Mariel (Karla Souza) is almost thirty. She’s been a fixture in Mexican diving team since she was fourteen, winning a bronze medal at the Olympics. But she’s never fulfilled her potential, never got that elusive gold. Never come close. She always seems to fuck up. Self-sabotage as her diving guru Brualio (Hernán Mendoza) puts it.
‘He saw me,’ Mariel insists.
But now he saw another fourteen-year-old girl, Nadia (Déja Ebergeny). She’s his new protégé. His new little product. He insists Mariel works with her as they go for gold in the 2004 Summer Olympics. It’s all or nothing for Mariel. But she knows Braulio’s relationship to Nadia is fucked up. Based on a true story. Of course it is. True and wonderfully complex.
Evicted, Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize winning study of the American housing market was personal. He lived the life. A cri de couer. Poverty by America is a step away from that immiserating experience. His gut was telling him it was wrong. He wasn’t a cultural tourist. This is a more cognitive and rational approach to explain why so many people in America are poor and likely to remain so.
His solution seems pretty straightforward. Stop taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Take money from the rich and give it to the poor. His reasoning is not straightforward, but wavy. The working class lost the propaganda war. By health or wealth, we became poorer in every way, and this shows in simple measures like we have less children.
He begins with the obvious. Outlining the scale of the problem.
‘The richest country on earth with more poverty than any other advanced democracy.’
‘Almost one in nine Americans—including one in eight children—lives in poverty. There are more than 38 million people living in the United States who cannot afford basic necessities, and more than 108 million getting by on $55 000 a year or less, many stuck in the gap between poverty and security.
More than a million of our public schoolchildren are homeless, living in motels, cars, shelters and abandoned buildings.’
‘Why Haven’t We Made Progress?’ he asks in the second chapter. I’ll simply this chapter. The war on welfare succeeded. Government money did not reach the poor and those in poverty. It went to the middle-classes and the rich. What worked for the latter group was demonising those they were ostensibly helping. Blame game is as old as ‘The Chinese as a class are detriment and curse to our country.’ A quote from a newspaper column from 1877.
Can we pin it on the family? The broken home argument. You wouldn’t be reading this book if you didn’t know this is hokum.
‘In America, marriage had become something of a luxury good. It comes after a couple believes they have achieved a level of financial stability.’
‘The real question about single-parent families isn’t why so many poor families are single, but why so many of them remain poor.’
How We Undercut Workers (and blame workers for being poor, while not paying them enough). It’s all the fault of deindustrialisation. Factories closed. China became the workshop of the world. Jobs did go abroad. But it didn’t stop the 1% getting richer and richer and richer as these things happened, while the working class become poorer and poorer. Waged labour reached its peak in the 1970s.
He offers the typical case of Julio Peyes, who in 2014, worked two jobs in a 80 hour week.
‘I felt like a zombie,’ Peyes claimed.
‘It wasn’t always this bad. Between the late 1940s and the late 1970s, the American economy expanded and shared its bounty. Honest work delivered a solid paycheck, and a big reason for that was union power’.
I’ll give you a clue what happened here. Thatcher and Reagan the ‘let the poppies grow tall’. Part of the neoliberal deal of letting the filthy rich get even richer was destroying the unions, and, disengaging from government oversight. Thatcher destroyed the coalmining union. Unions of workers in any form were given notice to cease and desist. The party of low or no regulation made union’s action liable to bureaucratic quicksand and all other actions illegal, much like we see with refugees applying for asylum. Reagan took our aircraft controllers. Deregulation meant no regulation for the rich (think of the Big Bang before 2008. Sewerage dumped by privatised water companies into our rivers, and the paltry fines that follow the logic of seemingly doing something), while giving the biggest tax cut in history to the richest. Even the moron’s moron Trump didn’t give the rich more money than Reagan (although he tried).
‘Are poor-paying jobs simple the result of people not getting enough education?’ Desmond is reframing then American Dream argument here and suggesting it’s a meritocracy, while knowing it’s not.
‘But the spread of bad jobs in America is not primarily the results of the so-called skills mismatch involving too many people lacking the right credentials or training for good jobs.’
Other rich economies such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and France, he suggests, have far less poverty. Germany, for example, has only 35% of its citizen educated to Bachelor degree level, while America’s cohort is around 50%. Yet child poverty is around half what it is in the United States. He doesn’t include Britain, of course, because we follow the American model, and have swallowed down their neoliberal bullshit ideology. We’re moving in the wrong direction and have been since Thatcherism. We all work in the gig economy now. The irony is that government subsidises wages by, for example, paying part or whole rents for workers to an increasing rentier class that demands more and more, whilst also claiming to want to shrink their general paymaster—the government. While labour costs fall, the ability of the corporate bosses to spy on labour and penalise so-called infringements, has never been greater. Shareholders (rich people) benefit from the poor having little or no power, while keeping them anonymous and replacement parts for greater profits (dividends). This is true for books, groceries or care homes.
Amazon, for example, is regarded as one of the most trustworthy institutions, but also the most exploitative and most intrusive in measuring and metering each labour task. Jeff Bezos is one of the richest men in the world, because everyone that works for him works in the gig economy (especially me and other writers). Keeping down costs is pretty easy, just atomise workers, exploit them and pay the legal minimum. They don’t know better. They can’t expect better. Where have we heard that before? They don’t deserve more.
Break things and move, Royal Mail used to pay a decent wage and provide its workers with pensions, it did all of the things Amazon does or did. It still does, but we’d much rather go cheaper and enrich Jeff Bezos.
‘How We Force The Poor to Pay More,’ is obvious. When you have nothing, you expect nothing but blows. Desmond returns to familiar territory here, the rental house market. We need more housing. That’s true in Britain as America. Simple economics dictates that many people chasing few houses pushes the price up. One way of dealing with that is to make houses smaller. Britain, for example, has the smallest and most expensive houses in Europe. Another trick is to subdivide what we already have. Rackman, for example, evicted existing tenants, further subdivided his properties and rented to the Windrush generation. Racism and exploitation in a vicious circle, which is mirrored in different ways in different parts of the world. Seven in ten black men in the US, who do not finish ‘school’ end up in prison. Education doesn’t buy freedom, but it gets you a prison cell, run by corporations—for profit . What we are increasingly finding is poor people don’t have a choice.
