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It's the economy, stupid

I saw this graphic in The Guardian yesterday, as the Bank of England made it's sixth consecutive rise in interest rates, taking borrowing costs to 1.75% (which is an additional 50 basis points), the biggest increase in twenty seven years.
Not only that, they have already hinted that in efforts to control spiralling inflation, there could be yet another raise next month.
Inflation prediction graphic
Inflation prediction graphic,
screenshot from The Guardian.

The policy of the bank is in line with other major western financial areas, namely the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, in pursuing a policy of aggressive hikes to interest rates in order to try to control inflation. In other words, sacrificing growth to calm the chaos.

I'm not a money expert and it's been a long time since I last watched Maria Bartiromo on CNBC, and that was only because her presentation style (which resembled the effect of one-shotting a dozen espressos!) was interesting. Can't say I understood half of what she was on about. So I cannot tell you, in these times, whether it's better to encourage growth or to "do everything it takes" to rein in inflation. Personally, given that the interest rates affect borrowing and mortgages and such, I can't help but think that "the little guy" is getting screwed, yet again.

But, honestly, none of this should be a surprise. I said, a couple of years ago, that with all the money being thrown at avoiding a socioeconomic collapse due to the lockdowns, some of which were harsh, that there would be a time when the world wants repaid.
That time has arrived.

Now, the thing I do want to point out is that graphic. Not so long ago the BoE predicted that things were going to get worse before they get better, and that interest rates were likely to hit 11%.
Now, thanks to the conflict in Russia (at least, that's their excuse, they probably aren't quite brave enough to add "and Brexit" because of the shouty mob) they are now predicting it'll hit around 13% in October...

...before, somehow, magically coming back down. Depending on where you look that'll be in 2024 (this graphic/The Guardian), or in 2025 (CNBC), with the downturn expected to last for at least five quarters.

Where do these figures come from, and what reliability can we have in them? Especially given as they were already two percent off on their projection, which is a lot. Plus, what fancy unicorn is going to turn up around the end of 2023 (or maybe 2024) to reverse this pattern? Perhaps inflation will continue to spiral upwards, like a lost balloon. It's already on track to match the awful days of the 1970s (jumping 9.2% in September 1973 to 12.9% in March 1974, which led to a massive rise in unemployment).

While it is quite clear that the less well off are going to suffer, what with the cost of living and the ridiculous jumps in the price of electricity and petrol, a lot of damage has already been done. Sizes of products are smaller, prices have gone up, and if the bank is actually correct (I have doubts, you might have noticed...) and inflation hits 1.5% at the end of 2025 (note - that's three years away), packages will remain small and expensive. Electricity will remain costly. And I doubt I'm ever going to see €1,30/litre for diesel ever again (or whatever that is for petrol and/or £). The oil companies are, quarter after quarter declaring record profits, and if not them then the governments will add "eco tax" in order to push people into short-range short-life electric vehicles that will simply swap one sort of catastrophic pollution for another...

...battery cars look good right now when there aren't many people using them. How about after a decade or two of everybody using them? The mining of lithium, copper, and aluminium used in the construction of the batteries. The recycling afterwards. And, of course, all the energy expended in charging them. The reason why electricity in the UK is so expensive now is because the country has very little nuclear. It's mostly oil and gas. There is about as much nuclear as there is biofuel, with renewables catching up on that. All of which means that your clean car will be recharged by dirty electricity...

At any rate, I think there's a lot more pain to come. Especially if you're living pay cheque to pay cheque.

 

EDF and consent

A rule was passed in February (#22-D-06 of 22nd February 2022) which requires EDF to supply certain information to alternative suppliers if you have the standard tariff (known as "Tarif Bleu").
The idea, I think, is to allow alternative suppliers to provide people with information on what may be better tarifs.

It is broken into two parts.

Uniquely with agreement, EDF will supply contact and identity information: name, address, phone numbers, email, and whether or not there is electric heating.
They note that agreeing to this will grant permission for alternative suppliers to make contact, either by SMS or email or by calling.

Without agreement, EDF will supply: the address of the meter, the reference number, the subscribed kVA, the amount of consumption of the past two years, the name of the subscribed tariff, and whether or not it's a smart meter.

To my mind, this is not anonymous data in any way. Sure, the third parties do not know my name, but they will know the address of the meter and two years worth of consumption. Hardly anonymous.

