Australians call Brits Poms. More appropriately spelt, it would be POHMs: Prisoners of Her Majesty.
They think we're a whiny, cynical and sarcastic nation of complainers which, of course, we are and this is no better demonstrated that the refreshingly honest new book by John O’Farrell: An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain, or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always.
The book’s aim is to provide a humorous commentary on all the major landmark moments in British history since the Second World War, including such events as the tragic split of the rock superstars the Wombles in the 1970s and the sombre Prime Ministerial announcement of 1967 that Britain was converting to flared trousers.
Not surprisingly, the book talks a fair bit about banking. For example, the key moment when our fair nation converted from gentlemanly trading to electronic automation in the Big Bang is covered thus:
If the millions of people who found themselves significantly worse off during the 1980s were wondering where all the money had gone, they could have done worse than toured the sprouting towers of Docklands and the City of London. The importance of the City as a global financial trading centre had developed well out of proportion to Britain’s economic status, and huge fortunes were now being made by braying yuppies, which didn’t prompt any resentment at all.
The government had abolished exchange controls almost immediately on taking office and, in 1986, the so-called ‘Big Bang’ further deregulated the City, widening the choice of loud ties, gaudy jackets and big red braces for all the podgy rugger buggers ambitions to have their first heart attack before they were forty.
Screaming into several phones at once was no positively encouraged and the traditional stockbrokers from Surrey were shocked that a new breed of trader had arrived in the City.
The chapter then goes into a detailed exploration of the laddish living it up culture of the City as new, brash young bucks took over the world with loads of money.
This leads to the conclusion towards the end of the book that:
A story that began with Britain almost crippled by war loans in 1945 ends with the country even deeper in debt six decades later. The first massive overdraft was the result of a heroic fight against the most evil tyranny of modern times. The second was the result of greed and short-sighted materialism. Our grandparents feared for a world in which totalitarianism might push civilisation back into the new dark ages. Our fear is that we might be denied the opportunity to do quite as much shopping.
Oh so very cynical Mr. O’Farrell.
I’ll still read a fair bit of the book, but my own conclusion would read more like the following:
We live in a time when everyone has been richer than ever before, and poorer. We are crippled by debt, which makes us all work longer hours and live less fulfilling lifestyles, in order to enjoy the comforts of our leverage: a nice house, nice car, nice holidays, nice meals out, nice gadgets for the house, nice everything.
The nice is however wrapped up in Need Income to Consume Everything.
Our parents and grandparents were yes, challenged by the fear of the darkest days and there is no comparison between today’s dark days and the dark days they faced.
Today’s dark days are fears of losing our jobs, losing our homes, losing our cars, losing our holidays, losing our meals out, losing our gadgets and losing everything.
But it is not the fear of losing our lives.
So such comparisons of ages are wrong, incorrect and misperceived.
But then his book is purely a typical whiney, cynical and sarcastic British book and perfect reading for a holiday break therefore!