Are we in the double dip or have we come out the other side and are now going down for the third time? Am I supposed to be cutting back, giving some slack or just cutting corners on the luxury and only buying the necessary? Everywhere I look, shop windows shout "Buy Me' yet my bank account is screaming "Help Me", but who should I be listening to? It's hard when your heart is saying let's speculate to accumulate and your bank manager is saying "hand over the credit / debit and store cards or your credit rating gets it".
I've come to the realisation that recession's a bitch; she's like karma with a flick knife and a scowl, and I've had to learn very quickly that I need to cut back dramatically. I'm now swapping branded goods for generic and I've learned that when it comes to stocking my food cupboards, it pays to shop around.
Much like the fashion crowd no longer frown upon designer mixed with high street, I've learned there is no sin in mixing Waitrose with Poundland, I just make sure I go to Poundland with a Waitrose bag. Just ask any fashionista with a pair of Prada shoes and a pair of Primark tights why 'keeping up appearances" has never come so cheap. When times are hard I have no time for being a food snob, so you can go ahead and grind your finest coffee beans as much as you want, I know that's a cut price biscuit you're having on the side and that exclusive truffle Parmesan white bean dip? I've seen you scooping that up with an out of date Dorito.
"Organically Farmed" jumped on its low emission tractor and sped off down the country lane as soon as I stepped foot into Iceland and all the "Finest" and "Taste the Difference" in the land comes in a poor third to a fish finger sandwich and a plate of oven chips.
"Mum's gone to Iceland" I hear you snigger? Well, 'Yummy Mummy's' gone too, only she's parked the 4x4 outside Marks & Spencer's.
This never ending recession has left me feeling like the Grand Duke of Dichotomy. What is a luxury and what is a necessity? What do I want and what do I really need? Do I drive the car or do I ride a bike and most perplexing of all? Do I shoot from the hip or bite the bullet and take the free lunch?
Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures and if that means smiling sweetly and not saying what I really want to say (because my mouth is full) at a free lunch then so be it. If it comes to lunch time and your pockets are empty just put on your best coat, your best smile and make for the Selfridges food hall. You can easily leave with a full stomach if you approach every person in a white coat and a hairnet and ask to sample their wares. "Try before you Buy" has never sounded so good when you're saving for the cab fare home, you just need to get your priorities straight. Will it be a free lunch and a cab home or a dull lunch and a bus ride home? My grandmother always told me "There is no shame in being poor, just behaving poor" so it's Selfridges and a full stomach for me.
The fight between want and need and luxury and necessity is a tough one and wine and flowers are probably the most difficult things to deem necessary when times are hard, even if you're buying them as a gift. Recently I was invited to a dinner and I seriously couldn't make my mind up what to take for the hostess, flowers felt too extravagant but I knew the wine would lead to her becoming increasingly volatile, so in the end, entertainment won over extravagance and I went for the wine. In this case it was the correct choice because for the price of a bottle I got a fabulous dinner, supremely drunk and I got to witness a cat fight between her and her sister in law. If you're broke and invited to dinner, ALWAYS take wine, flowers are boring and wine can instigate a whole world of entertainment. Flowers just sit there, then they wilt and die and where's the fun in that? Wine enlivens the conversation and can even lead to fisticuffs so always grab for the grape, even if you plucked it from the bargain bin. Remember, when you're poor, you need to take your entertainment anyway it comes, even if it means your host ends up with a black eye.
We all are feeling the pinch, only the super rich are immune and I'm learning to step away from a life of greed and gluttony. I'm learning to "mend and make -do, to save buying new' and although that's not great for the economy it feels good to me. So what If I balk at the price of Balsamic or I daren't trifle with the price of a truffle? I've had "Chateauneuf-du-Pape" and I can't stand that crap and I'm no fan of Foie Gras either. If you're down on your luck I advise buying a Wok and selling the Aga because nobody needs a posh oven when they can only afford cheap food. "A workman being only as good as his tools" holds no weight when all you have to your name is a pack of vegetables and a stir fry sauce.
In a double dip recession you need to take my advice because the only way to keep a straight head and a full stomach is to keep your tongue firmly in your cheek and get on with it.