Last Friday, as is my wont once a month, I went with several other former Canterbury City Council planning staff for lunch at one of our village pubs, no names, no packdrill as they used to say.
It’s a pub I’ve been to before with them or with our retired parish priest so we expected to get a sandwich or baguette and perhaps some chips, all at a reasonable price.
What a surprise: the menu had changed completely. Sandwiches and baguettes were out and in were such items as a scotch egg balanced on a slice of tomato and a few leaves, with a drizzle of sauce, a snip at only £8.50 – and that was the cheaper end of the menu.
Having got the beers in we decided to stay, but three scotch eggs, two portions of chips between the three of us and a pint and a half of beer each set us back £47. It was a very nice scotch egg, but even so!
We also noticed how many of the tables were reserved, and that was something I had noticed on the Wednesday when lunching at a different pub. There seem to be lot of older people lunching in pubs. There’s a lot in garden centres too if you visit them of a lunchtime.
The conclusion I’m drawn to is that the “grey pound” is being spent liberally, presumably on the basis that we’re living longer, we’ve paid off our mortgages, our kids are grown up and no longer reliant on the bank of mum and dad and we can’t take it with us.
It used to be that the demise of the parents or grandparents provided the children or grandchildren with desperately needed cash but as we live longer we help them out whilst they are alive, get them on their feet and then what?
Well we’ve finished work or are part timers, we’ve got plenty of time on our hands and a bit of money, what to do? Well we seem to have collectively decided to save the economy by spending it at home, creating jobs in the service economy.
Of course, that’s a bit flippant and not everybody will have had access to a bank of mum and dad but I wanted to highlight the fact that there are a lot of older people in the country who are relatively well off and we didn’t have a bank of mum and dad.
In fact there are many things we didn’t have, computers, mobile phones, newish cars, nights out on the town, drug habits.
Our idea of a night out, once a week, was two pints at a pub you could spend the rest of the evening walking to and from.
What we did do was save for a pension as we didn’t want to be like our grandparents generation with just the state pension to live on, or even our parents generation.
Now its paid off and we can maintain a reasonable standard of living in retirement, we can even work a bit knowing that we don’t have to do a daily 9 to 5, and we volunteer for things.
I read in the paper the other day a finance adviser saying that if young people would just go without a bit more and save a bit more they would be ok in retirement, in fact what he said was that by saving £78 a month in ISAs you could build up a million pound pot by 65.
We might live in houses worth half a million but they’re not money banks to us, they’re our homes, we went without to get on the housing ladder and for us there was no equal pay for work of equal value, youngsters just earned less, as did our wives or girlfriends, it was not easy. Its never been easy.
So the message now is get that pension under way, its nearly your turn at the bar and mine’s a pint, real ale of course!
Bob Britnell is the former principal planning officer at Canterbury City Council and now runs his own consultancy offering planning and conservation advice. He lives in Tyler Hill.