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Editor, John Evans
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Saturday Ramble: 2013 — how bad will it be?

Optimism As an optimist, I have been scouring the Press and other sources of information for good news about the new year, 2013, or at the very least, a hopeful prognosis.

Apart from our recent escape from the abysmal Mayan Prophesy — prophesied here, by the way — there is very little else.

On the economic and business pages gloom predominates. We are, it is said, halfway through a Lost Decade, or even a quarter through a Lost Double Decade. The world is laden down with so much debt, much of which has to be written down before global expansion can take off again. We are all doomed.

Britain in particular is not well placed, thanks to Gordon Brown and Ed Balls’s pitiless spending splurge in their own interest. The absence of euro membership is the only dim light on the horizon.

Politically, we are in limbo, with David Cameron and Nick Clegg on opposite sides of the fence on the future of our EU membership, at least if the chatter from Downing Street is to be believed. Like many, I’m sceptical about Number Ten’s resolve on this.

Paul Goodman in the Telegraph writes that the Conservatives have not a cat’s chance in hell of winning the 2015 General Election because of the huge demographic surge of Labour-supporting immigrants from the Subcontinent. Brown’s treachery knew no bounds, as many of us warned at the time.

America stands on the brink of a Fiscal Cliff set to detonate on January 1st, in which taxes will automatically rise and government spending massively fall. In a sane world, that is exactly what the US needs now, except that in the midst of a world struggling to pay its debts, it would only add to the general depression.

So there you have it. Pain all round and no escape. The real misery has only just begun.

Or has it?

I must say, I don’t get the sense that the world is about to pitch into an economic dark age like the 1930s — with the possible exception of the eurozone — despite the huge debt that can only be offset by printing money and increasing inflation that will erode value and decimate savings.

Is Mark Carney (incoming Governor of the Bank of England) just covering his back by suggesting he will sacrifice inflation targets to promote growth?

But where to find confirmation of a very different scenario? From an unusual source, perhaps.

Last week I was flicking through the pages of the Daily Mail’s Weekend Magazine, when I alighted on veteran astrologer Jonathan Cainer’s star-sign page. In the general section, one sentence jumped out at me. I reproduce it here in the hope it will cheer you up, so rare is the sentiment:

2013 will be one of the happiest years many of us have ever known.

Phew! There’s a man putting his reputation on the line. And he follows it up in today’s paper a week later:

2013 gets off to a surprisingly good start for most people and then proceeds just to get better and better.

Well! I’m not going to find anything more optimistic than that, so I’ll leave it right there.

You will have your own views, of course, but I wish you a great big dollop of the Cainer magic stardust and a very happy New Year.

John Evans

John Evans is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

Coming soon: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com.

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DIARY: Leveson lament, River ramblings, Poppycock Watch: Autumn Statement, Mark Carney, Profundity of the Week

Monster

What are we to make of the much-anticipated Leveson Report on the behaviour of the Press? The more one examines it, the more holes it reveals.

At first glance, two points stood out for me. The main one was the unexpected intrusion of “statutory underpinning”, a phrase meant to reassure, but had the opposite effect. Shades of Moscow and Beijing and dark forebodings of rampings up to come.

The other was the dropping in of that most tiresome of quangos, Ofcom. Apart from anything else its head is appointed by government, so represents, for the first time, an official interference in the workings of a Press that has been free for more than 300 years.

Shami Chakrabarti, a Leveson committee member and head of Liberty — a quango-esque outfit — seemed more than a little confused, backtracked on Marr, then appeared to do a backflip on the Today programme.

As a specialist lawyer in the field, if she can’t make sense of it, how are the rest of us meant to? There are far too many loopholes in Leveson for my liking.

It was interesting to see Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, a cultural magazine that never dies, take a stand against the whole package. Could he ultimately be jailed for his rebellion? Unlikely, I would think, given the hardening of attitudes in Fleet Street.

Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg made fools of themselves, jousting for attention and significance. An inadequate showing.

While the Prime Minister was right to reject the statutory angle, he should probably revisit his apparent support for Ofcom involvement. The status quo seems the safest option.

* * * * *

This morning was one of those frequent days here on the Devon-Cornwall peninsula when the seasons go haywire.

Rough northerlies switch to the west and the breeze comes in off the Azores like an angel’s kiss — as the Poet put it. Along the river, shrubs often bloom erratically right up until January, while local people lunch outside at riverside cafes even in February.

Thus it was this morning. Springlike and bracing, the waterbirds making the most of the break from drear winter with its occasional reminders of the Northlands.

On the river — now thankfully back to sedate normality after last week’s flood surge — our lone black swan has returned from his summer break. Incredibly, he has brought a mate with him (see my picture).

Black Swan
Black Swan’s mate

Last spring, he was rather isolated from the white swan colony and often seemed agitated. Now he has a faithful companion whom I’ve named Tonto — even though she’s a girl.

Unusually, beneath her black wing feathers there are some that are snow white. Clearly she’s something of a cross which, instead of producing a greyer colouring, has given her a chequered appearance, especially when preening.

The question now is will they produce cygnets in the spring? That really will draw in the crowds with their cameras and bags of ghastly white bread as offerings to the inhabitants of the waterside.

River cafes are the order of the day here.

* * * * *

Poppycock Watch
I suppose I should say something about this week’s major event: Exeter Chiefs’ victory over Wasps in the Rugby Premiership Wednesday’s Autumn Statement.

George Osborne is the Lone Ranger these days. Even Tonto has deserted him for a berth on the River Exe [an oblique reference to Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book Black Swan]. However, all is not irretrievably lost.

All he need do is steer clear of taxing regional delicacies, mentioning rail fares and anything ending in “gate”, praising Ed Balls, announcing an imminent leadership challenge against David Cameron, commiserating with Paul Tucker, and declaring undying devotion for Brussels.

We wait with bated breath.

Now about Exeter Chiefs …

* * * * *

When I first heard a report that Mark Carney was to become the next Governor of the Bank of England, I misheard it as Martha Kearney, presenter of the BBC’s The World at One. I spent a puzzled hour wondering why.

Anyway, a lot of people seem to like the cut of his Canadian jib, and he certainly appears to be perfectly qualified for the post. As the current holder of Canada’s equivalent berth, plus 10 years experience in the City, including the ubiquitous Goldman Sachs, he out-sparkled a dowdy lineup of hopefuls.

The City of London is crying out for a New-World man — with the exception of Bob Diamond, of course — to breathe new dynamism into its ancient institutions. To say that the Square Mile has gone from “hero to zero” is to ignore the seriousness of the situation.

Wall Street is fighting tigerishly to regain top spot among financial centres, and while the City still has dominance in foreign exchange, including a new franchise for China’s currency, the renmimbi, it continues to take on the aspect of a ricketty house of cards.

The list of frauds allegedly prosecuted there would not be believed if they appeared in a Jeffery Archer thriller.

Let’s hope that Martha Mark Carney can steady the ship. London needs a Nelson not a Drake now. A game of bowls simply will not do.

* * * * *

Profundity of the Week
“Are you aware that you are time-travelling every moment of your life? What happens if you stop?” Unknown

John Evans

… 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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