Anton Rippon: Just what are the essentials to survive in the modern age?
WELL, what did you receive for Christmas? My deadline over the holiday period meant that, as I winged off this column, I still had no idea what Santa was lined up to bring me yesterday.
Mrs R had made at least one mysterious trip to the shops, however, so things looked promising.
Derby's city centre certainly appeared busy in the run-up to the festive break.
It was good to see that local retailers were reporting that Christmas trade was "buzzing" in these straitened times, but I was surprised to see "Derby goes on a £1 million spending spree!" as the front-page lead of the Christmas Eve 1954 edition of the Derby Telegraph.
At the prices of 58 years ago, that must have been some spending spree.
Ranby's was advertising a string of pearls from 2s 11d (less than 15p) and doting parents could buy their child a large doll for 16s (80p).
Turkey was 5s (25p) per pound, but I never saw one when I was growing up.
Which brings me to a little debate in which I was involved just before Christmas. A pal – 30 years younger than me, I have to tell you – set the ball rolling when he said that people should simply cut their coat according to the cloth available to them.
And, boy, how that ball rolled. Within minutes, people were haranguing him for what they saw as a wholly unsympathetic attitude to the plight of people whose basic wage doesn't cover the essentials.
And that was the key: these days, what are the essentials? I was born during the Second World War and grew up in the austerity of the 1940s. Only it was just the norm. We didn't know that we'd suffered austerity until someone told us, many years later.
Actually, there wasn't all that much upon which to spend money, anyway.
New car? I didn't know anybody who had an old one. New fridge? If we wanted to keep milk cool in summer, a bucket of water in the cellar sufficed.
New coat? Depended on whether we had enough clothes ration coupons.
I'm not going off on one of those all-we-had-for-Christmas-was-an-orange-and-an-apple speeches.
I'm just saying that different generations have different expectations. And that people who grew up in less affluent times are perhaps better placed to cope with "doing without" than those who, until now, have known only good times.
Some folk might think that life's essentials must include a speedy internet connection and an annual fortnight in the Canaries.
Some might regard as a bonus anything more than food, warmth and a roof over their head.
They are extreme examples but you get the idea: dissatisfaction with your lot greatly depends on where you pitch your expectations in the first place.
And whether you were born in the 1940s or the 1980s will probably determine how much of an ordeal you would find it to resign from the Sunday Times Wine Club and start trawling for bargain booze at Lidl.
Or give up Playa de las Américas for Sutton-on-Sea. For better or for worse, you can only live the life you have.
Now pardon me while I throw another orange box on the fire. I feel one of those old Hovis adverts coming on…