The last time I

by Maria on February 18, 2021

The one-year anniversary of the last time I met a friend in a café is coming up. I’m glad it was such a good one. I met the marvellous Francis Spufford, occasionally of this parish, for a coffee in the British Library. I had a flat white and a kind of cake/biscuit hybrid that came in a plastic wrapper, and was energetically reassured by the person at the till that there was no mistake in my bill of almost eight pounds. (A café scene in Fleabag comes to mind, when Phoebe Waller Bridge charges twenty-five pounds for a plain tomato sandwich and the exasperated customer just says “London!”) Astonishing to think of now, but we sat at a table in the atrium – inside, no less – surrounded by other tables of people, near the main entrance, with people walking past, breathing, every moment. We talked about the pandemic from China then ravaging Italy, and how people in the UK and elsewhere didn’t seem to believe it was coming for us. There was a stillness and strangeness in having our eyes turned, horrified, to the east in that weeks-long moment when so many, and all the UK’s leaders, put their fingers in their ears and sang ‘la la la’ to the storm that irresistibly propelled them into a future to which their backs were turned. (My apologies to the angel of history.) But even then we knew the fascinated horror was all for naught. We agreed that a lifetime of reading science fiction, especially my favourite sub-genre, post-apocalypse, gave us at most a two-week head start on everyone else in understanding the gravity of what was about to happen.
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Economic lessons of the 20-year armistice

by John Quiggin on February 18, 2021

Another extract from my book-in-progress, Economic Consequences of the Pandemic

The 20-year armistice from 1919 to 1939 was a period of economic stagnation in Europe, punctuated by crises which had disastrous economic and political effects. And while the US boomed in the 1920s, the Great Depression that began in 1929 caused massive unemployment and suffering which lasted through the 1930s. What lessons can we learn for the present?
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