Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Layer 76 To Market, To Market.

Driving through the Cotswolds the other week I saw it was market day and stopped off to take a look around. The day was sunny and warm, the locals were out with their bags and their trolleys, greeting one another in slow voices and mellow accents.

The village square was quiet and peaceful, surrounded by fabulous old buildings whose honey stone seemed to glow in the morning sun. The old coaching inn was open for breakfasts and coffee. If I hadn’t already stopped off in a sunlit lay-by for coffee and a bacon sandwich from a mobile caff, I’d have been straight in there.

Compared with the Saturday market I’d been to in the Dordogne a couple of weeks ago, this market was tiny. Stalls selling fruit and veg, general hardware, shoes and boots, plants and garden equipment, bread and cakes, pies and pastries, and some very tasty-looking local and French cheeses - and that was about it.

Clearly this market was an important part of local life, and brought people together from the surrounding area - as had the market in St Foy, only on a much bigger scale. I can’t even remember the last time I was at an English country market, and this seemed to be quintessential England. It’s a blessing to have the time to ‘stand and stare’, and take a few photos, out in rural England.

What more could anyone want or need from a market? Here we were with the international money markets just about ready to implode, crash and burn, and everything was going on just as it has for - centuries?

So what would my perfect market be like? What else might it need? Just a few things:
  • A large number of stalls selling fabulous, irresistible foods ranging from curries and stews to French savory filled crepes and Chinese stir-fries.
  • A hog roast.
  • Stalls selling high quality meats, including various sorts of game - rabbit, pheasant, duck, wild boar and venison.
  • Various small cafes with tables and chairs in the sun, inviting you to sit down and watch the world passing by.
  • Various pubs with ditto.
  • A canal on which is moored a Dutch barge selling Thai curries, cakes and coffee, with tables and chairs, etc etc.
  • Various restaurants - Turkish, Italian, Argentinian, even a pie and mash restaurant.
  • A stall selling brilliant old vinyl records at sensible prices.
  • Stalls selling hand-made craft items, photos, paintings, etc.
  • Stalls selling truly exotic fruits and vegetables.
  • Throngs of people of every age, colour and background, including lots of bizarre looking characters, lots of very cool and funky people, creating a genuine buzz in a laid-back and hassle-free style.

And this is exactly what Broadway market has to offer. That’s Broadway, Hackney, just off London Fields, not Broadway, Worcestershire, the Cotswolds.

I’ve been shopping in Broadway Market since first moving to Hackney in the mid nineteen seventies, and it just gets better and better. OK - it’s lost its old working-class-only character, but if it hadn’t been reborn with parts to appeal to the gentrifiers and the incomers then it would surely have died anyway, since most of the traditional stalls had closed down as the locals went off to the supermarkets for convenience, quality and lower prices.

Last Saturday just about everyone was walking around dressed for summer, since the cloudless sky and mid-autumn sun had raised temperatures to the low twenties. It felt better than anything we’ve had these last two lousy so-called summers. There seemed more stalls and shops open than ever, and it was getting to be quite hard to move up and down certain parts of the street as there were so many people.

And so, dear blog readers, if you don’t already know Broadway market then go down there and hang out. And if you do know it - don’t forget it’s there, and keep on enjoying it. But don’t tell anyone else about it. It’s almost too popular already.

And don’t worry about the prices. Of course they’re too high, but you don’t have to actually buy anything. And if you do, tell yourself it’s worth it for the whole wonderful spectacle of cool, funky, laid-back people, some of them quite pretty and sexy, just hanging out and grooving together.


I was very heartened by an item on wonderful Radio 4 this morning about Groovy Old Men. It seems there’s a new section of the population with a more positive, upbeat and altogether more joyful attitude than Grumpy Old Men. Suits me. Something to aspire to.


Another item on R4 concerned memories of one’s very first Blues Moment - the first time you hear some low-down, grooving and grab-you blues and you just go - “WHAT on earth is THAT?!”

With me it was maybe “Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker, and playing live it was maybe the original Fleetwood Mac blues band with Peter Green, or one of John Mayall’s mid-sixties bands with either Eric Clapton or Peter Green on guitar - not that Mayall ever name-checked his hired hands in those days. Not that I even cared who they were, these incredibly gifted young axemen. I was happy just to be blown away by music that clearly came from another planet to the one I’d always known. The Supernatural, with Peter Green on guitar, my all-time favourite blues instrumental. Contemporary version of The Supernatural by Peter Green’s current band, The Splinter group. The Gary Moore version. All Your Love - Mayall’s Bluesbreakers - a live performance on video. Steppin’ Out - Mayall and Clapton.


But let’s face it - it hardly seems to be right and proper to be going on about markets and music when what’s been happening in the world is so mind-numbingly horrendous and appalling. The money markets and the whacky world of banks and high finance are the focus of everyone’s attention, and somehow more terrifying than the Black Plague, Aids and Bird Flu put together.

