Among my piles of forgotten DVDs, I found ‘A Touch of Class’ – a romcom about Glenda Jackson and George Segal having an affair; it dates quite well, but the impact for me is that they travel to the Costa del Sol in the early 1970s, when I myself first saw and fell headlong for the beaches and mountains of southern Andalusia. We see the original Malaga airport – almost quaint; their Hotel Guadalmina is familiar to me; even Antonio’s restaurant in Puerto Banus was a haunt. The settings are a fifty-year-old time capsule of my personal history.
Bruce Chatwin’s book ‘Songlines’, is about the nature of human restlessness, our instinctive migratory urge; natural selection, he believed, designed humankind for travel. I remember an article by the late William MacIlvanney (my hero), which argues that “the main significance of holidays is their capacity to liberate our minds from the prison of our largely accidental lives”. Over the years – and dozens of holidays in sunlight – I came very close to re-locating to the Andalusian coast; but I must have wanted my Scottish life more. I like to remember my continuing community work as a ‘calling’ – but maybe it just felt safer.
I haven’t been to Spain, or anywhere, for years, which suggests that our ‘migration’ instinct peters out. The DVD’s reminder of the Costa in the seventies sparked powerful reflections – but none more powerful than how quickly life passes. As the poet said: “They are not long, the days of wine and roses”.
The United Nations Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Professor Philip Alston, undertook a mission to the UK from 5th – 16th November 2018; this is a short summary of his final report (May 2019) which is an extremely candid, external evaluation of our poverty levels. Alston said that the policies of austerity, pursued since 2010 ‘as an ideological agenda’, had displaced much of our welfare state with a ‘harsh and uncaring ethos’. He estimated that 14 million Britons live in poverty – 1.5 million in destitution without access to basics. As the cost-of-living spirals, it is important to realise that the flexibility and resilience of millions is already compromised. Are things going to get bad enough to trigger change?
If you share my enthusiasm for Basic Income, you’ll be heartened by the new ‘pilot’ announced by the Welsh Assembly. The week the SNP came up with their Freeport nonsense.
Resource governance in our economy is dominated by two systems – the market and the state. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) proposes that a better model would include the role of ‘the commons in a wellbeing society’. Their 10-page briefing paper is only an introduction to this exciting and important concept. Intro and link to document.
Official statements and press coverage of the Ukrainian crisis seem much more aggressive in the US and UK than elsewhere; can’t help thinking that both countries’ leaders need a distraction from domestic turbulence. This ‘socialist’ viewpoint is from Nick Antoniw, a second generation Ukrainian and member of the Welsh Assembly.
It was important that a Tory personage like John Major spoke up for standards in public life; to show that some Tories care that the UK’s reputation is being shredded across the world. Johnson’s ‘decidedly shifty’ regime targets quite an ugly populist minority. Major said: “We cannot take democracy for granted – this government’s failings imperil us all”.
I grew up in an ‘Italian’ household, where the priority afforded ‘extra virgin olive oil’ struck me as exaggerated; however this Conversation article suggests the attention was warranted – because of something called polyphenols? I wonder if this is linked to a Guardian piece about the unusual number of centenarians in Sardinia – partly attributed to diet.
This poem by WH Auden is a long-time favourite.
“A shilling life will give you all the facts: how Father beat him, how he ran away, what were the struggles of his youth, what acts made him the greatest figure of his day; of how he fought, fished, hunted, worked all night, though giddy, climbed new mountains; named a sea: some of the last researchers even write love made him weep his pints like you and me. With all his honours on, he sighed for one who, say astonished critics, lived at home; did little jobs about the house with skill and nothing else; could whistle; would sit still or potter round the garden; answered some of his long marvellous letters, but kept none.”