Brief Encounter-with the Press

An interesting thing happened on the way to the library.

On Monday afternoon I set off towards our local High Street in order to attend my monthly meeting of our writers’ group, The Spokes, which meets on the third Monday of each month. The meeting date had taken me by surprise, being only two weeks in to October because the first Monday was the first day. The result of this was that my reminder email to our group was not sent until very late on Sunday night.

When I reached the High Street, market trading was well underway as usual for  Monday, but with the addition of a large, white, double-decker bus, next to which a small group of elderly people bearing leaflets was busy faffing around.

On the bus’s side slogans of the  ‘Brexit means Brexit’ type had been placed.

That the bus was parked there in my own High Street provoked feelings of outrage in me, so that I was taken unawares by the reporter and cameraman who stopped me as I walked further along trying to process what I’d seen.

The reporter proffered her fluffy microphone, ‘What do you think of all this?’ she asked. I assumed she meant the bus. ‘I’m furious,’ I replied, ‘about that bus parked in my town!’

You must understand, reader that in order to sacrifice myself on the altar of the media I had to overcome my total rejection of photos of…me. The cameraman’s lens was only a few menacing inches away from my face. Horrors!

The reporter continued. ‘What do you think about the current Brexit situation?’

‘I’m a remainer’, I said. ‘I voted ‘remain’ and I would still like to remain in the EU’.

She leaned towards me. ‘Nigel Farrage is in that pub’.

Nigel Farrage!!! 

For the benefit of overseas readers, Nigel Farrage was the former leader of UKIP-[The UK Independence Party], a virtually single-issue party devoted to the sole aim of extracting the UK from the European Union. Not only is Nige a Member of Parliament [currently some other cobbled together anti-Europe mob] but has also had the gall to take a place in the European Parliament! 

I frowned into the reporter’s mike. ‘I don’t even know what Nigel Farrage is FOR,’ I said. Then I told her they were all right wing scum. At this point they left me and continued up the High Street.

I went on into the library and to our writers’ room [we are The Spokes], which is on the first floor and overlooks the High Street. I opened the window to get a bird’s eye view and was joined by a fellow Spoke. After a few moments we were treated to this view:

Farrage

 

Farrage is the character slightly left of centre in his trademark trilby hat. A closer inspection of the scene shows that his motley collection of ‘followers’ [not many] is, on the whole elderly and a little decrepit looking.

Later Meridian news aired a snippet of the interview, cutting much of it. While I’d hoped nobody I knew had seen it, it became clear from social media that a lot of people had, which was mortifying. The camera had indeed been much too close for comfort. Ho hum.

But I thought of the chip paper analogy and felt comforted. And I did get to say my bit…

A Sorry State

europe

I know I’ve nailed my colours to the mast on a previous occasion but despite eschewing political views generally I’m posting this week in a brief return to the UK’s most bitter, divisive and hackneyed topic of leaving the EU.

It will be no surprise to regular readers to learn that we are Europhiles, Husband and myself. We make frequent and lengthy trips to Europe and have done for many years. These expeditions are for leisure purposes but I’d have to include education within the leisure definition, since discovering hitherto unvisited places, viewing landscapes, towns, villages, architecture, galleries, learning history, seeing what is grown [and what grows!], how people live, where people live, what they grow in their gardens, what is in the shops, meeting people and conversing [or trying to]- these benefits are more compelling than any sun-soaked Spanish beach can be.

We have grown addicted to exploration of our near neighbour countries. Is there any other continent as divers as Europe? Our cultures, cuisines, music, languages, customs and even weather systems are vastly different and this is what makes it a magnet for tourists from other continents.

Yet the EU knits countries together without loss of culture, language or any other individualism. Together the countries are stronger. Together they can work towards shared goals, combat human rights atrocities, be a louder voice on the world stage. They can deal better with mass migrations using a coordinated approach and consider difficulties over climate change or environmental problems.

So about half of the UK population has been duped into believing that this benevolent organisation is bad for us. They have been fooled by a few meddling, bullish, selfish individuals who are interested only in the furthering of their own careers at the expense of the greater good and by the gutter press whose main aim is to peddle hatred and spread jingoism.

