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Posts Tagged ‘decline’

I don’t get into town much these days. It’s a habit left over from the various lock-downs we’ve had. If I’m heading out at all, it’s for a walk somewhere nice, and where the fact the arse is coming out of England’s trousers doesn’t show quite as much.

But I needed herbs, and I remembered the old herb-shop. It’s one of the few independent businesses hanging on from the once upon a time, though they no longer prepare as many of their own potions. Instead, it’s mostly corporate branded stuff, and quite expensive. I could have got them off the Internet much cheaper, but that’s one of the reasons the old town’s in the state it’s in. Other reasons would include the fact there’s no money here any more, and what jobs there are pay very poor wages.

The number of empty shops now is disheartening. The only businesses moving in are drinking dens and betting shops. Meanwhile, the cafés and coffee shops are closing down, as the town trade dwindles. I could get a beer from any number of places, around whose doorways stand huddles of tired-looking men with pint-pot stares, but I’d struggle for a cup of tea, and no wonder. This is not the sort of place you’d linger to watch the world go by any more. This is Middleton, from Saving Grace, it’s Middleton, from Winter on the Hill.

Decline was obvious years ago, but it looks like they were still the good years, and we’re going full Apocalyptic, now. Yet it was a nice town, and prosperous. We used to dress up to come here. I’ve seen images like this before, but they were all provincial towns in the Soviet Union, just before the wall came down. The west was puffed up and smug in shoulder pads then, not realising it was our turn next.

Having got my herbs, I take a mooch around, and wind up in B+M Bargains. It occupies the space that was once Woolworths. It’s odd, to feel nostalgic for Woolies. I’d take the kids there for lunch in the long ago, slip them a fiver, and set them loose in the toy aisle. Then we’d top it off with pick and mix – oh, heady days!

The Argos store has gone. So has WH Smiths. Still, at least B+M is bustling. If there’s any sort of vibe at all, it’s here, among the bargains. Except there’s this one old lady complaining bitterly to her friend how she’s had a wasted journey. The shop didn’t have what she wanted, and the whole thing has ruined her day. I know, the shops rarely have what you want now, other than the most common and basic items. For anything else, you have to go online and chance it.

There are kids rushing around, stocking shelves. I’m thinking they could give her chapter and verse on ruined days, indeed ruined lives, and a future promising even less than what little they’ve got right now. But they’re not complaining. Those who have the most to complain about, tend not to. The old lady carries on, finding more to grumble about, and seeking someone to blame for it. She trails her negative energy around the store like a smog.

B+M are selling solar motion-detecting lights for thirteen quid a-piece. Winter coming on, I’ve been thinking about getting some of those. They’re useful for lighting the way around the outside of the house. But for twenty-five quid I can get four of them from that online place – you know, the one that treats its workers appallingly.

The B+M versions are of a brand that’s been around since the year dot. The online four-pack will be of unknown origin, and most likely only two of them working, and then none after the first winter. What to do then? Do I pay for the one? Or do I chance-it, go online and support a business model that’ll be the ruin of us all when those are the only kinds of jobs left for human beings to do?

Then, strangely, I’m thinking of this girl I used to know. I fancied her rotten, and she knew it. She also knew I’d not the guts to do anything about it. I think she enjoyed my discomfort and the moon eyed adulation. The last time I saw her was 1982, on the Zebra crossing, here in town. She was coming one way, I was going the other. She was dressed to the nines, like everyone else, that Saturday afternoon, yet, like in one of those daft perfume ads, she was the one who stood out.

She gave me a look in passing that left me speechless, but which would later launch a million words in search of connection with the deeper meaning of what I felt for her, and the world in general. I used to go back to that crossing, the same time on a Saturday, thinking to recreate that moment, and maybe this time do something about it. But, like I said, I never saw her again. And it was all a long time ago, when everything seemed much newer, and fresher, and not so,… derelict.

The crossing’s still there, though the shops either side of it are empty. I use it on the way back to the car, remembering of a sudden how she looked that day. Funny how this should be coming back to me now. Then I look up, and guess what? No, she not there, because not even the ghosts come here any more.

