Penny For Them

£     s     d

2    9    6

4    8    7

+ 5   6    4

—————

£12  4s  5d

—————-

Memory escapes slightly but I think that’s the way we used to do it.

Back in the pre-metric days of my primary school, 12 pennies made a shilling and 20 shillings made a pound.

By the time I reached my final year of primary school 100 pennies made a pound. And I became au fait with the decimal point.

The new metric coins were introduced and, gradually, through time the old coins were put to rest. It took years, with certain of the old coins of particular interest being traded, by those in the know, as having more worth than their face value depending on when it had been minted and whose face adorned the other side of tails.

An aunt of mine had a little book, listing those of worth in general circulation, and kept her eyes peeled, hoping to be lucky enough to come across one of the rarities.

Adults at that time, particularly the more aged, were forever heard to be arguing with shopkeepers, believing they were being diddled in their change.

And who could blame them?

One day they had been handing over a pound note to pay for goods costing a shilling and received nineteen shillings, or 228 pennies, in change. The next day, they handed over a pound and received, in change, with an apparently huge shortfall, 95 pence.

Even I felt diddled handing over my thrupenny bit for sweets

A local shop kept two trays of sweets under the counter, one holding sweets costing a penny and the other for goodies valued at a hal’penny.

For my thrupenny bit I could purchase three penny sweets or six hal’penny sweets or any combination amounting to the same. And I could work it out.

Then, one day, those self-same trays allowed me to take one sweet from the penny tray and one from the halfpenny tray or three from the latter. I argued like an old woman despite being about 11. Something was far wrong.

Or so it seemed.

The transition between old money and new felt like we were all being diddled. God bless the shopkeepers. They must have had their work cut out too, trying to pacify irate customers while working out the conversion with the handy list sellotaped near the till and, at the same time, ensure they weren’t going to be pulled up at the end of the day, by their employer, for fiddling.

I’m no expert on economics. Far from it, in fact. When my brother was studying economics as part of his university course in Business Admin, I recollect a conversation we had as he tried to explain the finer points of supply and demand, inflation and deflation and the different schools of thought on the subject. He lost me.

Back then, and even now, I find it difficult to comprehend that price, value and worth are not necessarily synonymous. Perhaps, rarely so.

The value of water is priceless.

The value of a superstar, priceless also, apparently.

The respective worth of each, leagues apart, in life stakes.

The price? I pay very little attention to the cost to clubs when footballers change hands and contracts are negotiated, except perhaps to note the ridiculous sums paid to kick a ball about in the hopes of improving team chances of winning some trophy. I listen, in disbelief, when sums quoted translate to millions in any currency.

I do realise that my lack of interest in football colours my judgement. But, I also wonder at the economics of such transactions when clubs find themselves going to the wall, pass on the cost to supporters and are forever on the lookout for rich investors to save the day and creative accountants to cook the books.

Those interested in football will follow these transactions closely, pay the subsidy at the gates if they can afford to and consider the player worth the cost if a trophy of indeterminate intrinsic worth is brought home to be displayed with pride in a room few will have access to.

Their choice. Doesn’t affect me at all.

Except.

When the perceived worth of something or someone is based on only one factor, there’s something wrong in the state of play.

Yesterday I read a post outlining what the government of Puerto Rico should be obliged to do in order to meet their debts.

In essence, deprive the nation of easy access to water. Among other austerity measures that will hurt the populace.

Comparisons were made to the situation in Greece.

Got debt, must pay.

Somehow, must pay.

You owe, must pay.

Mismanaged economy, must pay.

It strikes me that people don’t change the currency. People don’t create monetary policy. People don’t even understand how economics works. People are guided by those who profess to know and trust that those in the know, those governing on their behalf, are actually doing just that.

People deal with smaller sums. People take what they’re given for their apparent worth and hope that they can balance their own books. Surely, we can trust the financial institutions and associated government bodies and financiers to do their jobs. They’re paid enough to do so.

Yeah, right.

I listen to figures being bandied about, trillions for Trident, billions for welfare, gazillions lost in tax default.

I understand money management on a household scale although often wonder where it all goes. Then I look at the books and note what I’m paying for this and that, remark on the changes in price of milk and bread and the rising cost of insurance. And try to balance the books without diddling anyone.

