Okay, so the recession might be just around the corner, possibly even here already, but there’s no need to get so damn gloomy about it. In fact, it could bring all sorts of benefits

Like any modern man of the world, I believe it is good for my image to appear to have an interest in the stock market. To this end I maintain a small portfolio of shares in companies that I like the sound of: Ashby-de-la-Zouch Corporate Raiders Inc, Capitalism Ltd and Uncle Smokey’s Barbecue Chicken and Glue Shack GmbH being just three. And so, like any modern man of the world, I have a small, brass stock ticker which sits next to the kedgeree tureen in my dining room, allowing me to keep abreast of the markets while I butter my toast and marvel at the fact that the clumsy boobs who print the Financial Times seem to have spilt Ribena in the paper vat again.

And this is how a few mornings ago, when I noticed the ticker had stopped reporting share prices and was simply tapping out the dots, dashes and dots of SOS, I realised that the recession was officially on.

In many respects of course, this is excellent news. On a personal level, if there’s one thing the British love, it’s a financial crisis. Witness our reaction every time the price of oil lurches upwards: “There’s going to be a fuel crisis!” we intone to each other with ill-disguised glee. And there never is going to be a fuel crisis; it’s just that we can’t wait to run down to the all-night garage and queue up for hours to fill our buckets full of petrol, take them home, put them in the shed and declare “There! We’re safe!” To which the correct reaction is “You’re not safe – you’ve got buckets full of petrol in your shed.”

However if, like a sizeable minority of the people who read this magazine, you’re in the building trade (the lion’s share of the readership subscribing in the mistaken belief that it contains sport and horoscopes), the recession isn’t such a bonny prospect. So I thought we might take a few moments to examine this cloud together and see what silver linings we can find glinting in its folds.

First of all, certain long-forgotten sections of the construction industry will benefit immeasurably from the slump. There’s not been a lot of business lately for companies that specialise in building workhouses, except in a consultancy role on various productions of Oliver! Things should be about to change there – and they may well find that the partnering agreements and integrated supply chains that they set up with gruel-manufacturing subcontractors in the wake of the Egan report might finally get a run out in the not-too-distant future.

Some have seen Taylor Wimpey et al’s decision to cut their payments to subcontractors by up to 5% as what I believe is known in industry parlance as less a slap in the face and more a JCB in the gonads. But seen in another light, there is a tremendous potential benefit to the environment on the cards here. If the affected suppliers simply responded by providing goods that are 5% smaller, the resulting drop in house size would have the highly desirable knock-on effect of reducing the overall area of land covered by new builds, and ought to stave off the coming green-belt crisis by as much as two or three weeks.

Some have seen Taylor Wimpey et al’s decision to cut their payments to subcontractors by up to 5% as what is known in
industry parlance as less a slap in the face and more a JCB in the gonads

These houses would also become highly sought after by smaller first-time buyers, since being inside them would give the pleasing sensation of being relatively tall (something they don’t normally experience outside pre-16th-century National Trust properties). This would in turn give a much-needed boost to the housing market and thus to the sector as a whole. Everybody wins.

The government’s suggestion that housing associations look into purchasing already completed units from housebuilders at below market value looks bad for everyone at initial viewing, raising as it does the prospect of scallies in developments that would otherwise be beyond their means. It is, however, great news for those few people who miss Brookside. Pretty soon there could be a Brookside Close in every major town. Albeit one with reproduction ionic pilasters round the ersatz-Georgian front door.

Add to these the many side benefits of a slowing in construction – such as the fewer the buildings, the fewer the bricks required, the smaller the loads in each hod, the less the strain on labourers’ backs, and the fewer members of the workforce signing off sick and running up expensive chiropractors’ bills – and you begin to see how things might not be as bad as we all first thought.

Splendid. More kedgeree, anyone?