Jeff Prestridge  

Drowning our sorrows as the pubs open

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

At last, we are emerging from the long lockdown that has resulted in our economy coming to a shuddering halt. 

And emergence cannot come soon enough, although I am sure some of you will argue otherwise.

This Saturday marks the gradual opening of restaurants and pubs — and personally I cannot wait for the chance to have a quiet pint in a pub somewhere in the Berkshire countryside (preferably with the gurgling Thames in view and earshot). 

It has been so long since I have had the chance to savour a pint of best bitter, drawn from a cask by a smiling (or snarling) publican.

I am literally drooling at the prospect — I might even treat myself to an accompanying packet of cheese and onion crisps. Oh, for the small pleasures in life.

I am also looking forward to a professional haircut, although I imagine it will take a while to correct the damage done by an impromptu razoring a month or so back that left me looking like a latter-day version of Friar Tuck. Lockdown spared me from widespread ridicule.

As for work, I have already been trying to get back into the swing of working from my employer’s London offices. Just one day a week to begin with.

But it has not been easy: driving in at the crack of dawn, having my temperature taken before being allowed into the main building, and wearing a mask at all times outside of my personal office.

Also, with a skeleton staff working from Daily Mail and General Trust’s offices, it has all seemed so unwelcoming. At times, Mary Celeste-like.

So, where we do go from here? Will the economy recover quickly in V-shape form or are we are heading for economic disruption, the like of which we have not seen the country’s deindustrialisation in the 1980s under the watchful eye of Margaret Thatcher?

Yes, it was heartening 10 days ago to see a 100-metre queue outside TK Maxx on London’s Kensington High Street as I spent a rare day in the office.

But as a pessimist — most journalists are born pessimistic — I fear that the months ahead are going to be grim ones.

As the government’s furlough scheme winds down, we are going to see hundreds of thousands of workers laid off.

Businesses large and small are going to fall by the wayside. Of course, the government will do everything possible to support the economy with cuts to VAT and national insurance, but I fear it will not be enough to stave off recession.

The housing market also seems to be teetering on the verge of a significant price correction.

Experts are talking about house price falls of 10 per cent and all the anecdotal evidence I see in my home town of Wokingham supports this view.