£s and Tax-£s

When my husband was growing up in Poland he ‘yearned’ for Lego, but you could only buy it in Pevex, the hard currency shop. In theory, Polish money and hard currency were exchangable. In practise, there were some things – wonderful things – that you could only buy with hard currency.It’s the same with ‘pounds’ and ‘tax-pounds’.

‘Good morning, madam, welcome to What Everyone Wants*. How can I help?’

‘I’ll have some tights please, and a packet of tea bags. And also, I want a better commute to work.’

‘Certainly, madam. For the commute to work, we’d recommend a Lovely New Car.’

‘Wow, I’ll be the envy of the neighbours. Can it fly over the traffic?’

‘No. For a shorter commute you’d have to go to TaxPoundland. Anything else?’

‘I see and hear about the unemployed, and homeless people, addicts, people at food banks. It upsets me. Can you help with that?’

‘Absolutely. We can offer distraction in the form of a Treat – huge range from a chocolate bar to a foreign holiday. We can also offer Seclusion, starting at “a house in a well-off neighbourhood”, through “gated housing” and right up to “personal bodyguard and chauffeur “. Finally we can offer “Giving to Charity”.’

‘Does Giving to Charity help the ones I see?’

‘No, Giving to Charity just helps out a random selection. For something more comprehensive, you’d have to go to TaxPoundland.


‘Hello, I’d like a better commute.’

‘The budget version cuts through the traffic, but it’s a bit crowded and unreliable and the fares are high. Or you can go right up to something modern, comfortable, bang on time and cheap enough for everyone.’

‘And I want to stop feeling bad about people who are poor.’

‘Range of options available here, from ‘No One Actually Starves’, where you avoid actual corpses (bit unreliable lately), to ‘Treat People with a little Dignity’, and at the top, the full, German-style ‘Even People like you Might not have to Sell their Homes if Things go Wrong’.’

‘That last one sounds great; if I knew I wouldn’t lose my home, I could start a business. But won’t lazy people just pretend they need the money?’

‘That can happen. If it’s dealbreaker, go back to What Everyone Wants and cancel your house, travel and property insurance.’

‘Er, why?’

‘Because insurance fraud is as big a problem as fraud in TaxPoundland’s products. It’s just hidden in higher premiums.’

*There was shop called that when I was growing up in Glasgow. I never found out what they actually sold; I think it was a bit like BHS. Which may in fact be what everyone wants.