Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

It’s difficult coming to terms with poverty, Not my poverty but the constant references in the media.
Food bank
Food banks, child poverty, the homeless, people unable to feed their children and spending their days in bed because they cannot afford to heat their home. It is said that around 7% of the population have used a food bank. I cannot argue with the facts BUT there are roughly 27 million households in the UK and between them they own 37 million cars. In 2017, the UK spent £49 billion on food and drink purchased and consumed outside the home – and that doesn’t include alcohol. Over 98% of the British public made such a purchase. That adds up to around £1000 per person, per year. Obviously there are people who are desperately hard up just as there are those who are indecently wealthy but the vast majority of the UK population have never, ever been better off - at least materially. Not to be cynical or judgemental but I heard someone say "My son and his family can't afford to go abroad this year, now that's poverty"

We still hear references to the working class. It’s as though we have regressed to the first half of the 20th century when there really was a genuine working class who might very occasionally go in a cafe for what they called ‘Tea’. The idea of Holidays abroad or even in hotels in this country was for the wealthy. As I remember, it didn’t cause us any anguish or any great feelings of envy.

Soccer Player
These things were, in a way, ‘Outside our expectations’. If there is such a thing as a working class in the twenty-first century, does Gary Lineker qualify? After all he is employed as are the Premier League footballers, many of whom come from very ‘ordinary’ backgrounds. My childhood was very much working class but looking at myself now, I would have to say I see myself as middle class not by wealth or income but by those difficult to define attitudes.

I simply don’t know what to think. My confusion is born of my experiences when I was younger - I am now well beyond pension age but try desperately hard to avoid referring to the good old days and making unrealistic comparisons. However, thinking back to when I had three small children, I didn’t have a car and walked a couple of miles home from work to save three ha’pence (less than a penny in real money). I really didn’t consider this hardship, simply good housekeeping.

A BBC documentary made about 1958 shows life in the North of England (Salford and Liverpool). Take a look at to get a feel of what it was like for many in those days.

Back in the 50s and 60s Bill and I were newly married and life was good. It wasn’t a hard life, we enjoyed ourselves, in fact life was normal. The big difference between now and how we lived then is all to do with expectations. As with all humans (and animals for that matter) we wanted more but I don’t think we spent our life expecting more to drop in our lap.

It wasn’t so much that we had less, rather that our expectations were less. Which is probably down to marketing. We certainly had advertising but nothing like the levels we get now with something like twenty minutes per hour of non programme time on commercial TV and British companies spending Twenty-two billion pounds on advertising in 2017. We may argue that we aren’t influenced by advertising but would they spend Twenty-two billion pounds if it didn’t work.

Another thought, when the manufacturer of a product sit round the table to discuss pricing, they will take raw materials and manufacturing processes into account. Decide how many items they are going to sell and add the cost of marketing into their calculations. Add to that a profit margin and away we go. That can only mean that when you hand the retailer the money for your purchase you are also paying your share of the
Twenty-two billion pounds. They don’t pay for the advertising - YOU DO!

The day after Boxing day, I had to visit a retail park in order to have damaged windscreen replaced. With two hours to wait I wandered round some of the stores in order to pass the time. Even though it was after Christmas, the shops were crowded with people who seemed to be doing what I was doing, wandering up and down the aisles simply looking at things. The big difference was, they seemed to be buying things.

I just love ‘People watching’ and trying to see what makes them tick. There were some who were looking for something specific but most appeared to flit from counter to counter as though searching for something that might catch their eye.

I spotted one young woman who latched on to a hair dryer, I didn’t get the
impression that it was
Hair Dryer
her target, more that the hair dryer had targeted her. She eventually called over a ‘Customer Advisor’ (They used to be called shop assistants in my day) and as I wandered off she was in deep discussion. The price ticket was £499 - yes £499 not £4.99. I’m sure it will dry her hair beautifully but I can’t believe it will be so much better than my towel. She was also looking at a hair styler (whatever that may be) at £729.

Everywhere people were ‘Shopping’. Designer clothes, gadgets, shoes, handbags, watches and I am sure it would be the same in every town and city in the country. From an old codgers perspective it looks like consumerism gone wild. What’s worse, I am not immune to all this advertising. Take things to drink from. If I gathered together all the drinking vessels in my house - cups, beaker, glass, tumblers etc, I am sure I could give a drink to half the village. A slight exaggeration but I am sure you know what I mean.

Ask the young ones who they are doing this weekend and you are likely to hear “Oh! we are going shopping’. This won’t be to buy the necessities of life, more likely just to buy something. I can’t resist it - in the old days we used to go shopping when we needed something.

Love shopping

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