Why not try Lidl for tea, Ma'am?

ANXIOUS Brenda sits in her Bevan Street terrace scribbling figures on the back of an envelope trying to make ends meet - council tax rise, food bill rise, gas, electricity.

ANXIOUS Brenda sits in her Bevan Street terrace scribbling figures on the back of an envelope trying to make ends meet - council tax rise, food bill rise, gas, electricity. It's not adding up, spilling over the tight and getting tighter family income.

Out go luxuries, off goes the heating. Austerity here we come. We're all in it together - the new Government says we are.

Meanwhile, in a big house in London, another 'Brenda' is totting up her bills. Hers don't tally either. So this Brenda throws herself on the state to help her out - to top up her kitty with the approval of an old Etonian who has never had to struggle to make ends meet.

Brenda's house eats money. Buckingham Palace is a drain on her Coutts bank balance, then there's the d�cor at Windsor, not to mention Balmoral. And the grandchildren - they suck the Civil List dry with all the police protection to make sure they get into and stagger out of exclusive West End nightclubs without being bothered by the 'little people.'

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So Brenda - as Private Eye nicknamed her - goes crown-in-hand to the Treasury asking for �6 million extra to fill a shortfall in the royal household as it is making �6 billion cuts in public sector spending.

Cuts that mean job losses, service cuts, family homes at risk and an endemic feeling of national worry, depression and unease for the future. We're all being forced to make savings and sacrifices but the Queen asks openly for special treatment. It's a huge error of judgment - enough to turn the staunchest of royalists facing redundancy, repossession and hardship republican.

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If the Queen can't make try to make ends meet, how can we?

She might revel in a reputation of enjoying her cornflakes served from common-or-garden Tupperware and turning out palace lights to save energy but sticking her head over the parapet asking 'I want' is badly mistimed.

And, as thrifty as she might be, the rest of her family enjoys no such reputation. Economy and Prince Charles have no relationship, it's said. And the Queen Mother was notorious for her extravagance, living in blissful ignorance of the price of anything and the extent of her debts.

To us, luxury is the middle name of most Royals.

But now is the time the Queen should be demonstrating solidarity, to set an example and show, without compromise, that she is in touch with her people.

To lead from the top by making economies would set the tone for the rest of us.

Sending palace shoppers to Lidl or Aldi for bargain cold meats and cheeses might be stretching it a bit - although her majesty would have be enlightened by its thrifty quality.

But the Queen should be in the mire with us, empathising and sympathising and leading from the top by shaving her own expenditure, being creative with her household and scaling down. As should Prince Charles.

Catering and hospitality, ceremonial functions, all areas prime for economies if they look hard enough. Extravagance is vulgar now. She would be setting an international trend.

It's tough the Queen hasn't had a raise in a decade but not as tough as life and the future for millions of her subjects.

And not that tough when hundreds of thousands a month is spent on protecting the likes of young royals most of us would pass in the street without recognising.

Taking a careful look at the books before asking us to foot the bill would be a sage move in these turbulent times.

It's National Families Week - no, I didn't know it was either - and mums and dads are slated for managing only 49 minutes a day with their children and each other.

As much as that?

Now our house smells of teenage spirit, my children adopt the shouting from behind closed-door approach to family life. Forty-nine minutes of togetherness would be luxury for us.

The only time I get one on one time is when they're captive in the car and I've docked my chauffeur cap to permit me access - and then it's still easier to extract planning permission to desecrate a listed building than engage them in anything resembling conversation.

Any question from me is treated like a gross affront or invasion of their privacy and any opinion aired is shot down. What do I know about anything anyway?

My boys aren't unusual. Those parents who allege they spend 49 minutes together are probably over-egging it out of guilt. I'd say the truth is more like four.

We fell for the marketers' spiel and then rued the years when we believed bottled spring water was so good for us.

All those wasted millions of pounds, glugged down because we yielded to a marketing ploy. How stupid we feel now. Could a plastic water bottle really have been a statement about how healthy we were?

Now those charged with selling the ludicrous are having a laugh again, now at the foodies' expense.

