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Civic duties

Yesterday's weather was beautifully warm, but not hot. The UV index was at the midpoint and there was little wind. Only the flies which occasionally clustered around my head during my walk caused irritation.

My walk served two purposes. The exercise, of course, which took me past the postbox which is about 4 kilometres away, and the route which took me down one of tidiest side roads in the area. On its 1,100 metres or so, it has four houses, all built in recent years and, as I am sure any seller would say, immaculately presented.

The verges are so tidy that one imagines cooperative action by the residents might be behind that. The conversations I have had with people there suggest that they are locals who have chosen the spot to build and retire too.

My walking past the postbox was not merely incidental. Earlier in the week, Parliament had provided me with my P11D form. The tax system is littered with "P" forms, P45, P60 and P11Ds. The form was the last piece of information I required to complete my SA100 and SA102MSP forms.

During the year if anything arrives that will be needed to complete my income tax form, I stuff it into an electronic drawer. Out it all comes and with a little addings up, onto my tax forms it goes.

The formal date for submission of paper tax forms is 31st October and if you provide your form via the HMRC web site, you can wait until the end of January. Because the SA102MSP form is particular to MSPs and therefore used by only about 129 people - it's about 129 because people who left and were replaced can add up to more than the maximum number of MSPs which is 129 - they haven't produced an electronic form. So we can wait until next year and send it to Cardiff on paper.

Incidentally, 129 has not always been the maximum number of MSPs there can be in our Parliament. In the original Scotland Act of 1998, if there was a tie in the calculation for the final seat determined for list MSPs, there was no way to break the tie in the Act, all would have been elected.

This was corrected at a later date and any tie would now be broken by lot.

Just to show how complicated legislation can become, here's the explanation which https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/46/section/8 provides to explain the change. Don't read it, just don't, it will hurt too much:

"S. 8(7)(a)(b)(8)(9) substituted (11.3.1999) for words by S.I. 1999/787, art. 6, Sch. 2 rule 63 (which S.I. was revoked (20.11.2002 except for specified purposes) by S.I. 2002/2779, arts. 1, 2); and those same sub-provisions substituted (20.11.2002 except for specified purposes) for words by virtue of S.I. 2002/2779, arts. 1, 7(4), Sch. 2 rule 64 (which S.I. was revoked (15.3.2007 except for specified purposes) by S.I. 2007/937, arts. 1, 2); and those same sub-provisions substituted (15.3.2007 except for specified purposes) for words by virtue of S.I. 2007/937, arts. 1, 7(4), Sch. 2 rule 65 (which S.I. was revoked (30.12.2010 except for specified purposes) by S.I. 2010/2999, art. 97, Sch. 9); and those same sub-provisions substituted (30.12.2010 except for specified purposes) for words by virtue of S.I. 2010/2999, arts. 1, 6(4), Sch. 2 rule 65."

Anyway, I felt virtuous and posted my tax return. I have the feeling that after a number of years of refunds, my time may be up and the cash will flow in the opposite direction.

My other "virtuous" act during my walk related to eggs. I think I mentioned previously that egg boxes are in short supply. So I have been saving up my empty ones. Yesterday I put them back into the little egg shed at the roadside so they can be re-used.

Just as the weather has been pretty good for my walks, the fruit trees and bushes seem to prospering also. The blackcurrant bushes in the garden are positively heaving with nearly ripe fruit. And the old bushes which we dug out about three years ago and threw over the garden fence are fighting back and may even do better than the new plants.

On my walk too, I can see that huge amounts of brambles have set. Normally it would be very late September, sometimes into November before we finish picking over the hedgerows. But it looks like it might be somewhat sooner.

Plums and apples hang from our trees but not in abundance.

Altogether nature is doing well even as homo sapiens suffers under the cosh from the pandemic.

I could simply watch the fruit ripen, but other things must command my active engagement. Looking at the week ahead, I see numerous online meetings. On manufacturing, energy and agriculture. Our Group Leader and our First Minister have birthdays. Both will be celebrating reaching 32 - if you count as an old computer person like me would prefer to, in hexadecimal. I will not be moving on from 49, using that number system, for a few months yet.

But by far the most important birthday later this month is that of my god-daughter Darcey. I am going to have to have a serious conversation about her apparent conversion to the philosophy of Zeno of Citium. His followers met in the Stoa Poikile (the Painted Porch) and took the name from there to become what we now call stoics.

Early adherents such as Seneca and Epictetus suggested that a sage would be emotionally resilient to misfortune.

Last year Darcey offered up for signature a stookie which encased a broken arm. I have just been advised by text that this year for a change it will be a wrist that she has inflicted a similar injury on.

The appellation of her being a stoic is deserved. In 2019 she suffered for three days before deciding to fess-up to her mum. This year it seems it was only a two-day delay. She broke it while playing with granny's dog.

She obviously has talent I lack. Over the years, I have had many parts of my anatomy X-rayed for breakages. The first being when I may have been about three and was hit on the nose by a swing. But thus far, my bones carry no evidence of fracture. However, there are quite a few dents on my shins from playing in the front row at rugby.

With the classic theatrical good luck wishes being "break a leg", I hope she abjures any such artistic inclinations.

She would take it literally.

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