Monday, 24 May 2021


Plenty of economists are concerned about the possibilities of inflation. Generation Y and Z won’t remember what it was like when we had 27% inflation back in 1978. I also remember 1992’s Black Wednesday when interest rates went from 10% to 15% on a single day as we crashed out of the ERM. That meant someone with a mortgage of a ‘can-we-afford-it-hmmm-only-by-skin-of-our-teeth £300,000’ was overnight facing annual increases in payments of around £15,000 or more. 

Inflation favours those brave in pricing their goods or have goods or services that are price insensitive like fuel, pharmaceuticals (or ironically taxes.) Inflation favours the wealthier elderly with savings growing in value as interest compounds. It also favours certain entrepreneurs who in crises like the pandemic or war always thrive. No surprise then that a record number of billionaires have been created in the past twelve months.

Another price to be paid for in the past year of restrictions and lockdowns is that our senses have become dulled. Like our sense of touch. No hugging or kissing – I hadn’t realised how sad that was going to be. And now we’ve forgotten how to or are too embarrassed to do it. 

Our sense of hearing. It’s Brighton Festival and we’ve been to a couple of performances – Paul Lewis, the fantastic classical pianist and the Chineke Ensemble, all brilliant,  instinctive musicians.  But wearing an ever-dampening, fogging-up mask dulls your appreciation of music.

A solution: drink two large brandies before the show and enjoy inhaling your own breath. It doesn’t help the music but it helps keep you jolly.

Being jolly? Our sense of fun has withered. Yes. I confess. I used to be flippant and even occasionally amusing. The price of the past year has been to make me feel dull and cautious. And as I look around I see people desperately trying to revive lost lives thinking “let’s party.”  How? The party I’m afraid is over for most of us now. But maybe that’s OK – after all who really needs a party?

Who needs to work? The whole furlough business, Zoom and working from home has created a new, odd attitude to work. People have been paid to do nothing or work from home performing only to a TV screen. The price we’ll pay for that isn’t clear but corralling people back into offices as many companies want will be resisted strongly by a lot of people.

Yet there is a brighter side. In the Sunday Times Alyson Rudd describes the 2020-21 football season as “weird but strangely wonderful”. That captures the story of the whole Covid event. Somehow people have managed to be astonishingly tolerant, patient and obedient whilst in Holland and Italy there have been examples of civil unrest and violence.

The upside of the pandemic is that it has thoroughly shaken things up and forced us to appraise what we really want from our lives. We’re seldom forced like this to reflect on priorities. How important is a holiday in the sun? Do we get real fulfilment from our work ? Are we stuck in a loveless relationship? How many friends do we have? Are we still  learning?

The price of this shake-up’s good news. Because most of us will end up happier in our work, relationships and lives. If a job or marriage can survive and thrive in  2020 and 2021 it must be OK. 

Weird? No. Strangely wonderful and strong.

Footnote: read Solzhenitsyn’s  “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”. If you think the lockdown’s bad see how to stay cheerful in much worse. 

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