Sunday 21 November 2010

Wheel of Fortune

Lord Young's resignation following his "You've never had it so good" gaffe is followed by some more honest discussion about who in fact are the winners and losers as first recession and now public expenditure cuts wash over us like a double tsunami. Some of the government's embarrassment arising from Lord Young's comments stems from the awkward truth that we are not of course sharing equally in the pain and there are significant beneficiaries as well as real losers. If your job is secure and you have a large, variable-rate mortgage and similar debts then you have had a big bonus in spending power in the last year or two owing to the very low interest rates - but you don't hear people owning up to this, do you?

As I leave the gym on Saturday morning a pundit on Radio 4 specifically names Swansea as a place which will suffer much more than most areas because it has a high proportion both of public sector workers and also of benefits claimants (and not a few of the latter are clients of Hafal). But it too will have beneficiaries, no doubt keeping a low profile.

The city is certainly looking shabby and forlorn in the drizzle with leaves and fast food detritus blowing around Oxford Street. This pall is only a little mitigated by a sarcastic town cryer announcing Santa's arrival ("but you don't deserve it" he bellows, apparently to everybody's amusement) and two moth-eaten reindeer sitting bemused in a pen. Nearby the slightly rusty-looking "Waterfront Wonderland" is getting few punters but no doubt it will become more popular nearer the holiday - I recommend the big wheel as it gives an unusual view of the city centre (as indeed does the one by the Civic Centre in Cardiff); and maybe this year I will dare try the skating (my last attempt at the Queens ice-rink in central London in 1976 formed the central plank of a strategy to impress a girl - terrifying and unsuccessful in all respects).

Over lunch at the Alfresco cafe next to the Waterfront Museum (bacon and egg bap £3.50 - not that cheap but with a nice aspect overlooking the Marina) I ponder that for all Swansea's lack of overt wealth you won't find a friendlier place of this size - that morning I have chatted warmly and at length to strangers in the queue at Sainsbury's, in Lidl contemplating those German chocolate decorations, in the market, and at the new art gallery in the old Exchange. Had I had time to cross the road into the Queen's Hotel I could still be there now.