A couple of weeks ago Wendy and I took off for London. I was bushed having campaigned, unsuccessfully all over the province against the erroneously so-called “run of rivers” policy. I hate to say it but we at Save Our Rivers will be proved right and we’ll see the end of our rivers, the end of BC Hydro and the end of sovereignty over both our energy and our water.
Not a bit of it; just a prediction of what will happen during the next four years. How sad it is that the environment movement was hit by the defections of David Suzuki and Tzeporah Berman. The long term cost to the environment is incalculable. What happens next is not hard to predict. The Bute Inlet project will bring civil disobedience as the company, with the help of the government, will get court orders which will be enforced against protesters. What a sorry pass we’ve reached when people trying to protect the environment from ravishment and save our wonderful public power system will be thwarted and jailed by those who put their own enrichment ahead of our environmental values and are able to abuse the legal system
to enforce their greed and help elect their accomplices.
London is in a strange economic situation these days. In the four blocks between our hotel and our tube station, 13 businesses large and small have gone bust since we here at New Years yet the signs in the real estate offices show a 2000 square food flat, with no view selling for just under 4 million POUNDS! The smallest of the 25 or so ads we looked at for flats was just under 1 million pounds! Unemployment is the highest in decades, money is tight yet there is a market for multi million pound apartments.
Wendy and I are often asked why we are constantly visiting London. A day a fortnight ago was one reason. We went to the top of Kensington Gardens for regular our walk which takes us through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park to the Houses of Parliament. Because of my terrible knees (when you get a bit older, the knees are the second thing to go!) we did a lot of sitting and watching the au pairs and their prams, dogs chasing but never quite catching squirrels and people feeding the birds right next to the sign that says “please don’t feed the birds”. This lese majeste is repeated on the Long Water where Labrador Retrievers chase sticks into the water next to the sign that says “no dogs permitted in the water”. The Brits are never much for obeying silly laws with the best example being the big black busker in the tube station playing a most agreeable tenor sax under a sign saying “No Buskers Allowed, 200 pound fine”.
Lunch at the Lido on the Serpentine, an ice cream at Buck Palace, through St James’s, the prettiest of them all and we’re at Parliament Square with the marvelous statue of Churchill facing defiantly towards the east seeming to say, come on Luftwaffe, do your damndest, we’re ready! As ready he and Britain were.
The papers and news channels are non stop about MPs expenses which have become a huge issue. Prime Minister Brown can thankfully point out that the Tories are also certified fudgers. The pounds involved are far from petty cash and sometimes get into six figures. The official documents released on the Parliament website run to more than a million words, most of which has been blackened out or redacted as they call it. The Speaker had to resign, Ministers are falling like leaves in the autumn so that one gets the feeling that no one is in charge which, to more than one Brit, is actually a comforting thought.
I committed my usual sins buying, in excess, books and compact discs. To our great consternation, Zanni’s music stores, which took over from Virgin, went broke since we were here at New Years and they had a marvelous supply of low priced standard jazz stuff that is hard to find – at least in stores. I don’t like shopping online – however easy browsing online has been made, it’s just not the same as in a store. Online will win the war, of course, and I suspect that the three HMV main stores will be the next victims of cyberspace.
I wonder about book stores. While you can download books and, of course, browse the online “stores”, the book stores seem to be doing well. Waterstones on Piccadilly and Foyles on Charing Cross Road are huge and apparently busy as are the wonderful Charing Cross used book stores. I managed, after assuring Wendy that “there isn’t much out there”, to buy a dozen books!
One place book lovers dare not miss is the open air used book stalls on the South side of the Thames near the National Theatre. In all the paperback dross there is the occasional gleam of gold hard cover which begs to be bought.
Speaking of the South Side and theatre we always go to the New Globe when it’s in season. This time it was As You Like It, a marvelous and very funny version. We first visited the Globe on its second night a decade or so ago and it’s super value for the money. Under the guidance of the late American actor San Wanamaker, the new Globe, made as the original was with split oak and thatch, is a considerable event in itself. The theatre, as in the bard’s day, has covered seats and an open pit for the “rabble”, nowadays mostly young people having a ball. As in days of yore, the “pit” often interplays with the players providing extra unrehearsed fun.
Next door is the New Tate Art (?) Gallery, which, if you fancy toilet bowls and such like as art, will fill your heart with delight.
It’s at this point you can cross the Thames on the Millennium pedestrian bridge which opened in 1999 which was, of course, the wrong year for as all who can do simple arithmetic know; the millennium came on January 1, 2001, In any event, just as Wendy and I were about to cross on opening first day there was a semi collapse as if the bridge was saying to the engineers, “you dumb buggers, we told you it wasn’t time to open me!” It’s fixed and gives great views up and down the Thames and as you walk north, a view of St Pauls which begs to be photographed over and over again.
The political scene is reminiscent of BC in 1972 under Bennett I, 1991 under Bill Vander Zalm and Rita Johnston and in 2001 under Ujjal Dosanjh when governments looked like the gang that can’t shoot straight. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, having been handed the poisoned chalice by Tony Blair, has lost control of events. Cabinet resignations take place, a new cabinet is formed, Mr. Brown asserts that all is now well, another minister, caught with his pinkies in the jam jar, resigns, a new cabinet is formed, Mr. Brown asserts etc etc and so on.
That inspired spawned this prediction (have I ever been wrong?) – as the Basi-Virk case unfolds, as BC Hydro starts it’s inevitable break-up and the public learns the full truth about the government’s appalling policy on fish farms and sees just what it’s rivers policy means, Campbell will be seen by all, including his MLAs and supporters, as the political fraud he is and, after the Olympics, will go and the heir apparent, Colin Hansen, will become the latest BC version of the Right Honourable Gordon Brown.
Wait for it, folks.