Cold prospects

Oct 3rd, 2008 | By | Category: Ireland

It is bitterly cold for Ireland in early-October.  Getting into the car at 8.30 this morning, the frost warning was flashing on the instrument panel – the temperature outside was 3 degrees Celsius.  The RTE weather man warned of ground frost in some inland areas in the forecast before the 8 o’clock news.

The crab apple tree is laden with fruit and the elderberries are abundant – plentiful berries were indicators of a cold winter in the folk wisdom of the past.

The chill will have frightened not a few people who are anxious about paying bills.  The ESB raised prices by 17.5 per cent in August and Bord Gais followed suit with a 20 per cent increase; huge numbers for people already stretched by a cost of living that the government has failed to control.  Last Monday’s Irish Times story that “Fresh rises in energy prices signalled” with its gloomy report that both utilities would be seeking further increases in the New Year will only deepen the worries.

The thought of someone sitting cold in their house always bring memories of the lady in the little village sub-post office.  Go in the door of the shop with its bare shelves to buy a solitary postage stamp and she would appear through a doorway – an old green cardigan wrapped around her and a hot water bottle clutched to her chest; she and her elderly mother had sunk into a genteel poverty.

The old always suffer the most in cold winters.  In part, it is because they are less physically able to cope.  In part, perhaps, it is also a matter of fear.  If your only means of support is your weekly pension, then you will be afraid of debt – if anything goes wrong, you will have nothing with which to pay, so you carry on setting a bit aside each week, when you can, and you carry on trying to make sure you do not touch your savings.  Even when it becomes very cold, you try not to spend more than you had planned, even if that means extra clothes and filling hot water bottles, even if it means you have no comfort at your own fireside.

A government that can provide a €400 billion guarantee to banks who have made reckless and irresponsible loans in lending people five and six times their income makes no guarantee that people will not be cold this winter.

The people who will suffer most, as ever, will be the responsible.  Those who worked hard and stewarded carefully what they had, and made the money go around as best as they could, are often the very people who are just above the thresholds for any assistance; like the sub-postmistress thirty years ago, they will do their best to get by.

All those lessons about working and saving and budgeting sometimes seem pointless.

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  1. Ian don’t your ‘pensioners’ receive discounted rates and fuel? Once you reach 65 here there are significant savings on these things, also on public transport and if you have a Seniors Card (not means tested) many companies and services give substantial discounts. It doesn’t compensate for the rise in energy prices (yep, we’re up for a 20% rise thanks to the new carbon trading process). I am thankful thought that heat is not much of an issue here for other than 2 months of the year. I only hope that after all this bank bailing out, there’s some really tight regulation installed and a cap placed on the fat cat salaries. Bank CEO’s are paid almost 10 x our Prime Minister’s salary and he has a country to maintain!

  2. Our prime minister – of a country of four million people – is paid more than the British PM or the US President.

    Age Action reckon the seniors’ heating allowance doesn’t cover more than 42% of fuel costs

    and that’s in an average winter. It is cold tonight.

  3. Baino privatised utilities, as in the UK mean shareholders, shareholders expect maximum payouts, OAPs come low in the pecking order, but I can travel free on the local buses.

  4. Ian I do remember the postmistress and her Mother, or was it The postmistress and her Daughter? from behind the brass wire security screen!!!!!.
    Baino Australia seems like a good option, any room for me when I get to 65?

  5. Well Les, you’d better get cracking. Hard to emigrate without a sponsor once you’re over 45! We’re anticipating the Baby Boomer drain and only want the younglings! Cheers 🙂 I do acknowledge that the age pension isn’t a fortune and it’s a struggle to live on $562.10 a fortnight for a single and $469.50 a fortnight each!

  6. Sorry that’s 469.50 a fortnight for a couple – maximum

  7. Baino… Oh well thats me out then, I have just had my 48th Birthday!!!!!And I know a certain Church of Ireland priest who will be celebrating very soon too!!! Happy Birthday Ian for your very soon Birthday(I am rubbish at remembering dates!!!!!)

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