So that was the noughties

“Here it is, Christmas Eve and still no offers of Pantomime.” One of my favourite lines from The Goon Show. Ah, memories are made of this. A good New Year’s Resolution for me would be to actually play some of the old radio shows I have squirrelled away in my audio collection, before either they or I moulder into dust.

At this time of year, in search of cheap programming the TV and radio channels turn to roundups of the year. There’s a bonus this time in that we can do the decade as well. So time now for a bit of a rant.


What can I say about the Noughties? They started and ended in recession and stuff happened in between. All sorts of stuff, most of which can be safely forgotten, especially anything involving Simon Cowell. At the start, Clinton was just leaving the White House and at the end Obama had occupied it for a year. In between we had a simian glove puppet controlled by a vicious, cynical and self-serving cabal of oilmen and religious extremists that were most accurately described as the American Taliban. At least Ronald Reagan could read an autocue; Dubya couldn’t even do that convincingly. Yet he managed to get re-elected in 2004, largely because the opposition candidate was even more preposterous, looking and sounding like an extra from The Munsters.

Things weren’t much more promising over in Britain either. They started off well in 1997 but lurched downhill as Mr Tony decided it was more important to grease up to the idiot in the White House and the editor of the Daily Mail than to show any spine of his own. The British population, largely kept ignorant of news from abroad that wan’t about war and in thrall to a relentless celebrity culture, now has about as much interest in and control over its destiny as a Bernard Matthews turkey. The opportunity for Europe to act like a regional power rather than a bunch of squabbling siblings was nearly lost, but fortunately the other countries of the Union eventually realised that Britain could – and should – be ignored until it decides to grow up.

And then the last couple of years of the decade gave a big boost to European self-confidence, as the Anglo-Saxon economic model fell apart under the weight of its own self-contradiction and Britain ceased to have much relevance as a modern trading nation. The idea was that you could support an entire economy simply by moving other people’s money from one place to another while creaming off a thick slice along the way. Yeah, right. Now we all know that the only beneficiaries were the spivs doing the moving. Incredibly, as we enter a new decade these same people are still at it and the British Government in particular is too timid to stop them, largely because the need to cooperate with France and Germany would give the Daily Mail apoplexy. The avaricious twats who were too stupid to see the lethal effects of their own actions and too greedy to care about the harm done to the rest of the economy are now threatening to leave Britain if not paid forty times the national average wage. How exactly would that be a bad thing, other than to anyone foolish enough to take them?

If you’re still with me, thank you for your patience. I feel so much better now.


2009 and all that

2009 itself was quite a year, wasn’t it? Down here on the Riviera we had a superb summer that started in May or so and kept going well into October. Not the “phew, what a scorcher” kind that melts the roads and knocks over old ladies faster than a dose of Swine Flu, just a golden glow every day that made it good to be alive. As for the long-trumpeted epidemic, well it failed to appear, confining itself to countries further north where the sun barely shone at all and the rain hardly ceased.

The world economy is of course on its knees and has been all year. Not even the Riviera escaped; people were making do with only one luxury sports car and – horror of horrors – some superyachts were up for sale with not a buyer to be seen. But life seems to go on. The local forums, instead of the usual tittle-tattle and questions about where to find solid gold toilet-roll holders, are now full of household items for sale and experienced people looking for work. But the shops, though often devoid of customers, are still open, not boarded up. The French and German economies staged a brave recovery that has yet to peter out, leaving good old Blighty as the only place still enjoying a full-on self-flagellatory recession. I choose to leave Italy till last, since here the truth is an elastic commodity and nothing is ever as it seems, but with house prices holding well and the cafés busy all summer it seems to be resilient as ever despite the “official” statistics.

And so we arrive at the end of the year with a spell of quite atrocious weather across the whole of Europe, snow covering everything from the centre of London to the Spanish beaches (though leaving largely untouched that privileged strip of coastline from Nice to Sanremo). It was a stroke of inadvertent bad luck to stage a climate conference in Copenhagen just as the whole continent came to resemble the Arctic, thereby giving plenty of ammunition to those who prefer to deny the effect man’s activities have on the climate. Down here the snow has now given way to rain that is teeming down as I write, but hey, at least there’s no conference currently running on water shortages.

Trash r us

I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times, but here in Italy the retail scene is changing and it’s not always for the better. Over in Camporosso, between Ventimiglia and Bordighera, a lot of new retail outlets have been appearing. I’ve always been a fan of Centro Esse, a hardware store featuring regular brands plus an eclectic mixture of ends-of-range picked up from a variety of mainly Italian manufacturers and frequently offering surprising bargain value. But opposite, on the former site of a nice little garden centre, is a new excrescence called FU-WEN, which as the name suggests ain’t from these parts.


After battling the crowds to enter it rapidly proved to be a complete waste of effort. A more complete range of utter tat would be difficult to imagine; it’s the trashiest of market stalls on a giant scale. It’s not even good value; you can do better at Lidl next door, to take just one example. Who do they appeal to? Have Italians lost their sense of style and loyalty, or – and here I’m at risk of exposing a prejudice or two – is there an underclass that’s been long deprived of this kind of thing and waiting for it to arrive? It can be difficult to tell with Italians, whose dress code isn’t so obviouly class-related as it is in the UK. To my good readers in Monaco and beyond, you can safely ignore this development; there’s nothing here for you. Continue to visit Ventimiglia, where you’ll find quality and value, but give this outpost of Shanghai a miss.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

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