Anyway, unlike that sad old girl in B+M, my trip wasn’t wasted. I got my herbal stuff. And I got my motion sensing light as well, because I only need the one, and the rocket guy can do without my business for once. It’s a small step for a man, as someone once said. But those were heady days. And certainly, here at least, among the more material aspects of contemporary provincial English reality, there’s nothing quite so aspirational as that any more.

Thanks for listening.

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A brief definition is in order: how do we classify a personal blog? Well, obviously it’s one that’s being kept by a person, as opposed to a commercial entity, or on behalf of one – that’s one way of defining it. Another definition would be if it conveys the interests, words, thoughts and sympathies of the writer, in ways that are sincere and uncorrupted by their proximity to the engines of commerce.

The personal blog allows you the time, the space and the means to express your thoughts on anything that interests you or, in my case, it helps to work out what it is I actually think in the first place. Reading other genuinely personal blogs, we get an insight into the world, as viewed through the eyes of someone else, and from the perspective of their part of the world. But the important thing here, I think, is the nature of that person. It must be an ordinary person and, though they may write in such a way as to present the best of themselves, the reader must feel the blog is not a veneer, that it does not present as one thing while being something else entirely, that it is not bullshit or propaganda dropping from the mouths of celebrity.

Ordinary people are much more interesting and informative, and give us a better picture of the world than through our TV screens. To travel a dusty road with a stranger we will likely never meet, to walk a mountain, or a woodland path with them, have them show you things they think are precious, to be shown around their garden,… all the things we can blog about. They inform and deepen the soul, while the shouty, partisan media do nothing but harden it, and make it shallow. That’s why I think the personal blog is a special thing, and I encourage others to take it up, even if they think they have nothing particularly interesting to say.

But is it too late? Is it dead?

I feel the obvious answer is no, since I’m still clearly doing it. If I need further evidence, I need only look at my reading list, and I see others are still doing it too. So no, personal blogging is not dead. Is it dying, though? Well, that’s another question. My own blog, which goes back to 2008, tells me the number of visitors peaked in 2014 and has been declining ever since. If mine was one of those blogs driven by the need to grow an audience, it’s clearly failed, since I had fewer visitors in 2020 than I did in 2012. I’m guessing this decline will level out at some point but, yes, interest does seem to be declining year-on-year, which does indeed suggest at least my little blog is dying on its feet.

This could be due to my having grown a reputation for having nothing worth saying, of course. Or I’m wrong and no one is interested in the trivia of ordinary strangers, such as I have presented here over the years. Or, it could be the way personal blogs are handled now by the algorithms, that they are being out-gamed by the marketing blogs, muscling their way up the rankings. Or, it could be that many writers started out thinking they might be discovered as geniuses and offered publishing deals, or newspaper columns, but have now quit the field in their droves, disappointed at being so cruelly ignored. So the question is now: are fewer people writing, and reading personal blogs? Or are we writers writing the same as we always have, but are just becoming harder for readers to find?

When I ask this question of the Google-bot, the conversation immediately and rather unhelpfully veers away from personal blogging, and starts talking about marketing blogs, or how to monetise your personal blog by turning yourself into a lifestyle-blogging fiction of yourself, and by endorsing products. That kind of thing does seem to be on the rise, at least judging by the number popping up and sticking “follows” on my own blog. But is this really the only reason my blog is on the wane?

You could say the reasons are complex, and they probably are, but I like to think of it as a consolidation. The personal blog is an unusual type of social media. It is long-form personal journalism that attracts a small group of readers who are interested in the thoughts of others. It is telling the world as we see it through “our” eyes, it seeks to inform, to entertain, to tell a story about the world. Through my eyes, the world is a dauntingly complex place, but it is also endlessly fascinating, and beautiful. My own approach, admittedly, is to make a romantic journey out of everything and, whilst not immune to the occasional grumble, I like to think I’m optimistic, and would urge others to remain optimistic too, and to weather as best you can the storms we have undoubtedly battled through in recent years.

