Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Jul 2, 1949
The worst of austerity is that, like pleasure, after a while it grows monotonous.
Those of us who are old enough to remember the plentiful pleasures of forty or fifty years ago will remember how many people used to complain of the boringness of the eternal salmon and chicken that their friends gave them at lunch in June.
Even a child, who thinks he could never have enough of pleasure, would probably revolt if he were given mince pies as a sweet for the 200th—or even the 100th—day in succession.
I myself, in my childhood, after making myself ill as a result of putting too many lumps of sugar in every cup of tea, developed a coolness toward sugar from which I have never recovered.
Nor is it only the pleasures of eating and drinking that pall. We are equally fickle in matters of dress, songs and nearly everything else.
The hats and frocks that to women today seem the top of luxury will before many suns have set become unavailable objects of loathing.
Again, how harsh time is to popular songs! The song that at first hearing and even at 100thhearing entrances us ends by setting out teeth on edge. Most of us who saw the film “The Singing Fool” wept with such ecstasy as Al Jolson sang “Sonny Boy” that our tears could be heard falling with a pat-a-pat all over the cinema.
Alas, before a 12-month was over, we regarded anyone who sang the song even at a sixpenny village concert as a public enemy who, if there were such a thing as justice on earth, would be in the nearest horse-pond.
Pages could be filled with a list of the pleasures of which men, women and children soon grow tired so that they long for anything for a change and are willing to risk its being a change for the worse.
Hence, it is only fair to Sir Stafford Cripps to remember that, by extending austerity till it is in danger of becoming boring, he has at least preserved us from the sad experience of rediscovering how boring luxury can be.
Our pleasures must now be restricted to the cheaper sort that never seem to pall—football, cricket, looking at flowers and fruit blossom, listening to blackbirds and chaffinches and (soon) cuckoos, patting dogs on the head and stroking cats, wondering what the weekend joint is going to be, smoking or non-smoking, thinking how lovely are the pictures that are to be seen for noting in the National Gallery and how one must go some day to see them.
Or listening to people, looking at people, drinking tea or beer or not drinking barley water, reading Shakespeare and “Sherlock Holmes,” thinking about a holiday at the sea and about where one would go if one had a win at the football pools, going to bed, sleeping with the window open, and waking before it is light to hear the blackbird singing his best song of the day.
It will be seen that, whatever Sir Stafford may have done, he has not taxed us out of the pleasures of life. How much better is the world he has left us than a world in which, everybody being rich, too much money was chasing too much salmon and chicken and too many bottles in the night clubs!
It seems to me that the government would be well advised to present every elector with a copy of Thoreau’s “Walden” or some such book expounding the pleasures of the simple life. People might then realize that Sir Stafford is one of the greatest public benefactors in English history.
Certainly no man has ever done more to prevent us by force from plunging us into a lfe of luxury with its consequent boredom.
Austerity, as I have admitted, is also boring. But it is boring in a less sickening way, and, anyhow in another year it will be over.