Friday 13:05 – The Supermarket Queue
I am clasping a basket containing some oranges, six eggs and a newspaper. Whilst I wait I contemplate what I will blog about this afternoon, prior to being collected by a friend at 15:45, destination the countryside. My weekly blog post goes out at 16:03 every Friday. I am stringent about this; it must be 16:03. Perhaps my blog will be the final instalment of my Bizarre Author Deaths series, or possibly my proposed Amazon KDP Select promotion for Charles Middleworth, my humorous and insightful novel about an actuary named Adrian, or something about my forthcoming book Necropolis, or perhaps…. I am at the front of the queue. I place the basket in front of the checkout person.
‘Good afternoon,’ she says.
‘Ten silk cut purple.’
Turning to the cigarette shelves she reaches out and clasps a packet.
‘Not those, the purple ones ………… yes those.’
Something catches my attention on the back page of my newspaper. It is not the football transfer day related headline that grabs me, but the date printed at the top of the page. I bend towards it, muttering, ‘no no please no,’ as I do so. Despite drawing ever closer, the date still reads, January 31st. Perhaps it is a misprint. Looking up I ask the checkout woman, ‘Please tell me its not January 31st, tax return deadline d-a-y?’ the words petering out towards the end.
‘It’s January 31st,’ she states somewhat gleefully.
Turning around I am faced by the next in line in the queue, a sombre suited man. ‘Tell me it’s not,’ I say in a pleading tone.
‘It’s January 31st,’ he says.
I take my iPhone from my pocket. It too states it is January 31st. And then I am throwing my items into a shopping bag, snatching my change and running for home, lamenting as I go how tax return day could have snuck up so stealthily, without the slightest concern for my wellbeing, me who always has everything meticulously planned well ahead of time. There is no way I am paying the fine for a late filing of my return, not this year. Due to time constraints my blog post will have to be about my quest to get my tax return done on time. As I run let me explain the need for such haste. The house where I am staying in the countryside is fairly remote and has no internet, the only internet is twenty minutes away in the ah the ah local ah ah town …. in the ah ah the public, the public ah ah library, next to the ah ah supermarket and it ah ah ah closes at six or seven and it is too ah ah far away ah ah … to, to ah ah make on time, as it ah ah three ah hours drive ah from London. It’s ah ah ah now or ah never for ah ah ah complet…ing the ah return….
At home I rummage through my filing cabinet, scouring for anything vaguely resembling tax related paper work. Receipts, statements, last year’s returns, pages of notes, more receipts – all are extracted at a feverish pace. My end of year bank statements are nowhere to be seen – panicked I scour the contents of the cabinet again – to no avail. Then I remember I have online banking.
2 mins later – The page does not load. I wait pleading for what seems an eternity, hitting the return button with increasing ferocity. Still the page does not load. The modem’s orange flashing light reveals there is a problem. ‘Not here not now,’ I shout aloud whilst shaking the modem vigorously with one hand, as if it were a maraca. It does not respond. I set off at haste for the bank.
13:23 – The Bank
2 hours 22 mins until Departure
11 hours 37 mins until Tax Deadline
2 hours 40 mins until Blog Post Deadline
The queue stretches almost to street. Wintery gusts of wind howl through the door, as I bend down hands on knees fighting for breath.
The minutes pass like an eternity, five…………ten…………….fifteen…………sixteen………..seventeen. I am now next in-line. A customer is walking away from till 1. I approach. The cashier is walking off. Despite my loud protestations she continues, a mere shrug of the shoulders her only response. Crumpling a piece of paper in one hand, I wait patiently, pacing in circles as I do so. The customer at till 2 – a smiley female in a garish anorak holding one of those shopping wheeled trolley (c.f. similar to the one in the picture but with a floral pattern) is chatting with the cashier about the weather and the forthcoming weekend, banalities that have no relation to banking. Why now when I am in such a rush does the impersonal, unfriendly nature of the city have to desert me. It is as if these two are chatting in the friendly village shop. I clap my hands. The woman turns. She glowers at me. I tap my wrist where a watch would be, if I had one, with the index finger of my right hand before doing a fast-forward rolling motion with my arms. It is quite sometime before she leaves, trolley trailing behind her.
(Courtesy of www.goognightlittlespoon.com)
15:27 – Home
18 mins until Departure
8 hours 33 mins until Tax Deadline
35 mins until Blog Post Due
Completing fields related to income and tax, calculating complex calculations, estimates, creating equations, cross referencing previous years – I navigate the Inland Revenue’s self assessment online tax return form with a consummate ease, in a similar manner to how my protagonist, actuary Adrian would in my humorous tale of the unexpected, Charles Middleworth (Available from Amazon in paperback/Kindle). Periodically I alternate to Word and type this blog post at a feverish pace, all the while keeping a close eye on the relentlessly ticking clock. Multi-tasking is my middle name. In our hectic modern world this is an essential attribute, and I am its number one exponent, I also have great timekeeping skills and always exude a calm, composed professional air in everything I do, even when under intense pressure such as now.
The Inland Revenue states at the top of the page how far one is into the return:
30% complete, ………….. 50% …………80% …………….. 90%
The page is not responding and I am left languishing at 90%. I hit the return key several times – still it does not respond. A flickering orange light flashing on the modem confirms my worst fears. I thump my fist on the desk and then mutter an Our Father and two quick Hail Marys’. The modem light turns green. In no time at all I am checking my completed tax return – cross referencing amounts, checking figures, liabilities, net, gross and estimated figures. I press send. The page is sending, sending, sending…sent. I punch the air victoriously and then it is back to the blog. Yes that picture of the HM Revenue and Customs logo is appropriate (see picture) and that one of the trolley with wheels will do (see picture 2) .
3 mins until Departure
8 hours 18 mins until Tax Deadline
20 mins until Blog Post Due
The doorbell rings. I open the window and shout out, ‘one minute’. Back in my revolving office chair, I scour the blog post for typos, reduce the size of the images by 30%, insert tags, categories and schedule it for 16:03.
……………………………. UPDATE – 2 mins until blog post due – I am furiously typing this blog post update on my friend’s iPad in the car, hurrying to get it done by my 16:03 deadline. 18 minutes ago when I finished the post, I grabbed my suitcase, ran down the stairs and out the front door, slamming it behind me. Standing in the near freezing, cold precipitation, I realised I had forgotten my coat. I reached into my pocket for the house keys to let myself back in. They were not in my pocket. I was locked out. My wallet is in my coat pocket. Looking up at my friend I explain that I will have to borrow money from him for this weekend. The smile dissipates from his face. In the car he hands me an iPad, instructing me in no uncertain terms that I am to transfer money to his bank account before he lends me any. After I finish this blog post extension I will do exactly that. He has 3G you see, so I can use the internet in the car, which means I could probably have completed my tax return here in the passenger seat and I needn’t have been in such a hurry after all….