Monday, 12 November 2012

Of Tea Strainers and Men

“Although I have read a million words on the necessity for the cuts, I have not seen a single letter on what the exit plan is: what happens in four years’ time, when the cuts will have succeeded, and the economy gets back to “normal” again. Do we then – prosperous once more – go round and re-open all these centres, clinics and libraries, which have sat, dark and unused, for nearly half a decade? 

It’s hard to see how – it costs millions of pounds to re-open deserted buildings, and cash-strapped councils will have looked at billions of square feet of prime real estate with a coldly realistic eye. 

Unless the Government has developed an exit strategy for the cuts, and has insisted that councils not sell closed properties, by the time we get back to “normal” again, our Victorian and postwar and Sixties red-brick boxy libraries will be coffee shops, Lidls and pubs. No new libraries will be built to replace them. These libraries will be lost forever.” 
Libraries: Cathedrals of our Souls - Caitlin Moran

The Second Law of Thermodynamics – bear with me – states that, in a closed system, things tend towards a state of entropy; a state of chaos. In physics and engineering, this means that no reaction or process can ever be 100% efficient, as some energy will always be lost. Life tends towards disorder too: an abandoned building will be overrun, given time, with opportunistic vegetation, as will a brand new island, created from a volcanic eruption; an untended lawn will become quickly ravaged by weeds; dead organic matter decomposes over time, its elements redistributed by scavengers and bacteria; and, perhaps most vividly, if I decide not to look after myself for only a few days, I will have a full, bushy beard and my wife will complain.

And yet, when it comes to the human world, things often tend not towards disorder but to a state of lethargy, monopoly or lack of choice. Things stagnate. Once the libraries close, they won’t come back. Once the supermarkets outcompete the final delicatessen, all independent, specialist shops will have had their day too. Everybody will go to one place for what they need, which means they probably won’t find what it is they want, purchasing what is forced on them instead. I know this all too well, because, for neither love nor money, I cannot find a tea strainer on sale anywhere in Birmingham. A tea strainer. I have been banished to using only tea bags, despite the loose leaf tea that remains, impractically, in my tea cupboard. It sits there, begging to be drunk. No supermarket, nor Homebase, nor the TK Maxx or Debenhams in the Bullring have but a single tea strainer. Tea pots, yes; coffee percolators, yes; but no tea strainers. The practicality of the tea bag and the demise of the hardware store has led to a world without tea strainers. A WORLD WITHOUT TEA STRAINERS.