Sepsis, Again


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There are days in which I hate having my mitrofanoff and dream of the days when I didn’t have one. Granted, I was constantly wet, but I never had to be hospitalised when I had a bad UTI.

About a month ago I was puttering about making koldunai at home, whilst Munkie spent a few hours with his brother and nephew in a little park. I then went to catheterise later in the evening and it wouldn’t go in. I tried and tried but it wouldn’t go in. My abdomen and stoma were quite bloody and I was bent over in pain begging Munkie to take me to the hospital.

Thankfully the A&E department took care of me. I was dosed with morphine and the doctors & nurses tried to get a catheter into me. Sadly they couldn’t so I was wheeled into radiology for the urologist, Mr Rees, to use the ultrasound machine to puncture my abdomen and guide a supra-pubic catheter into my bladder (which was also punctured). And yes, I was awake.

I was moved to the urology ward and there was a mixup with regards to how I was to get morphine. They insisted on giving it to me by mouth and I insisted it be through the IV. When I get it orally I don’t feel the effects of the morphine, but it is more effective when via the IV. I was overdosed and ended up in ICU for about a day while my body recovered from a possible morphine overdose.

I spent about 2 weeks in hospital, which is not bad considering how long it took last time to recover. This time round I didn’t vomit blood and go unconscious, with having to require a ventilator to help me breathe.

I blame my latest bout of sepsis on the idiotic GP system here in the UK. The GPs don’t take my bladder issues seriously. And they like to act like demi-gods, who don’t like their judgement being questioned. And don’t even ask me about the receptionists who are the gatekeepers of the GPs. As well this latest bout has shown up how unhelpful my current urologist is. And I mean current as I mean to replace him shortly.

What I did notice when I was on the ward was how militaristic nurses grades are. They wear badges and epaulettes to designate their ranks – staff nurse, ward nurse, sister, matron etc. Plus a similar ranking for HCA – Health Care Assistants. Nurses, at least at Southampton General, take care of 7-8 patients with the help of the HCAs. So it’s a tad difficult to get a handle on the patients and what their particular needs are. As well, there is no assistance given with regards to bed-baths. I was given, everyday, a bowl of warm water with several towelettes and a single towel to dry myself off.

I was taken good care of but there were areas which I saw glaring examples of NHS beaucracy which could easily be handled if there was the political will.

I had good medical attention from the ICU nurses, Mr Rees (as the urologist), Andreas my nurse and the HCAs.

What I badly missed and was disappointed with was the visitors. I had one visitor – Munkie. No one else. Maybe it’s some odd British thing, but no one else visited and I felt the lack. It’s so easy to express good wishes over the interwebs and social media, but in general making an effort is more preferable. I got a couple of get well cards, which was really sweet and I understand why a few people couldn’t make it (taking care of munchkins who could easily disturb other patients or someone with a parent in hospital who is focused on that parent). But in general, if you are reading this, if I am ever in hospital again .. I WANT VISITORS.


British Accountants – you’re all nuts!

I have been exposed to yet another example of differences between how UK accountants function and how Canadian/American accountants function – in the corporate world.

I know I have harped on this a few times – I think – but in North America there’s this funny little law called “Sarbannes-Oxley” – it was put in place after the fiasco that is Enron & WorldCom; a fiasco so large that it shook the investment community and destroyed one of the big audit firms – Arthur Anderson. At heart SOx reminds us all what we studied in “accounting school” – the segregation of duties.

In my funny world of being a Senior Accountant I cannot raise a journal entry unless I have enough evidence – this is generally called either “backup” or “working papers”. Such backup is used to support the justification of putting through a journal entry. So if I have had a verbal conversation with someone, because it was verbal I cannot use it as backup for a journal. So I tend to email the individual asking them to confirm our conversation, so I can use that email as backup.

Last week, whilst completing my balance sheet reconciliations I noted that there is a balance for some investment services which has never been moved to the Income Statement. This should have been moved, so I spoke to our Treasury Manager to confirm that this particular transaction was indeed an investment service charge and where it should be charged to. I then promptly emailed him asking for a confirmation of our conversation. I guess being a foreigner I am not used to the way British accountants function – but I was told off.

