Saturday, 31 January 2009

Am I boring you?

I have not made many recent entries on religion or politics. Nor have I received more than two comments in the past two weeks.

Am I boring you?

is indeed boring. I am wearied by the Church Wars about correct doctrine, or “who is in and who is out?”

All the arguments are at least 1,900 years old.

You do not need me to tell you that the current fiscal crisis is global. What else did we expect in a global economy?

But words such as “global” do nothing to help Jane or John Doe, each of whom has lost a job, and has little chance of finding a new one.
We are in a global mess.

Gordon Brown (British Premier), American President Obama, the government of Iceland, the International Monetary Fund -- &c, &c, &c seem to think that we can spend ourselves out of the crisis.

John Maynard Keynes rules!

Maybe he was right.

But spending to bail out Banks and Finance Houses will, at best, do little more than to ease the credit crunch.

What we may be planning to spend is not real money, but printed paper. Therefore I ask: “can we print all the bank notes, dollar bills we wish, without facing the spectre of inflation?”

John Maynard Keynes rules!

Maybe he was right.

Maybe, just maybe, if the bailout paper money is directed towards work projects - e.g., a whole lot of spending on roads, bridges, dams, low income housing and the like, we’ll be able to spend ourselves out of crisis.

Money for bridges may be well spent. Money for bankers will be wasted.

Back to a more personal note, (on a concert which I attended), tomorrow.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Taxes, Pension and Knowle

I finally buckled down today, finishing and mailing two important documents.

One was for my 2008 tax return. I use a very fine firm of accountants in Peabody, MA, and have done so since 2001. I was waiting on just one tax document, and it arrived today. So off went that packet. I do not expect to be billed for additional taxes, and with any luck I’ll get a refund.

The other was the application for a U.K. Social Security Pension, arising from my 12 year work history there. Last Monday I remembered that my “missing” birth certificate was probably stored in my locked box at my local bank, and so it was. Having found that, my mission was complete, and I mailed various forms to the U.K. Pension service.

You’ll be pleased to know that I was born, and that my birth was registered in the St. George branch office of the Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths.

There was never a mention of gooseberry bushes or alien space craft. (This reminds me of a Chicopee parishioner who told me that when he had asked his Mom how babies came about she replied “I took a pill”!)

Also in the locked box was my year end U.K. tax form for 1968/69. This was helpful for it bore my “National Insurance Number” - necessary to the U.K. Social Security application.

In the tax year ending 5th April 1969 I earned 839 GBP. At that time this was the approximate equivalent of $2000.

From the 839 GBP I paid 124 GBP in taxes. So I “took home” approx. 700 GBP that year, about 14 GBP per week. And I was able to buy my first car!

The form reveals that I was working for the Westminster Bank at 286 Wells Rd, Knowle, Bristol. That was the same time that the Westminster merged with the National Provincial Bank, to form the “National Westminster Bank”

Nat West in turn was taken over by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2000.

The RBS group owns Citizens Bank, which has a large presence in the North Eastern United States.

RBS group itself is now in deep doo-doo, and is 70% owned by the British Government.

Back to the Westminster Bank in Knowle: I would drive my oldest sister Maureen to her work at “M.A.C” in Ashton, (where she met her husband Bernard), and then wend my way to Knowle.

I had a couple of dates with the Manager’s daughter, and we “snogged” one night on Devon Rd where I lived.

I had a crush on “D” who worked with me
A customer “Mrs. F” had a Sweet Shop across the street. She would give me free sweets, which was all very well except when her “take” fell short of the cheques she had written. Then my Manager would dispatch me to strong arm her.

Her son in law owned a Barber Shop about two miles away in Whitchurch, Bristol. So naturally I used him.

Whilst in his barber’s chair he “came on to me” a couple of times, but I was too naive, stupid, or scared to respond. After all, I knew that he was married, and in my 1968 state of innocence I could not fathom that married men might ALSO BE GAY!

Soon after this the Bank transferred me to its Chew Magna, Somerset branch to help with the process of changing from the historic British “Pounds, Shillings and Pence” to the new system of decimal currency in which “One pound was divided into One hundred pence”.

O Knowle Branch of the Westminster Bank. They were great years were they not?!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

J.G. got it wrong

J.G. was a girl who was in Class 1 /First Grade with me. We were both aged 5.

After a few days in the classroom with our teacher, Miss Suttle, (yes I remember her name 60 years later) J.G raised her hand.

