"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Thursday 17 January 2013

Changing face of the High Street?

A 'commentator' on a radio news programme this morning 'commentating' on the apparent demise of 'Blockbuster' stores suggested that the fact that three* 'High Street Stores' have been forced to close in the past week - with the cost of thousands of jobs - is not really that much of a problem. It just means - apparently - that we will now have different shops in our High Streets - and if these shops are of the pound shop varieties or similar, well that's OK because they will still provide jobs.

Sadly this commentator did not point out that these newer stores usually employ part time workers, and on basic minimum wages. Indeed one of these type of stores was involved in a scandal not long ago by helping the government give work experience to the unemployed at no cost to the store chain and no wages to the unemployed.

High Streets/shopping areas change. Other Half and I were remiscing yesterday how when we first lived in our village [40+ years ago] the local store owner delivered groceries for free on a Friday evening via his bicycle with the big carrier thing on the front. Now I go online, order groceries from one of the large Superstores 3 or 4 miles away, pay the delivery charge and have the shopping delivered to a time of my choosing any day that I wish. Not really conducive to ecological harmony as the same lorries whip up and down our little road delivering to various houses on several times a week. But modern life and all that....

I am not against change. The function of High Street shops change with differing demands of residents and consumers. With the growth of out of town shopping malls grew predictions of the decline of local shops and of course this happened in many areas. And those who cannot or do not want to experience the Out of Town Shopping Mall inevitable suffer. Online shopping has of course taken up a lot of the slack especially now that so many 'online shops' offer free postage even for small purchases. [Apparently 'free' - we all appreciate that the postage is factored into the overheads when prices are set, don't we?]

But here's the rub. We are hearing that large online retailers like Amazon who are not paying income tax in the way that they morally should are probably responsible for the demise of some of those High Street shops like HMV and Blockbuster. We should of course boycott such retailers. But when you live in a little village like mine which has never had a book shop, record shop, don't drive and - to be honest - are a bit lazy, what is easier than clicking on 'buy it now' on the friendly lap top? Especially when it will be popped through the letterbox in a day or two and due to the said tax paying proclivities of the retailer the item is a couple of pounds cheaper than an independent retailer would charge even supposing one could be found. And that is without paying car parking charges and fuel costs if Other Half takes me to the nearest town with a book/record shop - and that book/record shop has the book/record shop has the item in stock because they are struggling with stock because online retailers are undercutting them?

And because these big online retailers are not paying their fair share of taxes the government claim they cannot afford to pay  increased benefits to the unemployed which will now include those from the shops which have probably just closed due to the price cutting from the big online retailers......

Re-reading this, to quote a bit of Bob Dylan [on another subject, but any excuse after all]:
                         So now as I'm leavin'
                         I'm weary as Hell
                         The confusion I'm feelin'
                         Ain't no tongue can tell
                         The words fill my head
                         And fall to the floor**

And again, to quote a radio commentator this morning, about 17,000 jobs have been lost 'on the High Street' since Comet's went into receivership just before Christmas. If this had been from a factory closure there would have been far more 'fuss' about it. Please let us all protest about so many lost jobs.

* Jessops, HMV, Blockbuster

** With God On Our Side

Postcard of Eltham High Street c1910 above published courtesy of http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/greenwich/assets/galleries/eltham/high-street-1910 http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/greenwich/assets/galleries/eltham/high-street-1910

Friday 4 January 2013

It's only words.......*

Words have always been important, of course. But with the rise of social networking and blogging perhaps the power of 'written words' in the 21st century has re-gained a prominence that has not occured since the rise of newcasting and documentary programmes in audio/visual media.

Newspapers now also have an online presence. They get two 'goes' at getting their stories across to those of the public who have access to the world wide web. An overheard comment about, f'r instance, a story in The Sun can send one scurrying to its' url. [Actually that happened this morning. I would never buy that paper but heard on the news that they feel mandated - tongue in cheek - to reply to the President of Argentina's letter which appeared in the Guardian and Independent yesterday. But I digress]

However the potentional to misuse words within the social networks is immense. Bullying becomes easy - and not just between teenagers. Discussions can turn into slanging matches and there are several markers to watch out for:
1. But - What I have just said was reasonable, now I am going to say something really nasty/racist/sexist , which is what I really think.
2. No offence intended - I can now be as offensive as I like because I have said I don't mean it but I really do.
3. Don't get me wrong but - Both of the above, really.
4. I am only telling you for your own good - Because I have a different opinion to you, you are WRONG.
5. Making an insulting comment humourous^ does not lessen its' potential to hurt [see^ below]

But bullying seems to be invading our society, sadly. David Cameron is only too good at it. Listen to him [yes I know it is hard] in Prime Minister's Questiontime. When he is answering something he does not like, a hectoring tone enters his voice and if he can slip in a pejorative comment about his questioner/the question subject he will. Other politicians are guilty of this too.

Face to face discussions all too readily descend into slanging matches. Watch Newsnight or Questiontime, listen to Any Questions or a 'phone in radio programme. Where are those debating skills of which we used to be so proud? Some individuals think they can deliver a really cutting comment to another and laugh, thus 'easing' the pain they have just inflicted. Well it doesn't, actually.

Cabinet ministers deliver bullying speeches - by suggesting that many benefit claimaints do not deserve their welfare benefits or are lazy etc. I suspect that many elderly people felt guilty at taking the measly amount that is paid out as the heating allowance [cut from what it was a couple of years ago btw] after all the media attention given to various [better off] elderly people [celebrities mostly] and government spokespeople were stating publicly that many pensioners did not need the payment. Forget the years that many of us have paid tax to receive these 'benefits'. Change the word to 'entitlements' and see the perspective change. And 'better off pensioners' of course pay tax and if the automatic 'entitlements' are included as taxable income...... work it out George Osbourne. Oh sorry, perhaps you can't?^ [See how easy it is to make a nasty, bullying quip?]

Please, let us start this New Year by being kinder to one and other. Bullying is too easy to do and hard from which to recover.

Wishing you all a Peaceful and Joyous 2013.

* Apologies to the Bee Gees

The picture above is of a poster for the 2010 film The Social Network