Blog Archive

Monday, February 1, 2016

Goodbye Ziggy, Bureaucracy UK vs France, Latest Corbynomics

Goodbye David Bowie

There are a few brilliant singer songwriters and classical artists whose music occasionally moves me to tears. But there is only one who has actually influenced my life as well. That artist is David Bowie, whose continual re-invention has not ceased to shock and surprise, right up to and beyond his death on January 10th. He released Blackstar, his final album two days beforehand. Now that I have listened to Blackstar, it is clear that it was designed to mark his death. I had already got that feeling with ‘Where are we now’ on his previous album. That single was another surprise as it was released in January 2013 live on Radio 4’s Today programme as I was driving to work. No advertising, no pre-launch, nothing. I am sure that no other rock star has ever released anything on BBC Radio 4 as their world premiere!

His music is legendary and needs no introduction. Bowie influenced the way I dressed at university, as I am sure he influenced millions of people in many different ways. He was original, inspirational, futuristic, open-minded, artistic, enigmatic, shy and different. In 1997 he found a new way to fund his career, selling the rights to future royalties from his extensive body of work. Bowie struck a licensing deal with music firm EMI, allowing him to package up and sell bonds on royalties for 25 albums released between 1969 and 1990, including Ziggy Stardust and Let’s Dance. The move was a success. US insurance firm Prudential Financial bought the shares for $55m (£37.8m).

Bowie was even adept when it came to economic predictions. In 2002, he told the New York Times that music sales would decline. Music itself was set to become “like running water or electricity". At the time I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. Now, of course, his prediction has come true as we subscribe to music streaming services like Spotify, iTunes and Amazon Prime, rather than purchase albums as we did before. More like paying the water or electricity bill! 

Bureaucracy in UK vs France

Both my wife and I were unfortunate to have lost our driving licenses over the Christmas break. I lost my UK licence at the airport after I had to produce it for a car rental; my wife’s French one was stolen when thieves broke into the car and stole her handbag. So we have both been through the process of getting a replacement driving licence. The contrast between the UK system and the French one is quite stark:

1. Go online and enter Address, Passport and National Insurance Numbers
2. Wait a few seconds whilst details are verified online
3. Pay £20 fee by card online
4. New Driving Licence confirmed and sent by post
5. New Driving licence dropped through our letterbox a few days later

1. Go online to review process and download forms for printing 

2. Complete forms

3. Go to Police Station to get certification of loss / stolen produced on official from 

4. Go back to Police Station with car to show evidence of break in to car to confirm loss 

5. Get new official photographs made that conform to passport regulations at professional photographer or appropriate automatic machine [correct coins required]

6. Go to newsagent to buy a €25 official stamp that is required for the replacement

7. Take photocopies of all documents as stipulated in instruction forms

8. Go to Town Hall with downloaded forms completed, photos, passport and evidence of address and Police document, and copies of all of them

9. Go back to Town Hall and queue for second time because the bank statement you provided with your address was not sufficient evidence. Show Local Tax bill in your name instead. 

10. Go back to Town Hall for third time and queue behind lady with dog who has come to collect the free box of dog crap bags that dog owners are given, to discourage their dogs from shitting on pavement. Local Tax bill rejected as Utilities Bill required. Police document also rejected because home address does not match one of the other documents and crime location misspelt by police officer. [Note to self: remember to go to Town Hall next time I need decent plastic bags]. 

Free Dog Poo bags available from your Town Hall

11. Go back to Police Station for third time to get document corrected. Police servers all down so changes are made by hand. Police Officer telephones Town Hall to check that hand made changes will be accepted accompanied by signature and official stamp. Town Hall unable to confirm if acceptable as only the Prefecture would know. 

Servers were down but the guy who burgled our house was being held in the cell, having been caught and released. He had since re-burgled and the police were just about to release him again.

12. Return to Town Hall for fourth time. Long wait while elderly lady is helped to complete form which she has to start again as crossing out is disallowed. Next to go is a Gentleman who has his form rejected due to signature slightly overlapping box, and photo not in line with regulations. Finally all forms submitted and accepted with the caveat that they may well be rejected by Prefecture. Small talk with employee after which she requests mobile phone number in case there are any problems. 

13. Await confirmation of acceptance. If not, go back to 1. 

14. Await delivery of new driving licence. Ensure you are at home at the time of delivery (unspecified) as signature is required or document will not be released. 

15. New driving licence finally arrives and is signed for 3 weeks later.

16. Invitation to receive the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest accolade, for having correctly completed documents. [Okay I made that one up].

Currently there are 3.5 million unemployed people in France. If the process above were automated it would probably double to 7 million.

Corbynomics: 2 + 2 = 17

New Labour Party policies under Jeremy Corbyn announced on the Andrew Marr show:

1. Continue with the UK Trident nuclear deterrent but without nuclear missiles. [A bit like saying you can have the submarines but they mustn’t go under water].

2. Change the law to allow sympathy strikes. [This is what Thatcher fought to eliminate in the 80s: one organisation goes on strike and others are allowed to strike in sympathy for their cause].

3. Companies not permitted to pay shareholder dividends unless their employees are earning the living wage. [Nice in theory; terrible in practice. Companies already have to pay a fast rising minimum wage by law; these restrictions would cause mass unemployment]. 

This month's quote:

“Turn and face the strange”

David Bowie - from Changes (Hunky Dory, 1971).

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