As we head towards a rather crucial weekend, there seems little scope for optimism. And I don't mean around New Zealand kicking France into the next universe during the final of the rugby World Cup on Sunday. This, for example, is the final paragraph of a doom-laden article by Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian:- In the 1920s and 1930s, intelligent, liberal people failed to read the economic and political realities of Europe, partly out of misplaced idealism, partly out of self-interest. The outcome was disaster. The same is true today. The outcome is unlikely to be war, but the risk is now plainly of prolonged and desperate economic misery. All the gilded armies of public policy seem impotent to prevent it. They care only for banks.
The Times, for its part, thunders that the current 'muddling through' is very risky and concludes that- "In the long term, the eurozone is not a sustainable or fair structure for the countries of Europe. Nearer term, the newspaper carries an offer of £250,000 for the economist who can best explain how to manage the orderly exit of one or more member states from the European Monetary Union. The paper stresses that, although this is posed as a question for academics, it is not an academic question. The need for answers has been made urgent by the obduracy of eurozone leaders, whose mishandling of financial problems has escalated into a crisis in which there is a real possibility that political or economic pressure may force one or more states to leave the euro. This would have disastrous consequences for the wages, savings and jobs of citizens in those particular countries, and for the stability of the banking system as a whole. While £250,000 may seem like a lot of money to ask a question, the price of leaving it unanswered could be far higher.
But life goes on and both David Jackson and I have been pleased to note today that the EU (says it) will give Spain 32 billion euros towards the cost of the AVE high-speed train. Or at least those bits of it considered important for the development of links between Portugal, Spain and France. I'm not sure that the line from Madrid to Galicia falls within this rubric, though the line up from Lisbon, via Oporto, Vigo and Pontevedra to La Coruña seems safe. In so far as any budgeted expenditure in Europe is safe over the foreseeable future.
And talking of vanity projects, one's forced to return to the airport at Castellón on the east coast. As you may recall, this has spanking new runways and buildings, etc. but no flights. And apparently little prospect of same. Nonetheless, a 3-year contract, worth €450,000, is on offer to someone who can harness a team of eight falcons and eight ferrets to rid the site of any and all fauna and birdlife which would threaten planes if any were to put in an appearance.
Finally . . . Not to be outdone by The Times, we're offering a sumptuous prize for the first reader to tell me what Michael Carson means by "Mersey goldfish" in his new book Benson at Sixty. And why my sister invariably calls her Blackberry a 'Blueberry'. In which, I suspect, she is not entirely alone.