Syntagma Square in Athens (Constitution Square) is now heavily in the headlines. I really must dispel the invidious rumour that this site is somehow connected with the bankruptcy of Greece.
Actually, I named it after the word’s usage in linguistic philosophy. You see how unbearably sophisticated we are.
A syntagma is a linguistic unit consisting of linguistic forms (phonemes, words, or phrases) that are in sequential relationship to one another (OED). It is often contrasted with paradigm, of which we have far too many nowadays.
So our site, Syntagma, is built from a series of articles and posts in sequential order. Simples.
Postscript: Newsnight’s Paul Mason seems to be permanently camped out in Syntagma Square. If he feels homesick, he can always read Syntagma on his laptop.
Just a thought.
I felt a twinge of nostagia yesterday when I heard that the old Central Office of Information (CoI), successor to the wartime Ministry of Information, is to be scrapped.
One of my first jobs in London was at the CoI in the 1980s. I was tasked with writing brochures and briefing documents for the Foreign Office. These ended up in our Embassies around the world for the perusal of the locals.
I spent my time there mostly at Hercules House, near Waterloo Station, a truly ghastly product of 1960s architecture. I secretly hoped to be moved into the opulent Victoriana of the FO across the water, a mandarin in all but name.
In those days the CoI was organised a bit like a Dickensian office. All the scribes were seated at desks, quill pens in hand, presided over by a boss who occupied a larger desk, casting an ever-watchful beady eye over everyone’s work.
The quill pens had gone when I arrived, but I never quite got over the sense of being back at school.
In the end I escaped across the river to the dynamatic City, a Square Mile then bursting with Big Bang enthusiasms. Eventually, I set up on my own as a scribbler of everything from articles to advertising copy.
The CoI just went on and on. It would take a Conservative Government to close it down, we knew. But Margaret Thatcher was too close to the wartime generation to do it, while John Major dreamt of old ladies cycling past cricket grounds — the CoI was quite near the Oval, basking in its reflected glory.
Now David Cameron has grasped the nettle. Another bit of the public sector gone in a puff. It’s not surprising, perhaps. If you were to ask him about “the war”, he would probably reply: “Libya is on our doorstep.”
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, said last week that Greece’s problem is solvency not liquidity. That means it’s no good paying the interest on its massive indebtedness with more debt because that will only make the situation worse, and the country even more insolvent than it was before.
This is not rocket salad.
Is anybody listening? Not in Brussels. They are insistent on squeezing the economy until much more than the pips squeak. They want to rip the heart out of Greece’s ownership of itself.
Imagine if Britain had got into this condition. A victory for Labour and Gordon Brown in the last election might well have propelled us in that direction.
Foreigners would be demanding we sold national treasures for whatever they fetched. Whitehall itself could be on the list. Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle could go. The country’s whole sense of self would disappear along with any vestiges of national pride we still have left.
There’s one thing we could sell right now — the Labour Party!
Why doesn’t someone invent a magic bank account that contracts in the good times, discouraging over-indulgence, while increasing in the bad times when you really need a thick cushion of collateral?
Innovative? Not really. Just buy gold.
Gordon Brown take note.
Thought of the Week
In ConservativeHome, George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall, argues that, “It should become a key objective of British foreign policy to break the power of centralised European institutions like the European Court of Justice.”
David Cameron and William Hague take note.
who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
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