To Kent for a couple of half-term days. Is this the most under-rated English county? It’s got everything that southern England can offer, but no-one makes much of a fuss over it. I suppose it suffers from being a place one travels through to get to warmer climes – with those towns you pass on the way being pretty ugly (Maidstone, Ashford, Dover).
This relative neglect does have its benefits. With the exception of Whitstable – aka Islington-on-Sea, and in contrast to the rest of the county probably the most over-rated seaside resort in England – most nice places tend to be unselfconsciously nice, not too up themselves.
I find a sure indicator of English authenticity is the presence of a drapers in a town’s high street. My guess is that today’s youth won’t know what it is that a draper actually does. They’re like an anti-Starbucks.
Hythe has a drapers – as well as a fantastic promenade, pleasure grounds, a military canal, fresh fish, an ossuary, a links golf course, martello towers, Shepherd Neame beer, etc. Worth a visit.
I think rumours of the triumph of the pumpkin and the demise of the bonfire are premature. The noise on Monday night was incredible – we had to have University Challenge on full-blast.
Is this what urban warfare sounds like? It reminded me of an incident at college when a jet-lagged West African fresher ran out of his room one 5th November evening shouting out repeatedly, ‘There has been a coup!’ Of course, he was right, just a little over 400 years late.
The English have something of a genius in turning the serious business of politics into amusing bits of pageantry and outright entertainment. Perhaps uniquely: has any other nation turned the anniversary of a failed act of terrorism which resulted in the torture and gory execution of the perpetrators into fun for all the family?
On the other hand, the BBC’s election coverage remains a cruel and unusual punishment. Too many talking heads – most of them ‘editors’ of something or other – not enough reporting. If I see or hear another old fart standing in front of a crowd and telling us what he reckons I think I may scream.
One of the US election’s themes was the supposed marginalisation of the middle-aged white male. The trend doesn’t seem to have disturbed the ponderous flummery of Dimbleby, Mardell, Simpson, Naughtie, Edwards, etc. Mind you, the ‘modern’ bits are just as bad: some go-ahead person waving their arms in front of a giant graphic whilst demonstrating points we could just as easily understand if they were conveyed using the medium of language.
Both presidential campaigns culminated in selling the heck out of ‘change’. Is there is no constituency in the US for more of the same but a bit nicer? If there ever was, it’s now surely shrunk into insignificance. There can be few political movements in the world more misleadingly named than America’s conservatives.
I see that over the next couple of years City jobs are expected to fall to levels last seen in 1993. This is really quite staggering. I started work in the City in 1994 and remember how quiet it was in the wake of the early-’90s recession and before the expansion of US and European banks of the late-90s. Canary Wharf was practically empty.
If anyone is still puzzled by the economy’s lack of growth then this and the long-term decline in North Sea oil revenues explains all. It means our debts are going to take ages to work through.
One of the factors contributing to the lack of work in the Square Mile is that companies have more or less stopped raising equity or buying each other. They’re flush with cash, which they just seem happy to sit on.
I worry that this is more than the product of a temporary lack of confidence. It may be that there are not enough new opportunities to invest in.
In the depressed ‘30s, whilst the old staples were on their back, Metroland was being built: roads, cars, houses, electronics were all spooling out at a great rate. Nothing equivalent is happening right now (forget the growth of the digital – there’s not enough of it to make a difference).
This makes the loss of City jobs and North Sea oil even more concerning. We need to think of new or revived ways to pay our way in the world. In the meantime, we should probably just get get used to feeling poorer. But look on the bright side: a slower pace of development may mean our remaining high street drapers have a few more years left in them.