Monday, 19 July 2010

5 Trend-Predictions for the UK

The situation in Britain is currently a bit like in an aeroplane after a bumpy flight: Passengers are a bit fed up, and had enough but feel that altogether it hasn't been too bad. On comes the voice of the captain, warning them that NOW "please fasten seat belts, we're in for some turbulence". Collective sigh goes through the cabin.In the light of the up-coming budget cuts I've been canvassing people, looked at Social Media behaviour and evaluated newspaper articles. On that basis, I have formulated 5 trends which I think will become relevant in the coming months, heading up to April 2011 when most of the cuts will have been implemented.

1. Retrenchment

This is a sort of meta-trend which will influence and spin a lot of others.
Currently, the best way to monitor this trend is on Social Media sites like Twitter. People in the UK are boosting their accounts with local followers. Where somebody say 6 months ago had 300 followers from all over the world, they now have 600 with the on-top influx made up of followers from their home town/region. This makes perfect sense as people are huddling together not just for comfort, but for real and tangible benefits. Business contacts, future referees, people with clout in the ever shrinking job market will prove useful when the going gets tough. Also,bartering services and skills will make an awful lot of sense when applied locally.

2. Going loco

For some time now, people have preferred to holiday in Britain ratherthan go abroad. Cost, currency fluctuations and travel disruption saw to this. In future, this tend will become a lot stronger. Not just abroad will hit the dust, but also any far-flung UK destination, like Scotland or Cornwall. Petrol costs, and the unaffordable insecurity of whether a costly holiday will work out (weather, accommodation etc.) It is simply too risky to travel for hundreds of miles, spending hundreds of pounds just to find out you don't like what you see. Lots of people I spoke to have confirmed this trend, and have already made bookings far more locally, i.e. directly in their area. For example, local campsites in Essex for Londoners, will definitely see a business increase.

3. Adieu Foodies
Eating out in restaurants is expensive, and not always as pleasurable as hoped for. Few families in future will be prepared to take this financial risk, esp. with high prices and increased VAT. But not just restaurants, food in general will feel the pinch. This week, Waitrose has pre-emptively and quietly increased its prices, especially for pre-prepared food. As soon as families will feel the pinch, anything outlandish, experimental or simply too expensive will fall by the wayside. Experimenting will no longer be a part of eating/cooking. Faddish recipes and unknown ingredients will be out, traditional cooking methods and homely, cheap meals will be in. Already, food magazines are losing readers by droves. People are playing it very safe. Baking (esp. cupcakes which cost virtually nothing to make, but look pretty) is a major trend. Stews, one-posts etc. which can be re-heated on several occasions do not allow for the foodie-allure of the past decade.

4. Migration

This time round, migration will also be affected by the spirit of "no experimenting". People will not be prepared to risk their whole livelihood by, say, emigrating to the US to make their fortune. Migration from economically disadvantaged areas like Scotland or Northern Ireland will be a lot more "local" thereby minimising cost and risk. "Nearby" better-off places like Newcastle (for Scots) , or Liverpool for NI, will take the brunt of inner-British "migrants". If it doesn't work out, people can always go back. Also, cultural alienation and the feeling of being looked-down upon will be minimised if your background and values are still similar. Whilst people will still be hoping to do better for themselves, the are no longer prepared to seek a fortune in a totally alien environment and simply hope for the best.

5. Vote Labour

Already, people are criticising the areas where budget cuts are deemed necessary. Regional dissatisfaction will also increase ("Why us"?) The natural receptacle for this discontent will be the opposition Labour party which should see a huge increase in membership and support. Already, Labour is organising vox pop protest forums on Social Media. In general, people will feel that "something will have to be done" to raise their voice against a cut-trigger-happy government, especially when those cuts will hit targets that can easily be seen as "unfair", i. e. victimising the already disadvantaged (the elderly, poorer areas etc.)Voicing their opposition will need to be channelled, and the Labour party will be there to accommodate the vast numbers of dissenters.

I will continue monitoring social and cultural fluctuations over the coming months, and will be publishing further selected trends for specific areas. If you have any comments, I'd be most willing to incorporate them in what will become a major UK lifestyle study.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

On Swearing

A couple of times, recently, I got told off for swearing. It wasn't actually swearing though - I'd used the word "wanker" - so in the parlance of the anti-swearing brigade that should be called "bad language" I suppose.

I have to admit I always found people who go "tut tut" or "language please", or suck their teeth on hearing a swear word slightly comical. "Wash your mouth out with soap", they say, and I just want to say "oh do get out more".

Because that is exactly the point -the very people who are "ever so sensitive" when it comes to swearing - and do I detect a slight Northern bias there - blithely overlook the sordidness of a Friday night culture in all its obscene glory - mooning blokes, obscenely dressed women, drunken behaviour of the most objectionable and shameless sort etc etc. -but say "Fuck", and they react like lace-capped spinsters in a Victorian village.
Indeed I find there is something weirdly camp in their utter shockedness, their hurt and pained looks, and their slightly pitying but ultimately forgiving look.

Coming back to the Northern topic, I wonder if there is something in Methodist circles that explicitly forbids swearing. I suppose there must be, but I don't understand the reason. "Don't use the name of the Lord in vain" - yes from a religious point that makes sense (this also exists in Catholicism) and I do understand that religious people don't want to listen to "In God's name..." or "For Christ's sake". But that is something entirely different from saying "shit", or "fuck".
Maybe it is a way of expressing to the world how refined you are. That you take offence at coarse language. I think that comes closer to the truth, and also explains the slightly comical- old-maidish impression those people make. One feels a bit sorry for them because their ruse of fake sophistication didn't work.

What I'm not so keen on, though, is their assumption that everybody shares those values, may just have temporarily forgotten, and therefore needs "reminding", and if that doesn't help, a firm telling-off. It' sno longer common practice to go round telling people what's what in your books, and assume other will take kindly to your viewpoint.

My own background for example (Southern, Catholic, middle-class) does not negatively sanction swearing/bad language. I don't therefore quite see why I should adhere to "standards" that are neither commonly accepted nor at all aspirational.
I presume they would say: I feel offended by swearing and bad language. Well, apart from thinking, it's more a case of petulant prissyness, everybody in a multi-cultural society has to put up with a degree of "offense". Muslim people feel offended by the way we dress here, but they don't go round telling people off. Upper-class people and the aristocracy have always sworn, so has the working-class. It's just the "refoined" bit in the lower echelons in the middle that thinks they have to teach the world good manners. And good manners in their books, is using "nice" language.

It's a pity that they end up with a comedy vocabulary "Pardon my French" and "You naughty little so-and-so" they say.
Maybe it's time to realise that not everybody shares either your background, nor your values. And that the times where you could claim cultural superiority, lead the way, and show people the errors of THEIR ways are definitely over. Soap, please!