This is just a quick note; I didn’t intend to write another political post so soon again. But I felt it needed saying, as someone who was born in the now-deceased Humberside and was a registered voter in the Humber region until last year. I’m ashamed, to come from a region in which a six-figure number of people are willing to vote for a party with no real policies other than removing citizenship from non-white people. The elected candidate claimed in his acceptance speech that he “heard a rumour” that the Prime Minister has considered annulling his election result. No doubt his party would love for that to happen. What is more important: this election result happened because of a drop in turnout. It shows how vital it is that we have an open democracy where voters are able to make an educated choice, and exercise their right to make it.
Incidentally – while the weather is still cold and the snow is deep again – I should point out that, on this day in 1978, the weather was pretty much the same as it is today. “Country in grip of freeze” all over the papers, and that sort of thing.
The reason I know this is: my mother kept all the press cuttings about it, so she could stick them in her New Baby Book.
The other big thing in the news which she saved clippings of, oddly enough, was: Grimsby workers getting rather upset about foreigners taking their livelihoods away. Back then it was fishermen, who hadn’t quite given up their hopes of fishing in Icelandic territorial waters, even though the main Cod Wars had been over for a few years. Today, of course, it’s oil workers who are going back to work, presumably satisfied that their rather vague demands* have been catered for; the fish industry now sticks to breadcrumbing and battering other people’s fish. This is only a rough guess, based on anecdotal evidence, but I’d say that most of the people working in fish-related jobs in Grimsby are migrant workers – largely, as I said before, because they’re the people who apply for factory-line jobs nowadays.
* An awful lot of the strikers interviewed on TV didn’t seem awfully sure what their demands even were, or what it would take to get them back to work. “We’re sending a message to Gordon Brown, that someone will have to do something?” “What will they have to do?” “Um … well, I dunno, but someone is going to have to do something“
Nice to see the Grimsby area in the news for once, even if it isn’t very good news. I bet the Grimsby Telegraph‘s news staff have been so excited over the last week, to get some national-quality news to report on, they’ve probably been wetting themselves.*
I was rather wistful myself, what with formerly being local – so much so that in my teens I did work experience in the very refinery that’s been on the news. It’s bad luck, really, for the contractors who sparked the protests off: they would have to bring foreign workers in to one of the most reactionary and xenophobic parts of England. Grimsby’s the only place where I’ve heard someone (a retired nurse) say the immortal line: “I’m not a racist, but I do think all those coloureds should go back to their own country”. Without irony. And mean it.
I’m also well aware that the area’s an employment blackspot; on the other hand, though, I also know that it’s not as bad as you might think. There are great estates full of people who have been on benefits ever since they were old enough.** There aren’t many jobs other than in a few limited sectors. But, when I lived there, I had contacts at a local employment agency. Within a few sectors – mostly factory line work – there were once plenty of jobs. They go to immigrants; Poles and Lithuanians. That’s because Poles and Lithuanians were the ones who turned up to apply for these jobs, and were the most employable when they turned up. It’s easier, I guess, to sit in the pub and rant about how all these foreigners are taking the jobs of honest British workers, than it is to go out and get one yourself.
I said “there were once jobs” because I’ve not been around there for a while, and all I’ve heard since I left has been about factories closing. I don’t know what things are like there at the moment, but from what I’ve heard things aren’t going well. I’m not saying, either, that the work in question at the refinery shouldn’t have gone to a local company. The refinery and its suppliers, though, already in total make up a big chunk of the local workforce, and the small number of foreign contractors that have caused the protests make up a tiny proportion of the number of workers on the site, which after all it itself the size of a small town. They haven’t put that big crowd outside the refinery gates out of work, either. Grimsby has bigger problems than foreign workers, much bigger problems. The issue shouldn’t be whether the Prime Minster should live up to some sound-bite his speech writers came up with a while back; it should be one of getting more investment into the area. More foreigners, in fact – both Lindsey refinery and the neighbouring Humber refinery are foreign-owned plants. It’s also a problem of education; and a problem of ending the area’s isolationism. You can’t exactly pick Grimsby up and move it closer to civilisation, but maybe things would be better if that could be done with some of the locals’ minds.
* Although their managers won’t like it – it might be a bit of a budget-stretcher for the Grimsby Telegraph, sending reporters all the way from Grimsby to Immingham. God knows what might happen – one of them might even try to put a burger-van lunch on expenses! There aren’t many other refreshment options in the area, unless you can get into the refinery canteen.
** I would have said “ever since they left school”, but a lot of them didn’t go to school.
This gets written down today, and not left any longer, so I don’t forget it.
