Sunday, June 29, 2008

The credit crunch, canaries and carbon monoxide

The older mini-W usually manages to provide an interesting take on events. She surfs property websites for houses and comments on the floor plans in a way that most eight-year-olds don't. Mrs W is to blame for this obsession and has trained her well.

Last night, mini asked me why prices were dropping and I talked to her about the credit crunch. (I didn't go into inter-bank lending rates and so on, but gave her the essence of the thing: too much lending of lots of money to people who couldn't pay it back.) When she heard that banks were not lending so readily any more, she nodded sagely and said she could see why the prices were falling, as people were no longer able to get the money to buy. No flies on her. Next week, we'll do a session on interest rates and whether the long-term trend will be upwards due to inflationary pressures in the economy.

It was actually a separate discussion about carbon monoxide though that really made me laugh. I was explaining that you couldn't smell the gas, which is why we need a detector near the boiler. She'd heard that historically miners had taken canaries down the pit to act as an early-warning system, which we agreed was tough luck on the birds. Her next logical leap was, however, quite inspired: we could all keep canaries in our homes rather than carbon monoxide detectors.

I don't know quite why this tickled me in the way that it did. I suppose it was the image of countless homes packed full of canaries, all of whom would be chirping merrily in the absence of flue blockages. Safety-conscious householders would have one on each floor and would probably all end up with pigeon lung or bird flu or something.

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