So there I was, wondering why the tax authorities refused to recognise me. They’ve taken enough tax from me down the years so you’d think they could put a name to a tax bill by now. After a week of grinding frustration the problem emerges. Welcome to the online world of super accuracy. Here’s the thing. Back in the way back yonder years, when a human looked at your tax matters, small slip ups could be ignored by the application of that amazing quality (which even found its pervasive way into the offices of the Inland Revenue) of common sense. But since we’ve grown an app and loaded it with all-seeing authority, every anomaly causes much grief. And of course, because of data protection, all you can do is keep failing until you guess the problem; no one can actually tell you what it is that you are getting wrong because you may not be you and if you’re not you then you shouldn’t access your details which, if you are you, you can access by proving your ID with a degree of accuracy that previously wasn’t required. If you want the best example of perfection being the enemy of the good it’s the effing HMRC.
So what, my already bored readers cry, was the issue?
My surname. It’s of a French construction. It isn’t French in the way that we’re not German or Roman either. It’s its own kind of anomallous. Le Pard. If you’re interested – and frankly why would you be – its Huguenot in its origins – thems the peeps what gave us the term ‘refugee’ when the French tossed them out for failing to grasp that transubstantiation wasn’t something solely designed for the semi finals of spelling bees. My ancestors popped across the Channel to get away from being poked with pointed sticks and headed for Northamptonshire to make shoes or something. Those who know me will not be surprised to find I’m related to a load of old cobblers.
Now the thing about the French, it is that they do like their definite articles. Cunning two letter words that have a life of their own. What they don’t do is attach themselves to the noun in question. It’s not LePard, Lepard or any derivative you care to mention. Down the years I’ve seen every version, I expect. Once, back in the days of written communications with the Gas Board, they managed to interpret my mother’s name – BG Le Pard – as Mrs Blytepad. One day the Blytepads will feature in a novel…
Anyhoo, what it took me painful hours to discern was that the HMRC had me down as Le-Pard. Yep, that little linky-dink of a line was what the tax people expected to find. And when I proffered my passport etc, which is “sans ‘yphen”, as they probably don’t say in Boulogne it was rejected.
To my surprise though, having discerned the problem the lady on the helpline was just that: helpful. Maybe, because she wasn’t an app or AI, she removed my rogue hyphen with very little pain. And today, having waited 24 hours for the updates to have effect, I found it worked. I was recognised. I can now pay my tax…
There’s always a cloud inside a silver lining….
I have become a bit obsessed with my Fitbit. I obtained it around my birthday in November and I find I’m somewhat in thrall to its blandishments. Have I done 10,000 steps, how much sleep did it record, what is my resting pulse, how many calories have I burnt?
I’m not sure why I take it so seriously. Already it had me enjoying 8 hours 23 minutes of sleep with twice awake last week, which set against my usual average of 6 hours 40 was pretty impressive until you realise it had me dozing off at 10.30 whereas I actually hit the hay at 12.30. Watching a documentary with David Attenborough whispering to trees was enough for the Fitbit to snooze itself. At least it noted I’d got up to actually go to bed, as well as a later quick trip elsewhere… ahem, cough. From now on I will wave my arms around every 20 minutes or so.
Which may not work; Mrs Le Pard also has a Fitbit. She was surprised to be told she had been swimming for 30 minutes last week. In fact she had been on her knees, moving various of her cotton and fabric collection around some crates. An easy mistake for a piece of AI to make.
What I couldn’t really understand was why my resting pulse rate seemed to move around a lot. That is until I discerned the obvious pattern; during the 5 days of a test match, with England being humiliated in Australia my resting pulse wasn’t really resting at all. Outside of those five day bursts, it settled back to something approaching normality. It may not be the most intelligent piece of kit, but it understands me well enough.
While on the subject of obsessions, we have a new toothbrush, something called an Io, which is vaguely interplanetary. This brush (which has detachable heads so management and I share the base) vibrates in a sort of hyper circular way. According to its instructions you should hold it against each tooth rather than brush (so old school). On the handle there is a coloured light. White means you aren’t pressing enough, green is the goldilocks position and red indicates you will shortly need dentures. There is a digital clock and a count down timer that shows you if you have done the recommended two minutes (not per tooth, per mouth). If you stop after a ‘2’ appears on the clock you receive a smiley face, which will upgrade to a smiley face with stars for eyes if you do something really special though I’ve not yet discerned what. I also read there is an app so you can log and compare your dental performance. I imagine there is also a dental community where you can share eye star stats and see who is best performing brush presser. It does make you wnder whether, when you connect to the app, the light on the brush will turn blue…
Blue tooth? Oh come on, it’s not that hard.
Mind you, one is inclined to ask when did tooth cleaning involve such tyranny? I fear the advent of intelligent toilet paper…