Thursday, 31 January 2013

Taxing times

The UK tax year starts on 6th April, which seems somewhat random. 

Apparently it used to start on 25th March, which seems equally random until you realise that was also the start of the calendar year in those days. At least it was until 1752 when the UK switched to the Gregorian calendar to bring it in line with European countries. To avoid having a short tax year due to the number of leap days required to align the dates, the government added the difference to its tax year end.  Or maybe it was to avoid having a riot as people were already agitated at losing around 11 days of their life and income, not to mention a birthday if they happened to be born between 3rd September and 13th September - these dates didn't happen in 1752. Whatever the reason, the final date after all the adjustments was 6th April - which still seems random.

One of the blessings (?) of modern life is the internet. It allows the government to accept online tax returns several months after the last date for filing paper returns. As it happens, today is the last day for online tax returns. Anyone who should file online but hasn't has another 2 hours and 6 minutes to put matters right and avoid a penalty. Of course, I am in the happy position of having filed my return ages ago... ok, an hour ago. I cut it fine this year. So I am writing this on a laptop on a desk covered by a sea of papers full of numbers. Writing this is a way of letting go of the tension that has been building all week as I hunted for the relevant form from the relevant year so I can enter the relevant number in the relevant box. Relevance is important. It's far easier to find last year's papers this year for some reason. Maybe if the government allowed us an extra year to file taxes we'd all be far less stressed and it would give the current paperwork time to come out of hiding.

I started this blog post idea by looking at quotes for procrastination -  that's the name given to the art of cutting it fine on your tax form. There are all sorts of quotes though I did notice two distinct groups. There are the stern warnings by the likes of Abraham Lincoln:
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

And one by another American President: “Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” ― Thomas Jefferson.

And there is the more relaxed approach such as this one from Mark Twain: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” 

I suspect they are all right. For now I shall leave this sea of papers where it is, I may even leave it till the day after tomorrow. One can have too much of a good thing after all - even taxes. I shall take note though. Getting things done and the weight off one's mind sure is a good way to help in relaxation. Better yet is discovering you are due a tax refund. Good night. 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Learning lessons

I came across a lovely quote this morning in an older post on Julia Cameron's blog:

It is an often repeated spiritual axiom that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Over the years, I have heard many stories of miraculous intersections and meetings. The divine mind knows no distance. When we ask to be led, we are led. When we ask to be guided, we are guided. When we ask to be taught, we are taught. Guidance and generosity are always closer at hand than we may think. It always falls to us to be open to receiving guidance and to pray for the willingness and openness to know it when it arrives.
-from Walking In This World"

It's all to easy to strive and get nowhere. In contrast there is a sense of peace about the words in that post. That's not to say it is suggesting laziness or not applying oneself. If anything, to my mind at least, it encourages more application, more effort - but effort of a certain type. If it weren't for the contradiction you could say it was effortless effort. Moving with a sense of purpose and an air of peace.

I don't expect everything to be plain sailing. We all make mistakes at times, we panic, we lose peace. At least in these words I have a kind of map and compass to point me back to the path I'm supposed to be following, and that is really good to know.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Seeing the light

Light, it seems to me, is more than a range of colours visible to the eye.

I am a sucker for an art exhibition. Sometimes I get to see small local events of maybe a local art group showing their work, other times it is a major exhibition in one of the bigger cities. It could be paintings or photographs, or as was the case recently, works in glass. It could be a small one-person gallery show or the finalists of a major photography competition. It could feature large canvases or small items of jewellery. They all have the potential to excite me... or not. I've tried to work out what it is about the things that excite, the quality that makes them so attractive, and conversely why it is that some things leave me unmoved.

A recent visit to the International Festival of Glass was a wonderful experience, especially the sculptural work exhibited at The British Glass Biennale. Some of the works on display were exquisite. The combinations of light and colour and texture and form were very uplifting, indeed moving. I've been similarly touched by paintings and photographs too at different times. Sometimes I'd see a piece that had me standing and looking at it for several minutes, not analysing the composition but simply enjoying it for what it was.

I think I was first aware of this more-than-meets-the-eye effect at a small gallery in Moose Lake in Minnesota. A photograph of some old fishing buoys, paint peeling off them, leaning against a fence had me staring and enjoying for quite a while. It was inspiring and made me want to create work that would similarly inspire and engage with the viewer.

I have a print of a watercolour on my wall at home which I enjoy looking at. It's a large piece depicting balconies overlooking the Grand Canal, and sometimes I'll look at it and try to work out the order the artist applied the different washes. I've dabbled in watercolour at times, enough at least to realise that less is more and that the results on my print give a great sense of depth of shadow and texture of brickwork while remaining clean and simple.

That's one of the drawbacks of having tried a particular art form yourself. You find yourself trying to work out the order of washes in a painting, or the position of lights in a studio photograph. I find the same thing happens with fused glass now that I've taken up glass work again in my spare time.

It isn't simply the combination of colours of light that are important in an attractive art work. It's not even the depth, and the texture, or the contrast. It's a combination of these and other things and then some. That 'some' is the mysterious quality that brings the whole work to life and pleasure to the viewer. The energy of the artist captured in the art work and conveyed to the viewer. It's exciting whatever it is.