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November 2016

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Image from Wikimedia“The worst part about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth”

Jean-Paul Sartre

The release this week of UK cabinet papers from the 1980s reveals as true something that opponents of Margaret Thatcher’s administration have long protested – that she and other leading tories had continued to plan the dismantling of the welfare state – including the privatisation of education and the National Heath Service – even in the wake of her sophistical proclamation that “the health service is safe in our hands“.

It is – of course – jejune to be shocked at the mendacity and dishonesty of politicians of all hues… a truism that has been borne out in spades this year. As far as I can recall I graduated my own education in such matters shortly after the 1979 UK general election in which Thatcher came to power. That election campaign had featured prominently the infamous Saatchi and Saatchi advert showing a long snaking queue for the dole (unemployment) office, under the banner heading “Labour isn’t Working“.

In 1979 the tories inherited an unemployed total of 1.4 million. The monetarist policies pursued by the Thatcher government saw this figure rapidly rocket to north of 3 million! It subsequently became apparent that the thinkers behind the tories’ strategy – and in particular Keith Joseph, the chief architect thereof – had known all along that their policies would indeed cause unemployment to soar… a price that they considered ‘worth’ paying.

Such hypocrisies have led me to adopt the attitude attributed to Louis Herren – foreign correspondent for The Times in the 1960s and 70s. He would ask himself – on being briefed by some politician or other – “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?“.

Good advice!

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musicHard on the heels of my last post (which detailed the first two days of an elongated weekend of musical delights here in Victoria) and following a brief intermission, comes the second half… as it were!

To The Belfry theatre on the Sunday for a matinee performance of a new entertainment – “I think I’m fallin’” – based on the songs of Canadian singer/songwriter (and all round icon) – Joni Mitchell.

Now, one might argue – were one being particular – that this is not strictly a piece of theatre at all… at least not in any form that I have previously encountered. It is in fact more of a performed homage. There is certainly no overall narrative and such character as there be rises largely unfiltered from Mitchell’s poetic lyrics themselves.

The five massively talented singer/musicians brought their full vocal and instrumental gifts (including a couple of particularly wonderful voices and some gorgeous harmonising) to bear on new and in some cases most imaginative arrangements of the songs. Inhabiting the stage in a variety of configurations the cast mercifully resisted the temptation to over dramatise the selected numbers; the songs being allowed to breathe on their own and all the better for it.

If the above comments intimate in any way that I might not have enjoyed the piece then they have misled. Certainly it helps to be a Joni Mitchell enthusiast to fully embrace the show – but there is, as you might expect, no shortage of same in Canada. I came late to Mitchell (as to many things!) but I am now a perfect proselyte.

The final event in our busy (extended) weekend actually took place on Tuesday – giving us a much needed night off on the Monday. Along with 1500 other like-minded souls we gathered at the Theatre Royal in downtown Victoria to re-kindle acquaintance with a face from way back when; Roger Hodgson – co-founder and former member of Supertramp.

For many of us who were in our late teens back in the UK in the early 1970s Supertramp provided an essential part of the sound track to our growing up. Their beautifully produced and quirkily dramatic songs put them into much the same camp as Genesis and other similar(ish) progressive rock outfits. It turns out that – if anything – the band was even bigger in Canada than in Europe.

Supertramp were unusual in that they featured two main songwriters – in Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies – who shared the writing duties in a roughly even split. When Hodgson decided to leave the band in the early 80s Rick Davies carried on as the leader. Eventually Supertramp stopped playing Hodgson’s songs completely whilst the latter – now touring as a solo artist – featured just those compositions.

As is often (though not exclusively) the case neither constituent has been able to match the achievements of the original line-up (at least in the eyes of the record-buyers/concert-goers) and in both cases their later careers have consisted in the main of providing a nostalgic revisit to the glories of the past…

…in which – in this instance – we were happy to indulge.

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indexI am habitually to be heard at around this time of year bemoaning the sorry reality that the weather has turned against us, that the nights are drawing in, that everything natural is dying and that this be my least favourite time of the year (at least until the following February or March; which months frequently offer strong competition). Shortly after voicing such jeremiads I am highly likely to be heard again – apologising to those for whom November is their birth month and as a result the main event in a much loved season!

Since our arrival in Victoria last year I have been obliged to modify this inveterate impression somewhat. The Victorians – presumably as a means of counteracting similar bouts of ennui – appear to have chosen this particular quantum of the pre-Christmas season to stage a wide range of quite unmissable events. Thus is was that over the weekend just passed we found ourselves with no less than four delectable entertainments to attend in five days.