I was told that I cannot add layers of bureaucracy, and asking for written confirmation for a verbal discussion is ridiculous.

This is what gets me. I am very mindful of the fact that my transactions could be audited at any given point, so I like to “cover my ass” so that I have the necessary backup in case an auditor asks me why I put through a journal 9-13 months ago. Trying to ask someone else nearly a year after the fact to confirm the conversation is just silly – no one will remember, unless there is something there to trigger the memory – like an email exchange.

Love it or hate it, Sarbannes-Oxley has some very strong benefits. One of those is strict controls, so that stakeholders have confidence in the figures. That the figures are not just all hokum.

I did a CPD on Internal Controls a few months ago, and there are guidelines in the UK which approximate what SOx is trying to achieve. But they are voluntary, and the vast majority of British companies would rather not. They would rather not because it’s too painful and what’s the point.

What does this teach me? There’s no way in hell that I want to invest in a British company, unless they subject themselves to vigorous audit controls.

Expense? Asset?


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I was asked an interesting question the other week, with regards to what is an expense. A friend is trying to put together her yearly accounts for a small sole proprietorship and is wondering what she can expense and what she can’t expense.

There are many books and websites out there which will give a very technical set of responses. But at its simplest form – an expense is the cost of doing business.

But the cost of doing business is not necessarily an expense. An expense is a cost for a good or service which is used up within a 12 month period – be it stationary, a one year computer maintenance contract, or rent. The other type of “cost of doing business” is an asset.

Assets come basically in two forms – current assets and long term assets. Generally speaking, when putting together your Balance Sheet you list your assets in the order of liquidity – how fast that asset can be converted into cash. If you live in North America the basic presentation is:

Accounts Receivable
Accrued Receivables
Future Income Tax Asset – ST
Short Term Investments (usually a term deposit with a bank)
Equity Investments
Future Income Tax Asset – LT
Fixed Assets
Goodwill (this no longer exists in Canada, though it has been grandfathered in and can remain on the books, but cannot be depreciated)

Basically an asset is something that is acquired to help in the generating of income for the business – working premises, machinery, cash to pay the bills etc.

When purchasing goods and or services for a business not all purchases are allowable business expenses/assets. The company/individual must pay attention to the nature of their business. Purchasing yacht is not a business cost if your business is a hair dressers. Acquired assets have to make sense to stakeholders – be they shareholders, bondholders, creditors, HMRC, customer.

Can I purchase a house and expense it? No. Not unless you happen to be involved in real estate, then that house is inventory stock and the cost of that house is only written off when that house is resold:

1. Purchase House for £100
                    a. Debit Inventory 100
                    b. Credit Cash (100)
2. House resold for £125
                   a. Credit Income (125)
                   b. Debit Cash 125
                   c. Credit Inventory (100)
                  d. Debit Cost of Sales 100
                  e. Gross Margin/Profit (25)

If you aren’t in the business of real estate purchasing a house would make it a Fixed Asset and put it directly on the balance sheet. You can then write off a portion over a number of years (40yrs). But, and this is major – that house better be used for business only. The moment it is used for anything else is no longer a business asset. So my friend the hairdresser could run her business from her house, but the house itself is not a business cost. She can write off a portion of the cost of running that house – utilities (gas, electricity, water, council tax), telecom costs and if there is a mortgage a portion of the interest paid on that mortgage. So if Siobhan used company monies to purchase that house she wants, then that is a Director’s Drawing – which means she owes money to the company. The company’s money may be used to purchase that house, but the company does not own that house – the director, Siobhan, does. She needs to repay the funds to the company. And Director Drawings are not an expense, but a reduction in accumulated Retained Earnings.

So if my friend Siobhan wants to continue with her business and not have any trouble with her stakeholders, she needs to pay attention to a few things, and ask herself:
1. This good or service I am paying for – will it last longer than a year? If less than a year, expense, if more than a year then it’s an asset
2. This good or service I am paying for, does it related towards the cost of doing business? If it isn’t related then it is not a business cost but instead a personal expense which the company is paying for – it must be repaid to the business
3. And most importantly – Siobhan needs to keep her bank accounts separate – one for business, and one for personal use, that way it’s easier to account for incomes and costs

I’m Alive!


