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.
Time for a news roundup. Today in the news: Ellenor Bland, a Conservative councillor and parliamentary candidate has been caught forwarding an unfunny poem about illegal immigrants. She said it might have been her husband that did it, not her; but he’s also a Tory councillor, so it doesn’t really make much difference.
I don’t particularly care that some Conservatives might enjoy racist jokes – it’s hardly recent news, after all. I’m more worried that they have such a poor sense of humour. The “poem” has been going around for some time now – several of my colleagues were circulating the email a few weeks back – so it’s hardly news either. The worst thing is what she said to attack the rival politicans who broke the story:
[S]he claimed that the leak was “an infringement of my life”, adding: “I’m finding this all rather tiresome.”
I’m sorry? You want to be a politician, don’t you? If you want to be a politician, even a local councillor, you have to expect people to want to know what your opinions are.* If you do something that seems to demonstrate you have an opinion on a political topic, you can hardly complain when people want to talk to you about it. You can’t pick and choose which opinions you want to discuss.
In other news: someone has been searching the web recently for: “symbolic forest pressure group”. Which is clearly a sign that I should set up a pressure group of my own; I’m just not entirely sure what I want to campaign for (or against). Suggestions, please! Maybe I should campaign for more single-issue campaigns.
* even though, like most politicans, you may well end up straining as hard as you can to prevent people finding them out.
I’ve been surprised before by things I’ve overheard people say at work. I’ve even posted about it: suddenly, someone who looks normal, says something horribly bigoted. The staff over in Another Part Of The Forest still manage to amaze me, though, not just with what they think, but with what they’ll say out loud.
Over there this afternoon, I got chatting to the current office temp. He’s just taken his university finals, and is temping over the summer before he gets a proper job. He was telling me how great his time at university was:
I made some great friends there. One of them’s going into professional sport – he’s going to be right at
the top of his sport in a couple of years’ time. I’m glad I met him – he’s going to be a millionaire
soon, exactly the sort of person you want to stay friends with!
“Erm … yes,” I said, wondering if he was being as serious as his eyes said. That’s really not why I have friends, and I hope it’s not why my friends have friends; but if that’s the sort of person you are, fine. Later on, though, one of the other co-workers* managed to beat him. The temp was complaining about the number of Lithuanians and Poles living in the area, and she replied with:
Ooh, I know, there’s loads of foreign people living round here. Still, we’re not as bad as some places –
at least they’re all white round here. I don’t like this town though. I don’t like living here at all –
if I could, I’d move abroad somewhere.
Again, she seemed completely serious. No idea of the big hole in what she’d just told me. I stopped talking and got on with work; it was easier than trying to explain what she’d said.
* A girl of about 19 or 20, hoping to go to university herself soon if she can raise enough cash.