Licensed to Extort

Among many other curious customs we have in Britain, is the way we fund our public servth-7ice broadcasting, the B.B.C. (The British Broadcasting Corporation.) There is a levy, a tax if you like, on every household with a television. Yes, that’s right. A one-person household pays the same as a twenty-person household; you pay the same whether you watch B.B.C. programmes all the time or not at all. People who watch only independent television channels or even just use their set to play films and D.V.D.s  are still subject to the same charge. The levy takes no account of how many televisions receivers you have. Think of a family of two adults and two teenage children.  Gone are the days of the whole family clustering round the television in the sitting room to watch the same programme. The children will be likely to have their own tellies in their bedrooms; there may be a set in the kitchen and another in the main living room.

I’m not against public service broadcasting. I think the B.B.C. is a good idea. While I wouldn’t say it is perfect, some sort of news and information service, not directly controlled by the government is necessary. The B.B.C. is claimed to educate, inform and entertain and by and large that is what it does.  The only thing wrong is the archaic system of funding this service.Public service broadcasting should be just that – a public service, like the NHS or the schools, paid for from general taxation and free at the point of use.

The current TV licence costs £145. The collection of it is both costly and complicated with letters and queries to non-licence-payers and television detector-vans roaming the streets to catch the miscreants who haven’t paid their fee.

Now we’re told that from 1st September – less than a month away – we will be required to have a TV licence to look at BBC programmes on a mobile phone or an i-pad. This extra extortion will be impossible to police. How many people own portable pieces of computer equipment that can download broadcasts from BBC i-player? A hell of a lot. How can it make sense to try and check whether little Jimmy is plth-9aying an innocent computer game on his i-pad or breaking the law by watching a BBC news or sports broadcast? How about Mum on her mobile phone? Is she simply emailing a friend (legal) or watching Come Dancing or the Great British Bakeoff? (not allowed) Then there’s the thought that a TV licence as I understand it covers a building not an individual. We found this out when the TV licensing authority sent us a letter telling us in no uncertain terms the we should not allow any of our workforce to watch TV on their computers as we do not have a licence. Since we are two pensioners both retired we do not have a large number of employees. In fact we have none.

Since a TV licence is linked to a building rather than a person someone going into a friend’s house or visiting a pub with Wi-fi could presumably watch TV on a tablet or a laptop to their heart’s content. And the friend, pub or coffee shop owner need not even know.

Yes, of course the TV licence fee should be altered. It is an out-dated and archaic system. The best replacement would be a standard fee for each income-tax or council-tax payer. This should be easy enough to calculate and would remove the chance or people trying to dodge payment. If it is felt necessary the “free” TV licence for the over-75s could remain, as could the similar concession for blind people. (Isn’t it odd that we provide something like TV free for those least able to benefit from it? Deaf people don’t require a radio licence either!) This system would also remove the regular badgering of those of us eccentric enough not to own a television. Just imagine if we received a regular notice saying “our records show that you haven’t got a shotgun license” and demanding that we get one immediatley, even though we don’t own a gun!

I suggest £100 per annum would be a reasonable amount to charge each tax-payer for what is after all a very worth while service. This should be easy to administer. Even the most incompetent of governments should have such basic information as Total population, broken down into those paying income tax or council tax and charge them a fixed sum each. People over 75 could be exempt, if this is felt necessary, as could school-age children. Then all that needs to be done is to bill each individual or household for the appropriate amount.

This would actually cost me and my husband more as we don’t have a TV (or a licence). But the idea of paying for something you don’t immediatley want or need is nothing new.  All taxpayers contribute to the cost of the Health  and Education Services.  We all pay towards the upkeep of our roads, even someone who never leaves their home. Will the government adopt this obvious easy and sensible way to fund public service broadcasting in Britain? NO WAY!!

One extra thought: it seems unfair that the licence fee goes to the B.B.C. and the independent broadcasters get nothing.






Lancashire County Council are planning – or do I mean scheming – to close half of the public libraries in the county. 

Incredible? Yes. Not their fault? So they claim. It is all to do with central goverment cutting the cash allocated to local authorities. Each year they are allowed less and less, while the services they have to provide cost more and more. David Cameron calls it “Austerity” – some of us can think of more accurate and less repeatable names!

Here is something I wrote about this situation in a hurry one Sunday morning. I don’t know where it will go …yet.

