Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Marx & me

Once again I was asked what my politics are and once again I was challenged in my reply. The thing is, I’m a Marxist and I'm also self-employed, so pay myself creatively to minimise my taxation.

But how can this be Phil? Surely you’re a hypocrite?

Well, no.

There are, in my reading of the ideology, two tenets to Marxism. The first is that it is a revolutionary party, but obviously there will never be a revolution in the UK. Mainly because people are being fed lies by the media all the time over who is to blame for the fundamental economic and societal problems that we have faced for the last 30 or so years. 147 years ago, Marx himself though the revolution would happen here because workers were increasingly leaving their agrarian lives and moving to cities, to sell the one commodity that we all have – our labour. Control of their lives was sold for a price to a factory or mill owner who while taking in massive profits, paid just enough to keep his workforce from starving. Marx theorised that the people would get sick of this, realise the exploitation being forced upon them and rise up. But, for whatever reason it didn’t happen here. Instead it happened in Russia, where the population in Marx’s own words were ‘lumpenproletariat’ a group that were unlikely to achieve any class consciousness. But they had one of the most charismatic and intelligent leaders to grace any period of history in Lenin who identified a single target – the Tsarist system and her fomented a revolution around this. Today the left is woefully divided and the chances of this happening again are remote. But that is another story and I digress.

Our current political class are obviously a hopeless bunch. If I give them my money, what will they do with it? They might spend billions on renewing the Trident submarines so that we can carry on fighting a cold war that ended 25 years ago as I was leaving the RAF, although the timing of those two events is entirely coincidental. I thought the (made up) enemy now was a loose collective of people who hated our freedoms, people who could be anywhere, could be everywhere? So people we cannot hit with nuclear missiles. We could round up all the ‘casino bankers’ who caused the recent crisis and hit them with missiles but can’t see that happening. Why the hell do I want to pay any tax to fund this? It is surely a revolutionary act to deny this outdated mind-set of the funds needed to achieve their needless goals?

The second tenet of Marxism is the redistribution of wealth. Now let me put in a caveat before I go any further, that I am only too aware of how lucky I am and nothing I say now is in anyway gloating. It breaks my heart that there are almost certainly people within a mile of me who are hungry tonight because of the welfare ‘reforms’. But if the welfare state and NHS were funded better maybe I’d be inclined to contribute more. What I can do and boy do I, is spend more. I’ve never had a saving mentality. If I die more than £10 in credit, my like will have been a failure. But every penny you spend helps someone. It helps the person who designed, produced, packaged and transported that product. It helps the people who work in the shop where you bought it. It helps them and their families to get by decently.

Just spend your money wisely. Do you know why all big Tesco stores have a filling station and why the fuel there is cheap? Because they sell it at a loss figuring that while you are there you’ll probably do you weekly shop there too. Well don’t; fill up at Tesco and drive to Sainsbury’s! As I have argued before, the most powerful political weapon we have is not where we put our cross every five years, but where we spend our money every day. Use that weapon carefully and redistribute the wealth according to your own plan.

It’s a personal Marxism and I’m comfortable with it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paint You a Picture.

Nature blew me a whirlwind that couldn't be ignored; the laughter was too infectious, the smile will melt diamonds. And those eyes. In a capricious moment I wondered, without thinking asked, it’ll be fun and for a second there was no reality. But then of course, there was.

During conversation about everything and nothing she reveals “I've never been in love” and I want to embrace that feeling and the joy it will bring. 

And so I'm bought back here. To the comments left with a grin leading to the mail, proper mail on paper, signed with love and the calls that glowed with passion. Passion doesn't always make you do the right thing but it will always make you do something. 

“Phil, don’t think, I’ll be at Heathrow in 48 hours” and so I don't think, I hoover and I buy fruit for the bowl so that she won't think I'm a savage. I get to the airport hours too early and fidget with my coffee, unable to have a cigarette in case I miss her. I look at every face until I see hers and she smiles… And I melt. Then I think. I think what is this? We talk, a little forced, then friendly and finally like lovers.

Walking through Datchet, from a doctor’s appointment I couldn't miss, we pass the pub which she has to go into as she’s American and has only before seen pictures of a building that old. It’s familiar to me so I relax. I absorb her looks, watch her take in every detail. 

