Sounding off about the iPod generation

I AM frankly surprised that it has taken so long, but someone has finally come up with a syndrome which uses the word "iPod" as an acronym.

Forget the dinky, oh-so-cool music players manufactured by Apple: iPod now stands for "insecure, pressurised, over-taxed and debt-ridden", according to the think-tank Reform.

So if, like me, you are under the age of 35, then you are part of a younger generation that has apparently never had it so bad. You'll be struggling to afford to buy a home, up to your eyes in debt - probably as a result of paying for, or at least subsidising, your own higher education - and will be shelling out tax for welfare services like the NHS and pensions that you are unlikely to benefit much from in the future.

And while a few years ago people couldn't wait to fly the nest, you might still be at home when you hit the grand old age of 30 - although that seems like more of a hardship for the parents than some of the overgrown kids I know who still get their mum to wash their pants and socks.

The experts at Reform say that, while tax levels have remained the same, young people are getting less for their money than their parents ever did. No doubt they have done their homework, and there's no arguing that the economic value of a university degree, for example, is worth much less than it was a generation ago.

But, looking at the broader picture, are young people really worse off than their parents? Er, I don't think so.

Most people I know have had far greater opportunities than their mums and dads ever did. Whether they have used them or not is a different story, but the fact remains that many more young people have been able to embrace the benefits of higher education.

Far too many working-class kids in my mum's generation were more than likely to leave school at 15 without an O Grade to their name, and the number of bright kids who were written off after failing their 11-plus test blighted the futures of thousands.

And as for the health service, today's under-35s have already benefited from the NHS. Think how many babies and children used to die before they reached school age.

When I was five, I had a serious infection in the sinus next to my right ear, which had became abscessed and required injections of antibiotics and then surgery at the Sick Kids. Left untreated, the infection would have spread to my brain and if I'd been a kid a couple of decades earlier, it probably would have killed me.

YET most of us take it for granted that the NHS will be there to pick up the pieces if we fall ill or have an accident.

People continually moan about the waiting lists for treatment, which ideally would be reduced. But as John Smith, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, recently wrote in the Evening News, 40 years ago, it was not uncommon for people to wait as long as four or five years for hernia, varicose vein or haemorrhoid operations.

As for buying a house, before Mrs Thatcher's right-to-buy policy, hardly anyone could afford to own their own home. Now people regularly complain that they can only get a tiny one-bedroom flat in Gorgie, perhaps unaware that these homes used to house entire families who had to share toilets with their neighbours. It is human nature to want to pay less tax, and savvy politicians will probably want to take note of Reform's findings when courting the votes of younger people.

But it seems to me that the research merely underlines how unrealistic our expectations have become - that we all have a right not only to a free or subsidised university education and free healthcare, but our own house, car, fabulous career and a couple of children - when we decide the time is right to have them, and through IVF, if necessary.

The Executive is revising the guidelines for IVF treatment, which will allow infertile couples five attempts at assisted conception instead of three, and raise the age limit to 39 instead of 38.

No disrespect to the anguish suffered by childless couples, but fertility rates are dropping largely because people are choosing to have children much later in life.

Instead of suggesting that younger people deserve to have more and more for paying less tax, think-tanks might do us all a favour by doing research into why so few of us are even a little bit thankful for all that we have got.

Traquair's murals an angelic sight

I SPENT a very lazy Sunday afternoon trying out a few drams at the Whisky Fringe, and most enjoyable it was too.

But the surprise highlight of the event had to be the stunning venue . . . Mansfield Traquair Church.

I'd only ever seen photographs of the gorgeous murals by Phoebe Anna Traquair and as the sunlight streamed in through the stained-glass windows, I realised they had not done them justice.

There are not that many chances to see them for yourself - the church is only open to the public on the second Sunday of every month, between 1pm and 4pm.

But during the Fringe, it's open from Monday to Saturday, so why not take a stroll down to the bottom of Broughton Street for a look at this hidden gem.

MIDGES PROVE TOUGH IMAGE IS ONLY SKIN DEEP

MARINES are supposed to be such hard men, that it was amusing to read at the weekend that they have resorted to using an Avon skin care product to ward off the dreaded midges.

Having suffered several nasty allergic reactions to bites from midges, mosquitoes and even fleas, thanks to a brief encounter with a stranger's mangy-looking mutt, I will be hunting down an Avon lady and ordering in bulk.

But I have discovered that there's another summer pest which is proving to be just as irritating but harder to ward off . . . the seagulls which are currently nesting on my roof and keep waking me up at five in the morning with their ugly, piercing shrieks.

If anyone has invented a seagull repellent, let me know.