Desmond notes a small number of predatory—and very rich— landlords (I’m not including King Charles III here or his relatives, such as the Duke of Westminster, the biggest landlords in Britain) are responsible for a large proportion of houses that make their tenants ill and take years off their lives. But even the better class of landlords are still making a killing. The housing game is rigged against the poor to keep them poor and indebted. For every sucker, there’s another sucker. That’s the way the banks and markets work.
‘Every year: over $11 billion in overdraft fees, $1.6 billion in check cashing fees, and up to $9.8 billion in payday loan fees. That’s over $61 million in fees collected predominantly from low-income Americans each day—not even counting the annual revenues collected by pawnshops and title loan services and rent-to-own schemes.’
Different worlds and different banking sectors for the rich and poor. ‘How We Rely on Welfare,’ is a lie the rich love to keep recycling. During COVID-19 stimulus checks (welfare payments) that went directly to the poor meant that roughly ’16 million American fewer Americans in poverty in 2018 than in 2021’. Child poverty was halved. The business as usual model meant these numbers began to climb. The short sharp shock of taking away the stimulus would encourage those lazy people that relied on government help back into work. That’s the argument our government used when taking away the £20 extra a fortnight given to those on benefits was made by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to make him look tougher. We already use a punitive approach. Tory Party Conference loves nothing more than hearing of using the state’s bureaucracy to beat the poor, with ever-increasing sanctions for all. The language is prettified, of course, to sound like helping rather than a hindrance. A refusal to publish an independent report of whether sanctions worked was par for the course. We expected nothing more.
Desmond found in his snapshot that the five states with the lowest unemployment weren’t those that stopped giving government money to the poorest (use of the stick) but those continuing with existing payments.
‘Perhaps it’s because we’ve been trained since the earliest day of capitalism to see the poor as idle and unmotivated. The world’s first capitalists faced a problem that the titans of industry still face today: how to get the titans of industry to file into their mills and slaughterhouses to work for as little pay as the law and market allow. Hunger was the capitalist’s solution to the labor question.’
Desmond found the idea of welfare dependency that dominated public debate, especially in the 1980s and 90s was ideological posturing. Most young mothers on welfare, even at its peak, leaned on it after a divorce, for example, or losing a job.
Digging into the data, Desmond reaches a surprising conclusion for the neoliberal elite. The problem wasn’t dependency, but welfare avoidance. Poor people didn’t claim what they were entitled to. Only a quarter of people who qualified for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, for example, applied for it. Less than half of elderly citizens who qualify for food stamps get them. He tells us there is no official data of how much government aid goes unclaimed by low-income Americans. But he uses a rough rule of thumb to suggest 7 million collectively pass up the opportunity to claim $17.3 billion. Food stamps unclaimed, around $13.4 billion. Government health insurance unclaimed, $62.2 billion. Unemployment insurance, $9.9 billion. Supplementary Security Income $38.9 billion. Roughly around $142 billion in unclaimed benefits.
Desmond contrasts this with the lie we always hear about not being able to afford to feed the poor, to build proper homes, to create a fairer society. He contrasts the Gilded Age lampooned by, among others, Mark Twain, with the pre-banking era of America before the cataclysmic banking crisis of 2008.
Shitting money, gold-plated manhole covers featured in The New York Times Magazine. In 2020, Americans bought more than 310 000 powerboats. Spent over $100 billion on our pets. Over $550 billion on leisure and travel. Down from $723 billion the previous year due to Covid 19. Our cars are bigger than everyone else’s… Our homes are too. You could fit three newly built English homes into the average new American home. [More I’d guess as our housing became more expensive and hence smaller]. More than one in eight American families own properties beside their primary residence.
Desmond noted that during the Gilded Age those with riches flaunted both their wealth and their indifference to work. Why work when your money works for you? But the new American aristocracy claims being overworked is a mark of class. Here we get to the nub of it. Fast and cheap, rag-and-bone Americans don’t do real work. They’re just another resource to be exploited. Here the Gilded Age and the modern age meet with the notion of a different type of animal. The welfare queen. The drug addicts. Those with their hands out for welfare. Those that are rotten to the core and depended on public services and public goods, such as schools or hospitals. As Margaret Thatcher said, ‘there’s no such thing as society’.
Private opulence lives on top of public squalor and feeds on it.
Over the past 50 years, personal income in the United States has increased by 317 %.
Federal Revenue has increased by 252%.
In 1955, government spending accounted for roughly 22% of GDP.
In the twentieth century government spending declined to 17.6% of GDP. That included the biggest defence budget in the world, transport, health and welfare.
Personal consumption (motorboats et al are us,) grew from about 60% of GDP to 69% over the same period. Each percentage point decline is worth around $1trillon. A major driver of the trend was tax cuts for the rich. Everyone loves Trumpian tax cuts but the poor. And we’re made not to count. Public squalor is uneven. Private opulence hidden away in offshore tax havens.
Desmond makes the reasonable assumption that we need to invest in ending poverty. He reiterates what we already know. Even Tony Blair’s Labour government of 1997 started with that premise. They invested in childcare (Sure Start), schools and hospitals. They re-invented the idea of tax credits. We know what happened next. The Laurel and Hardy of British politics, David Cameron and George Osborne, shredded the social contract. They invested in the rich, while shrinking the state for the poor. The evidence is in. Brexit has proven to be economic disaster. Yet one of the chief liars, Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister. We lost the propaganda war. I’m not sure Mathew Desmond solutions are really solution, more like great ideas. Without power, we’re powerless. I can’t see that changing. What is to be done in a world that burns?
I was looking for a book called Save the Cat. I don’t really need to find it, because anybody that has ever read any of my stories knows plot isn’t my strong point. Spoiler, when I’m writing The Cat Dies, but it’s unintentional. I’ve no idea what I’m doing, and neither has has my loyal band of fellow writers. And I blame the devil. Amazon are pushing Mindcage, which is why algorithms rule the world.
It has a zillion great reviews and yet it’s straight to streamline. Maybe it’s not. I don’t really care. Let’s imagine instead Mauro Borrelli having a meeting with a guy called Reggie Keyohara III. There’s a great story just in their names. So Reggie is taking notes, because Mauro is the one with the cash (please note this didn’t happen, although I do sometime take notes, but for Mindcage it was just necessary to keep my eyes open).
