Tuesday, May 08, 2007


It's easy to forget, in this era of the Supersize Big Mac Meal and the Kingsize Mars Bar, that food in Britain was rationed less than 60 years ago.

For people of my generation, Thatcher's Children, a life where you can't eat whatever you want, whenever you want, is unthinkable.

It wasn't actually food that got me thinking along these lines. One day, whilst out walking in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh, I came across a balloon shop. As the name suggests, this was an emporium that stocked only balloons and related parephenalia And it struck me that life in Britain has progressed pretty fast in the last 60 years - from a country where meat, eggs and cheese were rationed, to one where we need a shop exclusively to sell balloons.

I can see vast differences in attitudes between my grandparents' generation and mine, with my parents' generation somewhere between the two. My grandparents would carefully manage their finances, down to the last penny. If something wasn't essential, it wasn't purchased. Household items were repaired, often many times.

My generation is almost the complete opposite. If you can't afford something, buy it anyway and rack up huge credit card bills and overdrafts in the process. If something breaks, buy a new one.

Our society in the west today seems to be geared towards the short term. How can it make sense that it costs more to repair a broken kettle than it does to buy a new one?

The recent Channel Four programme The Human Footprint showed in stark terms how wasteful we Brits are. As well as showing how much urine and vomit we produce in our lifetime, it also said that most of us will get through four televisions and nine DVD players.

The programme's website also has a nifty calculator, which told me that I've probably now consumed 291 tins of baked beans (probably more in my case - I was a student for four years), that I've had 36,011 dreams and bought 183 books.

And it came in short on the number of mobile phones I've had - it suggested six, when in fact I'm on my seventh. In fact, there are now more mobile phones in Britain than there are people.

If anything points at how wasteful a race we are it's that.

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