Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Nel's (very brief) reverse Italian Diary.

It is absolutely horrible. My worst nightmare, in fact. Distressing, unnecessary and offensive. Unaesthetic, ill-judged and just so utterly wrong. Naturally. I'm talking about the return of the cardigan as a hot fashion item for men in the UK this Summer/Winter (it's pretty hard to tell what season it actually is). The fashion in full is pointy shoes, skintight jeans, a Polo shirt, or white tee-shirt and a cardigan. Fortunately, no-one is making me wear this apparel, as I am too old, but I still have to look at it.

Sorry, I meant to write that immediately after returning from Canada, Nel was home for a day, went to Italy and is due back tomorrow. The cats are desperate for her return, Calli was trapped up a tree for most of last night (again!) after apparently trying to race a pigeon to the top. Tosh has taken to sleeping on my head and the apartment looks like it looked just before I spent six hours cleaning it last week.

I visited a two (at least) thousand year old long barrow last Sunday and was enthralled, and spent a very pleasant afternoon listening to BBC Radio Four(which is like Radio One on CBC in Canada, only much better). Accused of British bashing recently, I have to say that if British politicains wanted to claim something a s"Best" then The BBC would have to be a legitimate claim. Especially the Round Britain Quiz.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Day Penultimate: Go to Panic Mode ........

Quite how the house got to be such a tip, I have no idea. For a start, I have'nt been here for most of the time Nel has been away, and when I have been here, apart from today(of which more in a different post), I have made a cup of tea, or cracked open a bottle of Old Speckled Hen, then promptly gone to bed to visit The Land of Nod.

Anyhow, its time to go into Urgent Panic Mode (see photo of cat gym above), so I crack on and make a list:

1. Tidy House
2. Complete Tax forms
3. Pay bills
4. Change pedals on bike to accept new cleats.
5. Write blog
6. Look for new job
7. Go for pint in Pave (as reward).
8. Phone mum
9. Get groceries.
10. Dissassemble cat gym.

This is a daunting list, so I revise it:


1. Tidy up bedroom and kitchen only
2. Leave cat gym in place so Nel can see how cute it is
3. Get groceries
4. Write blog
5. Go for pint in Pave, as reward

1. Take Nel to airport
2. Do'nt tell her about uncompleted tax forms and unpaid bills, and do this after she's gone.
3. Groceries
4. Go for long bike ride as reward.

It has however just occurred to me as I'm writing this blog that I've actually started on neither list, apart from item 5 on the first list, and item 4 on the second. Also, I cannot complete Item 1, because it will disturb the cats.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Day 8. A Very British Train Journey

It's 19.38, late summer by English standards, and I'm in full wet weather cycling regalia returning from yet another eternally long day at work. I have full panniers, one size is a bag of catfood, the other a couple of beer for Match of The Day, a television institution ( a bit like hockey night in Canada, only not hockey, and not Canada) in the UK. I'm also carrying the Darth Vader doll that I was awarded for coming third in the penalty shoot-out during our company away day - proof that Dick is not only brilliant and creative, but has a hilariously ironic sense of humour as well. Every time I remember to throw it away I am in work and do'nt want it found in a garbage bin by some keen eyed manager (Managers get enthusiastic about the strangest things) so it has travelled the 7.33 (delayed) and the return train for the last week or so.

I'm reading Sue Fox's Watching the English, which is a "whimsical and ironic" (what else in England?) examination of, specifically English, manners, and "what it is to be English". The first thought that crossed my mind when my friend Mike offered me this tome, was that if they do'nt know after two thousand years, there's little chance of blinding revelations now. However, I still feel a little displaced here, and any clues as to why may be valuable, so it is my current train read.

My book gets unpacked, and I settle in my seat dipping into WTE, a little impatiently now as Ms Fox's book, as Mike reported, is a bit repetitive. Her findings mainly seem to be that the English are terribly polite, reserved, and do'nt like talking about sex. Any typical social interaction, according to Ms Fox, is ruled by an innate politeness, with a dash of self-depreciating humour, and a peculiar type of reserve that avoids "scenes" at all costs.