How is this GDPR compliant? As just mentioned, there's the issue of anonymous not really being so. And there's also the issue of informed consent. If you agree to prospecting (the first option), who exactly is this information being shared with? Other providers? Data brokers? What will they do with it?

All of this will start in September 2022. Call me highly bloody cynical of them sending out an email in the first week of August (when everybody is on holiday) for something starting the following month, over a decision made over five months ago.
Oh, and the electricity bill that I received by post five days ago? Absolutely no mention of any of this.

Obviously I have objected to both usages of my data. I had a response saying that my choice has been recorded. They haven't sent me any confirmation by email, so... reassuring.

 

I have looked at other tariffs. I think it may be possible to benefit if you run night storage heaters, or heat a tank of water, or are happy to run a washing machine at 2am. However the trade-off is usually extra special cheap electricity at a certain time of day, but slightly more expensive electricity otherwise. So I would imagine unless you're pulling in some serious amounts of kilowatt hours in the special tariff times, it's either a net zero game or you actually lose due to the standard tariff being pricier.
Plus, the Tarif Bleu is regulated by the government. Prices may go up, but not like those of unregulated tariffs.

 

As for why this has happened, well, it looks like EDF being the state monopoly on power has been the state monopoly on power, and lots of little power startups weren't happy that the monopoly was a monopoly. It's abusive! They have an unfair advantage! And the Autorite de la Concurrence agreed. And fined them something like 300 million plus remedial things such as this, and the ability for a third party to change supplier and not get penalised for it.

If you're detecting a note of sarcasm in the above paragraph, I'd like to understand how an alternative supplier can take electricity produced by EDF and, with having both EDF and themselves to pay, think they can sell electricity for less. The way I see it, more snouts in the trough, the more the price goes up.

 

Being nannyed by Google

Here is a phrase in Ukrainian:
Swearing in Ukrainian.
Swearing in Ukrainian.

The first word translates as "go". The second as "on/at/in". The final word appears to be recognised as a Russian slang word for the penis.
Taken together, it means eff-off.

Now let's begin this phrase with the name of a certain warmongering nutter that many in the west detest, unless they're Republican who I guess they're too young or stupid to remember what McCarthyism was all about.
Anyway, here's that same message aimed at Putin:

Swearing at Putin in Ukrainian.
Swearing at Putin in Ukrainian.

Suddenly, it's a lot more polite. There's a world of difference between "go to hell" and "eff off".

Google, why the nannying?

 

Tidying up

Before Covid, we used to stack old newspapers out back. Every so often, the municipal employee would do a round collecting people's old papers and magazines. Apparently the little school in town made money from them.

I've been putting papers out, but it seems that this collection is no longer being done. So... there are a load of papers to get rid of.

Lots of papers.
Lots of papers.

It's only about 3km (round trip) to the nearest recycling point. Note that it says that these papers will aid the school.

The recycling point.
The recycling point.

Unfortunately it is right next to the glass recycling, so you have to be really careful where you drive as there is broken glass all over the place.

 

Since doing that was dusty and rather boring, for little obvious gain, I decided to clear up the moss and weeds along the side of the house.
Here, I have just started with the dead weeds. The little round thing is a Bluetooth speaker.

Before tidying.
Before tidying.

And after two or so hours of work, it looked like this. Because it was getting late and stormy, the picture I took was a bit insipid, so I just went and took another.

After tidying.
After tidying.

There's still some moss to get rid of, further out into the driveway, but being thinner, that wasn't quite so willing to come up.

 

Storms

Speaking of storms, the afternoon thunderstorm never happened. There was some lightning, and the briefest drizzle, at about 9pm.
Later on, when it was dark, I tried to get some long exposure photos of a nearby storm, but it wasn't particularly successful as it came with rain.

Here's some nice lightning.

Lightning.
Lightning.

This looks like an explosion.

Boom!
Boom!

But most, if there was anything visible at all other than "brighter cloud", it looked like this. You can see torrents of rain pouring out of that cloud, rain that was obscuring the actual lightning.

Rain.
Rain.

But precious little rain arrived here. So still incredibly dry, so still no mowing.
The heat predicted for next week? Worse. A week-long heatwave.

 

Heat and bugs

I already have enough problem being bitten by fleas. A quick Google suggests that they can live quite happily in grass for several months without a host, and their populations have exploded in the hot weather.
Oh joy.

