D4D

Slapping the Stupid with Stun-Guns

Sick Day

Following on from yesterday’s post, last night was vile. I won’t go into details – safe just to say it was bad.

Anyway, as a result of that, I took the decision that I’d take today as a sick day, as I wanted to visit the GP (among other things) and generally Not Do Much.   Which was a mistake.

The GP – as usual – was fucking useless.  Having waited 90 minutes to see the incompetent git, I was in the room for less than five minutes. I explained that I’d spent most of the night with an insanely sore throat – to the degree that I thought it might end up being tonsilitis – , and coughing up big green lumps. He checked my throat and decided that it wasn’t tonsilitis. Fair enough – I know fuck-all, so I bow to their supposed knowledge.  But at the same time, despite being told I’d coughed up a ton of crap, he still didn’t bother to check my chest at all – something you’d think would be pretty elementary.

And the final verdict? “Nothing I can do, take some paracetamol, and maybe Neurofen if you feel the need”. That was it. Useless shyster bastards.  (And yes, there’s another complaint in with the practice manager)

After that, I went back home, still feeling like shit – only also feeling annoyed. Never a good stage in the day.

Within half an hour, there was a crunch of noise outside, the sound of plastic and so on getting splattered down the road. It didn’t sound promising – and I had a nagging feeling…

Yep, a driver had managed to smash off the door mirror of my car – which was all parked up, in the same place it usually is.  Oh fuck.

In fairness, she’d stopped, and was seeing what had happened. I know any number of people wouldn’t have even slowed down, let alone made an effort. So you know, fair play on that score.  She was a very new driver, had misjudged the width of her car while another one was coming the other way, and smack.  It could’ve been so much worse – so, so much worse – and she was properly upset.

I spoke to my Saab garage, and got a price for the replacement mirror, and we exchanged details.  I showed them where I lived, and all was well.   A bit later, her dad came round – in a good way! – and we discussed it, that she was a new driver, and if we did this through insurance, it’d hit her very hard, for something that really wasn’t worth that much money.  I’m fine with that – I’m not going to penalise the poor girl for something, when she didn’t even have to stop – and I think it’ll all work out by people dealing with it as adults.

And so I’ve ended up, on my day at home and feeling crap, going over to the Saab garage, getting things sorted – and as it turned out, actually getting a replacement mirror far, far cheaper than I expected. Basically, they’d got a silver car that they were stripping for parts, and I got the mirror. The colour isn’t a precise match, but I don’t give a shit about that.

The full replacement should’ve cost £300, with labour etc. on top of that. The swapped part has cost me £100 including labour, and took less than an hour from start to finish.  I can’t deny, I’m pleased with that, and well chuffed with the garage – they’ve always been good with me, as has been shown by what they’ve done today.

 

It’s all worked out OK – but for a day doing nothing, it really hasn’t been all that successful…

 

Exercise More, Feel Worse

The last few days have been somewhat sore.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been doing more walking with the new office location etc. Despite that (or, in my cynicism, because of it) on Saturday my back wrenched. Simply bending over to pick up a pen, and pop, gone. Ow, Ow, Fucking Ow.

It’s not as bad as it could’ve been – but is still bloody sore. Oddly, a decent walk seems to help loosen things, but the first bit of that walk hurts like fuck.

And things could be worse. I could have a cold/cough, that wracks the spine every time it happens.

Oh yes, I’ve got that too.  Thanks life, health, and general body stuff. You unutterable bastard.

Hopefully it’ll all wear off before too long. In the meantime, safe to say that I feel like shit.

In the meantime, this losing weight and getting healthy (or at least healthier) crap isn’t all it’s knocked up to be, I tell you.

Taxing The Tolerance

As regular readers probably vaguely recall, HMRC have never been an organisation I’m a great fan of.  I find it amazing that they can be quite as unhelpful, disorganised, obstructive and basically clown-like they really are.

