Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

In Cornwall, for many 2012 has been gruelling. Job prospects and real wages continue to drop away. Housing stock is ever-reducing, though I see in estate agents' windows second homes being flogged off in St Ives or St Agnes: not helpful. Cornish folk are strong, and many live in communities which try to look after everyone. Yet even in these close-knit societies people seem near to unravelling.

More and more I encounter a weary resignation, a battered worn-out acceptance of the next affliction or sacrifice demanded. Food and fuel price rises; dwindling public services; small businesses starved of cash; the disappointment of the young unemployed; elderly people too frightened to put an extra bar on the fire. Cliche? Not any more.

Just recently it’s been the expense, for many the worry of Christmas. And all the time, cruel advertising pounds out the same message: buy more stuff and be quick about it.

We’re about to enter the fifth year of recession without an end in sight. Banks prosper, everyone else is on their uppers. This is the Cornwall of Cameron and Clegg; it’s unbelievably harsh. I don’t know about you, but I’m almost out of Dunkirk spirit.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Nicola Adams, MBE: Congratulations!

Nicola Adams, the first woman to win an Olympic Gold boxing title, has received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.  Modestly she said: "It’s really good to receive such an amazing award, though it’s all a bit surreal for me.”  The champion flyweight is now aiming to compete at Rio's 2016 Olympics.

Yet just three years ago Nicola’s dream was far from certain.  In 2009 she cracked a bone in her back when she fell down the stairs; for three months she was bed-bound and didn’t box for a year.  She worked her way back just as women's boxing made its first appearance at this year’s London Olympics.

People love Nicola for more than the medal.  She’s enthused from the heart: gleaming eyes, fervour and passion, mega-watt grin.  As usual though, a few sour detractors have whined about the Honours system being devalued because of awards to sportspeople.  But Britain's competitors are among the best athletes in the world; can’t we just recognise and enjoy their success? 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Charades

This Christmas, why not enjoy some traditional festive games of charades:

  • ‘Putting Up With Relatives I Detest’ charade

  • ‘Enduring Old People’ charade

  • ‘Believing in Jesus’ charade

  • ‘It’ll Be Worth It To See The Children’s Faces’ charade

  • ‘The Year’s Most Enjoyable Meal’ charade.

  • ‘Visiting Loathsome Neighbours’ charade

Have a jolly and peaceful Yuletide; may your accompanying long-term debt crisis not break your spirits entirely. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Starbucks: All Donations Gratefully Accepted

Starbucks' tax policies have led to "ill-feeling."
Like their drinks.
Following public outrage across Britain, Starbucks has graciously offered to pay a bit more UK tax. The American global coffee chain has been widely pilloried for its corporate tax avoidance policies.

Kris Engskov, managing director of Starbucks UK, announced the business would pay "a significant amount of tax during 2013 and 2014, regardless of whether the company is profitable."

Starbucks has suggested a £10m annual tax offering, as well as the dues it currently pays. Over the past 15 years that’s £8.5M on sales of £3 billion.

When I last looked into this sort of thing, tax payment to HMRC wasn’t a voluntary activity. Starbucks are simply proposing gifts of tax if and when it suits, as a charitable donation intended to repair brand value.

Engskov claims Starbucks UK is currently unprofitable, hard to believe given its relentless presence on the high street. If margin’s so hard to come by, why doesn’t the company simply shut up shop?

Starbucks’ mission statement is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” It’s an aspiration as nauseous as the slop they serve up.