The Politicians And The Shopkeeper

Christopher Fowler
Russell Jones is going to have a fight on his hands getting anyone to read his book for more than a few pages at a time; not that it isn't good, quite the reverse, but it's utterly depressing. 'The Decade in Tory' is not a chronicle of our noble politicians' activities by the privileged non-doms who own our press, but a catalogue of the behaviour of Conservative politicians on the steal. It's like reading the worst diary in the world. After 70 pages of lying, thieving, backstabbing, money laundering and doublespeak-filled reversals, performed openly, uncaringly and almost proudly, I hadn't even got to Boris 'Witless Dickington' Johnson part where he's trapped on the Dangleway, and realised that I had to put the book down or kill myself, and I'm not quite at that stage yet. What's changed is the effrontery which allowed Johnson, Gove et al to make national speeches of Edward Lear-level nonsense, then contradict them a day later, lying for the fun of it, for the pleasure of shameless lying, lying in the knowledge that here will be no comeback if they keep changing the rules. This is beyond even 1984's 'doublethink' - a form of 'no-think'. But let's wash our hands and set aside these grubby little people for a moment, and consider something nice. I went to the shops alone today - a big adventure. It takes me forever to get ready, go there, buy food and return; people need patience around me. I went to the immaculate Healthyish on Caledonian Road in Barnsbury. The shopkeeper, whom I took to be the owner or manager, asked me how I'd been, but then really looked at me and saw how ill I was. With quiet good grace he asked questions, then did my shopping, recommending and advising. When he had finished he told me he felt very strongly that we are all born equal and need to help one another. Obviously muslim, his unwarranted kindness actually upset me, because I am not used to this from strangers. He paid for my shopping and gave me his mobile number, telling me to call if ever I needed help urgently. Later he texted me a recipe. Afterwards, I got home and felt incredibly emotional. All one usually gets from the internet is hatred, bragging and lies, and here was someone making a difference, seemingly in the most mundane of ways. As much as I would like to confront our tainted leadership with this shopkeeper and show them there are people simply getting on with the work of being good, I wouldn't do it. Just in case any of their slime touched him. Oh, and he'll get my business. Because that's good-people capitalism.  


Peter T (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 19:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you Mr F for telling us about this lovely man. And well done on making the journey to the shops.

Ace (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 20:09

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Random acts of kindness still do happen. Having the grace to accept them without suspicion (or alarm) is often a difficult ask in this day and age. Good on ya for giving yourself the chance to experience one. Think of it as a reward for your determination.

Brooke (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 21:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A round trio to the shops...well done, you. Bravo.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 21:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Congratulations on mustering up so much energy.
I was prepared to think well of the shop owner as soon as I saw his sign: Healthy-ish. Now that is honest! This is the 4th Sunday before Christmas and we were asked what we hoped for. The list included kindness and patience toward others so there is a generous first example for the week. It should be routine and we shouldn't be surprised when it happens. (yadda, yadda. You can all fill in the rest of this rant.)

Roger (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 22:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A sense of humour on top of his other qualities!

Granny (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 22:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Apologising in advance
I was going to make a list in a Guardian article, just to remind readers of all the corruption in this government.
I reached 8700 words and realised ... well, not a comment anyway, and an appalling reminder of what a venal government can do when there are no robust laws and/or consequences for breaking them.

One issue I have, besides the corruption, is the appalling service we get from these companies

Government departments are required by law to publish details of contracts no later than 30 days after awarding them. The measures are designed to reduce the risk of fraud and improve value for money by allowing proper scrutiny of how taxpayer cash is spent.

Partial list (!)
Innova £3.7bn of contracts to supply lateral flow tests which the FDA said should be thrown in the bin or returned to the California-based manufacturer Innova.
Ayanda Capital (specialising in currency trading and offshore property) £252m PPE contract
Luxe Lifestyle (initially no employees, no assets and no turnover) was awarded a £26m contract
Clandeboye Agencies Limited (confectionary) £100m contract to supply PPE (6 million gowns had not been delivered months after the contract was awarded)
Faculty (Ben Warner masterminded both 'Vote Leave' and the 2019 Tory victory for Cummings, British technology company, London for software, consulting, and services related to artificial intelligence) £250 million
P14 Medical, run by a Tory councillor and donor, was awarded £276m in PPE contracts.
An employment agency (initially net assets of £623) £18m government contract to supply face masks
Meller Designs (a large Tory donor and trustee of the rightwing lobby group Policy Exchange) was given more than £160m in PPE contracts.
Pestfix (initially had listed net assets of only £18,000) a pest control business, which has signed 11 PPE contracts £342m, Facemasks unusable, gowns unusable
Randox testing (grandson of Churchill) had 29,500 voided tests out of 67,000 sent to the US
£234m contract to feed 1.3m children was given to Edenred, accused of ‘woeful’ preparation many of which failed to scan at checkout
Us taxpayers are paying £1.7m a week to store all this useless PPE

