I know y’all missed me ranting and raving. So, apropos of nothing other than my own therapy here are my thoughts, revelations and reminiscences for the Easter holidays based on my year so far. Should pass a little time if you are stuck in a traffic cue or airport. No need to comment 😉
Funny world we are living in just now, perhaps not the most appropriate term but it’s my way of looking on the bright side, I think they call it irony. I spend most of my time dazed and confused, frustrated and angry and frankly entirely bewildered by a cacophony of noise from a world I barely want to inhabit anymore.
Anyone remember the first series of One Foot in the Grave? In it our beloved Victor, aged 60, is forced into early retirement from his job as a security guard when the office where he worked installs an automatic security system (which he describes as “being replaced by a box“). The series follows Meldrew as he tries to fill his new-found leisure with odd jobs and unusual idiosyncrasies, whilst trying to get a new job. However, he regularly finds himself mistreated, misunderstood or simply the victim of bad luck, and consequently leads to his complaining heartily. Remind you of anyone?
As usual it’s been a frantic year so far here at KB, we call it soil season. It’s the time of year when we have to hump massive weights around all day, day after day. It might make money but my dead God it’s hard. I didn’t come here to complain (“bollocks” I hear you cry). The year started well considering my tribulations late last year that I would rather not revisit. However things quickly went downhill. Turns out I managed to dislocate a rib. Who knew you could even do such a thing. In case you were wondering I didn’t crash a bike, get in a fight or fall off something. I was pruning a tree…… I shit you not. It’s taken four months, numerous trips to the osteopath and a boat load of painkillers and even now I have some bad days. At my most restrained I say “Fuck getting old, it sucks”.
It’s been a while since I sat down at my desk to vent but here goes……
Since Brexit our government has taken a draconian approach and completely crushed all our (possibly) new found freedoms into oblivion. I could say it’s a plot to take us back in but I think it’s more likely the result of being “governed” by feckless, unimaginative, brain dead, self-serving, power-grabbing, over-privileged public school twits getting their chains jerked by a narcissistic British left-wing socialist media who seek to govern the country by manipulating public opinion therefore dictating policy in government and ultimately who stays and who goes. Anyone who believes politicians have any answers has their head up their own wotsit IMHO.
I have asked everyone I know this simple question. Just tell me a single example in recent memory of when politicians made something better than it was before?
As a business owner I spend the bulk of my time on official bullshit. Complying with legislation and tax laws takes as much of my time as purchasing and marketing combined. We (2 of us) recently spent the whole day supplying information to my bank (of 20 years and who hold more than the value of my house on deposit) that we are in fact who we claim to be before they froze our account. Apparently, this is for compliance with some government diktat or other. I reckon they owe me £250 in the wages it cost me.
It’s a sad fact that there are only two tricks our f***wit leaders have to fix anything. The first is to chuck money at it. This never works because most of the money never gets to the coal face once every committee, quango and mid level administrative organisation has taken their taste. The other thing is legislation. The amount of legislation we face today makes me feel like a death camp inmate. The constant notices of new legislation compliance required, the relentless threat of fines and the sheer weight of oppressive legislation make me wonder daily if I would not be better delivering groceries.
You can’t legislate the ills of society. You certainly can’t legislate goodness into a morally bankrupt self-serving society and, above all you cannot legislate against criminal activity. Dohh! Criminals don’t give a shit and won’t obey however many laws you propagate. All that legislation does is oppress the law-abiding citizen and does nothing to stem illegal activity. As an example just look at Partygate. The criminals carry on whilst the masses are oppressed by arbitrary overbearing government rules.
There are two types of law in existence, those that are absolute like gravity or ageing and then there are the laws man makes to govern his own society for the common good. Those laws are arbitrary, random, subject to change and………abuse. The Covid ‘laws’ were a bunch of bullshit put in place to try and legislate what we used to call personal responsibility and consequence. If you believe in your own head that the ‘government should do something’ about this or that you are, in my opinion betting on a busted flush. The government is like a one-trick pony with memory loss.
Much like Martin Luther King Jr I too “have a dream” or at least I had one. I wanted a little family business, working from home, making our way in the world and not bothering anyone. All I wanted to do was pay my way in the world, do a good job and buy my daughter a house for her family. The core part of my dream since I fell into bonsai was to import my own trees both to own and sell. However since Brexit our esteemed leaders have introduced such stupid legislation restricting the movement of plants that my dream is dead. I spoke to a nearby nursery owner recently and the moment i made reference to DEFRA inspections he chucked up his lunch and passed out on the floor in a puddle of his own piss.
