I got an ad on my Facebook feed this week. Presumably one of those notorious behavioural ones.
It was for a subscription home-delivery spirits company, and bore the slogan:
“They go back to school, you go back to whisky.”
It paints a pretty bleak picture of parenthood and the double-edged emotions of term-time after lockdown. It also rather assumes lockdown hadn’t already nudged us more or less gently towards the liquor cabinet already, kids or no.
But as Brussels’ political term-time resumes too, spare a thought for those left at home, nursing a Bushmills, as loved ones head back to College. Still, more time for golf now, eh?
For those back at their desks, they’ve wasted no time in publishing the first “Towards” of the season.
Recent years are peppered with EU policy docs boldly plotting “Roadmaps” and strategies “Towards” some lofty goal.
It’s a construction that pulls in two directions, both setting an ambition but also intrinsically managing expectations.
If you’re on a road trip and you say you’re heading “towards” Baden-Baden, you’re basically admitting you’re not actually hoping to get “to” Baden-Baden itself, and might feasibly be content with getting to Bad Kreuznach or even Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, which while not as good as Baden-Baden, is not so Bad, and somewhat closer. And is, after all, the birthplace of Georg Kreuzberg, who discovered the source of the Apollinaris mineral fountain, and home to the cold-war “Ausweichsitz der Verfassungsorgane des Bundes im Krisen- und Verteidigungsfall zur Wahrung von deren Funktionstüchtigkeit” – an attraction with a name so long that even the Germans shortened it to “Regierungsbunker.”
Who can forget the 2015 “Towards a modern, more European copyright framework,” which seemed content to settle some way short of the IP equivalent of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler.
Since then, to name but some, we have launched valiant pilgrimages “towards” a European Education Area, a Circular Economy, a Sustainable Food System, and even a Sustainable Europe.
This week’s announcement was entitled “Critical Raw Materials Resilience: Charting a Path towards greater Security and Sustainability.”
It aims to “increase EU resilience in the rare earth and magnet value chains” we’re told.
Snark aside, it’s all about making sure China and Chile and the like can’t hold us hostage over the niche metals that make our electric-car batteries and phones work.
But until we discover a vast untapped resource of lithium just outside Genk, and can start to unravel the long-term supply chains and investments already in place, we’re simply going to have to inch “towards” slightly better recycling and being awfully nice to some dodgy sorts around the globe so they don’t jack their prices up or turn the supply off altogether to favour their own manufacturers.
Meanwhile the Berlaymont Brains-Trust are also having to deal with more pressing issues in which they have even less hope of success, but feel duty bound to plug away at nonetheless.
The Mad Moscow Hatter has decided to host another Toxic Tea Party. And his chum the March Minsk Hare has asked for help with his own troublesome dormouse, which has woken up and gotten all uppity and needs stuffing into the teapot.
The matters have attracted the sternest of tuts from the EU, which is also having to reserve some carefully worded opprobrium to direct at the Brits this week, who want to have their fishcake and eat it.
And then, in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s been this Bit-Of-A-Sniffle doing the rounds, which continues to inconvenience and may well kill off our loved ones, crash our economies and inhibit our way of life forever.
It’s enough to drive you to the whisky.