The views expressed are those of the reader. Send yours to email@example.com
RANT OF THE MONTH
Time to face reality of Brexit
I am the owner of a medium-sized restaurant and bar in central London. Prior to Brexit and the pandemic I had a thriving business, with a dynamic team of mostly (but not exclusively) foreign staff, and a bustling clientele of locals. Even before Brexit, my staff began to slip away, more than one telling me that they feared for their future if they remained in Britain. Then the pandemic swept in and shut us down for over a year. I reopened a couple of months ago, and stupidly thought that my problem would be getting my customers back. To my surprise, word quickly spread and once again we’re full. The problem is that I can’t get any staff for the kitchen, and the quality of bar staff available is poor. I’m trained as a chef and am operating a very limited menu myself, but the other post-Brexit reality is that I can’t get any of the food suppliers I once used to supply me. They all say they’re not taking on any “new” clients, because they have supply chain problems themselves. And, on top of all this, prices are rising rapidly; I will be forced to raise mine and drive away my customers.
London was once considered one of Europe’s most dynamic cities – even THE most dynamic – renown for vibrant, modern, cultured establishments like mine. Now we are heading back to what it was like in the 1970s, with little choice or quality in the gastronomy sector, offering poor value and catering only to the few who can afford to go out. We have seen from the fuel crisis (which is part of the same problem) that the government will blame everyone else – consumers, businesses, Europeans – to evade facing up to what they have orchestrated themselves, to feed their own power. Brexit was a disaster for this country, but the government’s lack of preparation before and now, and its lack of real concern for those it governs, are more ruinous still.
Paul, by email
A lack of grace
Children are brought up to eat all the time now, whether walking in the street, on the bus or in front of the TV. There’s no pattern of mealtimes. Arguments in our house are mostly about this, as my granddaughter often isn’t hungry at the same time as the rest of us. As children my sister and I were expected to be out all day and back home at a set time ready to wash our hands and sit down together.
Alright, so I was born just before the War, but at that time all families of all classes sat down around a table together for lunch and supper, often breakfast too. Working classes had tea at six and posh people sat down to supper at eight – that was the big divide in terms of class, what mealtimes were called and what was considered the correct time to eat – but all families sat down together.
No one started eating until Mother had sat down, and you’d said grace. Then you ate together and talked to each other. Nowadays even if you can get a young person to sit at the table, they just want to read a book or tap their phones. It’s almost impossible to get them to talk to you, and more importantly they don’t listen either.
Children used to learn a lot around the table. My father would talk about his work, and we learned about current affairs and family history from stories passed about at table.
Modern toddlers are fed all the time, which is terribly bad for them. I notice mothers in the park with kids in pushchairs, feeding them snacks constantly. There’s no proper break between mealtimes. Before, everyone used to have set mealtimes from birth. Now it’s feed on demand for everyone and no routine.
In the war we didn’t expect to eat all the time, but in about 1949 sweet shops opened up again and there were all these places selling chocolates and ice cream. I think that was when set mealtimes started to disappear.
And what has happened to Sunday lunch? People used to go and see their parents for a slap-up Sunday roast, where the different generations would get together to talk. Young people don’t want to do that anymore. They want pizza, sweets and fizzy drinks, shut up in their rooms. They don’t want to visit the grandparents.
Sadly, when people do sit down nowadays, their eating is undisciplined. It’s unpleasant to watch them chewing with half-open mouths and tomato sauce on their chins.
Most of all, it’s sad we’ve lost that opportunity to pass family stories down the generations. I know a lot about my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ lives but my granddaughter isn’t interested, and I worry she may regret this later. Everything around meals is done for ease these days, but so much is lost.
Rosaleen Loyd, Suffolk
First we’re told the government has absolutely no plans to introduce vaccine passports, then we discover through leaked documents they’re already giving considerable money to consultants to explore their implementation… and then our vaccination status “magically” appears in the NHS app. Given the ponderous nature of NHS IT projects, this must have been in the works for months, and involved consultations with hundreds of “stakeholders”. Quite literally the day after Sajid Javid assured us that plans for passports had been dropped, we discovered the plans hadn’t been dropped at all! They’ll be implemented in the “unlikely” event “Plan B” is needed. Does anyone trust a word they say? Where’s Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition? Such flip-flopping seems an obvious thing to attack; does their silence indicate acceptance? We’re sleepwalking into a “papers, please” society.
David Snow, London
On-time trains and other fairytales
I’ve always loved fairy tales. One I used to believe was that railways in this supposedly first world country would work efficiently over the weekend. Travelling to see my parents over the past few weekends has shattered my belief. Sundays are the worst: journeys can be extended by several hours or cancelled altogether and if you squeeze onto a service, you’ll be lucky to get a seat at any point. You’d think it would be standard practise to have a good train timetable but the services in the UK are abysmal. It’s important that trains run efficiently during the week, but weekends should be just as important! My experience has left me thinking twice about visiting my parents. And as it’s autumn I’ll remind everyone of the upcoming reason for all delays and cancellations: leaves on the track! As if leaves haven’t fallen off trees onto the track every year since before trains were invented. I guess it will make a change from “overhead wires overheating”.
Lily Davidson, by email
We need to fix the NHS
Last week my pregnant wife was suffering from severe fatigue and dizziness. It wasn’t an emergency, so she called 111. They sent her straight to A&E where she waited for two hours on the most uncomfortable chair she’d ever come across. I sat in the car with our baby
daughter, assuming the whole thing would only take a couple of hours. After several hours, at midnight, they finally saw my wife and took some tests. Then she waited again, back on what she called in a text to me outside as her “torture chair”. Four and a half hours more later, we left A&E without getting her test results, exhausted, worried and irritated. No one spoke to her about when she could get the results. The single act of kindness was from an exhausted nurse, who gave her a biscuit, some time around 4 am. I know that NHS workers have been the pandemic’s heroes, but I also know that what my wife experienced was unacceptable. I don’t know all the reasons for the health service’s woes, but clearly they lack the resources, the staffing, and I would guess the management culture, to provide real care to those who come to A&E in need of it.
K Gjoran, High Wycombe
What annoys me most is the number of properties that lie vacant for years. Wealthy people from the UK or abroad buy houses and drive up property value in the area. It’s a kick in the teeth when lower income citizens are struggling to find properties to rent and these empty houses sit there as an investment. Not everyone can or wants to be a council tenant. Homes don’t represent the chance at turning a profit – most people just want somewhere to call home.
Kim Smith, Birmingham