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Archive for the ‘Not quite Saturday’ Category

Why is it, every time we come close to an election (local and EU are both planned for this month) that pensioners are demonised as a drain on society?

The recent news from the house of Lords [http://tiny.cc/tj105y] comes as no surprise but it is alarming and everyone should take note, not just pensioners.

A report from the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision has made wide-ranging recommendations on benefits for the elderly, calling for much of the help for older generations to be curtailed.

Lord True is the chair of this particular Lord’s committee.

You will all be/get old one day. 

You will all (in the main) have paid into society for all of your lives: via National Insurance, income tax, V.A.T., petrol tax etc.

Olwyn and AlbertI know that when I started my post-compulsory educational life (at 15) I expected to pay into a national health system (the NHS itself is a whole ‘other’ blog post) along with the subsequent pension, that then required 45 years of input.  It was my insurance policy for old age.  The 45 years changed over time, but by whatever measure you use, I paid IN to the system and am now benefiting from that by taking OUT no more, no less than I expected.

  • I get a basic national pension, (reduced by who knows what % because I also had the foresight to fight for my work-based pension rights. See below #4),
  • I get free bus travel (see below #1),
  • I get free prescriptions (see below #2) and …
  • I get a winter fuel allowance (see below #3).

All of which are under threat by the discussions now taking place.

#1 – Free Bus travel.

This is a benefit that I hadn’t expected at the age of 15 but one I became aware of as my life progressed. Once anyone reached the age of 60, they used to get a free bus pass. I got mine because my age ran alongside that of women who were being forced to wait, incrementally, until they were 65 to collect their pensions (again – see #4).

  • Without the pensioner bus pass subsidy, I suspect there wouldn’t be many off-peak buses running and that the peak-time buses would be far more expensive – meaning that even those who pay now, would pay even more.
  • Without the pensioner bus pass, far fewer old folk would get out and about. I’m lucky, I live in a village where most things are available to me (all kinds of shops, an Aldi, pubs and restaurants) but many are not so lucky. Even getting out to meet other people is something older folk need to do. Otherwise, they become isolated, reclusive and progressively ill. Unfortunately, many pensioners could not afford to ‘get out and about’ with bus fares being what they are.
  • Without a pensioner bus pass, pensioners who by nature of their age are becoming more infirm, would not be able to easily visit their doctors or to attend their increasingly distant hospital appointments.
  • Without my own pensioner bus pass, the weekly walks I have with John would be far less exciting. One of us would have to drive, adding our four wheels and fumes to an already overcrowded infrastructure.

#2 – Free Prescriptions

Free prescriptions have been on and off for everyone throughout my life, not just pensioners.  They are a political hot-potato.  At the age of 60, they again became free. As we reach old age, we require more health preserving drugs and medicines. These help to stave off the infirmity mentioned earlier. The free drugs and medicines given out are generic, so no (much more expensive) named brands are available this way – why should the drug companies be made even richer! I do not abuse the system and fully understand why folk get upset to hear of (e.g.) paracetamols being prescribed. However, I believe that this is changing and wait to see exactly how it all pans out.

#3 – Winter Fuel allowance

This one came as a surprise at 60.  A nice surprise, but one that for me was not strictly necessary. I used the £200 to buy wood for my log burner in the first few years and if it helped those who DO NEED THE SUPPORT, I would be happy to give it up (the same would apply to post-75 free T.V. licences mentioned in the report).

#4 – Pension v benefit

This one makes me furious. The U.K. does not have the best pension in the world and there are many sites on the internet which contradict each other about how the pension is calculated. Nevertheless, it is a pension. It is something that most workers pay into for their entire working lives – it is NOT a benefit.

Women, who used to be allowed to retire at 60, now have to wait until they are 65. Soon (next year) both men and women will have to wait until they are 66 to retire and changes are even planned to increase that age. https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/pensions/state-pension/changes-to-state-pension-age/#

There are more changes planned. From 2019, the State Pension age will increase for both men and women to reach 66 by October 2020.