So Mauro says, ‘I’ve got this idea, Remember Silence of the Lambs, that was so good it was made twice. Anthony Hopkins as the demented killer, and that other Scottish actor, whose name I can’t remember? Anyway, Hannibal Lecter. Let’s put a guy in a cage and have a copycat killer. Get someone with some heft, someone with some Oscars. We’ll not give him a name, but stupid hair. We’ll call him The Artist. We’ll call him John Malkovich.’
‘That’s great.’ Reggie makes some notes, which read this guy isn’t really plagiarising. I do hope he doesn’t have a female cop called Mary Kelly, (Melissa Roxburgh) who’s kinda naïve, but gutsy when she needs to be, but not like her in Silence of the Lambs that won an Oscar (shhhhh).
‘Let’s get a cop with the kind of name you can shake hands with, Jake Doyle, (Martin Lawrence) from a successful franchise, and give him a troubled past, and lines so wooden he can’t even point a gun at himself without shooting his dick off.’
Cut to the movie. Mary asks (Robert Knepper) Sheriff Owings (while being tough, yet vulnerable) how did Mr Wooden catch the Artist?’
Drawl: ‘Damn fine detective work’.
Anyone that has seen Mindcage (and left a review) knows the murder victims are left rather beautiful. Statues with elaborate feather wings. Hmmm. Even with the help of the devil, or the angel Samuel, they’d weight a ton. To leave on the altar of the church, at such a high vantage point, the devil would need to have driven a forklift truck down the nave, lifted the victim up and reversed backwards, leaving no rubber tyre marks in the pattern of 666.
Mauro tells him, ‘Fling in a bit of voodoo as in Angel Heart. What’s good for De Niro is good for any 71-year-old father. Phew, that sizzling Lisa Bonet was hot.’
‘What about a bit of Fallen? Denzel Washington plays a hard-bitten detective who witnesses the execution of a serial killer. But by god or the devil, the serial killers start again without him. What’s happening? Is it cross-contamination like Covid-19? Or have I lost the plot?’
Save the Cat? Fuck the cat. Let it die with the turkey.
I didn’t know who Rebecca Humphries was. Look at the title. What does it mean to you? Listen for the semi-ironic tone. The cover is a portrait of an upper-crust lady in a peacock coloured dress on a chaise lounge, pondering. In the background, a dour-faced gentleman in black, barely visible. A chapter titled ‘Brave’.
Blurbs from Emma Thompson. ‘Fierce. Game-changing. Urgently necessary. Brilliant, brilliant and did I say brilliant?
Marian Keyes: ‘Dazzling, absolutely sparkling.
Glamour: ‘A magical, magical book.’
Rebecca Humphries sounds like Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize twice. I wondered what she’d done. Well, it’s a long story (404 pages) and mildly entertaining. It begins with Author’s Note:
‘I never wanted to write a book.’
Millions of people on Amazon never wanted to write a book, but somehow it pops up on their feeds. They’re authors by default, but not their fault. Every celebrity that’s eaten a Curlywurly tells you how difficult it all is. 177 000 people post on my blog site every year. We somehow never intended to. This post is a mental tic, nobody can read into it. And few than a handful bother, which I’m grateful for, because without at least one reader, writing has no end product. No purpose.
Rebecca Humphries great unsecret is her boyfriend was cheating on her—and he got caught out. She doesn’t name him. Or she does. He’s named in uppercase like God. Him. Or should it be hmmmmm? Chapters alternate between: I stayed—why I did and—I left.
Rebecca Humphries is an actress (actor). Her boyfriend (Him) is a well-known comedian. I looked for a picture of her in the back of the book. None. I don’t know her name. Actors are like writers less than a handful makes a living from acting. I Googled her. I didn’t know the well-known comedian, a Londoner with a funny spelling name, Seann Walsh either. I don’t watch Strictly Come Dancing. But the Strictly curse of two fit youngish people shagging doesn’t surprise me. Anybody that has watched old movies, or read biographies, knows that the stars weren’t in the sky but in each other’s rooms at night.
Cut to Seann Walsh, a bit like Rod Stewart singing ‘Baby Jane, I can’t even remember your name,’ and moving on from blonde to blonde, until age caught up with him. Rebecca Humphries didn’t have an identity. She was the other woman. Framed by his shame.
My agent calls to let me know he has been contacted by more or less every interviewing body on television and radio from Woman’s Hour, to This Morning. ITV news want to do an interview special. I am asked if I want to have a meeting with a documentary crew who are interested in presenting a programme about gaslighting. We agree to say no to everything.
My name is the top trend on Twitter…
I have been emailed by all the same tabloid papers again. All of them would like to discuss a higher fee than yesterday’s should I be interested. A right-wing Sunday magazine has offered five figures (mid-range) to do an exclusive feature. I politely decline.
Fuck. I’d have taken the money. I like Rebecca Humphries. I like her style and self-modesty. Recounting her childhood as an outspoken little girl in Norwich, when she was a bit too loud. But she’s not a game changer. Her boyfriend? Who cares? Not me. We all know that Piers Morgan defends him as having the right to be an arsehole in public and private. We all know what we think of Piers Morgan. Whatever he says, I think the opposite. She’s cute enough to know ‘Brave’ doesn’t cut it. But I wish her well. Read on.
I might have read Margaret Elphinstone’s book, The Sea Road before. Everybody loves Vikings, especially President Putin. The Rus people, he claims, are directly descended from The Sea Road and not from the Asiatic hordes in the East. Another way of saying, white is right. White is might. Pass the longboat and invade Ukraine where it all began.
I know what you’re thinking, Alzheimer’s. That’s what really scares me. Memory loss. Not being Valhalla less. Being exiled as a ghost that can’t scare up a broth to the place beyond the sea. When I nail down a book review, it no long rises like Dracula from the grave to suck out my brain.
