Sandra Chapman: Our standard of living at risk and Putin’s war doesn’t help

Two years after the Second World War was over the United Kingdom was still suffering a dire standard of living.

A protesters holds a poster during a rally in front of Russian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine
A protesters holds a poster during a rally in front of Russian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine

That year was 1947 and I was a mere baby of just one-year-old, my parents’ fourth child.

Families then would have depended on each other for home-grown vegetables, home-made buttermilk for baking and livestock such as hens. Visits to a shop were done by bicycle and once a week men in little vans would have called selling anything from knitting wool to tinned vegetables.

This form of shopping existed until I was old enough to sit, along with my siblings, out at the gate waiting for the relevant van men to call. I remember them giving out free sweets - treasures when times were so hard.

I read a headline this week ‘families face worst fall in standard of living since 1947’ due to pay rises failing to keep up with inflation. Interest rates are rising to try to control inflation which is expected to hit 8pc next month ‘four times the 2pc target’.

The experts believe the pay squeeze which began last summer is ‘unlikely to end until summer 2023’. How will we all cope you may well ask?

Then I watch the awful situation in Ukraine and think well, we shouldn’t complain about not being able to buy what we want, when we want it.

So what can any of us to do to counter ‘hard times’?

My big, old house needs a lot of heat but oil prices are drastic so we decided to trim back its use and instead put on our wood burning stove. Ah, but you say, that’s bad for the environment.

My answer to that is that most things are bad for the environment, none worse than those mad hatter President Putin is pouring into the environment just now.

Me cutting back on heating oil is a miniscule contribution to the greater good.

At least I have one cosy room I can sit in.

I try not to think what it’s doing to the atmosphere since temperatures were below five degrees earlier this week.

The Ukrainians struggling in the worst conditions, including snow and severe cold, may never have imagined they would be facing such hardship.

Our hearts go out to them.

The news reels show lots of little children, no older than I was in 1947, struggling to keep up in the long queues outside food centres.

Without those, Brits and other nationalities who have packed vans full of clothes and food and driven all the way across Europe – including from Northern Ireland – there would be utter catastrophe and starvation in Ukraine.

At least in the UK by 1947 the bombing and shooting had stopped and people were re-building their lives.

It took a long time. When the 1950s arrived and the economy was taking baby steps, I was old enough to help the grown-ups gather potatoes and vegetables. Luxuries were just that and we learned not to ask for anything special.

So what does it mean exactly when you read in a newspaper that we face the worst fall in standards of living since 1947?

What will we have to do without? Will families have to go hungry and workers walk miles to work because they can’t afford to run the car or even pay a bus fair?

Will electricity be rationed leaving homes stumped for entertainment via television and people having to walk or cycle to work if they’re lucky enough to have a bike? Will hairdressers and beauty shops providing the luxuries of life go out of business and how do we do the big shop at the supermarket without a vehicle?

My skills at baking are slowly disappearing as I get older. Without the bakeries and supermarkets I’d struggle to fill the larder. With petrol rationed I’d have to use buses, but they would probably be scarce too.

So, yes, with all the inflationary problems at home and increasingly in EU countries I think we are in for a fall in standards of living. Today’s cossetted children may not understand why they can’t have the latest toy or mobile phone.

I will cheerfully blame Putin.