So, in spite of the evidence of my own eyes, I don’t believe personal blogging is dead, though it does appear to be boiling itself down to the essence of those writers who prefer the long form means of expression, and perhaps releasing the others to the steam heat of the pithy tweet. None of this is to say, of course, I shall be quitting the blog in a huff at my failure to build an influential platform. I wouldn’t know what to do with one anyway. So long as the Rivendale Review is concerned, it’s very much business as usual – whatever that business is.

As always, to those who follow along and read me, I say thank you. You are a special bunch, clearly more discerning and erudite in your tastes. I’m all the better, and humbled for your company. And to those whose blogs I read, thank you for your continuing efforts, and for the myriad ways you help inform and broaden my own world view, and from a perspective that matters, this being from the ground up.

Thank you for listening.

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The road from lamghom avenue new cover - smallIt was a time of strangeness, one in which curious alliances were formed. People you normally steered clear of suddenly appeared in a new light. The section leader, Stavros, was one of them – a bombastic middle manager, suddenly, and to his dismay, charged with potting the lot of us. Fred Arbuckle was another, a bluntly spoken, pipe smoking detail-draughtsman with forty odd years of service. This was a man who had become painfully obsolete since they’d chucked his drawing board away and replaced it with a computer workstation, a device he struggled manfully and daily to master.

He’d been eavesdropping on my conversation with Stavros, hovering in the background as if he’d something to say that would have to wait until Stavros was out of range. I caught him looking over my shoulder later on.

“What’s up then Mike?” he said.

“Not much, Fred.”

“On lifeboat duty for old brown nose are you?”

“Stavros? Oh, he’s all right – there’s no real harm in him.”

“Suppose not – or he’d have made it to the boardroom years ago, eh? “

“So what can I do for you, Fred? “

“Well, me and a couple of lads, we’re planning a raid at dinner time – you with us?”

“A raid?”

“Sneakin in ‘t shed.”

The shed was a vast factory complex across the road from the office. It had served as Derby’s centre for production since 1910, but had lain empty since the early nineties and was now fenced off, pending demolition. And from what we’d just been told the offices were about to follow not long after.

“What do you want to go in there for?”

“One last look around. A bit of nostalgia, like.”

“Gets you nowhere, nostalgia. Nostalgia is useless.”

He shrugged as if to say it was okay, that it didn’t matter, but I had the feeling he’d been relying on me and I’d let him down. And anyway, who was I to talk, dredging up the past as I’d been doing?

“Go on then. Give me a nudge when you’re ready.”

Fred was in his sixties now. He’d walked to Derby’s every day since he was sixteen, a journey of a couple of miles, rain or shine. So far as anyone could work out he’d never had a day off sick and never had a holiday longer than a week at a time. The routine of work was the backbone of his life, and a few jokers in the office reckoned he’d be dead within six months of the place closing.

It was when walking past the shed he’d spotted a gap in the mesh fence where he told me a bloke could probably wriggle though without too much indignity. It was also off the main road and out of sight of the security cameras. At the appointed hour, I followed him through this gap. There was no one else. They’d all chickened out, he said, though I suspect now he hadn’t actually asked anyone else. The main entrance was securely boarded, but we remembered a door around the back which led onto the machine shop via a dingy cellar. It was locked but, with alarming expertise, Fred drew a crowbar out from under his overcoat and had it open in seconds.

There was light enough to see inside, though the windows were grimy and hung with cobwebs. There were workbenches and papers scattered everywhere, but amid the chaos of dereliction there lay curious islands of order. By the wall, a kettle was plugged into a socket, and a little ring of expectant mugs sat there, having waited all these years for someone brew up, not realizing the power had been cut and humans made extinct.

Fred seemed not to notice the poetry of it, and we pressed on, groping in the half light until we came out onto the machine shop. It was empty, all the decent machines having been shipped out and sold, the knackered ones dragged off screaming to the scrap man. All that remained now was a vast, echoing cavern of a place. Fred seemed to be looking for something, some specific location as he paced intensely around the oil-stained floor.

“Here,” he said, and then he handed me a camera. “Take us me picture, will ‘t?”

“Eh?”

“Right here! I worked on a turret-lathe on this spot for twenty years. It was the first job I had when I came out me time.”

