Sunday 17 November 2019

Household spend figures should give us all some food for thought

"Those in less affluent areas have a far higher proportionate spend on food than the people with more money." Photo: Stock Image

Sinead Ryan - Notebook

The latest household spending survey shows we're an inconsistent people. The spend on booze has the biggest drop and there's a kind of smugness in thinking, "Good, I knew I had cut down on the old weekday glass of wine", while the rational bit of you is sensing it's all a con. I mean, have we cut back? Are we really spending less? The truth, naturally, is that we're not.

What we are doing, as the research points out, is simply buying cheaper and drinking more of it at home. Sorry, I know that's a bit deflating, but there you have it.

The statisticians also dryly point out that people "tend to under-report their expenditure on alcohol".

The other 'surprise' element is food bills are down. In fairness, if we're not scoffing crisps and kebabs because we're no longer drinking, that would explain it, but the truth is a little more worrying.

Those in less affluent areas have a far higher proportionate spend on food than the people with more money. Confused? Obesity and poverty have always gone hand in hand. It might seem at odds that some people struggling on benefits are sporting beer bellies and folds of fat, but food poverty isn't about volume; it's about nutrition.

Those on very low incomes need to spend a quarter of what they have to acquire the same 'basket' of healthy, nutritious foods that a higher earner can buy for 10pc of their income. If you're on your uppers, frozen chicken nuggets, pizza and chips become very tempting to the pocket compared to organic hummus, Tuscan tomatoes and avocados.

It's not all fun and games at the CSO. They do actually produce some interesting stuff too. For instance, Dubliners spend the most on takeaway coffee, with the barista-free West spending the least. Mind you, if we city slickers woke up to the magnificent views across Inchydoney every morning instead of gridlock at Inchicore, we wouldn't need that double espresso either.

Taken to excess

A former world Irish dancing champion has had to defend herself against charges of coercing a fellow adjudicator to mark down candidates they were judging at a competition recently. But that's not the most bizarre element of the crazy, twilight world of Irish dancing. For that, you need to visit a Féis to see it in all its, ahem, glory.

You'd imagine the thoroughly wholesome world of jigs and reels requires a rigout of a plain T-shirt and skirt and laced soft shoes, whereas the reality is you'll feel you've stepped off planet Ireland and into an American child beauty pageant with high kicks.

It's a million-euro business with the worst excesses of stage moms in the wings. It is utterly bonkers.

You'll find parents kitting out their daughter in an outfit costing more than a wedding dress, gluing her socks to her legs over the spray tan (yes!), applying glitter eye shadow, and covering her lovely hair not with a ribbon, but a nylon curled wig which wouldn't look out of place in the 17th century Palace of Versailles. And all before she's 10. It is abhorrent and daft and I scarpered before mine got 'into' it, fearing for both my bank account and my sanity.

I'm told the 'wig', truly the most unnecessary element, is needed as points are awarded for 'height'. It doesn't appear to have occurred to anyone in charge that they could simply stop awarding points for this (or do so based on height of feet in ratio to ground), thus saving all the girls looking utterly ridiculous. But it's tradition, innit?

Welcome return of the bedsit...

The bedsit might be making a comeback. New Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is set to reverse the premature ban on the 'all in one' living space unbeloved of students and poorer singletons. And not before time.

No, they're not perfect, and far from ideal, but at a time of housing crisis it seemed absurd to rule out a form of housing, which suited a cohort of people who lived contentedly in a doer-upper in Rathmines or Gardiner Street, just because the loo was in the hall.

We're all for fire safety standards, proper walls and en-suites, but to cull hundreds of flats because they're not dual-aspect apartments with kitchens and baths, was a sledgehammer-to-nail approach. Landlords simply boarded up their buildings.

Over half of all those on housing lists are singletons. I daresay quite a number would prefer a self-contained flat they could call their own, rather than a hotel room with their belongings in plastic bags.

Irish Independent

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