To Enfield, to meet an accountant. And with that impeccably Pooterish opening line I commence what is hoped to be a recurring feature, the Dabbler Diary. I went on the train.
Accountants are having a bad press of late – or at least the ‘clever accountants’ are. Stupid ones are still acceptable. I’ve found that the great majority of stupid (that is, good) accountants wouldn’t touch the kind of scheme exploited by Jimmy Carr with a bargepole. But not because it’s too complicated: the K2 wheeze is in fact relatively simple, it merely requires a complete lack of shame and the nerve to fart in the general direction of the Revenue and then keep on farting while under investigation. David Cameron’s moral condemnation of Carr was scoffed at by Ed Miliband, who said that Governments should stick to ‘closing the loopholes’. But the world is far too complex and the law will always be a step behind, so moral disapprobation is a more potent weapon, especially for those vulnerable to Twitter mobs and indeed Carr has now grovelled for his long-lasting and extremely lucrative ‘error of judgement’. (It was politically a mistake by Cameron, of course, immediately backfiring with the Gary Barlow question, but Dave does seem to rush rashly into things and then endure prolonged repentance, eg. setting up the Leveson inquiry, inviting the Liberal Democrat party to form a Coalition Government etc).
In the end this all comes down to a sense of fair play in the tax planning game. Jimmy Carr didn’t get this but nor do the sanctimonious bores of UK Uncut. There’s a sliding scale of moral greyness but there’s still white and black at either end of that scale. Stupid, or good, accountants will show you how to sensibly arrange your affairs, making use of reliefs and allowances that Parliament has specifically granted to encourage certain types of behaviour, so that you keep a bit more of your money. But clever, or bad, accountants sidle up to the wealthy and open their raincoat to reveal offerings that are obviously grubby. They are rightly shunned by all but the greediest freeloaders.
Until last night Roy Hodgson had been exploiting a loophole in the rules of football which enables rubbish teams to win so long as they concede fewer goals than they score. The 3-2 win over Sweden was the most incompetent but also the best game of a mostly entertaining tournament. At the end I trotted upstairs to relay the good news that England had triumphed, and found that my wife and daughters were all fast asleep, and utterly indifferent to televised sport. This was a little glimpse of the occasional isolation of the man who has no sons. When we had our second daughter it dawned on me that henceforth my life would very likely take a certain path – not much football and cricket, plenty of musical theatre and films involving princesses. I have already had to learn about hairclips, for example. A melancholy thought but impossible to dwell on because daughters are such fun. Also, now that I see the world – parks, soft play areas etc – through the eyes of the little girl in my charge, I realise that boys are in fact violent and dangerous lunatics and best avoided anyway.
On the subject of Euro football, incidentally, did anyone else think that Angela Merkel’s fist-shaking triumphalism as Germany thrashed poor old Greece was a bit un-statesmanlike?
On the way back from seeing the (non-clever and therefore good) accountant of Enfield I met up with my fellow Dabbler editor Gaw for a couple of pints in Islington. The Hen and Chickens was temporarily closed but the great thing about London is that if one pub is no go you’re never more than a short walk from seven more. We opted for the Hope & Anchor, a famous venue in the pub rock and punk movements of the 1970s, launching the Stranglers, X-Ray Spex and others. Looking now, I see that the most recent major act launched in the pub was Keane, who made their debut there in 1998. Gaw would probably have argued this was evidence of the decline of pop music, but I’d say it was merely indicative of the decline of the Hope & Anchor. Anyway I’m always suspicious of claims about the decline of things that are fundamental parts of human nature. Gaw and I agreed that Martin Amis was looking well past it on his latest media rounds, for the heart-sinkingly named new novel ‘Lionel Asbo’. In a recent Spectator interview Mart claimed that people don’t read poetry anymore, because “a huge part of poetry is self-communion. When you read a poem you’re communing with yourself in a deep way. People don’t like that. Why do you think they’re on their phones all the time? They don’t like being alone…And it’s not an introspective culture. They talk about dumbing down, but there’s also numbing down. They don’t want to be sensitive.”
I don’t know what statistical evidence Mart had for this claim, but moments before reading that, I had downloaded an app from the Poetry Foundation, which delivers to your smartphone an unfathomably vast library of poems – famous and obscure – for you to contemplate at leisure. Over ten thousand other ‘dumbed down, numbed down’ insensitives have also downloaded it, and that’s just on Android.