Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The costs of living in a bubble

Yesterday I endured the same old question-answer routine that I have for the past seven years.

"So, you're a teacher?"

"Yes."

"What do you teach?"

"Psychology."

"Whoa."

Inquisitor makes some backward movement to ward off evil mind-reading powers.


Actually, it can go one of two ways at that point: either the person with whom I am conversing develops a sudden terrible fear of the seer status they themselves ascribed to me, or they mumble some regret about psychology not being on the curriculum when they were at school.

And really, as I've written a lot more than I've taught over the past four months, my defining occupation is that of writer, by choice and reality. Alas it occupies but still doesn't pay, and it's not going to get me corporate rate membership at the local sports and fitness centre.

By now it is custom in this type of scenario for me to demystify the magic of my discipline, such as it is mine at all. We are all mind-readers, or else we would make little sense of this world. So, I said, yes, I do know what you're thinking, but not because I have special abilities, but because your face is in my direction but the rest of you is off down the corridor. With that he trundled off to get a form he'd forgotten the first time, amazed that I could know such a thing.

Elsewhere this week, life has progressed in mundane fashion, other than the absurd ups and downs of prices and interest rates. I'm sure when I was younger if the interest rate went up it did so because inflation was on the rise, and prices increased accordingly and indeed universally. So there I am, in 'The Asda', staring at the shelves of the bread aisles with around six of my fellow shoppers, trying to make sense of £1.53 for a loaf and I'm in danger of heavily quoting Victor Meldrew. Even the value / smart price / betterbuy loaves are 37p. It's like cardboard that stuff; it possibly is cardboard, and it's twice the price it was two years ago, but my mortgage has gone down again.

I don't follow, but I'll tell you what, Mr. Beveridge, it looks like we'll all be doing without bread and cakes. Even the cheap flour is now 36p, where it was 12p and I know that this has something to do with wheat crops because people have been telling me this for a few months. In the baking aisle, there was just one box of yeast left, which suggests anyone else with the potential know-how thought 'sod that for a game of soldiers' and decided to bake their own bread.

Last year I had to shop around for the best deal on coffee: now all of the supermarkets are selling it at less than they have for quite some time. My brother-in-law said they were on the Douwe Egberts at the moment, as they are coffee whores and buy whatever is cheapest that week. We're all coffee whores - that's why it's all a lot less costly than it was. Well, that and maybe something to do with bumper bean harvests.

On the way home I bought diesel - £1.07 a litre and that was the best price I could find locally. Any of you free market economists want to give me an insight into that one? We're driving more than ever before, so where's your self regulating price mechanism in all of this?

You may read all this and think 'Well duh! Nothing new there and the reasons are obvious.'. To a social scientist the possible explanations number so many that either your head explodes or you find yourself a nice bubble away from reality and peer out occasionally to utter 'What the hell...?'.

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