What is a recession supposed to look like? The question is prompted by the number of Britons who, returning copper-tinted from the Algarve or the Mediterranean, remark that Greece/Spain/Portugal seems to be functioning perfectly well.
As opposed to what, precisely? Mad-Max-style civilisational breakdown?
In even the deepest crises, normal things take place. As a teenager in the 1930s, Roy Jenkins was stunned to hear a woman mention the delightful holiday her family had enjoyed in Aberystwyth in 1916. Aholiday? In 1916? The young Woy had imagined the Great War to be a time of unbroken national emergency. Yet, when the Second World War broke out, he found that civilian life proceeded much as before. He was, he later recalled, more upset at his failure to be elected President of the Oxford Union in 1940 than he had been earlier that day on hearing of the fall of France.
If you arrive in Malaga or Alicante expecting to see lines of men in cloth caps queuing at soup kitchens – and somehow doing so in grainy black-and-white footage – you’ll be disappointed. The next depression won’t look like the last one. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that, because you got decent service in a tapas bar, all is well.