Saturday, 21 March 2009

In spring a young man's fancy turns to ISAs

A mail shot from Bradford and Bingley arrived on my doormat today, trying to get me to put money into ISAs. The strapline read: ‘It’s the perfect time to start thinking about the new tax year.’

I hate to disagree with Mr. Bradford and Mr. Bingley who (I seem to remember from the old TV ads) are pleasingly avuncular chaps in bowler hats. But I’m pretty sure it isn’t the perfect time to start thinking about the new tax year – even leaving aside the interesting question of whether any time is the perfect time to start thinking about the new tax year.

It seems to me that, since our taxes seem to be funding millionaires’ pensions and the Bank of England has abolished interest, it’s the perfect time to stick our heads in the sand, with our bums pointed up at the bankers, and forget about all matters fiscal and pecuniary for a bit.

To paraphrase Orwell, spring is here and they can’t touch you for it. So it’s the perfect time to stop and listen to that blackbird who’s been perched on a TV aerial near my house for the last two weekends, singing his heart out to no one in particular. He looks so cocky and charismatic, chirruping away. I don’t suppose he’s singing about how happy he is to be able to top up his cash ISA on 6 April. (A birdwatcher once told me that all male songbirds are singing the same thing: ‘f**k me or f**k off.’)

It’s the perfect time to smell the flowers, to watch the trees coming into leaf ‘like something almost being said’ (as Philip Larkin put it), to drive home while it’s still light, to get on with life and living. Everyone will have their own idea of the perfect thing to do in these few springs we have on earth – please fill in as appropriate.

Of one thing I am sure. Whoever you are – even if you are an employee of Bradford and Bingley and other members of the Santander group, even if you are writing a PhD thesis on the history, politics and semiotics of tax returns, even if you are the taxman for god’s sake – it is not the perfect time TO START THINKING ABOUT THE NEW TAX YEAR!!!

Mundane quote for the day: ‘The most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments … our commonest deeds are set about with a fluttering and flickering of wings, a rising and falling of lights.’ - Virginia Woolf, Orlando

PS I just heard a lovely version of Sade's 'By your side' by Ben Taylor (son of James) doing a session on the Dermot O'Leary show. You can check it out at It's about 33.30 minutes in. By the way has anyone else noticed that the volume control on iPlayer goes up to 11? Someone must be a fan of Spinal Tap.

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