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Pond life March 2013

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 28 March 2013

The thoughts of my old friend the one and only and truly great Robert Sutherland Smith…

I stand on the jetty gazing onto the cold grey waters of the ponds on Hampstead Heath, a stiff breeze blowing against, around and seemingly through me, directly from somewhere deep in the Russian Arctic region  - surely more than a marketing exercise by Gaszprom  in promotion of the gas they sell us for warmth, at economically indefensible prices? My darting, uncomforted gaze fails to be met by that of any bobbing coot or duck. They have wisely gone elsewhere; or simply not bothered to turn up. 

The place is empty and silent. I stand there a swimming trunk clad standard bearer for the a dead nineteenth century English public school tradition of privation, physical self denial and cold showers - not that I attended any such establishment myself - knowing that the late Dr. Arnold of Rugby School, no doubt now sitting on the right hand of the Creator Himself, would be proud of me! Flashman, I conjecture, now reincarnated as a minister of the Crown, will probably be turning over in a warm bed somewhere, sleeping off too much champagne from the night before and in his case, no doubt, after a sound flogging by some dominatrix in a steel lined corset. 

It is strange what thoughts visit your imagination, when swimming here? March they say, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Not this March I venture! If it makes any concession at all, it will to be to go out as a polar bear. It is April that is described as the cruelest month. But (I hear Dr. Arnold sigh as I wilfully commit the impropriety of starting a written sentence with a co-ordinating conjunction) in 2013 AD April can scarcely prove crueller than this raw and bitter March. 

As I prepare to push off for a rapid dash through fowl abandoned waters, I luridly think that this forlorn scene reminds me of the Chancellor’s March ‘Autumn’ budget. If he wishes to put himself in contention as the worst Chancellor of the Exchequer of the past century, he has made a powerful case for himself. Keeping to his theme, it was about politically inspired politics and a continuing obsession with the national accounts, rather than real, living, breathing economics. His scheme to guarantee mortgages without those mortgages calling forth a supply of newly built houses, is a fine recipe for existing house price inflation and a potential new house price bubble in the making for some point in the future. Not what one could reasonably call ‘supply side’ economics!

Does he not understand that in the real world of government bond traders and IMF economists, there is little difference between a government guarantee of that kind and the public borrowing he has spent years decryings as dangerous?  Moreover, it is done at the expense of cuts in genuine economic demand elsewhere. Economically, he would have done better to have overtly ‘borrowed’ and overtly spent the proceeds on reducing value added tax a bit, for a year or two.

With that thought in mind I push off into the cold waters of the pond, like Archimedes shouting “eureka!!!” A passing elegant Arctic tern, is unmoved by the eccentricities of the human kind. Amongst birds the phrase "human brained" is a well understood term of disdain.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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