MEAT, MEDIA and MOTORS August 17, 2009Posted by markswill in Cars and Bikes, Media, Politics, Schmolitics.
Ruminations in my last blog (Feeling Sheepish) on the degree of self-revelation tolerable within the medium weakly concluded that it really depends who one’s audience is. Then again, that same scribble drew responses from two correspondents who claimed that their “lives had been changed” by columns I wrote in various motorcycle mags back in the ‘70s, columns which were considerably more self-indulgent than any bloggery I’ve broadcast thus far, so who’s to know what’s acceptable these days?
Which is a convenient if not plausible excuse for once again touching on the state of my health which whilst somewhat improved, has also found me on four occasions this past week in healthcare waiting rooms. Which in themselves were convenient excuses for picking up magazines that one wouldn’t normally read as I waited for blood tests, x-rays and yet another locum I’d never met before to contradict the conclusions of the previous unknown locum. With their relentless tales of infidelity, obesity and z-list sleb nonsense, Chat, Pick-Me-Up, New etc. are morbidly fascinating but during one such medical interlude I came across a copy of Land, the journal of the Country Landowners Assoc.
THE MATTER OF THE MEAT Now I’ve had some considerable truck with the CLA over the years, representing as they do the remnants of our landed gentry with all the barely contained feudal arrogance that this implies, not least as a member of my Local Access Forum where they are disproportionately represented and, as such, ever keen to stop anyone using unsurfaced rights of way who isn’t on horseback or off to do a spot of shooting in a 4×4. Anyway, with much the same perverse curiosity as I scanned low-rent womens’s mags, I waded through Land until I got to the inevitable last page opinion piece by one Caroline Cranbrook OBE who actually had something sensible to say about the threat to local abattoirs.
Not a very sexy subject I know, but one that’s crucial to local communities being served by local producers and the consequent reduction in food miles, something I touched on in June’s Dropping the Shopping. Back in the early 1990s the cost of meeting EU meat hygiene legislation put hundreds of small abattoirs, and often the butchers who owned them, out of business and the subsequent cost of transporting animals to distant slaughterhouses had a deleterious economic effect on the trade and, many would say, the quality of its meat.
As Cranbrook recalled, the government were persuaded to change the charging system for hygiene inspectors to monitor abattoirs, thus providing a lifeline for many of the smaller ones. But the annual cost of doing so has now risen to almost £100million and pressure from the exchequer to reduce this below £75million by 2010 will inevitably result in further closures. And that will push up prices at local butchers and reduce the choice of locally raised meats, something the CLA is once again campaigning to avoid and so, albeit begrudgingly I find myself supporting them.
TWITTERING ON Someone else whose opinion I often take issue with is Janet Street-Porter. As the (ex-) wife of a good friend I used to know Janet a little and like her a lot, but in later life she’s used her media clout to shrilly oppose much I hold dear, including my right to ride (perfectly legal) motorcycles on (perfectly legal) unsurfaced rural rights of way. I, on the other hand, for many years used my considerably inferior media influence to try and counter such selfish, ill-informed bigotry – a fight I’ve now abandoned due to the myopia and infighting within the organisations who gave collective voice to such protests.
But for once I must now sheepishly concur with La Street-Porter who in today’s Sindie lambasted Twitter far more incisively than I ever could. Opining that “Twitter works for the middle class, the middle-aged and wannabe trendies because it lets them feel part of a big happening club, when in fact all they are doing is exchanging mindlessness,” she later added that it “panders to all that is shallow and narcissistic in our society”. Bemoaning the growing tendency for politicians, august institutions and, heaven forefend, even the meeja to embrace this dumbed-down means of communication, she concludes that “we’re so keen to stop talking and writing in sentences, and are swapping having real conversations for knee-jerk reactions.”
Will this growing tidal wave of Twittering subside and turn out to be a passing phase just as it seems Swine Flu now has ? Not according to my web-designer friend who advises me that the fastest way to increase the readership of this blog is to open up a Twitter account. Oh dearie me.
AN ELECTRICAL STORM And knee-jerk reaction got me much personal grief this past week as I wrestled with a wiring problem in my beloved Lancia Gamma. Classic car fans will know that Italian electrics are infamously mercurial and having by-passed some dodgy junction terminals to improve the headlighting from unacceptably murky to tolerably dim a few weeks ago, illumination of the sidelights and instrument panel suddenly ceased. Attempts to pin-point the cause led me to dismantle the dashboard, remove said panel and replace it with a spare I happened to have, none of which did the trick and involved a lot of cursing, cut fingers and lost screws. Of course I should’ve listened to my Gamma guru who’d told me I should simply replace the column switch which, being Italian, is notoriously failure-prone but which (a) involves first removing the steering wheel (involving two strong people) and (b) requires finding a replacement unit for a car whose manufacturer abandoned it as a lost cause 30 years ago. And so for just a fleeting moment the government’s car scrappage scheme seemed like a very good idea as, I suppose, did self-revelation, Europe-wide meat hygiene standards and, indeed, Twitter.
Please peruse the panel on the right to add a comment, access previous blogs, sign up to get ’em regularly or visit my website.