Postmark with Mark Blackmore
Many times while I was in the Penguin News office, we’d sigh and reluctantly conclude that it was time to do another oil story. The changes we’d be reporting on were always newsworthy – investment and mergers and other words that business people like to say – yet there was also a sense of stasis, of events leaving us exactly where we were before.
However, the recent front page coverage on the Sea Lion oil field did feel slightly different. As if those involved might actually make progress this time.
‘Oh no,’ I thought to myself. ‘Those involved might actually make progress this time.’
It has been easy, for many years now, to be reasonably chilled about the prospect of opening a new oil field off the Falklands coast. Given the politics and the logistics and the money it was always such a ridiculously distant prospect. Perhaps this is still the case. But all the way up here in this savage land, it seems different and plausible, so I feel moved to say as someone who loves the Falklands, you shouldn’t do it.
In the UK we’re opening a new oil field ourselves. It’s called Rosebank, and it’s about 80 miles northwest of the Shetland Isles. It is not, I think it’s fair to say, a popular move from Rishi Sunak’s government. In response the International Energy Agency reminded everyone that no new oil and gas projects are necessary. They are predicting fossil fuel demands will fall 80% by 2050 as we move to solar power and electric cars. A cross party group of British MPs and peers put out a statement calling the decision “deeply irresponsible”. There have been protests, and calls to protect marine life. Former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas called the move “morally obscene”, and the “greatest act of environmental vandalism in my lifetime”. Broadcaster Chris Packham said it was an “act of war against life on Earth”. Say what you think, guys, don’t sit on the fence.
We all know, I’d hope by now, what is happening to the planet. There are microplastics in the clouds, and in your very blood as you sit reading this. Many scientists are becoming extremely alarmed at the gathering pace of climate change. It’s getting bad much sooner than we thought, they are saying. But you don’t have to believe any of that, or care about it. You have every right to shrug. I don’t insist you publicly agree with everything I say, as if I am FIG and you are my employee. Let’s put aside right or wrong for a second.
This argument is based on the security of the Islands. I’ve quoted the above as an example of the kind of publicity the Falklands will get, should it proceed with this. Make no mistake, it would be a public relations catastrophe. Your international reputation would be trashed. It doesn’t seem too far a stretch to imagine protestors shouting at MLAs when they go abroad. Just Stop Oil throwing powder at Falklands reps, John Birmingham and Richard Hyslop standing there with their glasses all orange. Doesn’t bear thinking about.
Argentina would be absolutely delighted. Imagine the opportunities it would give them to point and tut and shake their heads and solemnly intone they would never do such a thing.
Chris Packham would be furious.
The delays should have killed the project by now, and this latest progress has come at least a decade too late. At this point, awareness of the damage fossil fuels cause has risen to a point where you cannot just crack open the Earth without severe reputational consequences. The Islands could very possibly make itself an international pariah, and what price then the support for self-determination?
Today I went to the doctor. I’ll spare you the details of the consultation, it was just the usual curious poke with a finger to confirm I was still alive despite everything. More interestingly, on the way in I saw a sign in reception. It explained that from hereon and henceforth, ‘unsolicited’ urine samples would no longer be accepted, so wouldn’t it be great if everyone could stop bringing them in please and thank you.
As I signed myself in on a large touchscreen, because human interaction is frowned upon in the UK, I reflected on this issue of unwanted wee, this pissue, if you will. It had obviously become such a headache for reception staff that a large sign was required to deter this behaviour, which I am unable to resist calling ‘philanthropee’. “Here is a mug of warm tinkle, you’re welcome, where shall I sit?” Perhaps you’re reading this thinking ‘everyone takes a pee cup to the doctor, Blackmore, get with the times’. But, you know, I suspect otherwise, and the sign is on my side.
Then the doctor called me and he looked like he was drawn by Quentin Blake, which freaked me out. I answered more questions about what life is like in the Falkland Islands than I did about my own health, and was hustled out with a list of instructions, one of which was to return with a urine sample.
“What, like, a solicited one?” I said.
This is going to be awkward. I’m going to have to loudly proclaim that my particular pee-beaker is official and requested, not just brought along on the off-chance like the rest of the inexplicable weirdos who live round here.
Before too long, one supposes, gainful employment must be found. To this end I have looked at some job ads, which is something I haven’t done for decades. It was absolutely gruesome. One representative example said: “Are you an extremely organised person who is passionate about delivering excellent customer service?”
I mean, no? Nobody is? The person who wrote that must know that every response they get is going to be absolutely seething with lies. Perhaps that is the test, the ability to lie your little bottom off in a completely convincing fashion. Perhaps that is the secret of customer service. Goodness, I have so much to learn.
Best of British to MLAs Biggles and Sprink, who drew the short straws this year and have had to attend the party conferences. Both of these chaps are fairly Conservative-minded, so I imagine the Tory Conference was a difficult experience, featuring as it did a succession of rather alarming figures jockeying to be the next leader after they get smashed at the next election.
Personally I might put a fiver on Nigel Farage rejoining, getting himself a seat, and inheriting the wreckage.