Although some of my earliest political acts (after demonstrations against UK repressions in Central Africa in 1959 and the nuclear submarine base on the Clyde in the early 1960s) were about boosting consumer choice (under the influence of Janey Buchan) I’ve never actually bought into the “consumer ideology” with which my generation was, I think, the first to be gripped…..
My parents, married in the immediate pre-war period, enjoyed existential (but not material) luxury. Money was scarce – my father existed on a Scottish Presbyterian Minister’s “stipend” (of less than 1000 pounds a year) although we did live rent-free in a “Manse” owned by the Church of Scotland….
Any spare cash soon disappeared into the hands of various folk who would come begging to the house……my father was a well-known “soft-touch”….
He never owned a car – being a familiar (or “well-ken’t”) figure striding (and pausing to chat on or pick up paper from) the streets of the shipbuilding town in which he spent 60 years of his life.
He would earn some spare cash from tutoring – although it was never clear whether this was from necessity or love of learning…….
I grew up in the 1950s – aware of television which was, however, a real luxury. I have a memory of watching (on a neighbour’s set) the 1952 Coronation for a few boring minutes before being let loose on an empty street and, a few years later (on Saturday afternoons) my friend Les Mitchell’s set in neighbouring Newton St first the football results and, in 1963 the first episodes of Doctor Who!
Bliss it was……..
It was 1966 or so when I acquired my first flat – with 2,000 pounds from my mum’s hard-pressed savings – and Habitat furniture…..In 1968 I outmatched my father’s income almost at first go when I became a Lecturer at a Paisley College. The very same year I was elected to Greenock’s town council and soon became a Chairman of a major committee.
In celebration I bought a second-hand Volvo saloon from a lover’s father’s garage…….. shades of John Updike. And, thereafter, a series of such cars. I acquired my first new car at the age of 47….And my first fitted kitchen a few years earlier……
When, after leaving Scotland, I transferred the flat (and remaining mortgage payments of some 20k) to my wife, I had neither savings nor debt……………………verily I was a happy man!
I have, since then, accumulated some possessions – one house (for 6000 euros) and helped my partner acquire a flat in central Bucharest…..But for 25 years I have rented most of the places I have stayed in – about 20 addresses during the period…..which is more than 100k in rent – but probably balanced by the absence of any legal requirement to pay tax…….The nomadic life has meant minimal possessions…..verily I am a happy man…….
although the groaning suitcases from Central Asia brought carpets, ceramics and small stuff…….and, since then, the books and paintings have been accumulating…….in four separate locations………..and in 1997 I acquired another new car (albeit a modest Daewoo Cielo) which purred happily all over North, South and Central Europe for 16 years…….. verily I began to sin…………………..
In summer 2013, I blew it……I not only bought a Kia Estate – it was a long-considered choice…..during which time I pondered other brands such as Skoda……. Verily I sinned!
A tale which I will tell tomorrow.........(Insallah.......)