Tag Archives: brexit

A steely gaze

Has it happened to you?  You are sitting somewhere, locked in an unfocused gaze.  Your friend pipes up ‘what are you thinking about?’ and your natural response is

‘I was just wondering if I have PPI’

Well, it never happened to me but it does turn out that I did indeed have PPI.  A text message from my bank this morning showing a credit of nearly £1600 – with a reference ‘PPI’.  Of course, the company took a hefty chunk – 25% + VAT but still, money for old rope.

The biggest surprise was not the fact I had PPI without knowing – oh no.  The biggest surprise was finding the culprit.  See, over the years I have borrowed from many institutions and there were a few that I was sure would come up positive.  Years ago there was a company called HFC Bank, I was sure they would have ripped me off.  Then Alliance and Leicester, had a few loans with them – but nothing.

The shock came when I found out that First Direct – my wholly trusted bank since the 90’s had charged me twice.  First Direct, part of that giant HSBC had charged me on a loan and a mortgage.  Honestly, I was stunned by that.  I would have almost trusted them with my life.

Sad thing is, they are very good at looking after their customers – so much so, I have recommended them several times in the past.  It’s a sad day when an old friend lets you down so badly.

 

Years ago, I ventured into a Lidl store to try it out.  When I say years ago, it was when they first came to the UK.  If you remember, and you tried it back then, you will remember what a complete cluster fuck it was.  No amount of saving money would have me putting up with that nonsense twice a week.

All that has changed my chums.  Earlier this week, I ventured into Lidl again.  Long gone is the shit fight that used to be. Brands laid on shelves waiting to be picked up.  I was astounded (and I don’t use that word lightly) by the amount of goods that were produced in Britain or contained produce from Britain – this alone should be a good enough reason to shop there, especially ‘post brexit’.

What was even better was the price.  My two full ‘bags for life’ cost me less than £21 and have fed me quite happily for 5 days now – I am sure I will also survive the weekend on what I have.  Admittedly, it was all food. no cleaning, hair & beauty, alcohol present, but damn it was cheap.  I suspect the same bags of stuff at Sainsbury or Tesco would have cost 50% more.

‘How does it taste?’ I hear you cry

Well – bloody good I would say.  The soups have been spectacular, the wraps stupendous, cottage cheese way better than Sainsbury or Tesco, fruit and veg going strong still, the chicken was delicious but breakfast cereal will be a little boring wherever you buy it from.  I did have a problem with the eggs but I suspect that may have been down to operator error not waiting for the pan to be on the boil before inserting the eggs.

So – I am a convert.  The only thing missing was cucumber.  I will get that at Tesco later.

 

Still studying.  My last results came back as two passes.  One was just a scrape through but a pass is a pass and that’s all I needed.  Honestly thought I had failed that one and was preparing to re-sit in October when my results landed.  I opened the envelope to see the results.

The SQA that manage the exams send a summary page of all of the exams you have sat with them, usually these are in date order.  When I opened the letter my eyes dropped to the last two lines on that page.  Both said passes.  Convinced I had failed one, I didn’t believe it and looked at the top two lines – both of those said passes.  Still not convinced, I scanned the whole column – each line said ‘PASS’.

Still not convinced, I went back to the top and started reading the subjects.  This time, the latest subjects were at the top. I read them, both passes.  Read them again – still both passes and then, those immortal words echoed from my lips while I stood with both of my parents in their kitchen – ‘ Fuck Me – I passed them both’.

Now either their hearing aids were not working properly or they decided to give me that one on the house considering the circumstances.  All was well.

I remained in shock as I was convinced – without doubt, that I would re-sit one of them.

 

Do you ever catch yourself saying something stupid?  I did the other day.  The missus is away on holiday and I am looking after her dog.  We were getting ready to go out in the car and as we were going in the Range Rover, he had to go in the boot so he didn’t scratch the leather.

I started the car and found the dog opened the tailgate and put him inside.

