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a blog by Chris Barrow

Conspicuous affluence

I’ve been back in my “home” of Hale, Cheshire, England this weekend and had a rather un-nerving experience. I’ve lived in and around this urban village for 20 years and seen it grow from a reasonably nice neighbourhood to one of the most affluent areas of the United Kingdom. Hale high street is no more than a half-mile long and yet boasts over 20 restaurants, bars, pubs and take-out’s, in addition to a plague of hairdressing and nail salons. Hale carries the dubious distinction of the highest concentration of Porsche Cayenne drivers in the UK – almost all of them busy housewifes delivering children to and from school and themselves to and from social engagements or designer shops all day. Not to mention the growing list of male drivers with Bentley, Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati to add to the (now mundane) Mercedes and BMW rallies that take place most days (especially at weekends). The effect on home values has been astonishing, with houses I saw in the 80’s priced at a few hundred thousand now selling (and I mean selling) for 2 and 3 million pounds apiece – and they are nothing special, the area is nothing special. Its just the cumulative effect of high population levels, consumerism, a boom economy in the UK, low retail inflation, Manchester’s growth as a commercial capital – oh, and lots of professional soccer players being paid higher and higher salaries. No doubt Mr Glaser’s controversial purchase of our beloved Manchester United Football Club will raise those salaries (and our seat prices) way above the financial oxygen of us mere mortals – into the realm of corporate sponsors buying the seats that our grandfathers afforded out of working class incomes. I’m beginning to sound a little Marxist I think. But then he did begin writing the outline of Das Kapital whilst on a summer trip to Manchester with his college buddy Engels. Where am I going with this ramble? Well it’s just a catharsis for me – hope you will forgive me. The weather was uncharacteristically warm over the weekend. The teenagers were out – sporting their trendy bohemian fashions (that’s the latest thing around here), their designer accessories, their mobile phones and their astonishing amounts of spending money. The Mums and Dads were out, sporting their badges of achievement – cars, designer (cool) clothes, accessories, mobile phones, prominent home addresses, vacation destinations, shallow conversations. And Hale was busy, busy, busy – extracting their highly taxed net income for overpriced and undercooked food, expensive alcohol and the absence of customer service. Its what happens to a monopoly in a boom – customer service goes out of the window. I watched it happening on Friday night – my favourite restaurant of the last 20 years served us late, served us badly and when I mentioned my dissatisfaction treated my comments with disdain. So that set my mind off in this direction – and I feel better now – thank you. I’ve been a part of this scene for most of my adult life – now it just sickens me. Oh dear – old age.

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