We return home and eat cheese and avocado on the floor. She laughs at Have I Got News for You? pretending maybe, that she gets the nuanced humour. Another smile, this one with an edge and... must I paint you a picture? 

Only love can make you feel like that. 

In the morning, the sun shines, gilding the frame around our picture. In Windsor she doesn't want to go to the castle as she knows I'm a republican and it makes her laugh because at home a Republican loves George Bush and it was the barbs I aimed him which bought her to me.

In London we sing The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset to each other as the train pulls in and we ignore the embarrassed stares but notice smiles.

Only love can make you feel like that.

At the National we find The Haywain and though she's looked at it countless times, she's never
seen it before. She's an artist and she cries at the depth, the brush strokes, the layers. And I watch her face with an equal emotion.

At Heathrow again, we cannot speak, we just hold each other and wish that time was meaningless and that we could stop it there. 

I see her three more times and then it's over. I have to end it and it destroys me. Because o
nly love can make you feel like that too.

I can listen to
this again and smile now.

Because pain always heals and love is never lost. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What in the name of Greek buggery?

Before I retire to bed, can I just shout at the world one more time. Let's all have a look at this story shall we?

Greece averted nightmare scenario - finance minister

So a 'nightmare' has been averted. Wonderful. Those Greeks who had nothing to do with this crisis must be sleeping tight tonight as they ponder the collapse of their country's financial system and the 10 or so years of austerity that they now face. That we also face. And for what? To prop up a currency, the Euro, that has everything to do with political posturing and nothing to do with economic reality.

Be sure, the Euro is ALL about politics, nothing to do with economics. Some very heavy-weight figures, past and present, from Delors to Legarde, Mitterand to Merkel have their reputations staked on this farce. It cannot be allowed to fail regardless of the pain and misery it will cause.

We all have to deal with banks - but we have to deal with them on planet earth; Euro nations don't. Say I borrowed £100,000 from my bank. After 6 months I am struggling to pay it back so I go to the bank. They will insist that I budget of course, cancel my mobile, cable TV subscription etc and if I show them the resolve required to get myself out of the sticky situation, they may be sympathetic. What they will not do is say to me "OK phylos, you're struggling to pay off this debt so we'll lend you another £100,000". It makes no sense does it? You and I can see that, but we don't have any political dogma to follow.

Greece never met the criteria for joining the Euro. Everyone knows that. But what they did, hand in hand with Goldman Sachs was to come up with a financial instrument called a debt swap. They hid I believe, about €2,000,000,000 (two billion) Euros worth of debt using this tool. Goldman made about half a billion in fees so they're happy. Euro politicians welcomed Greece into the fold not even bothering to cross their finger behind their backs. They were happy too. What on earth could go wrong?

Well now we know.

What disappoints me the most is that once, I was the most pro-European person I knew. I looked at the tired, complacent political system in the UK and saw Europe as a shiny new alternative. But, it isn't. It's the same old shit flushing down a different toilet. A little while ago, several countries allied and refused to sign off the European Union's audited budget for 2010. This was the SEVENTEENTH consecutive year that there have been major problems with signing off the accounts for the €150 billion that the EU spends each year. Reasons range from fraud to lord knows what. Around half of the money spent each year by the EU cannot be accounted for. Yet this institution now runs not only the EU, but directly runs Italy. There isn't a single elected politician in any significant political position in the Italian cabinet. They have all been parachuted in from Europe. The crappy European politicians that are happy losing the odd €100 billion down the back of the sofa. Greece faces the same future.

So what future do we face? Unrest? Revolt? Revolution? All I know is the Karl Marx is looking down from Highgate and saying "I told you this would happen".

What he won't be doing though is gloating.

On a Rotten System

Having spent a few days reading the 'topian back to myself and reflecting on the days when I could shoot off 1,000 words at the drop of the hat, it is no surprise to see so many of my posts rooted in anger. More accurately, impotent anger. Looking at the problems of society, pondering why nothing is done and questioning the motives as to why nothing is done. The pensions 'crisis' we keep getting told about for example. The crisis that according to Cameron (henceforth to be know as Dishface as I cannot bring myself to type his name any more than I can type Th#tch3r’s name) would bankrupt the UK unless urgent action was taken. This pensions crisis led to a major reform of public sector pensions, as we were told that the current cost projections were simply unaffordable. The reforms alienated 99% of public sector employees, led to strikes, demonstrations and ill feeling on all sides. Now the dust has settled, the Institute of Actuaries recently reported that the reformed system could end up costing the country MORE than the previous system. At the very least, the reforms are unlikely to save money in long-term.

