I was on a night out last week at a location which, though outside the city centre, was very well attended. Unfamiliar as I am to the concept, this was my first visit to the soul club. The venue was, perhaps inevitably, in the basement of a pub, just off the Meadows in the Marchmont area here in the capital. The music was mostly unfamiliar to me, but I was welcomed with a cheery smile and a hi, which was mainly down to my being in tow with a good friend, well known on the scene. You know the kind of thing, if he is with him then he must be okay. I felt accepted.
On arrival, my friend George was greeted by two females, both just a few years short of our age, one who was introduced to me as Mary Doll. You know, for the last 20-odd years I have been called that, she replied. Before I could engage brain and stop myself, I had blurted out, as in Rab C Nesbitt
? The withering look of contempt she drew me, stayed at the forefront of mind throughout the entire night and I cringed every time I thought about it. Statin' the bleedin' obvious indeed.
Anyway, to escape my embarrassment, I thought that I would head across the room to get some drinks. So I made my way through the crowded dancefloor to the equally busy bar. As I fumbled for money to pay, I was rather brusquely informed by the person behind the bar that it was card only. I am an advocate for the use of cash and insist on paying by that method as much as I possibly can. I am not averse to electronic forms of payment, but it annoys me that I am forced to go with my card as opposed to having the option of cash. However, reluctantly, as I understood that it would be card or no drinks and I was the outsider in this environment, I complied.
Much to my annoyance, I find that retailers, especially supermarkets, require you to either use your card in a self-service station or join a massive queue at one of the rarely functioning checkouts. To whom does this benefit? Certainly not the shopper who faces the inconvenience of having to stand in line simply in order to avoid paying by card.
I genuinely fear for the type of society we live in, where we seem only to live in the now and appear not to have the capacity to see what lies ahead should we continue to accept these initiatives and move to a cashless society. If we simply ignore this push to eradicate hard cash from common use, we could sleepwalk into a situation where all transactions will be online with everything being track and traceable.
So what is the harm in this? I recall a few years ago being at a conference where the presenter was advocating the adoption of blockchain and one of the features he highlighted was that, by trading through that method, you would be able to control suppliers' behaviours. It appeared that only myself and one other person in the lecture room seemed to care about the ethics involved and could see the potential for a more nefarious set of practices being applied in relationships.
Worse still, the lecturer was an academic and either did not see or did not care about the potential to do harm. Without running away with the concept, can you imagine benefits claimants being subject to audit around what they buy and by extension penalised, should their buying habits not conform to the ideology of the then current government?
I understand that big data is valuable in helping to understand the future needs of our society. However, it can also be used and manipulated to shape that self-same society and direct the way we live.
And all that from the bar staff refusing to accept my well-thumbed notes and dirty coins.
It was in May last year, or thereby, in the run-up to the Scottish election, that an aspiring member of the political class was referred to – in these columns! – as a breath of fresh air. Terrified and incredulous, yours truly and the feline lodger beat a hasty retreat into the wee swamp: modest sanctuary, tucked beneath the parapet, behind the ancient sturdy walls, there to remain while the breath of fresh air was stillborn and nothing much else happened. Except, of course, the ever-present toxic fumes blowing in from the south. And the noise of shifting alliances, allegiances, conspiratorial mutterings.
Never known to miss an opportunity to appear on all the news programmes, the tribes of Westminster have gathered for another pow wow. Here are the Shouties, the Nodding Heads, the Two-thumb Tappers. Here too, everywhere in the room actually (oops sorry! Chamber), there is much bobbing up and down, waving and pointing, and the neverending refrain at full harrumphing throttle.
Her Majesty's COTE is the day's star turn, allowed to be wheeled in on the tumbril for one day only by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Or is it Sea Lord/Treasury/Brewery? So much fluff on the diodes from all these titles, it's hard to identify the job of work.
The COTE announces Tax and Spend on a heroic if not beguiling scale. Companies will face an increased tax burden but this will be reduced if they spend on investment. So: tax and spend all in one counting of the beans. The accountants will be cock-a-hoop, whereas HMRC may still be waiting to hear how many of the 91,000 job cuts will be coming their way.
Meanwhile, thoughts turn back to recent announcements, as recently as the spring, when the Class I National Insurance Contribution was increased, but without any corresponding reduction in the increase if the relevant taxpayers spent on investment. No doubt I'm missing something here of the delicate balance between challenge and opportunity. Not quite able to grasp the idea that Tory tax and spend is a sophisticated, nuanced business and as difficult to appreciate as the difference between work time and wine time.
I may add, in conclusion, that was never a difficulty experienced by any employer I ever worked for. Still, having reached the state of grace called retirement...
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