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I have just noticed that it has been about 6 months since my last blog post. Have I been busy? Not really. Life goes on and other fun shite.


I was working as a Management Accountant with a construction company, when I last blogged. But due to my gender being female, and senior management wanted someone with some testosterone in the role, I was let go in December – shortly before Christmas. Was I tempted to report them to some Industrial Tribunal for gender discrimination? Yes I was, but to be honest I was wasted there and I spent most of my days on the Amazon website and my new love – eBay!


Though that company did one of the most stupidest things in the world – they appointed the Finance Manager as the new Financial Controller. I say “stupidest” because this wonderful example of the delights of nepotism is not a good accountant. He got the role because the CFO liked him and appointed him. Now he’s an FC and is barely able to keep it together – from what I hear on the grapevine. He was always a waffle, which drove me nuts. Either make a decision or go away and let me make a decision. He would also ask inappropriate questions during interviews – do you have children? His excuse being that people with a family are more motivated to work harder as they have a family to support – to which I would say “bullshit”. A family is not just 2 adults plus some sprogs. And to think that only people with sprogs work hard is pure bullshit .. the number of times this twit had to run away to take care of some issues with his sprogs are countless.


I digress.


Now I’m a new role. I have been here for a month, thusfar, and it appears to be a good place to work. I’m still getting used to the British workplace – especially the obsession with open plan working spaces. Not even a token little barrier so I could pin up some notes or whatnot. Nope, it’s all purely open plan and I hate it. But the UK appears to be about 15yrs behind the ball with regards to this. Offices in North America are beginning to swing the other way, with higher walls between desks and even in some cases offices. Wonder how long the UK will take to realise that open plan means lower productivity, and higher rates of illness.


Other than that, there really isn’t much going on in my life. We’re moving into a new house – leaving that shithole that our soon to be former landlord insists is top of the line. When there is mould growing on the bathroom walls, even after you liberally bathe them in bleach, there is something wrong.

Nickel & Dimed in the UK

The nickel and diming, it burns!

It’s amazing how companies in the UK find ways to pad their bottom line, nickel and diming customers or potential customers. I may be spoilt having grown up Toronto, but no bank I ever dealt with had a phone number which charged me money to speak to a customer service person. The general attitude in Canada appears to be that banks want to be seen as customer friendly, so it behooves them to not have a phone number that charges you $0.05 to $0.10 per minute. Oddly enough such is not the case with the handful of banks I’ve dealt with in the UK.

Yesterday I rang Natwest with a query. My company has several bank accounts with them and I had a question with regards to BACS approvals. I asked if I could have a phone number which doesn’t require me to pay for the privilege to speak to a banking representative at a bank that is profiting off the bank account – by charging us exorbitant monthly fees. “I’m sorry madam, but unfortunately you do need to ring the billable number”. Do UK banks want to do business with their customers?

One person had gotten fed up with cold callers (telemarketers to those of you in Canuckistan) disturbing his Coronation Street time, so he setup a telephone number which earns him £0.06 to £0.10 per minute – and only utilities and businesses have this phone number. The result has been that the number of calls has dropped significantly for him.

I had this issue during the winter when trying to get through to Customer Service at Stage Coach Buslines, with regards to a bus that was constantly late which severely affected my ability to get home from the Portsmouth area. And each time I had to pay for the privilege to ring them.

For a sizeable segment of the British business community the monies they make off these phone numbers makes a good portion of their bottom line.

Not only do we have to pay for the privilege to speaking to our bank, we also have to pay for water bills. Now I don’t mind paying for water, I did at in Toronto as well. But I have never heard of a country which has privatized the water supply – never ever heard of this before. Even in third world countries the government has not privatized water. Why the hell would the British government allow this? Water is a basic necessity and shouldn’t be in the hands of private companies who have shareholders to answer to. What happens when water is privatized? Huge water bills. Water bills in Toronto are significantly cheaper, and why is that? Because the water filtration and distribution is handled by the local municipality – and not outsourced. When a private company is involved in water distribution there is a very good chance of them cutting corners to meet quarterly and yearly projections. Those of you in Ontario who are old enough may remember Walkerton – one of the issues was the privatization of water testing.  Something which as fundamental as the right to clean water, it should not be up to the good faith of private for-profit companies.