My attention is drawn away from my book by the mixed smell of very strong cheap cologne and fading beer. I look up and an early thirties Englishman who is supposed to be typically reserved kicks my bike, and repeats the question he had apparently addressed to me, "Wha'y're reading that? This yours?" indicating the bike, "Oh, sorry, mate, is this your bike? Looks good. Cost you loads? Did'nt mean to kick it, like". His pal launches into another series of unrelated, comprehensible-only-to-a-drunk questions "You beating the system? hull, isit? you rise de ya, an all? no offense, mate,we're f**kin pissed just got divorced y'no warra mean? no offense, mate wyreya readin' tha, I'lltell ya whas English", he leans over and snatches at my book.

Next, the other lad starts rambling in a similar vein, except now he starts discussing with his pal his apparent long-standing desire to posses a good bike, and maybe he'll just take this one. He's leaning in close by now, hand on the back of my seat, pathetically attempting intimidation I think, and obsessed in a way that only drunks can be, by this one idea that he's going to somehow take my bike when we arrive in Hull.

This conversation is not going the way Ms Fox promised it would. According to Ms Fox, the most conversation I could expect from a stranger on a train is a desultory comment on the weather followed by perhaps a rather pithy remark about the lateness of the trains and how bad the tea at railway stations tends to be. I still have'nt contributed to the conversation, and feel it is my duty to do so, but I'm a bit out of my depth. The last time I experienced a similar situation was before we left for Canada, and I think I was more attuned to English ways at the time. I consult the index of Ms Fox's book - perhaps there's an appendix titled "By the way, there's also a sub-culture of arrogant Dickensian proletariat for whom normal rules of behaviour are as lacking as the word 'share' is in a cat's vocabulary ". Alas, no such appendix exists, so I have no recent reference with which to formulate a response.

But old, tired habits die hard, and automatically, the default setting kicks in "Piss off and leave the f**kin bike alone. I've been graftin all day and I wanna f**kin get some sleep. No offense lads, but just f**k off". This by the way is a complete act on my part, calculated bravado, but rooted in experience. It is an unfortunate fact that where reasoning would fail, appeals to common decency would fail, attempted chuminess would probably have failed, and cowering would definitely have failed in securing a peaceful train ride, in England a strong regional accent - particularly Scouse or Glaswegian, succeeds. The same sentences, delivered in a different regional accent, even that of our boys home town, would have only extended the intrusion.

With my accent it is different. The boys back off, sit down, express solidarity with the working man, tell me how Liverpool are the best football team, how they've been to Liverpool, got "hammered" and had a great time, and love Scousers. "No problem, mate, just havin a laugh". I respond gracefully "Yeah, whatever", close my book, close my eyes secure in the knowledge that my reputation for being tough will now protect the bike, and I dream of little puddy tats all the way back to Hull. It appears that I do know what it is to be English, after all.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

A cautious whiff of optimism

I have never posted on the beautiful game before on this blog, perhaps because the most succesful club in the history of English football have been rather disappointing over the last few years (apart from a fifth European Championship in 05 and runners-up in 06).

But watching the first two games of the new season, I think every English, and European club should be very afraid of Liverpool Football Club this season.

There, I've done it, I've made a prediction. Now all I need to do is persuade Nel to let me gamble the proceeds from our house sale on Liverpool success this year. It's a sure bet, a dead cert.

also on being 'British'

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

For Sale: No really, I mean it this time...

For sale: One 17lb barn cat, plus One small 5lb Ontario barncat. 5lb cat likes to climb trees, in fact enjoys most aerial pursuits, and has tried flying. Practically non-vocal, except when confronted with closed door at 11.35pm. Given to chasing much bigger cats (especially large black Tom cats) and springs. Estimated annual upkeep $6000- $25,000.

Will accept Grasshopper's offer to house on following terms;
1. I get world's cutest Bunny
2. You get one 17lb barn cat, one 5lb barn cat, plus two free carry cases, neither of which 17lb cat will fit into.
3. I will pay £359,453.00, plus airfare, plus annual vets bills, plus royalties, intellectual copyright and any other ludicrous claims.

Am willing to better this offer to anyone who can promise more immediate closing of deal.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

For sale: The Final Straw

Right, that's it:

For sale (I will pay well), to anyone. Anywhere. I will accept reverse charge phone calls from Ulan Bator.

One large 17lb Ontario barn cat. Disobedient, destructive, vocal, kind of pink-coloured with unattractive habit of walking all over computer keyboard during crucial e-mails and grooming nether regions. Interrupts crucial negotiations over sale of real estate by tearing down curtains because not getting enough attention. Will not listen to commands.

