T V License

I do not drive a car, I do not have a dog and I do not own a gun. Not surprisingly I do not have a driving licence, a dog licence or a gun licence. The authorities that check these things do not constantly pester me to find out if I am driving without a licence, keeping a dog in secret, or possessing an unlicensed firearm.

But the television licensing authority feels it necessary to send me nagging letters asking why my address does not appear on their database of TV licence-holders. The idea that there are actually people who prefer not to watch television seems beyond their comprehension.

We may be eccentric, we may be missing out on important news and information but we are not actually breaking the law by not owning and using a television. However, I imagine it won’t be long before people like us will have to band together and form an association of Telly-free households. We are probably fewer in number than the Vegans or the Monster Raving Loonies but as a minority we should have some protection.

I am approaching my seventy-fifth year, the age at which I can have a “free” TV licence – should I so wish. I didn’t expect the TV licensing people to simply notify me of my new status, though surely there must be some national database of names of addresses of pensioners over 75. That would be too simple. After all I had to request my bus pass, it wasn’t just sent to me when I reached pensionable age.

So I searched for the TV licensing Authority website, imagining that all I’d need to do was send them details of name, address and date of birth – perhaps a photocopy of my birth certificate. Nothing as simple as that.

Pages and pages of forms, all assuming that I wanted to cancel an existing TV licence or the part of the payment relating to the time after I reached 75. I ploughed through many pages of this garbage and even filled in a form – I think – explaining my rather unusual circumstances in that I was applying for something I didn’t want or need simply because I had been told it was available free and I ought to have a bit of paper to say I didn’t need it!

It beats Charles Dickens creation “The Office of Circumlocution” into a cocked hat!

I wonder how much it costs the treasury to administer this unwieldy bureaucracy, not only the collection of annual licence fees and the receipts for payments, but the vans going round to check on those dangerous lunatics who watch Coronation Street or Strictly come Dancing without a licence! I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the cost of policing the TV licence fiasco comes to more than the sum collected.

It is obvious to me that the licence fee is a crazy way to pay for public service broadcasting. The BBC is a public service As such it should be funded out of general taxation, like other services schools, hospitals, libraries and the emergency services. You know it makes sense. Alas the government don’t.


No Room on the Plane

There’s been a recent fuss in the news about an airline who had overbooked and wanted someone – someone who had paid for a seat and was already sitting on the plane – to leave to make room for one of their staff who needed to travel to wherever the plane was going. OK, but after asking people politely to go on another flight they them dragged a customer out of his seat and forced him off the aircraft.

Of course this made the headlines. If the travelling public had any sense of fair play the airline concerned would shortly be filing for bankruptcy. Who in the right mind would want to travel with a company who treated their fare-paying customers in this way?

Alas, people are so used to the idea that the airline – the big wealthy powerful organisation – is always right,  I doubt if their turnover will even decrease by a small amount. In fact it might well increase as newspapers in search of a good story will send their reporters to see if they can get “bounced” and if they are treated well or badly.

Of course it is ridiculous that airlines can overbook in this way. Remember they’ve already been paid for the seats and stand to lose nothing by reneging on their contract to transport the passenger to the agreed destination.

The remedy I suggest is this:
 All  long-haul airlines to be required to have at least 5% spare capacity  – ie seats that are not booked and are kept available for airline employees and emergencies that do not require to plane to deviate from its planned route or make an emergency landing. I’m thinking of scenarios where a passenger is taken ill with something unpleasant rather than life-threatening. Who wants to sit for several hours next to someone who is vomiting copiously every ten minutes? There should be somewhere segregated to take such a passenger. The same should apply to a very noisy and disruptive child whose parents cannot control his behaviour. The cabin staff can hardly knock the brat out with a strong sedative however much they might like to do so, but they can and should be able to minimise the discomfort to fellow-travellers. This could be done by taking the child and parents to the “spare” seating area where they can at least be separated from the rest of the passengers.

Air liners are notoriously cramped and uncomfortable and I feel an airline who offered more space, not just slightly wider seats but room to move around, even a lounge where passengers could chat and play games and lie down if they wished should attract passengers looking to get there not in the shortest possible time but with the least degree of discomfort. An airline that advertised as “Never overbooked” or “If you’ve paid for a seat, we guarantee you get a seat” should be first choice for any sensible customer.

Alas I don’t think this will happen. Airline passengers are so used to being treated badly and herded around and made to stand in queues that they expect it. Any airline that offered space and comfort to its customers would immediately be suspect.