Words are simply insufficient to describe what has happened to us here but in a country run by politicians, of any colour, only failure can be assured. So let’s move on……
For two years now I have been predicting economic hardship. Today they are saying that inflation has reached 7%. I doubt that, it’s higher and for a year I have been predicting 10% at least. There is a reason for that. For sure Covid caused some waves. What it did do was turn off the economic machine and restarted it. Trouble is everyone woke up and some realised they had been working for nowt for far too long. As everything began to pick up there was a vacuum, a backlog that needed to be filled and before we got back on track demand increased to boot. That just means extra costs as demand outstrips supply.
All of my life I have seen prices of goods falling. When I was born my dad had a ten-year-old Triumph motorcycle which quickly gained a sidecar as newborns make lousy pillions. Cars were too expensive for most young single income families back when we didn’t get paid for breeding. My grandparents spent 20% of their income on food. I have said a million times, today we sell branch cutters and wire cheaper than they were back in the early nineties when Bonsai Mart started. Back then I bought a 3-bed semi with a garage and a big garden and off-road parking for 3 cars for £51k. A while back a great friend of mine who is well in his eighties was looking at a tree I had for sale at just over a grand. After a while he said “That’s more than I paid for my first house”. Thinking about it myself a bag of Akadama now costs more than I paid for my first bike. Relatively speaking we never had it so good.
So how have prices gotten so low? Not simple but, advances in manufacturing and materials technology and the de-skilling of processes alongside automation have a great deal of bearing. However, again in my opinion, the primary factor is the reliance on cheap oil to allow manufacturing in the cheapest parts of the world, currently China, to be delivered to our shores in an almost criminally cheap way. That coupled with dumbass businesses that believe the only way to sell anything is to be the cheapest has led us all down a rabbit hole and now we are stuck fast and the ferret is on his way, it’s going to be a bloodbath. We have all been making hay in the glorious sunshine of cheap energy and it’s irresponsible use but now with a population of eight billion people those days are over folk.
Here’s an example. A couple of years ago I wanted to source copper wire. I know a guy with a factory ‘oop north that makes wire of all sorts. So being a patriotic fellow I decide to source what I need right here. It takes two months to figure out my guy can do what I need and another month to get a price. I need to buy 2000Kg minimum paid up front with a delivery time of at least two months. The price? £13 a kilo (£26,000 outlay). Plus the usual taxes and transport (30%). In China I can buy the same with a lead time of 30 days, no money up front and no minimum order at 30% of the UK sourced product. The cost of running a business in our country is simply not viable anymore with retail prices where they stand.
However that’s ALL changed now. For decades we have all been working on the basis of 10% inbound shipping. When I started we airfreighted tools out of Japan and incredibly the cost was only 5%. Today that cost is 50%. For years a 20 foot container from China to the UK has been around the £1200 to £2000 mark for small operators. Since Covid that has risen in many examples to £10-12K and I have heard of folks paying even more. So, today we have to work on the basis of 30+% inbound shipping wether that’s by road or sea. Many low cost products will simply disappear. I was recently talking to the boss of the biggest horticultural wholesaler in the south of the country who told me he was no longer going to be able to import the little plastic pots and trays so vital for the nursery growing industry in this country. Rising costs in China and import costs and charges mean that’s all over which potentially spells the end of the nursery production trade unless everyone pays more, a lot more.
As an aside I remember, as a kid, going to a local nursery. It was a bungalow down the road, the guy turned his living room and conservatory into a public shop where he sold plants and vegetables he grew in the extensive plot at the back. The front garden had parking for three cars (didn’t matter, we were always on our bikes or Shanks’s pony) and was full of weedy pots of random plants for sale. I actually bought my first bonsai raw material from there. The old guy looked a lot like a rustic BoJo crossed with a son of the soil. Blue ankle swinger dungarees with a massive leather belt around his middle, checked shirt and huge brown leather ankle boots with Blakey’s in the heels and a soppy great knitted bobble hat with tufts of coarse blond hair peeking out…… Oh and he was built like a brick outhouse with hands like battered pan lids. What a sweetheart he was too. I remember going there from time to time with my parents and grandparents. Mum got ‘taters weighed in a big Avery shop scale and tipped, soil and all, into her vinyl shopping bag. Whenever we bought bedding or vegetable plants they were pricked out of wooden seed trays and folded into damp newspaper. I doubt that old fella sold a plastic bag or tray in his life but he made his way in the world, living a simple life, taking what he needed and little more. There truly is honour in hard work.
