Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Gosh darn it.

There comes a point in everyone’s life when for the good of themselves and probably those around them they need to acknowledge who they are. Yes, gentle reader, it is time to come out. I am, at least a little bit, a fan of Thatcher.

Not the Tories – Section 28 is engraved on the heart of every right thinking gay or lesbian person out there. Nor her overly black and white approach to things, from the monetarism that caused such massive unemployment to the breaking of the miners’ strike, both of which could have stood some more planning for the support the people these policies/actions left behind would need. I like privatisation, economic liberalism and empowering people to own their own homes. I dislike greed, selfishness, the over centralisation of power in central government’s hands, and selling off social housing without empowering local authorities to build more. It was, I think, right to go to war for the Falklands. And it was wrong to ignore apartheid.

Ultimately it may well be I dislike more of the Thatcher Government’s activities and legacy than I could ever list. But overall what I do like is reform. Some strong effective leadership that spent less time spouting bullshit and more time cutting through it.

What has caused the Cheerful Fairy to brandish his handbag? Frustration. Frustration as the apparent blindness , the almost wilful ignorance of our current Government and, worse, Parliament.

I truly believe we need more than ever a reformist government – or maybe just some common sense. For instance...

Why propose a ‘mansion tax’ when there is still up to a 50% discount on council [property] tax for second homes?

Why boast that people on minimum wage are paying less income tax. Surely they should pay none?!

Why ask the wealthy elderly to voluntarily give up their state benefits? Instead means-test them (especially when everyone gets a bus pass, whilst the bus service itself is cancelled to help reduce the budget deficit) or, even better, just phase them out and make the state pension a bit bigger.

Why tinker with a 45% or 50% top rate of tax when the richest (and to be clear it ain’t wrong to be rich) pay only a sixth as much national insurance (NI) as their lower paid brethren*? You could instead keep the 40% top rate; raise income tax thresholds so no-one on minimum wage pays any income tax; and have everyone pay, say, 9% NI on their earnings.

Why put on the po-faced performance on television about how little corporation tax corporations pay when you could simply change the tax regulations with the stroke of a pen?

Why not let local authorities set their own planning rules and business taxes, and compete for business – go to Manchester or Newcastle if you want to see how a little freedom can go a long way?

Why indeed.

I don’t seek to answer the questions; there are subtleties at play in all the queries I’ve posed that a post will simply never be able to cover, and I’m too dim to really understand. My point is the current lot aren’t up to the job. And that means to make it work we all have to get involved, fight for what we believe in, and if nothing else vote in the upcoming elections. And every election after that.  

Next time on 'Things I Don’t Know Enough About to Discuss: Scottish Independence (a tentative yes)'

*People pay 12% national insurance on wages up to £41,444 and 2% on earnings over that. This means a man or woman earning £1,000,000 a year, (paying 45% income tax and 2% NI) has a marginal tax rate of 47% and someone on minimum wage (paying 20% income tax and 12% NI) a marginal rate of 32%. My suggestion would change this to 49% and 9% respectively.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Four funerals and a wedding

Spring has certainly sprung here in Strumpetville. The sun is shining, the balcony is getting more verdant by the day and your Cheerful Fairy is very much feeling the benefit of the warmer days and lighter evenings.

Fella and I are due to be civil-partnered in a shade under three weeks. It's getting quite exciting/nerve wracking and it would seem weddings have some fractal properties - behind every activity is another, and another ad infinitum. I long, gentle reader, for the days when in exchange for money goods were received and services rendered. And having enough spare cash to engage in retail therapy! But soon, my pretty, soon...

Looking back on the near-four years we have been together it struck me how much of our time has been shaped by death. Perhaps an odd thought when we are preparing for the new beginning that married life represents; and at the height of spring as well.

I first met Fella's family as they returned home from the funeral of his grandfather. He met most of my family at the funeral of my grandfather. Then of course there was the tragic loss of Fella's mother to cancer just over a year ago. Most recently we travelled to Cardiff for the funeral of Fella's uncle.

All of this has taken a heavy toll on Fella and he sometimes finds it difficult to cope with grief. We will no doubt think a little of the people we have lost, the people who won't be there. I myself up to now have never really had to deal with death very much. Great grandparents faded away when I was a child, and I've been lucky there were no deaths, accidents or illness, amongst my peers. That is all. Therefore I don't know how to help Fella when he gets very depressed about his loss.

I think the point I'm trying to make is that when 15 May comes around there will be an touch of bitter-sweet about it. You can never really predict how people will react but more than one person has cautioned me to be on the look out for some bad behaviour. Warnings I haven't appreciated receiving; they to add a touch of nerves.

Really, birth and death will be part of our lives together and I'm sure one thing that can't hurt is focussing on the future and our lives together. Especially since Fella's sister in law is due to give birth to the first niece/nephew a few weeks after we get hitched :-)

Monday, 1 April 2013

Six weeks...

There are but six weeks to go until Fella and I have our civil partnership. The planning and preparation, I must admit, are taking a huge amount of time – most of our spare time now! I do not know how we would have managed to get as far as we have without everyone involved getting on with each other (florists, caterers etc) and having friends who are helping out with big things like the rings, the cake, etc.

Still, the logistics are still somewhat daunting. For example, we need to let the registrar know in writing two weeks before the ceremony if we want to dispense with the kiss at the end of the ceremony. And the holistic interconnectedness of all things: the colour of the flowers affects the colour of the suit; the music we choose affects the order of the ceremony. And then there is what we may not do: no religious symbols; we may not bring the cake to the venue until the day of the ceremony;  and so on.
One thing all the planning and organisation has revealed is some of the funny attitudes people have about things. I’ve touched on ‘reverse discrimination’ before but the things people expect about our wedding, and things around it, have been quite an eye opener. In some ways it raises the bar for us a little [OOOO, I’ve never been to a gay wedding before!!] but it seems, gentle reader, that some people half expect us to go down the aisle on unicorns and Liza Minnelli is our celebrant. Whilst this may be true, it has been surprising discovering some of the assumptions people carry about.

We have, much to Fella’s annoyance, been various asked about our hen do; bridesmaids; and maid of honour. Now I need hardly point out to you the obvious but it is startling how many people need remind that we are two men, and as such we have entirely dispensed with the bride in our arrangements. Yet the ability of people to add two and two and get wibble seems insurmountable. It has proven a little handy, in that one of our friends has only been allowed the day off work on the grounds that she is a chief bridesmaid. Not wishing to look a gift dissonance in the mouth we’ve made her an usher.

For me, I’m just keen for people to have as much fun as possible without getting consumed into making every last detail perfect (for that way madness lies, wibble). It will be the people that will make it enjoyable. That and six weeks of intense dieting.