It seems that some of the economists don’t understand how economics works.

Someone, some many someones, somewhere, scribble some figures on the back of an envelope, flash the possibilities and gamble with the health and wealth of a nation. Different schools of economic thought are used to play risk. Priorities are weighed by different parties. Unrealistic goals and targets are outlined and bankrupted.

And still we allow them to mis/manage our countries. It is the trust of people that has been bankrupted while those who play the game also run the shop and set the prices. We don’t determine the currency and fiddle the exchange rate, although we are guilty of allowing value to be set by others. We are culpable in a system that dehumanises suffering based on accounts and capitalises on effort while penalising poverty.

The people, meanwhile, take their thruppeny bit to the store and can’t figure out why they’re being penalised, why what was affordable and available yesterday has become a luxury item.

Luxury is relative.

Water is not a luxury.

Ordinary people do have value.

The price they are being expected to pay is not worth it.

I can count in old money, I can count in new. Imperial, decimal. It all amounts to the same thing if someone else determines the exchange rate and sets intrinsic worth.

That handy conversion table at the till now lists the price of life against the coin.

Perhaps it always has and those who have counted the cost have been unheard except through revolution or appeals made to the charity of those relatively better off. Who can resist such appeals, even while knowing that sometimes the cause of dire circumstances is not natural disaster but the corruption or mismanagement of a country by those who want their own trophy at any cost?

One thing economists/governments don’t appear to take account of, where maybe they did in the past, is that people will put up with a lot, a really huge amount, an enormous quantity of being diddled, of suffering hardship, of paying the toll at the gate of the game others control, so long as basic requirements are met.

At the most basic, is water and the air we breathe. How much longer before oxygen tanks are issued with a price tag?

mad-hatter-1

Who runs the countries?

Penny for your thoughts?

V is for Liberation

Another song. Very much loud and upbeat and ‘get it up you’. My reasons are real and angry on behalf of people I know. Sick of hearing more bad news. Sanctions have to stop. There is no chorus. No repeat.

Child of sorrow, can you feel the hunger,

Can you hear the whistle on the wind,

Hitched to slavery, ghosts still passing,

Grab your ticket, let the ride begin.

Hollow metal scrapes their rails, tracks rattle,

Wagons pushed and pulled by your own steam,

Fuel the furnace with your sweat and troubles,

Don’t pull the brakes, they cannot bear the screams.

Fill that train to full and overflowing,

Pack them tight together, tight can’t fight,

I’m telling, make a space and take a deep breath,

Get ready now to try to steer this right.

She’s my sister, he’s my brother, see them,

Faces thrust from windows, searching air,

Gulps to catch and hold a little longer,

Surging past, a blur to platform’d stares.

Leaving every hour, each new minute,

Timetabled to the death or sanctuary,

Can you hear the whistle, ghosts are blowing,

One way ticket, round trip back to here.

Disembark and stand upon your platform,

You took the ride, a ticket trip to hell,

New customers are waiting, let the vendors

Hold on tight, they’re owed that trip as well.

Better hope the first lot had a good ride,

What, no sympathy for devils cast,

Alive or dead, they’re coming back to haunt you

Their final journey has to be your last.

Whistle growing closer, steam clouds churning,

Mixing with the cloud forms you can’t see,

Visions, signs in skies, you will not read them,

Better luck than some, I’m shouting ‘V!’

Russian Roulette

This came as a song. Think one guitar, husky voice and slowish tempo. Or make up your own. I’m very democratic. 🙂 And I can’t quite get politics and the short and long term effects of austerity on so many people everywhere out of my head. 

Facing life’s rouletted wheel

Down barrel of a gun,

Bullet to the head would do,

Spent days nearly done.

Emptiness and hope devoid

One missile, once deployed,

Would end the pain, she can’t sustain,

Escape into the void.

He’s swept for mines upon his path

And joked at losing all,

Limbs and life and, lastly, hope

Prepared to take that fall.

A quicker blast than endless shells,

Wary everyday,

He’s the guy who’s being passed by

While gamblers poke and play.

Daughter, son, can’t be outdone,

They’re watching every stroke,

Nitro in their nostrils,

Aware they’re butt of jokes.

