Since spending a good few weeks here in the United Kingdom, I have reacquainted myself with various lifestyle differences and changes, not only set against Mallorca - but, from times past when visiting the olde country. Yes, drivers are a little more polite than I’ve been used to over the past twenty years and yes after just three days of sunny and warm weather you do expect sudden thunderstorms and torrential rain, because that’s what happens here.
But that’s not the half-of-it! I have noticed that when out and about, every - shop, pub, restaurant, hairdressers and supermarket is looking to recruit staff. From whole page advertisement spreads in local newspapers to handwritten notes in the windows all the above premises - it really is unmistakable. Much has been made of the shortage of HGV drivers and the semi-empty shelves in most supermarkets, whilst I dined in a pub/restaurant where the manager freely explained to me that our food might be delayed because - a) he was desperately short of staff and - b) he was the only staff member who had more than two weeks experience in catering.
If you go into any well known supermarket, because there is a shortage of staff, there are long queues at those self service checkouts whilst I’ve noticed that the few ‘manned’ checkouts available are staffed with - er, how to say it? Okay pensioners! So much so, that a woman I know made the following remark when we shopped in a rather upmarket supermarket - “Look at him over there, he’s at least your age - you could get a job here couldn’t you?” I suspect that better brains than mine are trying to work out the ‘why’s and wherefores’ of the current situation, but from what I can gather it is down to a sort of perfect storm created by a mixture of Covid-19 and Brexit. Naturally enough, those committed to the latter of the two theories are perhaps predictably having none of it - are they?
Where's the fun in staying at home?
I know that what I am about to say, might be better said in my weekly - Frank’s Television Guide, but I think it well worth saying anyway. Has anyone else noticed that our television screens are nowadays filled with programmes regarding almost all parts of Britain’s countryside and coasts? Michael Portillo, is off discovering the coastal path of Devon & Cornwall.
Singer and radio presenter Michael Ball is trudging around his Welsh homeland and someone who’s name escapes me is doing the same in Scotland. Then we have Bob Mortimer & Paul Whitehouse fishing in the UK’s loveliest locations and I understand that Pam Ayres is set to wax lyrical about The Cotswolds any time soon. It is as if the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland is looking to revisit and rediscover itself.
Understandable I suppose, given various lockdowns and red, amber, and green lists of countries that folk would normally be visiting at this time of year, but either can’t - or perhaps this year won’t - it is hardly surprising that touristic introspection has become so in vogue.
I have to say that if viewing figures are anything to go by, the producers of these gentle jaunts across our countryside have got the mood of the people just about right. Funnily enough as a current tourist in my country of birth, I am behaving in a manner usually reserved for overseas visitors.
Take the other day; I found myself meandering around the town of Tetbury, a small piece of England, covered as it is with honey coloured Cotswold stone, where every other shop is either a hugely expensive antique shop or a retail outlet for The Prince of Wales ‘Highgrove’ products - ching, ching,- as one might say! However, with not a foreign tourist in sight for obvious reasons, but almost full to the brim if the carparks were anything to go by.
This got me to wondering if when things return to normal, will Britons happily retrace their holiday steps to the Mediterranean as before, or will they (or a large number of them) decide to holiday at home? Frankly I don’t know the answer to this question, but one thing is for sure, a two week family holiday anywhere in the UK will cost anyone who decides to ‘stay put’ more than twice-as-much as that holiday in Mallorca would cost. And that’s the truth!
The elephant in the room
As most readers will be aware the big political story in the UK at the moment is that of how a British government can raise money to cover ‘Social Care.’ You will be relieved to know that I will not be reporting the political arguments that are raging at the moment - perhaps, only to say that Boris J seems to have done an about-turn on the subject and is finding it hard to talk his way out of this one.
Whilst Keir Starmer and his Labour lads and lasses, as yet, haven’t yet told the British public what they would do to raise the money for this much neglected (over many years and many governments) subject. Indeed, social scientists for decades have been describing this very subject as part of wider reality - which is often described as The Elephant In The Room.
Talk as they like, there is no getting away from the basic principles that are at the core of this problem. This being that people (me and you) are living much longer than we used to do. At one time the biblical “Three score years and ten” was the basic mantra for a persons life expectancy. Not anymore, not anymore! Add to this, the cost of sometimes 24 hour comprehensive care over long periods of time and the problems start stacking up.
Who should pay - Who will pay? Is it fair that if you save for this type of eventuality, the best part of your money will go to maintain you in old age - indeed what would be the point in saving money in middle age, if you get looked after in the same way if you have no money at all? Perhaps some of these issues are unsavoury to even think about them - but, at some time some government is going to have to address The Elephant In The Room.