Shropshire Star comment: The year we were forced to focus on what really matters

If the coronavirus crisis has forced people to focus on those things which really matter to them, a new report on spending habits by the Nationwide Building Society is very revealing.

It was a good year for pets.
It was a good year for pets.

Because when the chips were really down earlier this year, spending on pets soared. People also splashed out on their gardens, and there was too a significant rise in online dating spending.

The report looks at the first three months of this year which began with the darkest period of the whole pandemic, with record numbers of deaths, and strict lockdown measures. Thanks to the sacrifices and the rise and rise of the vaccine programme a new dawn is breaking.

These have not exactly been normal circumstances and one of the features of the past year is that people have sought solace and comfort in their pets. More people have acquired pets for company during lockdown, and those who already have them have spent more time with them, through having to stay at home, and work at home, a lot more.

In fact it is going to come as something of a shock to our canine and feline companions when people are able to go into the office once more, and they are left at home with the run of the house without the human company they have become used to.

It is no surprise that spending on both gardening and DIY has increased. Lockdown left folk seeking something to do around the home, and improving the garden or embarking on a DIY project they never seemed to find the time for were obvious outlets.

And with obstacles in the way of physical dating – you couldn't take your partner out for a drink or a meal – online dating has at least allowed the wheels of romance to continue to turn after a fashion.

According to Mark Nalder, Nationwide's head of payments: "Life in lockdown has taught us that our connections are extremely important."

That life in lockdown is now easing and it will be interesting to see if the second quarter's spending levels demonstrate that the pattern was a peculiarity of the times.

It would be nice to think that it goes deeper than that, because there are worse ways of spending your money than on relationships, pets, and plants.

Kate Middleton today celebrates her tenth birthday as a royal.

The time seems to have flown by since that day at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, when she married William and in doing so became admitted to the royal “firm.”

And the way she has conducted herself since is a demonstration that being a respected and effective royal is primarily a matter of personal qualities, rather than whether you have royal blood in your veins.

That the Duchess of Cambridge has been an asset to the royal family and the nation is self evident.

Her role makes her a walking headline, but it is how you define your role, and conduct yourself, which determines the nature of the headlines you will make.

Somehow she has managed to be both in the glare of the spotlight and to perform her duties without attracting the wrong sort of attention to herself.

Like the late Prince Philip, she just gets on with things without fuss.

In 10 royal years she has been a model of duty, discretion, and dignity.

For the royal family Kate has proven to be a sparkling jewel in the crown.

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