Every book is a dream, in which the writer is a Viking that sets sail. Grit doesn’t work. 10 000 books published annually by HarperCollins and 11 000 and more published by Amazon every week. True grit works even less. Luck now there’s something to be in thrall to. Thrall is a slave. Like the gods of Fate, but only smaller. No writer I know would say they were fated, but some might claim to be lucky. Being a Viking means you’ve got to consider the Fates, or else—
The Viking renegade Erik Raudi (Eric the Red) from Norway, who became an unsettler in Iceland, then a lawmaker in his settlement in Brattahild, Greenland was not thralled with the new religion of Christianity. He thought it made them soft.
Gudrid’s story is told on 5th July 1051 from the centre of the world an English Convent in St Peter Rome. She tells it to the Agnar, son of Aslief, a monk from Iceland. She’s an old woman, and he’s a young monk. He transcribes a rough copy of their conversation onto vellum. Please don’t make the mistake of meaning I mean Vellum software.
Agnar, in making his mark, notes like all Vikings,: ‘When you write down a person’s story…it becomes yours.’
Character building. Gudrid knew hunger as a child. Her father was a chieftain and her mother dead. He was a follower of Erik the Red. Everyone had Irish slaves. Her father claimed like every Irishman I’ve met to be descended from the kings of Ireland. We all are. It’s not a matter of genetics, but simple mathematics. Just as we are all from out of Africa. No one needed to tell him his daughter, Gudrid, was beautiful. That was a matter of record in which she had two husbands and two sons.
World building. Seasons are short and winters are long. The boundaries of the world become very large and very cold. The sea gives life and takes it. Ghosts haunt the living. Gudrid is a childish witch, but her powers untested. Everything in their season. Nothing wasted. Bird and their eggs are taken for food. Sheep and cattle, the mainstay. Crops are sown. But it’s never enough for life. A ship is needed to hunt enough sea meat for the winter months.
But there are few trees that can withstand the gale-force winds. Wood needed for the keel and stern. The keelson trunk of the mast. Thick oak for planking. And little bog iron for the smithy to make nails. Ropes made from sea hide. Loose wool and thread for caulking. For people not only to survive but to thrive, they must trade. Trade is a form of plunder. Winner and losers.
Winds must be favourable and Fates dictate heaven or hell.
‘I’m old and I’m tired,’ says Gudrid. ‘Sometimes I think the more we see, the less we know.’ Read on.
The formless nought. That was my thinking when I heard Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng mentioning ‘the people,’ ‘the people’ he talked to, ‘the people’ he listened to, ‘the people’—
Not my people. Not me.
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, friend of Queen Victoria, leader of the Conservative Party and twice Prime Minister but also a writer. Sybil (1845), for example, brought the two nations argument into dining rooms. The working class, of course, did not need to read about it in novels they couldn’t afford to buy, we lived it.
‘Two nations: between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by different breeding, are fed by different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws.
You speak of… the rich and the poor.’
PM Liz Truss and her chancellor no longer are going to implement a 45p tax rate for top earners, equivalent to Thatcher’s hated poll tax, but worse, because that possibility remains.
Liz Truss puts her faith in trickle-down economics. Also called supply-side economics, or monetarism as opposed to Keynesism. Thatcherism. Reaganomics. Trumpism. Lowering taxes and cutting regulation will promote economic growth. A coded form of letting the rich grow rich.
Margaret Thatcher, Conservative Party leader but not yet Prime Minister in a speech given in early1975, to The Institute of Socioeconomic studies in New York, outlined her philosophy in her ‘Let the Poppies Grow Tall speech’. ‘I would say, let our children grow tall and some taller than others if they have the ability in them to do so’.
Greed is good. Money trickles down the economy and everyone wins. But some more than others. There’s not much trickle down from King Charles III’s conservatively valued £10 billion of art work. But he gets to put his mugshot on our notes and coins. Its value goes on rising as the economy goes into triple-dip recession. He’s looking down on us. Sterling tanks, allied to the economic folly of Brexit which knocks around five-percent off Gross Domestic Product. The price of money goes up. Mortgages go up, the value of our homes fall, for the first time since the financial crisis, but not too far. There’s a safety net for investment. Demand for housing outstrips supply. The oldest, most costly and least energy-efficient housing in Europe (50% built before 1965, most of it council stock, 20% built before the end of the first world war, housing for heroes). Price, in theory, will find a new equilibrium under Alfred Marshall’s original supply and demand diagram. The free market will have done its job of allocating scarce resources.
The Tory government refused to let the Office for Budget Responsibility audit these tax cuts. But According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, only taxpayers whose earnings are £155 000 or more would have paid less tax in the government’s mini-budget. Millionaires would, nominally, become £40 000 per annum better off. Spending and welfare payments to be cut, and not to rise with inflation, which is another way of penalising the poor. Austerity the answer for one of the two nations. Withdrawing free child care for three-to-four-year-olds marked down as a saving. According to the Child Poverty Action Group, 800 000 children living in England are missing out on free-school meals and going hungry. Ten-to-fifteen percent, the amount house prices are likely to fall next year according to analysts. Eight million households struggling to pay telecom bills, according to Offcom, a record.
Fredrich Heyek (1944) The Road to Serfdom argument that a central bureaucracy will lead to militarism and fascism. Council houses equals fascism. British Rail equals fascism. Public control of water companies equals fascism. Health Care and the NHS equals fascism.
Arthur Scargill, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, the class enemy of Thatcher’s government. 85 000 coal miners and then there were none. His mantra that not a seam of coal would be left in the ground has much the same ring as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Right Honourable Jacob Rees-Moggs’s claim that no untapped gas should be left in the North Sea. No great surprise that deniers of manmade climate change and deregulation have the same office and same ideology.
BP, which used to be owned by the taxpayer, who like other energy companies have had a good war in Ukraine, and enjoyed massive windfall profits with sky-high oil prices, chief executive, Bernard Looney was paid £4.46 million in 2021. Like his colleagues in Shell and British Centrica, top ups range from around £75 000 to just over £550 000. More is on the way for less.
The Rand Corporation in the United States shows decades of tax cut and deregulation of labour markets have taken around $50 trillion in wage growth from the bottom 90% of earners and given it to the top 1%.
We talk about subsidising Putin’s war by buying Russia’s oil and gas. We are familiar with sanctions against Russian oligarchs who have supported the Conservative Party. But we remain wilfully blind to who helped the moron’s moron get Trump elected in the United States in 2016, supported Nigel Farage and engineered Brexit. We’re talking Moscow.