As I put him down and prepared to close the tailgate – I said to him, ‘Roshea (that’s his name) – Stay There’

I mean, what a dumb thing to say right, where was he going to go?  The gate was still closed on the driveway.

 

Back to studies – last exam on 3rd October – here’s hoping to maintain that 100% 1st time pass rate


I’m not racist but……….

It’s time to get a little controversial again I am afraid, so expect a good long read.  Make a cup of tea and get back to your screen as quickly as possible.  This is gonna take at least 30 minutes of your time.

Then, put your feet up and watch this little video of an Australian comedian debating gun control.  It’s in two parts but don’t worry, part 2 is directly underneath part 1.  When you are done watching, come back here and finish reading

 

 

 

So that’s Jim – a very clever guy, funny as hell and absolutely spot on with his remarks.

You know why I posted it right?  Another attack in America with 20 reported deaths. I, like the vast majority of the civilised population will wonder for just how long this can go on – certainly after Obama leaves office, I think there will be little hope of  any form of gun control for generations to come.  It’s a sad form of politics where the most powerful man in his country is powerless to make meaningful change.

Which of course leads me nicely into Brexit.  A step too far?

Well lets see.  At the head of the European Union sits an appointed board of governors.  This appointed board makes ALL of the decisions that affect all of Europe’s citizens, passes laws and membership requirements for all member states.  Below them in the heirachy are the MEP’s or Members of the European Parliament.  MEP’s are present from each country of the block and are voted for by each blocks citizens – but here is the cliff hanger – The MEP’s cannot propose, create or remove European law – that can only be done by the governors.

Tricky that, in a democracy! See, in whatever democratic society you live in, you have the option to vote in your representatives or equally vote out someone that has represented you badly.  So if someone taxes you too much – vote them out, if life is good, vote them in again.  But with the EU, there appears to be nothing you can do.  if you don’t like what they propose and enforce on you – there is nothing you can do to protest or show your distain.  That to me sounds more like a dictatorship than a democracy.

Now I have to admit that sometimes in a democracy, we need a little bit of a dictatorship.  See, all politicians, regardless of their colours want to get re-elected, they like the power and they certainly like the bigger pay packet that being in leadership provides. And this is where democracy fails us a little.  There are times when a government MUST, for the longer term good of their country, MUST make unpopular short term decisions with a view to a longer term win – but they rarely do. A single term in Parliament is not long enough to make good, future building changes for your public, it needs longer.  But who would re-elect a government that just increased taxes by say 2% to improve spending on healthcare or pensions?  Both in the long term good of the people but no one wants to pay for it.

So go back to the EU for a second, if they propose and implement something that 75% of the public dislike – nothing can be done to stop it – it becomes EU law and EU law MUST be complied with by ALL member states.

Some of this could be good too – we all drive cars now that have a standardised diagnostics socket on board so that not only main dealers can fix your car but also independents can too – they don’t have to buy one tool for Jaguar, one for Mercedes, one for Volvo etc – they all have to be the same.  But remember the oddities too – remember when cucumbers had to be grown straighter? or when they banned the UK from having different coloured fire extinguishers for different types of fires because they said it caused confusion?  Imagine that one – you are on holiday in Spain say, and there is a fire.  You have to read the extinguisher to see what type it is to make sure it is safe to use on that type of fire – BUT YOU DONT SPEAK SPANISH !

Nigel Farage once made a statement where he said something like –

‘If you think the EU is undemocratic, you have fundamentally misunderstood what the EU is about – It is Anti- Democratic’

Now that statement is absolutely cock on. He is 100% right.

Imagine for a minute, as individuals, we were not allowed to choose which bank we used, we were told which one we had to use, and the people that had the sole control on which bank we were forced to use,  were the bankers themselves.?

OK, so now you think I am a Brexit campaigner right?  Well understand my personal position.  Those of you that know what I am about, the essence of free movement around Europe has been the backbone of my existance for the last 11 years or so.  In those 11 years I have lived and worked in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Portugal (lets exclude time in America and the Caribbean).  The schengen agreement has been very good for me – the single currency has been superb for me – I have often complained about needing the £ and €’s in my pocket but always been mindful that anyone who gave up the pound would be committing political suicide.

