Many years ago, I was introduced to a successful businessman – then in his mid-40s – who I was told had done well in the property boom of the 60s and by then owned several estate agents. This was when estate agents were not full of 20-somethings rushing around in prestige cars on their way to close their next deal and sign up the finance, but at a time when auctioneers, estate agents and surveyors were still, in the main, owned by some individual who was – in their mind at least – on a par with the other local professionals such as solicitors (often old family practitioners who practiced general law – when did you last find one of those in your neighbourhood?) and accountants.Then along came the loads-a-money property boom of the 80s when banks and various other people, cashing in on the bubble before it burst, bought up most of the independent agencies and rebranded them into some group or other. It all went pear-shaped of course but our friend did remarkably well, not because of expertise but by being in the right place at the right time.
Anyway, the introduction went along the lines of ‘he’s a good fellow, part of the local establishment, hail-fellow-well-met’ and all that and of course he had a ‘good war’ (well I did say we’re talking a good few years ago here), having had some sort of administrative role and was demobbed from the army at the age of 25 with the rank of Captain or Major and never seen or heard a shot fired in anger.
I’m sure if you are of a certain age you will have come across these people. There were hundreds of them in the public services and in business right up until the 80s when they started to retire or ‘took’ as they used to say ‘early retirement’, which usually meant they ended up at the local golf club, as a magistrate or school governor or something, usually devotees of the BBC, The Times or the Telegraph, pretending that the country was still as they thought it should be and assuming that younger people who had not served in the forces were impressed by their military title, which was never usually the case, but refused to acknowledge the reality that times had changed.
All this came back to me this week when musing over the continued shambles of our ‘war’ – the one which was apparently being won two weeks ago, certainly in the areas that were inhabited by the friend that I’ve described, but has now ‘flared up’ again in areas that well, not to put too fine a point on it, are not of the same class as our friend may have wished, discipline lacking in the ranks, as he may well have said.
There are now probably few of his ilk living in the leafy glades of St. Mary on the Wold, but their children most certainly are, comfortably for the most part, residing in the leafy lanes and manicured lawns of Audi Avenue with two cars, two dogs, two children. Like our friend they have, on the surface at least and for the time being, ‘had a good war’.
Boris, Dishy Rishi, Pritti, the BBC and mainstream press having kept them amused and apparently informed, they in return displayed admirable zeal and along with the wishes of the manipulated masses were among the first to display their agreement that ‘our NHS’ was manned by heroes who should be applauded, and that the rest of us were a bit churlish when we failed to paint our houses in rainbow colours and fly NHS flags that suddenly appeared out of nowhere – presumably delivered by courier by some lesser mortal who had no choice but to carry on regardless, having not been in the position to receive furlough pay. Interestingly they were among the first people in the Wold having displayed just how to stay alert and save lives and the rest of it, to go on holiday at the beginning of July, no caution displayed when it suited them of course.
Welcome then to the new ‘had a good war’ class who are not content with telling everyone how happy they were to be spending quality time with the family, or how awkward things were as it was so difficult to get a supermarket delivery slot at a convenient time and how awful it was not being able to plan the hols or visit friends for dinner parties, with little or no thought for the thousands of people, probably millions now, who have had their lives and incomes decimated by events altogether out of their control and having to read and listen to the bilge about this heroic class of world-beating public sector beings to which we all owe so much being reinforced daily by some cabinet minister and their media friends.
Their virtue-signalling conversations could be heard as they pounded around the Wold, adding to their daily tally of 10,000 steps to fight the flab, as Terry Wogan used to say, and they were the first to rush to the keyboard and order their new cycles and Lycra attire, apparently to impress us lesser mortals, as they added to their presumed status in the community just as grandad and mummy and daddy did before them. Who says Hyacinth Bucket is dead and history doesn’t repeat itself?
It looks though that cracks are now appearing in the facade of middle-income-earning residents and many are starting to get just a little apprehensive of what the future may bring. It’s dawning slowly that the broadcast and print media are following an agenda all of their own that has little to do with reality. Cocooned in their little bubble of a ‘good job’, in the public and private sector and the professions, they have seen their middle and upper middle management salaries, terms and conditions rise to heights that even 10 years ago would have been unbelievable, and which in the future will certainly become unsustainable; maybe that’s what is causing the nervousness.
Marketing hype and multi-media advertising, along with feature and opinion pieces in the mainstream, are all very well but down here but in the harsh light of reality its seems that perhaps ‘Adam’ has reflected that although he has enjoyed working remotely from home and ‘Vicky’ has done a sterling job; goodness knows where she has found the patience to ‘home educate’ our two monsters, let alone keep them entertained and quiet while I’m in the spare room holding Zoom calls with clients. It was a bit awkward the other day when ‘Zoe’ crashed in on a very important conference call.
It’s all starting to get a bit fraught and boring now. It’s fine going for a run before starting work and I’m saving a fortune on travel and all that, but it seems during the last senior management meeting that some junior people have been complaining that conditions working from home, now that the emergency is all but done and dusted, are not all that conducive to productivity while others have raised serious doubts about confidentiality and data protection, not to mention the fact that work is impinging on home life and eventually will cost in terms of extra lighting and heating, and if the council finds about the change of use, an increase in business rate charges.
If I need a workstation risk assessment for the office, said one, and an evaluation of working conditions and so on, who is going to pay for all this? After all, MPs got a free handout of £10,000 to help with their home-working needs. All the council gave me was a ‘new’ laptop.
Part 2 of Strictly between you and me will be published here tomorrow.