You may not have seen them, the boils.
It began – or feels like it did – with a mild rash of urban acne. The march of the bookies down our high streets and low streets.
Gambling dens, breeding like rabbits. One of Tony Blair’s finer achievements. Up there with 24 hour drinking and the war in Iraq.
Yes, it grieves me to say it, but hard-working and hard-shirking men (mostly men) have a Labour government to thank for the fact that they can spend more time on a Sunday betting than shopping for food in a big supermarket.
I’m sure the wives and kids at home are grateful. Gets him out the house, even if he does spend all their money.
But – hey – what’s this – a payday loan shop? Great – that’s the cash flow sorted then, no need to worry.
He can keep on betting till he wins it back.
And mum can shop in Poundland till that ship comes in.
But what if it doesn’t?
Friday night she goes through their clothes, weighing them up.
Which are heaviest? She’ll get more for those. Never mind that it’s winter, she’ll find a way to top up the meter.
They can wrap up in the duvet while they watch TV. Or she can send the kids round their nan’s, or that friend of theirs whose dad has a job on the rigs. They’re always flush.
But, back to the clothes. Bring in a bin-bag full of cast-offs, get five quid from shops like Cash 4 Clothes (which helps prevent waste and save the planet, their website says).
Big, bold excrescences on our streets.
But what happens when mum – or nan, or granddad – runs out of clothes? Runs out of food?
Well, there are food banks, aren’t there? But woe-betide if your bloke drives you there – how can he afford a car? And petrol?
Never mind he has a night job doing security, in an industrial wasteland, so he has to drive, can’t get there by bus after seven.
Now, I may be exaggerating. I may not know what I’m talking about, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m not paid for this, I don’t have to fact-check and I’m not slandering or libelling as far as I can see.
But I have to write this and I have to write it now.
Because what’s really bugging me is that I’ve started becoming used to things.
To Cash 4 clothes and their ilk.
To cars parked entirely on the footpath while old folks with walking frames and mums with prams struggle past.
Used to the idea that we have food banks.
To the idea that a Labour government brought us those great, wonderful, improving opportunities of drinking all night and gambling all week.
And worst of all, even more worrying, because it means there’s no Utopia, no get-out clause, no rosy future down the lane, I’m becoming used to there being no party I want to vote for, any more.
Labour’s sold its soul, the Tories are still at Eton, debating whether there are such things – and the Lib Dems, well, it depends what you mean by soul.
And none of the others count, IMHO. Except maybe the Greens – there’s a real Utopian vision, but my vote for them wouldn’t make any kind of difference, not in this constituency.
You know, I’d like to think there was a time when politics was about strongly held beliefs. That the men – and the few women – who governed us wanted to make things better.
But now, if it’s unpopular with a focus group no-one will touch it with a barge pole.
Need more money in the health service? Crikey, don’t suggest we pay more! Especially not people who can afford it. They’ve got enough on their plate what with private healthcare and private education and digging out the basements of their London terraces for that extra room they need.
Not enough money in the public purse? What’s that? Tax big businesses? Splutter! They’re the last folk you should target. Mustn’t upset the global cash machines that hold the City to ransom. Keep London unaffordable.
But we do need to save money, so why don’t we shut the libraries? Target people who can’t fight back, like immigrants (not the ones who clean those cramped London terraces, naturally). Tax folk who have a spare bedroom. Get cancer sufferers off benefits – they’ll be dead before they get the paperwork sorted anyway.
Talking of dying, let’s dig the dirt on anything NHS. Find enough horror stories so everyone will just shrug and let us get on with ruining it – selling it off to AnythingforMoney Corporation so we can pay them ever more to use what once was ours.
And while we’re at it, let’s make the NHS run itself ragged trying to compete in the ‘marketplace’. We know they’re mired in the ditch of higher standards, can’t begin to compete on the playing fields where commercial firms kick around our public services.
There’s no way out, as far as I can see, unless some great disaster strikes the world and we come to our senses, re-find some principles.
Unless all the rich, greedy people are found out, do something so disastrous that we recognise our folly in letting them take our money and run.
Whip them to within an inch of their lives.
Not really, that last thing. But fine them, send them to jail, reform the banking system.
Oops, did I say banking? Sorry.
We haven’t done any of that.
So I’m feeling a little bit hopeless.
But – one more thing before I take my tranquilisers.
Those clothes. The cash-4 ones. Do you know where they end up?
Well, if it’s anything like the charity shops, the clothes that are left after the moderately good ones are sold here, the ones no self-respecting, poor British person would buy second-hand might end up in places like Zambia. Squalid heaps of cheap tops, worn trousers and crumpled shirts in nasty synthetic fabrics where once there was a neat row of distinctively African cotton fabrics and a sewing machine.
Their native cotton industry has been decimated by our cheap cast off trash. I mean decimated. Ruined.
Oh boy, I hope it’s a nice, calm, sunny day tomorrow. I can’t take much more of this.
[*See my last post for a link to the Stephen Collins cartoon that introduced me to Liam. I hope to return to normal soon.]