I was jolted out of a dream about school. Why are so many dreams about school? I was jolted out, and it felt like a sharp jolt, into a shaking bed.
It was all over very quickly. Reading this post will take you much longer than the time it took in reality, so try to imagine this compressed tightly. I had time to think: something big is crashing, a truck, a plane. An army is marching down the street outside, their tanks rumbling and shaking everything. The room was shaking, and the shaking was building up, and a very deep and loud rumbling sound was getting stronger too. Something in the plumbing went splang! I was picturing a burning something outside, still, but the shaking faded away, gently and slowly. Still waking up, I realised everything was still, and the thought popped into my head: we’ve just had an earthquake. A strong earthquake. It didn’t occur to me just how unusual that was, until the next morning.*
By the time the shaking stopped, it was about 6 or 7 seconds since I’d woken up. Groggily, I stumbled downstairs. Everything was intact, and nothing had fallen over; but the cat was racing about like a mad thing. So I did what anyone would have done: logged on to the computer and wrote a blog post about it.
* A thousand years ago it might not have been that unusual, interestingly enough. There’s a small chance that bigger earthquakes are going to be much more common from now on.
This might seem like a strange thing to say at 1am, but: I’ve just been woken up by an earthquake. That was odd.
The rather news-thin Grimsby Telegraph newspaper has decided to jump on a fish-marketing bandwagon and declare today to be Great Grimsby Day. A day to be proud of the Grimsby area! Its scenic mudflats! Its thriving heroin-injecting scene! The active support for boxing and extreme wrestling seen in the town centre every Saturday night! The wide range of chain-based shopping opportunities, and the picturesquely decaying industrial areas. Be proud, people!
It’s a good thing, I suppose, that they didn’t get it confused with National Fetish Day, which – equally arbitrarily – was yesterday. I hate to think what would have happened. There’s not much of a fetish scene in Grimsby, after all; a couple of the regulars in the Lloyds Arms and that’s about it. I can quite easily imagine the Grimsby Telegraph’s staffers not understanding what the word means.
Today’s blog is like one of those spot-the-difference puzzles where you have to spot hard-to-find differences between two apparently identical pictures. To make it a little bit different, though: here’s a carefully-prepared Spot The Non-Difference puzzle, where (for a change) you have to spot the hard-to-find connection between two apparently little-related pictures.
Firstly, we have a photo I first spotted in today’s Guardian. It’s a publicity still from the award-winning film Atonement, and shows James McAvoy hard at work apparently invading war-torn France:
Secondly, this photo, taken by Dimitra, some years ago now:
Yes, I’m pretty sure they were taken at almost the same location, although, to be quite honest, if I didn’t already know that Atonement was filmed in the Symbolic Forest area, I’m not sure I would have spotted the link between them.
This week, it’s started to turn to autumn. I’ve closed my bedroom window, the mornings are getting cold, and the morning air is damp and ashy-smelling.
Today, summer ends and autumn begins; but the weather was already turning. Now we’re moving towards Yuletide, the skies darkening day by day. In a few weeks, the clocks will change, and I’ll hardly see the sun.
Tonight I drove past the steelworks, and they were doing a burn. Great gouts of flame poured out of their chimneys, high into the night sky, lighting up the town and countryside. Our own little industrial bonfire night. We light fires, and we know the sun will come back again.
You often see stuff about road safety on the telly. Less often, things about specific roads. And it’s very rare for this area – the Forest, if you like to think of the Symbolic Forest as a physical place – to get on the telly at all. So when I heard that there was an hour of Channel Four last night solely devoted to road safety in this area, I had to watch it. Even more specific than that: it was purely about one road, the one from here down to Somerset.
We didn’t manage to watch the whole thing; the catalogue of deaths was just too depressing. It wasn’t helped by my habit of saying “That’s the bend coming out of Fir Park” or “That’s just by Cottagers’ Plot” when random stretches of road were shown on-screen; I spend so much time trying to get out of this area, I know all the main roads out of here in great detail. As we didn’t see it through to the end, I don’t know if the documentary tried to offer up any reason why that particular road is so dangerous. All we got was: people round here are crap at driving.
This may be true. Certainly, in my experience, it is true. People in London, say, may have a reputation for bad, aggressive driving, but people in this area are good at sloppy, careless driving; or drunk, too-fast driving; and that’s what leads to so many people dying on a fairly short, fairly ordinary road. It’s because, paradoxically, this area is quiet and isolated, compared to the rest of the country. The question is: is there anything we can do about that?
Photo post of the week: photos from the archives, because I haven’t been out and about. These are all from 1996, I think; so this is what the 1990s looked like, to my eyes at any rate.