Saturday, 29 November 2014

Annual Tax Summary from the HMRC

I have just received my first Annual Tax Summary and I am not sure that I want to read it.

For the year 2013-14, £3527 was taken from my salary in tax deductions.

Of this, the biggest slice was for Welfare costs, an amount of £865, £247 was used towards interest on the national debt, only the interest notice, not the principal, £41 was overseas aid and £26 to the EU.

£428 was used towards state pensions, which probably won't even exist by the time I retire and £59 towards the environment.

There was an amount used for Culture, under which umbrella are sports (I don't take part in sports), libraries (I thought that they had all closed) and museums.  I like visiting museums but I would rather pay to enter the ones I choose to visit instead of paying for those which I will never know exist.

Have you received your summary, do you think it is the right thing to be sending out to the tax payers?  Do you really want to read how much of YOUR tax is being used to fund £1500 Christmases?  

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Why public transport needs an overhaul.

Let's face it, no-one gets out of bed in the morning and thinks, 'today I am not going to take the car, I want to double my commute time and travel by bus', you use public transport because you have a reason to.

I study in Birmingham city centre, which is a nightmare to get in to at the best of times, but with the road closures over the summer and the Christmas market now on, driving in is quite stressful.  Parking is expensive too, at nearly £9 per day, so I choose to travel by train, this also gives me the option to get some extra studying done.

A return train ticket can be as little as £3.40 and the journey is roughly 25 minutes.

The problem is that trains start from a place where you don't live and deposit you not quite at the place you need to be so you have to catch a bus, and that is where the problem lies.

Yesterday I caught the 4.30 train from Birmingham New Street, it was on time and I arrived in Coventry around 4.55.  During the journey, the train manager had announced that the train was due to arrive in Euston at 5.55pm.

I have to catch two buses home from the station and I ended up walking through my front door also at 5.55pm.

By car it takes less than 10 minutes for the 2.5 mile journey from the station home, but by bus it takes the same amount of time as the train takes to get all the way to London.

And you still have to get from the bus stop home.

And buses are not cheap, whilst the train ticket is £3.40, the bus costs me £5.80 and because the routes are run by two different companies I cannot buy a cheaper day ticket.

Going to work too, by car it now takes me about 15 minutes, but when I was travelling by bus, the journey could take up to two hours purely because of the circuitous route that the service took.

Depending on where you live, services sometimes start too late and finish too early, even in the city and in the country it is much worse.

Until travel by bus is more relevant to people's needs, it is never going to be the first choice of anybody. 

Instead of buying buses with plush seats which constantly have to be replaced due to vandalism or irremovable dirt, why not have solid, but comfortably shaped, seats, this would cut down on cleaning time (the whole bus could just be hosed down) and repair costs, buses would last longer so more would be available, meaning more routes could be introduced.

Recently our bus stops have been installed with electronic displays, unfortunately, the times displayed are those at which the bus is due, information which can already be found on the paper timetables also displayed at the bus stop.  These displays would be more useful showing the time the bus will actually arrive.

How do you feel about public transport?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

If you could work anywhere, or do any job.

If money was not a consideration, I would like to work here

Blists Hill Foundry

Or, more accurately, I would like to work in an old style metal foundry, not fussy where it is.

Like most people of my age, I did metalwork and woodwork at school and whilst woodwork was ok, I really enjoyed the metalwork.  We scrolled mild steel and made various things, including house numbers and candle holders.

But what I really enjoyed was making items with the sand moulds. packing the black sand around a form, removing the form and pouring in the metal.  Then the wait for the metal to cool before opening the mould and knocking off the sand.

I loved it.

Every time I go to the museum I love watching the foundry men working, unfortunately, they are not able to work every day so I have to plan my visits.

What would you like to do?

Now I understand why we were made to do sports at school.

Out of the last 7 days, I have spent 6 at my study provider in Birmingham and the 7th at work, and I feel drained. By the time I reached study day 4 I could have easily fallen asleep in the classroom.