But as James Meek argues in Private Island, the free marketeers in selling off public assets at knockdown prices effectively subsidised other nation’s public sector, privatised and taken back into state control. The French state energy company EDF is a good example. The company we hoped would build new reactors for us with Chinese partners. Our government ditched the Chinese for political reasons. EDF ditched our government for financial reasons. There wasn’t enough cash in it for their private monopoly. Win-win for them.
Meek tells the reader what we already know about privatisation.
‘The Spanish economist Germa Bel traces the origins of the word to the German Reprivatiserung, first used in English in 1936 by the Berlin correspondent of The Economist, writing about the Nazi economic policy in 1943.
‘The Nazi Party facilitates the accumulation of private fortunes and industrial empires through “privatisation” and other measures thereby intensifying centralisation of economic affairs in an increasingly narrow group.’
Ironically, Karl Marx’s dictum that all value comes from the surplus value of labour shows best how deregulation worked in concentration camps that benefited the national socialist elite and their eugenic philosophy. Heinrich Himmler, a leading architect of the holocaust, had a sign over the entry to Auschwitz: ‘Work makes you free’. He benefited from the unit cost of labour. Worker’s wages were driven down. Uniforms, housing, and food were provided by the SS. They acted as a modern employment agency where workers were replaceable parts. The commodity price of labour fell to the bare bones with sick days limited and near to zero. A right-wing paradise and the trains ran on time. Even Amazon or Uber would find it difficult to beat such benefits.
Surplus value. The gap between the price the worker can sell his or her labour for and the price of the commodity on the free market widens. Win-win for efficiency and the capitalist mode of production. The hidden cost of labour is taken out of the equation. Low cost labour labelled workshy or lazy by the right-wing media or lacking the prerequisite skills, until we’re told to clap them as they worked throughout the pandemic. Now those same workers are labelled greedy and unreasonable for not agreeing to inflationary pay cuts.
Thatcher did not have a patent on privatisation. The Common Lands used for the good of communities was made uncommon. Those that owned the land owned the people on the land.
Unchained Britannica, the cabal of free marketeers who seized power committed themselves to the same path as Cameron and Osborne’s austerity budgets or Johnson’s levelling-up agenda. Taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich (the reverse-Robin Hood, I’ve been saying that for ten years or more). But they talked about it in the wrong language. They scared Tory voters. And they scared the markets they claimed to understand better than anyone else. George Soros bought sterling and sold sterling. Black Wednesday, 16th September 1992, wasn’t black for him. He made billions of dollars. Sterling’s weakness was regarded as a snapshot of the economy by trading markets. Hedge funds are similarly piling into the pound, borrowing to bet it will fall to parity with the dollar. Money for nothing. Who works for it?
Chrystia Freeland (2013) in the introduction to Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich noted the super-rich, or the one-percent, didn’t like being called rich. They prefer the term affluent. Winners and losers. We’re all in it together rhetoric of David Cameron. Bumps in the economy ahead. A 2011 experiment conducted by Michael Norton of Harvard Business School with behavioural economist Dan Early, Duke University showed people the wealth distribution of the United States (top 20% own 84% of wealth) and compared it to Sweden’s (top 20% own 36% of wealth), and asked them where they would like to live.
The predictable answer is Sweden wins, even as it is becoming more right-wing, insular and moving towards the American model. Ironically, the Swedish model of wealth distribution was similar to the American model and indeed the British model of the 1950s.
‘The skew towards the very top (accelerated after the moron’s moron, Trump took office in 2016) is so pronounced that you cannot understand economic growth figures without taking it into account.’
Trussonomics and the Tory Party, and the magic money tree, follow this model of deception based on nominal economic growth. After the 2008, $700 billion banking bailout in which unregulated (which they termed self-regulation) money men were given public money, which was mirrored in Britain and around the world at no cost to the rich. Boom and bust for some. Greed is indeed good. All the gains, none of the losses. America’s economic recovery in 2009-10 of 2.3% of GDP could be considered impressive out with China and Asian economies.
Economist Emmanuel Saez had a closer look at these growth figures. ‘99% of American’s incomes increased by 0.2%. Incomes for the top 1% rose by 11.6%.’
Tweets, President Joe Biden: ‘I am sick and tired of trickle-down economics. It has never worked. We’re building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.’
Thomas Piketty (2014) The New York Times Bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century was based on fifteen years of research. He acknowledges the empirical data provided by Simon Kutznet and compared him to Karl Marx. Kutznet’s theory could be summarised in a single sentence spouted by President Reagan, ad-libbed by numerous politicians, the latest being Prime Minister Liz Truss.
‘Growth is a rising tide that lifts all ships.’
Kutznev, like Piketty, was measuring income distribution. Who gets what, without providing the why as Marx did.
‘He (Kutznev) noted a sharp reduction in income inequality in the United States between 1913 and 1948.’
America was becoming a more equal society. Income equality would follow the path of the Kutznet Bell Curve. Inequality was shrinking as Americans and the world became more middle-class.
Freeland compares Alexis de Tocqueville’s prediction to Kutznet’s, which sounds very like a justification for the modernity of colonialism and the white man’s burden. He was writing in the early years of the industrial revolution, when the wealth and status of landowners was being undermined by industrialists who poured labour into the coal mines, shipyards and sugar plantations (that’s not to claim that many industrialists weren’t also aristocratic, the two aren’t mutually exclusive) and took out vast sums of money or capital.
‘If one looks closely at the world since the beginning of society, it is easy to see that equality is only prevalent in the historical poles of civilisation. Savages are equal because they are equally weak and ignorant. Very civilised men can all become equal because they all have at their disposal similar mean of attaining comfort and happiness. Between these two extremes is found inequality of condition, wealth, knowledge—the power of the few, the poverty, ignorance and weakness of the rest.’
