Friday, March 30, 2012

Two nice places

The sun shone on Hull as I was there for a couple of days this week, seeing old friends and missing many more whom I would have loved to have seen.

Not all was well. As the Hull Daily Mail reports, a major adult education programme, the one I used to run, is facing closure. One of our students commented,
"I passionately believe the university and the chances it can offer should be for everybody, not just for the few."
She is right and all the staff thought likewise. I shared quite a few drinks last night with some very able, committed and downright frustrated people.

Even with this poignant loss, Hull is still a lovely place. And it is beginning to flaunt itself a bit.  When I first went there it marked its heritage with the fish pavement - a set of plaques in the pavement with engravings of fish on them to lead people on a guided walk around the sites of the old fishing industry. Now there are iconic buildings such as The Deep, innovative ones like ARC, the Museums Quarter and recently the promotion of Philip Larkin, with a fine statue at the station and slate plates with some verses of his poetry set in the station concourse. This last is rather ironic; if Hull now celebrates Larkin, Larkin did anything but celebrate Hull.

The great virtue of the beautification of the city is that it has not been accompanied by gentrification. The place remains resolutely down-to-earth and a joy to visit.

And tomorrow I am on my way to Greece again, where the problems facing Hull are nothing as to the economic crisis there. Yet, in contrast to the apocalyptic reportage with their projection of Mad Max scenarios around the streets of Athens, Jon Henley continues to tell of the consequent growth of social solidarity in the face of adversity, rather than the social breakdown being predicted by the dystopian pessimists.
There is, among many Greeks, still intense anger at what they are living through, as well as almost complete disillusionment with politicians, not to say politics. But in Choupis's words, many are "moving beyond anger": instead of lashing out, coming together.
In Volos, a waiter in the taverna by the ferry terminal, told me that "in the years of cheap money and easy credit, we just lost sight of what matters, you know? It's sad that it's taken a crisis to do it, but we're rediscovering our values."
Watch his video report here.

All of which suggests that Thomas Hobbes is not always the best guide to human behaviour, even if the outcome of the crisis is far from clear. And nice places remain nice places, despite the worst efforts of unimpressive governing elites to try and ruin them.

1 comment:

roybaintonwrites said...

Oh, noble plumpness, so glad to hear that you still have the hots for Hull. Would that I were fit enough to be there. Or GReece. Or ...anywhere but Mansfield.