So nice work Dishface. I’m sure you’ll contribute a few quid from your £30,000,000 fortune. As you keep saying – we’re all in this together aren’t we. (?)

There are many faults with 'the system'. Some of these are unavoidable of course. The price we pay to live in a society that is nominally at least, considered free. But I admit I am lucky. I’ve only been unemployed once in my working life of 30 odd years now. The system actually let me down then, taking 10 weeks to process my benefit claims. But I was living with a patient and understanding woman at the time or lord knows what would have happened to me. It is as close as I have come to becoming a statistic. Another homeless, unemployed mental on the street statistic.

But – and this will now become a very self indulgent rant – I have been let down again. By the police and the system that they are forced to operate under in this new austere climate. Let me say from the off, that I do not blame any of the individuals involved, but the ‘system’ (that word again) which they are forced to operate under.

A couple of weeks ago, a truck belonging to R****** F****** Services reversed out of a car park into the back of my car, parked outside of my house. I knew nothing of it, as I was at work 40 miles away. But a splendidly kind woman working opposite saw the incident and was thoughtful enough to take down the details of the vehicle concerned and pass them on to me. This was all reported on to the police and my insurance company. My car was fixed. I had to pay my excess of £250, but this would be recoverable. I’m also self employed so lost income when I had to take time off to complete the endless paperwork required by the police and when the car was picked up and returned. Overall I’m down about £800.

I received an email from the police this afternoon. They have received a very full and detailed witness statement, but unfortunately, my witness ticked the box saying that she would not be prepared to give evidence in court as to what she saw. R****** F****** S******* have of course denied any liability. So the police have advised me that there is very little chance that there will be prosecution.


Decisions like this have a much wider implication on society. The driver of the vehicle which damaged my car could be sat in a pub now gloating about how he hit a car and has got away with it. Not even three points. He'll be laughing with his mates at the poor sap who has lost £800. His mates will tell their mates and a mind-set develops. One that convinces people that they can get away with this sort of crap.

Would it not be better for all of us if he was sat there saying "I tried to get away with it, but failed. The system caught me. Can you buy me a pint as I've lost my job?" Now I don't want to see anyone lose their job, but equally, should a guilty person not pay.

Has anyone else noticed that as your no claims bonus grows, your insurance premiums remain the same or even increase? Well, this is why. I have ranted many, many times about rights and responsibilities. Everyone knows their 'rights', but few understand that rights go hand in hand with responsibility. Until this is widely understood and, more importantly accepted, the spiral will continue downwards.

Think about it. You may be next.

Friday, January 06, 2012

A return?

Nearly. It's coming. It is! I promise.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Of love & leaving. And holidays.

The best and the worst thing about my job is that it brings me into daily contact with the human race. Fortunately I don't have to speak to them on the telephone, somebody else does that, but I do get to read their rambling, incoherent, poorly written letters. And I get some gems! I'm compiling a selection for your delight and delectation, but I had to share this one with you now.

It came from a chap who is claiming money from a failed holiday company. He'd submitted forms for two identical holidays a fact that he felt the need to explain...
I booked my holiday over the internet on the afternoon of 16 December. It was only when I printed off the receipt that I realised that I'd forgotten to include my girlfriend.
Who says romance is dead? Not Romeo here, for his true love is never more that a moment away from his thoughts. I feel all warm and fuzzy.


Winter Wonderland

I was in Sainsburys yesterday, stocking up on Bovril, oats, Kendal Mint Cake – the sorts of things one needs to get through the nuclear winter we are currently in the midst off. As the greater populace are showing a distinct lack of the sort of determination that once built us an Empire, only about three members of staff had bothered to show up. Consequently, there were no proper tills open, just the self service ones I so despise.

