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Why the rich get richer

31 October, 2008 at 3:40 am by belgianwaffle

In Ireland tax returns must be filed by October 31.  Today I spoke to an old friend who became a tax lawyer (it was a toss up between art and tax law – she’s unusual) and runs her own practice focussing on the needs of the unbearably rich (yes, they have needs too, I’m getting to that).

Me: I called you yesterday, you didn’t call me back.

Her: No, sorry, I could say that tomorrow is the end of the tax year.

Me:  Oh, of course, you must be very busy.

Her: Well, I could say that but, obviously, my job is to ensure that my clients don’t have to file tax returns.

We sent in ours last week, since you ask.  I could say that this is why I haven’t got round to posting and why the last post insulting the Greens and the Americans has been sitting there for a fortnight continuing to insult but, in fact, Mr. Waffle did our return.  That’s why it’s in early.

Whatever happened to giving in secret?

16 October, 2008 at 12:41 am by belgianwaffle

Imagine, if this happened to you, what would you think?

There you are chatting to a colleague about this and that and he says smugly “I give a tithe of all I possess to a relief fund for sub-Saharan Africa”.  His tone proclaims him to be holier than holy and certainly holier than you, you godless person who should be giving to charity too.

Would you not think, what a (insert swear word of choice here)? Would you not think that this kind of behaviour was entirely socially unacceptable?  Unless, your colleague is Bill Gates, in which case, you would, I assume, cut him some slack.

Why then, is it laudable for eco-swots to constantly go on about their eco-virtues?  These people are messianic.  I realise that they spent a long time wandering in the desert but they’re making up for it now.  Who would have thought that the bearded, sandal and sock wearers would inherit the earth (for what it’s worth, of course)? They believe that the issues they raise are the most important thing in the world and, furthermore, you are too stupid to understand them, so they must lead you by their shining example.  This is too important an issue not to preach about.

I know lots of people who give to charity, quietly and unostentatiously.  They seem to feel no compulsion to set the world to rights by telling everyone else exactly what they should be donating and to whom.   Why do the eco guilt-trip brigade feel that it is only through witnessing and fully, oh yes fully, understanding their peerless behaviour that the rest of us can be brought to our senses?  Personally, if I meet someone else who has to tell me why I must recycle for the planet, I intend to invest all our savings in a Hummer (well, given the stock market crash, a small deposit, say a tenner).

Can I be the start of the backlash, please?

For clarification: I do believe it’s good to give charity; I sort my rubbish for recycling; I only drive to work once a week, on other days I sometimes even cycle; I use rechargeable batteries and recycle the old ones; I bring reuseable bags to the supermarket; I try to take the train rather than the plane when I can.  I just don’t feel compelled to tell everyone all the time.  Though I appreciate I just did.

For further clarification: this probably isn’t relevant for Americans.  You could possibly do with some eco voices in the wilderness over there.  I would be very happy to export some of our fully-functional European models.  This would probably be good for the balance of payments also and world trade would be the overall winner.

Perhaps I should stop while I still can.

Welcome Home

12 October, 2008 at 11:49 pm by belgianwaffle

We are back online.  Rejoice with me.  I feel like I have been sleeping rough on virtual streets for the past couple of months, occasionally getting myself into an online shelter (this metaphor is perhaps inappropriate, but you know what I mean).

Such is my level of enthusiasm that I am already psyching my husband up for the excitement that is NaBloPoMo (or his wife scurrying to the computer each evening after the children going to bed, saying petulantly “I have to”).  It’s never too early to start.  Perhaps I can sign up for November already!

This enthusiasm despite the fact that

1. that the downlighters our electrician insisted on installing at enormous expense (sooo, 2008 and, apparently, a fire hazard to boot – money clearly would have been much better spent on laying in baked beans for the depression ahead) make it difficult to see the screen and

2. our internet connection is brutal – thank you BT wireless – and I will doubtless be sitting here at two minutes to midnight, anxious to get in my post and thereby be in with a chance to win a voucher to the etsy shop or whatever online goodies are available for those who successfully post every day and I will be very cranky.

