Tax Returned


    • Kate Middleton: Princess or person?

      “Kate Middleton? Oh she is so normal. Did you hear that she is to live with her parents – NOT Buckingham Palace after the baby is born? AND she has decided not to hire a nanny. She’s pure middle-class and that’s why we love her!”
      Or some variation. 
      Ever since Prince William announced his engagement to the girl from Berkshire three years ago, the world fell in love. It was as if we were all little girls, all over again, dreaming of a Prince Charming sweeping us off her feet.
      It never happened to us. But it did happen to someone who, when you think about it, really is not so dissimilar to us. By championing her normalness, therefore, and demonstrating just how alike we were to her, we could truly imagine an alternate reality where we were the lucky girl chosen to marry into royalty, had the stars aligned in our favour.
      Except, we don’t really expect her to be normal at all; rather, we demand the opposite.
      Ever since her catapult into the Royal Family and, thus, the public eye, every look, outfit, pair of shoes, hairstyle and what she eats for breakfast have been scrutinised. Many have even been desperate to applaud the Duchess of Cambridge for her “textbook” labour - which was said to be just under 12 hours – as if she actually had something to do with it, and even more extreme reports have linked the breaking of her waters to the breaking of the heat wave. Kate Middleton is more than just a princess, we seem to be saying – she is a goddess.
      The latest furore surrounding the birth of her son yesterday seems to be impinged on the spotting of the royal hairdresser arriving at the hospital – sparking rumours she is to leave soon and introduce the future king to the salivating world.
      As one media source explained, “like any new mother, Kate will ideally want to look her best”. But not many mothers I know are – or need to be - overly concerned about how they look just hours after pushing a baby out.
      It would appear we are split between wanting a fairytale image of perfection and the people’s princess. And, it would seem, the two are mutually exclusive.
      However ‘normal’ her roots may be and, indeed, however down to earth she may have remained despite her drastic lifestyle change, the fact remains that our obsession with her perfection far outweighs this.
      We must decide who we want Kate Middleton to be. If she is, indeed, first and foremost a princess, then by all means drool over her every look, outfit, pair of shoes, hairstyle and what she eats for breakfast.
      But then don’t wave the ‘she’s so normal’ flag, either, because no one I know had to announce their pregnancy before the recommended three months. No one I know was judged on their appearance whilst pregnant. And no one I know had to forgo the privacy of throwing up each morning, in the comfort of their own home.
      Kate Middleton is a princess. But we could, if we were really feeling generous, allow her to be a person for a short while – spending time not on her hair but with her – not our – son, before she must share him with the world.
        Joanna Lowy
    • Modern Shakespeare, by a pupil of Gove's new curriculum

      To be a pupil of the new curriculum, or not to be a pupil of the new curriculum - that is the question:
      Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
      The subtractions and additions of outrageous formulas
      Or to take arms against a sea of troubles – the battle of 1066, specifically -
      And by opposing end them. To cry, to sleep--
      No more--and by a sleep to say we end
      The toothache (the dentist did warn us) and the thousand unnatural shocks of overloading the brain
      That a five-year-old flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation (don’t worry, we will soon know what that means)
      Devoutly (and that) to be wished. To cry, to sleep--
      To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, where's the grub (hey, have you forgotten we’re still kids?)
      For in that sleep of the death of childhood what dreams may come
      When we have shuffled off this mortal coil (a physics term, we think)
      Must give us laws. Where's the respect
      That makes disaster of so long strife.
      For who would bear the whips and scorns of times tables,
      Th' education secretary's wrong, the proud parents confused
      The pangs of despised Gove, the law's delay,
      The insolence of the office of the Department for Education, and the spurns
      That patient merit of th' unworthy mistakes,
      When he himself might be made quiet,
      Without his teddy bear? Who would forget his teddy bear (Mr Gove, apparently)
      To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
      But that the dread of something after nursery,
      The undiscovered syllabus, from whose scorn
      No pupil returns, the new algorithm puzzles,
      And makes us rather bear (don’t mean to harp on but where has mine gone?) those ills we have
      Than fly to other curriculum’s of other countries that we know not of?
      Thus science does make cowards of us all,
      And thus the native hue of evolution
      Makes us sick with the pale cast of thought (solar system? Speed? Evolution? All in primary school? Help!)
      We are enterprises of great titch (we are only small) and easily out of the moment (did someone say ice cream?)
      With this regard their blackcurrant Ribena turns awry
      And uses the name of fractions. -- Soft you now,
      The fair school-leaver! – Robots? In your dreams
      Be all my revision remembered.

