I WAS cycling to the university the other day for more squash ignominy (don’t ask, the details are too painful) when I passed among a plague of human pizzas.
There were seven pizza boxes on legs within less than a mile. Standing around in the cold dressed as a pizza seems like demeaning work, but perhaps that’s how the unemployment figures are massaged. Two of these pepperoni people even stranded themselves on a roundabout, which didn’t seem wise.
But they did give me an idea: perhaps I could dress as a book and walk around advertising my services: words for sale, no job too small; journalism, copy-writing and novel-writing undertaken (no poetry, please: not sure I can manage that).
With that thought in mind, here are a few Saturday morning words that could fill the pages of my ambulatory book…
According to reports this morning, George Osborne is going to use his budget next week to cut benefits payments to the disabled to pave the way for tax breaks. He wants to cut benefits because he has an £18 billion black hole to fill.
These holes in the economy appear overnight like holes in the road. Then Osborne or whoever has hold of the nation’s wallet spends a bit filling a crater or two, usually by stealing the tar intended for a hole somewhere else (you know, somewhere less important, like the North).
But let’s hold the original thought for a moment. The Conservatives want to cut disability welfare payments by up to £140 a week – and then give the middle-classes a tax break. This raises an important question: who votes for these people?
Another pages turns. On this one we find Justin Welby saying it would be “absolutely outrageous” to claim that everyone who fears the migration crisis is a racist. Now the Archbishop of Canterbury was making a nuanced point, but his words were snatched up in self-righteous glee by the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, while politicians such as the lovely Iain Duncan Smith (‘hero’ of yesterday’s blog) joined in the told-you-so chorus.
Because we have a confrontational culture about such matters, those opposed to the EU and fearful of migration – occasionally to the point of mouth-frothing – took this as sainted justification for their views. What the archbishop said wasn’t shocking or unreasonable, but his words were then bounced around in the pressure cooker of intolerance. Did he really intend to give succour to those who found such nasty relish in what he’d said? That seems unlikely, but perhaps he should have spoken with greater care.
On to a fresh page. The Independent today bears the headline “The betrayal of the North” above a report saying that more northern museums and galleries face closure as the austerity cuts take hold, while campaigners warn that the north could become a cultural desert. This is reported as a ‘kick in the teeth’ when national institutions in London have seen an increase in funding.
And at the same time, further doubts are being expressed about the ridiculous Garden Bridge across the Thames – an idea which seems to stink as much as the water which will one day flow beneath it.
To reiterate a point made a while ago: if galleries and museums and other cultural centres in the North are closing due to lack of funds, that bridge should not receive a penny in public money.
And with that my walking book walks off for another day. I’m not going near that roundabout though.