Breaking Eggs.

I've been reading political books over the past couple of weeks, possibly triggered by the fact that for the first time in my voting life, I don't know who to vote for. Hoping for inspiration. Maybe it's my choices:  John Crace, Gavin Esler and now the acidly funny Marina Hyde. But even though they've made me laugh, it's hollow laughter and I still don't know who to vote for. They've just brought back to me the hideousness of the past few years, and the general impression that whoever is in power, it's likely to continue, because we have a broken, undemocratic system, as corrupt and useless as any of those countries we used to mock. 

One quote from Marina Hyde struck me forcefully. It's a quote of a quote of a quote, but it's apt. 'There's something rather Stalinist about Brexit's wreakers of so-called creative destruction. In his Memoirs of a Revolutionary, Victor Serge quotes the Romanian writer Panait Istrati, when the latter visited the 1930s USSR of purges and show trials. "All right, I can see the broken eggs," he said, "Where is this omelette of yours?"' Hyde wrote this piece in 2017. Little did she know what was coming our way. 

No sign of the omelette so far. Lots of destruction, even in small ways. I posted three slim poetry books to Poland yesterday. It took about fifteen minutes, while the patient counter assistant weighed the little parcels, measured them, asked what was in them, looked up the customs number for books, typed in the Polish addresses, typed in my address three times, printed out stamps and bar codes, stuck them on, along with an air mail sticker, and then printed out three customs forms for me to sign. And don't even ask about the cost. As anyone who has tried this knows, it will still be touch and go whether they arrive at all. Don't blame the EU. We did this to ourselves. All this for something that pre-Brexit involved a small and very simple sticker of which I kept a stash at home. God knows what small businesses including small publishers do. Actually - I know what they do. They don't send to Europe. Or import from there. Well done, 'party of business'.  

There's a bit of fairly low key egg breaking going on in my world as well at the moment. Well, it IS  low key in that the vast majority of people won't give a flying you-know-what about it.  'Writers' (I use the word advisedly, because some of them seem to be more celebrities than actual working writers) have demanded that book festivals such as Hay divest themselves of their main sponsor, a company called Baillie Gifford. I should explain that unless you want to charge Taylor Swiftian prices for tickets without the added attraction of Taylor herself, most book festivals need help to stay solvent. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is next on their list. And more, since the company in question does a lot of sponsoring. The egg smashers call themselves Fossil Free Books. BG's investment in fossil fuels is minimal, and it's obvious that the FFB crowd don't understand much if anything about the rules surrounding investments. I'm seldom invited to book festivals, although whenever I have been, I've enjoyed the experience. And sometimes it has been very moving, like my gig last year at the excellent Boswell Book Festival, on the same platform as a traumatised young woman who had escaped from Ukraine, with her equally traumatised little girl. 

Mostly festivals are a significant pleasure for those attending, including middle aged and elderly women. Who buy a lot of books. And the organisers generally do excellent work promoting reading to children as well. But hey, the omelette brigade are gaily smashing eggs and celebrating their success, all while disclaiming any responsibility for finding replacement sponsors. 'Not our job,' they say. 'We've broken it. Now fix it.' It remains to be seen if the omelette ever materialises, or if they're simply left with egg covered faces. 

But here's a thing. The most cursory online search reveals that the UK's biggest book chain is now owned by a US hedge fund with a really significant investment in oil. Are all those writers who signed letters demanding that book festivals find new sponsors now going to approach their publishers demanding that they remove their books from this chain? And if not, why not? There's signalling virtue and then there's shooting yourself in both feet. Perhaps the foot shooting is the preserve only of Brexiters. 

All of which leads me back to my initial problem. I still have no idea who to vote for. Where are Lord Buckethead and Count Binface when you need them? 

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