Has enormous appetite, tendency towards diahorrea and spoilt by female co-owner, but nothing that good spell in the Army would'nt correct. Attacks his very cute little sister, balding male heads, and puts paw up nose of humans at 6.00am. Bites elbows.

Free Cat carrier provided.

Panic in the streets of Hull

Nel has been away for some time now, and the cats definitely have issues. Tosh and Calli both have cabin fever brought on by lack of attention and there's outbreaks of kitty grumpiness everywhere. Tosh is incredibly vocal and is miaowing loudly all throught the night and wants attention all the time. Calli wants her space and launches escape bids at every opportunity. Home is chaos.

Had a very delicious dinner at Mike and Christines and have plans to see the jazz on Thursday in a nearby village.

In work Asshole has quit. There will be a brief more about this in a fuller post, because there's more too this than meets the eye.

Final bit of panic over house sale is in progress. Still not sure exactly what is going on but realtor is to blame and seems to have introduced an unnecessary delay in closing the deal. We shoudl be liquid right now but this has not yet happened. Watch this space....

Sunday, 12 August 2007

DayFour ; Time to start drinking heavily....

"14. Form T2062A, Request by a Non-Resident of Canada for a Certificate of Compliance Related to the Disposition of Canadian Resource or Timber Resource Property, Canadian Real Property (Other than Capital Property), or Depreciable Taxable Canadian Property, is to be used for reporting the proposed or actual dispositions of properties identified in paragraph 4 above. Except as otherwise noted below, the notification process for Form T2062A is the same as the process outlined for form T2062 in paragraphs 6 to 12 above."

Tax issues lie heavily atop, almost as heavily as Toshack, who has become incredibly clingy since Nel left, and who not only follows me round everywhere miaowing, but also sleeps on top of me at night, riding my constant turning (so Nel tells me), like a skilled surfer balancing on the crest of a wave. He's convinced, I think, that if he does this it will be impossible for me to leave, although I do so every morning for work, to his amazement.

The above tax form is also linked to IC172.17, T4056(E), NR7-R, T1243, T1-2006(Schedule3), T2062 E, and T2091 (ND). All of which on a second and third reading are necessary in order to report that we have made a modest Capital Gain on the house we sold in Nova Scotia.

I telephone the Canadian Revenue Agency Non-Resident Office for advice and help on how to unravel the Gordian knot. Mme LaPierre is on the other end of the phone quickly,and apologizes immediately for not knowing her job, having only been in post for two weeks. It is possible she may not be able to give me any help, or advice.

I sketch out the details of the labyrinth which I require her to illuminate , so that I can avoid the Minotaur of over-paying the Canadian Government money that they did'nt earn anyway. I already know that

(a). We may have to pay no Capital Gains on the property
(b) We may have to pay up to 50% of $12,968.72 Capital Gains tax on the property

Web searches have also revealed that we may either be deemed non-residents of Canada, or Emigrants from Canada. Clarification on these fine points of law, is therefore, to me, a six thousand dollar question. Mme LaPierre confirms that residency status depends on "essentially, Mr Nickson, on whether you have retained ties to Canada. For example, if you have many friends here, and you had many parties,went for dinner etc., then you may be a non-resident. If no friends - voila! [ok, she did'nt say 'voila'] Emigrant". This confirms my own findings, but I'm getting the feeling that Madamoiselle is putting her own Quebec interpretation on the law here.

Establishing our residency status at exact times is critical, according to the CRA Website, and there does seem to be a difference between non-residents and Emigrants. I need to get to the bottom of the issue "Can you tell me if I am non-resident or Emigrant?". "No, only you can decide that, the guidelines are in the Website. Or you could ask your friends to write to the Government". I'm beginning to flag so I half seriously ask "Does it mean that if I have friends in Canada, I do NOT have to pay Capital Gains Tax?" . "No", Mme LaPierre laughs "You still have to pay. You always pay. Everybody pays."

We're getting nowhere except complimenting each other with our respective accents. I then ask a question, that I already know the answer to "Can you go through these forms with me and help me fill out just three lines, I'm confused about?". Mme LaPierre laughs again, "No, I cannot do that, I just tell you what forms you should be filling out".

