It appears still to be January. I’m not quite sure how this has happened; some sort of kink the space/time continuum, a gassy burp from a distant black hole, the fact that magnets holding the family calendar to the fridge failed a couple of weeks ago and I’ve not yet found the motivation to reattach it? Whatever the reason, I can confirm that despite the month beginning over 45 days ago it remains resolutely, stubbornly January. Perhaps it will always be January? A Groundhog month in which Conservative Chair Nadim Zahawi is exposed in a likely career-ending tax scandal (i.e. not paying nearly enough of it) on a loop, endlessly repeating. FOREVER.
Or maybe it will indeed be February next week as planned? The sun will emerge. Wars will end. Energy prices will plummet. Public sector workers will be given a pay rise. You’ll be able to have a drink again. Your skin will lose that wintry pallor as the snowdrops bloom, heralds to a year of plenty and deep-set joy for us all.
We can hope.
But for now, January it is and I don’t know if I’ve not being paying enough attention (I’ve definitely not being paying enough attention) but to my mind there’s a dearth of NEW STUFF to be excited about. Now I realise that not every moment can be filled with the shock of the new, I mean for a man who thinks that the last truly great album every made was Radiohead’s OK Computer, think how ANGRY it would make me if all I had to deal with was the NEW, but having said that, it does seem that the silly Groundhog analogy above might be tempered with at least a soupcon of truth.
A few exceptions aside, the headlines this week are much the same as the headlines six months ago. Okay, we’ve different Prime Minster but nothing else has really changed. The specifics vary, sure, for example this week it’s Zahawi’s turn to play the role of high-ranking government minister fighting for their career following some, shall we say, ill-advised behaviour, but we’ve all seen this film before. We know how it ends.
Has the Zahawi affair been worth sitting through simply for Mirror’s Tuesday headline – “The Only Way is Ethics?”. Possibly. But on balance, probably not.
The horrid war in Ukraine continues. Here’s something I learnt this week and this may well fall under the banner of “facts that everyone else has known forever and I can’t believe that you of all people didn’t know it”: why tanks are called tanks. There’s been much tank-chat in the news this week given the decision by governments around the world to them to Ukraine in attempt to give the beleaguered nation the upper hand in the war against Putin’s pointless, heartless barbarity: but have you ever wondered why these multi-wheeled, gun-toting armoured vehicles were called “tanks”? . . . . . . . . come back, it’s interesting, I promise . . . . . the first “landships” were developed by the British during the first world war and to maintain secrecy they were transported the Front with paperwork claiming they were water tanks or, tanks for short. The name stuck.
That’s interesting right? Vaguely? Okay, we’ll move on.
We’re still suspicious of China. On Wednesday of this week, The Daily Star urgently asked: “Is there a Chinese spy in your fridge?”. Well I checked, and unless they are hiding somewhere at the back of the top shelf that I struggle to reach without standing on a chair, I can be pretty certain that there’s isn’t a Chinese spy in my fridge. This story, silly as it may sound, got quite some traction in the middle of the week following a report from a US security consultancy suggesting that chips places inside Chinese-made domestic appliances could be used to spy on households around the world. Now I don’t want to appear flippant (which is of course the classically flippant precursor to forthcoming flippancy) but if the Chinese secret service has a use for footage of me guilty reaching for a can of Thatchers when it’s NOT EVEN FRIDAY then they are very welcome to it but they may be disappointed to know that I am usually singing songs from early-period R.E.M not listing state secrets when doing so.
The UK is still in debt. In December, the country had a £27.4bn gap between income and outgoings. Which is a staggeringly high number. And quite a problem for Chancellor Jeremy Hunt who is announcing a “plan for growth” as I write this. Let’s go over there now and see what he’s saying:
“Yeah, well, right, I’ve borrowed a few quid off Matt Hancock, I mean did you see what he was paid for I’m a Celebrity? Jesus, all that cash for just sitting around in a t-shirt, eating weird stuff and showing his feelings. It’s a scandal. Mind you, he’s not going to charge me interest, so that’s something. So with this Hancock cash I reckon we’re going to set up an lemonade stall on Whitehall; Suella says she’s got a cracking recipe and for reasons I don’t want to know, Gove has a card for the Cash and Carry so we can get all the ingredients dirt cheap. And you know, we can flog the stuff for what? £4 a glass? Maybe more. I paid £9.80 for a pint the other day, I nearly soiled myself in shock. “Who do you think I am?” I asked the bloke behind the bar. “The Chancellor of the Exchequer?”. He didn’t laugh and said that he’d no idea who the Chancellor of the Exchequer was and that I owed him £9.80 or did he have to call Big Jake from the kitchen whose name is not ironic? I tapped my Monzo card and hid in the corner of the pub where a feeling of existential dread flushed through me like the toilet that was the other side of the thin wall. . . . . but anyway, stop talking Britain down folks!”
A quick round-up of other news this week makes for more overly-familiar reading (failures in the probation service leading to murders; Brexit turning out not be a very good idea for multifarious reasons that neither leading political party dares talk about; HS2 might now not actually make it to central London as costs keep spiralling out of control; more violence between Israel and Palestine). Groundhog month indeed.
And so it’s down to art (as always) to deliver us from the tedium of the cycle. Arlo Parks released one of the albums of lockdown in January 21. She’s back with new music and it’s just great. Enjoy.