Sunday, 5 June 2016

The quality of life

Grrr. I'm getting really cheesed off about the Brexit Referendum Campaigning. The sitting government doesn't seem to understand that it isn't all about the economics. I'm beginning to suspect that a 'leave' vote would upset a lot of cosy arrangements within the EU that our government plays along with. Arrangements on UEFA lines perhaps. Or indeed on FIFA lines. Level playing fields? For whom?

I know of no criminality, but is not the EU at heart just one big Money-Machine? And, where there are stupendous sums of money to play with, isn't it the way of the world for some of it to leak away into hidden places and pockets where it can't be traced? I'm not talking about high-minded national leaders and their teams. I mean the faceless ones who are never in the public eye. And the 'royal families' of the business community. Naturally they would all be averse to any upset in the status quo. You might almost say that a willingness to contemplate change is a sign of progressive honesty.

I am pretty sure that leaving the EU would shake the financial world up mightily. But why can't it cope with sudden change, or indeed profit from the brave new world a 'leave' vote would create? Have the Money Men lost their knack? Or has the British business community simply become lazy and complacent, accepting EU grants and subsidies and advantageous trading benefits to such an extent that dependence on them is now normal? Surely good questions.

Back to the campaign.

You know, I really hate all this strident finger-wagging from the 'stay in' camp. And all the spurious exactitude in their figurings. What kind of crystal ball are they using? If the Treasury or whoever are so very good at predicting what must happen, and in such precise detail, then why have they signally failed to come up with good predictions to guide fiscal policy in past years? Why has the economic position for each successive quarter come as rather a surprise?

We are getting 'best guesses' based on models. And projections made from those best guesses. But nobody knows what will actually happen in the next few years. So much depends on what the government does, on what the British public does, and on what the rest of the world - not just Europe - does. Add in a natural disaster or two, or an unexpected discovery of resources, or an acceleration in global warming, and it's anybody's guess where we will be ten years from now.

There will however be some certainty on the day after the Referendum, because the people (or at least the voting public) of this country will have had their say - and that will commit the government to a definite course of action, even if it's by the narrowest of margins. The rest of the world will then see what the grass-roots feeling is in Britin, and shape their own policies towards this country accordingly.

I'm absolutely certain that every country that might have dealings with us has already considered what it will do for the best, even if for the time being they are keeping mum on that. We won't be shunned if the vote is for 'leave'. In this country, and in every other country, contingency plans will smoothly come into play. Nobody will be caught hopping, even if they are not best-pleased with the Referendum result.

It need not be - presumably won't be - a 'leave' vote. The 'stay in' side may well garner sufficient voter support to win the day. But if they get only 51% of the vote - and it may easily be that close! - the world will still have changed.

51% is a valid result, and in consequence we certainly wouldn't be leaving the EU in a hurry. But EU officials would glumly note that half the population of this country seriously objected to the EU way of doing things. They couldn't ignore that. The EU wants Britain's voting citizens to feel amenable and enthusiastic about the European Dream. There has to be a reasonable majority in favour of the EU in a member country, otherwise the government of that member country has no authority, and can't speak for its citizens. In our case, 'leave' or 'only just stay in' would render a 'business as usual' scenario fraudulent, and perpetuate the unsettling British Problem.

So, if they want to keep us, expect a special deal, no matter what the present implacable EU denials are concerning the possibility of that. Call it a bribe or inducement, if you want.

And if the reality is that the EU doesn't in fact want us as a member state - feeling no doubt that Britain is, and always has been, far too lukewarm, insular and different to blend in - indeed far too much trouble on all counts - then we might as well accept the situation, and disengage anyway.

No side campaigning is talking about real but vague matters like the quality of life we can expect in the future. By which I mean how pleasant and comfortable and fulfilling it will seem to live in the Britain of 2026 and later.