And then there is the usual stuff – charging extortionate parking fees in shopping malls’ carparks. From my perspective a shopping complex wants people to shop, so you give them the perk of free parking in the hopes that they shop and spend money. Oddly enough, because so many councils charge for parking, if the malls did offer free parking people would park there and then go on with their everyday business.

So there are aspects of my British adventures which I find odd and rather irritating – mostly the money-grubbing done by both private concerns and local government councils.

UK Accountants vs Canadian Accountants

I have been in the UK for a year now and I have noticed a few things with regards to the way Finance Departments function here.

Because the vast majority of British businesses are not subject to Sarbannes-Oxley, many of them function in a way that just drives my “audit-control procedures” mind nuts. Because of all the audit controls for corporations in Canada, and even the United States, what is of paramount importance is what the UK calls “Statutory Accounts”. For the rest of the world this is known as “External Financial Statements” – you know, those wacky statements that get published to investors, the investment community and what not, items such as: Balance Sheets, Income Statements, Cash Flow Statements, Disclosure Notes, Statement of Retained Earnings and MD&A. For the vast majority of my career my focus has been on this. And most accountants, who have gone for formal designation-goaled training, this is where the emphasis is as well. It’s the reverse here in the UK.

There’s this rather flimsy differentiation between what a Financial Accountant does and what a Management Accountant does. In many ways the Management Accountant does exactly what a Financial Accountant does. Here in the UK the Financial Accountant works on the Statutory Accounts – making sure that the various accounting principles are adhered to as well as guidance from IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards). Management Accountants work on the Management Accounts – accruals, deferrals, amortization of fixed assets as well as prepaid allocations. They produce reports for internal management so that management can review their divisional results and make important business decisions with regards to the work of the company.

The ridiculous thing for me is that I come from a background where I did both. I come from a background where it was expected that a designated accountant could do both – as there is very little fucking difference. The only real difference is in the production of the disclosure notes – things like any operating leases, and how to report them, any outstanding long-term debt and providing a schedule in the disclosure notes so that investors and creditors know where the obligations are for the entity in the coming 1+ years.  As well as reporting any tax losses and how the entity intends on applying them – either retrospectively or to future periods.

I have gone to different job interviews and I explain that I am completely stymied as to why the UK insists on separating the two – they are one in the same. I have been asked what I would be called if I was in Canada applying for the same job – and I tell them the title would probably be “Senior Accountant”.


Update, of Sorts


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I have noticed that it has been three months since my last blog entry. Wish I could say that lots of stuff has been happening, which has kept me from my blog. Sadly the case is that my life has been relatively routine and boring, so not much to blog about.

My contract at Strawberry ended in March and I spent the next two months looking for a new role. I hate being jobless, but I also hated dealing with the various employment agencies. I was looking for a new role, but I was not willing to do only one or two week placements. I’m sorry, but it is well nigh impossible for a one week placement to ever become a permanent role. If a company is looking for a one or two week cover it is because they require immediate help with either an audit or yearend; once the workload lessens the temp goes away. I do not want a CV peppered with temporary placements – it does not look good if one is looking for a good company to work for – it makes look like you are fickle, even if you can explain that due to economic circumstances you’ve had to change roles due to circumstances .. if you are lucky enough to ever reach in the interview stage.

Generally I find that HR is more highly involved in the interview process here in the UK than in Canada. There are pluses and minuses to this, but in general I prefer not to have HR present during my interviews. I am an accountant, so there are certain technical skills that only another accountant can assess – not HR. HR can look at things like corporate fit, whether or not the person has decent references, and if they are legal to work in the UK. Ideally HR should be involved towards the end of the interviewing process – once Finance has a short list of who they believe can do the role, then it should be a question of social fit.

I was fortunate to find a role at a local construction company and it is officially a three-month contract. I keep hoping it goes permanent – I like it here. The pay isn’t the greatest in the world, wish it was higher, even by £3K. But it’s a pleasant work environment, the people are nice and supportive. And there are opportunities for me to learn. Would I work here until I retire? Only if the FC moved up or on. Ideally, if they keep me, I’d stay here for about 2 years to get a good solid block of UK work experience, and hopefully within 2 years the economy may have improved enough for me to actually find something comparable to what I had in Canada – Chief Accountant/Assistant Controller or even a Controllership.

