Recently through the door came a luxuriously printed and coloured publication, endorsed if not underwritten by local estate agents, to show what is happening about us and as where I live is a mixture of old money and new, allegedly on the up, I scan the pages about the body maintenance schemes, the shops, the interior decorators and other services with curiosity.
And they are still selling wood burning stoves as the “best” way to heat a house and keep the air clean.
This in the same week as Paris has banned wood burning in the capital because of pollution. Am I a cynic to think that this is a clumsy joke, illustrating the difference between Paris and the rest of France, especially rural France, where the woodpile is everywhere ?
And what about the rest of Europe ? Are the figures for asthma, throat and chest cancers and all the other respiratory illnesses significantly higher throughout the land mass ? Because they all burn wood.
Or is this blaming who you can get hold of because nobody (still less Hamfisted Hollande) can take issue with the combustion engine in the interests of trade, travel and tourism. It is a bigger country than you think, France, and wedded to the car.
You know how we talk about “joined up writing”, the cursive I was taught when I was a child ? (I even have an item on the importance of what they call “le graphisme” in French education). Much more interesting is joined up thinking.
Or the lack of it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer – a man no more blessed with a manner or a haircut to inspire confidence than his opposite number in the Shadow Cabinet
(he appropriately named for a politician) – has promised this, that and the other thing. There is to be less to pay on houses, roads to be extended, high speed rail links. The elderly are to be nourished, the young to be employed and the NHS saved. We do not know (and many of us do not understand) where the money is to come from but on present evidence, it appears there may be a printer in the basement of Number 11 Downing Street.Either that, or the minister has a money tree. Or more likely, a grove of them.
And then two days after the Chancellor’s statement, it is remarked that it can and will be done – probably not all but significant amounts of it – by encouraging us into further personal debt – of which we already have one of the highest levels in the Western world. And it will get worse.
Of course it sounds better when you call it credit – but whatever you call it, you owe.We have become used to owing.
Then there is immigration. Two and three generations ago, all the families from which my family derived were immigrants. One of the more positive aspects of post imperialism is immigration to the dominant powers, for education and opportunity.
Sometimes, you came because you were extradited from the territory in which you used to live after nationhood was achieved (for example, like East African Asians), sometimes you came here because you wanted to come or were sent (for example, like Afro-Caribbeans).
And whatever you think about the European dream, porous borders that allow you to travel unchecked are part of the legal commitment.
But who travels, with what purpose and what they are asked on the way, is another consideration.
Probably how they are asked about why they travel is important too.
What is called economic migration from countries outside the European Community, territories that increasingly don’t function, don’t have work or food or hope – that is not easily talked about.
Say your piece and you risk sounding like a racist. And the shadow looms of Enoch Powell’s famous speech about “rivers of blood.”
So it was unexpectedly pleasing to hear the Conservative Norman Tebbitt talking carefully and constructively about social cohesion which is based (according to him) on a single dominant ethos. He said (I paraphrase) that once there was more than one, the society began to pull into conflicted smaller parts, and thus to break up. He did not sound like a “brown shirt” to me but an old tired careful man trying to find the words to convey a clear message with some appreciation of the difficulties and the minimum of offence.