I can imagine a cartoon – unfortunately I can’t draw so have to describe it – where a man is arguing with an airport official “What do you mean I’ve been bumped off the plane? I’m the pilot!”



(this is the best way to fly!)

Professional Writer?

“A non – professional writer means a person who has never received a fee for their work, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. Prize money received as a result of entering work into a competition is not considered a fee. “


I was thinking of entering a short story competition I came across recently on the Internet. Two things I ask from competitions: do they charge an entry fee and can I send my entry by email.

These are not set in stone. I enter a number of competitions where there is an entry fee and quite a few where the organisers ask for postal entries. It’s just easier for me if I can work on screen rather than print off a story, find an envelope and a stamp and trek to the post office.

In the competition I was considering I got as far as reading  the Terms and Conditions. (Advice to writers and comp entrants: always read the T&Cs ideally before you’ve started to work on your entry.) I found the condition quoted above defining a “professional writer” . The competition did not accept entries from “professional writers.”

Some time ago I wrote a regular column for my local weekly paper. They paid me. Not a vast amount, but they paid me. I’ve also had a number of poems printed in a magazine called “Quantum Leap”. It runs competitions but also pays for poems submitted on spec and published. Unusual among poetry magazines. Often editors regard a poet as an unworldly creature who doesn’t want to be paid and is quite happy to work for nothing or just for the honour of appearing in print.

I wouldn’t have said the small monetary rewards from these two sources make me a “professional writer”. I am hardly in the same league as James Patterson or Margaret Atwood. But apparently I am not elegible for this competition. A pity. Think what Dragonfly tea and the Henley Literary Festival are missing!




<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/frail/”>Frail</a&gt;

“Frailty, thy name is woman”

Shakespeare, or rather Hamlet, lamenting the fact that his mother had married his uncle very soon after his father’s death. Today I think we’d call  Gertrude treacherous and wicked rather than frail. To me the term “frail” conjures up a person  man or woman, who is physically weak,  probably elderly and easily swayed by a stronger personality.

The term that goes most often with “frail” is “old lady”.  A doddery old woman tottering along with the help of a stick, speaking in a low croaky voice and generally overlooked and disregarded by those around her.

I’ve dealt with this situation in several pieces of fiction I’ve written where an old lady is being bossed about (usually by her daughter}. This “frail” character develops unsuspected strength and ingenuity when dealing with an unforeseen problem. The chararacter of the little old lady with  hidden depths is, I think, sadly overlooked in popular fiction.

Nowadays we have become used to strong women in postions of authority, Margaret Thatcher, for instance, and of course our new Prime Minister.  By no stretch of the imagination could either of these women be described as “frail”.

















A Writer’s Hopes

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/hope/”>Hope</a&gt;

I’d hoped to write a novel
To move a reader’s tears.
I’d hoped to write a thriller
Exploring darkest fears.
I’d hoped to pen a drama
And see it on Broadway
One that explores and captures
The essence of today.
All the works I hoped to write
Are simply froth and cream
Maybe they’ll never come to pass
But still, it’s fun to dream.
…isn’t it?




<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/flawed/”>Flawed</a&gt;

Remembering – my worst – I might say my only – fault.
If I don’t write things down, I forget them. If I don’t make a shopping list I come home without the things I meant to buy. Sometimes I forget to take my list…or lose it.

Remembering names, people’s names, place names, where we are going, when we are going, it’s all just too much.
Yes I use diaries and calendars and computer reminders and tick lists, but….Now just remind me, what was  today’s prompt?






Buses Are Best

I’ve long felt that bus users in my part of the world – Lancashire in the North of England – get a raw deal. We’ve just heard the the grants that were paid to keep “uneconomic” services running are going to be axed. OK this isn’t the fault of the County Council; the crazy conservative government under David Cameron and chancellor of the exchequer Osborne have reduced the money paid to Local Government. Each year when the County, District and Parish Councils scrimp and save and sack workers and reduce services, what is the attitude of Central Government? Is is “Well done, you’ve shown how thrifty you are, we will reward you by paying a bit more next year”? Is it hell! The attitude is “you managed on £X pounds this year, you must have been over-spending, Next year you can mange with £X minus 10%.”


It annoys me that no-one connected with the council, neither elected members nor paid officers will complain about this mis-mangement of our finances. Yes OUR finances, the money we pay in income tax,  council tax and all sorts of other taxes like VAT all goes to central government who are now reducing or totally discontinuing essential services including the bus service.