Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

Another year ends. In Cornwall, for many 2011 has been a gruelling, exhausting time. Job prospects and real wages continue to drop away. Housing supplies are ever-reducing, though I see in estate agents' windows a few second homes being flogged off in St Ives or St Agnes: very helpful. Cornish folk are strong, and many live in real communities which try to look after everyone. Yet even in these close-knit societies people seem near to unravelling.

More and more I encounter a weary resignation, a battered worn-out acceptance of the next affliction or sacrifice demanded. Food and fuel price increases; public services constricting; small businesses starved of cash; the waste and disappointment of the young unemployed; elderly folk too frightened to put an extra bar on the fire. Cliche? Not any more.

Just recently it’s been the expense, for many the worry of Christmas. And all the time, cruel advertising pounds out the same message: buy stuff you clods, and be quick about it.

We’re about to enter the fourth year of recession, without an end even remotely in sight. Banks continue to prosper, everyone else is on their uppers. This is the Britain of Cameron and Clegg; it’s unbelievably harsh. I don’t know about you, but I’m almost out of Dunkirk spirit.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Goodbye Kim Jong-Il

It’s been a good year for the fall of evil men: Bin Laden, Gadaffi, and now Kim Jong-Il, ‘Dear Leader’ of North Korea. According to Radio Pyongyang the pint-sized super-villain died of overwork. Across the country synchronised blubbing has broken out among the population, especially where the regime’s cameras are rolling. That’s most places.

The weird, reclusive country was ruled by Kim for 17 years as a personal fiefdom, mixing breezy Stalinist ideology with a relentless cult of personality. Kim’s domestic management toolkit included a typical dictator's combination of absolute media control, secret police and a network of trembling informers. To help deal with international disapproval, he had nuclear bombs.

Kim was a master of propaganda and social manipulation, but he also suffered from delusional mania, profound insecurity and OCD. Here are some facts about him, as reported to the North Korean people by the country’s media.

  • When Kim was born, suddenly spring broke out and a shower of rainbows appeared in the sky. Kim was the most prominent statesman in the world, and people around the globe celebrate his birthday with films and festivals.
  • Kim invented a new sandwich called Double Bread with Meat, to provide best-quality food for Pyongyang’s university students. The dish bore a coincidental resemblance to the hated Americans’ beef burger.
  • He was the best golfer in history, despite playing the game only once. In 1994 it was reported Kim shot 38 under par on a regulation 18-hole golf course, including 11 holes in one.
  • Kim’s range of menswear became a style phenomenon. The inspired look of his zippered khaki tunics with matching trousers has spread across the world, testament to his image and influence.

And here are a couple of real facts.

  • Before Pyongyang’s World Festival of Youth and Students in 1989, Kim had disabled residents removed from the city. His government also distributed pamphlets advertising a wonder drug which would increase the height of short people. Those who responded to the pamphlets were banished to uninhabited islands. Kim himself was just over five feet tall and wore built-up shoes. Clue there?
  • Hennessy Cognac reported that for many years Kim was its best customer, spending about £500,000 annually. In comparison, the average North Korean makes about £600 per year, and under Kim's rule millions have starved.

Recently the Dear Leader’s third son, Kim Jong-Un, was unveiled as The Great Successor. Following in dad's footsteps, already his birthday has been made a national holiday. But should the new boy fail to step up, other leadership contenders are apparently the current Minister of Finance, Han Din-Til, and Foreign Minister Sen Din-Tanx. In an uncertain world it’s reassuring to know North Korea has a stable succession plan.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Old People At Christmas

500,000 elderly people in Britain are facing the prospect of spending Christmas alone, a recent survey shows.

The charity Hello Old People commissioned the study to examine attitudes of the young toward older folk during the festive season.

The survey revealed most young people wouldn’t be inviting elderly relatives to their Christmas meals or parties, and would rather befriend animals than older citizens. Many didn’t have time to visit an old person, especially at Christmas. Others said they couldn’t be bothered, or had a feeling elderly people already received enough visits.

The chief reasons for older people being abandoned, say the youngsters, are their unattractive habits. Rudeness and tutting; mania for quizzes on flags of the world; a belief their anecdotes are worthy of film rights. It’s claimed many old folk endlessly bemoan the decline of common sense in modern times, and expect reverence simply because of their age.

But some young people did make visits. A few were religious, others doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award. The survey also revealed affluent elderly people, especially those in poor health, received frequent calls from the young. The Enduring Old People charade is a well-known Christmas game, and can be lucrative.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Tesco's Christmas Dinner Pizza: Yum Yum!

Yuletide. A traditional time to share with family, with friends, as we gather to celebrate the Christmas story. Coloured lights and carols, gifts and mistletoe all add to the magical festive fun. And Christmas is also a time to enjoy food. Beautiful food.

To help us make merry this year, 'your' Tesco, the nation's favourite superstore, has come up with a mouth-watering contemporary spin on an old favourite: the Christmas Dinner Pizza!

Tesco's treat features toppings of turkey, stuffing and little sausages as well as the usual pizza staples: mozzarella cheese and chemicals. It's rumoured a second, deluxe version will include a segment of Christmas pud.

Louise Sampson, Project Engineer for the ground-breaking corporate creation, chirped: "We set out to create a pizza for all those people who simply can’t wait until Christmas Day for a feast, and wanted a sneak taste beforehand." Louise didn't mention that from September it's been possible to visit thousands of 'carveries' across Britain, all peddling the nation's most tedious meal.

Tesco's demographic analysis, which ran alongside the pizza's development,
suggested the new product will appeal to people who are unsure of how to use a knife and fork. Expect a manufacturing licence to be announced with Lidl.