Alcopops, hair straighteners and babygros: that's how we live in 2010 ...

... according to the latest additions to the ONS's inflation basket. By Sean O'Grady explains
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The Independent Online

They may be less celebrated than Samuel Pepys, William Cobbett or Charles Dickens but the number crunchers at the Office for National Statistics see themselves as no less acute observers of social change.

The latest changes to the "basket" of items used by the ONS to monitor inflation have confirmed the long-term trend to a more sophisticated, healthier and prosperous nation, despite the deprivations of the current recession, and appear to have caught the zeitgeist of a dynamic people.

The changes are small, but symbolic. The can of coke, along with other fizzy pop, has given way to the small bottle of mineral water; hair straighteners have supplanted the hair dryer; and liquid soap has edged the Wright's Coal Tar out of the bathroom.

And the statisticians seem to have their antennae attuned to many different wavelengths, even the comedy circuit. Perhaps it was Peter Kay who inspired the move to include garlic bread in the retail price index, with his now-immortal line "Garlic bread – it's the future, I've tasted it." It has now officially, and finally, become part of the mainstream British lifestyle, replacing the passé pitta bread in our national diet, if not affections. Or, as the ONS have it, "as more representative of the speciality bread market". Other signs of the times are telling.

The mysterious rise in allergies is recognised with the inclusion of the pills to treat them; the cereal bar has been with us for a while, but, with the proliferation of "healthy eating" types of snack, it would now also seem to have reached critical mass; and Blu-ray disc players are also in. Lip gloss, rather than lipstick, is on the lips of the nation.

Even the subtlest changes in the way health fascism has overtaken the nation have been duly noted; while the costs of the ubiquitous fitness club are recognised, this year sees the end for squash court fees, marking the final passing of a distinctly yuppyish, 1980s fad. The training shoe is taken off, however, the tracksuit bottom, its informal entry seen in 1994, is still with us.

But will the new additions, for example, enjoy a career as long in the retail price index as granny's old mangle (1947-62), prunes (1947-74, and surely due a "retro" reappearance on health grounds as much as anything), single cream (1962-2009) or even Smash (1974-87)? Or will they approximate more to the relatively ephemeral status enjoyed by the VHS player (1987-2006) or disposable razors (1991-2005)?

Meanwhile, here to stay, surely, are duvets (introduced 1987), the takeaway "ethnic" meal (only arriving as late as 1990); smoothies (2008), the lap top (2005, but vulnerable to smaller devices) and, unfortunately for many, university fees (since 2001).

More substantially, the ONS and the Bank of England have agreed on a new way of counting mortgage interest payments, which will reflect much better the wide range of mortgage types on the market. Unless of course, a mortgage becomes so hard to get hold of that it follows the mangle into economic extinction.

Then, 1947... ......... 

*Table mangle

*Infant's pram set

*Tram fare

*Gramophone record

*Lino

... and now, 2010

*Pint of mild alen Hair straighteners

*Babygro

*Eurotunnel ticket

*Blu-ray disc

*Hardwood flooring

*Alcopop

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