Faced with the choice of paying either £6,000 tax or no tax, I opt for electing to pay "no tax", with a covering letter saying that if I have to pay £6000.00, then the Canadian Government should feel free to take it.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Day Three; Need to do some serious housework

Just back from Logical's annual "away day". The company is an events management and "communication" company. Everyone was really up for it, and there were company games, lots of inspiring speeches from the Directors (who promised to "listen"), and several hours in the company of Twin bum, who I've decided to rename AH. Make your own mind up what AH stands for. The event was horrible, horrible, horrible. Let cats out as soon as I got home. Both ran away, and have just been returned by Steven And Charlotte, after I'd looked for them twice and nearly given them up for the night.

Renovating the Summer Away

Halifax had a rare "heat wave." 25C+ every day for two whole weeks. Normally, Carl and I would have used this opportunity to bask and play. Instead, however, we foolishly embarked on a "1-day" renovation that took many more days than that.

We were stuck working in two small, hot, sweaty bedrooms while the last of the Halifax summer blazed outside our windows.

But at least Cloaky helped make things go smoother by staying out of trouble while all of our bedroom contents were piled up in the dining room...

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Diary while Nel's in Canada ; Day Two

Tosh slept on my head last night. Calli has gone into inscrutably annoyed phase and appears round the house in weird places glaring at me, surprising me every time. Got promoted at work without being consulted, and made a train-buddy. British Postal Service on strike again. Still working on the tax form.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Diary: Nel's away for 3 weeks.

Night one:

Toshack runs away and plays hide and seek in yard until 12.45am. Calli gets overexcited and yacks up in the bedroom. Martin eats two steak and kidney pies , attempts Capital Gains Tax form for house sale. Gives up and waters tomatoes. Resolves to write Steven a note apologizing for mess.(nota bene: Nel left the house in tip-top condition less tha 24 hours ago and it nowe looks as if a bomb has gone off).

Cater means four

Joey Mac was giving me directions to a Pool Hall in Halifax. "You go down Spring Garden Road to the Royal Bank, and Planet Pool is right there, kitty corner to the Royal Bank". I had no idead what he was talking about. I knew where Spring Garden Road was, also the location of the Royal Bank, as they serviced our increasing debts. Then I imagined the polydactyl toed cat Minch exiting the Royal Bank, (having satisfactorily resolved her temporary financial glitch with the bank manager). Where would she go? My experience of cats is if it was quiet on the street, she's probably stand still, twitch her tail, lick her bum, then stalk off in search of food. But which direction?

The problem is, Canadians use "kitty corner" as if it is as self explanatory as "up" or "down". Later, I found out that "kitty corner" means "diagonally opposite". I tried observing many cats, both in motion, and in stasis, and also tried measuring them to ascertain where the phrase came from, but observation failed as no cat walks in a straight line anywhere, and as for cats having corners, I tried, but could not find one.

I suppose the obvious solution would have been to Google the phrase, but I've studiously avoided doing that, as I think every language should have its mysteries. My mother's own wierd mix of English, Scouse and Irish includes the healthy use of phrases, usually directed at me, such as "You spend money like a man with no arms", or "You look like the Wreck of the Hesperus", or the classic "You can't go out looking like that - tu'penny head and farthing tail, people will think you were dragged up on the Dock Road". Strangely, I usually understood what she was talking about, but kitty corner has eluded me until now. At last, reading a book(a very silly crap book about the SAS or murders or something), the origin of the phrase was explained. Kitty corner is simply a derivative of the phrase cater corner. Cater was Old English for "four", or "quarter", and cater corner was used to describe diagonally opposite points of squares.

Solving this problem though, and admitting that there is a logical explanation for kitty corner though, is one thing. It does not however, excuse the phrase "in behind".

Monday, 6 August 2007

Moulin Rouge

Congrats on the house. New there had to be some others in Halifax to see its potential (despite its beigeness). A
few pics of our new place. For every wall that goes beige, a new red one is born to take its place.

Sunday, 5 August 2007


If anyone has anything interesting to write, please fill a page or so over the next week. I've been incredibly busy since getting back from NS, and while Transpennine Express have continued to blight my life, Jobcentre Plus are still threatening to suspend the dole I never recieved and have not claimed for for over three months now, and while Twinbum continues to be incredibly annoying, Tosh continues to catch frogs and Nel is off to Ontario, I have'nt the time to write just now, despite our life continuing to verge on the ludicrous.

Hopefully postings will resume with an approximate twice a week frequency towards the end of this week.

Oh yeah, we sold our house in NS (fingers crossed)