Rarely, in recent times, has the refrain in the bleak midwinter resonated more. My grandparents used to recall the long freezing winter of 1947, when food rationing was still in force and wartime deprivation remained a grim reality as the worst they experienced. I can, just, remember the winter of discontent, being read bedtime stories by candle light and uncollected rubbish piled high in the streets. We were well used to hospitals buckling under pressure – the NHS was collapsing back then too. Later, Arthur Scargill took the miners out on a huge strike. Inflation was well into double figures. In the City of London, the finance sector was a boutique business for a select few who wore bowler hats to work.
The world has changed a great deal since then and many of our everyday experiences now bear little resemblance to what they were then. Today if the Wi-Fi goes down, or Elon Musk does something to Twitter, or from poolside the Duke and Duchess of Sussex issue yet another rumble of discontent, it’s a headline for a twenty-four hour news cycle often short of a serious event to cover. Yet somehow that familiar line from the popular carol seems to sum up the prevailing mood.