In a post from early October last year I wrote:

“Friday found us back at the Mary Winspear Centre for another charity event for which the Girl’s best friend was helping to organize the silent auction. The most worthy cause on this occasion was the raising of funds to support the excellent work done by ‘THRIVE Malawi‘.”

This year’s equivalent fell a month and a half later – but still on a Friday. The main attraction was also a repeat performance:

“The centrepiece of the event was a concert by local ensemble – The HiFi. All you need to know about this assemblage of musos – who describe their schtick as “New Orleans, West Coast brouhaha” – is that not only are all concerned amazingly talented musicians, but one of them is actually an internationally reknowned boogie pianist appearing under a pseudonym for contractual reasons. Anyway, they all appeared to be having a lot of fun – as were we!”

We have now seen The HiFi twice and – frankly – we love them most dearly. If you live around Victoria do keep an eye out for them at Hermann’s Jazz Club, where they are regular – if infrequent – performers. Should you appreciate good music in any form you would surely find it difficult not to be impressed.

On the subject of the ‘dearly beloved’ – come the Saturday night we were back at the Mary Winspear to catch Barney Bentall and the Cariboo Express. Barney Bentall was a leading figure in Canadian music in the 90s and had a string of hits with his band – The Legendary Hearts. Of The Cariboo Express Barney’s website reveals the following:

“The Cariboo Express is a one-of-a-kind variety show cast with renowned Canadian musicians, led by Canadian superstar Barney Bentall, along with Ridley Bent, Dustin Bentall, Kendel Carson, Matt Masters, Wendy Bird, various special guests and a backing band comprised of some of Canada’s finest musicians. Each of the core members have music careers of their own, but every November the group convenes to raise funds for various worthy charities in the spirit of song, community and giving back to society.”

Saturday was our second time with the Express and it is difficult to put into words just how much fun this show can be. With up to fourteen musicians on stage at any one time – each of them having a seriously good time – no audience could possibly resist.

We didn’t even try!

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Image from Pixabay…of optimism – if I may (though not, sadly, for the short term!).

Political events on either side of the Atlantic over the past months have left those of centre and left of centre persuasions reeling. The next few years are going to be bloody; there is no getting away from it. There is also, sadly, little that can be done to improve matters in the short term.

It is, however, time to start looking beyond this immediate grim future… and therein – I believe – will be discovered the tender shoots of optimism. By way of explication of this unlikely notion I must first needs muse a while on that oft abused ‘philosophy’ – Neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism has its roots considerable further back than the 1980s, but it was during that harsh decade that it reappeared renewed in its most virulent and corrosive form. The petrol crisis of the early 1970s that ended the long boom of the post war years led directly to the 1973/74 stock market crash and the 1974/75 recession. The years of discontent that followed unbolted the door to conservatives on both sides of the pond and they gleefully kicked it in. Carried to power on a now familiar wave of populism Thatcher and Reagan led the forces of the right on a rampage through the economies of UK and the US respectively – slashing regulation, selling off the family jewels, disposing of the unions and setting in motion the destruction of long established manufacturing industries.

So powerful was this tidal flow that in the UK the left was swept away on a tsunami of free market ideation. For a decade and a half it looked as though there would never again be a route to power for left and centre left parties. In the end the Labour party re-imagined itself (as did the Democratic Party in the US – though it had considerably less far to travel) as a party of the centre by adopting much of the ideology of the right. The much vaunted ‘third way‘ claimed to offer the benefits of both sides – the market discipline of the right with the social conscience of the left. Once the Tory Party in the UK had succumbed in its usual manner to avarice and corruption this cocktail brought New Labour victory in three successive elections.

The problem was that the ‘third way‘ was not actually a third way at all, but one of the original two ways with a slightly better user interface. In fact the centre parties on both sides of the pond had actually swallowed Neoliberalism hook, line and sinker. It may perhaps be that some thinkers on the left (and of the centre) thought that the creature could be tamed. They were to discover to their cost that it could not.

Though the true nature of the beast might have been determined from the start had anyone looked closely enough it took the financial crash of 2008 to finally bring home the repellent side effects. By opening the world to unfettered global trade (much aided by advances in technology) Neoliberalism enabled corporations and individuals to effectively detach themselves from individual nation states and thus to remove themselves from political influence and control. This trend has had many unpleasant consequences, not the least of which is that those concerned now pretty much only pay taxes when, where and to whatever level they feel inclined. This inevitably only increases the ever growing divide between the less than 1% and the rest of us.