Needs must however, so grasping my basket, I joined the rear of the shortest queue. I judged that I’d be queuing for around 20 minutes, so I began to examine the people around me. What else does one do in a queue? The chap in front of me didn’t have a laden basket like most of my fellow shoppers. He only had one item. A sachet of instant chocolate drink. Yes, just one sachet of instant chocolate drink. I like a chocolate drink as much as the next man, but clearly not as much as this man. How desperate does a person have to be leave the warmth of his home, venture out into the snow, queue for 20 minutes, then trek home simply for one mug of watery chocolate drink? I don’t think I’ve ever shown that degree of commitment to anything. If I’d caught his name I’d have nominated him for an OBE. I salute you sir.

Apropos of nothing, since quitting smoking a few weeks ago my body is expelling all manner of luridly coloured fluids and juices. I think I should keep it all in a jar.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Do it yourself

I’ve had cause, in posts passim, to moan about the appalling standard of customer service in this country before. Clearly I haven’t been listened to, so I’m going to have to do it again. Same shop though – Sainsburys.

Last time, it was because I was asked “Would you like any help packing?” when I was buying three items. They are now at the other end of the spectrum. Recently the Sainsburys in Reading town centre has had about half its checkouts removed and replaced with self service check outs. So you do your own scanning and bagging. It’s an obvious money saving rouse as the customer does what traditionally stores have had to pay people to do. I’ve used these machines before in M&S and found them satisfactory as long as there are staff about to help you. If you don’t put your goods into the bag quick enough the machines go “beep, beep, beep” and request you seek assistance. Buying wine? “beep, beep, beep.” Aspirin? “beep, beep, beep.” Bleach? “beep, beep, beep.” You get the idea.

This works in M&S as they have about one member of staff to four self service tills, but Sainsburys have about one for eight. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty busy there tonight after office hours. Or does the Reading store have a new manager with no retail experience as this flood of people seemed to have taken them totally by surprise. Is it “bring your child to work week” leading to the store being managed by 2 five year olds? (This will doubtless be the subject to a later post if any bloody children are bought in to my office, but we’ll cross that bridge at the time.) There were 7 or 8 people queuing for each bank of four tills and one harassed assistant trying to quell the beeps.

There was only one proper checkout open. It had seventeen people in the queue. I counted them. I think that’s a pretty clear vote on the popularity of self service checkouts. Will anything change? No.

This will soon be re-written and emailed to Sainsburys for their comments. I will of course share any reply. In fact, I can probably do that now…

Blah, blah, blah, disappointing shopping experience, blah, blah, blah, embracing new technology, blah, blah, blah, some difficulties in the transitional phase, blah, blah, blah, we welcome your money – sorry feedback… and so it will go on.

I went on as well. To Marks & Spencer. Their fine wines are very reasonably priced.


Saturday, April 18, 2009


This annoys me...
Court jails Pirate Bay founders

A court in Sweden has jailed four men behind The Pirate Bay (TPB), the world's most high-profile file-sharing website, in a landmark case.
Forgive me if I'm wrong (yeah), but TPB aren't really a file sharing network if you boil it down. They are a glorified search engine for torrent trackers. The whole point about torrenting is that you are lifting stuff from somebody's computer, not a massive database of stored material, hosted, managed and distributed by The Bay. It's high-tech Socialism and it works. As does the more traditional Socialism, but that's for another day.

I know torrenting is illegal, which is why you'll never catch me doing it, so TPB are facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material, but I could just as easily search Google for say "30 Rock torrents" and guess what - I'd find links for 30 Rock torrents.

But Sony, EMI, etc didn't sue Google did they?



Because Google are FUCKING MASSIVE, worth $$$$$$$ and probably have a pretty sharp legal team? I mean a better legal team even than Jacko's. Shit, I bet they even got Denny Crane leading. Best to pick on a bunch of geeky stoners who saw the whole thing as a bit of a wheeze right from the start, safe in the knowledge that, whatever the result their cult status would remain intact.

It's maddening. The best way to celebrate this victory for 'the man' is to, all of you, torrent at least one file. Now. Use The Bay, it's still live and as they say "Don't worry - we're from the internets. It's going to be alright. :-)"

Will this result stop torrenting? Yes. In exactly the same way that Bush/Bliar's war on terror has ended terrorism. Oh, hang on...

I can recommend 30 Rock by the way. And Boston Legal.

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