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???

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