I looked around. Part of the roof had caved in and the place was hollow and cold. It felt like we were standing in the remains of a dinosaur, but Fred was seeing something else, feeling something else. It was the noise, the sense of something going on, a powerhouse, hot machines, hot metal. I remembered it too. It had been ugly and dirty, and a frightening place for a teenager, but I could not deny I’d also felt a tremendous sense of involvement in something big, something important.

I took his picture while he posed – an heroic pose, I thought, one foot up on a bucket like he’d just shot a lion. Then I laughed. “Fred in his shed, eh?”

On the way out I asked him for the camera again and I took a picture of the kettle with its cups. I expected some manly abuse, but he just waited.

“Things move on, eh Mike?”

Did they, I wondered? Was it a process of moving on, or merely one of falling apart, like in nature, a process of flowering, followed by inevitable decay? It was a kind of moving on, I suppose. But knowing that that didn’t help when you realized you were living the end game. I looked at him and I sensed he was afraid. We both were.

We build a shell around us as we grow, the older we are the thicker the shell, but deep inside, we’re all the same, all of us still children blinking wide-eyed at the world and wanting someone to take us by the hand, someone who will show us the way and tell us what it’s all about.

“You’ll be all right with your redundancy, Fred. Forty years! You’ll be a millionaire. I’ve another twenty-five to work,… somewhere.”

He laughed. “That’s right,” he said. “A fuckin’ millionaire.” But his voice rang hollow.

We’re never aware of living through change – only later, when we look back. But suddenly then, I glimpsed the enormity of the change sweeping the likes of me and Fred along, a great tidal wave. Me? I had a chance. I’d find other work, once I got my head around whatever was haunting me. But Fred? At sixty, you might say it shouldn’t have made much difference to him. You might also say he was overdue a rest and retirement to his cabbage patch. But not all the Fred’s have cabbage patches. They have routines. They have walks to work, and the company of other men.

A snippet from my story, The Road from Langholm Avenue. Get it free from Smashwords.

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manufacturing

I’m not much of a futurologist. I didn’t see BREXIT coming, or Trump. I’m better at retrospectives and can equate the decline of meaningful work in the west as a  consequence of de-industrialisation, and the off-shoring of manufacture. But then I ask the question: what next? Answer: I don’t know, other than: it cannot be more of the same.

Manufacturing was once a tremendous source of varied employment, taking people from a broad spectrum of practical and intellectual ability, then organising and deploying them in a way that brought fruition to physical objects that could be sold, either to a domestic market or, ideally, exported. People with degrees, people with no qualifications at all other than a willingness to work – all found their place in manufacturing. Such types used to be called factory fodder. I’m one of them.

But manufacturing paid its fodder well, if you were a boss or a labourer. It bought you a house, a car, and time to pursue interests. It paid you enough to purchase the spoils of the consumer society, also a pension to live in modest comfort in your senior years. It was not a bad way of life.

But efficiency in manufacturing is driven by certain basic economic rules that come down to the price of a pair of hands. If hands can be bought more cheaply in poorer parts of the world, that’s where manufacturing goes. The result for the west is de-industrialisation. People previously employed in manufacturing then find themselves competing for what’s left – mainly service sector jobs, or warehousing at wages set well below what anyone can actually live off. Why? Because there’s a glut of labour and prices, as with wages, are dictated by the law of supply and demand. Too many hands for not enough jobs  =  low wages.

The vacuum left by industrialisation is filled, at best, by exploitative and unscrupulous profit-mad employers, bereft of any social conscience, at worst by crooks and modern day criminal slavers. Couple this with a right leaning political system, one ideologically inclined towards the cutting of state benefits in order to elevate those already rich to even greater riches and we have a perfect storm. Homelessness, drug addiction fuelled by the need to escape appalling life chances, and a widening divide between the haves and have nots. All these things destroy the soul of nations.

Historically the result is populist politicians seizing power by manipulating mass resentment – blaming the “foreign other” for ills that are purely domestic also sniping at  libertarian ideals as pandering to a loss of moral fibre, so we see a rise in anti-gay, indeed anti just about anything not white, male straight Ango-Saxon and Christian. In the worst of cases, this leads to internal suppression, death, and the distraction of foreign wars  before we come to our senses and a more egalitarian zeitgeist is ushered in on a wave of revulsion at our own stupidity.

