I'm not about to say I understand all the implications and political turmoil the Eurozone Crisis is causing, all I know is that over the last month, more and more citizens of Europe are quite rightly saying they are not going to put up with the austerity measures enforced by the leading governments across Europe. The people of Greece, Spain and others facing massive debts, are now saying, 'why are we paying for the mess created by politicians and bankers?' and do you know, they're right. Why are we all paying for something created by incompetent ministers and greedy bankers?
Let's also get something straight - the Eurozone Crisis has nothing to do with the UK's own debts; yes, they're linked and if one goes tits up the other is likely to become a pressing concern; but the mess the world economy is in has nothing to do with Labour spending lots of money rebuilding an infrastructure that the Tories neglected for donkeys years. The UK might be in a lot of debt, but we at least have new schools, hospitals and things which are not likely to crumble away in the next few years - I'd rather us owe money and pay it back slowly than try to clear it all up and royally butt-fuck 98% of the populace to do it. I think that is the way a lot of Europeans are thinking.
It's simple really. If you make your money from the taxes people pay, then surely investing in jobs and the future is a good way to ensure that all these people pay tax and help stimulate the economy. No jobs for people means no incoming tax and also means outgoing benefits - regardless of how the government tinker with it to make it impossible for most people to get anything from it. Fuck about with peoples' benefits when there's a lot of jobs out there to fill; not when it looks likely that more people will be joining the dole queue.
The problem with the Tories is that they think all of the 2million plus unemployed people in this country are work-shy feckless bastards and therefore they should be forced to get a job rather than sponge off the rest of us.
While the government really needs to cut its spending deficit, it also needs to find money to invest in stimulating business and the sensible approach would be to manage the economy like most people manage their household debts. The problem is Cameron and Osborne wouldn't know a housekeeping bill if it bit them on the arse and gave them both rabies. All they are doing is surreptitiously altering things to make their aristocratic buddies a lot more comfortable. Arguably, they are doing very little to ensure that whoever gets in at the next General Election has a mountain to climb to try and halt ours and Europe's slide into Third World status.
Yesterday, I heard a story that kind of made me glad that I'm away from the Youth Offending Team. I got a run down of what's been happening in the 12 months since I got made redundant and it was painful to listen to.
The first thing that angered me was less than two months after making me and four colleagues out of work, the Service then spent more money than it saved employing three agency workers on £26 an hour. These agency workers are still there, 10 months later and the three of them have earned twice as much as the five redundant people would have earned. The reason was simple - they had an inspection and needed to pass it. They did, but at what cost?
Then to add insult to injury, the council are in the process of re-evaluating the jobs of the people who are contracted there. Unions are fighting, but it seems that all current employees are going to be faced with the prospect of either having their pensions obliterated or their conditions renegotiated to the point where they will all take a drop in position and money. You could say that this is a good thing and that everyone should tighten their belts in the current climate; but these are people who were pretty much overworked on a reasonably fair wage; now they are being asked to do more for less and I'm sorry, that just isn't fair, especially when bankers, pretty much responsible for the mess we're in, are still taking home 7 figure bonuses to go with their 7 figure salaries. In Phill's world, a person who stops a young thug from ending up in prison is as important as a banker who makes his shareholders an extra £1000 in dividends. Actually, in Phill's world, the former is far more important because he's saving the government money and possibly turning said young thug into a tax paying member of society - it's a small but priceless win win situation.
Today, there are protests in Spain. In France, the new president is talking about stimulating growth rather than stymieing it. Greece is beginning to rebel against the whole damned mess. Germany are nervously looking over their shoulders, because Angela is possibly beginning to realise that the big plan isn't going the way she hoped. An economist in the Guardian this week highlighted how austerity has always failed in the past and pinpointed the fact that the thing that often follows austerity is war, because wars tend to stimulate economies (and get rid of all those unemployed people either directly or indirectly). This time round the war might be civil rather than international. A friend of mine who has a Greek father said the feeling on the ground in Athens and major Greek cities is that if they are forced to take even more cuts to their lives then they will strike en masse; they will rebel against the sanctions; they will, effectively bring the country to its knees. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. What happens when the people refuse to do what their politicians want them to do? Do they send in the troops? And what if the troops actually agree with the people?