The process of leaving has been left to an inept, disorganised and disjointed government who’ve no clue how to progress except by ‘carrying out the will of the people’. But we can surmise from their hints about stockpiling that things are not going well.

Marvellous.

This summer, as we experience one of the worst droughts since records began and know that our own food production is bound to be reduced we learn that supermarket stocks should be reserved and that shortages are going to be a certainty. Add to this the likelihood that ports will struggle to process imports and that those firms large enough to re-locate are beginning to do so [eg financial institutions to Germany]. Add again the numbers of immigrant workers quitting in droves, leaving horrendous voids in National Health Service personnel, the agricultural workforce, hospitality and elsewhere.

So there you are. The future looms, stretching away in a long queue for dwindling bags of potatoes or a desperate trawl through the internet for ever scarcer blood pressure tablets. Meanwhile triumphant Brexiters delight in goading ‘put up and shut up’ style posts, calling those of us who are heart-sick ‘remoaners’. These are the very people who will be squealing like stuck pigs at the empty shelves in the supermarkets when it happens.

If there were a way to buy EU citizenship I would be doing it-but I can only claim a Maltese great grandmother in my heritage, which I don’t suppose will do. I am so very sorry, Europe for the ignorant foolishness of my country. Please may we continue to visit?

Will we Stay or Will we Go?

So-this is the week. We are to discover if we will stay or not. We have very little control over what will happen, a state that leaves us feeling powerless, impotent and often frustrated. There is too much information or there is not enough. The information is poor quality and we have no idea what to believe of what we hear. Will we be moving? Or will we be staying? We have waited sixteen weeks to find out if we’ll be moving house…

I remember the first EU referendum in 1975. I was barely out in the world of work and grappling with juggling first job, first live-together relationship and first home, none of which endured much longer than two years. With little information or experience I voted not to join, based, I recall on the fact that the price of butter had gone up.

This time of course we are bombarded from both sides with ranting, supposed statistics and naked self-advancement dressed in thinly veiled national fervour. ‘All you need to know’ is broadcast every day in every facet of the media. ‘Facts’ are paraded as if they are true. Debates are held in a constant stream on all channels, Everywoman leaping to her feet to declare her opinion; Everyman springing up to shout her down.

And this is the problem. Exacerbated by the tabloid press, ‘debates’ whipped up into a frenzy by shouting, screeching, pointing members of the public and raft upon raft of dodgy statistics and made up facts, the entire situation has become a hate-fest; an excuse to vent negative feelings and exploit bitter sentiments. Some of it is disguised with ‘reclaiming Britain’ as if the UK had somehow floated away from its inhabitants and some of it is just streams of invective. Most is aimed at immigration so that you are left thinking that people from countries other than ours can enter but we cannot leave. Not so. 1.3 million British people live abroad in Europe, most in Spain, which houses very many retirees. They are not working and contribute little to the Spanish economy except in purchases of alcohol [this I have seen for myself]. Should Spain kick out these layabout pensioners?

Now that the ugliness of the campaign has become beyond hideous with the murder of a young, talented Member of Parliament we can only hope that those pedalling inflammatory, bombastic rhetoric will temper their rantings into something more rational and reasonably argued. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing. But you have only to look at social media to see that the ‘hate immigrant’ campaign has opened the door to right-wing organisations; organisations whose misplaced fervour appeals to loners, misfits and those with mental health issues. The killer of Jo Cox was one such individual. Let’s hope he’s the last.

 

No News would be Good

Maybe it’s because we are submerged in a waiting limbo or maybe because in other circumstances we would be away in foreign fields that I’ve become impatient to the point of fury with many of this month’s stories and trends. Here, in no particular order are some of the worst:

  • Brexit or Bremain

Not a day passes without a debate, an angle, a row or a ‘celebrity’ opinion for one side or the other. Even Facebook contacts are pushing their particular views [many, I fear culled from a certain tabloid rag]. The fact that it is not known for certain what will happen should we stay or should we go deters no one. Personally I have never been in any doubt about what Britain should do but it is one opinion I won’t be boring anyone else with [I’m not promising not to bore over other stuff].

