I’ve been away from the UK a few years, and returned recently. I went back to some of the old watering holes I used to visit yesterday and met many old friends and acquaintances not seen for a while. I was shocked by the change.
The first bar/restaurant was closing at 8 pm and the cook had already gone home. I checked others and saw all were empty, except two which had only a few bums on seats. Places that were thronging four years ago were strangely quiet. One or two were completely closed with For Sale signs.
I met up with one group having a Salsa night, three women and two men. I remember these being twenty people minimum. ‘Where is everyone?’ I asked.
‘The town’s dead,’ came the reply. ‘It’s been like this for weeks.’
‘But it’s midsummer,’ I said.
‘The town’s dead,’ I was told, ‘but so is everywhere else. It’s The Depression.’ It was the first time I had heard the word given in general conversation in describing the current situation. ‘My friend goes to Marbella every year, and she says the place is dead there too. If Marbella is dead, what chance is there for anywhere else?’
Four years ago, these same places were always busy, often with so much cigarette smoke your clothes stank and you needed a shower on getting home to be rid of it. It is far more pleasant to sit in pubs and bars than it was for that reason, but now they are empty.
The only places that were pumping were the two tennis clubs where all courts were busy for the evening. Annual memberships are cheap and drinks are sold at supermarket prices. No wonder the government’s making cuts.
The Times –
George Osborne will claim today that the harshest Budget for 30 years will squeeze the rich more than it hits the poor. The Chancellor will seek to sell his package of record spending cuts and tax rises as being stamped by fairness as he tries to win public support for a four-year austerity drive.
Nick Clegg moved to pre-empt any revolt by Liberal Democrats last night by insisting that his party’s values were at the heart of Mr Osborne’s assault on the deficit. “This is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do,” he wrote in an e-mail to party members, an acknowledgement that the pain to come will put the coalition under immense strain.
Mr Osborne’s Budget statement is a watershed moment, when households learn how much they will have to suffer to help to pay off the country’s debts.
It looks like the town will be dead awhile. But at least Britain still has its own currency and its own economic government. I pity those countries that now depend on the floundering EU to make up its schizophrenic mind as to what will happen next.