Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Off the radar

Just a quick update for anyone who wondered where I vanished to - outside the Blackberry signal range, and the BB battery died, so I can't even just walk to the top of the nearest hill, etc.

We did just get internet on in the cottage, and I've been here most of a week. Wonderful place. Birds galore, and I eventually found a place I can walk the dog off the lead (far too many sheep, ducks, goats, etc around to let him run around free like a city hooligan).

I have done a little work, but not much. Julie hammers on with DIY jobs, and we had her sister and two nephews here as well, so (with some huffing and puffing and sighing) some stuff got done. Unfortunately I don't just count as lazy and impractical, but also as on my first holiday of the year, so I have tried to get some chilling time in around all the 'stuff to do'....I have never been much of a car polisher on a Sunday...I have little vanity of possessions (beyond washing my clothes) and so don't have any desperate drive to make the place rentable/habitable. Despicable of me, I guess, but I prefer the idea of spending November trying to write a book.

Each to their own, and mine has always been to let other people do the work, in exchange for 'owning the place'.

Rent a place, and the landlord has to unblock the drain (in theory, although some act rather slowly) - own it, and they're all your problem (s)

I used to trade more energy in these situations, (always volunteered to help people move stuff, etc) but I got a bit old and lame in the last couple of years...and the RSI (or whatever it is) in right shoulder puts me right off jobs like painting and scrubbing. It hurts, and doesn't seem to get any better, and I guess I should find a physio ASAP - then I would have no excuse.

How feeble is that? I am typing here, as Julie scrubs the bedroom floor with something, before adding anti-woodworm something (yup, we got woodworm, apparently), and all that. I have lit the fire. And changed a light bulb, and emptied the vacuum cleaner and fed the dog and stuff. I don't just sit here watching tv and applauding. But I feel I may never live up to expectations, really.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cheering Myself Up, Cheering Myself On

A Home Ower

Well, I just got a call to say that I 'am' (apparently) a 'home owner' (or what I call a 'home ower' - i.e. the bank owns a house, and if I promise to pay three times what it's currently 'worth' over the next 25 years without ever defaulting then I get to live there, or rent it to other people). Otherwise, they'll take it back.

You can see I don't get the concept, really. Wrong generation, perhaps, although even the people from my generation who built a house of cards would understand, and call it 'owning' something.

Money Magic

It's too much like magick for me. One day I have no money, no resources, no credit, no future, and then I sign a piece of paper (an IOU) and suddenly I join the propertied classes. NOT. In the movies, various mobs and mafias buy and sell debts, and then bully luckless and reckless gamblers into doing their dirty work, as the interest ticks higher and higher, and time gets shorter and shorter, and the IOU gets waved under their nose.

Check out Vulture Funds - for such people's approach to Third World Debt (buy the debt cheap, before it gets written off, and then sue for the total amount plus interest).

Somewhere to Write

Anyway, I mustn't rant on. Julie asked me to co-sign, and she's over the moon about owning a cottage in the hills. Shame she's partnered by such a miserable old buffoon. She assures me that Big Eric won't come around to kneecap me if I default, or fall into negative equity. I guess it could give me a place to write (finally) and walk the dog, and dream away. I just haven't even seen it yet!

Not yer typical Guardian Reader

I get a similar sort of sensation when I read The Guardian (which I do). I like intelligence, I like the total lack of language censorship, I like a loosely 'liberal' agenda - but I just guffaw when I read about the price people are willing to spend on clothes (this jacket's a snip at £349), wine (a cheeky little wine, and very reasonable at 14.99 per bottle, or £150 for a crate) or holidays (for only £3500 you and a loved one can spend 2 weeks on a luxury cruise - or, in The Guardian, perhaps exploring the ruins of Ancient China). Anything with more than one zero at the end makes me anxious, anything with more than two zeroes on the end make me panic, so numbers with 3 or 4 zeroes on the end (let alone 6-digit numbers) just throw me into denial.

Still, perhaps, to you, I sound like that paradoxical person - the homeless, scruffy bloke sitting on the floor, with a hat in front of him, outside Starbucks, reading The Guardian, and saying "Spare £2.50 for a cup of coffee, guv?"


