsea won 2-1 if I remember correctly) he lost all interest, whilst I continued cheering Leeds for years afterwards.  But only in a bookish, read the results sort of a way, until any feigned interest in soccer disappeared altogether.

You may have read, but most likely missed a small piece in the newspapers this weekend.  Football club Leeds United has gone to court about the charges that are levied for policing its games.  The judge has decided that the team is liable for costs only for policing on the club's own premises...and not as at present for all policing which is connected to a match.  So as hordes of rowdy fans makes their way from coach stations, rail stations through town-centres via pubs and bars there are major crowd control issues which require a police presence. The club will be refunded something like  £1million.  All other football teams are likely to ask for refunds which will stretch into several £million.  That means every time a team full of under-performing overpaid millionaires comes out on to the pitch it will cost you and me money.

Many football teams are in dire financial condition because they pay their players too much...more than the Club's income.  Not to worry, you and I will pick up some of the cost of their overheads.

There have been many questions raised about whether, following the Olympics, football will change and adopt a more public-spirited approach as shown by our underpaid and over-achieving athletes.

I think we have our answer.

A few years ago I took The Boy to V-Festival.  It was my first festival...and of course his.  We drove up to Staffordshire (having failed to get tickets to the Chelmsford leg) in our very swanky soft-top BMW and parked in a muddy field for the weekend.  We hoisted our tent and set about enjoying the music all weekend.  We did...we had a ball...we saw nearly every band we wanted to, although for some reason I insisted on seeing Duffy rather than the Kings of Leon...oh well.  Inevitably it poured with rain, and the fields turned to a quagmire...our feet sunk so far down in the quick-mud that it was easy to lose your shoes and never find them again as you walked around.  The other abiding memory was the toilets.  At Festivals it's always the toilets.  They were rank on day one, and a danger zone by day three.  When it was time to leave the car park was a quagmire, and our swanky car attracted attention of all and sundry as they shouted abuse at us and hoped we got most of them did.  You can imagine the satisfaction to be had when we drove out without a my days in the car industry I had been taught how to drive in tricky conditions.

Last year, The Boy went off to V-Festival with friends for a day, and this year he and some mates went for the whole weekend.  They took enough baggage to last themselves for a month...although I suspect most of it was beer.  He returns this afternoon so I will hear some stories later.  Amazingly he rang me this morning at about 10.00.  I was delighted he called.  He sounded drunk.  In fairness he may just have been suffering from three days of sleep deprivation.  He also said that he was going back to Chigwell station.  Which you may wish to know is some several miles away from Loughton.  I didn't manage to find out why.  No doubt I will later.