Piketty worked with other economists to analyse, like Kutznet, wealth distribution and inequality in around twenty nations using historical and contemporary data such as income tax returns. His findings are clear. Hayek believed we were on the The Road to Serfdom. Much the same road as Marx envisaged in his theory of infinite accumulation. Wealth increasingly flows from the poor the rich, who use their resources to deregulate and create an environment in which inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient, like global warming, reaches increasingly new highs, which become the new norms to further pauperise society and call for more tax cuts for ‘the people’. We lost the propaganda war. Fox News is no news. Plutocrats might not like to be called rich or super-rich. No bell-shaped Kutznet curve, but the hockey stick of man-made global warming shooting up year on year, running in tandem with the wealth of the super-rich and growing inequality. In our new gilded age, the must have is a bolt-hole away from common humanity and the coming apocalypse. Liz Truss could play her part as being the useful idiot that builds a fence to keep out the poor. Inside the gilded escape pod, the problem of labour returns in a familiar form. How do we keep the servants servile? How do we keep labour labouring? Discuss, Liz Truss.
Conspiracy beliefs eat you from the inside. I know this having been brought up a Roman Catholic. Guardian journalist Van Badham tells the reader her book is about two things, i) the internet, ii) belief. It was personal for her.
‘My interest in the internet’s extremist underworld resulted from my experience of its attacks…I found myself on the very public online radar of misogynists, racists, homophobes and outright fascists. I was the subject of attack videos and hateful memes and subject to constant trolling. In the wake of online attacks came offline too. Parcels of anonymous materials began to appear on my doorstep; my Twitter account was hacked; I was stalked, harassed and attacked in the street. International Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer published a hit piece with my photograph and a written incitement to run me over in a car.’
I naively believed that at the soon to be President Trump’s rallies the cries of ‘Lock her up! Lock her up!’ was regarding the Democratic Party’s servers being tapped by the Russian state (FSB) and information about her email accounts being passed to followers of the moron’s moron. She’d acted illegally in not securing them, which was a potentially criminal act (but we all know rich people don’t get prosecuted). Hillary Clinton publicly apologised. But Trump’s followers wanted her locked up for what I thought was a minor misdemeanour. What I didn’t realise was when she ordered pizza, it was a code word for children to be delivered to her and her paedophilic followers, who would rape and eat them. They would also milk them for a substance, a by-product of fear that would give them eternal life. #PizzaGate wasn’t about pizzas. Badham shows that any relationship with badly scripted B-movies and The Matrix is intentional and unintentional.
The $4 million damages awarded against Alex Jones— his defence costs running at $49 million— were the standout tag for public and political theatre. The right-wing profiteer who said the Sandy Hook school shootings were a hoax, and helped propagate the lie using his site InfoWars as an internet megaphone amplifying lie after lie for personal gain was forced to recant.
Jones’s highly priced attorneys made school-boy errors. They released two years’ worth of text messages from his phone to his legal adversaries and then failed to claim client privilege. A counterpoint to Stop the Steal.
Infowars website was making $800 000 a day from merchandising was one of the facts revealed. His net worth $279 million revealed to the parents of a family of a six-year old boy shot and killed and targeted as liars by Jones’s trolling followers.
Alex Jones, like Trump with ‘Stop the Steal’, ran on paranoia and promoted self-serving lies, all the way to the bank, and beyond the Presidency. The show is still running.
Alex Jones was quick to apologise to the bereaved parents of Sandyhook children. He was willing to admit ‘the attack was ‘one hundred percent real’.
Jones also admitted #PizzaGate was a lie. The Ping Pong restaurant run by James Alefantis in Washington, DC, did not have dungeons and basements which ran underground and fed the voracious appetites of Hillary Clinton and her cabal for very young children, who they liked to torture before eating. #PizzaGate: The Bigger Picture on YouTube.
His YouTube messages to his tens of thousands of followers that he was going down there to investigate was also a lie. He’d no intention of visiting. Online activists, digital soldiers, kept the churn going, until Edgar Madison Welch from Salisbury, North Carolina did visit with rifle in hand. He sent a text message to his girlfriend and children. He was ‘Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many. Standing up against a corrupt regime that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard.’ In other words, Madison Welch was being heroic.
Jones was also forced to apologise for perpetuating lies that a yogurt factory was also a centre for supporting child rapists and the spread of tuberculosis.
19th August 2020, Joe Biden was announced as the Democratic candidate that would run against Donald J. Trump in the forthcoming election—which he, of course, stole, if you believe the 45th President of the United States and his dim-witted followers.
In the White House, the moron’s moron was asked at a press conference what he thought about QAnon and its followers on social media (and indeed in the White House itself when they invaded it in an attempt to shut down Congress and lynch the Vice President of the disUnited States, Mike Pence).
‘They are people who love their country,’ was the moron’s moron’s reply. Meme speech follows familiar patterns.
When the call came Ashli Babbet and Rosanne Boyland came to Washington, DC, like Maddison Walsh because they saw themselves as heroic. They were willing to die. And they did. Yet they were disowned by QAnon as false-flags. Later to be lionised.
Who or what is QAnon? Van Badham suggests it may have been Steve Bannon. The government insider who played Deepthroat in the deep web of 4chan and 8chan. Or it might have been someone from Breitbart or Cambridge Analytica. Certainly, they had help from Russian FSB. Lieutenant General Flynn is put in the frame. Both received pardons from the then President Trump. Or it may have been lawyers such as Rudy Giuliani. Or it might have been all of them. It didn’t really matter. QAnon went silent after Trump. It helped create a meme as President.
Silicon Valley pioneered computer software to get you clicking on cute cats doing silly things. You became the product. You are part of Big Data sets and A/B testing on server farms.
Amazon, for example, identified me as part of the tens of millions who bought and read Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch. Ninety percent of us finished it.
Amazon knows I’m a sucker for books. I’m also part of the millions of buyers who bought Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty shot down the idea of a trickle-down economics being a shell game using offshore companies to hide profits and help create an ideology that was based on lies. But we lost the propaganda war, by us I mean the poor people that are reliant on wages as their sole source of income and who get to retire when they reach between sixty and sixty-eight (if we’re not dead first). The French economist urged governments to tax the rich. The two leading candidates of the Tory Party vie with each other to go in the other direction. Taxing the poor has always been popular in certain elite groups that don’t eat children.
But Amazon also knows I’m the exception to the rule. Only three percent of those who started Piketty’s book, finished it. I’m glossing over that I forget more than I remember and in an examination I’d fail, but Amazon doesn’t know this. It just quantifies pages turned. And I’m a page turner.