Nothing left to lose, they guess,

As parents lose their lot,

Power fracking system,

Systemic in its rot.

Grab the keys, on automatic,

Stakes higher than you know,

Hope berefted diffidence

Finds courage as it grows.

Dismal fog but headlights gleam,

Truth or dare the game,

No gamble on the future

When death and life’s the same.

Extreme Measures

Having just finished watching a programme on the effects of austerity on some of the most vulnerable people in my country I have come to a new understanding of why people resort to extreme measures to counter injustice.

While corporate tax evaders, banks and corrupt politicians elude justice, the penalties and sanctions imposed for minor infractions of the benefits system – being late for an appointment! – hit to the stomachs of children, leave households without electricity or gas and force the sale of personal possessions to survive. Decisions on appeal drag on for months while poverty is compounded with mounting debt at the hands of franchises lending at exorbitant interest rates.

The divide is growing. It does not surprise me in the least that the people of Scotland are supporting in droves a political party that promises to do everything in its power to counter austerity measures imposed by policies this government and previous ones have forced on its citizens while doing nothing to address the real criminals in the crisis that has plagued the UK. A party that represents the only real social party left to offer any effective resistance to the suits that look out for each other.

The haves do what they like while the have-nots have ever less under a regime that would make any dictator proud.

Fuck austerity. I teach children whose lives ARE this programme.

Some will go to Jamaica and Tenerife for their Easter holidays. Some will wonder if they eat. The divide is in my classroom. The evidence of the divide is on my TV, in my newspapers, on blogs I read, in the untruths perpetuated in news and programmes that make criminals of victims while allowing the real criminals to continue on their course of profit at any cost.

I am not a member of any political party at the moment. I am a member of the human race and the day I can’t empathise with my fellow man – most specifically, the children – is the day I will vote for Tories or the now recognised Red Tories, hitherto known as the Labour Party.

If there is anyone who reads this who may ‘fear the onslaught of the SNP’, ‘the tartan terrors’ or whatever other name is being used to denigrate that party, if anyone believes that all who vote for them are only interested in ‘splitting the union’ think again.

The real reason SNP are gaining in popularity is because they are the main party in Scotland to represent what Labour have abandoned.

They actually give a shit which is more than can be said for many in the previous duopoly. They have my vote. Not for being extreme- they’re not extreme enough for me. But right at this moment they are the best option the whole of the UK has to redress the balance by at least offering some resistance to what is currently a crime being allowed to run rampage.

Austerity is a crime against children and families. And I will not stand for it.

Extreme doesn’t begin to describe what I feel after watching this programme.

Yes, I understand better why people take drastic actions to counter injustice.

Mine will be within the letter of the law. But some laws need changing. Soon. Very, very soon.

Ha Ha! Different Strokes

Rise to conquer mighty when such fallen

Bequeath a legacy disdained by all,

Promulgations errant, contemptuous,

While vilifying poorest when they fall,

Guilty of a sin so much the greater

For in greed they measure parity of law,

Where need may criminalise the latter

Connections in the city favour flawed.

Austerity of measures, quoth the parties

While other parties play, committing fouls,

Running rings around the bastions,

A nod, a wink, their penalty, these fowls

Flock together, party on, still launder,

Evade their dues, know their system well,

Blame populace and global economics,

The graphics prove where guilty dwell.

One for all, if mitigation,

Let it be because compassion speaks,

Recognisant, sometimes valid reasons,

Current practice serves the corporate not the weak.

th-1

Tax Evasion versus Benefit Fraud

Different laws for different people,

Different strokes for different folks,

Loaded dice in this monopoly

Get out of jail free card – see the joke?

 

Pain’s Sin

Positioned for the flogging, bending double,

Head to knees, hands to ankles grasp and firmly grip,

Exposed back sweats anticipation, ears awaiting

Swish! another crack of whip.

Bleeding from the wounds not self-inflicted

But not tied or tethered there by chains or cord,

Safety self-assured by strongly spoken,

Enough! Desist! Over! Similar word.

Pain received or given, if consenting, strange to me

Tho’ all kinds it takes to make this world to spin,

But inflicting same, in name of austere measures

While quaffing champagne, that to me, is sin.