So I have several personal reasons for staying in.  A house in another EU country for one.  A job that requires me to travel extensively within Europe for another.  If the UK left, would I need a Schengen Visa to live and work around Europe for another 10 years? I currently have my car with me in Mallorca – will I still be able to do that? What would become of my house in Portugal – could I sell it and take the money out of the eurozone?

Moving around Europe has been fun, enlightening yet incredibly frustrating at times too.  One thing I will always say is that going back to the UK is going back to a country that works, has great healthcare, excellent customer service, shops that are open when you can use them, a great Police Force and minimal corruption.

Now before you disagree with any of those statements – Firstly ask yourself how much have you travelled and experienced things outside of the UK?  I have seen a lot over the last decade – let me assure you, of all of the countries I have seen, The UK has THE BEST answers – thats not to say they are perfect but they are certainly the best of all I have seen.  Secondly – if you believe the UK is not all that, why on earth do you think so many Non UK Nationals want to get there ????

The big question for me is – how much does the EU want to dissolve the UK’s identity?  Hollywood could make a film about it – the critics would call it a magnificent work of fiction, all the movie wankers in Cannes would quaff on about how good it was.

Imagine the UK getting absorbed into the EU to a point that our identity is lost for ever.  Way back in the 90’s I was completing a staff survey at one of the best companies I ever worked for, a company called LeasePlan.  They were conducting a survey of ethnic backgrounds for diversity.  Way back then, one thing that stuck with me was when they asked me for my nationality and there was no option for ‘British’.  I spoke to the H.R. director who was a very good friend of mine and of Indian descent and asked her where my option was and she told me I was now ‘European’.  I marked ‘other’ and sent it back.

Think it is still unrealistic?  Ask your parents who voted in the 70’s for joining what was then the common market.  Back then it was just a trade agreement – already now, Brussels pushes laws and regulations at the UK.

I am often left with the feeling that the Eurocrats view the Brits as a troublesome bunch that just won’t come quietly.  I know they fear us though too.  Imagine, if the UK votes to leave, they will be shitting in their overpaid pants, waiting for the next country to call a referendum too.  As I travel, I talk to locals.  Where ever I am, the same fears apply.  When the euro came in, prices went up, salaries went down – everyone is worried about immigration – EVERYONE.

If the UK leaves, it will survive.  It is the 5th largest economy in the world. I don’t doubt that things will be a little tougher for a couple of years while deals are thrashed out, but it will survive.  When other countries see this too  – they will want out.  Sure, economists are predicting doom and gloom but remember, these are the same economists that FAILED to see the banking crisis in 2008.  It will be a step into the unknown to leave but also remaining will be an unknown step too – a step of not knowing how much control Central Europe will take away from this plucky little island.  And remember, once it’s gone, there is no way of getting it back.

Greece is not in the headlines too much anymore – but it is still there – absorbing huge amounts of EU money on a daily basis.

I spent a lot of time in Brussels over the last 5 years or so.  One thing that struck me was the sheer amount of EU money that is lavished there.  Diplomatic cars, special parking places, houses rented to EU workers, lunch allowances, drinks after work – all paid for out of EU funds.

Consider this for a moment.  Lets say Brexit happens, the EU throws its toys out of the pram and sets about making an example of the UK.  Will all of the ex-pats in Spain and Portugal have to return home?  If they did, it would kill those economies stone dead.  Would the UK in return then kick out all of the europeans on a tit for tat basis?  Maybe – but that would relieve the housing shortage right?  Doctors waiting times would plummet and maybe you could then get an operation within a few days of diagnosis.

So the EU stops all trade with the UK.  Something like 40% of our goods are imported from Europe.  Could they sustain such a  loss in sales?  of course not.  There would need to be a trade deal made – a deal that helped both parties, a mutually beneficial agreement.  How long would that take?  Well we know the EU is a big beurocratic machine that rumbles along slower than a snails pace but while their economies are suffering, it would also be in their best interests to strike a deal.

