is supposed to be as good as a rest but I’m guessing that’s a small change like seeing your mother every fourth Tuesday instead of every third Saturday. The change currently around us – whether we progress it or react against it or try to think about something else – is enormous. You can block out what may be happening until it is under your nose, like Carol (not her real name), 27 years down the line of full time work from being a Saturday girl, and made redundant at the end of December. Happy New Year. And sadly she is far from alone.
It is fine to say (and I hope it is so) that as one door closes,
so another opens but you might like to reflect on the number of fingers that get trapped in between the one and the other. Figuratively speaking, trapped fingers – actually, jobs lost. Because if you can’t earn the money, you can’t spend it. Never mind consumerist Christmas with its tinsel hams and fairylit mince pies. You can’t spend what you haven’t got – on groceries, on rent or mortgage, on utilities or putting petrol in the car – and while I too long for the day when the cars are rechargeable, you’ll still have to pay to make them run. And if you haven’t got, you can’t spend and the money won’t go round to anybody else.
Back at the beginning of the year, a friend with often impeccable intuition said she thought things were going to change, meaning in the sense of less greed , more kindness and a more responsible attitude in the world (see The Ellen MacArthur Foundation – it made me cheer.) As a fully paid up member of the Cassandra Club, I knew that the route we were embarked on was fraught with pain, muttering up my sleeve “Be careful what you wish for.” She is more hopeful than I can afford to be for change is not accomplished with the whisk of a wand. (re Ellen MacArthur, the work of the foundation is ten years on). Minor alteration is one thing, social upheaval is something else. Change is OK if you have resource – money, clothes and shoes, places to stay and ruggedly good health, better still if you are on your own – but if you don’t have something to fall back on and others depend on you, the winds of change blow chilly and the upheaval is less of adventure than a sore trial.
Like a lot of other people I just get used to things, the things I like being in the place that I am used to find them and it is a shock when that pattern changes. Carol told me what was happening to her because she knows I’ll miss her. I shall also miss Andy and Liz, neighbours from heaven with a boy and a girl and a rough haired dach. They are off abroad, he’s a linguist and neither of them want to stay through this stage of the Covid fallout. They’ve found a house, rented theirs, put books out on the garden wall and they’re off on December 13. It’s not as if I was round there every day for a cup of sugar, it’s just that we talked easily and well and widely, and that is sufficiently rare to be cherished.
My son usually works through Christmas and we don’t know whether we shall see each other or not yet. We talked about presents and cards, giving each other the freedom to choose or not choose without obligation: money’s tight. Best hang on to what you have. I don’t know the first thing about economics (there have only ever been three public economists I could understand – David Smith, Faisal Islam and Peter Jay) but I do know that the country is in the cart financially.
The dream of what government can and can’t do is filtered through what it will and won’t do, which depends in turn on who it wants to influence for the best.
My change is to give fewer gifts: make modest contributions to five charities : send cards (I bought them reduced in January): prepare to light candles, use the telephone and get on with it. I am not cancelling Christmas and it is not cancelling me.