That history may be about to repeat itself here goes without saying, but I remain hopeful we have not yet entirely failed to learn the lessons of past upheavals. That said, our industries are not coming back. And worse, those low level service jobs, those warehouse jobs that pay next to nothing – they will be automated out of existence in the next decade, because this is the inevitable goal of those “scientific” management aspirations birthed in the late Victorian era, the absolute maximisation of profit by the elimination of paid labour.

The result is hardly controversial: Western nations are looking at a future in which tens of millions of citizens will have no realistic prospect of gaining any kind of employment at all. Even those who have followed the gruelling path of the degree system will find themselves competing for scant resources – clambering over one another for every petty bullshit spreadsheet jockey job imaginable.

So, if we follow the current model of Capitalism, as it stands, tens of millions must logically be consigned to homelessness, and starving to death on our streets. However, it can hardly be expected the masses do so quietly. When a man has nothing left to lose he will behave unpredictably. Therefore a solution will be found, because the monied are perfectly aware they will otherwise find themselves impaled on pitchforks.

Demonisation of the poor is a common trope of the monied. Blame it on lack of morals, rather than lack of money or life chances. Lose your job to downsizing and you suffer the double ignominy of being blamed for your own unemployment, while discovering the state funded safety net has its ropes spread so thin by austerity its easy to fall through, your days spent searching for non-existent work and your state funded security axed on the slightest pretext. Right leaning states and amoral commerce act as one in this, obey the same rules, turn a blind eye to starvation, to homelessness, to drug addiction, they blame it on moral weakness, on immigration, on anything but a corrupt system incapable of sustaining life for all but an unspeakably wealthy minority.

Only a radically different approach can coax our future towards less turbulent times. And one of those approaches involves paying everyone an amount of money to cover their basic needs, to grant them the dignity of being able to afford to refuse undignified, demeaning or exploitative paid work.

To this end it’s proposed the state benefit system is altered, abolishing its overarching, penny pinching bureaucracy and instead everyone, irrespective of their circumstances is given free money, a so called universal basic income. It sounds bizarre but when the only beneficiaries of “business” will be the business owners themselves and, by means of taxation on profits, the state, how else are populations to be supported?

Naturally, it is the political left who are most sympathetic to this idea, while the right struggle with it, quoting the “immorality” of paying “scroungers” to stay at home while others work. But in a future world without any meaningful work whatsoever for the majority, whether they want to work or not, the options, other than starvation, seem limited.

We are seeing various experimental trials of universal basic income now, including one in Finland which awards £500 a month – no strings, no means test. It doesn’t sound like a lot – and that’s because it isn’t. You’d need to be a magician to survive for long off that, and there’s the rub. It’s clearly no panacea, but results are encouraging.

Left leaning administrations will be more generous than the right in setting this level of subsistence, but the poor can hardly go on strike to demand an increase, so may find themselves trapped in poverty anyway, while a technocratic elite continue to reap the lions share of paid work, in addition of course to the basic income.

But it is at least a question being asked by those serious about the future. The answers are varied and uncertain for now, but without such progressive thinking all visions of a future for the west are at best unsettling, at worst unthinkable.

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the sea view cafe - smallMy latest, possibly my last novel, is finished and up on Wattpad now for free. It’ll shortly go up on Smashwords from whom I’ll blag the free ISBN, then put it up on Free Ebooks who seem to be doing a good job of shifting downloads at the moment. And there we are. Finished! About two and a half years – the Sea View Cafe years. The small blue car years, the Scarborough years.

It’s a cliche I know but as ever I’m genuinely grateful to anyone who’s read me or commented on my stuff. Even had it been conventionally published, the Sea View would have made relatively nothing, financially, yet already it’s rewarded me tenfold with those readers who’ve picked it up on Wattpad and commented as I’ve posted chapters piecemeal.

