Tuesday, April 07, 2009
If the Credit Crunch Sounded Like A Breakfast Cereal, The "Downturn" Is A Meteorological State Which Must Be Endured With Stoicism And Spam
Firstly, an apology. I have been absent from these pages too long. I offer no excuses for my absence. I was in a blue funk and had nothing constructive to say, so decided to adhere to a maxim passed on to me by my mother, Mrs Elder (or Ma'am). Perhaps in deference to the wartime propaganda posters about loose lips and sinking ships which decorated the pantry, she was an advocate of eloquent silence. "Chatter," she used to say, "is the diarrhea of a constipated mind." (Generally, as a cure for this unpleasant condition, she prescribed fig rolls, before meals, until the bloating abated).
My absence has coincided with the event known by the BBC as "The Downturn", and which was previously known by the much friendlier cognomen, "the credit crunch".
'Credit crunch' sounded, I always thought, like the kind of breakfast cereal Sir Chris Hoy might have eaten before pedalling a Moulton Mini around the lower slopes of Mount Everest, and as a metaphor it was of limited use to those us who have always abhorred money-lending, share-dealing, or any of the forms of licensed gambling which have kept the whinnying nitwits of the Stock Market in Champagne baths while the rest of us have us been left to compute the rising cost a sliced pan loaf. I have neither a borrower nor a lender been yet, for some reason, I am being invited to enjoy the unpleasant side-effects of everyone else's economic incontinence. How this happened under the watch of the Prime Minister (nee "The Iron Chancellor") Mr Gordon Brown, I am unable to say.
So now we have a "Downturn". I am no economist, but the technical explanation of this state of affairs appears to be roughly as follows: the bankers encouraged people who couldn't afford it to take out loans in order to buy things they didn't need, to the extent that their banks had to behave in the same way, borrowing non-existent money from each other and paying themselves monstrous bonuses as a reward for their economic perspicacity. This was cowboy economics, except that the men in the black hats who were robbing the stage coach were the bank managers themselves.
That, of course, is all in the past. The downturn, which is sometimes known as "the recession", occasionally as "the slump" or "the depression", has become an almost meteorological state. There is no other game in town.
And yet, these days do not feel so bad. The supermarkets are still crammed with unnecessary products, and young men still have the wherewithall to fortify their stomachs with communion wine every night. The gutters run with spew just as quickly as they did in the boom years, and the pavements remain sticky with Juicy Fruit. The bust is much like the boom. (Hemlines, it's true, are rising, which is said to be a bellwether of grim times, but this is a hardship that we must learn to bear.)
Stoicism is required. Fortunately I have plenty. I keep it in the coal hole, next to the emergency rations of Marvel and Spam.