When found guilty, nothing seems to happen

Looks like you have a good book, but yes, it is gut wrenching. We appear to be at the tail end of democracy.

In the upside your shopkeeper sounds lovely and there are many people about just getting on with supporting others, caring and empathetic

Jo W (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 22:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Well done you in getting to the shops and well done to him. A little love and a lot care, this is what can make a difference. Take care. X

Roger (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 22:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Us taxpayers may not be paying £1.7m a week to store all this useless PPE, Granny. We may just be paying £1.7m a week. At the beginning of the Covid epidemics it turned out that the stocks of PPE saved for just such an emergency hadn't been properly stored and were useless.
The same applies to other outsourced - as they say - contracts. The fact that companies - G4S and Capita, most infamously - are incapable of doing what they said they'd do doesn't stop them getting nice new profitable contracts.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 07:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

We lost our most dedicated MP over this sort of thing. It's too bad when a person isn't allowed to keep their ethics after they're elected.
On the other hand, an MP some of us would like to see as an eventual party leader discovered a refugee child with motor neuron problems in his riding. They been able to bring his equipment with them and the MP got the local Fire Dept.' s benevolent fund involved so the child now has the appropriate equipment and the family is settling down.

Anna-Maria Covich (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 08:41

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It must to time to set the roomba going, it's suddenly rather dusty in here.
It really is both quite harring and lovely to encounter true kindness from strangers. A few months after I first got ME, a woman stopped me in the street and asked it I was OK because I looked exhausted. It was the first time I felt like someone believed me that i was sick, and cared too. And I remember being moved to tears at my first post-quake geek convention in Auckland (8 months after the big 2011 quake but 13 months after the first one) because one of the voice actors, on hearing I'd come up from Christchurch, asked me if I'd managed to get any sleep yet.

Peter T (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 10:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The NHS have outsourced supply of medicine to an organisation 200 miles away. Every four weeks, there's a call to remind them to send the stuff. Every time, there's a twenty minute wait for them to answer the call and hear a condescending idiot claim the consultant hasn't sent the prescription. Then there's the call to the hospital to ask them to send the prescription again. All in, an hour or so of misery and telephone charges because the government has optimised the efficiency of supply.

They have also outsourced CT scans to an organisation that refuses anyone who cannot communicate in spoken English. Of course, the deaf, those unable to speak, and the elderly foreigner aren't told until the day of the appointment.

As I once told the managers of a large business, any small shopkeeper would do better than them. I'm sure the Healthyish one would.

Richard (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 12:55

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

No advice, no complaints, no doomsday alarms. Just a heartfelt thank you, Chris.

Mary Ann Atwood (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 13:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have found, that at my darkest times, a kindness may hit an emotional nerve bringing on tears. Much like opening a flood gate, the gentle good deed brings down the stoic barrier allowing a release, for just a moment, of the sorrow, the pain, the fear... At times, the release is harder to bare than the pain.
Thank you for sharing your books and your life with us.

Ace (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 13:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It's called purga-Tory. Ten years of serial incompetence or at a minimum, shameless indifference, with none of the hoped for expiatory cleansing (at least as some religious denominations would have it). Dining at the public trough is one thing --- and almost expected --- but to do so with such abandon adds an unforgivable insult to the injury.

Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 14:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

There are still many kind people in the world.
Next time you see him, please let him know that he is appreciated by many people he will probably never meet.
Was it a good recipe?

Brooke (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 14:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Granny. Innova advertizes itself as a medical group. In fact it is a private equity comany, legal name Pasaca Capital, founded by PRC (Wuhan) entrepreneur. I was looking for a Sunak/Stanford/Tech Valley connection.

