Monday, 4 June 2018


Recently I was sent an article from the New York Times which suggested Britain had been virtually destroyed by eight years of austerity. Examples were drawn from some blighted parts of the North West highlighting some specific examples of human misery that Dickens in his pomp could not have bettered. It concluded:

Britain is looking less like the rest of Europe and more like the United States, with a shrinking welfare state and spreading poverty

You can look at virtually anything through either end of a telescope and you can guess through which end the gloomy chap who wrote this was looking. I see things differently. The cities of Britain are flourishing - not just London, which few would question is the greatest city in the world. The others like Manchester, described by the cantankerous Jeremy Clarkson as the Berlin of Britain, Birmingham , Newcastle, Leeds, Glasgow, Belfast – all of them are  shining examples of renovation and new hope.

Am I a cockeyed optimist? Well maybe but the dystopian vision of the New York Times is wildly removed from my perception. Except in one respect. ‘Austerity’ has a bitter price to pay. The word that is. The attitude it conveys. Since 2008 that word has preyed heavily on the needy, hopeless and vulnerable. It gets the blame for everything wrong in our lives.

Yet the reality of 2008 and the years after is we were living beyond our means. The correction that was needed at every level was to adjust that. ‘Austerity’ however is  a humourless, Victorian workhouse term to describe a necessary process. ‘Austerity’ doesn’t  laugh or listen. ‘Austerity’ is the implacable bank manager. ‘Austerity’ is cruel.

There’s a better word and a better strategy.’ Austerity’ derives from the Greek word meaning “severity”. Frugality derives from the Latin ‘frux’ or fruit  which seems a whole lot better to me.

Frugality is about simplifying, moderating and decluttering. To that end the data protection nonsense (death to entrepreneurial businesses by the way if not for me, the consumer) means I’m being unsubscribed from all that bother left, right and centre. Frugality in action means less of everything, books, papers, appointments, clothes … STUFF!

Being frugal is about being good humouredly ruthless. Like Richard Madeley interviewing hapless Gavin William Secretary of State for Defence.

After avoiding  answering a question several times about whether he now regretted saying “Shut up and go away“ to the Russian State after the Salisbury drama, Gavin was taken aback to be told “All right you won’t answer -  so interview terminated”.

Frugal may be the way forward for all of us. Frugality has a more obvious impact on the rich than the poor whose lives are pretty frugal already. But frugal connotes a more natural and fruitful process.

First we had Google taking over our lives but now we have Frugal as the new and much more controllable zeitgeist. I may sound like a Brexiteer but being frugal means getting back control.

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