Tax Returned


    • Organ donation; Let's not forget the sheer immensity of the act

      A positive story hit the headlines today in the form of organ donations reaching a new high.
      More than 3,100 lives were transformed by organ donation in the past 12 months, meeting the challenge set by the NHS Blood and Transplant service (NHSBT) to increase donations by 50%.
      Pretty impressive, I think we can all agree.
      But as so often happens, the media has chosen to take something positive and put a negative spin on it. This time, the reports are at pains to emphasise that despite the sharp increase, too many families are still overruling the wishes of their loved ones.
      The subtext is all too clear; significantly more lives would be changed for the better if the families left behind after bereavement respected the wishes of their loved ones to donate the parts of their bodies they no longer need.
      Initially there is, of course, something very wrong with this picture. Not only are fewer lives being saved, but the people who died thinking they would save lives died in vain.
      That is, of course, if that is what is happening.
      I, however, am inclined to go with the one report who felt it necessary to explain that in most of these cases, the family members are simply not aware of their wishes.
      It’s easy to read the news and judge a person, separated by the pages of a newspaper, for not donating the organs of a loved one.
      But if one simply does not know what their loved one would have wanted to do, how can one expect them to make the decision for them? I am sure that even those who know exactly what their loved ones want, and makes sure these wishes are fulfilled, still find the whole process incredibly difficult. How much more so when you are put in the position for making the decision for them?
      No-one is arguing against the sheer immensity of the act, but when we gloss over the true details of the situation and imply that family members are deliberately not fulfilling the wishes of their loved one, it strips the sheer immensity of the act away, belittling just how massive it truly is. Organ donation is not a given, nay; it is those who do agree to give their organs who should be highlighted in the media - elevated, lauded and thanked.
      There might be a world of difference between donating organs and not; thus transforming lives. But there’s also a world of difference between overruling ones wishes and simply not knowing.

      Joanna Lowy
    • Dancing on Margaret Thatcher's grave? You should be ashamed of yourself.

      Headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated. Milk snatcher. Ruined trade unions and devastated miners. Won back the Falklands Islands. First female Prime Minister in Britain. Axed public spending. Reduced inflation. Boosted home ownership. Helped collapse Soviet Empire.
      As a three-year-old in 1990, when Margaret Thatcher’s leadership came to an end, these swatches of her policies are the only real connection to the woman known as the Iron Lady I have. And whilst I can’t claim for a second that I hold any real passionate views of my own, it is all too clear, to my mind, why the first, and only, female British Prime Minister managed to divide a nation so. The antithesis of Robin Hood, it is not difficult to see why the rich and poor had such differing feelings towards her.
      I can understand why so many continued to harbour this negativity towards her, years after she ceased being in power. Many truly believe – perhaps unfairly, perhaps not - that she sowed the seeds for the economic mess we find ourselves in today.
      I can understand why some have point-blankly refused to mourn her. Northern communities who were most affected by her policies are hardly likely to shed a tear over the woman they believe ruined life for them and their future generations.
      I can even understand why many were adamant that she not receive a state funeral – that she expressly wished against it is neither here nor there.
      But if her death is difficult to mourn, it shouldn’t make it easy to celebrate. That I cannot understand.
      For all those who hated her because they believed she did not have a heart nor value human life, yet are now attending parties celebrating the fact that she is dead, quite frankly, no longer have a leg to stand on in their very real criticisms of the Iron Lady.
      And for all those who, whilst not celebrating parties, are gleefully delighted at her passing, even privately, should also ask themselves when it became acceptable to celebrate a death.
      It’s one thing chanting ‘Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Out! Out! Out!’ during a demonstration intended to halt her policies, circa 1985. But revising this to ‘Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Dead! Dead! Dead!’ 23 years after she has been any danger to politics is absolutely sickening and makes me ashamed to be British.
      In her political life she may not have been for turning, but as a mother and grandmother I’m sure she turned many a time. Celebrating the death of an old woman – no matter what her policies in life - should make you wonder if indeed you, too, have developed a heart of iron.

