Phones and booms and busts

I wandered round the Carphone Warehouse the other day and in between the Samsung Galaxys and Nokia Lumias found my mind wandering to bigger questions about rich and poor and the non existent space between the two these days.

Now, in the aftermath of our short lived period of economic prosperity, phone shops are already consigned to be part of the ‘boom’ history. When the proletariat had it good, when trades were well paid and there were three jobs to every one builder, money was spent on things which had previously been the toys of the rich. Mobile phones were top of that list. When rich and poor coexisted in that temporary artificial place, we all had mortgages. Most people had decent cars and anyone who wanted could get a phone contract quicker than you could say ‘ top of the range handset.’

There was surfing, photo taking, texting and ringing about how many slices of bread were left and all for about 1p a minute with a big screen and an X-Factor ring tone. Phone shops were always packed, when we all had it good.

Two weeks before Christmas and the phone shops don’t seem anywhere near as busy as they were on an average Saturday circa 2008. We’re in a recession, the property bubble has burst, the bubble of wealth has burst - all this I know.

We’re back to the beginning and while many of us think things have never been worse, in some ways, they’ve stayed the same.

There are people who could always afford mobile phones, even before the boom. They could always afford big cars and big houses. They could always afford to do the grocery shop in M&S - they still do. They come in a variety of double barrelled surnames and they’ve never wondered how they’ll pay the oil bill. Life, for them - the British and Irish Governments have ensured - will not change.

For a while, more people got to experience having extra money to spend on non essential extras. Sadly, it was too good to last.

The fun is over for the majority of the population. It’s a bit like we’ve been taken from Disneyland and thrown into cold dark children’s home. It does feel a bit like punishment, because, let’s face it - haven’t we all been bold? Tut tut tut at us for taking the mortgages the banks threw at us. Oh, how wreckless we were. And a big slap on the wrist for taking the credit, and the credit cards and the phone contracts and all that. Oh, we’re so silly down here at the bottom of the pecking order, will we ever learn?

Well, now that we’re all peasants again, there’s no money left for the extras and any of us you see with a fancy mobile, we’re probably tied into a contract from around 2008.

The end of the good times and the suffocating of the economy by fat cat governments is sickening, but some of the attitudes on the ground are equally as frustrating.

If I hear one more person chatting about the disgraceful fact that someone on the dole has a widescreen TV, I’ll scream. Despite a recession which was created by a top layer of bankers, bondholders and developers so many people seem intent on focusing on the people at the bottom of a very high pile.

If I lost my job tomorrow and was made redundant, I’d have a wide screen TV, because I bought the said piece of equipment when times were good - when I had a job. There are people on benefits who are perfectly entitled to have a giant widescreen TV if they like. They’re also entitled to smoke, and have a drink, and buy a new jacket. According to some views they should be running around wearing rags with just enough cash to buy a hot meal and they definitely shouldn’t be allowed mobiles. It must be a dream come true for a Tory government to see the minions turning against each other on the ground while the top layer remain cushioned from it all.

The gap between the rich and poor stays the same but the gulf on the ground between those of us trying to keep our heads above water is widening. That might yet prove to be the biggest tragedy of the bust. That, and the fact that it will be a hell of a long time before we get to wander into the playgrounds of the rich again.