Thursday, 9 April 2009

G20 and a piano

OK, so what does a piano have to do with G20?

On the face of it, I admit not much. But let me explain. In common with millions of others I have been thinking about G20. I gave thanks last week I was no longer a political correspondent, tasked with making instant sense of it. I don’t know whether it will make any difference - I reckon the wisest comments were from those journalists who said that the small number of good things out there, those pregreen shoot green shoots we are hearing about, were already happening and nothing to do with G20. That chimes with the one thing I have learned about
politicians. They are rarely as powerful as we - and they - need to believe.

Anyway, this doesn’t explain the piano. It was just that as I was watching G20, my thoughts drifted from the behaviourally challenged Signor Berlusconi to something far more important – the rest of us, and what the relentless cycle of doom and gloom is doing to our psyche. Are we really changing as a result of recession?

Newspapers and magazines are awash with articles about consumer trends –"cocooning” (retreating to the cave for security) being a recurrent theme.

Apparently, we’re all going back to custard for comfort. Is that before or after we have logged onto those web dating sites which are apparently experiencing a big increase in demand because we would rather stumble through the bad times with a mate who can help share the bills?

Do I really believe all this? I reckon I am as good a source of data as anyone else, so I asked myself some tough questions. Was I different from last year? Eating a lot of puddings with custard? Spending time wrapped up in a duvet in my front room avoiding normal social contact? And I was just filing my report recording myself as satisfyingly robust with no obvious custard issues when it dawned on me I had bought a piano.

We’re not talking grand piano here, just traditional upright, but why did I become so fixated on replacing the wrecked Gors and Kallman I have had for years with a functioning, tuneful piano? It’s not as if there was any obvious trigger. Nor am I alone – I found that our from the delivery chaps. “Sales are up,” they said. It was all clear to me in a flash. This is about home and comfort.

I mean, after the kitchen table and your own bed, what greater symbol is there of
comfy old home than the piano in the corner and family sing songs?

Obviously if you play as badly as I do, the family sing song bit doesn’t happen very often. But that’s to miss the point. Just when I was thinking that all this trend stuff was a lot of nonsense dreamed up by the Brand Boys to shift longdeclining brands, it turns out I am actually part of a sub-trend myself. While I haven’t been out to buy any custard – yet – I find myself increasingly persuaded that it isn’t just the zeitgeist which is changing as a result of recession, but our deeper selves. I imagine this will indeed have all manner of implications not just for the amount we spend, but on what. Who is going to join Bird’s Eye twittering that the recession has been very good for them?

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