Although we’re lying in Mr Osborne’s toxic shadow of fraud, tax evasion, expense fiddling and chronic mismanagement of the public purse, it seems (to this truculent old carcass at any rate) that the enormity of the sum involved somehow lessens its impact. Let me explain: When it is decreed that the shabby pile of bricks you may or may not own in seventeen-odd years needs a few more grand thrown at it, you tend to just wince and get on with it. However, when you discover that your Jolly local store has rammed up the price of liquorice rolling papers by a budget-busting twenty pence, the lines are drawn:
TWENTY PEE? BASTARDS!!! WELL THAT’S IT, I’M BLOODY WELL GOING TO MAKE THAT 1.34KM DETOUR TO SOULCUTTERS FROM NOW ON AND YOU CAN SING FOR MY CUSTOM, JOLLY!!! NICE TRY!!!
You keep this up for several days, despite the fact that Soulcutters charge you a fifty pence surcharge for the privilege of using your debit card instore, the untold wear on shoe leather and the criminal hike in price of table wine which, of course, you are duty-bound to purchase or it means a total loss of face back at Jolly’s. But never mind that, you’re making a stance! Because if you don’t, how many other poor sods are going to get screwed over by these opportunist pigs trying to capitalise on the fact that you live just down the road? It doesn’t bear thinking about. And maybe an important lesson will be learned about market forces and the elasticity thereof. Feels good, right?
Wrong. You’re just another fly caught in a small strand of the Little Fiddle. That most irritating phenomenon of being very slightly fleeced but not enough to go nuclear over. Everyone’s at it, from newsagents to train companies, from online cottage industries to farmers markets. No-one is exempt and the quicker you learn to deal with it the better. I ran this one past Nibs a couple of days ago and he primal screamed over the repair of his four-ring gas burner: A callout charge and its attendant quarter-hourly fee he took on the chin. It was the weaselly addition of £48 for a plastic knob (booting the final bill beyond a soaraway £500) that broke him. In catering, no-one can hear you scream.
So, my advice to Mr Osborne would be this: Forget about all that austerity nonsense, it’s getting people’s backs up and you’ll only U-turn on it in a couple of months. If you’re really serious about clawing back a few quid, pop the surplus onto our sundries bill. Not all at once, obviously, but in tiny amounts over the next three hundred years. For sure, we’ll moan about it but we’ll pull through, we always do. It’s a bit like queueing, and you know how we’ve learned to love that. And who knows? Maybe we’ll learn to like you after all.