The New Face Of Britain

April 1, 2013 10:05 am

The other half and I went down to Greenwich the other day for a little outing marking our fourteen-month anniversary (yes, alright, we know we’re soppy).  Greenwich, for us as for a lot of the people of Britain, is one of the places that, even though the North-of-the-Riverers never venture here to see otherwise, we always see as a fairly well-to-do area.  It’s got lovely townhouses, some newly built flats, the ginormous park, the Observatory, those wonderful museums and one of the most palatial universities to NOT have top billing in this country… In fact, Jonathan and I spent quite a bit of time last year figuring out if we could afford to move there.

But actually, as we traveled through it yesterday, we looked about us in stunned silence at just how quiet and almost rundown it’s looking these days.

Beachcomber, one of the best seafood restaurants you could ever hope to go to, with a chef that knew how to cook fish like I know how to make sentences longer, had an interior ‘Unit To Let’ sign.  One of the local beauty shops seems, on a brief look in their direction, to have either had to give up one of their units and trim down immensely, or otherwise shut up shop completely, like Beachcomber.  The now extinct local Blockbuster, of course, on the way to the Odeon, was desolate and dismal, not having been used for a good few months.  And the Odeon itself, while still up and running (with his extremely eyebrow-raising prices for just about everything!) was quiet and sparsely populated, even for a ‘school night’.  At one point, Jonathan and I thought we were going to be the only ones in our screen for new film The Croods (which, by the way, if you have a spare £12/13 each, is a very entertaining and sweet, family affirming film).  In total, there were around five of us in there. Greenwich

And this, more than anything else recently – the warnings of impending mass immigration, together with the evidence that nobody serving me in the shops seems a native Brit any more, that our country is being ‘overrun’; a look at our finances which a year or two before the recession would have given us at least a nice little house, but now can only just support a tiny weeny flat in South London; and Mr. George Osbourne outraging everyone from Stay-At-Home Mum’s to pensioners – has finally made it all come home to me.

Oh my god, I found myself thinking.  How has this happened?  Of course, we’ve all been hearing about how awful the economy is, how people are going out of business and how everyone is tightening their belt, but others will and others won’t have had it hit them in the face quite so suddenly as I did on what should have been a lovely, romantic evening out.  I couldn’t focus.  I was too busy being scared for the future.

My generation – and by that, I mean everyone getting out of school about now to the mid-thirties – is and will be suffering the most from this.  I remember starting to get really scared about the things that were being said on the radio back in 2008, around the New Year mark, about how the economy was on a definitive downward spiral.  But of course, I didn’t think it applied to me.  I was at university and I was going to go somewhere and do something with my life.  I was going to get qualified which always counts for something, then chase my dream and if that didn’t work, switch careers around age 30, so I’d given it 10 years or so.

But here’s the thing.  Without realising it, I’ve scuppered myself, and so many other young people have done the same:

I can’t get a low-level job, because they’ll want someone less qualified in fear I’ll get bored and run off after five minutes.

I can’t get a high-flying job because they’ll want someone specifically qualified so they don’t have to spend time training me up.

The same goes for wanting to change direction – safer though it may be, I have no experience in banking or public sector work, and I’m told there are lists and exhaustive suitability examinations (personal as opposed to sit-down-with-a-pen) for each!

So!  Britain now has a myriad of unemployed or resentfully poorly paid for their qualifications British people who are beset with newbies, who’ll take the lower paid jobs gladly because of how much better things are for them here with any job – who would blame them?!

A funny story is that of an Indian friend of mine who I met up with last month – a very intelligent 30-something woman who can adeptly turn her hand to just about anything, as I have seen.  Her parents struggled and fought to get over to England so they could make a better life for themselves and for their children.  Fast-forward 30 years and Anum has made plans to move back to India and eventually convince her parents to come with her, because life will be far better for them, with far more prospects and a lot fewer financial out-goings for all of them out in India.  You know?  That place that ignorant Brits seem to think is a backward, third-world country still?

Well things have changed and the fact that someone is upping sticks and moving back there in the face of all her parents sacrificed so she wouldn’t live a crap life – what does that tell you???

  • Mike

    Your article touches a familiar spot.Many over borrowed and unprofitable businesses are facing cold reality. I fear that part of the reason for the situation that you describe is that so many of us leave university with no clear view of what career to pursue. Even if we have, there are few jobs at present in the chosen sector. The policy of providing university education for all is idealist but simply not a practical solution and has actually served to disappoint so many. For vast numbers of those who attend university it provides no particular qualification for a job or even career direction. How much better to give everyone who leaves school an apprenticeship and chance to find their direction in life. No more expensive and it provides proper and appropriate job skills and direction finding. Much as you may slay George Osborne I guess he is only providing a slice of truth and reality to many people who need some incentive to stop feeling sorry for themselves, ditch daytime TV and get recovery for themselves and their family. The time has probably come to wake up to the evidence that we have suffered a severe world, and particularly European, recession that was not brought about by this government, indeed not totally the last one or even ‘greedy’ bankers. The way forward is therefore to put our own house in order despite the pain it causes us all and then try to get it right for the future.

  • ChrisRobinson

    Of course this crisis WAS caused by greedy bankers. This country is still one of the richest in the world – seventh by the last count. If our politicians had the political will they’d tax their wealthy millionaire friends who dodge their obligations. Then we should take our banks who we, as taxpayers, gave them £300bn to bail them out yet they refuse to invest in growth while awarding themselves huge, obscene bonuses. Big corporations are sitting on £750bn in their bank accounts, let’s force a levy on them and start investing in manufacturing, environmentally friendly energy, public transport and HOUSES – homes for the five million people either homeless, living in sub standard property, or living in overcrowded high rented houses that are making private landlords rich. Think of all the JOBS that would be created by this, and all the benefits that would be SAVED, not to mention the extra tax revenue that would go in the pot for decent wages, living grants for students instead of loans and tuition fees. Aim for full employment, then we would be able to welcome immigration instead of people trying to blame immigrants and the unemployed for the mess our politicians are making of this country.

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