Wednesday 29 April 2015

The Rich List and the rest of us

In 2013 I wrote a blog "Goodbye to weekend magazines". about how my love for magazines had waned and that they had little relevance and less interest to me. 

I glanced at two last weekend - the Sunday Times published its Rich List 2015.  Last year you needed only £85 million to be included but this year there are so many billionaires that you need £100 million.  Gosh – that lets me out then. In the same newspaper there is a magazine called Style. There are quite a few garments from the high street but the jumpsuit at £3,600 and white silk top at £1,235 never mind the lace dress at £3,065 take the breath away.

Now I am sure that there is a link between the people in the Rich List and these clothes but together they illustrate a disconnect from the rest of us. Coming during an election campaign, (while I think that the mansion tax proposed by Labour is simply a spiteful London tax), I am not sure that the many mega-rich people who live in London contribute much to society. Most of them don't actually live here all year round like us plebs, they have homes in London.

Does the fact that we have more billionaires here than in China or more per head than any other G20 country benefit anyone other than a small handful of estate agents, interior designers, designer stores, accountants, lawyers, bankers etc? I don’t see a trickle down. I don’t see them supporting local businesses (excluding the ones I just mentioned); the sports stars and celebrities do not create wealth or employment. Those who created wealth in the past through industry (say the Sainsbury’s and Weston’s) created employment and if we go back to the Cadbury’s and the Fry’s - through their philanthropy and philosophy had a positive impact on society. Regrettably for many on that list today - their charitable giving is not necessarily in proportion to their wealth.

There is one shining exception - someone called Richard Ross.  He has given away so much that he doesn’t qualify for the Rich List this year.  That is really something to be proud of.

Monday 20 April 2015

I am an immigrant.....

If you have been on the London Underground recently you may have seen posters with this title. The individuals featured are not actors or models but immigrants stating simply how they have contributed to our society.

This poster campaign has been launched by a campaign called No Xenophobia as an antidote to the hype and hysteria being generated during the current election campaign.  We are not alone – people are being murdered in South Africa because they are from outside South Africa (black not white) with riots in the streets, refugee camps being set up and even the Prime Minister finally saying something.

There is a natural tendency for “us” and “them” and it extends through nationality, skin colour, religion to football teams!  It is when this tendency becomes xenophobia – an unreasonable fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners or of that which is foreign or strange – that the trouble starts.

Firstly here is my personal experience over the past couple of weeks. The following people were not born here – not all immigrants some are EU citizens working here: GP, nurse, the audiologist, person who took my blood at the hospital; dentist, dental nurse, waiting staff in every restaurant/coffee bar I have eaten in; mini-cab driver; cleaner, gardener, window cleaner, postman; post office counter staff – the list goes on – just too boring to list any more.

Secondly, I am an immigrant. I didn’t grow up or receive my education here.  I have worked almost my entire adult life (and still some) paid taxes, National Insurance, created jobs, with wonderful colleagues raised and invested millions of pounds into breast cancer research; raised two children who are now paying taxes ....  that’s what immigrants do. I have never drawn benefits for unemployment but I have benefited from the NHS, the public library, I draw a state pension into which I paid, I received child benefit when my children were small and many other “benefits” available to all.

So the next time you moan about immigrants – I am an immigrant! 

PS  This is what an immigrant looks like - yes, I snaffled one of those as well.

Monday 13 April 2015

No, my husband does not need to be there!

We have come a very long way since the 1960s when it was almost impossible for a woman to get a mortgage without a male guarantor but clearly not far enough.

Over thirty years ago our electricity supplier offered a free survey to see if any of the electrical points needed updating.  Someone came round and looked at a few and said that probably some of those in the older part of the house did.  I asked him for a quote and he said “I will come back when your husband is here”.  Number One Son was sitting in the living room and heard this and as the front door closed he said “I guess he’s not getting the business then....”

A decade or so later we put in a new kitchen. We received several quotes.  During one of the surveys, Number One Husband was wandering in and out during the process.  I asked the (male) designer to show me their cheapest range so that I could get a benchmark price. “Oooh you don’t need to go for the cheapest one – I’m sure he would want to buy you the best”.  I asked him politely to leave. 

Why should he assume (especially as the appointment had to be in the evening because I was AT WORK during the day) that I wasn’t paying for it?  When customer service phoned with a follow-up call the next day and I told the woman who called what had happened, there was a silence and then she said “I can understand why we are not getting the business”.

Here we go again!  Some of the kitchen cupboard doors are showing wear and I don’t want to replace the kitchen, just the doors. I called two companies – the first referred me to someone local who called to make an appointment (without any questions or requiring anything beyond my address).  The second put me through a dozen “marketing” questions including if I owned the property (fair enough), how long I have lived here, etc etc.  But then she insisted that both my husband and I had to be present.  Erm, no.  Short explanation of why this was neither appropriate nor required and end of conversation.