So at the moment I’m doing okay job-wise. What about my personal life?

Like most relationships there are ups and downs, but generally our issues have been dealt with. As one friend mentioned a while ago on Facebook, there is an initial period in which every couple goes through – where they try to work out several issues. The key is communication. I believe my relationship with Munkie is more than excellent because we do communicate. Yes there are the occasional flare-ups, but generally we do quite well together.

In terms of what mischief we’ve been up to since the last blog post:
• Went to Hay-On-Wye for Easter Weekend – it was a mini-lbw organised by Mr Chaperone. We showed up a day early, so we traipsed about the place, exploring. On one day we went to Goodrich Castle and Hereford, sadly we missed seeing the Mappa Mundi
• Checked out The Vyne, near Basingstoke – they had a Tudor weekend when we went, so there was a huge Henry VIII, a Jane Seymour and the cutest little blonde boy saying say “my lords and ladies” – there was also archery and sadly we did not bring cash, so no sword for Munkie
• Went to Corfe Castle – there was a Viking Battle re-enactment – sadly no sword for Munkie
• Went to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall
• Saw Cats for my birthday in Southampton
• A number of delicious lunches in London with Mr Chaperone – Hawksmoor is my favourite
• A lovely day of taking a boat up the Thames towards Hampton Court with Munkie
Not sure what is next. But our next big adventure is a trip to the colonies to visit Momma Bean, Lil’Bro, friends and whale watching!

Social Services in the UK – they astound me


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Again, this is from the perspective of an outsider living in the UK. I am shocked and dismayed at the level of social services offered to people here in the UK. Compared to North America the United Kingdom is a vast communist/socialist state. I am stunned at how much my tax goes towards things which would stun  most in Canada.

Apparently you can get a housing allowance, the value of which flutuates depending on where you live. So you could be living in North London and get more benefits than someone living in Hampshire – because the cost of housing is higher in London. So the local council/social services will pay your rent (effectively) and then you get a weekly stipend, all calculated using some mystical formulae no one understands. The formulae consider factors such as where you live, how many children you have, what your savings are/were, how much rent you pay, your heating etc. It shocks me, as in Canada there was huge welfare reform about 15 years ago which tightened up the social support payments. I am not completely happy at how Mike Harris on Ontario did it, don’t get me wrong.

In Canada you get a certain amount of welfare/benefits. If you are a single mother with 2 children when you start collecting welfare and whilst on welfare you manage to produce another sprog you still only get enough welfare one adult + 2 children. The idea is that welfare is suppose to be a temporary stop-gap, not a lifestyle for people to increase their welfare payments with each sprog they produce. Said welfare payment does not vary where you live – if you live in Toronto you get the same as you would if you lived in Timmins or Sudbury or Barrie. The idea is that you get a payment, once a month, and it is up to you to budget and find the appropriate accomodations that your welfare dollars can pay for. When I was recovering from surgery 5 years ago and was contemplating going on welfare I was eligible for $620.00; I lived in Toronto and my rent was $1000 but it didn’t matter I was only eligible for a certain amount.

And the latest stunned moment for me was the Tory Government putting through legislation that would allow a dual-income family or single income (if a single parent family) to claim childcare expenses up to a maximum of 20% of £6000 or £1200.00. The limitation is that neither individual can earn more than £150,000 per year – so effectively you could have a family income of £300,000 and be able to get £1200 per child. I’d rather see government funded daycare or subsidised daycare and have people apply, with first preference being to those at most need. But there’s been an uproar from stay at home mothers who are whinging that they are being excluded – to which I say bullshit. My taxes go towards supporting those stay at home mothers, whilst atleast I can see the reasoning behind helping working mothers with childcare costs – as they are in effect getting a portion of the PAYE that they pay back — basically, atleast they are paying taxes.

I look around me and there are so many areas where I can easily see services that could be streamlined and made more efficient so that the support needed for those truly in need would get it, while the rest of us can live with the assurance that the necessary resources will be available when we need them.

People seem to forget there is a finite amount of resources which our taxes can pay for. So instead of trying to suckle at the public teat maybe people should view the social support as a safety net when needed, but while still able continue on contributing towards society.

