Category Archives: Life

Wagner sings – (only joking).

Until this year’s X-factor, I only ever knew of Wagner as one of the world’s leading composers and my absolute top favourite.

Unfortunately Wagner is now synonymous with a late middle aged hopeful whose hopes are being artificially prolonged by a crazy facebook campaign designed to “upset” Simon Cowell’s money machine.

First of all, it won’t. Even if Wagner IS the last contestant standing and actually wins, he will get a prize but he won’t have a career. In that situation, the second place contestant WILL win and be promoted – take it from me. While a Christmas number 1 will make Simon more money, he already has loads and a few millions less won’t affect his worldwide income – and he will still win out of X-Factor: everyone who votes for Wagner is adding even more money to Simon’s cash via the telephone lines.

So it’s a Facebook fail. Yes Wagner might have a CD but who on earth – unless it’s his granny – is going to buy it.

These facebook campaigns demonstrate the power of social media and maybe one day the government will be elected by facebook (no, I really am only joking). While it’s great to show how people can mobilise against capitalism if that’s what it is, what the Wagnerites have failed to understand is that by voting for Wagner is that they will be doing a young person (or older person in Mary’s or Matt’s case)  out of a career they would not otherwise have had.

That is the damage that social media can have on people’s lives, along with on-line bullying. Social Media – Great tool. Just a pity that there are some real tools out there using it for less good purposes.

JohnF

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UK Companies House and how to keep them sweet

They are making loads from penalties these days and while they might diplomatically say that they would rather people filed on time, the conspiracy theorists would have you believe that it is simply another way for the government to make money – like speed camera penalties! But I’m an accountant not a conspirator: it’s my job to make sure you don’t get penalties.

So if you need to know some more about this, you can check out our main blog post on the site http://www.ngmaccountants.com/news/businessmatters/avoiding_problems_with_companies_house2/

But the short answer is that you need to file on time and that means being prepared, and THAT means:

  1. Don’t leave it till the last minute to send your accounts to the accountant. For one thing it costs you more and secondly you could still be late.
  2. If you’re doing your own accounts, do them much sooner than the final month. It will take you longer than you think and don’t put them in the post – it is wholly unreliable and Companies House won’t accept that as an excuse.
  3. Don’t believe that you will be able to appeal against any penalty and win. You WILL lose. In short there is virtually no excuse for late submission of accounts to Companies House, and the few there are are so difficult to qualify for its much easier and takes less energy to do it on time.

The secret history of an accountant

I may be an accountant now but once I was an opera singer. Hard to believe isn’t it?

It is true nonetheless. I was reminded of my musical past tonight when I caught the tail end of a Sky Arts programme “The Mikado” by Gilbert & Sullivan. It was while I was at secondary school (Coatbridge High School) in the seventies and it was then the tradition in the grammar schools to do a G & S opera as the end of term concert. You could only audition if you were in 4th year or above and I recall auditioning in 5th year for the part of Strephon but was pipped at the post by Iain Ewart and I was left with Lord Tololler!

But it was the beginning and under Mrs Gallacher’s tutelage, principal Music teacher, I became Nanki Poo in The Mikado in 6th year.

Unfortunately the G & S tradition has died out in secondary schools nowadays, having been replaced with “musicals”. Good enough in their own right, but nothing to beat G & S.

Sad really that time has moved on

JohnF

Be Careful – everything is known

It was once said if ever what we know was known by others, everyone would flee the country. Trouble is everything is known by a selected few and we don’t realise it, or worse, believe that they don’t know everything.

I was speaking to a colleague the other day about tax investigations and he was telling me an interesting tale about a tax investigation he had been involved with.

His client had been selected for investigation and being a brave (but as it turns out foolhardy) Englishman decided to tough it out with HMRC. So when the investigating officer asked the client to tell him all about his properties, the brave Englishman replied, “well, there’s my house here and I’ve got a flat on the South Coast at Bournemouth which I let out. I’ve already told you about these: what’s the problem?”

The taxman asked him again ” Are you sure those are all of your properties?”

“Absolutely”, replied the by-now-feeling-less-confident Englishman.

“So what about these ones?” as the now, victorious tax inspector handed over a folder containing the other 12 properties held overseas in countries ranging from France to Morocco.

As he looked across the table at him, the foolhardy Englishman visibly turned to jelly and slid from his chair on to the floor.

That’s an extreme situation I admit, but real. When you get investigated – not if – you can be sure that your secrets are already known when the taxman comes to call and your chances of being investigated are not getting any less as our web article demonstrates in more detail. And at least we’ve got a solution in addition to ” flee the country”,  just not quite as expensive.

JohnF

RSNO Summer Pops

How I got to this concert is almost irrelevant now. But I am soo glad that I took up the offer. It was the most mindblowingly fantastically awesome experience ever. That’s a lot of (modern) superlatives.

The concert title was uninspiring and didn’t prepare me for what was to be unleashed by Jeff Tyzik and the RSNO. Without having done any research into the programme, I went along thoroughly open minded. As it turned out I had heard before very little of what was played last night and I am a seasoned concert goer of some 40 years+ since I was about 12 or 13 in fact. But it grabbed me by the throat from the very beginning of the Gershwin Cuban Overture until the very last notes of the Ellington.

