Now the odd thing is that on weekdays even now, when road traffic is increasing through the Wold again, as Bob the builder, landscape gardener, courier delivery people and white man van in particular decided that the emergency is over and so can go to work, pedestrian traffic has not. Cars and vans on the road are usually, as I’ve noted before not the two to three year old prestige cars or the cars of the middle manager or middle income earners. Far from it, these are the cars of the people I was describing earlier. The expensive (to lease) cars or otherwise are still parked on the drives and one sees little movement on weekdays until around mid-morning when the first waves of local vehicle traffic, along with the cyclists, horse riders, runners and walkers, appear by mid-day. All is quiet again and stays the same until around 5.30 when there is a repeat performance, usually different people and families though.
Not unexpected of course given the present situation, but what is quite interesting and odd is that everything changes at the weekend. Traffic numbers drop off, virtually no movement anywhere until 10.30 at the very earliest and then late afternoon. It’s almost as if having had their life and work routines interrupted, some semblance is adhered to during the working week, but all changes come the weekend. My guess is that the novelty is starting to wear thin and maybe worries about future employment prospects, particularly those furloughed and self-employed, are starting to have an effect, given the propensity of many to live one pay check at a time. The ‘one life live it’ life style ‘lets worry about the future when it comes’ people may be starting to see the writing on the wall, and the writing from where I stand is not very positive.
It’s the small print stories in the mainstream media that most don’t read or listen to, when they are being induced by theatrical anger to give money for this or money for that, support the NHS to save lives etc. In those stories – often only a paragraph or so, or a footnote on the news programmes – are items about rising numbers of people in financial difficulties, (bear in mind we have only been in lockdown for about six weeks at most), food banks inundated with appeals for assistance, the finance sector, which finances all these leased cars which for some reason the majority of ‘buyers’ thought were such a good idea in the ‘good times’ now it seems gone for the foreseeable future at the very least, all the people who took on maximum mortgage liabilities both for first and second homes, because we wanted the maximum ‘leverage’ or purchased ‘buy to let’ on favourable packages, are starting to see danger signals. Car leasing companies are being inundated with requests for ‘holidays’ and the same goes for ‘mortgaged’ properties. The bubble it seems is about to burst.
All this was foretold by many but blissfully ignored by many as they enjoyed their credit-fuelled lifestyles, one or two pay cheques away from financial difficulties and hardship. Whatever could happen? ‘Wait and see,’ older wiser heads said. ‘The world is awash with international, national and personal debt; there will come a day of reckoning.’ They were for the most part more interested in the continuing lifestyle and offers of yet more cheap money across all age groups and classes of course. We all know the over-extended older person with the new car, the £20,000 kitchen and the cruise ship holidays two or three times a year, nothing could or would affect them, could it?
Now look at your local town. It’s almost deserted, many of the small businesses, particularly those in the service sector, lost their business overnight. Restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, non-food retailers, car dealerships, caravan dealerships, garden centres, all employing staff and all playing a part in the local and national economy, overnight all closed. Many of these businesses were struggling before this emergency, many small operations were existing on cash flow, always a dicey way of doing things but manageable, given reasonable turnover or profitability, quite the opposite of what we find ourselves dealing with at the moment. Unemployment is rocketing. When the furlough assistance finishes, many more companies will shed staff or close – that is the reality. Many expect, presumably content in the fact they are employed in ‘safe’ public sector jobs, that the lockdown will extend perhaps even to June and not overly affect them. They should not be so sure because if that happens there will be, in the opinion of many, a tsunami of problems, mass unemployment, company closures, inflation, tax hikes to pay for the borrowed billions and a slump in the retail and service industries.
Well, I hope the sun keeps shining for all those people. They may well find, like countless millions in other and poorer countries, that when the sun stops shining and there is little or no ‘government’ assistance, their health and their health service is the last thing on their mind to worry about; survival and making enough to keep a roof over your head and food on the table for the family is the only thing that matters. Our Covid emergency, as difficult and distressing as it is for those who have lost loved ones, has become mainly the preserve of the middle class point-scoring political so called ‘elite’ and media.
In fact a very British emergency. In fact you could say with some justification, a very middle class emergency, something that all those protected people and those living in the safe and comfortable confines of Audi Avenue could well consider when they have their first dinner party with their 10 closest friends and family, because this time, it really is different. This time the situation is going to affect them. I wonder which one of their favourite breakfast TV or mainstream media pundits or highly paid celebrity stars will have all the answers. We may have a long wait.