08/05/12 A Rum Do

So, here we are on the Ferry to Eigg – a small island off the western coast of Scotland – famous for – well, famous for lots of things really – but you’ll hear about all that over the next couple of days.

I’m fortunate enough to be on the Tuesday sailing which means I get to see the isle of Muck too, but sadly I’ll not be seeing Rum…

Watching folk on board is every bit as interesting as staring at the expanse of cold water in the hope of catching a glimpse of a seal, a porpoise, whale, narwhal, nuclear submarine…

The joy as a group of people scurry across the decks, brandishing binoculars to get a better look at the porpoise er, porpoising only metres from the ferry. My own photographs of the event remain as mythical as the pictures I nearly took of the golden eagles last year. Go and watch something on the TV for that real close up experience.

But there is a contagious something – that desire to feel part of a mysterious world apart from our land lubber existence.

I’m heading to an island that, I understand, has a real sense of community while the BBC news tells us about the landlords in London who are evicting their tenants so they can let their flats, houses, rooms to Olympic visitors who are willing to pay twenty times more than the current rate.
This on the back of Londoners from Newham being migrated to Stoke because the housing benefit rates up north are much lower than in that particular London borough.

Perhaps Maggie Thatcher was right all those years ago when she declared there was no such thing as community.
Newham council, in the eyes of the law is doing nothing wrong. It is meeting it’s obligation of housing it’s residents…
Nobody thought to say…you need to provide a roof over people’s heads in the area where they live. You wouldn’t think, not in your wildest imagination…would you?

I lived in Newham as a student in the mid to late eighties. It was a great place to be – a real multicultural world with folk getting on with their lives.

But now…hmmm…we have a world where there is a ceiling on housing benefits – where people in that area are being decanted hundreds of miles up the road in some bizarre display of social engineering.

Just imagine at the end of Eastenders…’I love you, Caff, but I’ve been decanted to Stoke….” doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, do-do-do-do….

These are many of the people on which London depends, the cooks, the cleaners, the nursing auxiliaries, the social care workers – many of whom, because of their low wages, qualify for housing benefit. What will happen to them?

Will Stoke suddenly have the greatest and cleanest infrastructure of NHS delivery and social care while London gradually collapses in on itself….?

What do I care? I’m off to Eigg.

Why not think outside the box – send them to Muck and Eigg. Now that would be social engineering.

We’ve pulled into (?) bobbed up to (?) Muck. As I watch the seals bob up and down I can’t help but think who would live here and why? It’s a proper desert island – sure there’s no palm tree stuck in the middle and no bearded castaway throwing as many messages in bottles as he can onto the various currents – its not far from the mainland – about an hour and a half – but it’s about as far as you can get from London as you can get.

The boss of Aviva has resigned – the shareholders wouldn’t support his £1 million package….

I don’t think I could be further away from that than I am right now.

Eigg is nearing. Actually, it’s more likely that we are nearing Eigg – I mean, imagine the chaos if islands could be driven around the west coast of Scotland like dodgems at the fair…


Walk a mile


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