Suffolk’s sprightly gerontocracy

Older couple running © Thinkstock

It appears that of all the postcodes in Britain, the one starting with IP15, better known as Aldeburgh in Suffolk, is the one with the oldest population. The average age is just over 55.

In the Daily Mail, Craig Brown says his “heart skipped a beat” reading this: he’s 56, as close to being over 55 as you can get.

As he adjusted to his moment in the spotlight, Brown wondered whether being in the town with the oldest population in the UK was a good or bad thing. As a boy, Brown used to go and stay with a school friend in Bexhill in Sussex, well known in those days for having more oldies than anywhere else. He felt “slightly embarrassed” about the experience.

Now, “fuddier and duddier than I could ever have imagined, I enjoy living in a town dominated by the elderly”. Much more fun than living amongst “the young and thrusting”. While in most towns old people are marginalised, in Aldeburgh “they rule the roost, with many still running things in their 80s”.

The high average age has the “welcome effect” of making all but the very old feel very young. If you were living in Birmingham B4, for example (average age 23), being 56 would make you feel “as ancient as Ben Gunn”. In Aldeburgh, “it means you’re barely halfway, so you walk around with a spring in your step”.

The same things may happen in other towns, “but they happen at a different pace and volume. When cars crash they crash at 5mph; when people shout, it is only to let others know they can’t hear”.

The rise of Scotophobia

Anglophobia is rife in Scotland, but what about Scotophobia in England? It’s been pretty rare over the years – the odd outbreak, but never very serious. But there are signs things are changing.

In The Times last week, Ben Macintyre (“an Anglo-Scot, married to a Scot”) said that, until recently, he couldn’t recall experiencing a single moment of anti-Scottish prejudice during his years in the south.

But last week, “a taxi driver aggressively refused to accept my Scottish £10 note; when he heard my accent, which is English, he relented. A friend who has retained a strong Aberdeen brogue told me how, for the first time, she was told to ‘go home’: her home for the past 30 years being in Peckham”.

As Macintyre notes, this new Scotophobia has been growing. Perhaps it was there as a “subtext” in Jeremy Paxman’s attack on Robert Burns as “no more than a king of sentimental doggerel”.

It was certainly there in Kelvin MacKenzie’s attack on “tartan tosspots” and his assertion that “Scots enjoy spending [money] but they don’t enjoy creating it, which is the opposite to down south” – and in Ray Winstone’s claim (when he hosted Have I Got News For You last year) that Scotland’s chief exports are “oil, whisky, tartan and tramps”.

All of this is unfair, of course, but as another born-and-bred Scot myself (albeit, like Macintyre, another Anglo one), I entirely understand why the English are feeling more and more exasperated.

Tabloid money: shrewd schoolchildren should mug up on Mandarin

• Banks are now looking at “everything from food bills and gym memberships to childcare payments” before giving out mortgages, writes John Prescott in the Daily Mirror. They should have “showed the same scrutiny to bonuses”.

Of course, those on zero-hours contracts or working part-time will still be “funding George Osborne’s Help To Buy scheme, giving subsidised deposits to people buying houses up to £600,000”.

This scheme “is creating a housing bubble with far too many people chasing too few houses”. Instead of subsidising £600,000 houses, the government should focus on allowing those on low incomes “the dignity of owning a home”.

• The Bank of England’s Mark Carney thinks a cap on bankers’ bonuses is “stupid’ and “a risk to financial stability”, notes Guido Fawkes in The Sun. But the Canadian “would… say that”, especially since he “got himself some big bonuses when he was working at Goldman Sachs”.

• “The shrewdest of Britain’s schoolchildren may be those who cock a snook at French and German to learn Mandarin instead”, writes Nigel Nelson in the Sunday People. After all, “by the time today’s children start looking for jobs, China will control the world’s markets”. However, “only 2,500 youngsters here sit it at GCSE”.

This is why David Cameron“is right to send 60 head teachers to China this year to boost the number of young British Mandarin speakers to 400,000”.

Of course, “you may not be keen on Red China as global master”. It’s true that Hong Kong has been transformed since Britain left in 1997 – “prosperity is everywhere… the people seem happy”. But Hong Kong is “not the real China, just its shop window”.

In the ‘real’ China, “human rights are abused, religious minorities persecuted and transplant organs harvested from executed criminals”. So let’s hope that “Britain’s new Mandarin speakers deal with a China that becomes more like Hong Kong”.

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