So, after that charming saunter down memory lane lets get back to less idyllic times. The media are very keen to be blaming Putin and his bullshit for much of the world’s subsequent ills. Part of me has to say Duhh, WTF did you think was going to happen. We put ourselves at the mercy of a political system that has historically been at odds with our own values in the deluded belief that the leopard had changed it’s spots. Turns out (Putin) one can grin and bear a lot of bullshit in exchange for billions of dollars a day when it’s financing a political ideal. It’s all very well those ER idiots telling us to abandon oil today but truth is 90% of our country would starve to death within a month without it and if you think electricity is coming to the rescue go get yourself checked! Not developing home grown energy solutions might make a few deluded do-gooders feel better, what’s the acronym? NIMBY it’s coming from somewhere folks but buying energy, or anything for that matter will only impoverish our own country and empower others. In this case someone we perhaps ought not to have done.
The long and the short of this is you and I are going to have much less privilege than we have been fortunate enough to enjoy thus far. The relentless devaluation of the pound in your pocket is dictated by many factors. Not least being the time we abandoned the gold standard, sold our national gold reserves and started printing money, coupled with bad fiscal management, spiralling national debt and expenditure we can ill afford etc, means our great British pound now has about the same value as an old sticky sweet found in the corner of the pocket of a jacket rarely worn.
Above and beyond all of that in my experience is the simply incomprehensible burden of tax and charges levied on us all. It’s my considered opinion that the average guy working for a living, raising kids, running a car and paying a mortgage is losing up to 70% of his income in direct and indirect taxes. 20%, or 1/5 of everything you spend is tax. Income tax and NI accounts for an additional 20%. The cost of goods, imported or otherwise will have attracted a lot of tax before it ever gets offered for sale. Fuel is a big chunk of the cost of everything and that’s 50% odd tax and 20% of the cost of fuel is fucking VAT. So they are charging 20% tax on the 50% tax portion of your fill up.
Here’s an interesting factoid. We have all recently become familiar with the price of a barrel of oil. Brent Crude is measured in 42 (US) gallon (159 litres) barrels. Today 13 April 2022 that cost $105 or about £80. The end products from that oil make up about 2.6 gallons more than the original amount of oil, or about 44.6 gallons of end products from a 42 gallon barrel. Purely distilling the fuel yields about 11 gallons of gasoline per barrel depending on the oil source. However, cracking and advanced processing can actually yield a maximum return of about 42 gallons of fuel per 42 gallon barrel of crude. This includes Diesel, aviation fuel, kerosene and fuel oil out of the 42 gallon barrel. This is pretty ropy maths but that makes you average fuel 50p a litre excluding processing costs and delivery and the all important tax.
Our supply chains soak up a huge amount of money and every single time a product is moving or landing it’s getting taxed and charged up the wazoo. A factory gate price in China of £1 will translate into a shop price here of £4 to £10 and at that nobody except the chancellor is getting rich. As an example I thought I would share with you a bill that recently came across my desk. Bear in mind I already paid for the shipping fees, import VAT, import duty and associated charges. These are random fees imposed by the UK port. Add to that inland transport and handling. So my total factory gate product cost of £7000 cost me an additional £4200 (60%) to put on my doorstep. Every time we import, these random fees change. On occasions we get very little and other times we get the lot. What a fucking extortionate racket, were all getting fleeced.
Much is made of ‘trade deals’ by our esteemed leaders. This largely removes tariffs on goods known as duty. Politicians like to make a lot of fuss about how much they are doing. So, how much duty did I pay for this lot? £21.72. so let’s hope they get a deal done soon because that twenty spot will make all the difference won’t it?
In conclusion, this won’t be getting better so hang onto your wallets folk. Politicians, far from having the answers we need are actually the problem. But let’s face it most of us live like kings compared to our forbears and it’s still possible to make a living here with a lot of effort and imagination and for now at least Putin’s artillery isn’t falling on our heads, thank God, so we all need to be grateful for what we have because it could all be a lot worse and at least my glass is half full. Just need to prevent the government getting a longer straw!
Meanwhile here are a few pic’s from the garden.
Have a great Easter break folk!