It’s a novel written against shifting times, a story swept up in another iteration of the myth of Britannia’s idiocy and decline and, by association the  decline of the west. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s been an all pervasive narrative for as long as I can remember, and probably for centuries. Yet more than any other, the Sea View Cafe is a story that found itself distorted almost daily in the writing by yet one more headline in  rejection of the progressive ideals of strength in the collective of nations and a fall into a petty nationalism, into racism and bigotry.

Yes, these have been the pre-Brexit years. Years when we have wrapped ourselves snug in the native flag, covering all but our faces which are by turns ugly, pompous and hate filled – ejecting spittle with every sentence uttered. Our collective soul stunted by the recurrence of all manner of shadow complexes.

Some of the most brilliant minds working in Britain are of non-white, non Christian, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-Anglo Saxon origin. We are a multi-cultural society, product of our history – not all of it good – but I’d dared to hope we were on the cusp of a rapprochement with our chequered past. Such diversity might have informed our spiritual nature, our secular philosophy – things to be celebrated, built upon, for there can be no surer path to greatness, than by the hybridisation of faith and ideas. And what did we do? We chose the path of the tabloid, of the angry old white crustacean.

Or was it more a case of two fingers to a plutocratic establishment that had done nothing to solve the problems of a lost decade, and looked willing to sacrifice a whole generation of non-privileged youth upon a bonfire of perpetual austerity?

The reasons are complex, but tending in the same direction and manifesting in abject poverty for millions.

And what of women? That much maligned species, scorned, dismissed, defiled by the repugnant male ego. This is strange to me, for I have only the experience of women in my own circle to go on, and they are of strong character, organising, nurturing, building, and gifting love.

So, in the Sea View, we meet strong female leads, not out of any gender political motives – I wouldn’t dare go there – but more simply because that is my experience of women. They are my my aunts, my sisters, my mothers, my grandmothers. Helena Aynslea, Hermione Watts, Carina and Nina and Anica. These are tough women, while remaining entirely feminine, and I hope I’ve done them justice. They carry the Sea View, as they have carried my entire life.

And so what if two of them take a fancy to the same guy, and each other? Let them both have him, and themselves  – all at the same time and be damned – because I hope this is more than a romance, more than a trite polyamory fantasy on my part.

Thus we move beyond the conventional narrative, explode the hell out of the world in order to find ourselves anew. We have to hard-wire it into the collective that it’s okay to be different. Gay, coloured, bisexual, Muslim, Christian, Jew. Female. Intellectual. Shy. Red-haired. In short, diverse. And what we have to code out is the idea we can in any way advance ourselves at the cost of others, that anything which increases ourselves at the cost of diminishing someone else is not only wrong, it is also, ultimately, self-destructive. The young seem to get this and it’s in them I dare to hope.

These are strange times. They haunt me, as they haunt the Sea View. Either they are the end of times, or they’re the rallying call to radicals and progressives everywhere to seriously challenge the archaic and archetypal evils that seem to have snuck in under the radar.

The answer? It’s with all of us.

Awaken.

Oh, I almost forgot, do read the Sea View Cafe if you can bear it! Unedited, unprofessional, and riddled with sneaky typos. It won’t change your life, but it might cheer you up in the mean time! I know I’ve had a lot of pleasure from writing it.

 

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stannesIt’s sad the way our highstreets continue abrading to rags under the slow, austere grind of what is now fast approaching our lost decade. I have not been to Saint Annes on Sea since the nineties so, when I returned this week, I found the changes here particularly striking. It was always a very well heeled town – ladies in fur, trailing strings of cute Dachshunds, and old gentlemen in blazers with regimental badges sewn into their top pockets – I exaggerate of course, but I think you know what I mean.

Today I counted eight charity shops, and noted with some sadness the boarded up remains of JR Taylor, which I’m informed closed in January 2015. JR Taylor was an upmarket, independent department store, much favoured by the affluent middle class of the region. Back in the day I remember admiring a jacket here that would have cost me a hundred and fifty quid. I put it back, being more of an M+S man by instinct. I note the very serviceable jacket I’m wearing today however came from a charity shop. It cost a fiver. Note also, dear reader, I’m carrying a couple of paperbacks, also charity shop finds, having spent a pound on what would have cost me twenty quid in a bookshop. Perpetual austerity certainly alters ones perspective on value, so perhaps I’m as much to blame for the decline of the highstreet as anyone..

