Glimpse Of Blackpool

Blackpool is often rated as Britian’s No. 1 holiday destination so it seems fitting that some friends would plan a nice weekend getaway there to experience the sights and sounds of the quaint seaside town (although I must admit, Blackpool doesn’t really compare to Brighton, which I much prefer). I suppose you could say it’s the closest thing the UK has to Disneyland. Here are some of the snaps they sent me!

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You can’t go to Blackpool without visiting Blackpool Tower.

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Sadly, there were no Moomins to be seen in Blackpool, but apparently there are tons of golleys to be won as prizes at Blackpool Pleasure Beach (where Valhalla was the ride of choice) and in shops.
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And plenty of other interesting sightings, like the troll-like figures outside Donna’s Dream House.
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From the look of things, Blackpool seems to embrace the concept of ‘American’ portions with their massive chocolate eclairs and generous cake sizes!

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I love the economically friendly food prices.

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Finally, you can’t leave Blackpool without checking out the the magical Blackpool Tower Ballroom, which I must admit if I were to visit Blackpool it would mainly be to give ballroom dancing a go and witness the grand entrance of the flashy organ.
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Have you ever been to Blackpool? What’s your favourite spot in town? I’ve got mixed reviews of the place and unfortunately, according to recent holiday reports, it was neither quaint nor nice — in fact it was dark and nasty with lots of drunken fights. There also seems to be a rehousing project under way for paedophiles but not sure that should stop anyone from having a good time! Does that sound odd? I’m trying to be fair here and my friends did seem to enjoy themselves!

Have Pigs Learned To Fly?

Or perhaps as G pointed out,  just as sensible people can do dumb things, dumb people can occasionally do sensible things. In this case Michael Gove has finally gone and done a sensible thing for the country! GCSE results are in but not everyone is happy.  In fact, it would appear that many students and teachers are not pleased with the results.  But is Ofqual really to blame?

As part of a government drive to curb grade inflation, backed by education secretary Michael Gove, headteachers representing dozens of schools in England have told the Guardian that some students had been marked down by an entire grade. As devastating as that might be to students who have worked hard but received lower marks than expected, it shouldn’t discourage them from working harder.

This is precisely what the country needs to raise its educational standards. We can’t continue to cheat our youth of a proper education because we don’t want them to feel bad if they can’t easily get high marks.  We’re not all equal.  Some people are naturally better at maths than others, just as others may be better at sport or music. That’s not to say that we can’t reach a certain level of excellence through hard work. We can. But lowering the bar so that more students can appear to do well is not the answer.

We’ve all seen with the Olympics that the UK can perform on an international level when it comes to sports but where do we stand on education?  I think we all know that it’s not exactly at gold medal standards.  So why lower the bar? Why continue to dumb down the country when it deserves to be held to the highest standards?

I have never been book smart but I’m not exactly a complete tard either. I have always envied people that could just ‘get’ things immediately but I have even more respect for people that strive to do better and don’t give up when faced with a challenge. So I really hope that teachers and students will embrace these new standards and just go for it!

How To Fix The Welfare State

Sadly, life is not just about Moomins. As much as I would love to spend my days frolicking about Moominvalley, reality isn’t always peachy and sometimes you need to go through pain to make things better again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the welfare state and although it’s kind of a touchy subject, it’s bothered me so much that I had to write about it.  You may recall 19-year-old Georgia Davis, who recently cost taxpayers approximately £100,000 to cut into her home so she could be carried from her home into an ambulance.  Who could forget such a sight? Or is it commonplace to see people that live off the dole that have health issues related to obesity? Does that even make sense? As cold as it may sound, I have to agree with Old Holborn on this one:

“It’s quite simple. If we don’t want to fund the early deaths of millions of our citizens, we are going to have to stop feeding them what is making them obese – any recipient of benefits that can eat itself to a weight of 63 stone, is receiving too much of a good thing – and what the emergency services who had to install a visual screen around the spectacle to stop the gazes of neighbours failed to appreciate is that it was indeed, in every sense of the word, a state sponsored freak show”.

‘Freak show’ is a bit harsh, but I can’t understand how most impoverished people in the world don’t have enough to eat but in the UK, ‘poor’ people have too much! And then of course there’s Eric Pickles’ (no relation to Georgia) recent announcement of a £450m payment-by-results scheme in an effort to ‘do something’ about the troubled families of British society.

I am not against helping those in need and I am in no way accusing anyone who genuinely needs help or is working hard to make ends meet of abusing the system.  But if you’re receiving £1730 per week (total of £90,000 per family, per year) in benefits and you still can’t sort your life out, then more money obviously isn’t the answer. Mr. Pickles is clearly out of touch with society if he thinks he can just throw more money at people to make their troubles go away.  How demeaning is that?!  With regard to such ‘troubled’ families, a hard day’s work and perhaps some good old discipline might be a start!

Old Holborn gives us something to consider:

“It’s very simple Mr Pickles… You adopt a simple system of penalties. For every criminal act, the guilty lose a proportion of their benefits. For every raid against society, the invaders forfeit their entitlement to Danegeld. Want to run amok and terrorize your community? Feel free, but do not expect that same community to fund your housing or pay your bills. Do not expect that community to finance the education or the welfare of your children whilst you spit in its face. Do not expect that community to protect you or your property whilst you plunder what you desire from the very people affording you protection”.

It may not be as simple as implementing a system of punishments (or maybe it is, but we just refuse to admit it) but giving more money to those that abuse the system is not the answer. Like with any bad behaviour of a child, you must get to the root of the problem before it gets worse. If you continue to enable a child to act out and reward the child for its bad behaviour, then you’ll have a monster on your hands in no time.