      Joanna Lowy
    • 'Restructure' our streets to make them safer. Then we'll talk about banning the school run

      The UK’s public health chief, John Ashton, has caused quite a commotion with his comments yesterday claiming that parents should be banned from dropping their children off at the school gate.
      Of course we can see where he’s coming from. A mere quarter of a mile each day, he claims, will make a real difference in the fight against childhood obesity. And with childhood obesity-related hospital admissions quadrupling in the past 10 years, there is no denying that this is a very real, very dangerous reality.
      Aside from the fact that I feel ‘ban’ is a very strong word, particularly in this context (after all, this is hardly a punishable crime), I think Mr Ashton is somewhat short-sighted.
      Yes, cities, I am sure, can be ‘restructured to tackle problems with modern life’, as he has suggested, but unless he restructures the streets to keep paedophiles out, it’s just not going to happen.
      I am all for government action to improve child health, but I just don’t believe this is the way.
      I don’t mean to sound young, but streets nowadays are just not what they were 50 years ago (from what I’ve heard). Tales of 50-somethings of when they were younger, playing in the streets without supervision and walking to school alone are, unfortunately, just that – tales. As a 26-year-old, it is not even something I can reminisce over. And let’s be honest, obesity is a lesser evil than the unmentionable alternative.
      Parents on the whole will not, I believe, allow their young ones to walk to school unaccompanied as it is simply just not safe.
      Then again, with teachers like Jeremy Forrest around, it might not even make a difference anymore.

      Joanna Lowy
    • Why updating Monopoly to reflect today's housing prices is a waste of time

      A perhaps light-hearted news article out today based on some research from Halifax mentions updating Monopoly to today’s London house prices.
      On reading the headline alone, you may – like me – become horrified at the thought of changing the classic game.
      True, on closer inspection it seems that there are no such calls for this to actually take place. But the research alone, which seems to compare house prices in 1936 – when the game first came out – to house prices now, and jiggles the sets around respectively, is really rather meaningless.
      It claims that although the highest and lowest properties are still Mayfair and Old Kent Road respectively, the properties in all the other colour categories are no longer accurate. Whitehall – originally the seventh cheapest – has gone up 10 places to the sixth most expensive area to buy, whilst Vine Street has fallen eight places from 11th to third least expensive. Fleet Street has also fallen seven places, from 13th to sixth, according to the Halifax experts.
      Which is all well and good. But let’s be honest. If we’re really concerned about the game being a true representation of reality, there are other things we should probably change first.
      Like the fact that income tax is a flat rate of £200 – no matter how much you are worth in the game. Free parking? I would comment but I’ve never heard of it. And let’s be realistic here, with house prices spiralling in London at 6% a year, you’re probably going to need more than £1,500 to start with and longer than a couple of hours to play – probably more like 14.5 years, if recent figures are to be believed.
      In fact, the only thing that seems to be accurate is the rule about houses – once the 32 have been built, no substitute is allowed – somewhat reminiscent of the housing shortage we have now.
      Want to be more realistic? Throw in some homeless shelters and a couple of council estates.
      But then, it wouldn’t be much fun, would it? And playing games is supposed to be fun, after all.
      Let’s be honest – if Monopoly really was an accurate depiction of the housing market, I doubt any of us would want to play anymore.
    • Superman: Now at a cinema near you, not your local GP surgery

      A poll by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) released today has revealed that 85% of GPs believe general practice is in crisis and that they can no longer guarantee safe care. Ninety-three per cent believe working in general practice is more stressful than it was five years ago and 84% believe their workload has increased substantially.
      It’s all too easy to pile the pressure on the good ol’ family doctor. It seems convenient, somehow, to take our frustrations out on what is so often our first point of contact with the health service.
      But then again, general practice only receives 9% of NHS funding, so what can one expect?
      Apparently the world.
      Following weeks of less-than-subtle hints that GPs are somehow responsible for the current crisis in A&E departments, and despite the above figures, Sir Bruce Keogh has now intimated that GP’s should be expected to provide 24/7 care; what the medical director has coined ‘decision support’.
      But does the fact that 22% of those polled admitted to seeking support, guidance or advice for work-related stress not mean anything? Not even for the sheer pity of it, but for the very obvious implications this is then going to have on the already overworked system? Because if GPs are expected to be on call every hour of the day, 22% is going to become laughable; a mere drop in the ocean.
      There will be no GPs left.
      If you’re looking for Superman, try Man of Steel. You can get tickets here. Supposedly it’s very good.
      Unfortunately, as far as I know GPs are not yet super humans. I’m sure we’ll be informed if that changes.

      Joanna Lowy
NHS Purchasing
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