‘What I Did in my Holidays’: scenarios in 2030Posted: June 13, 2013
by Pat Dodd Racher
From the Welsh countryside
That popular teacher’s standby topic at the start of term, ‘What I Did in my Holidays’, supposes both that people have holidays and fit ‘activities’ into them. These suppositions are 20th century for the UK, if not for the emerging middle classes in China and elsewhere in Asia.
The news yesterday from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, that real wages (after allowing for inflation) in the UK fell faster between 2008 and 2013 than at any other time in modern history, tells us that most people have less money to spend on holidays. The squeeze is not going to end: for formerly affluent workers in the West, globalisation is a grinding process of levelling down.
In austerity-heavy Greece, the unemployed and/or unpaid are going back, if they can, to the small farms that their parents or grandparents left, when cities were a more enticing prospect. Barter has re-emerged as an important aspect of the economy. In this world, holidays cease to become consumer purchases and are special days punctuating the working calendar.
‘Tourism’ in Wales will change dramatically, too. The short-break market, on which much of scenic rural Wales has a heavy reliance, will shrink. Problem is, policy-makers still expect growth, and even among the post-war babies with their private pensions, calls on their resources to help children buy houses and grandchildren to buy university courses, mean that overall they have less to spend on themselves.
What is the point, then, of encouraging more hotels and guesthouses to open in quiet market towns, rather than developing policies to counteract the perverse impacts of globalisation, by supporting local production for local consumption, production of energy, food, artisan manufactures, remodelling and repairs. Current rules mean that subsidies for local production have to be given voluntarily, by individuals and social enterprises, because the corporation-dominated World Trade Organisation insists on ‘free (unsubsidised) markets’ (except for the manufacture of arms and other ‘essentials’ for the security of the corporate state).
Back to ‘What I Did in my Holidays’. Suppose that in the year 2030, as a decidedly elderly person, I went to Llandovery to stay with my granddaughter.
Scenario 1: The slow train from Swansea clattered over a poorly maintained track, but the embankments were not dangerously overgrown because work parties from the local prison kept them clear. In Llandovery it was market day when I arrived, much of the merchandise transported in electric trucks, some by horse and cart. The high cost of imported foods had persuaded the Welsh government, now in the North West Europe Federation, to prioritise allotments and orchards for communities to grow their own food. The Georgian houses around the Market Square accommodated small shops and workshops. My granddaughter worked in the rural university, which occupied the former premises of Pantycelyn High School (closed 2015) and Llandovery College, which became the nucleus of the new university. I heard lots of Welsh spoken as I wandered around, and some Dutch and Norwegian, but the speakers were attached to the university, not tourists.
Scenario 2: Long and bumpy journey by cart from the rail terminus in Swansea, because the Heart of Wales line had been abandoned in 2020. The roads, damaged by frequent floods and winter icing, discouraged travel. Llandovery was down-at-heel because few residents could afford building materials or paint, which was in short supply anyway. No school now, and certainly no university, so this was a village of the old, like the little communities I remembered from the Adriatic islands of Yugoslavia-that-was in the 1960s, where donkeys were beasts of burden and their owners, dressed in black, toiled alone in the fields. Rural Wales had suffered badly in the Siberian flu epidemic of 2022, and farmers struggled from season to season in the unpredictable and often stormy weather. Llandovery was such a backwater that the little community was largely left to its own devices. My granddaughter was the district nurse, the only one in the whole of North East Carmarthenshire, with a crushingly heavy workload. Her employer, the Central Wales Health Board, owed her five months’ wages.
And I was the only tourist in sight.