Posts Tagged ‘Three Quarters’
Not surprisingly we allotment codgers never discuss the big taboo subject; death. To be honest I find even typing the word unsettling, for anyone nudging the age of 80 and in robust health prefers to believe vaguely in immortality, in our case a zillion years of hen-keeping. Only the other day we planted a row of small trees and reflected that in twenty or so years time we will gaze with delight at the result. It genuinely didn’t occur to us that by that time our gazing days will be over.
What has brought on this sudden bout of introspection? The government statisics on ageing published today, that’s what. In illustrating life expectancy the statistics have chosen as a base people born around 1931, which ropes in most of us allotmenteers. A man born at that time has only a 2.5 per cent chance of receiving the Queens telegram, not that she will be around to send one. We decided not to dwell on the implicatiions of that.
In national terms the worrying aspect of the figures is that the 20 year-olds of today are three times more likely to reach a century than those of our generation. And between those extremes the age expectancy rises slowly but surely. The projection shows that by 2066 there will be half a million people aged 100 or more. Somewhere along that demographic curve lie statistics that show that ere long we will spend less than half of our lives at work, even allowing for the existing proposal to raise retirement age. One doesn’t need to be Einstein to work out that the present concept of contributions funding a reasonable pension is itself dying a rapid death. The present government deserves credit for facing up to this reality, however unpopular the proposed solutions may be.
Lord McFall, the chairman of the independent Workplace Retirement Income Commission, has warned that three quarters of private sector staff will be ” unable to adequately exist” when they retire due to the low level of savings. Yes, there are political arguments here about the rich, the public sector and so on, but the central truth is just that. Given a much longer retirement there will not be enough cash in the pension pots. I guess we owe it to future generations to tackle this problem right now.
Of course one of the reasons that younger people begrudge pension payments is that deep down they see old age as something too far way to even contemplate, let alone provide for. I used to listen to my grandparents talking about their youth with incredulity. How could they possibly remember things that happened so long ago? I now realise that time has a nasty habit of passing at a rapid rate of knots!
Another reason is probably the cultural reluctance to even speak the word of death, and thus old age. When death comes to elderly relatives we talk of tragedy. It is of course an inevitability. Some cultures take a different view, death is but the start of a glorious period of delight. Some in this culture believe something along those lines, I remember as a boy singing of “friends we shall meet that we lost long ago”. I also remember reflecting that the last thing I wished for was to meet again many that I encountered!
The mental block to acceptance of death as a topic may have something to with the reality of the act of dying and the portrayal of it in Victorian literature. There the bewhiskered old gentleman was invariably portrayed lying in his bed suurounded by his family. He would quietly sleep, and eventually sigh his last. If only that were the norm.
In 1821 the English poet Shelley wrote of a cemetary as an “open space covered in winter with violets and daisies”. It might, the great man suggested ” make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place”. Hmm! Today’s production-line cremetoria hardly fit that peaceful picture.
But far be it from me to spoil your day. The only issue I would wish to leave in your mind is the one of pensions. The good news is that for today’s younger generation old age and dependency are but a distant matter. But if they are to be spent other than in penury the time to begin the task of making financial povision is now. Unless the retirement age is increased spectacularly no state scheme will be able to provide.
I read this morning of the death of Richard Pearson. The gifted character actor was 93 and will always live in my memory for his ablility to bring a kindly dignity and humanity to the many parts he played in a long career on stage, television and in film. I am sure that he did not rage against the coming of the night and I like to imagine that instead, unlike so many of us, simply accepted what was to be, planned accordingly and then thought no more about it.
Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that we are all dependent on politicians to lead us on the answer to increased life expectancy. The people we trust least of all are poor advocates but they are all we have!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ; 1. Hamlet 2. Central Park Zoo, New York 3. Take That 4. Surrey 5. Elizabeth 1 6. Tommy Steele 7. Tutti Fruitti 8. A boat 9. Rockall 10. Portillo
For many years we chicken-keepers have followed the news of the day, a habit born of the practice of meeting together for a brew after seeing to our dozens of charges. Today we are in the news. Under the heading “We’re cock-a-hoop for hen coops” the Express reports that nearly three quarters of a million people now own a chicken coop, a rise of 80 per cent in just three years. At Tesco alone, sales of coops have soared by 180 per cent in three years during the fall-out from the credit crunch. Welcome to the madness folks, you won’t save money but it is a sure way of getting you out of your beds on dark winter mornings!
