A taste for inflation

In our small Scottish village we have always had a stong streak of irreverence for authority. We have alway been aginm any government, whatever its color, and we were convinced that it was the follies and lack of foresight of our rulers that had landed us in our present plight. We were determined to show Them how we could adapt ourselves to adversity and pluck out of the nette of inflation the flower, saving.m

Saving cash was a sacred principle among us, and over the years we had developed a talent amounting almost to genius for keeping our hands out of our pockets. In our fight against the new foe we kept a perpetual look out for what was free, welcoming windfalls of all sorts. If coal spilled from the delivery cart, every able-bodied villager darted out with bucket and shovel to scoop up the loot. Tree lovers were torn between grief at the uprooting of giant beeches in winter gales and delight at the prospect of fuel that didn't cost a penny. After every storm the whole community set off with prams and wheelbarrows to grab the fallen timber.

We combed the countryside in summer for wild rasps and blaeberries, in autumn for mushrooms and brambles. Nothing was ever wasted. Even the minister took to weaving his sermos round texts like Matthew 26: "To what purpose is this waste?" in Lowland Scotland likes being duped any better, so although there was a close fraternity among us in the anti-inflationary fight, it was a wary one. With our rose gardens transformed into cabbage patches and potato beds we were more watchful than ever. "Who was prowling round my garden last night? Some one out to nab my tatties!" Nabbingm what was not your own became the deadliest of crimes.

Our chief enemy in the evil of inflationary overcharging was one within the gates -- Jock. he was plumber, joiner and sweep rolled into one. His name, pronounced as "joke," gave added point to our angry exclamations of "Fifteen quid to mend your chimney pot! Yon's beyond a joke!" "Aye, but not beyond Jock!" Our inevitable conclusion was: "We'll do it ourselves." Villagers, who would as soon have contemplated a trip to the mon as scaling their own roofs, became, not astronauts, but alpinists -- gutter clearers, glaziers and sweeps.

In halcyon pre-inflationary days Jock had always answered our midnight calls when the first frosts of our fierce Scottish winters burst our pipes and the thaw set our roofs leaking. He came at a price, but he came. We realized the wisdom of keeping our do-it-yourself activities dark. We knew very little about drains and damp courses, pointing and plumbing -- we might still need Jock. Better not alienate him altogether.

Our secrecy added to the excitement. Jock had an uncanny instinct for what we were up to, and his children had a disconcerting habit of suddenly slinking past our gates, not single spies but in battalions. "Watch out!" we hissed to one another. "Here's Jock's Billy and Tom. They'll clipe.m "

For the village children are a new dimension was added to life. The boys especially discovered in their previously dull and timorous parents an unexpected spirit of adventure, a willingness to risk breaking their necks if it meant saving cash. They watched their fathers with enchanted admiration. "Guess what my Pa's doing! Sweeping the lum with a whin bush!"

"Mine's hosing out the gutters."

"You know how they're aye talking aoubt pragmatism?" the schoolmaster demanded. "Listen!" and he read aloud from his Chambers's dictionary: "Pragmatic, skilled in affairs, active, practical . . ." (omitting the further: officious, meddlesome, self-important). "Yon's usm !"

We see ourselves indeed as the New Pragmatists. If only They, we think, would follow our example there could be rising prosperity all over the country. We can teach them how to manage on slender means, how to scrimp and save, make the most of limited resources. Economic recession has increased our self-reliance, sharpened our wits, sent our inventive faculties soaring. Surely all is for the best in the best of possible worlds whe n it is possible to acquire a taste for inflation.

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