But I’m also part of the growing minority that believes we are living in the end of times. Unchecked global warming will end civilisation in the next fifty years. A YouGov pole at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic found that almost a third of those questioned anticipated a life-changing disaster in their lifetime.
A 2019 survey found that almost half of those polled in US, UK, France and Italy belief that civilisation will collapse in the years to come.
Conspiracy theories thrive in such an environment of fear. It’s not what you think, but what you feel. Van Badham’s prescient book came out before Alex Jones’s trial. In a way it vindicates her work, but nobody is listening to things they don’t want to hear is the real message of this book. QAnon metamorphoses into something more right-wing and hateful and will go on and on destroying lives. Jones shows were the money and political influence lies. It’s not surprising his phone records have been subpoenaed by Congress investigating the role the 45th President had in insurrection and civil disobedience in Washington, DC.
A lot of big hitters in this movie. I wasn’t sure about it, but I gave it five minutes and watched to the end. It jumps between 1973 and 1986. Daniel Raneri (with very long eyelashes) plays J.R. Maguire, a kid returning to his grandad’s house in Long Island. Tye Sheridan plays an older J.R.
His mum, Dorothy Maguire (Lily Rabe) has a mattress attached to the roof of their car and all her worldly belongings. She’s going home, but carries with her a sense of failure. Her marriage to ‘The Voice’ (Max Martini) has broken down and he refuses to pay child support. Grandad (Christopher Lloyd) is grumpy and put out, his house is already filled to overflowing with his children and grandchildren. J.R’s mum is upset, but the young J.R. admits to love living in grandad’s house. It’s full of fun, mostly, in the figure of his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck).
Uncle Charlie Maguire gives him the sit-down talk most fathers baulk at. He tells him he should always have a car and a job and a girlfriend—and you never hit a woman—and a stash in your wallet where you put a little something away in case of emergencies. Uncle Charlie knows about these things, he runs a bar, The Dickens. Anyone that has watched Cheers will know that kind of bar, filled with interesting characters that offer monosyllabic advice that you could take or leave and where everybody is your friend.
Uncle Charlie also tells J.R. he’s been watching him, and he’ll never be much good at baseball or sport, in general. Perhaps he should think of being something else when he grows up. He asks if he has any ideas. At that age, my ideal job was being a bin man or playing for Celtic. People were always telling me I was shit at sport, but I never listened. I tried to prove them wrong until my knees got arthritic. J.R. has a singular vision. He wants to be a writer.
J.R. begins straight away. Uncle Charlie has a look at his work and tells him he has got talent. But he needs to read. Uncle Charlie has a cupboard filled with a stash of books for him to dig into. J.R. also needs to get lucky. Not the kind of geek luck that got him into college at Harvard, or even the job at The New York Times. Writers are supernatural being.
There’s a story-book romance with Sidney (Brianna Middleton). She continually dumps him. And there’s a kind of in-joke that fiction sells, but there’s a market for memoirs. And here we all are with J.R.Moehringer becoming an international bestselling author, with a film being made of his words.
For those of us that write (millions of book published, ironically, on Amazon every year) it would be nice to bask in this nostalgic afterglow of God-given success. Hopefully, my next novel, Beast, sells more than ten copies. Enough to buy a can of Coke. I’m a fan of fellow American writer, John Steinbeck (1902–1968) and he tells us two truths that make more sense to any aspiring writer:
‘You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.’
Most importantly of all:
‘The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.’
I watched the film. Now I’m going to do things in the wrong order (it should always be book first) and read the book, The Tender Bar (2005). Read on.
So what, you might say. You probably know the trajectory that follows.
You’ve got Damian Barr, who grew up near Ravenscraig steelworks, a solid working-class town. Him being gay wasn’t his fault—or even a fault—but being a fucking Tory, Maggie & Me, was just a step too far.
Deborah Orr, Motherwell: A Girlhood, which just about sums it up.
You’ve got Kerry Hudson’s whimsical, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma (fiction) and Lowborn (factual) that deals with what it means to be working-class poor.
Meg Henderson’s wonderful Finding Peggy, but a bit before Hudson’s time.
Darren McGarvey, with his Poverty Safari.
Janice Galloway’s autobiographies This is Not About Me and All Made Up are my clear favourites.
She mentored Graeme Armstrong and The Young Team, the story of Azzy and Airdrie, if you’re fucking asking, and it’s told in dialect.
Scottish actor and comedian, Jane Godley, described as Nicola Sturgeon’s alter-ego (before she fucked up and went a bit too far and behaved like a politician—grabbing the money). Handstands in the Dark: A True Story of Growing Up and Survival, which told a tale of incest and marrying into a gangster’s family in the East End of Glasgow was, to my thinking, underrated before clicking on to Amazon to find over 2000 five-star ratings, which shows I was deluding myself, but not as much as Sturgeon.
We can even fling in Alan Bisset, Boyracers, which tries to do the impossible and make Falkirk cool.
And if we’re stretching it, Maggie O’Farrell I Am I Am I Am, seven brushes with death. She’s from Northern Ireland, but kinda Scottish.
The real daddy of fictionalised memoir, Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart and Shuggie Bain. A gay boy growing up in Glasgow’s housing estates and watching his mother slide under the couch with drink, while drowning, but claiming to be simply waving and doing her hair.
What does Aidan Martin add to this amorphous list, or, in other words, what kind of story can a guy in his late twenties tell us that we’ve not already heard? In terms of markets, what’s his Unique Selling Point?
Livingston isn’t very cool, which is a good starting point.
First chapter, ‘Groomed’. He’s standing outside McDonalds. ‘Heart racing.’ I don’t like heart racing, because it’s clichéd city. But we know what he’s talking about. He’s not there to have a Big Mac and chips. It’s in the chapter title. He’s fifteen and meeting an older man, with a North English accent, who calls himself Derek.
White-van man is a world of disappointment, but he’s organised. He’s got a room in a hotel booked and a cover story. He’s brought a bottle of Buckfast for Aidan, because that’s what you do. Fantasy is never reality.
‘Escapism,’ Sexual addiction, alcohol addiction, drug addiction.
