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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.

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