The Government is planning further increases, which will raise the State Pension age from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028. (via AgeUK)

This might (just) have been fair if the person was told at the beginning of their working life that their retirement age would change – rather than towards the middle or end of their working life.

directory-1334441__480

And all of this is despite the UK’s life expectancy rates stalling https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45096074  We’re still getting older, but at a slower rate. Nevertheless, we are not staying healthy longer and demanding that an aging population stay at work even longer simply seems to be a way of ensuring that age expectancy reduces, rather than stalls. 

Can YOU imagine being a manual worker; told to work for up to (and eventually more) two years (seven in the case of women) before collecting their pension?

Retirement image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/images/search/royalty%20free/

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When we first bought our small apartment in Spain, it followed a fair bit of research (mostly by Sharon) and we even tripped over to Manchester to visit a Holiday Roadshow put on by one of the various T.V. shows.  All sorts of help and advice was available and from here we made what we thought was the good decision to use English lawyers, based in Spain. With our (then) complete lack of Spanish and uncertainty of the rules, we used a company that has their Costa Del Sol branch in Marbella.

banco-santanderWe asked those lawyers to set up a bank account for us in Spain, something that the roadshow representative said was part of the package, but which they, when it came to it, had a reluctance to do. Suffice to say, they made something of a minimal effort to help us with that task and we ended up with a Banco Santander account, at an office on the Puerto Banus side of Marbella – roughly 40-50 minutes’ drive from our apartment.

The manager was ok, he spoke good English and he did what he could to help us get up and running.  However, no matter how many times we tried or what he told us could happen; getting our account transferred to our more local Los Boliches branch was impossible.  We had to trail to the far side of Marbella for all sorts of reasons, including a new debit card for Sharon which could not be posted to our apartment – (“we can only post these to your home address but cannot post them outside the country and your home address is in England”!!).

We also found the local branch in Los Boliches so unhelpful at all stages that we decided to change banks. That isn’t easy over here, there’s no real help from the banks themselves, but we were lucky enough to have Banco Sabadell recommended by the local lawyers we are gradually transferring our business to.  The manager we dealt with helped us with everything he could – which did not include closing our Santander account.  Following yet another unsuccessful visit to the Los Boliches branch (along with a Spanish speaker) we had to go to the Marbella branch (again!).

indexWe phoned first and were assured that we could (only) close the account at the branch that held the account. So off we went.

Only to be told, after they had cut up our bank cards, that they COULD NOT CLOSE the account because there was a c.€55 charge due on 8th January (to cover charges for period ending 31st December). Why couldn’t they take cash for that?  “es impossible!”. Our Spanish speaker was as perplexed as we were but, in the end, we had to leave €100 in the account to pay whatever the exact charge would be on the 8th January.

We are assured that we can then close the account at the Los Boliches branch.

Assured!

We’ll see.

Photo Credits:

https://www.bitterwallet.com/complaints/complaint-about-santander-youre-not-the-only-one-36262

https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.santander.co.uk

 

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Tomato_jeWhenever I am in Spain, I always take advantage of the local produce.  There’s no point going there and stewing cabbage or boiling turnips (not that you see much of those on the Costa del Sol), when the soft Mediterranean, often very local, (fruit) vegetables are in great abundance.

The aubergines, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes all have a fabulous depth of flavour – even the knobbly, small cucumbers actually have taste, unlike the long, smooth, hot-house grown phalluses available here. Therefore, invariably, the first dish made is ratatouille.

s-l640One problem with my ratatouille in Spain is that I have less access to chopped tinned tomatoes or passata. Over there they have more tomato frito, which, although a similar consistency to passata, is quite sweet and can overpower the finished flavour.

I decided therefore, to make my own tomato sauce and to use that for all of the dishes that require such a thing.

28492528636_d730e0ea97_zThe Spanish grow some fabulously tasty tomatoes. 

Even when served under-ripe, with a little salt, oil, parsley and crushed garlic, they make a meal; accompanied by some local ‘Spanish’ bread.

For the tomato sauce, I simply chopped up a kilo of tomatoes and brought them to the boil along with a small, chopped onion, 4 peeled cloves garlic and about a tablespoon each of olive oil and tomato puree. Then, I let that lot simmer for a couple of hours, topping up with tiny bits of water now and again. I then seasoned it, blitzed it all with a hand blender and used as required (sauce for pasta, added flavour for paella, to loosen up ratatouille, slackened off as soup etc.).

