It’s been a long and drawn-out process, taking the best part of the past seven months. I realise that many estates take far longer to settle, but the time taken to wind-up of dad’s estate is long enough for me. It’s involved numerous emails, letter writing, phone calls and form filling, all of which have eaten into my spare time; time that I’d rather have spent out and about, sampling new beers and visiting pubs, old and new, but hey-ho!
Mrs PBT’s will also be winding down around the same time. She qualifies for her bus-pass and state pension in September, and whilst we’ll be able to wind down together, Eileen will continue the book-keeping and VAT Return work she does from home, for an array of different tradespeople.
So, with all these positive things going on in my life, why do I still feel a little apprehensive over what lies ahead, particularly in the immediate future? The short answer is, I don’t really know, but the longer answer concerns what many of us feel regarding what happens next with the pandemic? More importantly how will this continue to impact on our lives in the months to come?
I will leave these very real concerns for another time, but one thing witnessed today is something that is tangible, is happening now and is also largely self-inflicted. Mrs PBT’s and I did a physical shop today, as opposed to the “click & collect” order I picked up last week. Walking around the aisles of the large Sainsbury’s superstore, just to the north of Sevenoaks, we couldn’t fail to notice the large gaps on many of the shelves. Worse than that, there were some sections where the gaps were far more pronounced, bordering on an almost complete lack of certain commodities.
We’d been noticing shortages on the shelves for some time, but this morning’s shopping trip was a real eye-opener. I took a few photos to illustrate the extent of the missing stock. Particularly badly affected was the cleaning aisle, the tea and coffee section, cereals, the freezer section – where the majority of the cabinets were empty, plus, closer to the heart of this blog, the beer section.
The shortages in this area weren’t just confined to big, multinational lager brands “lout” for want of a better word, but there were substantial gaps in the ale section as well. Staff had used the old storekeeper’s trick of “facing up,” where stock is spread out thinly, in rows that are just one or two items deep.
At first glance, things don’t appear quite so bad, but look behind the façade and the true situation emerges, and that is the nation is facing a food shortage. I would say that the shortages have crept up beyond nuisance level and are currently hovering on irritating. How much longer will it be before they become substantial, severe, or even critical?
The full-scale panic buying which characterised the first national lock-down, was largely centered on a small number of commodities, such as pasta, flour, tin tomatoes and, of course, toilet rolls. The latter is a perennial "panic buy" and is somewhat ironic, given that Covid largely affects the respiratory, rather than the digestive system, but a sudden fall of snow often has the same effect.
This time around the shortages seem far more widespread, affecting a far greater range of commodities. Seeing the shelves in this condition, reminds me of my first visit to Prague, back in 1984. Czechoslovakia, as it then was, was ruled by a hard-line Marxist government whose inefficient, communist, “command economy” clearly wasn’t working.
With supermarket shelves, devoid of even the most basic commodities, it wasn’t delivering either, and the same applied to most of the other Eastern-bloc countries “liberated" by the Soviet Red Army towards the end of WWII, and then saddled, at Moscow’s behest, with communist administrations. The second half of the 1980’s, saw the collapse of the majority of these despotic regimes, their demise driven in part by people who’d had enough of food and commodity shortages and of authoritarian rule, but is there a parallel here with what is happening in Britain today?
According to the government and their supporters in the MSM, the problems affecting the UK’s supply chains, aren’t just confined to the food sector, but are spread across a wide variety of other sectors, including construction and manufacturing, are down to a nationwide shortage of HGV delivery drivers.
Johnson and his media backers are blaming this shortage on the pandemic, and in particular the so-called “pingdemic.” This is where drivers and other “key” workers are being forced to self-isolate after being contacted (pinged), by the NHS Trace & Track App, and whilst this story might have rather more than a grain of truth in it, there is another underlying reason that the government and their friends in the right-wing press would rather not mention.
They think if they don’t say anything about it, the problem will go away, but the folly of their chosen “Hard Brexit” policy, is one of the prime reasons for the shortage of HGV drivers. Last year, that vile little “poison dwarf” who calls herself Home Secretary, bragged about ending “free movement,” and went out of her way to make citizens from other European countries feel unwelcome in the UK, even though they might have lived here for decades.
Net result, an estimated 25,000 EU truckers have returned to their countries of origin, because of the xenophobia and outright hostility created by ministers such as Patel (nothing pretty about her smirking face), and right-wing, Brexit-backing papers, such as the Mail, Telegraph and Express.
The ludicrous decision to leave the Single Market (a British creation, btw) and the Customs Union, is another own-goal, by Johnson and his thuggish “chief negotiator” David Frost – a man my father would have described as “oafish,” and that's being polite! This was never part of the referendum question, and by doing so, the government have subjected the British people, and the businesses that serve and provide for them, to extensive and additional Red Tape. This is rather ironic, given their pre-referendum boast of having a bonfire of “EU Red Tape.”
This brings me back to the shortages on our supermarket shelves, a situation that is unlikely to improve under a regime that is led by warped ideology, rather than plain economic facts. With food shortages a major factor in the collapse of those despotic, former Eastern Bloc regimes, Frost, Johnson, and his cabinet of sycophantic cronies had better watch out. "A city is only three meals away from anarchy, and nine meals away from revolution" – a quote sometimes apportioned to Lenin, although several others have also laid claim to it.
Disruption and civil strife are not situations any of us would wish to experience, or even contemplate but when, for purely ideological reasons, a government tears up trading arrangements that not only worked, but served the country well for decades, it really is asking for trouble.
Personal statement. I make no apologies for veering into politics here, especially as I doubt whether even the most ardent Brexit supporters voted to make themselves, and the rest of us, poorer. The actions of both the May and Johnson administrations, have blown away Britain's reputation for level-headiness and fair play and have made this country one to be laughed at, or even pitied.
The clumsy actions of "Lord" Frost, a man who wants to tear up the agreement he negotiated and signed in good-faith, now threaten to turn the United Kingdom into a "pariah state," willing to break international law, shows how low we have stooped over the past five years.