I was cycling in the Yorkshire Dales. The roads were surprisingly quiet for such an idyllic August afternoon. But, despite the breathtaking rural scenes, my mind was ruminating over economics; in particular, I was thinking deeply about UK labour market regulations and the National Minimum Wage. I was a little bit annoyed with myself for being so taken with economics, when I felt I should be enjoying the scenery.
My mobile phone in my back pocket started to ring and, unusually for a cycle ride, I decided to take the call.
“Hello, is that Economics Help?” (in strong Scouser / Merseyside accent)
“Can I ask a question on economics?”
Usually, when people ring up asking me economic questions, I abruptly say I’m too busy – especially if I am cycling. But, for some reason, perhaps because I was thinking about economics, I persevered.
“I’ve been working for a shop for a few months, and I only get paid £3.10. I think this is illegal.”
“How old are you?
“Yes, if you are 17-18 – off the top of my head, the National minimum wage is £3.60 (1)”
“O thank you very much. I am going to speak to my boss, but I wanted to check with somebody who knows what they are talking about first.”
“Well, good luck.”
And that was it!
Usually, I’m not happy to be interrupted with phone calls on economics questions, but I took it as providence or fate that I had been thinking so intensely about the minimum wage and then this unknown chap from Merseyside rings up.
On the one hand it seems a mundane issue, but then – from another perspective – everything is important, nothing is insignificant.
Nothing is unimportant.
Nothing is insignificant.
Nothing is meaningless
From my initial displeasure to be disturbed, I enjoyed this unusual interaction; I was happy to be able to offer him some reassurance and good wishes.
My final thought was I’m lucky to be able to be cycling through the countryside on a Friday afternoon, and not working in a shop for £3.10 an hour. I hope he gets a pay rise.
A glimpse of a world champion
The rest of the cycle ride was leisurely and I took quite a few photos. On the way back from Bolton Abbey to Ilkley, I was concentrating on cycling home for tea. Unexpectedly, I caught a brief glimpse of Lizzie Armitstead, who was resplendent in her World Champions jersey. (She won the Womens road race in Sept 2015, and is entitled to wear it for a year.)
I was cycling in one direction at 20mph, and she was cycling 20mph in the opposite direction. It was just enough to get a short glimpse of the famous white jersey and rainbow stripes. It is the first time I’ve seen a World Championship jersey in the flesh, and it gave a real inner thrill. She seemed pretty happy chatting to a fellow cyclist, which was good to see after a difficult few weeks for her. Last weekend, she was 5th in the women road race in the Rio Olympics.
Lizzie Armitstead comes from Otley, two miles from Menston. Otley CC was my first cycling club.
(1) I was wrong, the national minimum wage for 17-18 year olds is £3.87