Will people stop flying to Europe?  Of course not.  Every time I fly into Nice or Palma my passport is checked anyway – EVERY TIME so what difference would it make to me?  Every time someone lands in the UK – their passport is checked – no difference there either.  If I have to get a visa, its not the end of the world.  I have a visa for America – it was relatively inexpensive and simple enough to get, fits nicely in my passport along with an expired Russian Visa.

If the UK had intelligence of a terrorist attack in Paris, would they withold that information – of course not.  Would the Germans warn the UK of an impending attack – Of course they would.

Politicians now need to give facts to the public instead of scare mongering or ‘Project Fear’ as it has been called many times. The Leave campaign needs to accurately publish the NET cost of EU membership rather than that all encompassing larger figure that they like to band around.  The public need to trust their instincts when listening to the tripe that falls out of many politicians mouths and learn to dismiss comments that are clearly unsubstantiated nonsense.

There is a lot of wiffle waffle being spoken and it is damn easy to spot.  Apply a little bit of common sense and you can easily work things out for yourself.

Personally, I am better off in but if you prefer to have a democratic, self governing land of opportunity you have to vote out.  Merkel’s career is done – her people are vastly annoyed with her open door policy on immigration and as for Hollande, well, it wouldn’t be the first time the French have laid down at the feet of the Germans would it?

And just because you voice a concern about immigration – IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A RACIST.  Remember the story about the boy who cried wolf?  If people continue to misuse the ‘racist’ card it will be come so devalued that when it is genuinely need, it will be ignored by the masses – and that would be a very sad situation.  People have a genuine concern about the physical load exerted by huge immigration on services within their countries.  Let them voice their opinions and be heard.  Immigration is not a bad thing – uncontrolled immigration is.

 

Phew – rant over

 

And Finally

 

If you really didn’t think Big Brother is watching you – something very suspicious happened to me today……Apple.

So we have all heard the rumours that your smart phone microphone can listen to your conversations covertly and then target web & app adverts specifically from the conversations it has eaves dropped on?  Well, this is true.   A myth buster style trial took place a couple of months ago and it took some tech nerds just 3 days to build an app with readily available software that could do just that.

Imagine my surprise today when I pulled my phone out of my pocket to see a web page displayed.  Ok, sometimes I may forget to screen lock it, we have all ‘butt dialled’ someone right ?  But what I saw today was beyond spooky.  Yesterday I received a photo on my phone of some paperwork for my rowing machine.  Within that paperwork were the operators instructions and other stuff including the original sales receipt.  I zoomed in on the receipt to get the invoice date and displayed above that date was the suppliers name, Fitness Superstore.  Well bugger me, if the web page being displayed wasn’t for the same company.

Now, the receipt was a year and a half old, my phone is only a month old, I didn’t even know the name of the store I bought it from but could there be a spy in my software that scans my photos and directs me to those web pages?


I’m with Boris

In the week that François Hollande said there would be consequences of a Brexit and the week that the dock crew here told me I couldn’t wash my car with the same environmentally friendly soap that we wash the boat with (but we can wash the boat with it – no problem) I would like to dedicate the video below to all of those that choose to be difficult for difficulties sake, without rhyme or reason – why has it taken them nearly 6 months to tell me this and  about the €24,000 fine !!!!!

I would also like to throw a ‘Conspiracy Theory’ out there after the suspension of John Longworth from the British Chamber of Commerce – who voiced a personal opinion that the UK would be better off in the EU if they could reform but that he had come to the conclusion that the EU was incapable of meaningful reform.  Now, the BCC had agreed to remain neutral on the Brexit question, and I reckon his statement was pretty damn neutral, giving a little bit from both sides.

p.s.  My spell check picked up François & Hollande as a typo – I chose the option ‘ignore always’.

p.p.s. – the reason why some of Europe is panicing so much is that when the UK leaves and others see we haven’t died a death – they will leave too – a shrinking EU is the worst nightmare for the power mongers.

 


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