I ‘d been digging for victory in the brassica patch for most of the morning, and would have gone on longer, but for the hunger pangs. Creakily, I straightened up, heeled my spade a spit down and hung my tin hat on its wooden handle.
Enticing smells wafted from the kitchen. “What’s for lunch?” I asked my wife. “I’m starving”.
“Well,” she said, smoothing down her pinny, “we’re starting with smoked salmon, capers, black pepper corns, slices of lemon and thinly-cut wholemeal bread, washed down with a crisp Sancerre. For the main course, we’re having boeuf en croute, with a selection of four seasonal vegetables, served with vintage claret from Fortnums. And, to finish, it’s home-made profiteroles with double cream and rich, dark chocolate.”
“Blimey,” I said. “Isn’t that all a bit, er, extravagent?”She gave me one of her long, disapproving looks. When she finally spoke it was with feeling. “Don’t you know there’s a recession on?” she said.
Of course. How stupid of me. Here we are, in January 2009, with Gordon Brown’s New Year message still ringing in our ears. We are a nation in crisis, he had said, but we have been through worse times in our long island history. What we need is a touch of the Blitz mentality – the gritty stoicism that has seen us through our darkest hour to victory.
During World War II there were shortages of everything, and the Government had to introduce rationing. Hoarding food was a crime, as was bribing the butcher for an extra sausage. This time, though, it is different. There is plenty of everything and it is tantamount to treason not to go out and buy. Instead of issuing ration books to control our spending, the Government is printing money to encourage us to consume for victory. Every newly purchased Louis Vuitton handbag, every plasma TV lugged home fresh from Comet, every gift-wrapped bottle of Parfum de Posh ‘n’ Becks is a nail driven into the coffin of the foe.
So they think Old England’s done, eh? Well sod that, we’ll show ’em. We’ll shop in the high streets, we’ll shop in the malls, we’ll shop in the boutiques, we’ll shop in the farmer’s markets. We’ll eat like kings. We shall never surrender.
And at our head is Gordon, leader, nay saviour, of the free world. Daily, he can be seen picking his way though the rubble of the British economy. True, he’s not wearing a siren suit or waving a cigar, and all the v-signs are being flicked by the crowd, but he has that jowly bulldog look that bespeaks defiance.
You have to admire his unquenchable optimism. After all, it’s not easy to invoke the Dunkirk spirit in Britons of today. In the Forties, we would smile grimly in the face of adversity and muddle on whatever. Today, when disaster befalls, we flock to buy flowers, fall weeping on each other’s shoulders and sue for compensation.
Do not forget the enemy within. Beware the siren voices of the Greens and the Global Warmists, the nay-sayers who rejoice in the imminent collapse of the market economy, who tell us that we must learn to live without plenty, to put behind us the ambrosial pleasures of consumption and, in short, through rigorous self-denial create a world fit for the Middle Ages. They believe their hour is come. We must defy them.
No one pretends it will be easy. News from the front is not good. There are heavy losses on the high street and worse is to come. But rest assured there’s enough of the old British gumption left to see us through. Some bright day, we shall lay flowers on the tomb of the unknown shopper and remember their sacrifice – crushed to death under stampeding feet on the first day of Selfridges’ sale.
In the meantime, when the high streets of our ancient kingdom are gap-toothed – here there was once a Woolworth, there an MFI – it behoves us all to put aside petty differences, to pull together and consume like we have never consumed before, not for our own sake, let it be known, but for the sake of generations yet unborn.
We Murrays are proud to be doing our bit, though we have had our setbacks. Only the other day, I was patting my lips with my napkin, having eaten the best part of a side of venison, when my wife came in ashen-faced.
“What is it? Bad news?” I said, trying to look calm. “The worst,” she said, slumping into a chair and sobbing gently, her head in her hands. “Oh no, not that,” I said. “Yes”, she murmured. “One of our credit cards is missing.”