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Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 4th October 2016

THE Two Ronnies, Corbett and Barker, made us laugh without recourse to the vulgarity and swearing that afflicts so many comedy performers nowadays.

Remember that marvellous sketch about the class mores of the British. A bowler hatted upper class Barker and a cloth-capped humble working class Corbett. All that looking up to him and looking down on him. Brilliant comedy laced with a hint of satire and social comment.

It was back at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth on September 28th, 1999 — a very different Labour then — that Tony Blair announced “the class war is over.”

Goodbye to an Abigail’s Party style middle-class Britain. No more Demis Roussos on the record player or Ford Cortina on the driveway. We were all one, a classless society.

But middle class aspiration never truly went away. These days, according to etiquette expert William Hanson, it’s wood-burning stoves, Smeg fridges, Dyson cleaners, Brompton fold-up bikes, matching drinks coasters and hot tubs that mark you out as a leader in the art of one-upmanship.

Mr. Hanson reckons that, while only one per cent. call themselves upper class or elite, the middle classes are up to 40 per cent. of the population and growing. With the average household income now at £39,500, material possessions are considered more important than ever by those committed to keeping up with Mr. and Mrs. Jones up the street.

But where does all this leave the likes of me? I do not own a single one of the 20 items Hanson lists as most desirable. I don’t have a nutri-bullet or an Aga, or even a barbecue or a smart TV, let alone a Spiralizer, the kitchen gadget that gets used for a few weeks and is then tossed aside next to the pasta maker.

As I am assuredly not upper class, this must render me working class. Well, working class semi-retired. And if so, who do I look up to? And who looks down on me? Or am I just one of the classless drifters prefaced by a former Prime Minister in those heady, glory days of New Labour, BritPop, celebs beating a path to 10 Downing Street and Jeremy Corbyn sitting anonymously on the back benches?

CRICKETING HEARTACHE

“ONLY the true cricketer knows of the ache that comes to the heart at this time of the year,” wrote Neville Cardus, musing emotionally on the last day of summer, the final moments before close of play on another season.

The English county cricket season came to a memorable and dramatic denouement last week when, in the final half hour of play, three teams could have won the championship and two more could have suffered relegation. Cardus, who regarded cricket as “a romance of adventure,” would have doubtless penned one of his greatest essays before changing into his dinner suit and bow tie and setting off to review an evening concert for the Guardian. Ah, they don’t seem to have journalistic jobs like that any more!

Those who don’t love cricket will never understand why it is that, in the middle of September, enthusiasts are already ticking off the days to next April and the start of a new season.

Last week’s fantastic finale came as a timely affirmation of the longer form of the game just when a new double-headed T20 formula was being agreed for the 2018 season. The Twenty-Twenty Blast style is the future, I suppose that’s inevitable in a sporting world ruled by television in which people don’t have time for the traditional.

Already the county game is marginalised to the beginning and end of the season, but last week’s riveting finale provided a perfect example of how games can unfold, develop and sometimes provide a climax that’s beyond even the instant thrills and spills of crash bash cricket.

The four daycounty championship, venerable and old-fashioned as it has been described, is still the title the players want to win for all its frustrations and oddities.

Mostly played during the week, the audience for county cricket is necessarily somewhat aged. We turn up half an hour before play is due to start, sit in the same seats amongst the same devotees, moan about the weather and the government and about the dropped catches of the day before, have a pre-lunch nap then get out our tupperware boxes filled with salads and sandwiches, and our flasks.

After lunch there’s usually time for another nap if the game is going through a quiet spell. At tea we might just treat ourselves to an ice cream, or coffee, then another little nap and it’s on towards stumps and a cheerful “same time tomorrow” as we head off home.

There are times when just a few hundred spectators are dotted around the ground on a soporific late August afternoon, and you do wonder if the county game has a future. But it’s not just a game. It is part of our social fabric. “Happy companionship,” to again quote Cardus, one of the greatest cricket writers.

Middlesex, the eventual champions, Yorkshire and Somerset showed us last week that, in the inevitable quest for cash and TV ratings, we must never let go of a form of cricket where the future Test players are forged and where Cardus’s romance of adventure remains very much alive.

Unlike the tetchy Mr. Cardus I am also a great football fan. But even so, after that grandstand ending to the cricket season, all I can say is roll on next April when it usually snows on the first day of a new season. So English, so eccentric, so wonderful.

SAVINGS BEYOND SAVING

ONCE upon a time they told us it was good to be a saver. Not any more, it ain’t. And there’s no solace in the prospect of drawing your cash out of the bank and keeping it under the mattress because, when we all decide to do that, the government simply prints great wads of plastic tenners somewhere in deepest Wigton and announces it is devaluing the pound in our well-stuffed plastic bags.

The letter from my bank last week came as the final straw before I have to start paying them for looking after my savings. As from 1st December, they will pay me 0.05 per cent gross on my balance. As for my ISA that’s 0.04 per cent, with the handsome gesture of it being tax free. Thank you for saving with us, they say, as if that makes it fine and dandy.

As I don’t have one of those fancy phones with apps, I can’t use the new app to change bank accounts. Not, I imagine, that there’s huge competition for my money out there in the banking world. I suppose it’s asking too much that banks provide customers with an incentive not to change. A reasonable return on their savings would do.

The charity, Money Advice Service, says that one in six adults have a problem with debt. A third of young people are in financial hock with credit cards, overdrafts, emergency loans, tuition fees and the like. There are plenty of opportunities to get into the mire. Just watch tempting money lending adverts on daytime television. While saving remains so futile, and borrowing so easy, it doesn’t add up to a stable economy from where I’m looking at it.

Heaven knows what my mum and dad would have made of it. It was a source of pride in their generation not to owe a penny. If they could not afford it, they went without and saved up until they could find the money.

Could it be that a lot of younger people think what the heck. Live today, pay tomorrow. Our banks have been discredited. Business and the government want us to spend to stimulate the economy. But what if the money that folk are spending is all borrowed? It’s an encouragement to irresponsibility. As for me and my four pence in every hundred quid interest rate, I feel a modest punt on the premium bonds coming on. Or that cert in the 3 30 at Wolverhampton.


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