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December 2008 - Nice Christmas Present

When you notice that the nice man from the government has dropped your Winter Fuel Payment into your bank account, then you can bet a very small portion of it that it must be time to put fingers to keyboard for the Christmas edition of Nick Harvey's Comment.

So here we all are then, gathered around this roaring fire to enjoy the final edition of this perfect prose for the year of 2008.  Well, I trust that you will be enjoying it, I, of course, have to actually sit here and write the thing.

Back in the days of yore, when there was a weekly radio version of this load of old cobblers, the Christmas edition was always the one recorded on the Thursday before the event.  Since I moved into print, as it were, it's always been the one published at the beginning of December.

That produces a problem or seven, you see.  Here I am, sitting in front of a tepid radiator, rather than a roaring fire, not even knowing what the rate of VAT is going to be by the time these words hit your screen, let alone by the time dear old Santa pops down your chimney with his bag of gifts.

There are even rumours, as I write, that that bastion of Christmas purchases, Woolworths, might have gone to the wall by the time I want to pop out and buy 'Er Indoors a little something for the festive season.

So why, I've started wondering to myself, don't I reorganise things, such that the Christmas edition is the one which appears just after the event, rather than about three weeks before?

That way, I'd be writing during the festive season itself, rather than now, a couple of days before that Chancellor chappie stands up in the Commons and tells us how much Christmas is actually going to cost us.

Still, sitting here in Harvey Towers this weekend, bashing away at the keyboard is far better than being out in the town, doing all the Christmas shopping.  Imagine how sick I'd be feeling if I'd just finished purchasing all my purchases for the yuletide, when that darling Mr Darling lopped a couple of percent or more off the jolly old VAT rate.

Indeed, I have to mention Mr H of Leicester Square at this point.  He announced the completion of his Christmas shopping to the world last Wednesday on a well-known social networking site.  I bet he'll be a tad peeved if he finds out that he could have saved about 200 on his present bill.

200 would be about the right amount, I think.  He's such a generous soul, that that would be around two percent of what he spent, I expect.  You have got my latest address for the present, Mr H, haven't you?

The price of Christmas is a bit like the price of petrol at the moment, isn't it?  Are you, like me, running your rapid racer right down till it's just the fumes that are keeping it going, just because buying the petrol tomorrow, instead of today, might mean it's a penny or two cheaper for each litre?

Do you remember a few months back, when the price of crude oil was heading in an ever-upward spiral, and at such a phenomenal rate, that we all thought it would be able to shake hands with its maker in a day or two?

I'm sure, back then, some professional fuel guru was wheeled out on the television to tell us that the price of a litre of petrol in pence at the pumps, ought to be roughly the same as the price of a barrel of crude oil in dollars on the international markets.

Okay, so back then, crude oil was going for $130 a barrel and I was having to pay 129.9 pence a litre.  So why, I want to know, now that the crude oil price has gone down below $55 a barrel, am I still having to pay 89.9 pence a litre?  The oil companies, profiteering?  No, surely not!

It has to be said, however, that the rate at which the price of oil is coming down is surprising even me.  I half expected it to come back down to $99 a barrel and 99.9 pence a litre, but the extra Christmas present of the extra savings is, I have to say, extra welcome.

Now, I need to spill the beans on 'Er Indoors at this point, I'm afraid.  Being the busy soul that I am, I had occasion to send her out to fill up the rapid racer for me one day last week.

When she got to the petrol station, she was so surprised to find the fuel had come down to 95.9 pence a litre that she'd filled up the whole tank before she realised that she'd put the super-unleaded in by mistake and that the ordinary unleaded was down to only 90.9 pence.

I had to tell her that I'll dock the difference out of what I pay for her small Christmas trinket from Woolworths; if they're still open, that is.

So, where was I before I wandered off onto that minor digression and major rant about fuel prices?  Oh yes, I was trying to decide whether to have the Christmas edition of Comment before or after the event itself, wasn't I?

What do you think, madam?  Would you prefer the current situation where I warm you up for the season of goodwill at the beginning of the month, or would you prefer a retrospective to appear in the New Year?

Answers, please, on the back of the usual five pound note, to the usual address.  You may deduct 2.12765 percent from the five pounds, should the VAT rate be reduced by 2.5 percent between now and the date of your reply.

No, thinking about it, Nick Harvey isn't registered for VAT any more, so you won't be able to deduct anything, because there wasn't anything there to deduct from in the first place.  So, the full fiver if you please.  Thank you very much.

If I remember, I'll announce the result of this poll before the 2009 Christmas edition.  If I don't remember, then I won't.

Talking of polls, which I seem to have gently brought us round to at last, that was precisely the item I wanted to put under the Nick Harvey, Acme microscope for in-depth analysis in this month's edition.

Yes madam, I do realise that we're nearer to the end of the piece than we are to the beginning, but I got a bit sidetracked you see, so I'm just getting round to starting on the subject I wanted to discuss with all you dear viewers this month.

Had you realised that the good old United States of America elects its new President in January?  Yes, I know you all think that the Americans went to the polls at the beginning of November, and, indeed, they did.

But, it is a little known fact that they only went to the polls in November in order to vote to tell the Electoral College how to vote in the poll that takes place in January.  The new President only gets properly elected by this Electoral College, when it meets in January, and not before.

So all these people, all around the world, who keep on referring to this Barry Cabana chappie as the President Elect are totally wrong.  He hasn't been formally elected yet, so he can't possibly be the President Elect.

He is, currently and until the vote of the Electoral College, only the President Designate.  Once the College meets and votes, at the beginning of January, he then becomes the President Elect, for just the couple of weeks until he is sworn in as the proper President.

There, I'm happy now; I've got that one off my chest at last.  It's been annoying me ever since the day after the election to tell the Electoral College how to vote when they have their election.

Now, I could go on about the various types and classifications of Presidents at much greater length, but seeing as we're running a little bit late now, perhaps it's best if I move straight on to the seasonal greetings and all that type of thing.

Well, it is the Christmas edition after all, so I really ought to wish you you all a happy sprout cooking day before I go, oughtn't I?

'Er Indoors and I intend to be heading south for the holiday season in the rapid racer.  The crafty plan is to let other members of the family cook the sprouts for us again this year.

We hope to be running on a nice drop of unleaded, purchased for about 54.9 pence a litre, or that might be 52.9 after the VAT reduction goes into the pot, or even 54.9 again, after the likely increase in duty to offset the reduction in the VAT.  Oh no, I think I'd better give up now; I seem to be getting all my VAT adjustments designate mixed up.

I shall be back, however, promptly on the first of January, for the New Year edition of Comment, the first one for 2009.  I trust you'll all be joining me for that.  In the meantime, I really must go and find out if there's any VAT on turkeys.  Right, I'm off, where's me two-and-a-half percent?

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