John Griffin (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 14:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I followed Russ for quite some time. There are weeks recently that even surpass his new book. It's simple contempt of the 1% for the other 99%. Conversely, the work of lots of people locally shines out, individually or collectively. Despite the racists, the fraudsters and the amoral, a majority of people in the UK are fundamentally good. Many are deliberately kept afraid by the media, run by that 1%.

Gary Locke (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 15:54

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Kindness is the most valuable commodity we can share with one another.

Paul c (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 18:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great story - thank you. Calls to mind a comment of Vonnegut - we need to help each other through this thing [life] whatever it is. What else is the point really? We only dance on this earth 4 a short time and all you can do do is be kind to others. Everything else is conversation.....

Martin Tolley (not verified) Mon, 28/11/2022 - 19:50

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Today David Allen Green had similar thoughts about the problems with politicians and suggests one answer - https://tinyurl.com/4rc2tz5w
Mrs T had an encounter at the start of Covid with an obviously Muslim manager of a pharmacy in Chiswick, west London. She was trying to buy hand sanitizer in sufficient quantity for our local church. The manager apologised, they had to ration sales, and only two small bottles per person were allowed. Mrs T said she'd take them for the church. She was then given six bottles and the manager refused take any payment. She was told "If it's for a church community then it's my pleasure to help, we all have to look out for each other."

Debra (not verified) Tue, 29/11/2022 - 04:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

We’re watching House of Cards again and enjoying it, but can’t take too much of that at once either.
The man at the store is really a wonderful person, but also what courage and determination on your part to head out alone.

Joan (not verified) Tue, 29/11/2022 - 13:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Let us focus on kindness, because there is a lot of it out there. My husband had ALS and had numerous falls, one outside a coffee shop when leaving the car. I could not get him up, but was helped by a homeless man, who was begging nearby. He helped him up, no easy feat and held him until friends came to the rescue. He accepted only my gratitude, and I have never forgotten that!

Joan (not verified) Tue, 29/11/2022 - 13:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I understand a bit what you must be going through Chris, it is a long haul. You are very brave to share and my heart goes out to you.

Granny (not verified) Tue, 29/11/2022 - 21:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@ Roger - ye gods, I never thought of that, of course they would charge us to store non-existent PPE.

@ Brooke - bit of an extract from Good Law Project:
Two entrepreneurs with no apparent background in health (were landed) roles as middlemen between the UK government and Innova
Charles Palmer, whose background is in property, and Kim Thonger, a former shoe retailer, are the co-owners of Disruptive Nanotechnology, a business that had just £85 in the bank and debts of £3,592 at the end of 2019.
Net assets soared to £20.5m during the year to 31 December 2020
Disruptive Nanotechnology, trading as Tried&Tested, describes itself as the exclusive UK and EU distributor for rapid antigen and antibody tests made by California-based Innova Medical Group.
Palmer’s wife, Dr Rachel Limbrey, is the chief medical adviser at Tried&Tested, as well as working as a respiratory consultant at University Hospital Southampton.

My next door neighbours are lovely people, very supportive and helpful, yet hold appalling right wing political views and ignore all the sleaze and corruption. Makes me think that when people put a political hat on they slide into group-think or just do what their family has always done

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 29/11/2022 - 22:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My Grandmother told me that her father told her to always vote for the best man (and it would have been a man) and not the party but it was surprising how often his "best man" was a Conservative. I was told the same thing and have been glad that there have been a few "best men" around to be voted for.

Helen Turnage (not verified) Wed, 30/11/2022 - 02:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Good for you accomplishing so much on your own. Bless the man who helped you. What a fine human.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Thu, 08/12/2022 - 02:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A little kindness goes a long way, it's a shame those in power don't realise that. Thumbs up for the HEALTHY- ish as well.

And in politics the opposition finally have a policy, get rid of the House of Lords, I guess if successive Tory governments have tried to stop, or at least reduce the unions giving funding to Labour I guess Labour is going to put a dampener on market value of a peerage thus reducing Tory party funds, or am I being a overly cynical? Remember funding of individuals uses different rules.


L Anderson (not verified) Fri, 09/12/2022 - 18:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I’m so glad you got to experience this man’s grace (not sure about the grammar there, but the meaning should be clear), and so appreciated the chance to read of it.

And I confess - at the beginning of your narrative, I thought you were talking about us.
Oregon, USA

L Anderson (not verified) Fri, 09/12/2022 - 18:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I hear you. Fatigue is torture. The only thing worse is trying to explain it to someone.