So, I still firmly believe in means-testing. It can be done and efficiently and cheaply, but there needs to be political will – which is sadly lacking in the UK at the moment. And review the services the NHS pays for – not everything can be funded as yet again, there is a finite amount of resources – so don’t pay for IVF for anyone. I am sorry, but it is not a medical necessity to get pregnant. Breast enlargements because you feel sad/depressed should also not be funded. And increase the number of children per child-minder in the creches/daycare centres.

Jobless Bean

I’m shortly to become one of the millions of unemployed. I knew when I took this role at Strawberry that it was for a fixed term. The role was, initially, to go til the end of January. So in a sense the fact that it has continued longer til the end of March is good. I’ve had my issues with Strawberry – I still think it’s a behemouth and very badly structure. In come companies the staff hierarchy is like a pyramid – many little workers with each level of management being smaller and smaller. Here at Strawberry it appears to be the opposite – for example I had three managers.

Am I sad that my time at the Strawberry is so close to being finished? Yes and no. Yes, cos I met some interesting people and I frankly enjoy having a job to go to as I like the idea of paying my own way. But also I am happy as the brutal commute is nearly at an end. I don’t mind commuting, in general, I’ve done it for prior roles before. But to commute to a role where you are basically hitting up against a wall each time you try to do something can be quite tiring. Have I achieved anything of note whilst in this role? Not really, I was hired on to work on a system implementation and I got paid reasonably well for it – but the implementation team is a mess as there is no one taking a leas position on it. They are lurching about and I know deep down that it will be a fiasco.

So now I just need my P45 and get myself down to the Job Centre. I’ll get a max of £71 per week, but dammit, I will need it. Thankfully I have saved up my shekkels to the grand total of £3000 so hopefully that will keep me going for a little while until I find something new.

I was hoping to find a new role – I have been job seeking since the end of January. But looks like if I get another short term contract offered to me I will probably take it. Unfortunately I am getting calls for a Project/Systems Accountant. My greatest fear is being pigeon-holed into a role which I don’t have a real love for .. I am a Financial Accountant, and that is what I want to keep doing.




Happy International Women’s Day!


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Back in the early 20thC the idea of an International Working Women’s Day was thought up and celebrated. Primarily a socialist invention it is now a bank holiday in many Eastern European countries. Ideally it is suppose to be a day in which we celebrate the social, economic and political accomplishments of women. I find it interesting that it was first celebrated in 1909, at the height of the Suffragette Movement – one of the first definable moments in feminist history when women demanded equality under the law, that we are not property, but persons.

In an earlier blog post I wrote that I lament the fact that many women today refuse to associate themselves with the word “feminist” and this day just brings it all up for me. Women have made huge strides in society, many of us work in professions which only a couple decades ago were male dominated – doctors, professors, lawyers, accountants, construction workers, plumbers, military and politics. And yet there hasn’t been that true equality achieved. Many women still do the lion’s share of the housework, child-rearing, and tend to sacrifice their professional lives for the sake of their families. Rare it is that a man will take time off work if their child is sick or if their elderly parents need help – generally the woman in the relationship is expected to fulfill that nurturing role. And there hasn’t been equality achieved with regards to pay packets – does a female CEO make as much as a male? No. And with regards to the political arena there have been some shining examples of how a woman can achieve political success – Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, and Indira Ghandi. But they are an exception. In most cases the world’s various parliaments, senates and houses of representatives are overwhelmingly male dominated.

Women are still expected to be soft and nurturing. When Hilary Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination the news media focused on her fashion choices, how her hair was styled, why she wore trouser suits and not a dress. But no such attention was paid to Barak Obama. In Canada Belinda Stronach, former CEO of Magna, entered federal politics and had a relationship with a fellow Member of Parliament. She was protrayed in the media as being shrewish, strident in her speech whilst if a man had presented himself like she would during Question Period he’d be considered assertive. As in the case of Ms Clinton, Ms Stronach’s fashion choices, her various private relationships and whatnot were scrutinised by the media.

So on this day of International Women’s Day please give a thought to how much women can contribute to a well functioning society – if we pull ourselves up, insist on equality and equal treatment mayhaps we can achieve what our foremothers fought for over a century ago.