I sometimes add (fresh) basil or oregano towards the end of cooking, for added flavour.

I made the same last week, with Aldi tomatoes and had to add a jar of Lloyd Grossman sauce to give it any flavour at all.

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The busy summer continues …

img_0329For the first few weeks since returning from Spain at the very end of June, life was a bit hectic. The first event of no small note was the birth of Betony (and Josh)’s baby – Chester Jax. He was born on July 3rd (and weighed just 5lbs – such a tiny thing). Chester is my step-Grandson (??), although I guess I will be Grandad to him or abuelo, if Josh speaks Spanish to/with him.

During July and early August, I had several nice long (and hot) walks. Tony and I went up above Rotcher as far as The Rose and Crown and then along Bradshaw Lane and Laund Road before descending back into Slaithwaite via Moor Side Lane and Meal Hill.  John R, Mark S and I followed much the same route but extended it along Crimea Lane, Slaithwaite Gate and the Golcar Lily Ginnel Trail as far as the canal – then back to Slaithwaite.

David T and I walked along the cycle track to Bradley and back along the canal – a route John R and I often follow on Tuesdays when we meet.  This is part of the Calder Valley Greenway, which meanders through pleasant countryside all the way through to Dewsbury, although we rarely walk beyond Mirfield (where a tasty lunch can be had at Café Nosh).

img_0342

Alone, I’ve walked to Huddersfield several times and to Marsden several more. I even walked to Marsden and back on the canal with Carol one day; it’s a nicer experience when there’s someone to talk with.

Now though, the weather has turned a little cooler and I’m not as inclined to bother (although I really should).  So, I’m looking forward to my return to Spain in September, where and when my ambulatory activities can recommence.

We’ve also had a variety of people come and visit us to see our new home and/or to wish Sharon a happy birthday.  It’s been lovely to see Chris and Paul, Karen, Karen and Darren, Carol, David and Gail, Emma, Ann, and Tony and Gill.

I’m writing this en-route to London, where I will undertake some training with City and Guilds. Down there, I will meet Alison (with whom I have visited India several times), Karen, and Sue.  This time it will be a new work venture – something to occupy my semi-retired time?

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What has happened to table knives? 

When did they begin to lose their function?

blades

Function

The purpose of a knife is to cut, slice and chop – surely?  Yet, I’m not sure that table knives are designed to do that anymore.

Several times recently, especially in restaurants, I have been frustrated by having to use the knife provided, to ‘tear’ at the meat (etc.) on my plate, instead of actually cutting it.  I occasionally have had to retrieve a more robust vegetable, such as new potato, from wherever it has landed on the table after trying to cut it with my knife.

2knivesI’d be better off using a spoon!  

And, don’t even try to cut the nicely cooked almost al dente broccoli stem! Even Yorkshire Puddings fight back.

Design

Modern tableware is blunt.

It no longer serves its purpose and it’s probably down to some caring soul somewhere, thinking that we might cut ourselves. I do have sharp knives and the ones I use at the table, whilst not AS sharp, can at least cut whatever is placed in front of them.  However, not everyone has such knives anymore.

Some folks also (however), have ‘handed’ knives.

These are designed to make cutting easier for right-handed people.  Because there is a chamfer on one side of the blade, it allows the knife to have a sharper edge, but not one (apparently) that will allow the right-handed person to cut themselves.  However, unless this type of knife is specially designed for left-handed folks – they become impossible to use when in the hands of such southpaws.

See also Fish Knives why?.

Messerbank_2_fcm

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How on earth we can ever expect a smooth withdrawal from the EU?  I have no idea.

We only have to look at the complications found at local council level to see that the task is quite impossible.

Where we live, we have to pay our local council for a permit to park on the road outside our house. This ‘tax’ was introduced a couple of years ago. During that time, we have not moved house and have not changed our car (readers may need to remember these two facts).

permit-holders

Our own street allows non-permit holders to park for up to 1 hour

If we had done either, the parking permit we had paid for would become invalid. So far so good?

About be same time that the council implemented the new parking charge we bought the house (under dwelling) beneath us.

So, to clarify: we live at #XX and the flat/apartment below us is #XXa.  Still with me?

