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A Climate of Indifference, An Economic Drought, An Abundance of Punctuation February 25, 2012

Posted by markswill in Links, Media, Politics, Schmolitics.

I just read ‘Eagles and Angels’, the debut novel by Juli Zeh, a writer new to me but who’s written several since, which even though it makes little sense and is rather long, I found utterly mesmeric. Guess I recognised the coke psychosis elemental to its time-slipping narrative form. Reminiscent of the early work of my all time favourite author, Thomas McGuane, in fact. Or perhaps second favourite. Or third. Anyway, I wish I could write like that, especially without the drugs. But its staccato phraseology caught the mood of a strangely trance-like week and as it seems a good way of cramming a lot into little space, I’m going to give it a crack myself.

So I was on a train leaving the damp gloom of a Paddington morning, comfortingly bloated by a ‘Half-Monty’ Soho breakfast (or so it said on the menu), my sister’s stressful life still ringing in my ears. How could she have watched 87 movies since January 1st ? And she calls it work!

All around me people mouthing importantly into mobile phones louder than necessary and fat mothers feeding fat children fat. And the bog didn’t work. Possibly a reflection of the headline announcing the impending drought buried on page five. First Great Western saving water, hurrah for them. Better get the winter crud washed off my finally working car before the hosepipe ban.  Appearances are all when you live your life through consumer durables. Environment secretary Caroline ‘Not-In-My-Cotswold-Backyard’ Spellman is circling the bowsers, the farmers are already whining and soon we’ll all be eating Aldi’s baked beans because East Anglia’s gone Sahara and Waitrose’s spinach is fifty quid a kilo.

Meanwhile Rick Santorum, our great white hope now that our great black hope couldn’t in fact right the world says he doesn’t buy climate change because “God didn’t mention it in the bible.” To which I can only respond, will that same god help us if he really buys his way into the White House? Mind, Mitt Romney, who thinks poor people don’t matter, won’t be any better: they’re both deluded nincompoops. Be afraid, be very afraid.

It’s a good train journey, inasmuch as it’s not 20 minutes late so I manage to connect with the smelly, jam-packed two coacher at Newport which, unusually, doesn’t break down, although the bog has (Arriva Trains Wales also having bought the drought thing). More fat mums feeding more fat kids, more mobile phone pollution, this mainly from a young person expressing delight at Cindy’s karaoke of ‘I Will Always Love You’ last night. Good to know that kids today still respect  the recently departed.

Also passed away is any chance of our ship building industry rising off its knees.  Although Robert Wyatt and Elvis Costello might’ve applauded, precious little public outcry accompanied the contract for four naval tankers going to South Korea last week. Govt. apologist Peter Luff trotted out the usual platitudes about taxpayer value, these being the same taxpayers who contributed £200m to Emma Harrison’s welfare-to-work contractors, messrs. A4e, from which she paid herself a modest £8.6m in dividends. Still, according to Harrison, now resigned as allegations of fraud swirl around her outfit, “tens of thousands of people across the UK look to this company for hope of finding employment.” Which isn’t actually the same as finding them tens of thousands of jobs, Emma. But I suppose it’s better than tens of thousands of  unemployed youngsters stacking shelves at Poundland for no money at all in the ‘slave labour’ scandal that Tory ministers now try to dismiss as scaremongering by the Socialist Workers Party. This cheered me: I didn’t know the SWP still existed!

But if the government abandoned their obsession with retail employment, real or bogus, in favour of manufacturing which might then generate incomes that could be spent in a retail sector that is instead actually hemorrhaging jobs, then we might get somewhere. Meantime, let’s get Korea to build our ships… and China everything else.

Have I mentioned that the only cash machine in our town is disappearing, along with the HSBC branch that houses it? Some joker taped a note to it saying ‘Will the last person leaving town please switch off the lights?’  Behind this cynical termination almost certainly lies the closure of our last major employer, a specialist aluminium foundry, as mentioned here last year. A notice on the factory gates says that its motley collection of buildings are about to be demolished, no-one knows what to be replaced by. But it’ll be a summer of fun for those who live in its immediate vicinity, e.g. yrs. trly., when the jack-hammers and the 30 ton waste trucks move in and we’re not allowed to wash the brick and asbestos dust out of our hair.

Still, it’s not all bad. Good piece in last week’s S. Times on when the economy tanks, art galleries flourish, as the  big Freud, Hockney and most recently the Picasso shows in London amply prove. Certainly lifted my spirits. Talking of which, I recently got given, well loaned actually, a pair of delicately hand-wrought cocktail glasses. So with a bottle of Glen’s finest Scottish paint-stripper, sorry, vodka retailing at just £10.15 in Costcutter – still on our High Street, or at least until Tesco open a superstore where the foundry used to be – as Eddie Mair’s PM programme opens for more bad business every day on Radio 4  it’s vodka martinis all round and pleasantly downhill from thereon in.

Oh, and Wales beat England in the Six Nations this afternoon, so I’m staggering off to the pub to push the reverie to its limits. And thanks Juli for all your inspiration.

Please make a smarty-pants comment,  check out previous blogs or sign up to get ’em automatically by checking the right hand column (but ignore my website link ’cause it was proving an expensive waste of money, so I’ve pulled it off air)



1. Martin Craig - February 26, 2012

Smarty pants/fat chance/apocalyptic/word dance/travel tales/rural Wales/bogless carriage/bad marriage/fat kids/town skids/same guff/Peter Luff/but some perks/car works/vodka pour/R4/not so bad/Mark me lad/

(May need tidying here & there but hope you can use this Mr Williams. It would be wizard to see my stuff in print!)

markswill - February 26, 2012

To quote our Lord Rundgren, you are indeed a Wizard, a True Star, Martin. And much better at this sub-editing lark than I, too.

