I have just glanced at today's newspaper front pages: '£70k power bill shock for local store'; 'Scots firms on the brink amid soaring energy costs'; 'Council could open city buildings to give people warm places to go this winter'; 'Fuel price rise will strike fear across UK'. Faced with this tsunami of rising energy costs, the government will have to come up with something a lot more substantial than what is on offer at the moment. They managed to do it during Covid and they will have to do it again.
Catastrophic as things seem, I do have just a soupçon of wonky optimism. How many seemingly intractable crises have come and gone in the last 25 years? Remember Rwanda and the whole maelstrom of African conflicts in its wake? Rwanda couldn't happen again but then there was Darfur. When did Iraq stop being on the front page? Two years of desert plagues of insects were yesterday's news when the Indian Ocean tsunami came along. Then there was Boko Haram in Nigeria, earthquakes in Haiti, famine in Southern Sudan.
In case the dawning of the Arab Spring left us feeling a little optimistic, the protracted catastrophe of Syria unfolded. Ebola was quickly forgotten when we had Covid to worry about. It just goes on and on: the refugee crisis, Myanmar, the ebbing and flowing of the pink tide in South America, Trump, Afghanistan, Partygate.
Just when we thought our heads would burst with it all, Vladimir Putin gave us in the West the crisis of all crises: the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The editors cleared the decks and held the front page to bring us the news of misery and destruction, death and desolation. It seemed almost bad taste to mention the impact all this was having on our cost of living and energy prices.
The truth is that we never see it coming, and then we wake up one morning, scratch our heads and wonder where it went. Of course, often 'it hasn't gone anywhere'. The media just decides it's time to move on, relying on the 'butterfly' brains of the readers to go along with that. I have such admiration for the campaigners and journalists who go on working tirelessly to keep these issues in the public eye when they have ceased to be 'fashionable'. It's much easier to move on from crises in other parts of the world. When we are faced with a catastrophe right here at home, and one with a devastating impact on people's lives, you can't just make it go away by not reporting on it any more.
If the energy price crisis can be avoided or even contained, it will not be as a result of short-term government help but changes on a global scale. When will that happen? Will
it happen? I don't know, the media doesn't know. But if it does, the editor will be ready to change the front page and tell us all about the next crisis we face.
There was a period of about eight months at the beginning of WWII when there was no fighting and the situation appeared calm – at least to some. It became known as the phoney war, a term of derision.
Ring any bells? We are condemned to hope that the current bourach will not last any longer than eight months, and that we willl all emerge from it buoyant, upbeat and prosperous. Meanwhile, it is tempting to think of it as a phoney crisis, when there is no government worthy of the name and the situation appears calm – at least to some, if only in the sense that no meaningful action is called for by those who are continuing to receive their ministerial salaries. Receive, not earn.
By way of contrast, here in the wee swamp the crochet hook is going like the clappers, making serious inroads into a bag of wool. Oops! I say wool but of course it should be yarn, being forever disconnected from what grows on sheep. The natural product of local flocks is now largely unaffordable, having been cleverly displaced by 100% acrylic, produced in far-off lands from you-know-what and available here at significantly lower prices. Purchased with one's hard-earned coin of the realm at a time when 'synthetic' was affordable and acceptable.
No more! But what to do? Dispose of it in the bin for non-recyclables? Out of sight...
There is another way, hence the crochet hook and the bag of still perfectly useable yarn, strategically placed at the side of the sofa where yours truly will be hunkered down in anticipation of long, cold, hungry days and evenings: anaesthetised by the prospect of hours in front of a screen in which not a single helpline is active; not exactly comforted by constant reminders that we are on the brink, on the breadline, and it's all out of our control. Time to unplug.
Time to be grateful for the ancient sturdy walls, protective and reassuring; the feline lodger's rations have been prioritised and her furry bed with matching cushion has been spruced up, ready for the coming hardship of which she will, I hope, remain blissfully unaware. Of course, she has already spotted the yarn. She looks in vain for an opportunity to unravel a ball of sunny saffron, made in Turkey, but times are hard and she is redirected to her own toys.
Me? I'm on the sofa, wondering but not (yet) worrying about whether second-day gruel will be tasty. And hand-crafting the first blanket of the season.
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