This is not really to be measured by the cost of a mortgage, or whether bananas are cheap or expensive. This more about whether the familiar and well-loved have been eroded, whether the atmosphere, sounds and smells of one's town or village have changed beyond what is comfortable.

Nobody has mentioned much (if anything) about what the countryside will look like if we 'stay in' and implement EU directives on what we can grow (a matter of finance for farmers, as much as rules on production). Will the countryside still be worth visiting? Will town and city folk - and their children - get any fresh air there? And what will become of those who live in it? (That includes me. It includes also the creatures of the countryside)

It's too easy to get misty-eyed about the British countryside. It may have had a Golden Era, when it was an Arcadia. I fancy however that it has always been a place for hard work and hard play, a place for smells as well as skylarks. It changes from decade to decade. Who remembers, for instance, when it all looked a weird shade of yellow from rapeseed planting? That came and went. And so quickly.

Let me now discuss three books by 'country' authors.

The first, Out With Romany Once More, was published in 1940 by 'Romany' (aka George Bramwell Evens - see A book I bought yesterday in a second-hand bookshop at Littlehampton:


'Romany' was a BBC radio broadcaster and writer of the 1930s and 1940s, whose aim was to instil a love of countryside creatures into young British hearts. This book was one of a series. They read like radio scripts.

There he is, with his dog Raq and his pipe, looking dishevelled. That didn't matter seventy-five years ago - his enthusiasm, his conjuring-up of the coast and the country, and what could be seen there, did. And that is still a current concern. There are for instance all kinds of very popular coast and country programmes on BBC TV. The British love their fields and moors and estuaries. It's for all of us, not just for farmers and sporting elites. Which Referendum result will serve the countryside better?

Next, a book published in 1947, It's My Delight, written by renowned country author Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald. (See

It's about poaching. Poaching hasn't disappeared, but his book describes a social world that has vanished. But the nostalgia for it hasn't. That's alive and well, and still relevant to the concept of 'The British Way Of Life'. And it's still relevant to hedgerow-maintenance, and careful forestry, and crop-spraying. And the creatures the author describes (as 'Romany' does) with such knowledge are still there, although beleaguered now. How long will they last? Which Referendum decision will save our wildlife?

The monochrome drawings are truly works of art:

What kind of countryside do you want for your children?

Thirdly, I can't omit Alfred Wainwright and his famous Guides to hill-walking in the Lake District. The Lakes, and more especially the mountains that rise over them, are a national resource that must not be interfered with. Wainwright's individual style was unmistakeable, and still makes for an inspiring read - and a useful read too, because not very much has changed. He did not take a sentimental view of the hills - they had to be treated with respect - but he wanted to serve the fell-walker with exhaustive sketches and commentaries on every route he attempted. And with some humour. This is from the last of his seven Lakeland Fell Guides, The Western Fells, published in 1966. He writes of Haystacks, his favourite fell, in the next two shots; then of Great Gable:

If, despite Julia Bradbury's Wainwright Walks on TV, you still haven't discovered Wainwright, then click on one of these three shots just above to get a flavour.

Alfred Wainwright loved Lakeland, and extended a little of that regard to other parts of the country; but he was not a universal champion of all countryside, nor all its wildlife. He was a philosopher. I say however that his vision is still one to adopt. But is it a vision that would be enhanced or diminished by a 'stay in' Referendum result?

So don't just think about the price of bread. Ponder what the British countryside might look like in the years ahead, and who should be trusted with its wise management. It's an important part of the British heritage, and one reason why tourists come from all over the world to holiday here. Yes, scenery-loving visitors with a bit of cash. Who Keep Britain Tidy.


  1. The EU accounts have not been signed off for decades.

    What, in your expert opinion, does that say about their ability to handle our taxes?

  2. Ah, it was the old Inland Revenue I worked for, not HMRC, and then only for 35 years. My opinion is worthless. But I'd certainly recommend that the EU be taken up for investigation. FIFA must have learned their ways from somewhere...



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