The Old Warrior
Is this thing on? Ah-hem.

My name is Godfrið, and I'm the son - only son - of Godhelm of Hamwih. I work in 'local government finance'. Oh, all right, have it your own way - I'm a tax collector! Happy now?

*TaxGathererImage039.jpg (65kb)

My old man was tax collector before me, so it's a bit of a family tradition, y'see. My grand-dad? No, he wasn't a tax collector. He was drunk most of the time, to be honest. Well, no, I don't suppose it is much of a family tradition, then, but you know what I mean. (Look, who's being interviewed here? You or me? Thank you.)

Now, a lot of people don't like tax collectors, but that's because they don't really understand the fundamentals of local government finance. Y'see, the way it works is this. The King is the one who sets the annual rate in pence per hide that people have to pay. He then comes to me - well, his huscarl does - and he says 'Godfrið, you're responsible for X hides, so I wants Y pence off you.' I gives him the money, and then I have to collect it from the people who hold land from the King. It's simple, really.

Of course, you always get the awkward buggers. To begin with, everyone knows we tax collectors always collect a bit over the odds, but it's not profiteering. No, not at all! You see, I've got my overheads, just like everyone else. Besides, if there wasn't a bit of profit in it, no one would do it, right? The King would have to appoint a royal tax collector, and you'd have to pay your taxes direct to him. Now, can you honestly see that happening? Eh?

There's some people who never seem to have the money. Well, I ask you! They seem to have more than enough money down the ale-house, don't they? If those people - turn that thing off for five minutes and I'll give you some names! - if they spent a little more time working and a little less time drinking ... well, you know what I mean. A hod's as good as a sink to a blind Norse, as we say.

The thing is, if you look at your land grant, you'll see you haven't got a leg to stand on: you swore on oath to pay your taxes, didn't you? Just because I'm not very tall, and have this nasty bronchitis, people think they can get away with up- ending me into the midden. Of course, I get my own back eventually - I've got a long memory and my little red book.

My two sons help me out when it comes to collecting. They're big lads, and that can be persuasive. Violence? No, we don't use violence. Well, let me just say I've never seen either of my lads use violence, all right. I know all about those rumours, and I think you'll find there is very little evidence to go on. Ealhstan could have broken his fingers in a number of ways, couldn't he? Yes, he was a few years in arrears. No, he's not any more.

Of course, if people can't pay in coin, I'm more than happy to take cattle or goods in payment. Do you need any more goats? I only asked. We just seem to have had a lot of 'em this year, I don't know why. No, we've never forced anyone into slavery because of their arrears - well, only if we've had to. Not recently, no. The last time? Oh, I suppose my eldest was about seventeen then - he's eighteen now. Well, he will be in a few months, anyway.

Well, look, if these people can't pay, they're coming to the wrong man, aren't they? I'm not a charity, am I? Yes, they could try going to the church for help - only, I collect taxes for them as well, you see. Yes, it was the priest we forced - who forced himself into slavery. There is a distinction, if you think about it.

Am I happy in my job? Yes, I suppose I am. It pays the rent, heh-heh. Little joke, there.

Well, it's been nice talking to you, too. Thank you.

Oh, by the way - aren't you from Boscombe Hundred? Where's my little red book?

Mike Farmer, 1991




© Regia Anglorum MCMLXXXVI – MMXVIII
Compiled by Mike Farmer 1991.