By Hermes Solomon
HARD TIMES redolent of my generation which was born with nothing, and grew up with even less, have arrived again on these shores. Unemployed artisans now work part-time in takeaways for five euros an hour in an effort to supplement their meagre unemployment or welfare benefits. Menial tasks are now performed by our own rather than imported labour. It had to come!
This past week was the first of three consecutive weeks when Nicosia is usually quiet, traffic levels low and many businesses closed for their annual summer break. But this year many have stayed behind to keep cash tills trickling.
Day trips to the sea with packed lunches are now de rigueur, being much cheaper for a family of four than booking into a 3/4 star hotel charging anything from 120 to 280 euros a night, when kids are rarely in bed before midnight and hotels, by 10.00 am, have stopped serving copious breakfasts on which one could survive the day.
It took an economic crisis for families to realise that Larnaca and Limassol beaches are within a 45 minute drive of the capital so why not drive daily rather than pay a small fortune to hoteliers?
I can recall childhood daytrips from Liverpool Street Station in the City of London to seaside towns like Southend (Sowffend) and Canvey Island, fish paste sandwiches, drinking Tizer from the pint bottle and a Walls choc-ice for lunch wearing woolly sagging swimming trunks exchanged with the discretion of a sari-wrapped damp towel for short tweed trousers ahead of catching the homeward bound.
The grey green sea was always freezing and the sandy beaches oiled, but we had a ‘great’ time! I loved strolling along bustling arcade ridden, unsteady looking, wooden piers.
On the odd clear and fine August Sunday, the trains and wind-break splattered beaches would be packed to the gunnels with employed fathers, mostly housewife mothers and snotty nosed kids – no ball games allowed – fishing from the beach or running. Netting shrimps and building sand-castles was more like it. And when the tide was out, all sorts of sea shells on sea shores were found and fingered in fascination.
Today’s kids refuse to let go of their iPads or telephones and are imprisoned on sun-beds under umbrellas fingering keyboards or screens, plugged-in to MP3s. They are oblivious to shoreline bat and ball players or potential world class footballers skimming lightweight footballs across the waves.
Economic recessions beget outcries of injustice and boredom from the uninventive and spoilt. Now is the time to act not dither. Kids don’t realise that we only have ourselves to blame for empty pockets and an ice-cream or fizzy drink less than usual. Who fancies soggy halloumi sandwiches every day, anyway? The quicker we accept the harsh economic realities, the sooner we will stand on our own two feet and act in our own best interests.
Parents are beginning to wise up. Many, who haven’t already lost their jobs, live in fear of finding themselves unable to pay mortgages, car loans and school fees. They are watching every penny and delaying payment of outstanding debts to tradesmen/artisans, shopkeepers or fees for their kids’ private lessons.
We are the worst payers in the world. We always were even when we had easy access to credit – and now? Non-payment of outstanding debts will spiral the economy into an irretrievable collapse. You know it, Mr Finance Minister Georgiades, but have yet to say so.
It’s no good pretending that this government will save the day. They are lost in a world of meaningless promises, pointless energy debates and irresolvable criminal investigations, while the average family’s standard of living falls fast.
The only thing going up are outgoings – cost of water, fuel, taxes, transport, social charges, healthcare, and very shortly, food as supermarket chains predict sharp rises in costs (again due to ‘crude’ oil price hikes?), which will be passed on to consumers.
We can blame costly oil for all of our present woes, forgetting those wonderful years when cheap oil made this world a stinking paradise for many, like coal did for 18th and 19th century coal barons.
The Irish are complaining about a couple of new troika austerity measures, one being to charge consumers for water – yes, tap water supply in Ireland has been free for years, but the water board’s infrastructure is now so decrepit that it requires complete overhaul. The other measure demands municipalities charge Irish householders a property tax. And we think we have it bad! Just wait until the troika have finished with us!
After recapitalisation, the Bank of Cyprus is begging patriots with money under the mattress to redeposit it so the bank can afford to lend to borrowers at more than twice the rate of interest paid to depositors.
It would be regarded as unpatriotic of us not to help our flagship ‘village’ bank, but how many patriots remain after the recent outright theft of savers’ deposits? Fool me once. Besides, it’s not under the mattress but in olive amphorae.
Can you remember when civil servants and bank clerks rode bicycles to and from work? Well, it won’t be long now…
The month of August is the ‘silly season’ for commentators, and I beg your leave to indulge my nostalgia, which like those who were robbed of their jobs and life’s savings, is all we have left.
Please don’t vandalise ancient amphorae in search of money! I was, like this government, simply redirecting your attention away from the harsh truth. There is no money. There never was. We have been living on credit since 1974, but even that has now run out!