Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Worst of Times?

Today's Financial Times said that, due to the biggest GDP decline in 50 years, the UK has 'never had it so bad'. I beg to differ. When I moved to London in 1979 the streets were piled high with mountains of rubbish due to the dustmen's strike. The air was filthy with coal dust and diesel particulates. Every other shopfront was empty or boarded up along the King's Road, where I rode through on the bus to and from work. Fewer than 40% of homes had central heating (I got frostbite for the first time on my feet from walking around in a home without central heating - me, a girl from Maine!) Only about half of all households had phones, and the ones that they did have rarely worked. In my first real job at Platt's we often had to dial a number up to 10 times to get through. More if it was outside the UK. Inflation was at 27% and life expectancy for women was around 76 years, it was merely 70 for men. Today the streets are clean, the shops are still vibrant (even if there are a few that shut down recently). Almost 100% of households have phones, either land lines or mobile. And 96% of homes have central heating. Women live on average 81 years, men 77. Just because some City gents took a bath on their pied-a-terres in Mayfair does not a Depression make. If it gets as bad as it was in 1979, I'll change my opinion.

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