Wednesday, November 17, 2010

quid hoc sis vult?

I've got a dictionary of foreign terms sitting in my toilet. It's a book with a list list of foreign terms which we (actually a very small subset of we, but never mind) use in English. Phrases like Dieu et mon Droit, which sometimes appears on the side of £1 coins; or quid pro quo, which doesn't and maybe should, but is Latin for something in return - by which I mean "something in return" not "[something] in return", nor even retsomethingurn (or gnihtemos), if you want to get cruciverbalist about it. I chose those examples because I had actually heard of them previous to owning this book, but it's full of phrases I haven't heard of and my plan was that subtly precipitating them mid-colloquy would make me look a great deal better educated than I am. And who doesn't want to look better than they are?

Of course just reading the entries was no good, because one Latin phrase looks much like another after a minute or two, and my memory is so shot it could practically be used to cull pheasants. So I found myself wishing for an index where I could go with an english word or phrase of my own imaginings and have it transformed into a highly rarefied bon mot, ready for insertion into my blogpost. In italics, of course, which is basically just a way of saying ooh look how clever I am, I used such a weird word it has to go on a slant. Or possibly it's just a way of telling your reader it's ok you don't have to understand that word, you're allowed to look it up. Anyway I found myself wishing for such an index and I turned to the back and à merveille! there was such an index. Well, of course fortuna favit fortibus and all that, so I wasn't entirely surprised, and a die my writing has a poco a poco become festooned with exotic phrases, like a prize cow shrouded in rosettes.

The downsides of this policy are, das ist Pech! a) it's an irritatingly unhelpful index and rarely supplies anything like the phrase you need; b) it's amazing how quickly you can slip into sounding like Boris Johnson; and c) surely the very definition of pretentious must be trawling the index of a book of foreign phrases trying to find something to make you sound classically educated. I mean Davus sum, non Oedipus, obviously, but I know that honor habet onus, so I felt obliged to write about it - to put my cards on the table, so to speak - so that we all understood each other.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's not the economy, stupid

Any of you wondering how to feel about the unanaesthetised surgery being performed on the British welfare state and public sector have only to read this, Nothing To Do With The Economy, Ross McKibbin in the LRB.
Much of the government’s budget strategy is dependent on consequences which might be favourable, on premises which are almost certainly wrong, on sheer fantasy, and on that will-o’-the-wisp, ‘confidence’. It is pretty clear that those on benefits of whatever kind will suffer, however the cuts are interpreted. Anyone disabled, or partly disabled and on employment support, or dependent on housing benefit, or in need of social housing, or reliant on local authority care – indeed anyone on a low income – will lose.


The country is not on the verge of bankruptcy. There is no evidence that the bond market was reacting against British debt, despite the best efforts of the Conservative Party to encourage it to do so. Our fiscal position was never like that of Greece, which had cooked the books and was struggling to cope with short-term government debt, though Osborne et al insisted it was. Why was it necessary to take such drastic action at all? Our debt ratio was much higher after the Second World War and neither Attlee nor Churchill felt any obligation to do what Cameron, Clegg and Osborne have done. Even Darling’s proposed schedule of deficit reduction seems excessively prudent. A less political chancellor might simply have allowed economic recovery (i.e. increased tax returns to the Treasury), modest reductions in new spending and inflation to deal with the debt

Sunday, November 14, 2010

at the idyll of Lidl

It's down to the cheap seats for me right now. Instead of sauntering around Waitrose, my wallet flush with easy Fleet Street cash, I'm reduced to shuffling around Lidl with a few individually counted pennies jangling in cavernous pockets. But that's ok! (for now) because shopping in Lidl is that rare pleasure, the pleasure of the cheap. It doesn't matter that the aisles are so short of breadth they can barely accommodate one hunger-struck dole-queue refugee at a time, because that's the price you pay for aisles stacked this high with cheapness. And while constantly banging into undernourished Accran cleaners and parched-looking old biddies can wear thin, their very presence only proves how cheap it must all be.

It might seem odd for me, who has disavowed supermarkets over the years on some political theory or other, to suddenly be in favour of one merely because it is so down-at-heel, but whereas Tesco's is also cheap as chips, (not as cheap as Lidl chips, obviously, but still, chips) Lidl wins out with its end of the world clearance house ambience. And also some decent vegetables. And whereas Tescos seems like is nothing more than the spawn of Satan's corporate arm, Lidl, with its unpandering approach to its ne'er-do-well clientele, doesn't seem so.

There are two different pleasures in cheapness (you can probably see that I've not got a lot on at the moment, but bear with me) - one is being able to afford lots of things with your meagre bill roll, the other is in seeing: wow, thats 36p less than in Morrisons; cor you can get six here for the price of four in Tesco's. But for that pleasure, you need to keep shopping in all the shops, especially Waitrose and M&S, otherwise you'll soon be found walking around Lidl's going: fucking hell that's pricey, wow, how did things get so expensive? And then where will you go? Netto's, obviously, but after that? The drug of relative cheapness will have worn off, and now you have to shop at Lidl's just to keep from being skint. The pleasure's gone, there's just a dull pain where your shopping habits used to be. You've smoked on the hot pipe of cheap supermarkets, and you're enslaved, a hopeless sunken-eyed zombie, with bad skin and a surfeit of German tinned products. Lidl by lidl, they're gonna get ya.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Easing quantitative easing

As if to prove that I am wasted in this job unemployment, as I asked the question about quantitatitatitative easing, my old chums at Prospect were preparing a long winded answer: Faisal Islam on The Great Money Mystery. It turns out that even though my basic question was, well, quite basic, other questions, vaguely similar to mine, were relatively sensible.
“It was one of the many measures to get confidence back in the system,” says former chancellor Alistair Darling, the man who had to sign off on the Bank of England experiment. “Nobody really knows what impact it’s having,” he says with shocking candour. “Look at the Bank of England [monetary policy committee] minutes, even they are split.”