OUT TO LUNCH
Cornwall is a remarkably beautiful remote part of England so it’s little surprise that it has been chosen as the venue for the UK hosted G7 summit. I am willing to bet that most of the participants in this ‘Build Back Better’ roadshow will never have visited this part of the sceptered isle before so will be bowled over by its old world charm and scenic beauty.
The only problem with the Cornwall myth is the widening gap between the wealthy and not so wealthy which has been exacerbated since the COVID outbreak.
When city folk were encouraged to work from home and realized that, thanks to internet connectivity, this was a possibility many decided that they may as well move out of the socially dead cities and seek a better quality of life in some rural area.
Swapping a cramped central London flat for a house in the country was a no brainer, particularly if you had children to home school. Cornwall was a favourite choice because it was a comfortable five hour train ride on the express, albeit an eight hour journey on the slow train. Since nobody was planning to commute twice a week this wasn’t really a problem.
The chief attraction of Cornwall though was that, compared with many parts of England, property was dirt cheap. So the Cornish property boom began and there are now plenty of stories of properties being bought unseen by the purchaser online and of offers above the asking price to secure a sale.
Predictably this has had the effect of pushing up house prices and making them unaffordable for the locals. Prior to COVID there were already a lot of holiday homeowners in Cornwall (with Gordon Ramsay being one of the best known) and there was already resentment brewing.
Picturesque little villages like Padstow and Mousehole are a firm favourite with second homeowners but the growing problem is that, like parts of South Africa, the town or village only comes alive during holiday season and remains dark and mothballed out of season. This obviously has a knock on effect for local tradespeople who have a limited season in which to cover costs.
According to an article in The Spectator last week, a public toilet in Cornwall went on the market for the equivalent of R388 000. Although it was later withdrawn from sale it shows how crazy the appetite for property has become. More realistically, a two-bedroom cottage in Padstow which is narrower than a London bus is on the market for the equivalent of R8.3mln which is way out of the price range of anybody working in Cornwall.
The rental market is also a disaster. As property prices have risen so have long term rentals with out-of-towners taking leases that have become unaffordable to locals. The UK has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth of all the developed nations and Cornwall is one of the country’s most deprived areas. So, although the Gini coefficient is not something one automatically thinks of in the context of the UK, the gap between the haves and have nots definitely exists and the problem is getting worse not better.
Which means that Pres Frogboiler should feel quite at home as a guest at the G7. Not that anyone will be tugging at the sleeve of his tailored suit and asking him for the price of a loaf of bread.
I doubt whether many will even recognize him or know that there is a man moving among them who, according to Forbes magazine, is considerably richer than Mick Jagger. The riff-raff will be kept a safe distance from those whose job it is to ensure that we ‘build back better’ and create a world where we will own nothing and be happy…. or else. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
The great surprise is that he’s there at all what with South Africa being on the UK red alert list. Did Cyril have to spend 10 days at his own expense quarantining in a shabby UK hotel I wonder? Apparently not. Nonetheless, I expect other delegates will nervously be observing a safe 2 metre social distancing rule with the man who will undoubtedly be dubbed ‘the South African variant’.
It is, of course, pure coincidence that two major announcements were made just before the Pres boarded our version of Air Farce One and flew to Cornwall. The first was the sudden and rather mysterious announcement that a deal had been cobbled together for SAA which leaves the taxpayer owning a minority share of 49% of this terminal loss-maker.
I guess a 49% share in a loss-making venture is better than a 100% share so we should thank the government for their consideration. The 51% majority is owned by people who do have some experience of running airlines which is a sharp departure from the days of Dudu Miyeni and her various thieving cronies.
Whether that fills us with hope rather depends on whether the commies in charge decide that the 51% shareholder needs proper BBBEE credentials and slips a few cadres in through the back door as it were. Then there are the unions to contend with. Will the private owners be allowed to decide who gets employed and how many people they need or will it be the same old story of overemployment for fear of upsetting the unions ahead of local elections?
The other announcement that is being touted as terribly exciting is the newly created right to privately generate 100MW of electrical power without a license. This is a bit of a slap in the face for our latest MBA graduate, Gwede (Tiger) Mantashe who had been rather Scrooge like with his suggestion of 1MW and only later considered raising it to 10MW. The thumbs up for 100MW of generating power is a major shift in thinking but there is a danger that one can become rather misty eyed and over-optimistic after a series of power outages often totaling seven hours a day.
Firstly, it’s not as if these new private generators will be springing up overnight so there are many more months of darkness to look forward to if Eskom’s spokesman is anything to go by. And there is the bureaucracy to contend with. As SA media reported last week:
“Prospective generation projects will still need to obtain grid connection permits to ensure they meet all requirements for grid compliance. They’ll also have to register with Nersa and comply with existing legislation.”
So lots of opportunity for delaying, tender rigging and corruption then and if that seems a little bit negative I am only basing it on the precedent of the past 27 years but, like most South Africans, I am prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
Whether these two ‘initiatives’ tempt members of the G7 or their guests to put something into the South African begging bowl remains to be seen. I suspect the developed nations may be suffering from donor fatigue when it comes to pumping money into the seemingly bottomless pit that is Africa.
When I was at my boy’s only boarding school in England in the mid 1960’s sodomy was very much discouraged, possibly on the grounds that some parents might baulk at the prospect of paying such high school fees to subject their beloved sons and heirs to such deprivation.
I am unaware of any parents who, at the time, objected to this draconian rule enough to picket outside the school gates. But we were evidently living in unenlightened times back then.
The famous Wolfenden Report on homosexual offences and prostitution (that must have been a fun committee to sit on) came out in 1957 and was followed ten years later by the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which legalized homosexual acts between consenting males who had reached the age of 21. Since not even our dimmest sixth former post 1967 was over the age of 21 this sudden permissiveness never benefitted us with the result that most of my contemporaries grew up to be that most loathed of species; hetero-normative cis gender white males. I often wonder what I missed out on.
Today though things are very different. Just imagine if I had been lucky enough to be born 50 years later and had been a pupil at the
D F Malan High School in Cape Town. Last week, horror of horrors, some pupil’s trendily celebrating Pride Month during morning break were mocked by fellow learners and bombarded with a variety of anti LGBTQIA+ insults.
The principal of the school had apparently forbidden gay pride celebrations on the basis (correct as it turned out) that they would prove divisive within the school. Cue the usual woke virtue signalers on social media whimpering about voices being silenced and oppression and before long the SA Human Rights Commission turned up with blue lights flashing to investigate cases of homophobia against ‘queer’ students.
Since D F Malan was not known for batting for the other team I wonder whether it isn’t time to rename the school. Perhaps the Freddie Mercury High School?
News24 managed to ramp up the anti DA rhetoric ahead of municipal elections with the shock news that the Cape Town Mayco member for safety and security J P Smith had allegedly lied about his qualifications.
Apparently, a staffer had sent out an informal bio claiming JP had an honours degree in English from Stellenbosch University when he had not, in fact, completed this degree. There may be many good reasons for that, not the least of which could have been financial constraints.
However, JP’s ability to do his job surely can’t depend on him remembering Shakespearian quotations or being able to explain the symobolism behind T S Eiot’s Four Quartets. I don’t know the man but he has always struck me as a hard working and dedicated public servant doing a difficult job that no amount of money would even tempt me to consider.
However, this won’t prevent the ANC’s Cameron Dugmore from popping along to his local cop shop to lay criminal charges of fraud against JP.
Fortunately, the Western Cape police have a lot of spare time on their hands with very little serious crime taking place in the Cape Town Metro so they will hopefully be able to devote their full attention to this heinous offence.