Tuesday 27 September 2011

Tearing the heart out

I feel like I'm watching the biggest game of skittles.

My favourite guilty pleasure is a carrot cake cupcake from a place called Huntleys which is a local farm shop which also supplies us with potatoes familiar with soil and bread familiar with real hands. Not as rare up here as some people might like to think - you've simply got to be a bit persistent in hunting then down, but anyway, that's not the point.

What is the point, is that one summers day when we had a day off after a Bank Hol, we went during the day to Huntleys. Specifically around lunch time. And the queue at the handmade sandwich counter was epic. A rarity in London, here there are still a large number of businesses fuelled entirely by local hungry tummies.

What was different about this is that Huntleys is a little bit in the middle of nowhere. In fact, strictly speaking it should be dead, because while once upon a time it lay along the main road between Blackburn and Preston, it no longer does with the advent of the M65. It's reputation precedes it and it does a very very nice line in coffee shop fodder but why the long queue around lunch time?


Which is potentially shedding up to a 1/4 of its staff in the near future (potentially including my cousin. Who is a single parent with a young lad to support - I thought it important to say). So what effect, exactly, do we think that's going to have on Huntleys? The retired set will keep on visiting but I give it not very long at all before the two ladies behind the sandwich counter are employed no more, certainly during the week. How many children do they have relying on the money they bring in?

Estimates are currently sitting around 4:1 for the ratio of jobs away from BAE affected by the loss of one job inside BAE's perimeter fence. The company itself is entrenched in the local area, when I first moved here, my boyfriend drove me around the edge of the site to see the planes by the front gates. Yeah he's a plane geek but he's also proud.

Pride is a funny word. These days we use it in limited ways, in terms of being proud of others, more than being proud of where we live, who we are, what we believe in and what we achieve. It's not terribly British to shout about anything, really, in fact it seems to be becoming quite British to instead focus on the negative. But that pride that my boyfriend feels when it comes to BAE is replicated quietly in thousands of peoples minds. And while it's fine for people living in Accrington or Blackburn or Burnley to moan about how crap their town is (at least of those officially being crap featuring as it did in the relevant book), try having a go if you don't live in the town. Short shrift and flea in ear. Same as anywhere really, except you'd need to visit to understand. You'd need to live here, to be here, to work here, to know the disparity between beautiful Victorian parks and run down terraces, between ancient woodland and by-ways and every window smashed closed pubs.

So. Looking back at what has happened in the last year, I wonder, how much more. I look at the proposed demonstrations and marches about public sector pensions and though I wont be walking (another story), I will be watching. I will be expecting. Because I believe there is only so much heart you can get away with tearing out of a proud county full of proud people with gritstone bound hearts of gold. I believe there is only so far you can push decent, down to earth, genuinely caring hard working people. I believe MP's expenses and bankers cock ups and the persistent problems with markets, oil prices and house prices are rolling us towards an edge we will not be able to retreat from.

So answer me this, What false assignation of motivations will we give when it is no longer only the teenagers who have had enough? Is anyone listening? Has anyone taken ownership of the stethoscope which if used could measure and interpret public feeling so very easily?

I'm alright. We're alright. We've lived off pennies from the penny jar anxiously poured into the machine at Asda before now and I am under no illusions that that may indeed happen again. But others do not have the luxury of such philosophy and have smaller mouths to feed. And I am worried. I am very worried.


  1. This sort of cause & effect isn't limited to the out-of-town in-the-middle-of-nowhere places. When I was last a wage-slave, the company I worked for moved about 100 people out of the main office building into another building a few hundred yards away. No jobs lost. However, the knock-on effect of the loss of foot traffic past a nearby sandwich shop nearly put him out of business. And that was on the outskirts of one of the larger cities in the UK - just over five minutes walk from the "real" city centre, and with a college a few doors up the road.

    I'm also sure that this is not an isolated incident.

  2. A story that's mirrored up the road from Hull where BAE's Brough plant is ceasing production with the loss of 899 jobs (out of a total of 1,300).

    Fortunately for the region there is still the prospect of the Humber becoming the centre of manufacturing for off-shore renewable energy. Siemens want to base themselves here which will have positive benefits for ancillary companies. Whilst the skills that will be needed could be quite similar it's going to take time for that entirely new industry to spring up. And with 90 people chasing each job in North Hull time isn't something that's in copious supply.