October 11th, 1998.

Divided we stand.

I don't know about you, but I have given up watching the news and listening to bulletins on the radio. I have adopted a new policy of 'burying my head in the sand' when it comes to world news issues.

The other night when I watched channel 4 news I was left feeling completely depressed and almost in fear of tomorrow. The world economy is going into meltdown and NATO is threatening to bomb some Yugoslav general, a move that Russia is opposed to and says will 'start the cold war all over again'. Add this to my local news bulletin which seems to carry nothing but stories of stabbings and shootings in the area, and I am left feeling that the world is a horribly depressing and dangerous place. Perhaps it is, or perhaps nothing is different. Maybe it's always been this way and I am only just noticing it as I get older. You see all this stuff about a 'global economic downturn' really puts me on edge. Having just started a company, I am concerned as to how this will affect my future and the future of my company.

Looking around, you wouldn't know anything was different. The local kids of my neighborhood still go out playing cops and robbers. (Merseyside Police are the cops and the kids are the robbers!) Liverpool city centre is still packed with shoppers and in the evenings the pubs still fill up, the usual Liverpool tradition of drinking, fighting and shagging (in that order) still carries on unabated. So where are the signs that hard times are ahead? Where are the signs of this international monetary doomsday?

You see my feeling and my fear is that for Merseyside inner-city areas such as Birkenhead, such a 'downturn' would reduce it to depths that I can't even begin to imagine. I mean, looking around at what goes on in this town, it would be hard to imagine life being worse for some. But if unemployment goes up and the prospects of better times move further into the distance, things are bound to get worse. The divide between those who 'have' and those who 'haven't' will increase. The poor areas will sink into an even worse state as the increasing number of jobless and bored people turn to crime as a way up and out of where they are.

I can already hear the cries of disapproval for my predictions coming from Merseysiders 'proud to be from Merseyside'. I get e-mails from ex-Merseysiders from around the world from time to time, telling me that Merseyside is a great place rich in culture and tradition and that I am wrong about my opinions of the place. But hang on a second. What the hell does someone from Canada who hasn't been back to Liverpool or Birkenhead in years know anyway? They buggered off to Canada or wherever years ago, and in the time since they've gone things have changed for the 'famous shipping port' region.

Hell, I'd leave Birkenhead and Merseyside for good if I could. As it is I am kind of stuck to the area for at least the next two or three years as I build my business up. However, I am looking to move out of 'downtown' Birkenhead, to somewhere where there is at least a little more money and affluence. Snobby as that may sound, the fact remains that most burglaries happen in poor areas because your average burglar is most likely to be a teenage male or a local drug addict stealing to support their habit. Either way, they need to get home with whatever they have just robbed without attracting too much attention.

This is what I mean by the 'people who have', and the 'people who haven't'. The gap between the poor areas and the 'not poor' (I won't say rich because not being poor doesn't mean you are rich!) areas is growing. Those who remain in the inner city poor areas will inevitably suffer the results worse than those who don't.

A fine example would be that of two sisters I know. One has moved away to a better area in the Midlands with her husband while the other has stayed in Birkenhead. Both have very young children and it is clear to see that the child living in the Midlands in a good area with a stable family situation has a better outlook than the one living in Birkenhead with her Mother who uses alcohol and drugs to gain a temporary escape from her situation.

So you see, I hope this 'downturn' never happens because the prospects of what could happen if it does hit are quite unthinkable if it is going to be as bad as the doom-sayers would have us believe.

For now though, I am closing my eyes to the problem. I'm currently on a plane to Boston again, 3000 miles away from the problems I know, but no further away from the problems at large.