Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Give over, Gordon!

A few blogs ago, I expounded the theory that the world is divided into two groups; those with fascinating lives who are too busy to blog about them, and those with little to write about but all the time in the world to do so.

I have to confess that I have crossed the line from Group A to Group B.  Once, only the enforced inactivity of plane or train journeys afforded me the chance to hit the QWERTY.  I was stressed.  You can feel the pain in some of my blogs.  Sometimes the ironing didn't get done for three weeks, and I dreaded misreading my diary and missing a gig.  I was forever turning down invitation from friends.  I yearned for less pressure and more free time.

Then I gave up my full-time job without another to jump to.  I had several red-hot irons in the fire and was confident I'd get fixed up pretty quickly.  My confidence was misplaced: several months on, I'm still freelancing here and there but there are weeks when the diary is bare.

And I hate it.  I just can't do inactivity.  You know how when battery hens are released by animal liberationists, they stand around, baffled, disorientated and unhappy?  Their previous life might have been hideous but at least it was familiar.  It's quite a while until ancient instincts kick in and they start pecking and scratching.  I am that chicken.  I have all the time in the world and don't know what to do with it.

The question is: can I write an entertaining blog when I've hardly anything to write about?  That's a challenge, and any challenge has to be better than gawping at daytime TV ("Join us on This Morning tomorrow and meet the woman whose husband cheated on her with 53 other women," Philip Schofield just trailed after the ITV Lunchtime News.  Dear God!).

I know, let's do: "A Vist to the Charity Shop."  That doesn't sound like a particularly fecund terrain, does it?  Right, here goes....

My mantra these past few indolent weeks has been: keep busy!  One way of doing so was to give my flat a seroius declutter.  Consequently, yesterday found me struggling onto the 87 bus with six arm-breaking bagfuls of accumulated junk (quality junk, mind!).

And here's the interesting thing: I was given a Gift Aid form to fill in.  Gift Aid, as you probably know, is tax relief on money donated to UK charities.  Provided donors pay sufficient UK income tax, the charity can claim it back.  (Financial matters always make my head spin, but it seems to this layman it would be far simpler, kinder and fairer if the Government just declared charitable donations tax-exempt.  Pardon my naivety.)

I wasn't donating any cash, just clothes, CDs and books.  Believe it or not, tax is payable even on profits from the sale of my unwanted tat!  Do you think whilst Gordon Brown watches TV of an evening, instead of doing a spot of knitting, he squeezes stones in the hope of extracting a single drop of blood?

Every item I handed over had to have a sticker attached so that, when it was sold, it could be matched to my Gift Aid code number.  All this effort to earn extra coppers on the sale of a 20p paperback or 50p shirt.  The charity shop lady said she spent a minimum of three hours every week, bashing these codes into the computer.  What happens at charity shops without sufficient staff or where the volunteers don't have computer skills?  Are good causes missing out on revnue?

At least there's an upside to this tiresome bureaucracy: because a record must be kept of how much my items raise, the shop can email me the total in a few weeks' time.  This is supposed to create 'charity shop loyalty', ensuring I don't take the results of my next clear-out elsewhere.

The same evening, I donated online to another charity in recognition of a cousin's plan to run this year's London Marathon.  When it came to the Gift Aid section, one of the questions was: are you related to the person you are sponsoring?  It seems that, if you are, the charity can't claim back the tax!  Why?  How can our relationship possibly make a scrap of difference?  Should I have lied and said I was a friend?  It would have increased my donation by £10, according to my calculation.  Are public servants actually paid to investigate such matters instead of doing something remotely useful?  Can one be punished if such a well-intentioned deception is uncovered?

Maybe I should use some of my free time to start a campaign to stamp out all this mean-spirited, arcane nonsense.  I probably won't, though.  I have to stay positive and believe that, before long, another fabulous full-time broadcasting position will come along for me to grab, and I'll be back to stress, sleep deprivation and unironed laundry, happily complaining that I desperately need some free time.

1 comment:

  1. I found this quite an eye opener actually. Gives a little food for thought......[Enters Philosophical Thinking Mode]