Deeply disconcerting

10 October, 2008 at 2:42 pm by belgianwaffle

At 2.30 this morning, Daniel woke up.  I went blearily downstairs to get him a bottle (no advice please).  Near the microwave, I felt something squishy under my naked foot.  There were two slugs disporting themselves on my kitchen floor.  Tell me would it have been better or worse had I been wearing my scholl sandals?  Also, how did they get there?

Credit crunched

8 October, 2008 at 2:40 pm by belgianwaffle

I met a friend for lunch the other day.  We had the following conversation:

Him: You are like Kerry Katona.

Me (feeling a bit like an elderly, out of touch member of the judiciary): Who the hell is Kerry Katona?

Him (sensing my concerns): Formerly part of a popular beat combo known as “Atomic Kitten”, m’lud.

Me: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. [Pensive pause] Why am I like Kerry Katona?

Him: She’s very rough.

Me (coldly): Your point?

Him: I think her mother was a junkie.

Me (very coldly): Your point?

Him: She’s just been declared bankrupt but right up to the moment she ran out of money she kept spending like there was no tomorrow.

Me: Yes, I am just like Kerry Katona.

I am cross with the world’s bankers.  For the next couple of years we had expected to be poor as one of us is undertaking a brave new venture in the world of work. And, unfortunately, brave new ventures are often associated with a dip in earnings.  Furthermore, also unfortunately, the one undertaking the brave new venture is the one who previously made most of our money.  However, we will be poorer than we had anticipated as, alas, our savings from our days of relative affluence have now disappeared in the crash (who, no really, who could have predicted that the greatest economic crash since 1929 would happen on the one occasion we actually had money in the stock market?).  We will be living on baked beans for the next two years.  A particular pity since none of us is very fond of baked beans.

My lovely aunt who is in Dublin for a couple of days has decided to outwit the bankers by spending all her money now.  She took my brother and me to dinner last night at Guilbaud’s which pretty much did the job.  It made a very pleasant change from baked beans.

You know the way we all put our faith in the market economy instead of religion?  Is anyone else feeling that this was all a bit of a mistake in retrospect?  Just curious.

Hedda Gabler

6 October, 2008 at 10:43 pm by belgianwaffle

I went to see Hedda Gabler at the Gate the other night.

It was a new version by Brian Friel (obviously, he felt Ibsen hadn’t tried hard enough).

The audience seemed to love it and I was entranced by the opportunity to get tea and a club milk at the interval – something I suspect theatre goers in New York don’t get.

I did not, however, particularly enjoy the play.  Brian Friel has form on doing this kind of reworking of foreign dramatists and I have seen a couple of the things he has done from Checkov and thought they were quite good (how pleased he would be by my approbation, if only he knew).  Mr. Waffle points out that in the work of Checkov there is an obvious link with the Irish experience of the “big house“.  Frankly, it’s harder to see the links with the Norwegian bourgeoisie.  I found that lines like “Oh holy mother of God, he’s torn it up and thrown it in the fjord” just didn’t work for me.

I thought that the play was really interesting.  Full of ideas about the constraints on 19th century women and the importance of avoiding scandal and, most importantly, control.  I thought that the direction did it no favours.  I would love to see another version.  In this version, the characters spent their time being passionate and volcanic – the Norwegians are, of course, well known for their exuberance.

Even for a modern sensibility, the plot and dialogue are sufficiently dramatic in themselves that there is no need to have the actors being quite so over the top to convey additional excitement.   At one point Thea jumps and claps her hands.  I would be most surprised in that featured in Mr. Ibsen’s original stage directions.  It seems to me that this play would work best if the characters were more repressed.  The words provide more than enough drama and the contrast between the audacity of the dialogue and a more sedate staging would, I think, make the play much, much better.

As it was, I went home feeling I had been hit over the head for two hours by Norwegians.  It was also distracting that Mr. Waffle pointed out that Judge Brack had modelled himself on Hugh Laurie in Doctor House and that all of the Irish actors pronounced Lövborg’s name as lovebug.

That is all.  Another play next month, if our money hasn’t run out by then.


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