Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mad as a bucket of frogs

In the UK we have a saying ‘mad as a bucket of frogs’. It means that something makes no sense, is confused or just plain crackers. In readiness for this post I made a list of things which strike me as worthy of the title ‘mad as a bucket of frogs’.  It turned out to be quite a long list, so here are the edited highlights…

VAT, or Value Added Tax as we know it here in the UK. It works like this – at the completely arbitrary whim of the tax man an amount, could be 5% or could be 20%, is added to the price of some things you buy. Not all, that depends on the capricious twists and machinations of the rules as they are understood by a very small, chosen few. For example, a Jaffa cake is not liable for VAT because it’s a cake, not a biscuit, or so say the manufacturers, McVities. They won a court ruling on the matter so it must be right. No VAT is payable on plain biscuits or cakes, except when the biscuit is covered in chocolate which elevates it to a luxury and the VAT man must have his slice, so to speak. It’s an entire parallel universe of convoluted logic. Suffice it to say I’m relieved that my income is unlikely to climb to the point at which I’d be obliged to register for VAT. Life wouldn’t be worth living.

Next on my list – Reality TV Shows. Here I must confess to a certain degree of inconsistency. I actually like one or two of them, but for the most part they leave me utterly bewildered. I’m particularly baffled by those fly on the wall things where the viewer gets to witness the everyday lives of people who are themselves mad as the proverbial frogs. We get to see the likes of the Kardashians, or the inhabitants of Essex, or Chelsea in all their glorified mundanity. We listen in on their petty squabbles and are invited to gasp in empathy at their everyday struggles over which lipstick to choose or who’s sleeping with whose brother.

But the reality TV show which really leaves me scratching my head in complete bewilderment is the Jeremy Kyle Show. The real life participants are odd enough, though I suppose there is some discernible logic. Dysfunctional, misguided souls who agree to be paraded on television, offering themselves up for inevitable ridicule and admonishment in return, I assume, for a fat fee. But what on earth am I to make of JK himself, parading up and down and yelling at the participants as though he’s some avenging angel with a right to pass judgement. Why does no one at least try to deck him?

The final item I want to pick out from my list of the completely bewildering is bungee jumping, and the linked madness which is parachute jumping for fun. Nothing on Earth would ever convince me there was anything to be gained by jumping from a perfectly serviceable airplane, and the very idea of leaping off a cliff with nothing but a rubber band between me and disaster is quite beyond reason or logic.  Perhaps the devotees of the sport are all closet VAT inspectors…

Okay, that’s the end of my personal rant about those aspects of life which strike me as absurd. On the plus side, the mad stuff makes life more interesting, and where would we Brits be without these little quirkinesses to complain about?


  1. My experience was quite a few years ago, but I was surprised to find that as a visiter to the UK I could file under some circumstances to have the VAT refunded after returning to the US. Hardly seemed fair.

  2. Makes mewant to go look for some McVities. I think those are the ones that one of the princes likes to eat, which may influence their status.

    In America, it was Jerry Springer. They even made an opera about his show of chair swinging cuckolds and dancing Nazis. I would to sing it.

    The nice thing about Jerry Springer was that if you'd had a bad day and felt mistreated and incompetent and universally despised so that even the earth did not want to bear your weight upon it, but you could always watch the unfortunates on Springer and feel better about yourself. Things aren't that bad. Yet.

  3. Just be glad you guys aren't living a bad reality show like we are, courtesy of our government.

  4. At least in the UK (I believe), the VAT is part of the advertised price. (Certainly it is in most countries.) In the US, the price you see on the sticker is NEVER what you end up paying. Foreigners who visit end up feeling truly ripped off.

    In New York City, you pay both city tax AND state tax on purchases.

    And don't get me started on mandatory tipping in restaurants. I am all in favor of giving a waiter or waitress something to show I appreciate his or her service. However, in America, the minimum wage does not apply to restaurant servers. The owners are allowed to assume that the shortfall will be made up in tips. This means that even if, as a customer, you find the service indifferent, you can't opt to skip the tip--because you're literally cutting the server's wages.

    Mad as a bucket of frogs... think I'll adopt that expression myself. There are so many opportunities to use it!


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