Well, the cold, cold, cold spell the weather forecasters have been predicting for the past week or so has still not arrived. Instead, we’ve been blessed with the arrival of merely a cold spell. We awoke to a smattering of wet snow on Saturday which looked fairly pretty as it was coming down but which melted more or less the moment it hit the ground. Everywhere is still muddy as distinct from frozen which, in my view, would be preferable. If it is going to be cold it might as well be very, very cold – I could do without the mud and sludge.
One effect of the cold weather has been the invasion by our local rodent population – we are currently overrun by mice. And, for some reason we can locate only one of our Little Nipper mouse traps. These are the “old-fashioned” wooden mousetraps which we’ve always found to be very effective, especially when baited with peanut butter which years of experience has shown to be most successful. With only one mouse trap, assuming we catch one mouse a night I wonder what the chances are that we can keep pace with the colony’s rate of reproduction and, if so, how long will it take to eradicate the infestation?
I’ve spent the last couple of days working through Ms Playchute’s and my tax returns for the tax year 2011-2012. Bizarrely, the UK tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April of the following year and we have until the end of January to file our tax return. (The reason the tax year runs from April is all tied up with religious “Quarter Days” on which debts and accounts had to be settled and rents for land and property had to be paid. The first of these quarter days fell on “Lady Day” (the date of the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus), being 25 March and that was also New Year’s Day and the first day of the British tax year. The eventual change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar moved the first day of the year to 5 April and a later adjustment in 1800 moved it to 6 April. Why we haven’t changed to the calendar year like the rest of the civilised world is a mystery to me).
Every year, as the tax deadline approaches, I promise myself that I will complete our tax returns soon after the end of the tax year while everything is still moderately fresh in my mind. And every year I fail to do so.
And it’s not as if our tax affairs are in the least bit complicated. Not like Vodaphone and Google and Starbucks and Amazon all of whom have such complicated financial arrangements that they end up paying no UK tax at all! Clearly Penelope and I are doing something wrong – no matter how I attempt to massage the figures, we still end up owing money!
Having commended the Chancellor, George Osborne, on his honesty during the Autumn financial statement – he conceded that the government had not met any of the financial targets it had set itself yet somehow they were still on target to achieve everything they set out to achieve – I’m afraid that just about everyone has chastised the Prime Minister for not being quite so candid when he and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, gave the government’s mid-term review. I suppose one should always be somewhat sceptical about anyone reviewing their own performance and especially when that person is a politician. To be fair, Cameron and Clegg were not patently dishonest they simply decided to ignore those areas where, by any independent measure, the government has failed. So, no mention of the £212 billion in extra borrowing, the triple-dip recession or the raft of broken promises on the NHS. As Simon Hoggart termed it:
a collection of minuscule triumphs, vague aspirations and outright evasions.
I think it was Dad who sent me the link to the top 100 pictures of the day for 2012 which is well worth a visit. My personal favourite is the Fall Wall but there are some truly stunning photographs here.
We’re looking forward to a visit from our favourite international diplomat this coming weekend. Jordan is visiting the UK for a conference this week and has been able to delay his return to the US until Monday which will give us a chance to enjoy his company over the weekend.
Finally, I found the following little snippet in the current issue of Private Eye somewhat amusing:
Our brave troops tuck in to a festive feast” was the seasonal headline in Boxing Day’s Daily Express, over news that “every British soldier serving in Afghanistan received a traditional Christmas lunch or dinner yesterday.”
And just to prove it, the paper printed a picture of a group of soldiers noshing away. On something that didn’t in any way resemble a turkey dinner. And wearing the uniforms of . . . the army of the Czech Republic.
Love to you all,