Monday 14 March 2011

cha-ching cha-ching...

FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: Aye, very passable, that, very passable bit of risotto.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: Nothing like a good glass of Château de Chasselas, eh, Josiah?
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: You're right there, Obadiah.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Who'd have thought thirty year ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking Château de Chasselas, eh?


I was at the gym on Friday night, relaxing in the sauna after another good swimming lesson.  As I was sitting there, getting a good sweat on and luxuriating in the glow of my twanging muscles, I was joined by some kids.


FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: In them days we was glad to have the price of a cup o' tea.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: A cup o' cold tea.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Without milk or sugar.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: In a cracked cup, an' all.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.


Well, I say kids, but as they were all clearly attending one of the local universities, they were all probably in their early 20s.  They'd been in a spin class and were discussing how hard they had been worked and planning what they were going to do later on that evening.

What struck me first was how posh they sounded.  They weren't deformed posh, but they were well on their way, and sported the kind of floppy hair that I immediately associate with the products of the English public school system.  Maybe Nottingham University attracts that kind of student.  I don't know.  I've lived here for nearly fourteen years but have never really felt the need to make a study of the student demographics before.


FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: I was happier then and I had nothin'. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, 'alf the floor was missing, and we were all 'uddled together in one corner for fear of falling.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: Eh, you were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in t' corridor!
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: Oh, we used to dream of livin' in a corridor! Would ha' been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House? Huh.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Well, when I say 'house' it was only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it was a house to us.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: We were evicted from our 'ole in the ground; we 'ad to go and live in a lake.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us living in t' shoebox in t' middle o' road.


... and then it struck me: their accents were hardly the issue.

What the hell were these students doing in my gym?  Student membership is something around £40 a month.  When I was a student - admittedly some time ago now - that was the weekly shopping budget for a house of four people.  But have you seen students shopping now?  I used to buy value bread and baked beans and lots and lots of baking potatoes.  Today's students seem to stock up on premium lager, exotic fruits, fresh pasta and fresh tuna steaks.  When I was a student, my tuition fees were still paid by the government, and although I got a modest allowance from my parents (in lieu of a grant), I was still forced to get a job if I was to avoid going into debt.  I'm proud to say that I left University without any kind of an overdraft at all.

I know things are different now, and students are forced to go into massive debt simply to pay their tuition fees.  Does this mean their attitude towards money has changed?  If you're going to be £20,000 in debt, why not £30,000 or £40,000?  Throw some more Stella into the basket.  Why not?  If they don't have to drink Hoffmeister, as I did, then why would you?


FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t' mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi' his belt.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at six o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of 'ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: Well, of course, we had it tough. We used to 'ave to get up out of shoebox at twelve o'clock at night and lick road clean wit' tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when we got home our Dad would slice us in two wit' bread knife.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.


But seriously..... £40 a month for a gym membership when they probably all have access to the University gym, right?  Is that not a ridiculous luxury?  I hate to sound like one of Monty Python's Yorkshiremen, but these kids don't know they're born.


FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... they won't believe you.
ALL: They won't!


I blame the Government.  Like the man said:

"O tempora, o mores! Senatus haec intellegit, consul videt; hic tamen vivit, vivit?"

Ah. Good luck to them, I suppose. They're the future, right?


  1. We had this conversation last night. Starting work at 23 (admittedly 18 years ago) I lived in a flat with no washer (trips to the launderette were the norm), no shower (ancient bath), no phone (trips to phone box every night as mobile phones were still scarce and too expensive for my £35 a week budget) and cooking on a 2 ring electric baby belling with space in the oven for a small dish and nothing else. No computer obviously as they hadn't been invented. Lived like that for 2 years. I wonder how many graduates start off like that these days.

  2. I wasn't especially poor as a student, I should add - many were poorer - but I did have to budget, to work, to use a laundrette and a payphone.... I'm not saying we were poor but happy or anything daft like that.... But gym membership? Is that really a priority. Running is still free, isn't it? Mostly? People are fascinating.

  3. Maybe their accents explain it? Maybe they're the sort of student to whom money has no object nor limit, nor lack ability any impediment to running the country.