She said "Please Miss, I want to p-ss".

Miss Suttle corrected her. She told J.G that the correct question was "Please may I use the offices?"

Yes, that was the euphemism for using the toilet/bathroom back in 1949.

Later we were taught to ask our teachers "Please may I be excused?"

Why do I remember such things from 60 years ago?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I am brewing a bit of a cold....

,,, which is highly convenient as I am in one of my periodic "stop the world I want to get off" moods.

So, afar I go to bed here is a simple entry.

These are pics of the (Frank Lloyd Wright School) "Van Wezel Centre for the Performing Arts" here in SRQ - venue for my three concerts this week.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Life is so dull ---- not!

Last week on Monday I was at an AIDS benefit, which featured a quite dismal Drag show.

On the following Wednesday I was with nine friends at the “Irish Rover” pub for bangers and mash, good drink, and enjoyable sing-a-long music.

Sunday saw a farewell to Robert Reeves one of the two musicians at St. Boniface Church. He is retiring.

He pulled out all the stops and the choir sang one of my favourites, the chorus “The Heavens are telling the Glory of God” from Haydn’s “The Creation”.

I sang this when I was about fourteen years old and in the choir at Fairfield Grammar (High) School in Bristol, U.K. We enjoyed a first class musical education at Fairfield, thanks to Mr. W.J. “Dickie” Richards, the Music Master. So I went down memory lane when I heard the chorus again, and believe it or not, I could remember just about all of the bass line. It was hard for me not to sing a long, so I mouthed the words.

Bob Reeves played a great “crowd pleaser” as a postlude - the famous Toccata from the Widor Organ Symphony. It’s a hard piece to play and a terrific piece to hear.

Sunday launched my “music season” I shall attend seven concerts and three operas in the next two months: three of the concerts in this week alone.

Tonight was the opening concert of the Sarasota Concert Association’s Five concert series to which I subscribe - five world class concerts for $150 - now that’s a bargain.

This evening’s offering was by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, playing to a full house.

The first music was the “oh so familiar” Symphony # 25 by Mozart. It was written when he was 17 years old. Listening to this music was like having drinks before dinner with old and dear friends.

After this brief (20 minute) Symphony and a 15 minute intermission I hunkered down to hear something new.

It was the Symphony # 7, “The Leningrad”, by Shostakovich, begun in 1941 when the German armies were invading Russia.

As I said last year about a concert of Mahler’s music “I don’t like Shostakovich because I have never heard any of his music”. I'd thought that after the pleasant “drinks” of Mozart I was about to have dinner with a stranger who was reputed to be difficult.

Not so. I was enthralled by this 70 minute Symphony. So enthralled that I was shocked when it ended - I hadn’t the foggiest idea that it had lasted so long!

The music was alternatively lyrical and beautiful, and loud and passionate. I was grinning from ear to ear when I left the Concert Hall.

Thank goodness that I am not too old to enjoy something new (after all, I did Sky-dive in December!)

And I am deeply grateful that I am doing those things in retirement for which I never could find time when I was working.

“Carpe diem” whatever your day!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Down memory lane

I have been completing the paperwork which will enable me to get a small pension from the Pension service in the United Kingdom. This will reflect the 12 or so years in which I worked in the U.K. before migrating to the U.S.A.

I have kept some records including my British “National Insurance Number”. To my dismay I could not find the copy of my birth certificate, which I was certain was in a paper file folder here. Ne’er mind. I went “on-line” and a duplicate will be sent me.

But I do have a copy of my WWII “National Registration Identity Card”. It reveals that my mother registered my birth with the National Registration Identity folks, just five days after I was born.

It also showed that I was born at number 42 Alpine Road, Easton, Bristol.
I knew that my twin and I had been born in a house on Alpine Road, but I had never before known at the house number.

The card also reveals that my family and I moved to 47 Devon Road on 28th December 1945.

There is a whole story about why my twin and I were born in a house on Alpine Road, and why we moved back to the home that my parents owned on Devon Road in 1945. That story can wait for another time.

But for now, as I look at the card I am intrigued by my mother’s handwriting and signature in 1944 and 1945. Wow - that’s just how I write today!

And I am shocked that I was born during World War II. That makes me feel so old!

But my present life assures me that I am still young.

And the sight of Mum’s signature in her familiar hand: “E. M Povey” brings tears to my eyes.