A bit of a bitty blog this week, I think…

Bloggy Bit 1:

Last weekend my son went on the sponsored Explorer’s campout for Shelterbox I mentioned a few weeks ago. He came home from this one with most of his kit intact and serviceable, and when I asked him if he’d enjoyed it he said it was “okay”, so I guess that counts as a resounding success. (NB: at fifteen “okay” is about as enthusiastic as he gets about anything these days that doesn’t involve zombies (preferably of the Nazi variety) and firearms.)

Given that the campsite was a good 70 miles away and the roads unpredictable I erred on the side of caution and gave myself a good couple of hours when picking him up, only to arrive half an hour earlier than the advised time. Having left my walkman at home and there being nowhere nice close by to go walkabout I ended up buying a paper to amuse myself with a crossword. As I don’t read papers I just picked one pretty much at random on the basis of it containing a supplement with a collection of fifteen-minute recipes by Jamie Oliver. I think it might have been the Daily Mail, but don’t read anything into that as it was selected purely in its capacity as a vehicle for a “Goldilocks” (not too easy, not too hard) crossword: the news section was ignored and hastily discarded…

Anyhoo, bored while eating my lunch today I picked up the magazine that came with the paper to look for my fifteen-minute recipe cards (which I couldn’t find) and then found myself reading a column by the ginger tit himself, Chris Evans. Mostly he was wittering on about the cracking skin on his feet and blowing his own trumpet about his charity work, but he was also spouting off about high street shops and local markets, citing them as the “heart(s) of our communities” and “the very fabric of our country”, which is, of course, a load of old ginger bollocks.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing whatsoever against high street shops or local markets, and in principle I agree with him that the loss of our traditional high street shops and traditional local markets is something to be mourned, but I put the emphasis on traditional there for a reason, and I suspect it’s an emphasis that Chris Evans knows very little about or would have very little interest in promoting. Because local markets aren’t generally markets anymore but farmer’s markets, and rather than offering value-for-money shopping for the local community they offer over-priced and overrated products to that specific demographic within the local community who can afford to bypass the supermarkets (including Waitrose and M&S) and indulge themselves regardless of the state of the economy or the inconvenience of getting into town.

Chris Evans is fortunate enough to be within that demographic, and can also undoubtedly afford to indulge himself further in the high street boutiques and cafés that have grown up around our towns to cater for the farmer market set. Which is fine – bloody good luck to him! – but to read him jabbering on as though these places are the hearts and souls of our communities adds insult to injury for those who have been excluded and disenfranchised as a direct result of the economic shift that made farmer’s markets etc viable propositions in the first place, and for those local traders and market stall operators whose more modest profit margins can no longer cover the inflated rents being charged for premises or pitches.

I’ve written about farmer’s markets and the have/have not divide before, so won’t bang on about them here, but in the simplest terms the reason why our markets and high street shops aren’t teeming with shoppers is that they no longer meet the needs of the communities they service. Whether they can compete with online shopping and supermarket pricing is another matter altogether, but unless they try they will remain elitist pastimes for an increasingly over-catered for minority who may well show brand loyalty when it comes to Apple and Range Rover products, but who prove very fickle when it comes to anything else. That’s why our high streets are suffering, and that’s the divide that is ruining communities and changing “the very fabric of our Country”. If you’ve got any solutions to those problems, Mr Evans, I’d love to read ‘em…

Coming soon to a high street near you…

Oh, BTW Mr Evans, I don’t know where you’re living now, but have you ever considered moving to Tunbridge Wells? I think from what I’ve read (and the fact that I read it in the Daily Mail) that you’d fit right in here. They do some lovely lines in giant olives and gluten and dairy free cake at our local farmer’s market that are simply delish, and the speciality cheeses are absolutely divine. You may also find the following link of interest. Or possibly not: YUMMY MUMMIES & PRIMROSE HILL

Bloggy Bit 2:

I read a news article today about benefit cuts impacting most dramatically on those receiving the DLA care component at the middle rate. For those who aren’t familiar with the DLA system, the difference between middle rate and high rate is, effectively, the amount of care needed during the night, so in real terms if you are caring for a child (or adult) who sleeps through the night then regardless of how severe and complex their support needs during the day there will be a dramatic change in the level of funding available to them. This, of course, will have a major impact on many with profound support needs, and on the ability of those providing support to meet those needs. One of the possible implications of this may well be a rise in the number of claimants whose parents/carers find themselves unable to cope, and who elect, from necessity (or, more accurately, Hobson’s Choice), to place their loved ones into residential care.

One thing that has featured little in the media regarding disability benefit cuts is the cost involved in providing state care, and the huge amount of money that is cut from that bill by the efforts of parents, carers and – for the lucky ones – the extended families and networks that disabled people rely on for support. While some within our society might argue that’s as it should be, the reality is that parents and carers, however determined and committed, are in many cases already pushed to the limits of their resources both physically and financially, and for some the proposed cuts may well be the final straw.