Way back in the 2012-13 tax year – about the only year in my entire employment history where I worked fully PAYE for just one employer throughout the year – supposedly I underpaid my tax by just over £600. Yep, underpaid by £50 a month, all year – and somehow I am responsible for a fuckup that I have absolutely no influence or input on, so I have to repay that money. Even though the entire thing was between HMRC and my employer at the time, and I wouldn’t know one end of a tax calculation from the other.

It’s hardly going to ensure that either HMRC or the payroll department have to get things right, is it – if the only person penalised by those two sections fucking up is the person paying the tax, not the people who’ve actually screwed it up.

Anyway, the figures were disputed by me, and it’s been going on for two years now, with HMRC doing fuck-all. (Which seems to be what HMRC excels at)

I got a final demand for the money last month, with a deadline of this week. I’ve spoken to them in the meantime, but no, because of other figures and assumptions they’ve made, it was pay it all, or start having legal proceedings. Always fun.  And despite repeated requests, HMRC still haven’t given me any of the figures that have brought them to the conclusion that I’ve underpaid.  (Which also makes me think the entire thing is dodgy as shit, if they’re so unwilling to provide documentation)

Today I called them to make the payment, and spoke to someone vaguely competent. It still took an hour (and of course that’s at my expense, both in time, and cost of the call) but things are more promising now.  Bear with me, this might take some time…

The person in question looked into the entire thing.  Weirdly, despite having had the same employer all year, my record shows three – because the company in question went through restructures and fucking about. So they’ve screwed things up from that point. The screwup is still there, and still my fault – but at least I (sort of) understand where it’s come up. They’ve also promised to send me the calculations and explanations, although I’m not holding my breath on that score…

However.   Ah, the however.   It turns out that I also overpaid tax in tax year 2013-14 – something that HMRC have completely failed to tell me at all. It’s been a year, but nope, no information about overpaid tax, or anything. If only they were as good at telling you you’re due a refund as they are when you’ve under-paid.

Additionally, somewhere along the line – and bear in mind that HMRC now receive “RealTime Information” with every payroll run about my details, employer details, salary, and tax paid – HMRC have decided that my expected income for this tax year (2014-15) to be in the region of £150,000.  No-one can tell me where that figure has come from, or how it’s fallen into their system – because of course it’s updated every fucking week with the correct and up-to-date information – but there we go, a calculation that I’ll receive a salary nearly three times what’s expected.

All of which means that I now have only about £200 to repay (still not my fault, but sometimes the fight just isn’t worth it any more) because the overpayment from 2013/14 has balanced most of what was ‘underpaid’ in 2012/13.  So that should be all sorted now. I can pay that £200, and we’ll all be good.

Except – yep, another however/except…

Here we are, in February 2015.  Online payments have been around for a good decade. Payments by phone for a lot longer than that – probably what, 25 years now?

And HMRC don’t have any system for paying unpaid/outstanding PAYE payments online. Or by phone. Or by debit/credit card at all.  The ONLY ways that HMRC can take a payment for unpaid PAYE are – are you ready for this? – by cheque, postal orders, or banker’s draft.  (Or by taking it out of the tax payments for the forthcoming tax-year – which I didn’t want to do, for a number of reasons)  They can take payments online for other things, but not unpaid PAYE.  No-one can explain why – the best I got was “We’re looking into it, but the system isn’t ready yet”.  But with unpaid PAYE, we’re back int the 1970s.

My bank hasn’t issued cheque-books now for at least five years. The person I spoke to didn’t even realise you had to pay extra for postal orders or bankers drafts – so there’s no chance whatsoever that I can discount the costs from what I owe. Yup, yet again I’d be liable for the costs – and also if (as has happened to me before) HMRC ‘mislaid’ a payment.

So even though it’s the only option I didn’t want – and that’ll get complicated for other reasons – I’m going to end up paying that £200 over the tax year, rather than knowing I can start from scratch again.