2. Stephen - February 26, 2012

Glad you sorted the old Citroen. Sorry to hear about the foundry in Presteigne closing. Bad. I expected the rugby to be bad and was better than I had expected although the result was as I had expected in the end. You overlooked the other bad news in Presteigne with their most famous current son breaking his wrist at Philip Island.

markswill - February 26, 2012

Philip Island? Am I missing something? I thought Pete Mustill was Presteigne’s most famous current son, and as of yesterday morning, his wrist was still in fine geetar-strumming condition.

markswill - February 26, 2012

Ah, the penny just dropped: Chaz Davies, ace motorbicycle racer who just lunched it at Philip Island. But to be pedantic for a moment (who, me?), he’s Kinsham’s most famous son, really.

3. Clare - February 26, 2012

now 90 film and counting!

markswill - February 26, 2012

It’s Just. Not. Fair.

4. Jules Bywater-lees - February 26, 2012

I agree.

arts do well in such turbulent times and Sheep Music Festival will return as a well round, small, local festival all for the knockdown price of 60 quid.

[plug] sheepmusicfestival.com

markswill - February 26, 2012

Don’t miss an opportunity, do you Jules?

5. Gus - February 26, 2012

I suspect you are right – the Aluminium Works will probably be replaced by a Te$co.
But at least they’ve pulled out of the Government’s work for no money at all scam – in favour of their own work for no money at all scam !
Yep, it’d be nice if the Government decided to focus on helping companies that actually make stuff, instead of the retail sector that just buys it from China – but ever since Maggie decided that the Trades Unions needed kicking to death the Tories have been very much anti-manufacturing.
I also remember an earlier Thatcher Chancellor (Lamont or Lawson ?) saying that 4 million unemployed was a small price to pay for low inflation – it looks like Osborne and Cameron agree.

6. andy tribble - February 26, 2012

I remember musing to myself 2 years back that the gov’t was paying out so much in back-to-work fees that it made sense to set up a Company A, taking in the long-term unemployed to, say, sharpen pencils, and then a company B to put people into Company A and collect the cash. As long as you paid the minimum wage and laid people off on the day after the qualification term, B would make far more than A lost and you would be laughing. You might even have a free workforce in A that you could use to generate extra income. You’d certainly have a far better success rate than A4e’s 6%. Looks like Emma worked that out too, only they were so darn casual they started cheating on the forms. Jeez. By being honest they could have made a mere £100million, instead of trying to double it.

Damn! I wish I’d gone in for it. But I couldn’t keep a straight face.

markswill - February 27, 2012

Damn indeed! Why didn’t I think of that, either? Too damn honest I guess?

7. WTK the Cap Pig - February 27, 2012

Having read this blog I am too depressed to write. I just am thankful that I live in Afganistan and not the UK. Goodbye, I shall look for the gas pipe momentarily…

markswill - February 27, 2012

Smart of you to up-sticks and move your operations to Afghanistan, Terry. After all, our two great governments are pouring more money into fighting a useless, unwinnable war there than they are on anything else. I trust you’ll find a way of profiting from that… (How is your Halliburton holding these days, BTW?).

WTK the Cap Pig - February 27, 2012

Righto! Nothing like a good land war to pull the economy out of the doldrums and reduce unemployment. WW2 and Viet Nam wporked wonders for the vaterland buying power. Getting ready to open a branch office in Iran…it’s like a new lease on life!

8. andie mcgrath - February 27, 2012

i’m reminded yet again of henry ford (that well known socialist), and his policy of paying workers enough money to be able to afford the cars they were building. still, at least the directors at poundland realised it.

markswill - February 27, 2012

But who buys Fords anymore? Daewoos, Hyundis, Protons… these are the cars that ‘we’ can afford, and of course they’re built in third world economies.

9. rjjw - February 27, 2012

Last Friday night I went to see the film you wrote about in your blog in November 2010. Being a young/old colonial, having been born, lived and survived boarding school in that fair land I quite enjoyed it. What were you doing during the making of the film? I mean, what was your role? Intriguing!

markswill - February 27, 2012

Well Mr/Ms/Mrs RJJW, I’m impressed that you remembered that ancient blog, but I must sadly inform you that I had nowt to do with the making of Best Exotic Marlgold Hotel: I was merely chaperoning my good pal Deborah Moggach who wrote the book on which it was based, and co-wrote the screenplay. (You may’ve also noticed a nice little in-joke in the flic, where Maggie Smith’s character is seen reading a copy of La Moggach’s (other) best-seller, Tulip Fever. Twice). I did however compose a cover story on it for the current issue of Saga, somewhat to my chagrin.

rjjw - March 1, 2012

Thanks Mark – I have a good memory and even remember what you wrote about Linda Ronstadt in an edition of Bike Mag in 1975 – but I will spare your blushes and won’t repeat it here 😉

Thanks also for your very interesting reply and I’m delighted that you had the opportunity to be on location hobnobbing…well done.

10. Hed Maginnis - February 29, 2012

Saga………that a mag for boxer owners then?

markswill - February 29, 2012

Hahahahahaha and indeed, ha. But seriously Hed, I assume you know it’s Britain’s best-selling magazine, and aimed almost entirely at retirees?

11. Linda Stokes - March 3, 2012

hi ya, Marky Simon, this was swell reading..loved it. :))

12. adfly autoclicker - March 9, 2012

I like what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and exposure!

Keep up the very good works guys I’ve included you guys to my own blogroll.

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