There are those who cannot read
Because they are blind:
They have braille and talking books.
There are those who cannot read
Because they are dyslexic
They have special classes.
There are those who do not read
Because they don’t like stories, plays, poems,
Anything that is not dry and factual.
There are those who cannot read
Because they have no schools, no teachers, no books.
Bare existence all they can hope for.
They have my prayers and my Oxfam donation.
Then there are those who cannot read the books they want
Because they live in Garstang
And their library will be shut
By Government edict.






Unplugged? Unconnected?

Sometimes, we all need a break from these little glowing boxes. How do you know when it’s time to unplug? What do you do to make it happen?

<a href=””>Bloggers, Unplugged</a>

I don’t have a chance to “make it happen” so I can have a rest from writing – heavens, a rest from writing would be like a break from breathing.

Seriously though, I get enough unscheduled breaks courtesy of my Internet provider. Little billets-doux saying, “You are not connected to the internet” or “Safari can’t find the URL – check your spelling and try again”.

Then of course there are the umpteen other things that need to be done; some of them need to be done at a particular time. Outings and shopping and meetings and rides, not to mention meals and snacks and household chores – washing and ironing, baking and cooking. I’m now retired: how did I ever find time to go to work?



Not Being on Facebook

I’ve eventually found out that the only way you can see a page – anyone’s page – on Facebook is if you join. The only way I was able to find this basic bit of information was by asking someone who is on Facebook.

In other words they won’t even tell you that you can’t find out anything unless you sign up! How’s that for secrecy?

It’s as though the WI – or any other membership organisation – were to refuse to tell you anything about the organisation, the meeting times,  venues etc unless and until you had joined and paid your subscription! OK I know Facebook is free to join and “subscribe” doesn’t have quite the same meaning in computer-speak as it does in everyday life. If I subscribe to “The Oldie” magazine or “The Lady” I pay an annual fee and get them posted to my home.

As far as I have been able to find out I would be required to provide my name, email address and date of birth to join Facebook. (Some doubt about whether the date of birth is relevant, they claim it is to prove that you are who you say you are. Can’t see how that works. Adding – or more likely subtracting – 10 years from my age doesn’t really invalidate any other data given.  If I ever did join I’d certainly put my age down as 99 just to see what the system made of it!)

What worries me is that Facebook end up with a massive list of names and email addresses. What do they do with these? What might they do with them? Sell them to retailers? The date of birth will give sellers a good pointer as to what sort of ads to target at an individual.

Quote from Facebook Log in page:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

Perhaps I am being paranoid.  I think not. Anyway I am used to being the odd one out. I don’t have a television either!




Facing Down Facebook

I have long felt that Twitter is for Twits – or possibly Twats- and I’m now coming to the conclusion that Facebook is for Fracking Twits. At one time I was thinking of getting myself a Facebook Account, then I looked into it in more detail – as far as I could – and decided it wasn’t for me.

  • Facebook insists on being given you real name and email address.  – compare this with a blog such as WordPress where I can be whoever I like:  Lass from Lancashire, Threewheelergran, Esme, Willamina Shakespeare if I want. I don’t have to proclaim my identity for all to see and reveal my email to scammers, hackers, trolls and other nasty pieces of work.
    I read a recent article about various groups of people objecting to giving their “real” names on Facebook. The objectors included Drag Queens, Native Americans, LGBT people especially those undergoing gender reassignment, and teachers who didn’t want their pupils or the kids’ parents to know all about their private lives. I don’t belong to any of these groups but I can see their point.
  • It’s very difficult, or at least I found it difficult, to get to see a sample Facebook entry without actually taking out an account. I don’t like to sign up for something without full info available. I found a Facebook website which told me in detail about how marvellous Facebook was but not how a non-user can look at a Facebook page. I did eventually find a help screen but all the requests seemed to be people wanting their date of birth removed from the system: it appears this isn’t possible.
  • They seem to ask for (presumably a photocopy of) your passport, your photo driving licence, your bank account details, a recent utility bill etc just to prove you are who you say you are. More “proofs of identity” than you would need to take out a mortgage or open a credit card account.
  • This business of Facebook pages being only available to other Facebook users is my real gripe. I’ve seen umpteen organisations and websites where the viewer is invited to “like us on Facebook”. I might like them if I wasn’t required to like this dodgy organisation Facebook to do so! If I could just look at say Little Wittering Women’s Walking Club and Cake-making Society or Man United FC without having to enroll in this ominous entity called “Facebook.”
  • Facebook is picture-oriented and I am a words rather than a picture person. After an important occasion or event I am more likely to write or read about it than gather a file of pictures. Perhaps it is my age!
  • I’ve had another try to find out about Facebook . I even went to their Help page where there is  place to ask questions. I tried it – No answer. Tried again –  ditto . All I need is a one-word response: Can non-Facebook subscribers look at Facebook Sites? Yes or No. They won’t tell you unless you join Facebook!