      Joanna Lowy
    • 'Yeah, the Budget is bleak. So here's a pint to drown your sorrows.'

      All anyone can talk about at the moment is the Budget, following George Osborne’s speech yesterday which outlined where our economy is heading. To sum it up in just a few words - not very far, not very fast.

      This is because the announcement that the economy is to grow by 0.6% this year is in stark contrast to the earlier predicted figure of 1.2% during the Autumn Statement, as is the revelation that borrowing will be up to £144 billion as opposed to the forecasted £108 billion.

      Pretty bleak, I think we can all agree.

      All was not lost though, it seems, as the announcement that the price of a pint of beer is to be cut by 1p was met with cheers, and anyone who has since commented on it as held this particular policy up as a beacon of light on an otherwise dark day.

      Other semi-positive news came in the guise of the employment allowance, which will scrap National Insurance for a third of employers, increasing jobs by 600,000.

      I call these semi-positives because when looked at in conjunction with the rest of the Budget, other realities emerge. This is because although the price of a pint of beer has been cut by 1p, a pint of cider has gone up by 2p, a bottle of wine by 10p and a bottle of spirit by 38p.

      On the job front, the public sector pay cap of 1% has been extended by another year, and official figures obtained by Labour have shown that workers will be, on average, 2.4% worse off by 2015 as the typical increase in salaries lags behind inflation.

      Read alongside other news out yesterday, which has revealed that Britons are being driven to drink by work stress, these budgetary decisions, therefore, make perfect sense. More than a third of adults say their job is the most stressful aspect of their lives, which is why six out of 10 drink after work and one in seven drink during the day. And despite the fact that one in six workers is experiencing depression, stress and anxiety, managers have said they are unable to support them.

      So if, as the Budget suggests, work stress is only set to be on the up, the need for alcohol is likely to increase, too.

      Like I said: the Budget makes sense …

      If Osborne wants to increase alcoholism.

      Bearing in mind beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Britain, with the average person drinking nearly 500 pints a year, thus accounting for almost half of the alcohol drunk in the country, it begs the question why it is this Osborne felt the need to cheapen, as opposed to the lesser consumed wine and spirits – not only for the state of our economy, but for the state of our health, too.

      It seems that he is attempting, quite literally, to assuage the harsh realities of the Budget in the same way that a stressed worker might try to assuage his own worries with a pint of beer. But in the same way that a 1p reduction is really not much to write home about, anyway (“I've done my calculations on the budget and have worked out that if I buy 350 pints of beer I get one free. Well done, George”), so too another pint of beer at the end of a hard day is not going to do anything for a worker’s health or finances.

      Most worryingly of all, the fact that this announcement drew the loudest cheers and a subsequent load of positive responses suggests that, to some extent, the pacifying is working.