Of course, carers can’t go “on strike”, because they know only too well that provision and resources available within the UK would be hopelessly inadequate to compensate for them or to meet the needs of those relying on their care if they did. However desperate their circumstances might be, they could not conscionably or knowingly inflict that level of suffering on people they love and who rely on them for support. Which is a pity, in a way, because If they could, just for a day or two, the costs involved would put the projected annual savings from benefit cuts into perspective, and the perceived tax burden of supporting carers so they can support those depending on them into stark relief.

Perhaps a rally, a march to Westminster, would draw attention to the real numbers involved. But then who’s going to look after their sons and their daughters, their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters their […] while they get mobilised to do so? Oh, that’s right: nobody.

As it stands, making the disabled the victims of cutbacks is like shooting fish in a barrel; they ain’t going anywhere, and you can only see the blood in the water if you go out of your way to take a look. Unless you happen to be someone who cares about the fish it’s very easy to stick your fingers in your ears and look the other way, and from the general response to government proposals on disability benefit cuts it would seem that many in today’s society feel quite comfortable in doing exactly that.

Bloggy Bit 3:

A Twitter friend is the editor of a local quarterly magazine, and the online version of the autumn edition has just been published. The bit I contributed is on pages 12-13, but the rest of the mag could well be of interest too. The pear gingerbread recipe on p.44, for example, might come in really handy for Halloween, if that’s the kind of thing that floats your boat. PLAYGROUND MAGAZINE ONLINE




4 thoughts on “A BIT OF A BLOG OR A BLOG OF BITS?”

  1. Its a bit out of town and maybe a bit off-topic, but the local 6 day a week market I grew up with in the centre of London is still thriving and has become even more ethnically diverse over the years, and has actually got cheaper. Church Street Market – off the Edgware Road. My dad regularly gets as much fruit as he can carry in his ‘bag for life’ carrier bag for One Pound, and fish and meats for about 3 quid. As far as I know, the grocers on Berwick St in Soho are also still going strong and bargains abound. Can’t be that people are more into fruit & veg in central london?!

    1. My point exactly – those markets thrive by offering what the local community wants at competitive prices. Farmers’ markets cater only for a very small sector of the local community, selling at prices that keep the majority away. The more a town adapts to support that kind of trade the more it forces out ‘traditional’ traders, resulting in an even bigger divide that drives more of the community away. It’s a vicious circle, and ridiculous ‘support local traders’ incentives organised by the very same elitist traders only compound and replicate the problem. The number of shops that can successfully trade on the basis of ‘good will’ will always be finite, and trade often has more to do with local politics and being in with the ‘in’ crowd than it does with actually delivering the goods. It becomes a social networking exercise rather than a business enterprise… Sound like anywhere you know? 😉

      Which is not to say, of course, that there’s anything wrong with elitist boutiques and farmers markets and overpriced cup cakes, but when it’s pretty much ALL a town has to offer then it’s hardly likely to attract those who don’t want those things. Get the balance right and you have buzzing high streets and busy markets, but if you price out 80% of your potential customers then the town up the road that does accommodate them is the one that’s going to be buzzing. In a nutshell, pick the market your dad shops at up and drop it in almost any town centre that looks like the one in the pic I posted, and you’ll soon see a difference. There might not be so many range rovers in the multi-storey and the mummies buying the fruit and veg might not be quite so ‘yummy’, but is that such a bad thing? The answer to that from many in my neck of the woods would be ‘yes’, but the long term effects of that tunnel vision are already evident from the deserted streets and empty shop fronts…

      Thanks for feedback, BTW – much appreciated 😀

  2. A friend has a handicapped brother, he will now be in his 50s. It was the family’s choice that he should remain with them and not go into care, and his mother’s life has become completely caring for him, keeping him safe from any hazards around the home ( he would do things such as drink the washing up liquid, just because he knows no better), and all that time feeding and clothing someone, who but for lead-in-1960s-toys, would be at work earning an income (well hopefully so in these days of recession or whatever it isn’t called). Any caring society would do their best to care for fellow human beings, whether they communist or capitalist.

    1. Hi Carolyn – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there with ‘caring society’… Sadly, social engineering has left us with more of an ‘I’m alright, Jack’ society that only really considers other people when there’s something in it for themselves. Give them the feel good factor of a Children in Need night, or Red Nose day and they lap it up like cats at a bowl of cream. Ask on a day to day basis for a small level of human compassion, empathy or consideration and it’s too much like hard work. As I said in my post, the lack of public outrage at the latest DLA cuts says it all: the vast majority seem quite happy to stick their fingers in their ears and look the other way, and to ignore the implications of the bloody chum barrel sitting in the corner. Which is not only wrong but incredibly short-sighted, because in these days of economic crisis it is only a matter of time before some of the ‘haves’ find themselves ‘have nots’…

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