CATALONIA TODAY (01/11/2010)
On certain effects of the current economic crisis.
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-TWO
I spent a decade and a half wishing to be a self-employed writer and in the end my wish came true, with brass knobs on: a stable readership, awards with cash attached, the occasional not-nasty review... It took 10 more years and 10 more books before the truth of the old saw 'be careful what you wish for, lest it come true' – smugly ignored by this wisher - finally hit home. In the last two years my income has dwindled faster than Alice in chapter one (like almost all freelance contributors to Catalan newspapers, for example, I have had to take fee cuts of up to 25%); and my savings are being persistently whittled away (given that book advances are now ghosts of their former selves and paid talks, scarce as oases); and on top of everything, I have just been legally mugged – for rescission of contract - by a pitiless ex-publisher to the tune of several thousand euros. But despite everything I am not even close to being truly poor, a word now being made flesh, all over Barcelona, by the fresh cohorts of wheely-bin raiders whose scavenged wares are later plied on street corners, and the new destitutes of all ages who squat, kneel or pretend to play the harmonica not only in the tourist-drenched centre but also in many out of the way, barely transited, neighbourhoods. A situation increasingly reminiscent of hard times long past: an almost elderly woman demanding alms on the metro the other day wore clothes so shredded, she could have limped out of a Dickensian subplot. On a brighter side, at my local supermarket a man of undeterminable age is successfully implementing a more up-to-date form of crisis management: several times a day he purchases a single can of the cheapest beer on sale and staggers out, leaving a wake of airborne grime behind him. This allows him to top himself up with pain remover on a regular basis, thus eliminating excess expenditure while keeping both goods and capital in circulation in order to satisfy his material needs. Allowing me in turn to remark, my hand heavy with sarcasm, that here we have proof positive that the free market economy – just as the financial experts who steered us into our present dire straits have always claimed – is indeed self-regulating.