Thursday, February 19, 2015

A timely riposte

Listening as I do to so much of the output of BBC Radio 4, I find myself inclined to scream back when there are the interminable discussions on the topic of 'home ownership'. This English obsession, from my expatriate perspective, seems utterly absurd.

For this reason I was pleased to read an article in The Guardian this morning, which included the following paragraph:
"If we managed to import a German royal family, why is it not possible for us to also import the German housing system – slowly, bit by bit, along with their Christms trees and mulled wine? In Germany tenants cannot be evicted on a whim. Often landlords have to bribe them out if they want control of the property back before the agreed date. Property is of good quality, well soundproofed, spacious and well insulated. Pension companies often hold it, so you know where your rent is going: it is paying for your parents’ generation’s old age."

Full article here.

Reading costs matter

Since my circumstances oblige me to track my expenditures... to count my pennies... I have break-out statistics with regard to the cost of my reading. Over a ninety-day period I have downloaded 22 Kindle books at a cost of EUR 55, or EUR 2.50 per title.

How fortunate I am to read mainly English-language titles! The infographic above shows that German ebooks are on average more than twice as expensive, largely on account of the inhibiting 'fixed book price law'. 

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Reading matters

My vigilant personal Amazonian will have duly noted that the latest book by Ms Gabaldon, Written in my Heart's Blood,  accounted for twelve consecutive evening reading sessions, which made it at around EUR 7 a value-for-money proposition that any Scot would appreciate.

And my verdict? The Outlander series pemits its author much freedom. This she takes frequently to describe in detail the sexual couplings of protagonists who must now surely be hearty sexagenarians. But flipping forward a few Kindle screens takes care of that. Then there are accounts of medical and surgical interventions which after while pall but can also be dismissed with a few thumb-clicks.

Yet I find that extraneous narrative excursions like these encourage me in my own storytelling, giving me permission to digress (sometimes at length) and touch on topics which are only marginal to the tale I am attempting to tell. The eventual reader (were I to have even one such) is free to fast-forward if he or she so desires.

My next Kindle investment was The Pucelle Connection, the sixth outing of Genevieve Lenard. Estelle Ryan’s heroine has high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. Here the writer’s parentheses concerning this complex set of turmoils connected to brain development cannot possibly be skipped, nor can her insights into the world of art crime or insurance fraud.

Just for the record, after these most satisfying multi-layer reads I opted for something a bit more conventional, Sea Change, impeccably crafted by Robert B.Parker. No additional thumb exercise when following one of Jesse Stone’s cases.

Most recently I spent a coupleof evenings with East of Innocence by David Thorne. Loads of brutality, a huge helping of sentimentality, a milieu study I could probably have done without. But what a wonderful book title!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January plaint

I'm glad to see the 'back' of this month! For most of the time I have endured well-deserved discomfort as a result of spending days hunched over my venerable laptop, over time even with reading glasses needing to be ever closer to the screen. As a result even the three block walk to the supermarket is an uncomfortable excursion, undertaken with gritted teeth and pauses en route.

The only upside of all this is worth mentioning. I have never been what one would call a pet lover. However recently my enterprising ex, Mickey, has been working from time to time in an office near my flat where Felix is not welcome. Might I dog-sit for a few hours? In return she's done the shopping for me a few times. And I have learned that Felix can be a charming and undemanding companion. Result!

Nevertheless when finances permit I shall get rid of the old laptop and acquire a computer which permits an ergonomically correct posture... and probably have my eyes checked, too.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Burns night

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Some balance at last

The very timely article in The Guardian here quotes a British welfare claimant...
“When I had to apply for benefit in the UK, I just turned up at the benefit office and had to fill out one form. Later, someone came around to check whether I really lived at my address. That was it. In Germany, I needed to certify everything from what kind of car I drove down to how I heated my flat. At times it felt like I was doing paperwork for paperwork’s sake. I found it a very demeaning experience, but then that may have been the point.”
With all of the drivel about 'benefits tourism' we are subjected to these days, the article is to be welcomed. My own experience of the German system I can only rate as positive and by no means demeaning.
Of course at my age it is not a matter of anything resembling 'job-seekers allowance... and there is no system helping independent freelancers to find clients. But when it became clear that my earnings as a translator were dropping to a perilously low level I was very relieved that the state offers Grundsicherung im Alter und bei Erwerbsminderung... 'basic support for the aged with reduced earnings'. Given that I have mostly been self-employed and have not regularly enough paid into any scheme entitling me to a pension, I am most thankful for the equivalent of GBP 105 per week that the Grundsicherung provides. I am also freed of the obligation to pay the German household radio/television/computer license fee and I now have comprehensive health insurance at no cost... nice to know when one is fast approaching the age of seventy-five.
I wonder how someone with my profile would fare in the United Kingdom? 
My personal story notwithstanding, I remain convinced that the whole 'benefit tourism' issue could be so easily solved. Yes, the principle of free movement of citizens within the EU must remain sacrosanct. Yes, such citizens must enjoy the protection of a welfare system. But why should that be the system of the country of residence and not the country of origin? If the 
Ruritanian who has moved to England falls into a situation of welfare dependence, why should the benefit allocated differ by a single penny from that which would be made available under directly comparable circumstances in Ruritania? 
Too simplistic? Perhaps. Tricky in the short term. But has it not long been a tenet of EU ambition that gradually there should be less of an economic  chasm between the federation's richer and poorer nations, an imperative reduction in inequality?
Guess it's a project for the next generation.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reading matters

Yesterday's email from the German ePubli platform tells me that nobody selected TheodoraLand as their Christmas read. Royalty sum zero! However yesterday I was also by hook or by crook (but mainly thanks to the charitable gesture of my former employer in the Sandlands) I was able to pay the January rent. So things are not all bad.

When it comes to my recent Kindle reading, though, in my effort to save money I have gone for bargain offers. Bad idea! Consequently I have just finished three self-published British 'police procedurals', each of which was so formulaic that it was hard to attribute the invaribly busty and gorgeous female Sergeant to the right Inspector in the various narratives. Add the annoyance of dealing with a writer with a penchant for using the wrong words ('transgressed' in place of 'transpired'), persisted in the use of "they were sat on the chairs" for the past continuous and totally idiosyncratic punctuation of dialogue quoted and I really began to believe that one gets what one pays for.

With relief I have downloaded from my wishlist a title which I trust with its 850 pages will make me forget these recent disappointments. If so, it will be worth every penny!