Noughty, noughty!

By SKIP BANDELE [email protected]

Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 10 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.

Is it really only 10 years ago that extravagant New Year’s Eve celebrations ushering in the present millennium heralded the beginning of a supposedly brave new world?

That, as Aldous Huxley discovered almost 100 years ago, false dawn became all too apparent not long after the initial hiatus – brash dreams shattered on brittle foundations.

With the benefit of hindsight, the so-called civilised world proved to be quite literally living on borrowed time, rapidly increasing the proportions and extent of the monstrous house of cards which always was doomed to collapse.

A financial market buoyed by little more than blind faith had the rug very rudely pulled out from underneath it as soon as just one innocent stood up and pointed out that the emperor was indeed stark naked.

Those people charged with keeping reins on and preventing such a far-reaching catastrophe from occurring, our dearly elected representatives striding the hallways of power, were equally caught with their pants down which, unfortunately, provided little comfort and did not make anyone feel any better about their predicament.

I, for one, am not laughing – and I can’t think of a single comedy club that is booming right now. Rising prices, increases in taxation, benefit cuts and the reduction of working hours, if not downright unemployment, does not make for the prospect of a rosy immediate future. However…

Shining brightly through all this gloom and doom is the incredible resilience and resourcefulness of the human spirit.

Take away the few cowards who sought solace to the loss of their ill-gotten fortunes in a leap out of a financial district 30th floor skyscraper window – how is that possible under present draconian health and safety paranoia? – and there is a lot of strength, stoic acceptance and sheer bloody mindedness among the majority of ordinary folk who are bearing the brunt of the burden resulting out of a situation far from their own making.

I always felt that Britons, in particular, were very good at dealing with adversity, something to do with the stiff upper lip, a great self-depreciating sense of humour and the kind of spirit born and proudly displayed during the Blitz.

Take Les Dawson’s take on seeing six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. “Aren’t you going to help?” a neighbour asked. “No”, responded the comic, “six should be enough.” Dawson was following in the footsteps of the ancients proving that poking fun in that particular direction was by no means a new trait.

As early as the first century AD Juvenal wrote in Satire VI: “It is impossible to be happy while one’s mother-in-law is still alive.” Politicians also contribute to the general state of light-heartedness, albeit mostly unwittingly.

As the now infamous George W. Bush once said: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again”. Or even: “Rarely is the question asked: is our learning?”

American Presidents do not have a monopoly on such gaffs: “The green belt is a Labour achievement, and we mean to build on it”, John Prescott once declared while Margaret Thatcher maintained that “It will be years – not in my time – before a woman will become Prime Minister.”

And then there is the other great cure-all, the good moan. Nothing appears quite as bad after having indulged in the national pastime at least four times a day according to a recent study. Much like the eternal pessimist Victor Meldrew from the TV comedy One Foot In The Grave, the average person loves their daily gripes about how expensive things are, the lack of anything decent to watch on the box, the weather, household chores, our finances and the Government.

In fact, the average person moans a staggering 1,300 times every 12 months, with each single session taking near nine minutes adding up to an incredible 51 hours of each year spent in a huff.

Most moaning takes place at the start of the working week but melts away as the weekend approaches – now I wonder why that is?!

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, says: “With our bad weather, football team and economy, it’s no surprise that Brits like to enjoy a good moan. Moaning serves a number of purposes and can help people bond over their shared grievances.”

Whatever the case, complaining, talking about the weather, or just having a good old chin wag does seem to make things better and enable us to cope better with any given problem.  

‘Paradise Lost’ was the heading of this column on this date five years ago, ‘Heaven Can Wait’ sometime in between then and now – both sentiments have become somehow applicable again although neither death nor natural catastrophy are on the imminent agenda.

On a personal level, my father being admitted to hospital only a few days before Christmas was traumatic and far outweighed any prevailing financial concerns.

His release in time to join the family for the festive period a blessing. Unrelated, but equally momentous, I have kicked the nicotine habit into the curb – one month clean and feeling great for it.

Today the sun is shining brighter and the air tastes better – I look forward to 2011 being a good year.

The noughties are well and truly behind us and as we all know there is always light at the end of every tunnel – join me in reaching out and getting there in one piece!

Skip Bandele can be contacted by emailing [email protected]