What's worse is that there are drops that can be given to cats and dogs (not the same thing, never mix them up or you'll kill the cat!) to make the fleas inert, but there doesn't appear to be anything similar for humans. Which is weird given that as far as I can tell, the advice for fleas in a home boils down to things like vacuum everything often, wash stuff like bedding in a hot wash, leave banana peels on the floor, fumigate the house...
Surely drops like that given to cats would be a lot less hassle? Flea bites person, flea gets tained blood, flea dies, rejoice?

Anna has had flea drops. Don't know how effective it has been as she's not a cat that likes being handled. I've given her another dose as she's scratching now. But the thing is, there are plenty of potential hosts around. Deer, boars, other cats...

Freezing will kill the little bastards. But it's the hottest month (usually!) right now. If these hot summers are to be a regular thing. Ugh. Between the fleas and those oversized flies that bite, it'll be insufferable.

On the other hand, while I might be bitten by various bugs, it's not as if I'm in bed under a heated blanket clutching a hot chocolate and watching Netflix. Hell, I've actually watched very little Netflix these past few weeks. Kind of hard to when you're up and about until half nine. Then it's something to eat, a couple of FailArmy videos to remind you that some people were born stupid, then to bed.

But, alas, we've already lost an hour and a quarter of daylight. The sun that used to set at ten past ten now sets around half nine. As I look at the forecast of a week in the lower half of the thirties, I'm tempted to look ahead and note that next week's lows resemble the highs of two months from now.

Which, I guess, means upload this then grab the comfy chair and Paper Girls and sit out to enjoy both in the nice weather. Bugs be damned.
Because, a week has already passed. A third of the holiday. I might not have done much, but I'm enjoying a rest. Soon after going back, it'll be the extra half hour (so an 8.30am start) every day, and two-weekly Saturdays (at 5am). Ugh.

 

More tidying up

When I came to upload this, at the end of the previous section, the server wasn't working for $REASONS, so I fired off an email to Rob and went to sit outside with my book.
Only... I didn't get that far. I did more scraping of dead moss, since it was dry and doable.

I started with this.

Around back, before
Around back, before.

And after numerous songs on the little round speaker, I ended up with this.

Around back, after, sort of
Around back, after, sort of.

I've not finished, but sweat was pouring off me, so I think a little too much sun there. I went in and had a nice barely-warm shower. My fat belly was like Oh, god that's cold (beat) Oh... god... that's cold... more!

Still, it looks much tidier back there. There's a place for a visitor to park (should one ever happen to be lost and turn up by accident, I'm perfectly happy to offer a mug of Tetley to anybody but you're SOL if you drink coffee) and it's also nice and clear where I bring Caoimhe.

A clear way  back
A clear way back.

The little wooden 'shelter' (that I built myself out of an old palette back in 1997) is a bit of an anacronism. The two gas bottles are empty, they've been that way since 2003, and since the gas cooker is rusted and dead and all the piping and stuff actually expired in... was it '98 or '99? I forget. Anyway, it would all need to be replaced in order to have a gas cooker. I make do with a camping stove, a little electric cooker, a microwave, and a multicooker. Can't say I particularly miss having an oven and four burners. I'm not that adventurous a cook, and I much prefer meals that take care of themselves. That's why I eat a lot of pasta made in the multicooker. Just fill it with hot water, add the pasta, run it on boil mode until it boils, stir well, then switch over to soup mode and close the lid and let it run for twenty minutes. Sure, it takes about twice as long, but once that lid is closed it's pretty much a "set it and forget it" kind of deal.

 

Haircut

After my shower, and with my hair wet, I decided it was time to hack off a lot of it. So I brushed it straight, cut across for the fringe, then went around each side in turn cutting it shorter, comparing one side to the other and adjusting as necessary. Then lopping off the back. The scissors struggled more with wet hair, but at least the hair lay in a soggy lump rather than flying all over the place.

It probably looks crap, but, whatever. I don't think one single shit has been given about my appearance in the past forty eight years, seven months, and nineteen days (or roughly twenty five and a half million minutes), so I'm not about to start caring now.

At least, maybe for a month or two, people will stop mistaking me for a girl. Which is weird given the adam's apple and (by the time people who don't know me see me) the five o'clock shadow, not to mention a body shape that doesn't seem to me to be remotely feminine.

Hair
A plate of hair.