The simple act of dashing from the classroom to the train station, dragging my study materials with me, really did wake me up and that was when I, finally, made to connection between study and exercise.

You do need to move about to wake you up after intense study periods and that is what they were trying to do for us at school, it wasn't intended to be the torture I took it for.

I didn't hate all sport, I loved swimming, I started going to the swimming baths as soon as I was out of nappies (no waterproof swimming nappies back then) and I was taking lessons by the age of 3 (there were no mummy/baby classes then either), so enjoyed swimming at school always picking it when there was an option.

I also enjoyed hockey, I played in the days of the 'bully off'', no sanitised passback for me.

In the summer, when we had to do athletics, I opted for the javelin, shot and discus, the attraction possibly being that they were all originally weapons, though I didn't make the connection at the time.

So maybe I should be grateful to Mrs Thomas, Mrs Friebe, little Mr Jones and big Mr Jones instead of seeing them as medieval torturers, they were trying to do their best for us!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Changes to exam format.

Before you all keel over in shock, yes this is an actual post about my ACCA studies.

This sitting (December 2014) sees the first sitting of the new format exams, and I think the examiners are making it harder for people to pass, I am not sure if this deliberate or just a side effect.

I am sitting two exams this time - Financial Reporting and Financial Management - and both now have 40% of the marks coming from multiple choice questions, 20 in all.

Initially we thought this would make things easier, but it is not so.

Previously, because the markers viewed your workings, you could receive 'method marks', if you used the right method but the wrong figure, you would lose, or, more accurately, not be given a mark for the wrong figure, but if you carried that wrong figure through you would still get marks for using the correct method.

With the new multi choice questions, although you still have to do all the working for each question, these will not be seen by the markers so your answer will either be right or wrong, 2 marks or zero marks.

The remaining 60 marks, the exams are marked out of 100, will be from traditionally marked questions.

50 marks are needed to pass each module.

This could be interesting.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Am I the only one not interested in the John Lewis Christmas adverts?

I really don't get the fascination with the John Lewis ads but I seem to be alone in this.

The first one that I really remember, I may have seen earlier ones, is the one that showed the old dog outside in a snow covered kennel, a little boy runs out, gives him a present and runs straight back into the warm house.

I didn't like the advert, and as far as I remember, it had to be edited to remove that section due to a poor response.

Two years ago, a Snowman struggles through the snow to the store to buy a hat and scarf for snowy girlfriend.  For some reason I always feel sorry for robots and the like, I can't watch a Confused.Com advert, and I couldn't watch the Snowman's struggles.

Last year's was all animated animals and I just felt so sorry for all of them, I again couldn't watch, (it also reminded me too much of Watership Down).

Now this year we have Monty The Penguin, although I know it was a CGI penguin, all I could think of all the way through was, 'that poor penguin'.  I know at the end it is revealed that it is a toy penguin but the advert was already ruined for me.

Had the opening scenes shown that it was a toy, but then the boy imagines that it is real, I think I could have quite enjoyed it.

Does anyone else think the adverts are overrated?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Why can't we have a St George's Day parade?

I am either 6 months late with this post, or 6 months early depending on your point of view, but it has been in my mind recently.

Mostly because of this - Coventry have announced their plans to hold a Pride Parade next year.

Bear with me.

I have no problems with gay and transgender people celebrating their choices, however, can you imagine the outcry if we had a Heterosexual Pride day?

But that is not the issue here.

The issue is that Coventry City Council will allow the roads to be closed for parades for St Patrick's Day (as far I was aware, Coventry is in England and therefore has no connections with snakes being driven out of Ireland), for the annual Sikh Vaisakhi parade, and now for Gay Pride.

However we are not allowed to close the streets and have a parade in celebration of St George, our own Patron Saint.

Various reasons have been given for this - too much disruption, may offend people etc.

Are the Council offending people by trying not to offend people?