In short, HMRC are useless cunts. But I suppose that won’t change any time soon.  Still, come the revolution…

Inherently Lazy

As I’ve said before, I’m inherently lazy – but in some ways my laziness makes me put in more effort. Weird, but true.

My new office is up on the fourth floor. The building has both lifts and stairs to get there – and that’s where my laziness kicks in.

You see, the lift takes ages – and I’m too lazy to wait for it, and then dawdle up to the fourth floor.  So I slam up eight flights of stairs – eighty steps, all told – and always get to my floor before the lift does.

I know that’s no-one else’s version of laziness, the whole “can’t be arsed to wait” thing. It just always strikes me as somewhat amusing that my version of laziness expends more effort than anyone else’s. It probably says something about my brain, but well, the fact my brain works in strange ways  (or possibly in Strangeways) has never been in any doubt at all.

Looking Back – 2014’s Jobs

I’ve been thinking a lot about the contrast between 2014 and 2015 (to date, of course) and realised that I couldn’t easily list the jobs/contracts I’d had last year.

2014 was a crap year for me in many ways, and the contracts and work I took on were definitely part of that. There were a couple of spectacularly bad choices – both contracts and permanent roles – and one of those didn’t even last a month. I stuck the other one for three months (balance, and all that) but yes, not good.

Looking back and doing the figures, I actually had eight roles in 2014. Bear in mind that three of them lasted three months each. Which means somewhere in there, there’s five jobs in three months.  (They’re spread out, it wasn’t just a three-month period of abysmality)  Oops.

With luck – and without tempting fate too much – 2015’s going to be a big improvement on all that. It’s started well, so let’s hope it can maintain that achievement through the year…

 

Looking Back – 2015 vs. 2014

One thing I’ve noticed this year is that so many people who had an absolutely rotten 2014 seem to be doing much better in 2015 – myself included. (And yes yes, all hail the gods of Fate, and do not tempt them to be bastards)

It’s not any “new year new you” type bullshit – several times I’ve had conversations where friends have observed just how much easier this year has been than the last one was. There’s no viable logic for it, but it’s what seems to have happened. Friends who fought bureaucracy and uncaring jobsworths for all of 2014 have suddenly found doors opening in ’15, with additional “Oh, you should also contact [x]” type referrals that add extra beneficial factors.

From my side, the seven weeks (so far) of 2015 have been infinitely more positive than the same time last year.  Still chaotic and hyper-busy, but in far more positive ways than I’d have expected.

I’m hoping that the rest of the year maintains this initial attitude. Even if it does get a bit tougher further down the line, all I would ask for (and hope) is that it doesn’t end up as shitty as any of 2014 was.

And no, Gods of Fate, that is not a challenge being issued.

Office Space

As of today, I’ve started work in an office in central Milton Keynes. I’m still working the same contracts and so on, so it’s not a new employer or anything. It’s just a different environment, allowing me to separate work and home a bit.

While I can work from home (and have been for the last few months) I still find it’s easy to have days where I’m demotivated, and can’t really be bothered to get on with work stuff. It’s easy to be distracted, to never really get into “work mode”.  In general I can get away with it, because the productive days outweigh the non-productive ones – but I don’t want that to be the case.

So I made some enquiries, and an office space had just become available in one of the buildings I’d emailed. It’s designed for start-up businesses – which I am/have – and is ideal for one or two people. Less than £200 a month (which is also a business expense anyway) including utilities and wifi/internet, right in the middle of Milton Keynes. Pretty much ideal.

I’ve got it for a minimum of three months – which takes me to just over the current end-date for contracts – and then a monthly-rolling renewal after that. If things go bad, one month’s notice and I’m done.

It’s another positive step, and one I hope will work out when it comes to balancing work and home life a bit better.

But it does make me feel a bit grown-up too, which is kind of odd, to say the least…

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