Is there anybody out there?

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One of my decisions as a Judge of the Upper Tribunal has made its way into the official law reports and, as a result, I feel very grown up. The case was London Borough of Hillingdon v MJ and Another [2010] AACR 4 and, if you’re interested, you can read it here.

I’ve discovered that writing a blog is very different to writing judgments and legal opinions. And, based on barely ten hours’ experience of the former (as opposed to over 30 years of the latter), I’m finding the blogging a far scarier task at the moment.

Before I started writing this blog, the only two examples I’d read were Salam Pax (the Baghdad Blogger) and BabyBarista – so I really had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I had agreed to give it a go as my web designers persuaded me it was A Good Thing. I must have been feeling uncharacteristically suggestible at the time, as before I knew it there was a blog tab on my website.

When I sat down at the computer to do the first one, the obstinate blankness of my screen left me wondering if it was possible to get writer’s block before writing anything at all. I do worry that I’ll end up sounding like the legal equivalent of Bridget Jones:

Diary: Tuesday 9 February

‘1st 3lbs (weight of tax legislation 2009/10), blogs written to date 4 (but I’ve been away on holiday and there was Christmas and New Year and I had to look after a neighbour’s shih tzu for a couple of days and I work best under pressure), reported judgements 1, calories burned stressing about blog backlog 350.’

Even HMRC are trying (seemingly unsuccessfully) to use social media. Dave Hartnett, HMRC’s Permanent Secretary for Tax, appeared on YouTube in November last year, warning that offshore tax dodgers could face custodial sentences. The video was almost immediately short-listed by the Daily Telegraph for the title of most boring video on YouTube (ahead of Watching Paint Dry) and has now been removed. Luckily, ‘Alan Partridge meets the Inland Revenue’ is still there.

The terror which accompanied my first attempt at blogging took me back to when I was a stagiaire at the European Commission in Brussels. At that time there was a shortage of translators so, on my first day, I was presented with a set of German regulations on the construction of blast furnaces and asked to put them into English, even though I had only studied German for ten weeks in the sixth form! From time to time I still think about all those puzzled iron and steel producers. Perhaps that’s why the British steel industry has collapsed.

By the way, I’ve signed up for a writing course with the Arvon Foundation, so if there is anybody out there, watch this space.


*** UPDATE – February 2011 ***

Have a look at Blogger block? if you want to know how I got on with the writing course.

Tax lawyer specialising in business tax, SDLT and VAT

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