The financial crash itself was enabled by totally inadequate regulation of the worldwide financial system; a result of decades of compromise and of paring back. This only encouraged the arrogant beliefs on the part of those immediately concerned that the credit bubble by which means growth had been ‘sustained’ into the new millennium might be extended indefinitely through sharp practice…

…which brings us smartly up to date with Brexit and the US Presidential Election. The unexpected outcomes of those ballots were not only the result of the lost millions expressing their anger at being left behind by the ever increasing inequality, but more so that those souls (along with many others who might themselves actually have done reasonably well) were left feeling utterly powerless to influence events through the democratic process, since that process itself – as a direct result of the Neoliberal agenda – was no longer able so to do. Little wonder then that when an opportunity presented itself to raise a finger (or two) to those seen as representatives or lackeys of the ‘elites’ the electorates grasped the chance with both hands.


Yes – I do realise that this peroration has thus far not exactly exuded optimism. Well – here’s the nub…

What has transpired this year has been a massive wake-up call. In neither the UK nor the US can politics carry on being ‘business as usual’. That model is broken. What now needs urgently to happen is that the centre and the left of centre must start over and build themselves completely afresh – learning not only from what has happened, but also from how and why it happened. This represents a huge opportunity – such perhaps as has not been presented since the end of the second world war. And – concerning that prospect – I feel optimistic.

Thinking caps on…

…flame off!

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Leonard Cohen

1934 – 2016


Image from Pixabay

I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?

Well, it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled King composing Hallelujah


Well, your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah


Baby, I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you

I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah


Well, there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do you?

But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Well, maybe there’s a god above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah



“And I rose in a rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days”

Dylan Thomas

Following a gloriously dry, hot summer it was probably inevitable that – when the weather finally broke – Autumn would offer a complete contrast. It has accordingly thus far been emphatically wild, wet and windy. When it has not been raining the skies have – in the main – resembled more closely those with which I am familiar from the old country.

Every now and then, however, something shifts and we awake to find a sunrise such as this:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…or end the day with a sunset like this:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidLast weekend we ventured north to Nanaimo to pay a visit to the Kickass Canada Girl’s mother. As is our wont we took the shorter but slower (and considerably more relaxed) route via the Brentwood Bay/Mill Bay ferry. That particular day was not sunny!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Image from PexelsAnd you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself
My God!…What have I done?!

“Once in a Lifetime” – David Byrne, Brian Eno, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Tina Weymouth

I have not been averse – within the bounds of these jottings – to venturing occasional comment on matters relating to current affairs. My motivation for so doing – it must be said – is usually engendered by feelings akin to horror and even despair at the manner in which at least some of the inhabitants of this fragile planet choose to conduct their (and by extension our) affairs.

I have made no comment thus far on the 2016 American Presidential Election. In common with many on this side of the border I find myself watching in fascinated horror the interminable slow-motion train wreck that has been what feels like the longest electoral contest in history. How can the observer not be rendered slack-jawed at the effect on the campaign of the extensive computer hacking by unidentified foreign agencies – or of the farcical on-again/off-again (but very public!) enquiry by the FBI into the modus operandi of one of the candidates?

In a race in which neither of the leading contenders inspires much in the way of confidence there is – amongst many to whom I have spoken here –  frank disbelief that the Republican candidate could even have qualified to stand for office – given the outrageous and frankly libelous nature of many of his pronouncements – let alone to be yet in the race for the presidency.

It does make one wonder at the hordes of apparently immutable devotees who seem so determined to deal a blow to the American political system that they could be so utterly blinded to the nature of the beast that they intend to install in the White House. It seems that no logic – no rational debate – no reasoning can get through to them. Truth is meaningless to those capable of holding contemporaneously such totally antithetical beliefs.

It is impossible not to compare the situation in the US with that in the UK, which has itself appeared over the last few years equally determined to self-harm to the greatest degree possible. I have ventured previously some horrified comments on the apparent willingness on the part of a small majority of the population to take a gigantic and unprecedented gamble on the economic and social future of the nation – again apparently based on the hazy notion of turning itself into some chimerical wishful-thinking fantasy version of the country that never was, nor ever could be.

