Charles Nevin: Interest rates are the mother of invention

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Casting an expert eye over current events, I think I have identified a trend: people seem worried about money. The fifth interest rate rise in less than a year; everywhere, concern about debt, damage, expense, pensions. To take just one pertinent example, a tenth of us are going on holiday without having paid for the last one.

I realise that the higher interest rate is good for savers, but how many of them do you know, even if, obviously, they don't get out much? No, these are tough times, and, as we all know, when the going is tough, the commentators really get going.

But how often do they give any practical advice? Exactly. Dogged readers, though, will know that it's my practice to break with this convention, and so today here are some useful money-making ideas.

Gadgets always seem to go well, don't they? The iPod and all that: long queues of desperate punters. I realise that not many of us have the expertise and capital for a venture of that size, but there's no reason why we shouldn't be inspired towards some slightly less grandiose techy innovations.

I was struck, for example, by an American advance, an umbrella which provides you with an LED displayed weather forecast. You will argue that this means you would need to carry the umbrella at all times; I would point out that innovation is not always easy.

Instead, then, let's consider the opportunities presented by Mr Brown's Britishness campaign. Flag manufacturing, obviously, and tea towels; but let's not ignore openings in waistcoats, underwear, and, of course, poles. (On Poles, don't forget that these upwardly mobile and very busy workers will soon be requiring more and more services, such as plumbing and painting and decorating.)

Flags, too, prompted another thought, to do with the eternal difficulty of getting the Union Flag the right way up. What about an 0870 help line? There must be a lot of spare capacity in the system since all those television quiz lines closed down.

The new anti-smoking laws are there to be exploited, too. Mr Charles Kennedy's recent mishap on the train has set me thinking along the lines of window, extra long cigarette holder and man outside with extendable taper, reminiscent of the old lamplighters. Exhaling? Simple: party balloons, brighten up the place as well. Ignition at speed, as I'm sure Mr Kennedy found, will present a problem, but these are early days.

And what about The Mortgauge? It continually compares your life expectancy, income, and repayments, and has a little white flag that flips up when it's time to sell the house, buy a caravan and head for Romania.

I've also had a look overseas for inspiration. In Worms last Wednesday, it began raining euros, so that might be worth a trip, although there's been none reported since.

And male readers might care to know that Durex in Australia are looking for 200 condom testers. Actually, sorry, scratch that, as I see it's unpaid, which is a bit deflating.

For imagination, though, and an eye for savings in kind, I'm proud to say that Britons remain unrivalled. I leave you with a beacon, Mr Barry Bradley, 47, a businessman who has just eaten 15 fried breakfasts in one sitting at the Premier Travel Inn, Tonbridge, after paying £7.50 for "all you can eat".

That's the spirit that will get us through.

Who said the Scots are dour?

Gordon Brown, Alan Johnston, John Smeaton, the man-handling baggage handler hero, McLaren Racing, not one but two Campbells, Al and Ming: they're everywhere, aren't they, the Scots? We've even been having their weather. But, please, no more of this "dour" business. I once interviewed G Brown, and he was really funny. He was. No, I'm not one, either. Consider the numbers of Scots entertaining us, from Corbett to Connolly, left to the Krankies, by way of Bremner and Iannucci. Not parochial, then, nor for a long time, as evidenced by this favourite of the late, great Chic Murray: "I was in London and this man asked me, 'Do you know The Battersea Dogs' Home?' I said I didn't know it had been away."

* Demands, I note, for a more vigorous Christian response to those twin titans of deist denial, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. But it's already out there. The wayside pulpit posters outside churches are in robust health, evidence that if there is a God, he must have, as you would expect, a sense of humour.

"God Sees Us As We Can Be, But Loves Us As We Are" has just won a snappiest homily competition. It's a worthy effort, but lacks, in my view, the appeal of, say, "Don't Give Up, Moses Was a Basket Case," "What's Missing in Ch--ch?", "Forget Big Brother, Speak to Our Father," "Hell! I Thought I'd Got Away With It!", "Jesus: If Only You Knew ...", and "God Answers Knee-mail".

Splendid. The United Reform Church in Weaste, Salford, used to promote this more muscular message: "Martial Arts Classes - All Welcome".

Meanwhile, in California, Sybil Lovelace, a Jehovah's Witness, has revealed that 33 years of door-knocking have led to five conversions, something from which we can all take various consolation.