1. I rushed into a Tesco Express near where I live in West London on Friday evening to buy a bottle of water before jumping on the tube, only to be confronted with this image at the checkout:
Just last week, a report – Feeding Britain – was published, which shows how the rapidly escalating prices of the last decade have hit the poorest households in this country hardest. Since 2003, the price of food has risen by 50%, yet wages have only risen half that amount, and for many they have simply stalled. In that same period, the cost of fuel has risen by 150% and rents by 35%. It is becoming harder and harder for people to make ends meet, and they are forced to rely on food banks and handouts. This in a country which is the sixth largest economy in the world. The Trussell Trust is a charity that runs food banks. In the six months from April to September this year, they provided over half a million people with 3 or more days of food and support. That’s a rise of almost 40% on last year’s figures. When so many people in this country can’t afford to feed their families, marketing ploys like the above in Tesco make me really angry. Most people can’t afford to think about spending or shopping more in order to save less – they just want to know where their next meal is coming from.
2. Many feel that the government is out of touch with reality and with the everyday lives of the ordinary person; it is often said that we are governed only by the pale, male and stale. When you consider that only 7% of the general population was privately educated, and yet 36% of the cabinet, 33% of MPs, 43% of newspaper columnists and 26% of BBC executives went to private schools, you can understand why they might feel this way.
3. Even though marriage equality legislation came into force nine months ago (on 29th March, 2014), until 10th December there was no way for couples already in civil partnerships to marry. This week saw the first couples in Britain to convert those unions into marriage, and it was wonderful to see the support for those who chose to do so, and for those couples who have been together for years and only want the same rights as those afforded to heterosexual couples. However, it is true that the right to marry doesn’t equal full equality, and there is still much work to be done. Some claim that this legislation demonstrates that society values LGBT unions as the same as heterosexual ones, while others make the point that legislation doesn’t always match public opinion and sentiment, and that there is still a huge chasm between the two where LGBT rights are concerned. There are people who have fought for the right for LGBT community to get married, and to be seen as the same as heterosexual couples in the eyes of the law, and, in doing so, they have endured much personal sacrifice. Equal marriage is something to celebrate, and those of us who will be able to get married (should we wish to) should be grateful to those who have made it possible. Yet I do also agree that there is still a lot to do, both in the UK and, particularly, abroad.
4. I work in book publishing, and know how important book covers are, and how much work they have to do. An ex-colleague of mine asked some industry professionals what their favourite covers of 2014 were, and has posted the list on his blog here. It makes for very interesting reading seeing which books are chosen, and why, and which covers are chosen by many different people.
5. This week I’ve been reading The Beautiful Indifference, a collection of short stories by one of my favourite British writers, Sarah Hall. Her debut novel, Haweswater, is one of my favourite novels, let alone first novels. The Beautiful Indifference is a short collection – Hall’s first – of just six stories, but the brilliant opening tale (‘Butcher’s Perfume’) is the most reminiscent of Hall’s novels, which are also (usually) set in her native Cumbria and bristle with local dialect. These stories are ominous and intriguing, full of people about whom we desperately want to know more. These stories are violent, too: full of sex, death, passion and the wildness of both the human and animal kingdoms. While some of the stories might be stronger than others, the best are darkly compelling. I’ve been looking forward to Hall’s next novel for some time (it’s due to be published next Spring), but having read The Beautiful Indifference I’m now also eagerly awaiting her next collection of stories.
6. I’ve been listening to Låpsley this week. Låpsley is actually a young Liverpudlian singer called Holly Fletcher, who is still only seventeen. I love the minimal, stripped back quality to her music. It feels intimate and intense, yet at the same time really clean. It’s sort of acoustic overlayed with electronica. She hasn’t released an album yet, but you can listen to some of her songs on her Soundcloud page.
Categories: On My Mind . . .