The latest twist in this self-destructive saga came at the end of last week when the UK High Court ruled that the British Parliament should be consulted and hold a vote before Article 50 (the mechanism that would lead to Britain leaving the European Union) could be triggered. The executive had intended to put this into effect without any such consultation. This piece of democratic common sense was greeted by some of the more repellent UK newspapers with headlines such as “Enemies of the People” over images of the judges involved. The deep irony that a key feature of the Brexit campaign was supposedly the return of sovereignty to the British Parliament was utterly lost on those apparently unable to think clearly through the fog of their own rage.

Given the real tragedies that are being played out in the Middle East and elsewhere it seems wrong to fixate on the political idiocies of first world nations – however much their antics may cause us to rend our garments and tear our hair.


Enough seriousness, though. My next post will feature photos of BC in the autumn (fall!).


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Image from PixabaySo Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Douglas Adams – Book title

Pace the promise at the end of my last post (the final part of a trilogy on my tax transition from the UK to Canada over the last year) this unexpected fourth part details the delightful process of completing a reasonably complex UK tax return. The gentle reader will be relieved to know that I am going to skip all of the obvious bits and just concentrate on that which is out of the ordinary.

Completion of this particular return was complicated by the fact that – having been resident in the UK for 104 days from April 6th to July 19th 2015 – I was considered by HMRC to have been a UK resident for tax purposes for the whole tax year. To avoid being taxed in both countries for the period from July 19th 2015 (our date of landing) to April 5th 2016 (and having already paid my Canadian taxes up to December 31st) I needed to meet the criteria for a ‘split year treatment‘ for 2015/16, under which I would pay taxes in whichever country I was resident at any given point.

There are eight sets of circumstances under which one is deemed to have met the criteria for ‘split year treatment‘. The only one that applied in my circumstances was Case 3 – ‘Ceasing to have a home in the UK’. The HMRC’s ‘Tax Return Notes’ give a fair bit of information on the criteria as a whole but cheerfully send one off in search of document RDR3 – ‘Guidance Note: Statutory Residence Test (SRT)’ for further detail on each specific case. Herewith the relevant sections for Case 3:

Case 3:  Ceasing to have a home in the UK

5.22  In this instance, you may receive split year treatment for a tax year if you leave the UK to live abroad and you cease to have a UK home.

You must:

– be UK resident in the tax year
– be UK resident for the previous tax year (whether or not it was a split year)
– be non-UK resident for the following tax year
– have one or more homes in the UK at the start of the tax year and at some point in the year cease to have any home in the UK for the rest of the tax year.

5.23  From the point you cease to have a home in the UK you must:

– spend fewer than 16 days in the UK
– in relation to a particular country, either:

– be present in that country at the end of each day for 6 months, or
– have your only home, or all your homes if you have more than 1, in that country within 6 months

Hmmm! That is all as clear as mud…

The other portion of the return that I had not previously encountered was that concerning Capital Gains Tax – for which the sale of our UK property made us potentially liable. The basic rules regarding Capital Gains Tax on property sales at the time that we sold the apartment were thus:

  • Capital Gains Tax could be subject to Private Residence Relief (PRR)
  • PRR was 100% if the property was one’s prime residence and was lived in for the whole time that it was owned
  • PRR might be reduced if the property was let for more than three years
  • no tax was payable in any case for the final 18 months of ownership

Our apartment in Buckinghamshire (which I had owned for more than fourteen years) had been let for more than three years at the point at which we sold it. We thus had to work out the level of PRR for which we might still be eligible. This was calculated by determining the profit made on the sale (the agreed selling price less the original purchase price) and by determining the percentage of months for which PRR might be applied. I had owned the property for 176 months, I/we had lived in it for 130 months and it had been let for 41 months. Given the exemption for the final 18 months of ownership this meant that I could apply for PRR to cover 84% of the capital gain.

That would yet have left a chunk of tax owing, but there were – fortunately – a couple of other reliefs that could be applied:

  • Selling costs (estate agent and legal fees) could be set against the profit
  • We could apply for Letting Relief for the period that the apartment was actually tenanted
  • There was a general Capital Gains Tax allowance of £11,000

A tortuous calculation led us to the conclusion that all of the potential taxes and reliefs fundamentally cancelled each other out – leaving us after all nothing to pay on the sale of our home. The tax return was duly completed and sent to the United Kingdom at the start of June this year. Shortly before I started writing this series of posts I was finally in receipt of a further rebate from HMRC, though they also sent a note which somewhat unkindly suggested that this refund had been based on my calculations – which they claim not to have checked! I suspect that this is just to give them some wiggle-room should they find any way that they can claw back some of what they paid me.

We shall see…

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