Faced with a crisis, Britons find something to smile about

October 12th, 2008 - 12:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownLondon, Oct 12 (IANS) Question: What’s the difference between a banker and a pigeon? Answer: A pigeon can still put a deposit on a BMW.And what’s the capital of Iceland? Answer: About 3.50 pounds. Oops, it just went down to 3.00 pounds.

If that looks like someone making light of a very serious thing, well then, that’s precisely what Britons are doing.

Wary of an economic recession that may last for upto two years, a lot of Britons are putting up not so much a stiff upper lip as a pretty cheery front.

As bad news mounts with each passing day, comedians, cartoonists, journalists, humourists and even drab politicians are helping to put a smile across the face of this nation of 60 million.

It is ample evidence - if any were needed - that the British possess a unique sense of humour that comes in more than a little handy in times of trouble.

Take, for instance, Matt - one of Britain’s best-known cartoonists.

On Saturday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph, he has a man in ragged and soiled clothes explaining to his slightly surprised wife as he leaves for work: “This is not dress down Friday. All traders look like this now.”

Or take Alex, banker and much-loved cartoon strip character. Creators Charles Peattie and Russel Taylor have had a field day bringing out the lighter side of the financial crisis through Alex and his equally greedy banker colleagues.

Alex Masterley, a yuppie who was conceived in 1988 at the height of an economic boom, offers readers a satirised view of banking and stockbroking, leaving them both disgusted and laughing at the man and his world.

Lately, Alex has been down in the dumps.

“No one has a clue what’s going to happen next or when,” sighed Alex recently to a colleague.

“Every time there’s another high profile failure I put my head in my hands and think, ‘Why didn’t we see this coming? What a perfect day this would have been to release Hardcastle’s woeful company results without anyone noticing’.”

Last week, a Briton put up an unusual item for sale on internet auction site ebay - Iceland.

The country that is on the brink of bankruptcy is not exactly the flavour of the month in Britain after failed Icelandic banks brusquely informed the British their deposits could not be protected, forcing the government to step in with guarantees.

Not surprisingly, the auction started at a low 99 pence (around Rs.80), perhaps because the seller specifically said the Icelandic pop singer Bjork wasn’t included in the deal and that the winning bidder would have to collect Iceland - from Crydon, a south London suburb.

Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the politician with the famously dour demeanour, has chipped in with a joke.

Delivering a speech at the Foreign Office to mark Powerlist 2008 - a celebration of the most powerful Black achievers in Britain - Brown was interrupted by a mobile phone going off.

“I don’t know if another bank has fallen somewhere,” Brown said to laughter. “You’ll be pleased I’m not going to be giving financial information this evening.”

Ordinary Britons are being advised to do all the things they do best: read a novel, potter around in the garden, take a walk in the country, play Scrabble, the word game, and if nothing else, enjoy cricket.

Writer Andrew Martin wrote in the Daily Telegraph Saturday, “I am savouring the way the word ‘banker’ has lost its lustre.

“My 12-year-old son originally aspired to be a cricketer and historian, but gradually realised that his friends who lived in bigger houses and rode around in bigger cars had one thing in common: dad was a banker. So he decided he would be a banker who played cricket and wrote history books ‘as a hobby’. Well, all that’s changed now, and my son wants to be a cricketing historian again.”

Fellow-writer A.N. Wilson summed the British attitude: “Austerity cheers us up.”

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