Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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
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!
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Can it only be a week? Not often in my life have I spent a whole day following a news media feed. The first time was when with friends in London I listened to the American Armed Forces Radio Network reporting on the events in Dallas in 1963.
Then there was the coverage of the 2001 disaster of the World Trade Center attack in New York. The inevitable ripostes saw troops storming across Iraq, with BBC journalists reporting live from the front lines.
And now Charlie Hebdo, with consequences hard to imagine. So terribly sad.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
It was great to welcome Jessi back to Munich after her celebration of the New Year's arrival in Berlin with so many of her friends. They assembled from as far afield as Barcelona and Maastricht as well as from all over Germany and... as I gather... turned many a night into day.
Sad only that in a few days she'll be off to London for the second and final semester of her Masters degree course at King's and so it will be a good while before there are further cuddles for her Auld Da. Such is life!