  • The American Candidates

Yes, Donald Trump represents everything intolerant, bigoted, illiberal and reactionary. Yes, we can’t understand how he got into this elevated position. We would hope that America comes to its senses. Enough said.

  • Leicester City Football

I accept that being a football refusenik may have influenced my descent into ennui regarding what the sporting press call Leicester’s ‘fairytale’ success, nevertheless, surely the eulogising, analysing, filming, interviewing and repetition must be boring the undies off even the most die-hard Leicester fan? The only, tiny morsels of interest in this story are the bits about the manager [who should be cast as the cat stroking baddie in the next Bond film, so sinister-sounding is his accent] treating the players to a pizza making class or the team being bought beer and doughnuts. And if I have to hear their accomplishment described as fairytale one more time I’ll have to throw the TV from the window, rock star style. I presume the team members don’t object to being described as fairies, although there are certain [non-PC] connotations to the word…

  • Political In-fighting

Years ago [yes, yes I realise I’m coming over all ‘old bid’] politicians had lofty ideals. I’m sure there was a notion of serving communities and all that. Think of Aneurin Bevan and the start of the National Health Service. Is anyone else tired of spiteful niggling and back-biting and racial slurs? How good it would be to hear some real policies, some ideas about how society and quality of life might be improved for everyone. Is it too much to expect? Yes-obviously.

  • Beyoncé

How come I am unable to scroll down more than a centimetre of the Guardian website without having to accelerate past some new article about her? I’m sure that fans of Beyoncé are beyond delighted to be able to devour every, minute crumb of information about what she wore [or didn’t], sang, earned or had for breakfast but I’m sceptical as to whether your typical Guardian website reader is a Beyoncé fan. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

 

Here endeth this week’s rant-

For Better or Worse

                Change is inevitable; that much is a given. In industry and in any establishment ‘change’ is an issue that must be managed, trained for, discussed, prepared for and implemented. Why must all this effort go into dealing with change? Because most of us, the worker bees, the minions, the ignorant-we won’t like it. And we won’t like it because it won’t be in our interests. It will be in the interests of those making the change; they may be bosses, government ministers, directors or anyone who might benefit from alterations.

                One change that hit the national headline news this week was the move, after 40 years, of Ford’s van factory from Southampton, here on the South coast of England, to Turkey. The reason given is lower cost. I’m guessing this means lower wages. Of course the move is great news for Turkey, who, I believe is still aiming to belong to the European Union, having begun negotiations in 2005, but less good for those workers who had believed, not expecting anything to change, that their jobs were there until retirement. No doubt Ford’s will also have less in the way of employment regulations to follow-that is-if and when Turkey gets its membership in Europe.

                As the stirrings of unrest boil away under the surface in Turkey, I’ll be interested to see how Ford’s venture of moving there progresses. The turkey may come home to roost, as it were.

                Closer to home, the shockwaves are still settling after our little writing club was sacked from the ‘community’ arts centre where we always met. As a non profit-making club, apparently we do not generate enough revenue; hence we are no longer welcome. For now we will meet in our homes until such time as we find another venue. We have to adapt to the change.

                It may be unfashionable to adhere to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it’ mantra, but all change is not necessarily going to be better for all people. In my previous life as a real working person [ie one who earned a salary] I was happy enough for things to be changed if the benefits were pointed out. Being of a somewhat cynical nature, however, I tended towards the view that there is nothing new under the sun, therefore a proposed change would be a system or a scheme or an idea that we had implemented before under a different name and in a different guise. And here’s the thing-often more than once. On the occasions when, in my innocence, I was rash enough to point this out, the outcome was never happy, or indeed favourable. I became a sort of cynical ‘Mr Pooter’  figure, labelled as an idiotic buffoon-or worse.

                Nowadays for me, change is gradual and unavoidable, although strangely, not always altogether unwelcome, without authority to rail against. Who is there to blame for wrinkles, unwanted weight deposits or grey hair? It’s all in the scheme of things, just as it should be.