And what can Oxzen possibly say about all of that? All one can do is pay attention, try to understand what the fuck is going on, and try to imagine the possible consequences, especially for the poor, the sick and the needy. Depending on which pundit you listen to the world is facing Armageddon and going to hell on a handcart, and the very foundations of our so-called civilisation are crumbling and collapsing.

On the other hand, “When you got nothing you got nothing to lose”, as His Bobness sang, all those years ago. The hardest hit will surely be the wretched souls who’ve been enticed and seduced into buying property and shares they can barely afford, who will just have to stand and stare incredulously as their hard-earned savings and investments shrivel and disappear.

The smart rich, meanwhile, including the fat cats, financiers and bankers whose greed and lack of scruples brought about this situation in the first place, will have made damn sure that their bonuses and profits are squirreled safely away in foreign vaults and tax havens. And now, thanks to the government, thanks to us, they’re not even going to lose their jobs, their directorships, their property portfolios, their fat-cat lifestyles.

Out and about at the weekend there was still no sign of any marching, charging people; no barricades, no mobs looking to lynch the tycoons and the bankers from the nearest lamp-post.
Well there’s a very big temptation to say, I FUCKING TOLD YOU that capitalism is inherently nasty, brutish, corrupt, stupid, immoral and destructive. Thatcher, Keith Joseph, the Friedmanites, the Monetarists, the Freemarketeers, the Globalisers, the Big-Bangers, the Deregulators and the Neo-Conservatives were, and are, all mad, deluded or downright lying scumbags. And now you’re gonna believe us.

But what’s actually going to HAPPEN? Exciting, innit?


All I can say about it is that you must read two books, one old and one new, to get some perspective on what we might call Selfish Capitalism, to use Oliver James‘ expression: James’ ‘Affluenza’, and ‘The State We’re In’, by Will Hutton. And it’s very interesting how much in demand these guys suddenly are, as commentators on the current craziness. See below for extracts.

Hutton wrote ‘The State We’re In’ back in 1995, and how much attention did Blair and New Label pay it? Er, none. And yet it describes precisely how unregulated capitalism has been fucking up the entire planet. Newrotic Labour have so much to answer for. The bastards. Have they ever suggested that unregulated capitalism was corrupt and evil? Have they ever argued for a proper world-wide system of regulation, even? No. Never. Not ever.

It’s very interesting how the Right has laid into James in book reviews, etc. Quite predictably. The guy was very brave to have launched such a wholesale critique of bourgeois attitudes and lifestyles, and of course the people he’s talking about as being sick don’t like it. Hence their rage and bile.


And finally . . . The best and funniest bit of the farcical England v Kazakstan game last week was Capello’s reaction to the ludicrous punt made by Ashley Cole to gift Kstan their goal. The manager was totally gone in rage, incredulity and frustration! He did a hilarious little dash from touchline to bench, with his little fists clenched and his face contorted. Well Fab - you should have taken note of Oxzen’s advice in the last blog, and I quote:

“Ashley Cole used to be capable of making speedy, timely and skillful forward breaks, but he’s become erratic and considerably slower in thought and action, probably because he’s distracted and under-motivated a lot of the time. I’d drop him for good.”

Please, please Fabio - do it now.


From ‘Affluenza’

My focus is on why we are so fucked up, not with dangling a false promise of the possibility of happiness. In short, my new theory is that the nasty form of political economy that I call Selfish Capitalism caused an epidemic of the Affluenza Virus, accounting for much of the increase in distress since the 1970s. (pages xvii and xviii)

By Selfish Capitalism I mean four basic things. The first is that the success of businesses is judged almost exclusively by their current share price. [!] The second is the strong drive to privatise public utilities, such as water, gas and electricity, or, in the case of America, to keep them in private hands. The third is that there should be as little regulation of business as possible, with taxation for the rich and very rich so limited that whether to contribute becomes almost a matter of choice. The fourth is the conviction that consumption and market forces can meet human needs of almost every kind. America is the apotheosis of Selfish Capitalism, Denmark the nearest thing to its Unselfish opposite. (page xviii)

My main point is that the extent to which a developed nation is Selfish capitalist and infected by Affluenza is crucial to the well-being of its inhabitants. (page xx)

I contend that most emotional distress is best understood as a rational response to sick societies. Change those societies, and we will all be less distressed. (page xx)


From ‘The State We’re In’

I do not accept that inequality, social distress, centralisation of government, privatisation of the public realm, abandonment of society to the market and enfeeblement of Britain’s civic culture are the necessary downpayment for a better tomorrow - or that the future promises to be as rosy as the Right foretells. More of the same promises to be nothing but more of the same, with a weakening of the ties that bind the country together, a steady deterioration in the underlying economy, and a delegitimation of our political system. (page xii)

A reappraisal of Britain’s financial system, the exercise of ownership and control in Britain’s companies, and their pattern of decision-making is overdue - for the sake of every form of British business. (page xviii)

[It was overdue in 1995 when he wrote this, or even in 1945, and it’s FUCKING overdue now!]

Social inclusion, a well-functioning democracy and a high-investing business system supported by a long-termist financial sector are not optional extras; they are interdependent and fundamental necessities. We should not rest until we have them. (page xxv)


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