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Monday, 14 May 2007

"A Cheap Holiday in Other People's Misery"...

A lovely Sunday afternoon spent in the company of an old college pal. Courtesy of my local's somewhat dubious Al-Jazeera beam-back service, we watch Wigan keep themselves up at the expense of lovable Neil Warnock's Sheffield United whilst keeping an eye on Geoff's lot's (not to mention the Arse's titanic struggle with Tim's Scummers...) progress at the (self-styled) 'Theatre of Dreams' via teletext. A Tevez goal on 45 minutes is enough to keep the Hammers up, suggesting that perhaps one world class foreign individual is preferable to 11 homegrown triers, no matter how committed.

In between the clashing heads and fluctuations of fortune, we chat about globalisation before heading off for a curry. J. runs a print shop and was telling me how his firm had offered some Polish drivers a bit of work. These guys were on £3 an hour and had been offered double that by J.'s firm to do the same kind of work. They'd turned it down. Because even though the rate would be higher, they'd be tied to the European Work Directive and so would only be able to work for 40 hours a week. They could earn more working all the hours God sent at the lower rate - sleeping in their trucks (or, as apparently is the vogue, in those 20p entry station lavatories - well, you laugh....more comfortable than sharing a bed-sized room with three and cold running water...etc.), jetting back pound-laden to Warzawa via Easyjet every so often, whenever the batteries needed recharging...

As if propelled by an overly thematic narrative, we left the Arabic news service as its coverage of the US Jujitsu finals kicked off, heading off in J.'s new planet-friendly Japanese-made company car to our favourite Indian retaurant. J. flicked through the canon on the car's super-dooper multi-CD changer (it cost almost as much as the car!) - some Motown, The Queen is Dead, Sign o' the Times, Appetite for Destruction - before alighting on Never Mind the Bollocks..."A cheap *hol*-i-*day* in other people's *mis*-er**eeeeee*. You couldn't make it up...

We're unusually chatty, the meal going on for a lot longer than our usual post-footy scoff and bolts. J. tells me of a visit to his niece's school he made last year. Her mother's daughter, another J., was about to be expelled and refusing to go with her Mum (teenagers, eh?) J. attended in loco parentis. They'd arrived early and J. was struck by the bulletin boards for the huge variety of different after-school clubs and societies. Once in her office, the headmistress' outlined the list of complaints against J.'s niece and after this presumably lengthy pre-amble, asked my mate J. what he thought. "It's all very sad..." he began, before highlighting the story of his own Thailand-born wife. Orphaned at 13, A. had had been consigned to a sweatshop - a school with such facilities and opportunities as this one a distant, mirage-like dream....and so on until both headmistress and pupil had been reduced to tears...

We're both astonished at how prescient 'Holidays in the Sun' was, how fresh and relevant it still sounds 30 (*thirty*!!) years on. When Lydon was writing, modern-style package holidays were in their relative infancy. Now, the formerly exotic feels astonishingly accessible to most of us. Thanks to Gordon and our own "reasonable economy", "carbon-neutral taxes notwithsatnding, most of us can have our "cheap holiday in someone else's misery" provided we can resist the guilt-tripping of all those Tory industrialists turned rainbow-warriors, of course. Only now, you don't really have to go abroad for the other people's misery bit. They're right here, under your very nose - getting some shut-eye in the vans you pass on the way to work, or kipping in the cubicle next to yours as you have that last pre-Eurostar dump before taking your family on that Grauniad/Cameron-freindly non-flying city break. But as J. asked - can you really call it exploitation, when they apparently choose it this way?

L.U.V. on y'all,


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  1. The Nick Broomfield film on the Chinese "cockle pickers" (as if that's what their vocation was) was the saddest thing I've seen this year.

    Oh and Tevez - if Ronaldo's world class, this kid is a star of the universe.

  2. Neil Warnock? Lovable?
    You're 'aving a larf...

  3. Neil Warnock? Lovable?
    Linked with the Palace job?
    Yup, I'm laughing now!!