Bad Housekeeping and the unexpected Bill

CEF LEVEL C1 ADVANCED ( colloquial expressions, British English)

BAM! it lands on the doormat, - the unexploded bomb of the unexpected bill.

Things had actually been going along quite nicely. Times had been a bit hard, there had been less overtime than usual, but by cutting out a few luxuries, changing to the cheapest utility providers, and making inroads into the credit card balance, the household budget was looking a bit more manageable. Then just as you thought things were picking up, along comes the shocking demand. We've all been there.

1.7 million pounds. 2.1 billion Euros. There's no disguising it, whichever currency you use, that's an awful lot of money. Not surprisingly, 'our Dave' was 'enraged' and feels entitled to ask not only how much, but why that much, and how it has been calculated. That is actually a very good question.

Ten years ago I had the good fortune to move to Brussels for a year, as 'him indoors'  had landed a contract in that fair city. As my other half worked for a private company, our young children weren't able to get places at the EU schools for the children of EU officials, and they attended instead the British School, where there were nevertheless a good number of offspring of EU workers. During that wonderful time when I was a full-time Mum I would walk the kids down to school at about 9am, when I would see an acquaintance who was an accountant at the EU headquarters strolling down to the tram. As I collected the kids again at about 4pm, he would usually be wandering back towards his generously-sized detached home in one of the best suburbs of Brussels. Perhaps he only worked part-time? Was he a senior official? No, just a regular footsoldier of accountancy, of which there were no doubt many. For this he lived a lifestyle that only very few EU taxpayers could enjoy. Now I'm not suggesting that the EU shouldn't pay market rates to its employees, but the gravy train I witnessed that year was truely something to behold. Small wonder that some southern suburbs of Brussels look like millionaires row, and that the Michelin-starred restaurants of Brussels are thriving- your taxes are keeping them going nicely. Without wanting to be the party-pooper, may I suggest a little belt-tightening wouldn't go amiss?

Apparently the EU accounts have not been signed off  by their own European Court of Auditors for more than 19 years. In 2012 the auditors found 'too many cases of EU money not hitting the target, or being used sub-optimally' ( Vitor Caldeira ECA Chairman 2012). Another report found '86% of the EU budget last year was only partially effective.' Hmm. So whilst getting a reply to the question of how much is easy, getting an answer to the question of why it is that much, and how is it calculated, may simply prove impossible. Don't hold your breath, Dave.

VOCABULARY AND EXPRESSIONS

Our Dave-  David Cameron, UK Prime Minister

utility providers- gas, electricity water companies

to make inroads into something- to start to be effective, to achieve something

'him indoors' 'her indoors' British slang for husband, wife

acquaintance- someone you know but not well enough to be called a friend

gravy train- a  free, easy or over-generous lifestyle or job

party-pooper  British slang for the person who spoils the party by leaving early

belt-tightening    spending less money

auditors  professionals who check the accounts 

'my other half-'  British slang for partner

 

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