Belfast Telegraph

Aren’t we simply talking ourselves into depression?

By Gail Walker

Franklin Roosevelt once said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Rubbish, Frank.

There are lots of things to fear. No more so than in 2010. Recession. Cuts. Job losses. Pensions. Simon Cowell, Ann Widdecombe

But FDR had a point. Aren't we in danger of, well, wallowing in our misery just a tad too much?

It's an unscientific observation, naturally, but rarely can I recall people being so downright miserable. I suppose it’s not called a depression for nothing.

Meet up with someone and you won't be hearing about “he just doesn't listen, not really” or “she's quite cute”. No, that type of stuff belongs to an earlier, more innocent time before anyone had ever heard of phrases like “public sector borrowing requirement” and “quantitative easing”.

Now a chinwag means some mad Cassandra telling you that everything is about to go to hell, and how worried they are they didn't store away enough nuts during the good times to see them through the oncoming — if the runes tell the truth — endless winter: “Blah blah, house prices, yadda yadda, equity, blah, lowkey Christmas, blah ...”

Worse, you'll hear this whining, hope-sapped voice joining in the conversation, adding to the fugue of misery: “You think that's bad house worthless price of food ...”

And, to your horror, you will recognise that voice as your own, harrying away at your friend until you're both expecting to end up in the poorhouse by Friday. At the latest. Well, if there was a poorhouse to go to.

It’s scary tales from the bank vaults basically.

That's the real difference between this recession and the last one during the reign of Margaret Thatcher (below). Having been happy-go-lucky consumers for decades we suddenly can't start donning the rags of rebel chic and yelling that we have to smash the state. We don't even have idealism to fall back on.

So we’re stuck with all these buzzwords going round in our heads like little mocking fireflies. And scaring the heebie jeebies out of each other with ever more epic tales of woe.

It's the lingua franca of modern times — my negative equity's bigger than your negative equity. (And we used to complain that the only way blokes could talk to each other was through the medium of football ...)

Now, when the going gets tough, the tough make packed lunches. Or at least be seen to be getting out the Ormo and cooked ham. A coffee run? What do you think this is, the last days of the Raj? There’s a jar of Nescafe in the kitchen. A meal deal from Boots? Are you mad? Who died and left you a tidy sum?

We’re now locked, neighbour against neighbour, in a relentless bout of competitive frugality. If it's not equity and pensions, its lengthy discussions on the merits of Lidl vs Asda vs Tesco vs Sainsbury’s. Or the joys of Primark. Or a ‘dine in for a tenner day’ at M&S. What a treat.

As for actually eating out, well, farewell still or sparkling, bring us tap water. What do you mean you “don’t do tap?”. Let’s see your kitchen. And let’s split the bill fairly, I’m not paying for their four bottles of red.

Somebody mentioning a taxi home is nothing less than an open provocation to all right thinking citizenry — as if they’d casually let slip they’d spent the night snorting finest Columbian cocaine with gigolos while lighting imported cigars with used tenners.

As for the woman who still has her hair done regularly she's a modern Marie Antoinette. What’s wrong with home dye? Good enough for Chezza Cole ... isn’t it?

Enough of the hairshirts already. Yes, times are tough but aren't we in danger of making a fetish of it?

As I write it's a crisp autumn evening. The lights are twinkling in the offices and shops of Royal Avenue. I’ve family, friends, health. Who knows what the future holds but it's a lovely night for a walk, to be alive. I might even go crazy and buy a coffee ...

Belfast Telegraph


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