I have made no other purchases, so it’s been a cheap day out.

I’m still in work, not struggling, especially, but I’m fortunate in that respect, and you think twice these days when, contrary to the official employment figures, half the country seems out of work and chasing the same small pool of rat’s arse service sector work. Clearly there’s not the money any more to support the likes of a JR Taylor, nor indeed any of those traditional household names for very long.

Names familiar since childhood have been replaced with e-cig shops, cash converters, and no win no fee solicitors. Opiates, Pawn and “sue the pants off anyone in the hope of a windfall, for sure as hell it’s the only way you’re ever going to feel better and make any money”. It’s the same in every other provincial town, certainly in the North of my knowing, but seeing it here in St Annes today saddens me. I had been hoping for – I don’t know – an oasis of genteel refinement amid the desert of eternal austerity.

Our towns complain loud and daily of the message we are now firmly a minimum wage, dead end society, void of future, void of hope, at least in any material sense. Meanwhile, our children, enthused by fresh degrees in this and that, are weighted down with the slavery of State sponsored debt while competing even to stock the shelves of privateer supermarkets and to shift iPhones on commission, at the mercy of the Spivs who own them. Throughout long, soporific Powerpoint Presentations, in league topping colleges and Universities up and down the land, they were promised the earth, and then betrayed.

If you’re reading this while sitting anywhere between the eastern boundary of western Europe and the Pacific Coast of the USA, you’ll know what I mean. And I say this not as a political statement, nor less a rallying cry to the forces of opposition – such as they are – but more as an observation, and perhaps a little detached – at how remarkable our fallen position, and how understated it is in the usual media.

Capitalism has failed as an economic system. I don’t think there’s anything controversial in saying this now, no other conclusion to be drawn. It crashed and burned in 2008, wiped out with it the entire western world, at least in so far as we were led to believe in it, and certainly for the working person and the middle ground of the middle class, and that’s ninety percent of us in the same boat now, disenfranchised, and with the scales of delusion removed from our eyes. The rich of course will thrive under any circumstances, so they may not even have noticed yet the gatherings of the thrift-shop ragged at their gates.

So, I turn my back on the old town, my memories of better times, tuck my dog eared paperbacks under my arm, and I make for the sea, for the pier where there is still the cheery ring and zing of  slot machines, the scent of beef fat and chips, and a nostalgic tiddley-om-pom-pom from an electronic busker on the promenade.

The tide is out.

It goes out a long way here and comes in fast, revealing both the pristine hope of renewal with each ebb, yet also the fleet footed treachery that might befall the unwary at times of flood. These are the time’s we’re in. It is what it is, and we must deal with it as best we can.

I buy ice cream and sit down to think, venture a photograph of the pier, which I imagine I could Romanticise with the use of a digital filter.

That’s the advantage of a seaside town I suppose. You can always turn your back for a while on the decay of the interior, gaze out to sea and dream of better days, perhaps even filter out an uncomfortable reality with the combined distortion of imagination and technology. These are uncertain times for sure, unlike any I have known. There is an anger, and a sense we are being taught the language of blame, as politics lurches into the quagmire and the rabid slogans of the right, and the left still can’t get itself in gear.

I hope our young are immune to hatred, that the crass incitements of the bigots and the racists, and their appalling media, who blame it daily, as they have for a hundred years, on “all these damned foreigners comin’ over ere”, fall on deaf ears, and we, the old and the middle aged who, I’m afraid to say tend to be more often vilely bigoted and racist, will die out before we pass on our unwholesome views and genes.

But damn, it could be so much better than this! I mean, we’re human, and it’s never going to be Shangri-la perfect. But this is heading in the wrong direction entirely.

As I sit in pale sunshine on the promenade, a woman passes with a string of dogs, cute little Dachshunds – at least in my imagination. The dogs are circling, creating an unholy row as they snarl and yap at one another. They entangle her legs, threatening to trip her over. She admonishes them to no effect. The racket drowns out even the vaguely cheerful tiddley-om-pom-pom.

A cloud takes the sun, and casts a chill.

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