To have a job, I took a £6½k cut in money and a year after redundancy, we have had to tighten our belts even further. I can't give the wife as much money and we're having to scrimp and scrape to make some ends meet. Entertainment is the first thing that has suffered; we don't go out for a meal half as often as we did; depriving places we used to go to regularly of our income. I drink a third less than I did, which wasn't much in the first place. Luxuries are incorporated into every day things. I'll still buy cashews, but now to go in cooking rather than to sit and indulge myself while watching TV. I break the law by downloading TV programmes that I simply can't afford to subscribe to with Virgin or Sky and I do not see anything wrong with me not getting myself into debt to have 45 minutes of entertainment. I appreciate that some will reckon that if people can't afford something then they should go without; but hey, all work and no play makes Jack a rebellious anti-government protester.
I remember the saying that communism in theory is that all men are equal, but in practice some men are more equal than others and you can apply that to the 'We're all in this together' approach of Cameron. He's right; we are all in this together, just that some people are more in it than others.
I might have spent a little time being harsh about one of my regular pub haunts in the last blog, but the main reason we go there is for my mate Phil, the quizmaster. We've been to a lot of quizzes over the years, but Phil's are far and away the best. He is the consummate professional; he's witty, amusing and the questions are a good mix of general knowledge and obscurity - not too hard, never too easy.
The only quiz that came near Phil's was the one that used to be on at the Malt Shovel, run by Norm and Jackie the landlord and lady of the place back in 2006. The place was heaving and you had to get there early if you wanted a seat. The quiz started at 8.30 on the dot and was all over by 9.30. It was a simple format; 3 rounds of questions, 1 picture round and a music round to finish off. First prize was £50, then £10 and £5 (sometimes £20 and £10 if it was really busy). We won it a few times; placed a few more. Then Norm and Jackie left; I spent a month agonising over whether to take my quiz idea to the new landlord and when I finally did, he'd just signed up an enthusiastic local to do the monthly quiz.
We stuck with it for a few months, but the man was awful and we weren't the only people to think this. Numbers fell and by this time we'd discovered the quiz at the Vic. Nearly five years down the line, we decided to go to the Malt Shovel quiz last night; Roger and I have found ourselves down there on a couple of quiz nights over the years and it had got busier again; the number of people there seemed to suggest that there was a prize worth winning. So, we turned up expecting not to find a seat and the place was nearly empty. This wasn't as bad as all that because the beer at the Shovel is from a different level of competence than it is at the Vic; so Roger and I were at least in our element.
To cut a long story short, we ended up coming 2nd of 16 teams; beaten by 1 point, but arguably should have been in a tie-break because the team that won it got a point for being close to an answer and we didn't. But, hey, 2nd is great for our first attempt in years. Even if it was just a tenner, it was a profit on the night and we figured we pretty much could win it most months. Roger went up and collected our winnings: a London Pride Tee shirt (medium), a key ring and a small bottle of 3% beer!!!!!!!!! I was APPALLED! I wanted Roger to leave this spectacular booty on the table; let some other poor schmuck have this paltry consolation prize. I wanted to go back to the quizmaster - still the most annoying of twats you could imagine - and shove the bottle of 3% beer up his arse and ram the tee shirt down his colloquial gob.
Anyhow, Roger is convinced we can dominate there. The promise of perfectly kept beer is a real incentive, but I'll be buggered by the Colossus of Rhodes if I'm going to pay £1 for the chance of winning some promotional garbage.
- Stuck for inspiration it's been NAO again, mainly. I listened to a little Rossini. I really hate to say this but I got half way through Clockwork Angels, the new Rush album and I switched it off. There was a time when that would never happen.
- It's November!
- Think this June is bad? Last June was just as shitty. The highlights of last June were the 1st and 2nd and the 28th and 29th, the rest of the month was fucking abysmal.
- I have been wondering if there is some way you could turn phlegm into a valuable commodity.
- The weather has been so autumnal, I found a ton of horse mushrooms at one of my usual September haunts on Tuesday. Most of them were excellent and were eaten just hours later in a stir fry.
- With the holiday almost over and me still feeling the effects of this virus, One El commented the other day that I would start to feel well again at about 6pm on Sunday evening. I just know he's going to be so right.
- Rhubarb. I have so much bloody rhubarb. Does anyone want some? I can post it. I've got rhubarb prongs the thickness of baby's arms; leaves as big as dining room tables; it's bloody mutant rhubarb, powered by the magical properties of duck shit. If we get any more rain it'll be aquatic rhubarb - the sub-aqua adventures of a vegetable that thinks it's a fruit!
- Rigid plastic containers.