Ruth's Diary


2 months without a new entry? That's a record. I just honestly hadn't had anything that I really wanted to sit down and write about. Despite the fact that my workplace has moved offices (my walking commute is now 20 minutes).

It wasn't really until about 2 weeks ago that I suddenly had my urge to share an opinion rush through me. The subject? Sonic Boom (the new Sonic the Hedgehog project that is the name of a CG TV show and video game exclusive to the WiiU). I suppose the main reason I didn't write anything down is because it's honestly too early to tell whether the finished products would be quality or not. So the most defined opinion I had was this: Sonic's fanbase is definitely broken. Some people hate the character redesigns and 'canon reboot' (Sega has confirmed it's a self-contained universe, not a part of the official Sonic games canon, so this is honestly a non-issue); now I honestly don't care about the new clothes or that Sonic's arms are now blue. I don't like Knuckles having huge arms, but they could redesign him still and he can keep his height. Plus the aesthetic of the game is pretty understandable when you realise the developers working on the game had previously worked on entries in the Jak & Daxter franchise.

So honestly, I really don't care that the world and character designs in Sonic Boom (both game and show) are radically different from the games. This has always happened in the TV shows anyway, SatAM is still revered by fans and the Archie comics spring-boarded off the TV show are still running. I love redesigns and re-imaginings of Sonic and pals, it makes things interesting.

So what I actually wanted to talk about was this article by Lucy Mangan.

It is a thoughtful and very personal article as she is revealing her fears, the same fears shared by many members of England's middle classes (I specify England because I'm pretty certain the middle classes of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have rather different experiences economically and socially). Supposedly, while she occupies a completely different position in life from me, she and I have the same sort of background and upbringing. So while the prophecy of some economists may be that the middle classes will soon be completely wiped out, I thought about this idea for some time and I write this entry to offer an alternative point of view.

First of all, I just want to outline some key differences between Lucy's and my families, as well as her and my priorities, as this might go some way to explain why I have this alternative view. She talks about how private school education (sorry, "public school" if you're British) used to be affordable by the average earner...that's news to me pal! My generation had the impression that they were always the resource of the indisputably wealthy. Now, as she and I do share the same background, we were both raised on the principle of hard work, thrift and (some) deferred enjoyment. So I had to do a double-take when she mentioned that she did not have a pension. (Are you serious Lucy?!?!) This confused me because it is so often reported that my generation only get the chance to a decent pension if they start saving from their early 20s (or even from the age of 18), so am I better off than Lucy in a sense because I have a pension plan? Or is she better off than me because she owns her home?

This leads to my exploration of the point of view in her article. What is indisputable is that, in terms of pure economic power on the whole, the offspring of the baby boom generation will never own as much as the baby boom parents. But she does express a fear of not being able to share and enjoy the same lifestyle in later years, especially as, at 39, she is not in the same comfortable position as her parents in the same age or position. So I compared my position, at the age of 26, to the position of my parents at the same age. I can't help but conclude I am actually at a better-off position than they were: the availability of cheap flights mean that I can "fly abroad" 3-4 (even 5) times a year, that was unheard of in the 80s! Also, the only electronic house gadgets my parents used to own was a TV and a radio (I don't think a typewriter can be included, but I will include the landline phone). Granted they did also own a car by this point, but I'm unwilling to buy one since I rarely need a car (a bicycle might be more useful to me). In comparison, I own a laptop, an HD TV, a hifi, a Playstation 3 (and I'll be buying a PS4 next month), not forgetting my smartphone I bought in Hong Kong. The fact that I can even say that so casually is insane. So considering this lifestyle and level of materialism in even my own frugal life, is my generation really that worse off? It's difficult to see how. The last point I'll just explore quickly is our choices in priorities: she clearly invested in a home as quickly as possible so that she can get on the housing ladder. I will never sit on such a high horse and proclaim that that is a foolish decision. (The overriding culture of Britain is the expectation to buy a home as quickly as possible.) What I will point out, is that I have chosen to not purchase a home, to put it off for as long as possible. I remember what my parents had to do and how long it took when we moved houses in 2001; I remember thinking that I would honestly need a good reason to go through all that time, money and stress (starting a family is an excellent one).

And finally: the economists' (as mentioned in the article) belief that the middle classes will disappear. In some ways, they are describing the society I live in and see everyday in this industrial city of post-Socialist Czech Republic. The differing economic tiers, in terms of spending power, are obvious, but the classes are not. No matter how professional your job may be, you are most likely to live in a flat in a very large block, with maybe a tiny balcony to hang your clothes. All families send their children to the similar kinds of schools and there is no clear class of people that prefer one form of transport or holiday over another. (The only clear-cut differences come in when Roma are involved, unfortunately.) Thinking about the UK though...I don't think the middle class will ever truly disappear. There will always be that group of people who, while not wealthy, will always appear to the poor to have money to spare, who will work their butts off and invest in comfortable surrounds and aspirational furniture, who are educated and love a good moan. There is also one other thing to mention: economists love to act and predict as if the economy is a uniformed entity that will act according to predictable and planned lines, but that has never happened.

If there is one 'bad' thing that I really want to see happen though, I'm still waiting for the UK's housing prices to completely crash and burn, so that people will start renting properties, which are closer to their places of work, therefore reducing commuting times and encouraging a more productive and stress-free off-work time, while also making purchase prices for properties more affordable, either for those who want to get on the property ladder or for people who just want to spend their twilight years as landlords.

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