John Docker: Luxuries have now become necessities

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My recent trips down memory lane set me thinking about how much things have changed during my lifetime.

The train of thought was triggered by using one of those stainless steel foodgrater gadgets. You know, a four-sided thingy with different blades on each side that efficiently collect the shavings in the middle. It occurred to me this much-used kitchen utensil, must be one of the few products that haven’t changed over the years. My mother owned one – pretty well identical and our own model must be at least 40 years old. It probably cost under ten bob. How’s that for value for money? And they’re still in the shops – but more than 50p!

When you think about it we oldies have seen so many changes during our lifetime it’s difficult to remember them all. Huge advances have been made in health, education, sports, leisure activities and living standards but we have witnessed the biggest strides in the bewildering world of technology.

We’ve seen the birth of television, jet aircraft, robotics and computers, to name just a few obvious examples. I remember when calculators were introduced into schools. My parents were horrified – they thought it was cheating! For the vast majority they were the days of no refrigerators, or microwaves, or washing machines and a plethora of labour saving gizmos and gadgets now regarded as essentials. Even garden furniture was a luxury. As for cars, holidays abroad and dining out – no chance. Things have changed.

Harold Macmillan memorably said “We’ve never had it so good”, at the same time warning of the dangers of inflation. How right he was.

Hands-up those who can remember when you could buy a car for under £100 or a house for under £1,000. I’ve looked it up and £100 on the day I was born would now be worth nearly £6,000! But it’s all relative of course, my first season ticket into London from suburbia cost me ten old shillings. Just as well, I was only earning £2 a week!

So while news the new Bank of England Governor intends to keep interest rates at their record low, is no doubt good news for businesses and home buyers it’s bad news for hardpressed pensioners’ savings. With inflation at nearly three per cent, the pips are squeaking - and it’s not the sound of over-stuffed mattress springs! It’s disappointing and rather surprising the politicians haven’t come up with a pensioner savings scheme providing at least some modicum of benefit. After all the government needs money, there must be millions of pensioners with modest but collectively substantial savings looking for a better home - yet even Ernie has pruned his payouts.

It doesn’t make sense to this old codger, but then I didn’t go to school at Eton!