As they would say on Armstrong and Miller, 'Pru, it's kicking off!'
I can't say I'm particularly surprised that Britain and the USA are on the brink of economic collapse, but it's shocking to see some of the more financially prudent nations experiencing difficulties.
Today's BBC News website reported that Germany is about to enter a recession. That's not good news (remember what they did last time). Even Switzerland is making contingency plans for nationalising its main banks. But the spotlight is on poor old Iceland.
I like Iceland. I went there two years ago and immediately felt a strong affinity with the landscape and its people. I did wonder how a country that had endured centuries of poverty could suddenly become so affluent, but I put it down to cod and Bjork. It never occurred to me that a nation that produced Magnus Magnusson could possibly be responsible for any financial irregularities.
There are many jokes about Iceland and the credit crunch - usually on the theme of freezing assets - but my favourite is this:
Q - What's the capital of Iceland?
A - About £3.50
I hope that Britain and Iceland are able to reach an equitable agreement, as I want to be able to return there without being lynched by angry fishermen and pop stars. Also, it seems quite wrong to make the Icelandic people suffer for the actions of a small minority.
On the plus side, at least the economic downturn is now out in the open. I felt more pessimistic a month ago, when food and fuel prices seemed to be on an upward trajectory. Rice - once the staple element of a cheap, student meal - doubled in price. A couple of cod fillets nudged past the £5 barrier. But the worst offender was the price of chicken:
This isn't an organic chicken. It's not even a free range one (and no, it's not an M&S chicken). It's just a normal chicken which Tesco - anxious to appease the middle classes who watch Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall on Channel Four - have decided to rebrand with a reassuring photo of a Nazi war criminal. Tim Payne obviously isn't a war criminal, so why is the photo so scary? As for the text, although it has a friendly, non-corporate font, it is quite clear that poor old Tim is living in serfdom. I doubt if he gets a square deal.
However, as much as I hate Tesco, I must give them credit for responding to the financial meltdown with some 'recession-busting' (their phrase) offers. I can now buy an abused chicken for £1.99. Tesco's 'Value' pitta bread is 26p and you also can buy unripe avocados for 50p. In short, the supermarkets have responded to the credit crisis by tiering their prices so that people on low incomes aren't completely buggered. I'd rather support my local shops and farmers' market, but I am completely skint.
Having no money is a little depressing, but on the plus side I am relatively recession-proof. I don't have any credit card debts, my mortgage is fairly modest and I don't even have a job to lose. When you've hit the bottom, the only way (I hope) is up.
I have a plan. I am busy training for a new career and if there are any jobs left next year, I hope that I shall be able to find work that is fulfilling and rewarding. I am studying web design and proof reading, in the hope that it will lead to some sort of web master/editor/designer job. I never want to work in a shop again, even if it sells books.