I had a moment of pleasure mixed with guilt today as I put on a pair of shoes.
I had bought these shoes in the week after leaving hospital in November, where I had spent nearly three weeks in pyjamas after being rushed into Accident and Emergency after a brain haemorrhage.
Some people thought it was madness but five days after being discharged, I was flying to Amsterdam for a pre-arranged long weekend.
The problem, as far as I was concerned or so I convinced myself, was loosely connected with safety. It was snowing in Amsterdam and I didn’t have a suitable pair of shoes which would look smart but which would also have sufficient resiliance and grip to allow my unsteady progress around the city.
In the town where I live there is a very expensive shoe shop with an expert staff who go to extraordinary lengths to supply the perfect shoe for every occasion and every foot. This was obviously the place to buy these shoes and, of course, it was my first port of call.
I have never owned a pair of shoes like them before. They were perfect. Trendily smart black leather shoes with uncompromising grips on the soles and as comfortable as bedroom slippers. They were obviously essential.
When I put them on this morning, I flexed my feet, stretched upwards on my toes. Why? you may think.
It is that wonderful sound of creaking leather so reminiscent of horse sadles and extremely comfortable gentlemen’s club chairs. It is just unbeatable and no cheaper imitation could ever reproduce the effect.
Then I felt guilty.
We are living through the credit crunch – surely a time for financial caution – and there was I splashing out for a pair of expensive shoes for a fool-hardy trip to Amsterdam.
But no. I was not being iresponsible.
I read today about how we should all be spending money as our patriotic duty – not even merely patriotic, we will save the world from its current economic crisis.
Phew! Well that’s alright then.
Apparently, all the problems are coming from the lack of lending by the banks and building societies. The banks are being mean and holding on to their cash whilst every economic graph carries on its collapsing course to the floor.
Governments, around the World, have seen that the only way to get lending going again is to put up billions of pounds, dollars, yens, euros or whatever as loan guarantees so that these banks will see fit to risk their money back into their national economies.
Lets hope it works before I need a new pair of shoes.
It came as a surprize to me, someone who has no understanding of the ways of high finance, that at a time of national emergency like this, 80% of British bank loans are to foreign companies and individuals. It was also quite a shock to learn that a lot of this money is directed to people like those dodgy Russians who seem to be going bust all around us.
These bad deals I assume are those poetically named toxic assets. It was these bad loads, originally to do with ill-advised mortgage lending in the United States that has been the cause of the credit crunch. These are the bad debts that governments all over the World are now planning to guarantee in the interests of avoiding an economic depression.
So my shoe buying is part of the solution just as the big banks have been the cause of the problem. I did not know just how big these banking businesses were until all this stared to blow up around us.
I just assumed that those very very rich men who work in brainy things like banks are clever and highly skilled to such an extent that they deserve every penny of their gigantic salaries. After-all the companies themselves are bigger than indidivual countries. The Royal Bank of Scotland, now that it is seen to be going wobbly, for instance,we see has a balance sheet (profits and losses to us) of two trillion pounds each side – the same as Britain’s gross domestic product. The bosses of these organisations have had the freedom and power of money for so long that it has only been now that it is all unravelling that us simple folk are beginning to realize just how greedy they have been and just how free they were to make really bad mistakes that will effect all of us much more than them with their fat cat salaries, pensions and bonuses.
As you can see, I do not really know about these things but if I could feel guilty about a new pair of shoes, I wondered just how guilty other people should be about ostentatiously extravagant spending and whether it really is justifiable to save the world economy and, of course, prop up those international finance companies.
I do not know how much the new American President’s inauguration will cost but, somehow rightly, we condone this as a mass celebration for the whole World. I hope when this party is over though, that the dollars will not flow quite so loosely in the White House.
America’s financial troubles have infected the World and their cautious and sober reassessment of their still massive wealth and how it should be spent, could teach the World a whole new set of lessons.
Amidst all these celebrations, it was particularly sickening to see another example of reckless spending this weekend. I like to think much worse than mine.
An extravagantly dressed woman was photographed leaving the Shangri-La hotel in Hong Kong.
Mrs Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwe’s president, has been on a shopping holiday. Her husband, Robert Mugabe, is meanwhile taking his country to ruin, with 2,200 deaths from the callously neglected cholera epidemic which owes much to the lack of investment in water supplies, his political opponents either imprisoned or beaten into submission, and inflation now standing at an estimated and inconceivable 231 million per cent. Whilst this is continuing at home, Mrs. Mugabe drew $92,000 from her bank for her annual shopping spree in the Far East.
Is she helping the economy too?