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Keep On Running

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Once again I'm struck by the way in which a theme - Keep On Running - selected and sequenced months ago, manages to chime with the latest breaking fiasco in the legacy of the lunacy that was Brexit. I refer, of course, to the shortage of HGV drivers, 100,000 is the figure being bandied about, since the UK left the EU and made European workers less than welcome here. British workers didn't rush to fill the void, disproving the notion that migrants had been "taking British jobs". This is a scenario that was flagged up in 2016 in the run-up to that infamous referendum, so the haulage industry and the government have  had five years to plan to avoid this happening. The former were concerned about the cost of improving pay and conditions for drivers; the latter were in denial that there would ever be a problem.There have been empty shelves in supermarkets for several months, sometimes due to logistical issues in the supply chain and a lack of HGV drivers, sometimes due to another shortage of EU migrant workers in a different sector of the economy, on British farms and market gardens. Fruit and vegetables have been left to rot unpicked, milk has been poured away when there was no transport to collect it. Most growers highlight the crisis but their appeals, too, go unheard. As a result, they are scaling back planting plans for next year - so either produce will be in short supply again or we will look to import more from Europe. And of course the net effect of all of this is that the price of food has been steadily climbing for months and inflation is now set to rise at double the rate originally forecast by the Bank of England.The irony of the latest labor shortage is that the government is proposing granting 'temporary' visas to European truck drivers - talk about trying to have your Brexit cake and eat it too. Oh, and there may be a shortage of turkeys and brussels sprouts at Christmas. The hot rumor is that Boris Johnson in person has asked Brazilian President Bolsonaro for a special deal to supply the UK with Brazilian turkeys! What a joke. What an enormous carbon footprint. What a shitstorm! 

Keep On Running

Britain after Brexit

For how long can this bunch of incompetents (the Conservative government under BoJo) keep on running on empty? There never was a proper plan, never a decent roadmap, just a naive (or deeply cynical depending on your perspective) desire to arrive at some phantom land of hope and glory. I long for the squealing tyres of a major u-turn, but I suspect we're stuck with this nonsense for decades to come. 
It's not just Brexit. That was merely the metaphorical car-crash waiting at the end of forty years of careening privatisation and deregulation under the Tories' laissez-faire capitalism. That fact partly explains why our domestic fuel prices are three times higher in the UK than in continental Europe, not just now with the hike in  gas and oil prices, but consistently over decades since the sell-off of the key utilities under Thatcher; why our manufacturing sector has shrunk by 75% since the 1970s; why our public transport networks are fragmented and expensive to use compared to the continent; and why our state pensions are only a quarter of what they are in France, Germany, Italy or the Netherlands. 
How many have conveniently forgotten what the Mayor of London said in 2013?: "...most of our problems are not caused by Brussels, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure." Those are telling words, spoken not by Sadiq Khan but by his predecessor, Boris Johnson. Suck the irony out of that one.
On to less bitter musings. Forton Services (near Lancaster in the M6) boasts a Grade II listed building - see below - in the hexagonal shape of its elevated restaurant and sunroof. Completed in 1965 at the dawn of the new age of the British motorway network, the Pennine Tower as it was known was built to resemble an airport's control tower. It housed an American-style waitress service restaurant-diner with stunning views over the local countryside and a sunroof. Owned by the Rank organisation, it aimed to provide space-age facilities for the new breed of motorway travellers as they headed to or from the Lake District (and all points north or south).  

Keep On Running

Forton services, M6 Lancaster

It also became very popular with local families and courting couples who would take to the motorway specifically to dine in the tower or enjoy a beer on fine days on the sunroof (all before the drink-driving laws and the breathalyzer were introduced). I first encountered Forton in its prime when visiting friends at Lancaster University.
It was stunning and futuristic, a symbol of  the brave new world that the 'swinging sixties' was ushering in, a consumerist age of espresso machines, tubular chrome chairs, formica-topped tables and neon lights. The carpark still boasted Austins and Aston-Martins, the occasional Bentley, E-type Jags, Hillmans, Morrises, Rovers, Sunbeams, Triumphs and Wolseys... and Minis of course, with not a French, German or Japanese vehicle in sight.
Sadly the tower soon proved more white elephant than cultural totem. Overtaken by new safety regulations (there being no alternative exit from the restaurant in case of fire) and undercut by the proliferation of burger bars and coffee shops, the Pennine Tower was permanently closed to the public in the 1980s. It has been used since, by Moto who took over Forton Services, as an elevated store room.
Hopes were raised in 2012, a quarter of a century after its closure, when the tower was granted Grade II listed building status that preservation and renovation might follow. Nearly a decade on, all that has happened is one lift-shaft has been restored and the exterior has been repainted in its original color. It stands as a reminder of aspirations under-realised in a country that since the end of World War II gave us the illusion of moving forward while actually progressing less quickly than all of those around us, for the reasons Boris Johnson articulated above. No wonder so many are seeking solace in the 'memory' of a more glorious past. Still, we keep on running and maybe, eventually, the lesson symbolised by Forton will be learned. I thought a concrete poem, topped by an acrostic, would be fitting testament. Here goes...
ServiceStationFormed of concrete, chrome and glass, formica topsOn every space-age dining table in this spectacular eyrie of aRestaurant designed to make Englishmen think we're on the very brink.Trough of  Bowland and sparkling Morecambe Bay  seducing with viewsOf this green and pleasant land even as asphalt ribbons unfurl.Never mind that environmental time-bomb a-tickingas perchedon high inhexagonalsplendourthat flutedreinforcedpillar,  likea mythicalatlas, holds us heavenly
Keep On Running

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