Meantime The Guardian focuses on rather more serious stuff. A new non-party group called ‘We the Jury’ has been formed under the lead of author Philip Pullman. Its aim is to draw attention to the fact that Britain is now being run by a “feral” elite whose members control everything, and are deeply implicated in a series of crises – from phone hacking to the row over banker’s bonuses – which have scarred the country. The group has launched its ‘manifesto’, one backed by a impressive list of signatures including former director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke. Its proposal is to create a 1000-strong “public jury” selected at random to draw up a “public interest first” test to ensure that power is taken away from vested interest groups who have been found wanting -”in scruples, decency and morals”.
That won’t go down too well with the Chipping Norton set for one. But there can be little doubt that the founders of what will probably flounder are right.Wherever one looks powerful friends of the leading coalition ministers are being given massive powers and privileges. Such as, you may cry. Such as the key government advisory working group on alcohol, a group in a position to be a major influence on the coalition’s approach to the growing evidence of the significant health risks involved for young people of the new British culture of binge drinking.
The group was first set up by the previous government and was beginning to rock the tycoons of the drinks industry with proposals aimed at making it more difficult for youngsters to buy cheap booze, and at increasing the publicity of health risks as undertaken on tobacco. Many therefore waited with interest to see how the likes of Cameron and Osborne would act to emasculate a body that their friends saw as a threat. To hell with health worries, booze creates fortunes for those who lead its production and distribution.
At first glance one could assume that the group is continuing unchecked, even if its attitudes seem to have softened. But a check on its membership reveals a different and more sinister story. Under Labour there were a couple of industry representatives. Now there are ten, a clear majority. The change occurred quietly in December. The minutes of the March meeting show that the drinks baron’s stooges outnumbered all others. Not surprisingly the health professionals have walked out.
This latest example of the “feral elite” taking over prompted Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcoholic Concern, to comment that “when representaives of the drinks industry are invited to form health policy, one has to question the value of the group, particularly when the pursuit of making money from alcohol sales is at odds with government intentions to reduce alcohol harm”.
Don’t be naive Don. Like the bankers and the media giants, the drink tycoons are constant pals of the people at the top of the coalition. They are part of the small elite that Philip Pullman’s new group is raging against. The corruption of government really started under Blair and his soul mates now in office are accelerating the process.
Given the time and space I could list many more key bodies that have been transferred into the effective control of vested interests. If you believe in all the nonsense about a ‘Big Society’ you probably also believe that there are fairies at the bottom of your garden.
We should all wish the idea of a “people’s jury” well. Alas, its chance of finding support in Downing Street is akin to my bowling for England!
MY THOUGHT FOR TODAY; THE IAN BELL AFFAIR.
Sadly the incident just before tea at Trent Bridge yesterday has stolen the headlines which should have featured the magnificent performance of the England team.
Bell was run out off the last ball before tea when, like a young schoolboy cricketer, he decided to wander off whilst the ball was still ‘live’. Pakistan had every right to run him out and, in my view, that was that. In any case the rules of cricket specifically ban any recall once the batsman has crossed the boundary line on his way to the pavilion.
As he left Bell was clearly heard to claim that the umpire had called ‘over’. Subsequent camera and sound footage showed that to be a lie. In a later interview Bell avoided answering whether he had actually heard the umpire do what he had claimed.
For my money the only commentator to read this situation well was Ian Botham who made clear that he would not have countenanced the pardon which Strauss and Flower elicited from the Indian team. In visiting their dressing room they were in effect employing blackmail. The hidden message was clear; either break the rules and pardon Bell or expect the baying crowd to haunt you for the rest of your tour. In fact. had they been operating in good faith, they could have made a statement accepting that justice had been done and they couldn’t expect any pardon.