Writing Online

I amuse myself when I write, at least - as I have no social life to speak of, and hardly ever sit around with people having a laugh these days. Most of my idea of funny just sounds grumpy and ungrateful to people, I guess. My heroes still include Diogenes the Cynic (you can read my take on that wonderful old anarchic and bohemian 'world citizen' in a piece I wrote for MQ called "Giving Cynicism A Bad Name"). You can find all my Maybe Writing in the Imperfect Index under BogusMagic. Or I have started listing my attempts on the website...under Writing.

Still obsessed with the money rant

Amusing Stats:

Remarkably, statistics from Creditaction suggest that only 51% of the British population know the balance on their credit cards and 46% have no idea what interest rates they pay on debts and accounts or what they receive on savings.

Such a cavalier attitude to fiscal planning may explain why personal debt as a proportion of income has risen from 105% in 1997 to 164% in 2006; this is the highest level ever recorded in the UK and the highest in the developed world. By mid 2007 total UK personal debt was £1,345 billion and total mortgages/secured lending reached £1,131 billion

Things people bad at numbers do not know:

For example, a £1,000 balance at an APR of 14.9% would take 19 years 7 months to clear and cost £1,116 in interest if paid back at a monthly minimum 2% level. Paying back at 3% each month brings the time down to 11 years 7 months and the interest paid to £545.

If you're so clever, why aren't you rich?

The classic snide line said to me, as the 60s kicked in, with the slogan Live Now, Pay Later to describe Hire Purchase (as they called shopping on credit then). In fact, (well, until today), as I didn't owe anybody anything I felt (looked at through my lens) richer than virtually everyone else in the country. They owed a fortune, and I hovered around zero (plus or minus £100). So how come I remain in the poverty group, and they all take holidays in The Bahamas?

A Rigged Game

No, I still don't get it. I may measure 'smart' on IQ quizzes, but I have no street smarts at all. I feel queasy at the mere thought of usury, and have always known that money is a rigged game where the 'bank' or 'casino' always wins by creaming off a chunk of the turnover, and then share out the rest among 'winning' and 'losing' punters. But gamblers don't expect to lose. I expect to lose. I don't have the fantasy that I win the lottery. If I buy a lottery ticket I just think of it as throwing money into someone else's hat.

Good Luck, mate!

I posted some of Tony Allen's material on the forum, which people whooped and yelled about...he delivered it in the 90s, but it seems just as topical now as it did then. I heard his act frequently, and it always made me laugh, and feel like someone sane had finally turned up on this god-forsaken planet (to get to hear the act a few times, without paying, I worked on the door for him a few times).

Monday, October 08, 2007

Running on Empty

I realise that I don't post here as regularly as I used to. I meant to take the last couple of months to start drafting my own book, but still find that the day job, followed by doggie walking, followed by Circus Arts Forum work online, tends to leave me only an hour or two to choose between having a bath, watching a bit of tv, drinking a glass or two of wine, and just flaking out.

I haven't yet taken the famous "two week holiday" that most 9-5 people do. The few days leave I took just freed me up to go on a hectic jaunt to Belgium (that was fun, but tiring), and a disappointing gig in London. Hardly a 'rest'.

You'd think that I'd have learned by now, but even coming up to the tenth year of a 'steady job' I still don't understand how it works, or how best to distribute my time. All those years as a freelance gave me so much time (here and there, between hard-working sections) that I now understand why career people seem to have (by my standards) hardly read any books. I'd get through five a week. This came from a combination of plenty of spare time, not driving but using public transport (and so reading instead of concentrating on not killing anyone), etc. Now I hardly even find time to clean the house...

Or have I just got used to having plenty of energy, and failed to notice that I already turned 60? Born twenty years earlier, I'd be dead by now! I really do feel more like a pipe and slippers by the fire would suit me better - a glasss of port, a good book, a velvet smoking jacket, I can see it now! I wish people would stop re-assuring me (someone said the other day that "50 is the new 40". Easy for them to say, as they just reached their 40th birthday. I did that back in 1986!

Hey ho. Julie has grand plans for country living, and early retirement, and I place myself in her capable hands. I remain as glum (when I get up) as ever, and as cheerful (once I have got into gear) as ever. By temperament I feel like a pessimist, but I have adopted the strategy of optimism from a sense of surreal absurdity. If everything seems crazy and pointless, you might as well have a reckless good time...and Bucky and RAW assure me that optimism does at least offer the possibility of positive outcomes - nothing much gets achieved by pessimists!
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