Bye Bye Battersea?

Earlier this month Chelsea FC bid to buy the Battersea power station with the aim of constructing, “one of the most iconic football stadiums in the world”.  Just reading about Battersea made me a tad nostalgic for my once frequent train rides from Guildford into the city. The power station isn’t exactly pretty, but it’s kind of beautiful in an ugly sort of way, and it was a nice reminder that we were nearing Waterloo Station.

I always thought it was a shame that one of London’s most notable historical landmarks just sat there, largely unused with nobody to care for it.  I remember around 2010 there were talks of refurbishing the station for public use and building homes across the site, but that plan fell through due to lack of funding.

Mock up: How Battersea Power Station might look — iconic, perhaps, but also garishly out of place.

I know the station can’t just sit there disused forever, but now that there is a possibility of Battersea being completely redone (though I still think it’s unlikely Chelsea will leave Stamford Bridge), I wish that they would leave it alone. I would much rather see plans for refurbishing the site and perhaps the development of homes and shops than an awkwardly placed football stadium.

Luckily, Boris Johnson is one of the people Chelsea will need to convince to allow them to redevelop the Grade II listed site but it would appear he is in opposition to the idea. So if you’re into history and architecture I’d definitely recommend making a point to go explore the site before they completely change the area. And hopefully we may not have to say goodbye to Battersea just yet, at least not for the use of a garishly out of place stadium.

Now It’s Your Turn: Tax On Giving

Not a day goes by without the Tories mucking something up.  I didn’t want to start the week off on a sour note, so I opted to save this post for Tory Tuesday. After all that’s transpired in past weeks, what with causing panic over petrol, imposing a tax on pasties, increasing the rate on Air Passenger Duty, one thing is evident, this government loves its taxes.  They tax the poor, middle-class, and now the super rich, by way of their charitable donations.

As part of an attack on ‘aggressive tax avoidance’ George Osborne announced a limit on the amount of tax relief that wealthy donors could receive in respect of large donations. The tax would result in a substantial cut in the amount that philanthropists can claim back if they donated more than £200,000.  In other words, it would cost them far more to give the same sums to charitable causes.

UK charity leaders are worried that the tax might discourage charitable giving from big donors. However, the first thought that came to mind was if you donate money solely based on the tax-deductibility aspect are you really a philanthropist? I guess who cares so long as charities are getting the money they need to help people. Giving £250k+ is obviously a lot of money but if you could afford this, surely your tax-deduction is minor compared to the pleasure of giving to worthy causes.

That said, I could see the argument going the other way. Perhaps some donors enjoy giving because they genuinely enjoy helping others but aren’t rich enough to shoulder more than a set sum.  And who’s to dictate how one should use their money? Certainly not the government!

Just as those who take advantage of benefits (when clearly they could and should be working and contributing to society) and spend our tax money on fancy mobile phones and drinks down the pub, in the end, big donors should be able to take that extra money they get back and give it to another charity or invest the money to make more money (to give to another worthy cause)!  Right. I know that’s not how the world works but I have a feeling that the government is taking this whole austerity Britain thing a bit too far.  Have they even thought about the consequences before making such bold tax decisions?

Axe the Tax!

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As if increased postage rates and tax on pasties weren’t enough–there seems to be no letting up from the British government in taxing us for every other ‘luxury’.  In case you haven’t heard, on 1 April, 2012, an eight percent hike in Air Passenger Duty (APD) was added to the cost of flights taking off from UK airports.

Rumour has it that there may also be another increase for 2013. Will they ever stop?!  It would be less frustrating if the tax was going toward green initiatives, but it’s not!

As with the absurd pasty tax, the APD impacts those on lower incomes hardest–the most price-sensitive travellers who might fly with airlines like Ryanair or easyJet. That said, things may not appear as bad as some news headlines might have you believe. For example, the impact on your ticket is negligible if booking short-haul flights from the UK in economy (up by £1 to £13).

APD and fuel surcharges alone are not going to stop Brits from flying.  However, socio-political issues, threats of terrorism, natural disasters and fluctuating exchange rates may change where we choose to holiday.  Once favourite destinations, like MoroccoKenya, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, and the Maldives seem to have lost their appeal.

Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain set to be popular in 2012 according to a survey by TravelSupermarket, which interviewed 5000 British adults on their holiday plans for this year.  The ‘staycation’ is also top on many holidaymakers’ lists.

The Utter Lunacy of Michael Gove

Rarely do I have much to say when it comes to politics, but the recent absurdities uttered by Michael Gove have nearly driven me mad!  I even Googled ‘Michael Gove head trauma’ or ‘Michael Gove recent accident’ to see if he may have bumped his head and lost his senses.  Apparently not.

It would appear that Gove has lost touch with reality (or perhaps never quite understood the real world at all).  Nevermind the fact that the country is in economic crisis, let’s spend money we haven’t got on a royal yacht to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!

And lest we forget his harebrained idea to send a copy of the King James Bible to every school in the country.  As the Guardian recently reported, it would seem his absurd project has now ‘run into a spot of bother’.  Who would’ve guessed? It’s all quite simple, though.  If you haven’t got the money for something, don’t buy it.  Along the same lines, if you’ve got a stupid idea, don’t execute it.  Even I know this.

Although I have never been fond of the current government, I have up until now been able to tolerate their idiocy.  It seems they’ve really gotten the country into a hot mess.  More so than it was before.  And it’s even more worrisome that one of the top 10 most important people in the country often comes up with such crazy ideas yet there’s no one to stop him from implementing them.