When you contrast this with the way in which Paul Collingwood refused to withdraw an appeal when a player was run out due to a collison with one of his players one is left with only one word.
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A NEWQUIZ?????????????????????????????????
At least it wasn’t raining as we slid about in the muddy autumn leaves this morning. There was the usual banter directed at Colin who each day brings a large plastic container filled with amber liquid to pour over his compost. The rest of us prefer Garrota but it has to be admitted that he produces the best compost. But much of this morning’s chatter centered on the demise of Jack Duckworth who was written out of Coronation Street last night after a run of 31 years.
Jack was played by Bill Tarmey but for many became real. Some years ago I attended a business meeting with the Granada bosses in Manchester, they told me that Tarmey was no longer able to wander about in the city. It seems that he was subjected to constant abuse most of which related to his poor treatment of his ‘wife’ Vera and his general tendency to be idle. Amazingly thousands of viewers had come to believe that Jack was real. No doubt they felt bereaved last night especially when Liz Dawn returned as Vera’s ghost and the pair performed a posthumous and ghostly dance around the room in which so many of their dramas were enacted.
It seems that we as a society love make-believe. Perhaps that is just as well for much of what fills our lives is no more real than dear old Jack. A classic example is the national deficit which supposedly drives the coalition into ever more bizaare actions. It may surprise you to learn that the current amount of tax avoidance, evasion and non-payment stands at £123 billion per year which represents three-quarters of the much discussed deficit. Compare that with the highly publicised benefit fraud which amounts to £1.1 billion!
The actual breakdown of the tax loss is £25bn through avoidance methods, £70 billion through illegal evasion and outstanding tax debts of £28 billion. So presumably the government has equally penal measures in hand for those at the top-rate tax end. Actually no. In fact it is enforcing cuts on the revenue service that will make a clamp-down even less likely than under the previous government, which also did little to tackle the big evaders.
In truth the Inland Revenue is hopelessly outclassed by the corporate ruses. The Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Lord (Matthew Oakeshott) compares it to a “fat policemen chasing a speeding Ferrari”. Now it will be even less capable since its staff is to be cut further (the merger with Customs and Excise had already lopped 30,000 off) and morale is said to be at “rock bottom”. The amount spent on tackling tax aviodance has fallen from £3.6 billion in 2006 to £1.9 billion today.
So who are these people who gayly carry on robbing the State? One doesn’t have to look far for clues. Research by Incomes Data Services has revealed that the pay of boardroom bosses has risen by 55 per cent in one year. And new clues emerge each day. Today we learn that Barclays Capital has set aside £4.5 billion to fund this years pay and bonuses, this despite a downturn in investment banking profits. The state-owned RBS has maintained its salary, pension and bonus pot at £2.1 billion even though revenue has dropped from £9 billion to £6.3 billion.
The inability, or reluctance, to pursue big tax avoiders means that taxation shifts from the rich to the poor. Regardless of the exact amount Vodaphone avoided, the protesters are right to picket its shops ( and they might have a go at Boots while they are at it). We are living in a country where the poor bail out the banks, while the rich keep their millions intact.
The mass of the people are living in a giant soap opera conducted by governments only prepared or brave enough to hit those on lower incomes. But we all go along with it, we all believe the millionnaire politicians when they declare that the cuts are fair.
Our self understanding should warn us that the fact that we believe does not make the claim true. After all neither Bill Tarney nor Liz Dawn are really ghosts!
TRUTH IS ELUSIVE!
My Gran used to warn me not to believe all that I read in the newspapers. Every day brings proof that she was spot on!
Today’s Guardian features an ‘exclusive’ revealing that Chelsea Football Club is on the verge of agreeing a move from Stamford Bridge to the site of the now defunct Earls Court exhibition centre. Today’s Telegraph also has an exclusive but this one reveals that Chelsea will not be moving.
What does one do. Follow cricket’s example and spin a coin perhaps?
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Sylvester Stallone 2. Middle East truce supervisor
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which country did Felix Malloum become head of state in 1975? 2. Who was head of the Metropolitan Police at the time of the Spaghetti House seige?