Taxing, trying times

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

I think it’s the joys of the life we lead and the current world we live/survive in that make each day worth living or then again, not.

I may have mentioned before via the medium of this intellectual and thought-provoking column that assorted chunks of officialdom, usually in written form, are the bane of most people’s lives if the assorted encounters of late in my case are anything to go by.

My latest encounter or gateway to mental instability was but a simple letter to the most wonderful and marvellous Inland Revenue and nothing to do with their other branch, Inland Waterways.

My request was simple as explained among other bits and bobs to them as the last time I had any form of correspondence (as in the letters that arrive in buff coloured envelopes made or regurgitated from recycled paper-mâché egg boxes or similar) from this branch of cash redistribution was yonks ago and if nothing else, they would know by my writing that I was still alive – at least clinically – and still a part of their most glorious system and still ripe for possible extraction purposes mainly, as tax refunds are like Brucie and the Generation Game on BBC TV, a pleasant but distant memory.

This simple process of letter writing was brought about for two reasons: trying to ring through on their ‘dedicated’ (dead might be a better and more meaningful description) telephone number with assorted menus and a sort of ‘snakes and ladders’ approach to finding which ‘service’ I required is the stuff of legend as I waited, I yawned a bit, I waited, I drank tea, I waited and gave up eventually and then onto Plan B – the internet scenario.

I tried going ‘online’ but as my regular reader might recall, this is a ‘clash of the titans’ sort of thing as our broadband provider does not always allow this to happen as due to having very hot weather at the time and so as usual, we ‘lost’ our signal as we usually lose it when it’s hot, windy, very wet weather plus an ‘R’ in the month, although we are now on first name terms with the assorted band of engineers we get visiting us at times and perhaps one must be about due soon.

The second reason for writing was, according to my last missives from this most wonderful and caring organisation, they operated from two different addresses but oddly (?) serving the same service and so it would be nice to see which one was still active in a manner of speaking and so I allowed myself a few weeks – never can it be said I rushed anyone – to see if I would get a reply from address A and getting ‘nil’ response before scribbling to address B.

I would point out the assorted information on their website was not that forthcoming with regard to an actual postal address for the information I needed.

So off I wrote and allowed for a few weeks to subside and to be honest I forgot about it basically and one day, it arrived – yes, that buff coloured envelope with the information I required, nay craved and to be honest it was very helpful and so full marks there despite the many weeks’ wait.

I can remember a time when the Inland Revue, not to be confused with the Inland Waterways as pointed out earlier with the main difference between the two is one is sloshing around in money and the other is sloshing about in water so you won’t go far wrong, had offices in towns and you could pop along and actually see and speak to somebody about your problem or situation.

Over the years I used them as it was useful to speak face to granite to discuss assorted taxation problems and during these periods, there used to be wonderful events going on within mostly unannounced but for all that, usually entertaining.

Once as I sat there waiting to be seen, one chap arrived and went to the counter to announce his arrival and wanted to speak to Mr Who-Ever as he was expected and after a small internal phone call, the said Mr Who-Ever arrived.

On seeing Mr Joe Public waiting for him, he gave one of those ‘here we go again’ looks as he said hello and then they went into a sort ‘yes and no’ interlude where Mr Public produced papers and forms from a folder he had brought with him and Mr Whoever also produced forms in response from his folder and this went on for about ten minutes plus verbal discussions about Mr Who-Ever’s parentage.

The end result was, and the stuff of TV sit-coms as Mr Public produced a fair sized pebble or rock from his jacket pocket and dropped it heavily on the counter and said/shouted those immortal words: “Well my mother-in-law can’t get any blood out of it and she is damn good at these things, so you might be best to tackle the job, Squire..” and off he went towards the entrance doors.

The general tittering that went on then was quite something and I can still see it now as well as the sheer look of astonishment on Mr Who-Ever’s face was a picture to behold and by the time my turn to be seen arrived, I stood there rummaging through my pockets for anything to enter into the fray as just witnessed, but with only half a packet of ‘Polo’ mints didn’t seem in the same league somehow.

Another time I popped and sat down to wait to see somebody as just then a chap sat down next to me.

On looking around the reception area he started the conversation off by saying how close it resembled his local corner shop (?!) and I said perhaps if there were signs up like ‘Do not ask for credit as refusal often offends’ or ‘Ask about our Buy One, Get One Free offers’ or ‘Join Our Christmas Club’ it might well do, to which I got a blank stare.

I once took mum, of the people for the people, there as she had a part time job and despite assorted phone calls, she could never get the matter sorted and so the personal approach was deemed in order to sort it once and for all.

She entered the reception and explained her problem to the lady on the front counter and was told to take a seat and someone would see her shortly and so as her ‘chauffeur’, we both sat it out.

Very soon she was called over to the counter by a smiling Miss Whoever who listened intently to what mum had to say and by the looks on Miss Whoever’s face, these were indeed tricky times.

After a bit of verbal tennis, the score was game, set and possible match.

Miss Whoever reached below the counter and came up with a whole pile of assorted forms and then sent a minute or two selecting a pile of them to give to mum.

As mum cast an eye over them, she eventually looked at Miss Whoever and then suggested that, quote: “Rather than pussyfoot about, just have one form with just two meaningful questions for taxpayers, like question 1. ‘How much have you got? and question 2. ‘When can you send it to us?’

No doubt this would have been printed on recycled paper of course.