Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Sorting Out the Government

I recently was tidying up and came across an Mensa Magazine from 1987, edited by Ken Webb. Ken was a both a personal friend, and at one time an "accredited journalist". Older Islanders may remember him presenting the sports news on Channel Television's local news programme.

We worked together for a number of years on "Thinks!", the name he gave to the Channel Island Mensa magazine, with himself as editor, and myself as assistant editor, both of us supplying most of the copy under a variety of names, both our own, and pseudonyms to preserve the illusion that there were more contributors than was actually the case. But - unlike some of the names posted as comments on blogs - both he and I presented each pseudonym's contributions as coming from a definite character, with their own style and personality. We inhabited our alter ego's personas. Taking his mother's maiden name, Ken invented "Charles Cabeldu", a hen-pecked husband and source of homely wisdom and humour, not unlike Helier Clement, but this was years before Mr Clement began writing for the JEP - this was in 1987!

When this piece was written, there were no members of Mensa in the States, and former Deputy Peter Troy had yet to go round the Hustings telling all and sundry that he belonged to Mensa. But the consideration of VAT being added to local goods was even then very much an issue, and it is one that is still with us to this day. Obviously there is freight to add to costs, but even so, I find it strange that so often the freight costs just happen to coincide with the VAT inclusive price that items are sold in the UK. Recently, I was looking for an office colour printer which came in at £199.95 inclusive of VAT for a UK price, and a local dealer could get it to me for £199.95. The statistical chances of this being exactly freight charges are, I think, highly improbable.

Ken (under his guise of Charles Cabeldu) was also having a go at produce being sold in Jersey restaurants - so-called Jersey plaice, for example, which manifestly was not local fresh fish. I think matters have improved in this respect since 1987 regarding fresh food being served, and it should be noted that new potatoes can - like other vegetables - even if not local, be imported all the year round; the seasonality of food was still there in 1987, although it was starting to disappear.

Sorting Out the Government
Contributed by Charles Cabeldu

"You may remember we talked about this VAT business."

Dear reader, why, oh why, was I so stupid as to believe that that. particular subject would have slipped the mind of the Lady and Master in her own home? To be truthful - and accurate -- you will recall that the use of the word 'we' really is a total misrepresentation of the facts. As my memory serves me, I took but little part in the conversation and this unwillingly, However when the Senior Partner lays down the law we all have to acquiesce.

(There is great truth in the saying 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em,' - and Eve I have no wish to try and beat. Coward, did I hear you say? Indubitably).

"I see that Senator John Rothwell called a public meeting at the Town Hall to discuss this robbery by local shops charging English VAT. Thank heavens for one intelligent member in our States, We will be supporting him."

You notice, dear reader, the preponderance with which the Entrepreneurial Genius uses the collective pronoun 'we' - generally, I might add, with dire consequences for your humble scribe.

"And while we are talking about intelligence, how many members of Mensa are in the States?"

"Well, my dear, as far as I an aware there are no Mensans in the States."

"There, " came the triumphant reply, "that only goes to prove what I keep saying. Why are there no Mensa people in the States, We have too many of the other kind, we could do with a few more like Rothwell. "

" Well actually, my dear, Mr. Rothwell is not a member he has never taken the test."

"Never mind that, make him a member. Anyone who can see all the fiddles and is out to get cheaper prices for the housewife has to be super intelligent."

"That is not the test for membership of Mensa, my dear. However, I do believe that one of the States members was formerly in Mensa but is not at the moment."

"Who is that?"

"Deputy Derek Carter was a member but he hasn't paid a subscription for some years so his membership has lapsed."

"Never mind that, he's still got the brains - he was against the minesweeper nonsense and that's proof of his intelligence. Why don't your Mensa people stand for the States. If a dozen of them were 'to take' there wouldn't half be a shake-up."

"Well, my dear, perhaps its because they are so intelligent that they do not wish... ."

"Rubbish! Utter Rubbish!. They must all be against paying VAT, in Jersey and they have a duty to protect we housewives. "

"Well, there are more important things in Island government than some shops charging VAT prices."

"Such as?" Spoken with a tone that had me brought up short and sharp. How does one explain to someone like my Eve that government of a country involves more important things than mundane shopping matters?

The short answer is that one does not. At least, I don't.

"Well, really my dear, there is not much the States can do, after all there is no Trades Description Act neither is there a Consumer Protection Act and really the solution is in the hands of you shoppers. Do not spend any money in shops which charge VAT. added prices."

"Oh, Mr Clever Cloggs is at it again. Well let me tell you something, where some things are concerned, they're all changing VAT so we have to pay or do without. What's fair about that?"

"Nothing. my dear, but the present state of the law is such that shops can charge what they like. If they add an additional 15% on to the selling price as extra profit and sell at VAT included prices, there is nothing the government can do about it."

"Well there jolly well should be. Why can't they start making laws to protect we housewives?"

"My dear, Deputy Norman Le Brocq has been trying for years to get a Trades Description Act through the States, this without success. If he had been successful perhaps I would get a Fresh Jersey Plaice in one of our restaurants instead of the deep frozen, microwave de-frosted rubbish I get at the moment."

"Mr. Le Brocq is a very intelligent man and he also should be made a member of Mensa. It's obvious only people of Mensa intelligence. can look after we housewives so it's about time your Association did something about it." Said with a finality which brooked no argument.

By this time, being thoroughly exhausted, I was only too thankful to allow the subject to drop. After all, who can argue with someone who associates good government and looking after the housewife as a qualification for joining Mensa?

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