Now that the wonderful, honest, open-hearted, open-minded and talented Polish writer, Olga Tokarczuk, has won the Nobel prize, we can rest easy. I needn’t worry that I haven’t and will not now win this prize since it is in such good hands.

Is that the end of my ambition? Maybe not quite.  If I were to be appointed Minister for Language Affairs – unlikely you may think, but you have to be prepared just in case –  I already have a few ideas. Of course poetry (and poetry translation obviously) would occupy a very different place in the world, in education and in the cultural pecking order. Poets would be issued with free coffee vouchers, fêted wherever they went; poetry would receive priority funding on a scale hitherto unknown before – no more back of a pub and pay for your sandwich jobs, red carpet only for us poets. Shallow you say? In my programme world leaders would exchange poems at summits! That’s not all.  I would encourage the use of some words (for instance: dark, silver, blueberry, bear…) but forcibly prohibit others. A fuller list of the (many) desirable words I leave to your imagination. Favourite words you say secretly to yourself, over-use in your speech and writing. But some phrases would be banned. End of story.  I can be ruthlessly uncompromising.

Let me give you an example:

I’m in a supermarket and I get chatting to another shopper and we both start complaining about the (ENORMOUS) amount of plastic packaging wrapped around almost everything in the shop despite people campaigning for this to change.  The supermarket has made promises but not delivered on them yet. Oh well, says my new friend and sighs, that’s just how it is.  Can you hear the ministerial announcement booming through the supermarket loudspeakers? NOOOOOOO!! DON’T SAY THAT!  don’t give up in resignation bellows the voice, pleads the voice, caresses and sings the voice. A choral piece with flashing (low emission) lights, unicorns, scents wafting, music to suit every taste, balloons, poetry (naturally) and dancers who lift the shopper on their shoulders and carry them off to a place so heavenly (for a while, all due health & safety adhered to etc) that this person never ever utters those words that’s just how it is again…

IMG_9635As it was, I did my best to cheer them up and encourage them not to feel resigned, ground down, powerless, discouraged, defeated.  Because that’s what’s getting to us. That sense that whatever we do is irrelevant and won’t make any difference. How much more effectively could I have intervened with full ministerial powers at my disposal!

4e397985-97e9-47f6-8dc8-6e92e7fb87cdIf appointed Oh well… is one of the key phrases I’m going to ban in the English language, currently used in the UK when people just want to give up in the face of the political circus played out on both the very small and the very large scale around them as this country courts disaster.  This disillusionment, this sense of helplessness would be tackled by my ministry.  So I’m just putting it out there. I have been very busy lately – hopefully more about that in other posts or on the link below – but if anyone is thinking of appointing a Minister for Language Affairs, I humbly offer myself as candidate.