As thousands sweated over their university final exams last week, a grim employment survey suggested that openings for graduates were drying up. The bequest from parents is a generation of debt, an ocean full of plastic bags and empty of fish, a political establishment in a state of collapse. And Susan Boyle.
Yet the young remain exuberant and ingenious in adversity. Anecdotally, new graduates are ready to look for work abroad or in professions that they had not previously considered. This recession has been sunshine and clouds. Bad for airlines, good for domestic tourism. Bad for houses, good for gardens. Bad for America, good for Brazil. The graduates I have come across are taking gambles. Dreams such as setting up a band look like plausible business models now.
It is also a good time to be young and cheap. An impeccable liberal boss of a worthy organisation confessed to me the pleasure of seeing an experienced and highly qualified – ie expensive – member of staff resign. Bring on the graduate! She also felt her integrity tested by a keen graduate whose contract ran out but who offered to continue for free. The way round it was to insist that he performed slightly different functions.
The horror for graduates is that rich contemporaries will be subsidised in the workplace by their parents until they slide into paid employment. Those, equally qualified, who have to earn a living, cannot compete in this kind of career structure. I believe the graduates who strike lucky tend to have more optimistic natures. I am told that careers fairs at universities are less well attended than in previous years. People think they are not worth going to because the job market is wretched. It is the same principle as entering prize draws. The odds are better than you think, because so many do not bother to enter, believing that they have no chance.
There will be a way through for the resourceful, even if it means adapting to survive. A clever and privileged Oxbridge graduate contacted me a while ago. He was considering careers in journalism or the City. I winced at both. I heard from him earlier this month. He is now running a very successful firm of tutors. He had worked out the gap in the market.
It is a difficult and unsettled time for employment but it favours the astute. Who would have thought six months ago that a political career would have offered a clear run for someone young enough never to have claimed expenses?
Footie in mouth: Nigella's pitch is not to everyone's taste
Nigella Lawson wrote a fond piece about men and football for the Evening Standard last week. She quoted the Mae West maxim that she liked her "men to be men, strong and childish". You could see what she meant in the petulant disappointment of Ronaldo and Rooney after Manchester United lost to Barcelona on Wednesday. But I would lightly caution Nigella against an overindulgent view of the spirit of football. These are a sample of the responses on fan websites to her article: "Great baps", "She is a cutie, but I would slap her if she spouted any of that rubbish in my direction", and "Oh shut up, darling, and cook the dinner".
A tail of misplaced love
A young white male is sitting on a wall outside a west London pub at midday, cradling a pit-bull puppy. Passers-by stroke it while it is still safe to do so. A fully grown version alongside it looks cruel rather than cute.
Then the man answers his mobile phone. He tenses and jumps up angrily. Why should he have to account for his friend? They went to the pub, that's all. Until 3am. He wasn't awake to hear his friend leave – he'd woken at five and noticed that he gone. Where? How should he know – and none of the caller's business.
Then he falters slightly. She's in labour? OK, he'll try, but it's not up to him. Everyone should leave his friend alone. He'll show up if and when he chooses.
The young male rings off, makes a desultory call, leaves no message and goes back to stroking the dogs. The phone goes again. He once again shouts with anxious irritation. No he hasn't reached his friend. What was her problem?
She's had the baby? It's born? OK, he'll try, he'll see if he can find his friend. He isn't feeling great, that's all. He has a hangover. He rings off and hugs the pit bull closely.
Ageism starts early these days
My 17-year-old son and his friends are planning a rite of passage holiday in the Mediterranean this summer. So far, they've been turned down by every owner of a villa, apartment or pig shed. The responses have been polite but firm: "I am sorry, the owner is not prepared to rent to your group. I hope you find somewhere else suitable."
My son accepts the particular dumbness of his age and sex and wonders whether it would help if the group pretended to be a visiting choir. I don't blame the house owners. He recently came across a group of 18-year-olds from one of Britain's most famous schools who had hired a villa last summer. There was no swimming pool, but they figured they could convert the basement by pushing the hose through a window. They were unprepared for the electrical fireworks. Their parents were downcast by the size of the repair bill.
My son knows too that should he apply for car insurance, he will be treated like a lunatic joyrider, no matter how prudent and sensible he might be. Sometimes prejudice is just the law of probabilities. You can't fight that, you just have to outgrow it.
Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the Evening Standard