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January 1



'If Randolph Hearst can send America to war to sell his newspapers,
I'm pretty sure the owner of The Times can do likewise'.

Image: © Carine Thomas
Like the sighting of the first cuckoo, today on the 14th of January 2002 the Guardian Newspaper reports the first sign of 'El Nino' stirring in the Pacific ocean. Yes already the Northwest coast of the USA can expect floods in October, also more Hurricanes in Florida in the same month and droughts in places that were expecting floods. It is always nice to have something to look forward to.

Equally the EURO has managed to get to be 14 days old and not even stumble once. The press have searched high and low for bad news but constantly find that contrary to expectation everyone in Europe didn't actually give a fig about their Frances and Liras and were only too happy to see the back of them. People in Europe love the Euro and have realised that in the end it is what YOU BUY WITH THEM that matters. James Skinner our Euro specialist is doing his best to find stories for us but just can't find any bad news at all!

So here's my prediction, the enemy of the Euro, Rupert Murdoch and his cohorts will have to create a problem. The weakest point seems Italy, so whether it is some stirrings with Mr. Bossi or some skirmish in Turin...some difficulties will be found to create a 'problem' for the Euro. If Randolph Hearst can send America to war to sell his newspapers, I'm pretty sure the owner of The Times can do likewise. The right-wing press of the UK, The Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Times are all sworn enemies of the Euro and are spending a lot of money trying to find ways to blacken all things European. Yet Niel Collins of the Telegraph writes '...all efforts of tens of thousands of journalists across euroland failed to find any disasters.' ...nevertheless he warns that the old war horse Prof Milton Friedman, economist and anti-Euro stalwart claims that 'Germany is in denial about the need to reform and he fears for the currency once the europhoria has worn off.'

I fear it is we in the UK that are in denial. Our economy is off the rails. Literally. Try finding a train that runs on time.
We are still buying homes like crazy, rents are rising to match the new inflated house values and we have a Japanese price bubble here that will eventually cause much pain and anguish. Our banks are valued according to the amounts they have loaned against property. So if the buble bursts... Of course there is still some way to go before it all goes wrong, but consumers are still spending like no tomorrow. But unlike the Germans who like to protest they are in recession but at least the Germans still buy German products, (which are still the best you can buy). We Brits buy anything at all as long as it isn't British. With Skoda outselling Rover/MG cars three to one, you might understand the problem here. There is no British made car in the top ten selling cars, therefore no British made tyres or glass, or seats or starting motors...we can buy no British made computers or peripherals, buy no UK made jewelry, even our clothes are made in Indonesia. Our currency is so overvalued relative to what we actually make we cannot manufacture anything cheaply enough to make a profit. Does this matter? Apparently not. Service industries represent 70 percent of our economy, manufacturing less than 20 percent.

I have problems, I will admit, in understanding how our modern economy works and which particular stilt we are resting on, in which swamp. Then I never quite understood the medieval English economy built mostly around erecting Cathedrals and selling pardons and charms to ward off ill-luck and old sins. But since the UK in the 21st century is rapidly approaching a moment when we will cease to manufacture anything at all, I fear I am about to find out a lot more about that kind of economic system. I believe that daily text-message horoscopes generate more income that Marconi and British-Airways together.

Economies are something of a confidence trick, rather like currencies. We accept that a piece of paper can be exchanged for a CD, but the CD immediately becomes devalued the moment you buy it, as does a car which loses around 60 percent of it's value on the day of purchase in the UK. I don't quite understand this, but it is so. (Speaking as one whose Seat Toledo has plummeted in value to around 40 percent of what I paid for it a year ago). The way I see it is, clearly I paid too much for my car for it to fall by so much and my CDs, clothes, everything else I have bought are relatively worthless because I have bought them. If I had stolen them the reverse would be true of course, but sadly I paid for them, or rather Visa did. Of course the one thing I didn't buy was a house which would have gone up in value by twenty percent. Not for nothing am I known as an economic genius. (Ha)

It is clear to me that something is wrong with modern Britain. We are getting strike happy again in our public services. Our education system is strained beyond belief yet the exam results keep getting better, our infrastructure is crumbling fast but the statistics keep showing that everything is more efficient. The UK today looks more and more like the UK you would recognise in Terry Gilliam 'Brazil '. The odd twenty billion pounds is promised for the railways, hospitals, schools, roads, and yet we know none of it is ever actually spent. (Not that we can actually see. If evidence is required, just take a trip on London's Tube).

If was a visitor here I'd be thinking that the IMF ought to visit and help sort things out once they've finished with Argentina. Yet for a reason that is hard to fathom, the pound keeps rising and the Emperor wears clothes - even though we know he hasn't got a clue on how to fix anything.

So with the Euro born and growing up happily in a home that loves and cherishes it, it is obvious to me that the distance between Europe and the UK will grow wider now. At some point when our economy is much weaker and we are more desperate we will seek to join. But they will be strong, they may resist.
We have joy now, but they may say, no, you are a weak country with a failed infrastructure, you will infect the Euro and we can't afford that. Romania looks a better bet.

We shall see. Hesitate too long and the girl will find another suitor. It's been true for many thousands of years and will remain so.

This month in Hackwriters we have new fiction from Amy Chan, great stuff from Al Humphreys who is riding his bike around the world!, James Skinner and Barry Paton on the birth of the Euro, a Christmas trip to Timbuktu, and Andrew Abulu omn African conspiracy theories, plus much more. Always new writing on Hacks.

© Sam North 2002

Sam North - Managing Editor
Author of 'Diamonds'


If you want to join me for screenwriting development classes I'll be at the Salignac Foundation in France in March and May. It will be fun and there are two types of programmes, beginners and professionals. Be good to see you there.

A Salignac Diary

The State of British Film

Predictions 2002

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