    • In defence of The Nap

      It’s that little slice of heaven when you either can’t have, or don’t want, the full pie of sleep. You slowly close your eyes following a faux battle with your subconscious to stay awake. Because let’s face it, by the time you’ve allowed yourself to get into that position, there aint no going back.
      My poor husband is someone who knows this only too well. Every night, without fail, I fall asleep mid-movie, mid-show or even mid-chat. It’s about as inevitable as Justin Bieber causing offence; we know it’s going to happen, whether we like it or not, so we either get annoyed about it or we embrace it. Simples.
      Tomorrow is World Sleep Day. In honour of this, much of the world media has jumped on new research which claims that women are grumpier than men without sleep. I mean duh, that’s as obvious as one of Pippa’s Tips. Women are always grumpier than men, sleep or no sleep.
      What is worth taking note of, however, is that the reason women are grumpier than men without sleep is because they need more sleep than men. The necessity of surplus sleep in women is, we are told, because of ‘exhaustive multi-tasking thought processes’.
      Often my husband will tell me to just retire for the night and go to sleep, rather than breaking up the evening with a nap. But, as I so often tell him, I can’t just end my evening at 9pm. I’ve got things to do, places to be and people to see (in the proverbial sense of the word). I’m a woman, after all. I can’t just switch off fully when I might be needed elsewhere. And even when I do go to sleep for the night it’s invariably never enough, so either way I know I’m going to be tired the next day.
      According to sleep expert Dr Michael Breus, naps are totally acceptable if you are not getting adequate sleep at night. And as previously established, by definition we women will never really get enough sleep at night – and that’s before children. Thus, it seems, naps are the only way forward.
      But The Nap has had an extremely hard time getting positive press. If it isn’t disgruntled husbands shooing it away, it’s the Taxpayer’s Alliance belittling the very notion of a power nap during the day – a la our very own life coach, Jayne Morris - even though as a quick Google search will show you the evidence behind the benefits of this have long been documented.
      This is why I hereby state the need for a National Napping Day, a la the unofficial holiday in America. It is time to break the shackles and stop treating The Nap as the inferior cousin to Sleep.
      In the words of the scientists towards loving male partners: ‘Be more understanding of your grumpier female counterparts, allowing her extra snooze time, or else face the consequences.’
      Couldn’t have said it better my … zzzzzz.
    • If childhood is over by 12, let's take the glee out of it and blame the parents

      Bleakest of the bleak news from last week. Childhood is, according to a Netmums survey, over by the age of the 12. Some even break their mother’s apron strings by as young as 10, the research claims.
      The survey of just over 1,000 parents about their 7-13 year old ‘tweenagers’ revealed some truly shocking facts. One in 10 said their child’s innocence had disappeared as young as 10 and nine out of 10 said their children are under more pressure to grow up fast than previous generations. Just one in 10 said they managed to protect their child from growing up too soon and one in three said they struggled with trying to keep their offspring from growing up too fast.
      Like I said, pretty bleak.
      Four out of 10 blamed magazines with sexual content. One in 10 blamed toys such as Bratz and more than half blamed inappropriate clothing.
      Six out of 10 blamed the internet while half blamed TV programmes, such as Glee, for promoting status and good looks.
      Woah, hang on a second. Glee?
      Glee: That of the bubblegum pop, equality promoting, underdog-hero fame. If there’s one thing Glee is not guilty of, it’s promoting status and good looks.
      For those who know me and are aware of my, let’s call it, sympathetic tendencies towards the all-singing, all-dancing karaoke-fest, I can assure you my horror stems not from any blind affiliation to the hit show.
      But the very nature of the fact that these parents quick to blame have clearly never watched the programme they are denouncing leads me also to another disturbing conclusion: Perhaps they are not as innocent as they are making out.
      After all, who is buying magazines with sexual content for their young ‘uns? Who is bestowing a Bratz doll or two on their little darlings? Who is allowing them to wear inappropriate clothing, surf the web and watch these programmes that are deemed improper?
      At the end of the day, if our children are growing up too quickly, it’s because we are allowing them to.
      As a child my parents were incredibly careful about protecting my childhood. I was not allowed to watch Eastenders until I reached secondary school and did not own a mobile phone until the age of 15. I was not allowed to stay out late or go to certain places without an adult until a similar sort of age. The hyper-sexual societal forces may not have been as great as they are now, but my childhood was still infused with reading, listening to music and spending hours on end in the garden.
      I am not denying for a second that these aforementioned aspects of society do not exist and are not frightfully worrying. But it is ultimately the responsibility of a parent to watch, limit and ensure that what their children are being exposed to is appropriate.
      It was just the other week that my husband saw a young child battling with his father: He, pointing out certain aspects of nature that were exciting him, his father, Smartphone in hand, aggressively trying to get him interested in the latest technology. If our kids are obsessed with all-things-adult it’s because we are too.
      We can blame Justin Bieber all we like for turning up two hours late to his own concert, thus leaving our children exhausted for school the next day. But it’s hardly his fault that parents deemed it appropriate to take children as young as five to see him in the first place.
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