Tuesday, 10 February 2009
We're still calling it "the credit crunch," although other terms have arisen: recession, depression, crisis, disaster. This morning brought a government admission of something most of us must have suspected for some time: that what has happened will be worse than the 1930s and longer lasting in its effects. Time to batten down the hatches, perhaps, and look after ourselves and our families?
While I'm concerned for my family - especially my children and my parents - that deosn't seem much of a solution. Nor can I feel any smug satisfaction in saying, "I was right all along - it's really bad." I may have realised it was bad but I don't know what to do about it. I've a few ideas - not well thought through - so if anyone trusts the public with information and a debate, I'll throw in a few sentences. But, so far as I can see, the government doesn't really trust or like the people. It seems to me that the more people involved in the debate, the more likely we are to curvive and cope. The government tends to treat the people as if they were a large class of obstreperous toddlers, too foolish and unruly to be trusted with the truth and too ignorant to have any useful ideas. Instead the government offers commands backed up by fear of punishment - or something worse.
So I'm living through the credit crunch or depression or recession or crisis or disaster - and trying to make sure that it is life and not mere existence. For me that involves reading books, fencing,listening to music, going to plays and films. Ideally this should involve communicating with other people and sharing experience, whether through discussion of a book or going out to an event. It's not a time for extravagance. I haunt the shops selling second-hand and remaindered books and look out for affordable culture.
On Sunday evening I cycled through the snow to the Paradiso Cinema. It's a new venture - a community cinema which doesn't set up to make a profit. Once a month, in the local secondary-school theatre, a film is shown. £4.50 buys a full-price ticket and there's a complimentary glass of wine or soft drink before the screening. This provides a chance to chat to other cinema-goers, and they seemed a friendly lot, even though there was no-one I knew and I was the only person attending the film alone. (I was the only cyclist too.)
The film was Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky, superficially a cheerful comedy from pre-credit crunch days (it opened last year), The main character, Poppy, as brightly dressed as her name, is relentlessly, infuriatingly cheerful. Occasionally this blossoms into a strength - she is credible as a good, loving primary-school teacher whose pupils flourish under her care. She has courage too, refusing to run away from the distressed and the mentally ill. But she is less happy meeting her sister, who tells her to settle down, grow up and get a mortgage. What she rejects is not this pathetic and limited definition of adulthood but the idea of adult responsibility. Poppy is an everyday Peter Pan who explicitly - at the start of the film - wants nothing to do with reality.
Viewers react to the film in different ways and it's open to opinions and interpretations. I'd have liked the opportunity to discuss it afterwards and hear how other people had responded. But the snow was still falling and everyone was eager to get home. My bike left clean dark tracks in the white of the cycle path as I headed away from the cinema and back to this credit-crunched, disaster-ridden world.