Bottled seawater from off the Outer Hebrides is to be sold for �4.95 bottle to enhance the flavour of seafood. A fiver for a bottle of water that could be scooped up off Lowestoft's South Beach.

It is supposed to enhance the flavour of seafood.

We might sniff at the rip-off but how many of us are kicking ourselves that we missed a trick and a lucrative business idea with all that salt water sloshing around minutes from our doors?

We're growing a nation of illiterates.

Seven-year-olds today are more likely to own a mobile phone than a book. That's tragic. Nearly nine out of 10 primary pupils have a mobile compared to fewer than three-quarters who have books in their homes.

Why do seven year olds need phones anyway? Little minds need Enid Blyton and Michael Morpurgo more than Samsung any day.

This means their only access to 'literature' and the written word is textspeak. Gr8. And punctuation comes in the form of smiley faces. :- ) I despair, No wonder teachers are tearing their hair out. Poor tots think an apostrophe is a wink.

According to scary-eyed Alistair Campbell, Gordon Brown is coping well with his loss of power.

But how is he coming to terms with the backstabbing, bad mouthing, double-crossing and Machiavellian manipulating of his so-called friends and formerly loyal colleagues? Losing power is easy to accept compared to the isolation of disloyalty.

When is a life disposable? When it's a prostitute's.

Once again, prostitutes are slaughtered and there seems to be a national shrug and a feeling of 'well, at least they weren't 'normal girls.'

In the national psyche, women who sell sex on the street are at the bottom of the food chain and are asking for trouble. Disposable people that no one cares about.

But these women are daughter, sisters, mothers and friends. They have terrible problems, dreadful backgrounds and circumstances, often violent and abusive, that push them into the terrible cycle of drugs, prostitution and drugs again. Women of potential but of hopelessness.

What's more tragic about the Bradford case is that the daughter of one of the suspected victims is selling her body on the same street as her mum. Two generations of lost women working the streets to pay for heroin and crack.

Dead-eyed and resigned to her miserable life Kirsty Rushworth said she had nothing to live for until she knew the fate of her mother who went missing from Bradford's red light district last June.

These women need help and compassion, not condemnation and seen as dispensable and worthless, human beings who come somewhere between a child killer and a paedophile in the order of people worth saving.

Knowledge is power. All the people who complained about Marie Stopes TV advert for abortion should read the story of the girl who became pregnant at 11, had her baby taken into care and then adopted and, now at 16, is desperately missing her.

Every young woman who has gone through hell keeping a pregnancy secret because she didn't know where to turn, ending up psychologically wrecked because she was too young to cope with what was happening to her, the trauma of birth and having a child taken away deserves to have information about alternatives.

We all have personal opinions about terminations and out right to take away life. But does anyone have the right to force a young girl to ruin hers?

There can never be too much information and knowledge.

Spending every summer as a child on Lowestoft beach, I've seen some sunburn in my time.

Mostly on men's backs. Red, raw blistered shoulders as men took off their tops and fried.

In the 70s, no one bothered about sun cream or skin cancer. Girls used to fly off to Majorca with a couple of bikinis to lie on turkey foil by the sea slathered in baby oil to sizzle.

But, mostly, men were the burners, working and walking topless. Sun cream was for sissies.

Now they're paying the price. The rate of men dying from the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, has doubled over the past 30 years especially in elderly men.

They can't see their backs so they don't give them a second thought. Then it's too late.

It's time for wives and partners to nag to check them out. To save their lives.

The sharpened axe of public spending cuts is hovering over adult and community learning.

This is such a shortsighted policy and a tragedy for all those people whose lives could be changed by second chance learning. People written off as slow or even stupid by teachers who later found confidence by returning to learning as adults and turned their lives around.

People like the Achievers of the Year picked up awards at the Waveney Learning Community Adult Learners Week at the Kirkley Centre and all those like them.

Courses and projects aimed at adult learning are vital for helping people back into work and are taught by special people who face losing their jobs.

There must be far more waste to cut before scrapping services of such value.

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