22 July 2008

The Richness of Life

I've just had the pleasure of reading Cider with Rosie for the first time. Like everybody else I'm amazed I never had the opportunity before - it was a school favourite everywhere except my school, it appears. The explanation must be to do with my Victorian schoolmistresses fears about the possibile influence on tender minds of the scene under the hay wagon. They clearly felt that the face-slashing reality of Brighton Rock was more suitable for pre-pubescent girls.

For whatever reason I'm glad that this gem has been saved for my middle years and now comes to me at around the same age Laurie Lee was when he wrote the book - and very nearly in the same place as well. The village of Slad is only a couple of miles up the road from where I'm writing this. And I have been spared the stifling, smelly, repressive atmosphere of school as a permanent association with the book.

Everything about Lee's writing is rich, as is the childhood he describes. People who live around here and who knew the author and still know his widow tell you that it isn't realistic. That he has rose-tinted spectacles on. The major criticism is that he doesn't portray the family as poor enough. The spendthrift single mother and her frequently bootless, snotty-nosed children as seen from the outside do not match the wealth that Laurie Lee clearly found in the Gloucestershire countryside.

I was listening to Haydn's Creation recently and for the first time - I think because it was sung rather than spoken - thought about the second sentence of the bible: 'The Earth was without form - and void'. This is how death feels to those who live close to the earth: an absence of the teeming, messy variety of life at this time of year. As we have used technology to gain mastery over nature so we have strangled and stifled this life.

The UK economy is based on financial services - 73% of our economy is now in the services sector, and most of this is financial services. What could be more alien to life than this 'industry' which lures us through life with the attraction of money, especially money via pensions (by which time we are really too old to enjoy it and life has passed us by) and persuades us (the insurance 'industry') that we can use money to prevent the accidental disasters that are an inevitable part of life. A paltry attempt to use the meaningless and worthless construct of money to keep life at bay.


  1. I recently got hold of a copy of Cider with Rosie - it passed me by too, but seeing as I seem to end up in Slad so often on walks it's a bit of a must. I'll look forward to the hay bale bit.

    (Did you get my email about Friday?)

  2. "The UK economy is based on financial services - 73% of our economy is now in the services sector, and most of this is financial services."

    No, it isn't. Come on. You've got an economics degree and no matter how heterodox your economics you had a course on how to read national accounts.

    Start with government expenditure: education, health, local government? That makes a huge chunk of your 73%. Then, there's retail - bigger than banking.
    Finance is one of the largest components of the service sector, true, but it's not even close to the majority.

    Shouldn't the economics speaker for a serious political party know this stuff?

    PS - agree with you on Cider with Rosie, though.