Saturday, November 03, 2007

Watergate Bay

Five legged dog at Watergate Bay

I was to take Maureen & Tony out for lunch, but Maureen had a tummy ailment, so that was shelved and I took Bondi back to Watergate Bay, near Newquay on Cornwall's north coast.

The autumn sunshine has left for now, but it's still nicer out than our July visit. Out on the sand,
Bondi cavorted in circles to impress a tiny terrier bitch; god only knows what she made of it.

The rugged beauty of the beach cannot be denied, although I think developers have been overhasty in trying to exploit the only entrance to the sands with a hotel complex of dubious aesthetic appeal, and whose materials already seem to be weathering rapidly under the onslaught of salt and water.

Taking away the distorting effect of wealthy Londoners living in this county, Cornwall is actually one of the poorest areas in the UK, and is receiving EU funding to address some of the problems. So while the hotel houses one of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurants which provide employment to disadvantaged youth, the hotel has nabbed a large chunk of the EU funds without really justifying the net return to Cornwall.

I went into the Beach Hut cafe, an extension of the hotel sitting down near the high water mark on the beach. Ordering lunch, I asked why the coffee price was so high. The waitress attributed this to use of fair trade coffee, which is a real cover up for extortion at the till. As Tim Harford, the "Undercover Economist" notes,
"only 10% of the premium paid for Fairtrade coffee in a coffee bar trickles down to the producer. Fairtrade coffee, like the organic produce sold in supermarkets, is used by retailers as a means of identifying price-insensitive consumers who will pay more, he says."
If I can pay $2 (~45p) for the same cup of coffee in Australia, then the markup here is mostly profit to the retailer (not to the coffee producer). There are other reservations about the Fair Trade effort (from The Economist):
the low price of commodities such as coffee is due to overproduction, and ought to be a signal to producers to switch to growing other crops. Paying a guaranteed Fairtrade premium—in effect, a subsidy—both prevents this signal from getting through and, by raising the average price paid for coffee, encourages more producers to enter the market. This then drives down the price of non-Fairtrade coffee even further, making non-Fairtrade farmers poorer.
Closer to home, I don't think it sends a good signal to the economically disadvantaged that with a £3 coffee it's OK to rip off one set of consumers, in the guise of protecting another set.

November 8 postscript: I was shown an article in this week's Telegraph, giving the breakdown of costs in a £2 cup of coffee: the actual coffee component is 4p - 1/50th of the total cost.

Returned through Newquay, in post-summer shock, which reminded me of some of the worst of Bondi Beach's shabby streetscape; and then Bodmin, also rather uninspiring on this grey afternoon. Bodmin has a couple of claims to fame: for Arthurians, nearby Bodmin Moor contains Dozmary Lake where the "moistened bint" or Lady of the Lake, supposedly "lobbed a scimitar" at the future king; and for cryptozoologists, there's the Beast of Bodmin, a phantom wild cat roaming through central Cornwall. There are similar reports of panthers stalking Sydney's hinterlands.

News from Alison this evening that neither of the marriage certificates for "Jane Hannah Williams" that I'd ordered from the GRO match up to my great-grandfather's sister. Back to the drawing board for that research.

Amidst this evening's fireworks, as Guy Fawkes weekend begins, I was invited to a party in Truro. Bondi was left huddled near Maureen as the neighbour's crackers exploded in the sky above and fell to our roof.

In Truro, I had to dodge between clouds of machine-produced smoke billowing out from an empty night-club dance-floor, and equal quantities of nicotinous fumes floating around on the street as the non-dancers sucked back ciggies around the entrance. After a couple of hours of that, I decided the night was a fizzer for me.

Finished reading Sam Harris' eloquent polemic "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason".

1 comment:

  1. Postscript added with reference to article in the Telegraph breaking down the cost of a cup of coffee.