‘You’re fuckin’ dead, after class…
‘Truth be told I wasn’t as violent as the lads I was always fighting. Some of them seemed at ease taking it to the next level. But the idea of jumping on someone’s head or stabbing them felt sickening to me. Survival was day to day.’
Plotting of beginning, middle and end is quite straight forward. Aidan is suicidal, but the reader knows that if he’s written a book he can’t be much good at killing himself. The writer’s job isn’t to make things simpler, but more complex.
Grandpa dead. Grandma deteriorating fast with depression and diagnosed as bipolar. His wee brother, ‘DJ was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma one of the rarest soft tissue cancers in the world’.
Bargaining with yourself. ‘Money was getting tight, so we started on the cheaper drugs too. Back on the eccies, speed and valies. We had a few attempts at crystal meth, and I found myself smoking an unknown stuff from foil.’
Aidan had yet to hit his rock bottom, in Alcohol and Drug Anon language. But he’d a Higher Power looking out for him. This is shown in graphic form.
‘I self-harmed with knives…some otherworldly force flung the knives out of my hand.
All I can say is I know it truly happened.’
The reader knows Aidan is going to make it. But he’s honest about it. His relapses were to do with a lack of humility. I’ve heard the same story in so many forms. My brother, for example, telling me he was just going to have a few pints. Aye, we knew, what that meant. Deep down, so did he.
We’re in the world of repetition. Even the language becomes boring and clichéd. Recovery is slow. Aidan at 25 is at West Lothian College. He will have relapses. He will find himself. The reader knows that. God help us, if I start quoting Rumi and Leonard Cohen, We’re all broken. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
I’m a reading addict. The pleasure of recognition lies not in revelation—although that has its place—but in resonance.
‘I am grateful to be clean.’
Hallelujah has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with a clean heart that cries out. Read on.
Don’t wait for God to put his hand on your shoulder—unless you’re the Virgin Mary—that’s not going to happen any time soon. Start writing now. All you need is you.
Yes, I procrastinate, which sounds like masturbate, or maybe only to my sick mind.
Do something you enjoy with yourself without the need for paper hankies. Having a sick mind is an advantage, because you’re going to have to tell lots of lies. That’s what fiction is, without having to be elected American President. But the nearer the truth your lies are, the greater virtue you create for your characters. Believable characters must roam the land like prehistoric dinosaurs, leaving behind a trail of disruption.
Conflict is where your characters live. If someone else mentions that you must kill your darlings I’m going to hunt them down and treat them to one of my readings. Sincerity is what you find in yourself when you’ve nothing else left. Buried treasure unearthed and you’ve been forced to share again and again until it becomes boring.
Worthless treasure isn’t treasure. Fool’s gold is easy to find. It’s on the page in that first draft. Your eyes glitter. You open the swag bag, ready to pile in the awards.
Forgive and forget yourself. Write like a dog running after sticks. Slabber if you like. Nobody cares. Don’t let your smooth baby brain slowly harden into a border guard. You just need to get that stick to mix metaphors with it and beat back your inner critic. You need to get words on a page pronto.
Don’t interrupt yourself with somebody else. When you’re having an affair of the heart, the worst thing you can do is pick up your phone. Listening to the siren calls. That’s like saying ‘I do’ at your wedding, then sloping off to fuck the entire front row, and some of the back row too. We don’t want to seem too picky. We want to be nice. Yeh, we’ve all done it. Social media owns us, but not completely—yet.
You only live once, but in writing you can live as many lives as you like. You can do what you want, you can be what you want. Being believable is Sir Gawain setting out to find the Holy Grail. It will always be over that next hill. You’ll make mistakes. Go the wrong way. Other knights will challenge you to duels. Chancers will spring up and tell you they know the way, the true path, all you have to do is follow them.
Imagine being like Ted McMinn (the Tin Man), the Rangers’ winger, who wrong-footed himself and wrong-footed defenders by not knowing himself what he was going to do with the ball next. It doesn’t matter. I played football for over forty years and was rotten. But write as if every game matters, because it does at the time—I’ve not got the medals to prove it—and it might be your last. You need to turn up, with your three quid dues in your hand.
My characters aren’t rich or famous. I’m not going to be rich and famous either. And I wouldn’t know what to do with it, but I might feel less guilty about leaving the bathroom light on overnight and wasting electricity. I’d still be guilty of causing global warming and deforestation in the Amazon, before Amazon owned the world.
Take responsibility. You know your work is finished when you can’t bear to look at it one more time. You’d rather spit it in someone’s face and apologise for how terrible it is. Given half a chance you’d be quite willing to sell out to a huckster with a shivering monkey on his shoulder turning the handle for an organ grinder offering peanuts, and then by sleight of hand taking them away.
Humility and humanity don’t rhyme except in the heart. There’s nothing wrong with you when you listen and see. When you don’t listen, you don’t see. Buddha is just a jade statue of a fat guy sitting about doing no work, while you’re banging away on the keyboards ready to produce The International New York Times bestseller that everyone really needs to appreciate now.
Pour yourself into who you are and your writing, not what others think you should be. Writing is meant to be fun, but I played football mainly in the rain and freezing conditions and on gravel parks that took away the skin of my legs and scarred me. I’m not going to say I loved it, but when I think about it now, it makes me smile. I am going to say I loved it, because I can change my mind. I can therefore claim maturity, even wisdom.
Writing gives you a sense of achievement. For a somebody that’s nothing much. We’ve all heard it before, the media figure that lists their achievement then at the end adds, blithely, I just thought I’d write a book.
We all know about Alexander the Great visiting Diogenes with inked parchments of his International New York Times bestseller tucked under his arms. And Diogenes asking him to stand out of his sun.
Yes, us writers own the sun, moon and are but fragments of stars. Get your parchment, pens or keyboard out and make great use of them. Do it now.
The world doesn’t need another post-script—but here it is.
You’ll be a lot better prepared for existential questions like when a neighbour, Frances, was complaining that her grandkids got too much, and that children in Africa haven’t got any toys, or even enough to eat:
Alfie (aged seven) said, ‘Doesn’t Santa go to Africa gran? You said he goes everywhere’.
It’s your job, as a writer, to make sure Santa gets to Africa. Write on.