Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Economic Implications of the Casserole

It seems that Britain is going back to basics with the weekly shop and cooking again. Only we are not cooking the stuff of celebrity chefs who have epitomised nightly TV fodder for the past decade, but the meals we all remember from our childhoods - real food: stews and casseroles. So not surprising that sales of some basic provisions - potatoes, carrots and, most of all, onions, has shot through the roof.

Indeed, sales of onions, ravaged by a bad harvest in 2008, risk seeing supply not meeting demand, whilst sales of some stock cubes are up 1000% on this time last year.

But it is not all good for the supermarkets. Sales of TV dinners have fallen sharply; after all, why not do homemade when it's so much cheaper than readymade? Plus with less work, the flipside is that we all have more time on out hands to cook. And our American cousins are at it too - one of the hottest blogs in the bloggosphere tells a growing army of readers how to cook for less greenbacks:

But the earthenware cookpot revolution occuring in the nation's kitchens is only part of a very real back to basics cultural shift which appears to be underway.

Just see the supplements in the weekend papers over the past 6 months. These have been on "simple pleasure" subjects as diverse as camping, knitting, cooking and allotment gardening (for those not on a waiting list). All a pleasant change from the gluttony and excess of recent years, and may prove a very good thing indeed for the environment in its time of need - all this simpler economic activity is apparently having an alleviating effect on emissions (though one wonders if anyone has factored in the power used for all that slow cooking?) Added together though, maybe soon we will all be delightfully Cockatoo Dreaming:

But it is not all good news - this same back to basics cultural downsizing also risks further slowing demand in the economy, and making the recession we are all experiencing even deeper and more painful.

Alas, Britain's unsustainable upward spiral of immediate gratification, perpetuated over many years by cheap credit, will be a painful thing to descend back down from. But many will no doubt discover that at least their cheap and tasty homemade Irish Stew may prove some consolation this St Patrick's Day. For which see an unbeatable video guide below.

Also see a fantastic colour guide at the superb

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Well worth it?

Today is the day the Bank of England embarked on its first auction to buy debt off financial institutions in return for that new cash it is generating to the tune of £150 billion.

The great quantitative easing experiment has begun and we can only keep our fingers crossed that it works. The reality is that this is the biggest economic event since the end of World War Two, and nobody knows whether it will achieve the desired result, and if it will quite what the side effects of the medicine will be.

There is much talk of inflationary pressures building up in the system, but perhaps a price worth paying in the medium term if it saves jobs and the descent into depression.

Elsewhere some positive news from Dorchester.

Here was one of the few Woolworths stores which closed down in December that actually made some money. It has reopened today under the new guise of Wellworths under the auspices of a landlord led consortium who are relying on the know how of the old store manageress to make it a profitable going concern.

There has been much joyful excitement on the news this evening about the return of Pick n' Mix. If all else fails, at least the economy in Dorchester can rely on the sale of cola bottles and chocolate mice to keep it going. There is also much talk about Wellworths marking a new chapter in the return to a new local economy embodied by farmers markets and grow your won. Perhaps more Wellworths coming to a high street near you?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Green Custard

For posterity here is that custard being thrown at Lord Mandelson. Perhaps better entertainment however was Mandy's response: "I quite like custard, just not when its thrown in my face." Bizarrly, the custard thrower has only this afternoon been arrested after she walked away form the scene unapprehended to carry out a series of media interviews. Efficiency cuts at the Met may have been a little too savage?

Her cause is of course Heathrow, or rather stopping its future expansion. Noble, but best served by words rather than custard.

Law of the Jungle

Exposed today is the treatment of Binyan Mohamed at the hands of the CIA, and it appears, by consent - MI6.

Now there can be no doubt that the security services have had their work cut out over recent years, and have had an unenviable task post 9/11 and 7/7 to ensure that the bombers do not caste indiscriminate carnage again for their higher purpose. All well and good so far, and thank heavens for the work they do. Yet it appears that the rendition saga has plummeted depths of depravity for which no civilized nations should dare ever be proud. Today's papers are full of allegations of torture straight out of the Bad Boy Book of Uncivilised Treatment, the pages of which are normally fingered by the grubby hands of despotic regimes.

I am not normally one for inquiries, but it does seem here that one is needed here - with answers - if we are ever to be able to hold our heads up high again and talk to some higher purpose in the international arenas of the UN the next time some runaway state brutalises its population. At least one person in Harare must be lapping up every sordid morsal of this story this morning?

In short, we cannot decry bad treatment elsewhere if we turn a blind eye when we descend to it ourselves. That, alas, is the descent into the law of the jungle.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Planned Closure on All Lines

A phrase to stop a beat in the heart of any self respecting weekending Londoner - "Planned Closure".

"Planned Closure" is of course is a euphemistic phrase. Behind it lies a whole self satisfied TfL lecture which actually reads:

"Dear Customer. Your journey is completely buggered. You know you are better heading straight home, but you are through the barrier now and its charged your Oyster Card. You are too mean to turn back now so you must carry blindly on into a void of despair. This includes an interchange at Elephant & Castle - lucky boy. And all because you thought it might be a good idea to go to M&S in Oxford Street to buy some new socks that you could have bought on Monday. Anyway, your socks would have lasted another week. Shouldn't you be darning the holes in them anyway? There's a recession on, or have you forgotten that? Oh well, too late - Loser!!!"

Were I in the marketing department of TfL I am sure there would be a better spin to put on this weekly farce. My money would be on advertising on electronic display boards "Surprise Openings". Today these occurred on the Central and Northern Lines. There, that's more like it.