26 August 2012

My goodness, there is so much to get through this week I hardly know where to begin. As I said last time, this stuff really writes itself. It’s just that this week both the Government and the Royal Family have been in such fine form that I’m not sure we’ve got room to cover everything in one week’s issue. But first, a brief weather update – mainly grey, mainly damp and mainly an unsatisfactory conclusion to the month of August.

So, where to begin? I suppose we should start with the Government’s announcement that they are really, finally, really going to crack down on those naughty tax evaders. They’ve published a “rogues gallery” of alleged tax evaders who have defrauded Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of something approaching £765 million.

Rogues Gallery

No doubt that’s a good start but there seems to be something of a contradiction in their attitude to some other notable tax evaders. I’ve mentioned Vodaphone in the past which, having illegally evaded an estimated £7.25 billion in tax, cut a deal, after entertaining the head of HMRC to dinner, where they paid only £800 million up front and another £450 million over the next four years. If my maths is up to it, I make that a tidy £6 billion profit on what was undoubtedly a very sumptuous meal.

Then, this week there was an article explaining the consequences of a new law introduced in this year’s budget. From January of next year British-owned multinational companies are being allowed to move their profits to an off-shore tax haven, a move which will deprive developing countries of up to £4 billion.

Labour said the changes, announced by George Osborne in this year’s budget, “make a mockery” of the chancellor’s pledge to crack down on tax avoidance.

Simon Hoggart, who writes an amusing, generally political, sketch in the Guardian every few days, sums it all up much better than I ever could:

If you get your eye in, this is rather a comical administration. They do for the government what that amateur art restorer in Spain did for the Ecce Homo. Or J. Cheever Loophole for the practice of law.

Just at the time we need to be delicate with Latin America, they talk openly about storming the Ecuadorean embassy. (Shouldn’t we just ignore Assange? It’s the single thing he couldn’t bear.) In the afterglow of the Olympics they reveal they’ve been misleading us about the sale of school playing fields.

Theresa May [the Home Secretary] won’t make it easier for Chinese people to come here “for security reasons” – no doubt terrified by the hundreds of Chinese jihadists now storming round Europe – so they spend their millions in France and Germany instead.

And George Osborne produces a new British miracle: austerity combined with massive increases in public borrowing.

I was reminded of the Keystone Cops, rushing hither and thither to no apparent purpose, creating mayhem wherever they went. But at least they gave the impression that someone, somewhere was actually directing.

And, since he mentioned the restoration job on the Ecce Homo carried out by a well-intentioned parishioner in Spain, I guess you’ve all seen the excellent results?

Ecce Homo

So, the first frame is clearly what it originally looked like, the second its deteriorated state and the third the excellent restoration effort. Good job!

I guess you’ve also all seen the news (if not searched out and viewed the naked photographs) of Prince Harry’s latest antics. I ran across an article in the Guardian which made the excellent point that he is merely following in the footsteps of many a royal prince of the past. The article mentions some of his father’s, Prince Charles’ indiscretions as well as several from their less respectable ancestors. However, much to my surprise, it doesn’t mention any of Prince Andrew’s legendary peccadilloes. One such was his liaison with Koo Stark, who initially came to fame starring in an erotic film, which was commemorated in a wonderful t-shirt produced by the honourable members of E Clampus Vitus on the occasion of the Queen’s visit to Santa Barbara many years ago. Dad very kindly made a gift of the t-shirt to me which I wore proudly for many years. Sadly, the t-shirt has long ago been consigned to the dustbin of our collective memories.

Good to see that Harry is keeping up the family traditions.

Those of you fortunate enough to be on the mailing list for Pam’s Whiner will have seen the photo of our favourite snake charmer. A day or so later I came across an article on the BBC site about a man in Nepal who was bitten by a snake and who decided to exact his revenge by biting the snake back. Several times. To death.

Fortunately, Sandy did not have to resort to such techniques as his black snake is, apparently, good to have around. Still, I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarities:

Snake Charmers

Were these two separated at birth?

The Edinburgh festival is on at the moment and every year there is an award given for the funniest one-liners delivered by comedians. This year’s winner was a Canadian, Stewart Francis, with the line: “You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks” which, as well as being true, is quite funny. And, if you don’t know who Posh and Becks are, good for you!

And finally, sometimes you have to wonder whether headline writing is too challenging for some. Take the following which I saw on the Huffington Post:

Princes Trust Survey Says Times Are Difficult For The Unemployed

And, in other breaking news, bears are understood to occasionally defecate in the woods and Pope revealed to be of Roman Catholic persuasion.

DadAnd finally, finally, Happy Birthday to our favourite Dad. We’re already looking forward to next year’s 90th celebrations. Save the dates!

Love to you all,

Greg