I have been reading Sam by Jonathan Powell which was filmed for a Granada TV series somewhere around 1973. It’s a powerful story of life in a mining community in the 1930s, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. It portrays a life where unemployment and Means Testing were ever present scourges that sapped the pride and energy out of those who had to endure both. It’s a far cry from all the political correctness of the twenty-first century, and that is just as well given the prospects thrown up by yesterday’s news of the end of shipbuilding at Southampton and the threat of more to come in the remaining shipyards of Scotland being used as a kind of threat to dissuade the Scots from voting for independence in any proposed referendum.
I have no axe to grind one way or another, but I do subscribe to the old adage that, united we stand, divided we fall. One has only to think of the impenetrable turtle presented to the opposing foe by the Roman foot-soldiers and their interlocked shields, or the hail of arrows fired simultaneously by the united archery of the Welsh long-bowmen at Agincourt, to realise the strength and effectiveness of presenting a unified front and purpose. This was also the case for the unions in times past, but their impact is passing into antiquity as their numbers decline and their leaders become engrossed with enjoying their own comfort zones, or overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness as the facts are put before them.
There’s no getting away from the fact that labour is expensive – I was recently quoted £70 to fix my kitchen tap by a representative of British Gas (now owned by Centrica), although I have a HomeSafe contract that is supposed to cover all plumbing, heating and electricity emergencies. This costs £400+ every year. In all fairness, I have to say my contract with BG has been exemplary for many years but I have also noticed the price has increased, while the service is getting pickier as they increase the small print I don’t always read these days. Well, my reply to the engineer who quoted me on the phone was to say that I’d get a local plumber. The same one who charged me £50 for a thirty minute job some months ago when BG informed me they wouldn’t touch the sink-disposal unit I wanted removed.
In fact, I emailed the Austrian manufacturer of my kitchen tap who asked me to send a photograph of the problem. He then emailed me by return with the simple remedy, and even telephoned later to make sure all was well. I was able to tell him I’d succeeded in repairing the tap in about ten minutes while grinning into the phone as I spoke. I might have added that I had also got a great big feeling of elation at saving myself more than a few pennies.