Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Untoward Fate

Guardian prison interview with Steve Gough - the "naked rambler" or serial indecent exposer according to your taste. I'm not sure I'd like to meet him when out for a stroll with the kids, but his periods out seem to be shorter and shorter these days - possibly due to his attempts to live his entire life naked - including his air travel. Apparently ever since his 2006 attempt to walk naked to John O'Groats he's been in a series of Scottish prisons - often being arrested immediately outside them as he leaves, naked, having just completed a sentence.

Eventually Gough's case was heard at Scotland's appeal court, where it was found that breach of the peace should indeed be interpreted to criminalise his behaviour. Since then Scottish sheriffs have fallen in line; his sentences have steadily increased to the maximum and, should he keep refusing to dress, he will be caught in an endless cycle of two-year sentences. He insists if he were allowed to return home naked to Eastleigh, he'd cease being naked in public "when I don't have to do it any more".
I have an awful feeling this story's not going to end well.

Whenever he pops up on the news (usually having been sent to prison yet again) I'm reminded of this passage from Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd :
George's son had done his work so thoroughly that he was considered too good a workman to live, and was, in fact, taken and tragically shot at twelve o'clock that same day -- another instance of the untoward fate which so often attends dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of reasoning to its logical conclusion, and attempt perfectly consistent conduct in a world made up so largely of compromise.

Osborne - The Heir To Brown and his Stealth Welsh Cake Tax

Osborne is truly the heir to Brown, although I doubt Gordon was big on coke and hookers in his student days. He's the heir in that the tax rises only become apparent in the days after the budget, couched in terms like "simplification" (a great phrase for his granny tax) and "correcting anomalies".

The "Greggs Tax", which adds 20% to the cost of food if it's bought hot (effectively taxing a pasty from the bakers like a restaurant meal), will, apart from wiping out the supermarket rotisserie counter (but good news ! when the chickens are stone cold there'll be no VAT!), do terrible damage to Swansea.

At the literal and metaphorical heart of Swansea Market (itself the heart of what the developers have left of the city) are the two stalls which make Welsh cakes on hotplates. There are other stalls selling the cakes, but aficionados like them hot. Whenever I'm there (quite often) I'll pick up some cold ones to take home and for work colleagues, and hot ones to eat within the hour at a relative's. Round the cake stalls are laver bread, cockles, local butter and cheese and other goodies. You may gather I'm fond of the place.

Hot cakes are already more expensive than the cold ones on other stalls, which are baked offsite. Adding a 20% tax to these cakes is a cruel blow to these small but historic businesses and to Welsh cake lovers all over the civilised world.

I doubt very much that Osborne has ever set foot in Swansea Market. It may not be his fault, but in the Commons he has the air of someone who at school might have delighted in holding lower-form boys heads in the toilet then pulling the chain.

I hope that the Welsh Assembly will be in uproar over this iniquitous tax. Let's see what the Plastic Parliament in Cardiff is made of. If ever a tax strike could command overwhelming support it would be here.