I might be losing something by leaving Facebook alone but I am worried by the complex instructions for editing a Facebook page and the thought that I might easily publish something to the world that I had intended only for a select group of my nearest and dearest.


Note: Fracking – I don’t like using asterisks eg f***ing and “fracking” seems a good alternative pseudo-swear word. Fracking is an unpleasant and dangerous activity that currently threatens some areas of Lancashire not far from where I live. Seems appropriate.


Like School Dinners, only more so


I’ve been looking at the British Airways web site with a view to a long-haul flight next year. I was astounded at the information available and more so at what was left out.


Perhaps someone who qualifies as a “frequent flier” can contradict me, on reading the details of in-flight meals; i was tempted to bring my own butties! A pity that isn’t allowed. There were splendid pictures of the meals – who needs a picture to show then what a steak or a scone and jam look like? What they didn’t say – and i’m always suspicious of the things left out of an advert – was the timing of the meals and the choice of what you have and when you have it.


In a café I can decide what i eat and when. If I want my breakfast at 4pm or my lunch a 9am I can generally get it – apart from some cafés who stop serving breakfast after mid-morning. I also have a choice of what I eat. From the descriptions on BA’s website it seems the meals are trundled out when the airline stewards decide to serve them. If you don’t want then at these fixed times – tough. Many people nowadays don’t want a big meal in the middle of the day but prefer it in the evening. I don’t think you can get this on BA. I may be wrong. I hope I am.

Some passengers will have travelled on a connecting flight where they may or may not have been fed and may be suffering from jet lag, but there seems no provision for customers to eat when it suits them rather than when it suits the airline. There seems to be no choice on the menu unless you have a “special dietary requirement “ or want Halal or Kosher food. Surely choice is of the essence when you are going on holiday and there should be several different menus available. Given the number of passengers on a long-haul jet and fact that most of the stuff is probably just taken out of its package and shoved in a microwave and the air stewards will have many hours to fill during a long trip adding a bit of variety to the food shouldn’t be too difficult.


As far as I can see, though, the food is served at the time the authority decides, the menu is fixed and the only choice would seem to be between eating or going hungry. Reminds me of school dinners before Jamie Oliver reformed them.



Air Travel


I have this dream – alas it is no more than a dream and will probably stay that way – of comfortable air travel. It should be possible, but the airlines are too obsessed with  getting as much money as possible from their customers.

Let me see …imagination  running riot…what would I like to have on my ideal aircraft?

1 A small number of passengers
Doing anything in a crowd is inconvenient and unpleasant. I suggest 50 is a suitable number for a passenger load for an aircraft, when you add cabin crew, pilots and co-pilots this would make it nearer 70.
2 Comfortable accommodation
There would be seats of course, and on any flight of more than 10 hours there would be proper cabins with beds. (If Calmac ferries can do it, why not the big airlines?)
Passengers wouldn’t be forced to remain in their seats. Apart from take-off and landing they would be free to wander around the non-cockpit space, meet fellow-travellers and to eat and drink when and where they wanted to, not when the cabin crew deigned to serve them.
There would be a lounge area for reading and using laptops etc. In fact the aircraft could have its own terminals for passenger use. Like an internet cafe, with the content erased at the end of the flight.
Games, chess, draughts, card games. scrabble, monopoly might be available for those who want them. After all there is only so much entertainment to be derived from looking out of the window at the passing clouds.
Passengers could retire to their cabins when they wished and sleep in the comfort of a proper bed. There would be a plentiful supply of showers and toilets – at least one per cabin.
3 Costing and practicalities
Aye, there’s the rub. Who would be prepared to fund such a scheme? Virgin, perhaps? The main point is not that these aircraft would be fast – they wouldn’t. They’d be slow but comfortable – stagecoach rather than post-chaise. They would attract the sort of customer who has plenty of time – mainly oldies I imagine. They would be more interested in having a comfortable journey that in getting to their destination in record time. They would be slow and careful and not make a mess or get drunk and disorderly. Once they discovered how lovely this sort of air travel could be they’d be likely to return year after year.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful? My only problem it that I haven’t the cash or the expertise to carry this brilliant – though I say it myself – plan through.