Saturday, 15 October 2011

Great Expectations

I got married over three decades ago; in those days you saved up to buy most things - credit wasn't handed out like sweeties, and you didn't undertake it lightly.  In common with most newly-weds, the only debt we had was the mortgage - and even that was restricted to a proportion of the couple's income.

We were given a second-hand fridge with a dodgy seal, and were grateful for it.  It worked.  A second-hand twin tub washing machine served us well for quite some time.  We bought the contents of the house, so we sat on second-hand chairs, at a second-hand table, with a second-hand dresser housing our china, such as it was!

We did, however, splash out a new mattress, but couldn't afford a base as well, so it laid on the floor for a couple of years until we could.  We were comfortable, and certainly didn't consider it a hardship to sleep on the floor  - it was our floor, in our house.

The only heating in the house was a gas fire in the living room, on the lower ground floor, it was a three storey terrace house.  We couldn't afford central heating for about four years!  I remember making us both a dressing gown from a thick, lightweight blankets, and we would scurry downstairs in those, put the fire on, then dress later, when the room had lost its chill.

To the younger generations, this would seem like truly Spartan conditions - and perhaps it was.  But we were just starting out on our lives together, the house needed renovating from top to bottom, rewiring etc, and we knew it would cost quite a bit of money, even though we did 95% of the work ourselves.  

We couldn't afford fripperies, but enjoyed the odd meal out, and a drink with friends.  We had no TV, and played board games or cards in the evenings, or read books.  Friends came round to visit, and we visited them.  We were happy.

Nowadays the aspirations of youngsters starting out in their first homes seems to be to start at the level at which they lived at home with their parents.  Why?  How?  Their parents have doubtless worked hard for years to achieve the standard of living they now enjoy, how can children expect to start out at that same level?

But so many of them do.  Consequently they furnish their homes with new furniture bought on credit, watch a rented TV - plasma screen, of course, and enjoy all the channels their monthly subscriptions provide.  The car on the drive is probably bought on credit, too, and the holiday paid for on the credit card.

I had friends, years ago, who lived like this - and the spectre that haunted them was that one of them might lose their job, and the repayments would be too much.  Not quite the happy carefree life that they presented to the world.

... and the reason that I've thought of this?  I belong to one of those local sites that tries to avoid landfill, by offering a place where the members can offer their unwanted items free to others, or can request items.  Somebody asked for a 3' divan bed frame for their daughter, as she is currently sleeping on a mattress on the floor of their new home.  Poor child.

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