It was quite a bitty night – lots of small suites and short segments of music but somehow that seemed to suit things well. American in Paris was about the longest piece and excellently took us into the interval.

On his return, Jeff Tyzik brought a jazz horn with him and didn’t comment on it, simply resting it beside the podium. My mind started thinking ahead but quickly focussed instead on the New York Cityscape pieces by Jeff Tyzik. Incredible musical insights into the city – all beautifully accessible and the Wall Street East River item was out of this world. The orchestra took on a wholly African sound echoing the slave traders who first occupied Wall Street way back. The orchestra truly sang for him. Actually. At two points the players take on a role as choir of slaves and sing. I’m watching for this on iTunes now!

In the final part of the concert which I am delighted to say over ran the progammed time by about 30 minutes. We were treated to Jeff, the conductor, playing his jazz trumpet along with two other stunning musicians from the orchestra in some Jelly Roll Morton pieces.

Much of the upstairs was sadly empty and those who missed this concert will be sad to have missed it. It was very poorly billed and described – no one reading the synopsis could have ever imagined the wild sounds of the devils music or the energy of the players and the conductor.

Last night, 12th June 2010 in Glasgow was really special.

JohnF

Website Usability

As those of you who have been following the adventures of NGM’s website construction, you may know that I am at the stage of usability testing – a stage that I hadn’t really planned for.So that’s the first lesson. Plan for it – no one ever seems to, not even Royal Bank of Scotland!

I had my two Maestro cards reissued recently – the usual problems, signature strip worn out. And while few people ever check the signature nowadays, you get the odd one. So I had to get them replaced and in came two shiny new Visa debit cards.

I had signed up for Mobile Money with RBS for my Iphone recently and for a few days I had been getting  texts from RBS reminding me to log on to their website to register my new cards. Today, I decided I would do it and stop the annoying texts. So I followed the instructions on the text and after some special codes sent to my phone to be entered on the website, came to a dead end – there was nothing to enter, update or click. After doing it again and ending up in EXACTLY the same place, I decided to phone for help. I spoke to someone (I’ll call him Michael, though I think his name was Lee) who took me through the SAME process again. After I explained this he said, “Oh I didn’t realise you were already registered – he didn’t ask – all you need to do is open the app on your phone and…… And it was obvious except their texts didn’t tell you that, their website didn’t tell you that and I wasted time on something which with some simple explanation up front could have been achieved in a minute or two.

So what’s the point of this post?

Steve Krug in his book, Don’t Make me Think, makes it crystal clear that web users need to have it made as simple as possible to interact with your website, that you don’t ask them to do unnecessary things.

Michael at RBS didn’t seem to understand Web Usability when I asked him about the futility of the process RBS had sent me on. He had no answer that made sense to me. He didn’t care – that was patently obvious.

I am on a crusade.

So beware, non-believers: the NGM Usability crusade has begun.

JohnF

Rome #1

This is the end of the story, not the beginning. Well, at least it is the beginning of the end.

We fly home today provided British Airways and NATS can manage to hold things together for another 10 hours or so. You might pick up a teensy weensy bit of sarcasm in my tone. Perhaps. My rage and fury have been maintained a bit like Tam O Shanter’s wife. And whether you wish to hear about it or not it will be published – but once my customers needs have been taken forward again.

To happier thoughts now than British Airways or Expedia. We reached the last pizza last night, and forgetting the trauma of the last 6 days for a minute, I am really sorry to be leaving Rome today. My self taught (for the most part) lessons have worked out quite well and I have no fear of speaking to Italians in their own language even though I don’t get about 70% of it quite right and there is always a shorter or more effective way to say what I need to say but that’s just how it is. My objective which I had shared with a few of my customers was that, as my daughter’s boyfriend’s mother speaks no English, I didn’t want to have a UN type of experience where there was continual re-translation taking place. For the most part I was able to have simple conversations with both Luciana and Mario and thanks to their kindness in speaking more slowly than they might be accustomed to do, I was able to feel that I had tried.

It has been an amazing (stupefacente) time and already I have a great hunger to be back in Rome and possibly in July even though it will be very hot. I hope too to make my first attempt at driving in Italy then so I have lots more new learning to do in the next few months.

While we were here AS Roma one of the two city teams managed to beat Lazio in a local derby other than the absence of bigotry, absolutely no different from Rangers v Celtic. The post match activities included throwing molotov cocktails and setting a car on fire with people in it. Don’t get me wrong – we saw NONE of this it was reported in the press but it explained in stark detail why Sandro only ever wants to watch on TV or in the pub and it shows too that Glasgow and the UK is not alone in having to handle football violence. On a happier note again, Sandro believes that when I am in Rome, Roma wins.

Unfortunately I will not be in Rome on 5th May when the final of the Coppa Italia is played between Roma and Inter Milan. Roma may not win.

So back to Glasgow today – hopefully.

JohnF

PS Roma potrebbe vincerla. c’e speranza ancora!