29 April, 2012

Back to Basics Britain

The day I graduated was a hopeful one. I swung out of university life with a comfortable 2:1, a lifetime’s supply of ‘life-experience’ and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do – but I’d always worked hard and was relatively clever, so I was going to be rich and successful, right?

But no sooner had we thrown our hats into the air and stumbled home in our robes, than Britain fell into one of the nation’s worst felt recessions. Panic waved across post-grad's UK wide as talk of unemployment pulled the rugs from under our feet, as did the realities that followed in the next few years . 

We gripped on for dear life, dreams of city breaks and Louis Vittons slipping away as we clung to whatever admin job we'd been fortunate enough to secure early doors – anything to avoid our own personal recession, the slump back home. Yes there’s no place like home, but when that’s back to where you started 3 years ago? No thank you. We took whatever credit we could to maintain ‘independence’ and scraped by for those first few years out of university, finding ourselves worse off than when we were students. Is this what we’d worked for our entire schooling lives? We weren’t impressed.

Skip forward to 2012 and while we have gradually paved our way, moved on from that first admin job and hopefully started to – shock horror – pay off our student loans, things still aren’t great. Progression isn’t easy, I for one have had to make some big changes just to stay afloat and last week the UK fell into its second recession in 3 years.

The Simple Life
It is understandable then that at this time (when we are poor) there seems to be a “back to basics” theme gripping the nation, particularly within the post-grad generation, to match our almost wartime stoicism. Cupcakes are a fashion accessory, flasks are all the rage (who has money for Starbucks?) and running is the new Virgin gym membership. Move over treadmill, we’re giving the pavements a go! I have to say I love that we have found the silver lining of this recession so Britishly and have adapted our tastes accordingly. Plus now we have even more of an excuse to put the kettle on – tea will always be a cheap past time.

I first started baking when I couldn’t afford to go visiting my mates who had mainly moved to other cities and had nothing but a bag of flour to entertain me one Sunday. That was 2 years ago and now I bake like it’s going out of fashion (seriously though, let me know when baking goes out of fashion) and I love it. I literally get so much enjoyment from beating eggs into flour and watching the cake garden grow. Gardening – that’s another one, I knew something was wrong when of my best friends (male) started sending pictures of his self-grown house plants to my Mum of a weekend. And THEN my sister asked for gardening stuff one birthday. I despaired of us all, us 20-somethings hankering after such domesticated past-times. But while I was worried 'poverty' was making us old before our time, I was pleasantly surprised to see how happy these mundane activities made us. Far, far happier than stumbling home at 5am having spent 2 weeks disposable income in 7 hours or maxing out our credit cards on clothes we couldn't afford.

That said, there is an irony in the fact that we also love a cheeky bit of Made in Chelsea, a coy slice of the lifestyle we once dreamed of. I love watching their lavish existence. And scorning it. I regularly find myself saying (to myself) “I would be soooo bored if all I did was socialise, and shop, and wear amazing clothes on a model-esque body….” 

Okay okay, so the High Life has it’s appeal and as much as I watch Made in Chelsea with a degree of contempt, I am willing to admit this probably comes from a splash of envy – awe of a life so far removed from my own, that I have to watch it on my dying laptop, in my little room in Sheffield, wearing 5 jumpers because I can’t afford heating. The truth is though, I don’t know how happy those Chelsea souls are, how fulfilled or how real. 

I love my kitsch little room in Sheffield, I love that I live in a city so down to earth it is in its entirety Green, I love my jumpers, all 5 of them. I’d love them more if I’d knitted them myself. I love it all because it’s real and it’s secure. Unless someone comes in and steals my mixing bowl, I can always rely on baking to keep me occupied and provide my boyfriend with treats, I can always rely on the pavements to be there to go running on and I don’t need a family who owns Dunlop to maintain that way of life. Plus I can get my dose of ‘Rah’ every Monday on E4 at 10pm #MadeInChelsea.
There is more than something to be said for The Simple Life and I can see why in Britain we have embraced our more limited means in the way we have, because sometimes less is actually a hell of a lot more. 

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