Well, that's the hair that didn't blow away. It's rather breezy right now. I've put it in the shed. I imagine I'll give myself another half-arsed cut in the springtime, and when I do I can leave both piles out somewhere for the sparrows.

 

 

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Rick, 5th August 2022, 20:51
I've had a fair amount of pineapple juice, but I find hot weather diminishes my appetite. 
Hmm, what to eat... today... that isn't random bars of chocolate?
J.G.Harston, 6th August 2022, 00:10
When I got my mortgage my rate was 12.5%, kids today, have I told you I invented onions, get off my lawn, zzzz.... 
 
I was listening to the news on the steam wireless on the way home from work and the commentator was describing it as "for every £100,000 of a mortgage..." Yerwot??? *hundred* thousand??? Who the hell are they describing? After remortgaging I only just crept over *one* hundred thousand. 
J.G.Harston, 6th August 2022, 00:18
Weeding.... every now and then I do the same with the lane behind my flat: pics dot mdfs dot net slash 2021 slash 07. It's quite satisfying when I finish, but *** my knees! :)
Rob, 6th August 2022, 21:46
Yep, my first mortgage was pushing 14%.. Payments on a £39K loan were over 1/3 my monthly take home pay. These days, we owe less than half that, and the payments are one of the smaller monthly bills!
Rick, 6th August 2022, 22:46
I used to live, in Yateley, in a former council house. Mom bought it dirt cheap in the 80s thanks to the right to buy. 
She sold it in 1992 for around £56K, to buy this place. Don't ask about the bit in between 1992 and 2002. ;) 
 
The current valuation is in the order of £360,000. I find that mind-blowing, but I'm quite aware of the British obsession with the price of houses. 
Somebody I used to know always said "you can't beat bricks and mortar". Well, he was three decades too early for bitcoin. ;)
Rob, 7th August 2022, 18:52
Nothing locally selling comparable to this house for me to get an idea on pricing, but a modern shoebox 1/2 a mile away I nearly bought in 2000, before I moved in with my now-Mrs, sold a couple of years ago for 4x what I'd offered. [We bought this one on right-to-buy a couple of years later, for more, but it's probably also "worth" about 4x.] 
 
BUT the only problem with *investing* in "bricks and morter" is that for almost everybody, it's irrelevant what your house is worth. You need to keep hold of it so you have somewhere to live, and should you need to move, then yes, it's probably gone up in value, but so has every other house you might want! It's unusual to be able to trade-up without putting in more actual money. 
Rick, 7th August 2022, 19:21
That's why ages ago when property prices for this sort of place started to drop, I told mom it didn't matter. 
I think it was worth about €150K at it's peak. The notaire recently valued it at €50K, which just happens to be the most a house can be worth before inheritance tax is an issue. If I was to put it on the market today, I'd probably ask €115K but be willing to drop to €100K. Even that might be unrealistic, but, then, I am not planning on moving so I don't actually care how much it's worth. 
Generally speaking, if this place doubles in value, well so does everywhere else. So, as you say Rob, you're no further forward, you just have more impressive numbers to talk about.
David Pilling, 8th August 2022, 02:33
Maria Bartiromo has a song by Joey Ramone which is fun. 
 
Inflation is a good way of reducing your debts, works for governments and ordinary people. There will be people laughing their socks off at inflation. Just don't appear on TV. 
 
There is a rentier class - not uncommon to find people with houses they rent out. Plenty have done "buy to let", cheap mortgages, those mortgages are now even cheaper, pay 5%, see the repayments eroded at 13%. 
 
The MSM is up in arms about the oil company profits. A couple of years back they were losing vast amounts. If you took the profits of Shell and handed them to people in the UK to pay their energy bills... well there would be trouble because Shell is owned by people all over the world. You'd also not make much impact. Question where is the money going - a fraction to the oil companies no doubt, but where is the bulk going. Back in the 70s it went to the Middle East and there had to be a way of recirculating it - selling them weapons for example. 
 
Putin? Norway? USA? 
 
#What´s happening on Wall St. 
What´s happening at the Stock Exchange 
I want to know 
What´s happening on Squawk Box 
What´s happening with my stocks 
I want to know 
I watch you on the TV every single day 
Those eyes make everything okay 
I watch her every day 
I watch her every night 
She´s really outta sight 
Maria Bartiromo 
Maria Bartiromo 
Maria Bartiromo 
#

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