Whenever you own a property, you have to pay council tax – that’s not a problem, that’s a fact of life.  So, until the home below us was occupied by tenants, Sharon registered herself for council tax there and, being thoughtful for the prospective tenants, she applied for a non-specific resident visitor-parking pass.  Unlike our own, these are free as the pass is for visitors to the house and not for any specific car.

Before being issued with any car-specific pass, the applicant is cross-referenced to council tax records and has to provide proof of car registration/insurance/mot etc. at the required address. We obviously did this for our #XX application but had no need to do so for the #XXa application as (at that time), no car was involved at that address.

Still with me?

Once the new tenants moved in, bought and registered their own car, our own interest in #XXa ceased. The tenants have changed the car since their first permit and have therefore paid the £15 charge twice.

Last week, we came home to find a parking ticket on our own car’s windscreen!

parking ticket

Bearing in mind the fact that we haven’t changed any of our details we (obviously?) appealed against this fine, online.

The appeal was turned down – so you can imagine the ensuing phone call to the council!!

It turns out that when Sharon applied for the initial visitor pass for #XXa, some numpty at the council changed OUR #XX car permit registration to #XXa. This is something that should not have happened as they had not been provided with (because they didn’t ask for) proof of car registration/insurance/mot at the new address. Had they asked then, we would not have had the problem now.

So, for two years our pass has been (in their eyes) invalid and so we have been parked illegally. Outside our own house.

Needless to say, this has now been sorted out after some discussion and a new permit is being prepared.

But Brexit?  Really? FFS!!!

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I appear to be becoming a curmudgeon.

It is not a position I’ve ever aimed at or asked for, simply one that I am growing into now that I am not working full time. You might think that it takes hard graft to develop the skills a curmudgeon requires, but most have just appeared naturally as I grow steadily older and pass through the various qualification phases.

When I first realised that I had achieved my current status, as grouch, I’d hoped I would not follow the natural progression; after all who ‘wants’ to be a curmudgeon! I’d already been ‘Mr. Grumpy’ for quite a while, so I thought that perhaps being a grouch might last a lot longer.

Not so. Not as far as I can see.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.08.51

The reason I’m afraid that curmudgeonliness is around the corner is that I’m happy to regale anyone who asks, with what’s wrong with the world; whether they are interested or not.

BREXIT.
Who knew an entire nation could be so stupid as to commit national hari-kari in this way!

Previous posts:

Of course, as one of the <48% that voted to stay with Europe, I am now branded as a ‘remoaner’. So, for now, I’m a curmudgeon-remoaner and so to finish my Brexit curmoan (Ooo, a new word), I need to say that (in my opinion) leaving the EU with less than a 4% majority will always be folly (after all, if a General Election showed such a small majority it would be sure to be re-held before five years maximum).

giphy

NHS
I have many views on the state of the NHS and not just because I am at the threshold of an age where I will need to use it more and more.  When it began back in 1948:

The central principles [were] clear: the health service [would] be available to all and financed entirely from taxation, which means that people pay into it according to their means.1

I have paid taxes and National Insurance throughout my working life and continue to do so.  Yet, the services that were once available to me, whilst still there, are dangerously hard pressed, hard to access and often costly.

My own town’s A & E department, like many others, is due to move over to the next town’s A & E in due course, leaving thousands of potential patients with longer journey and wait times to be seen by doctors/nursing staff.  This is not because the local A & E has a bad record or is underused – but simply because the Government (in my curmudgeonly opinion) will not fund two hospitals less than eight miles apart, when one is part of a PFI scheme (not ours!).

Nevermind the population affected!

And while I’m at it …

VAPING

Why?

POLICING

Does anyone remember when the police were interested and responded to phone calls reporting anti-social behaviour?

ROADS

When was the last time you managed to drive to work (or anywhere) without having to avoid massive potholes in the road?

FOOD and DRINK

Why is the quality of pub restaurant food and general service so bad in this country? ….. And, don’t mention the coffee!

So, to anyone who cares, I’m sorry – to everyone else Bah Humbug!

1 – https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/nhshistory/Pages/NHShistory1948.aspx

Credit where credit is due for the Euro pic – it’s not mine but I don’t know whose it is. So thank you anyway.

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