What’s Changed?

The world is slowly changing for me. In a tiny way and also in a big way.

The election was interesting. The result was fascinating. As a politics nerd, it was amazing. As a person it felt like a step forward. Maybe this country is finally seeing through the constant disaster of authoritarian, extremist capitalism. The type that privatises the profits and socialises the losses. I really didn’t expect enough of us would be convinced to vote to change this. I thought enough people would be scared off by the relentless media onslaught. It wasn’t too be.

I stayed up pretty much all night with my partner. We got there with a little nap before the exit poll… which made me horrendously nervous. Then the first results weren’t quite in line with the exit poll. I was devastated. Then things started to improve. Labour did well. Corbyn deserved an election and proved if the party could stick together progress could be made. He, mostly, got that. Imagine if the party had actually been truly on side…

But it doesn’t matter. We now have a lame duck government. And not much will get done. Maybe that’s a good thing though. I was sick and tired of the last wretched administration. Maybe stagnation is a good thing for a while.

Meanwhile, in home life, after much stress and battles with the bank, we may finally moving closer to buying our own home. At last. It’s exciting, but I sense we’re not there yet. More turmoil to come I’m sure…

Banks Are Mean

Throughout my self-employed life, I have come to expect nothing from a bank. They don’t like providing support, and when they do they do so only because the government has told them they need to lend to businesses.

But the worst phase of all has been in trying to secure a mortgage from them. Thanks to the financial crisis of 2008, they are now incredibly reluctant to do so without ludicrous amounts of questions that are structured backwards. You go on holidays, and buy presents for family and Christmas, and all of these are budgeted in before they decide how much you have left to afford for a mortgage. Daft. You feed yourself, pay debt next, then you find out what’s left. Cutting your cloth accordingly is not a phrase the rules understand.

So when the inevitable mortgage rejection happened, and this time for completely spurious reasons, I was somewhat resigned to it. This time, however, I am not going down without a fight. The ridiculous rules state that there is not enough evidence of consistent earnings for both of us, simply because my partner joined the business less than two years ago. Yet the business has been going for 7 years. Crazy? I just might think so.

We’re panicking a little. Timings for a nice and smooth changeover at the end of July are now very much out of the window. But we have to try and get a mortgage from somewhere. We can, and have, decided to go back to the bank and really push them hard. Banks may be silly, but they really don’t like the words “complaint” or “ombudsman”. It makes them look bad. Here’s hoping some sane person a bit higher up the food chain can overrule what is a truly absurd decision.

Life is full of surprises. In truth, I did expect this one, but this time I feel very determined to win. Last time we had this we gave up very quickly. I felt totally defeated. But it feels OK this time. It’s only a small interruption. Stressful, yes, but I will find a way…

A Significant Month?

The end of the financial year brings with it the end of the tax year. And as a self-employed person, these things tend to mean a lot to me. For one, it signifies the first estimate as to how much of my depressing student loan continues to be in repayment. But two, it also gives me a figure for the infamous “SA302” – the statement of income declared to the taxman, and therefore, how worthy you are compared to someone in standard employment.

For years I have been hoping that some day I’d be able to afford my own home. I’ve probably put it into several start of year laundry lists. But it’s never been realistic. And then, when my partner came along and diluted my earnings, as well as hurt my credit score, and then we moved house last summer, which put a massive dent in the credit score and also savings, it all got put on the back burner.

But this time, we may just have enough on our SA302s for the last two years for it to be worth something. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking at houses, including making an offer on two. The second one has been accepted, and now we’re desperately praying that the mortgage application will be approved. We may know more by the end of next week.

The clock is ticking. The tenancy agreement for this house expires in three months. They will need to know if we want to stay here by at least one month before that point. So we need two months to make progress. Will it happen in time?

The scariest part, of course, is the drain on the finances that’s about to happen. The house offer has been accepted at £226,950, which is a stunning amount of money. So much I can’t even imagine it. But it’s irrelevant. Hilariously, the potential monthly costs are less than the rent on the house we’re in now. OK, to be fair, the new place is smaller, but it would be ours. It would be a long term investment. And, as always with debt, it’s all about the servicability of it, not really the balance.

And that’s what fucks me off about this whole process. In reality, our earnings should not be an issue. But what may be the issue is the peculiar credit scoring system. Somehow, despite the fact that I have never missed a credit repayment over 13 years, and have always used and managed credit well, I have a worse credit score now than I did a year ago. It’s all bollocks, of course, and I know it’s partially down to the stupid car “balloon HP” agreement, and also my partner’s bad record, which is about 4-5 years ago, but is still affecting his score. Oh, and also the house we’re in now has a comedy address, so the credit reference agencies think I’m not registered to vote. Yeah, that’s why I have a polling card…

We have been thwarted for years by the algorithms we’re governed by, which dictate whether or not the system thinks we’re a good credit risk. They are nonsense, and always will be. In the past people made decisions. Now no one wants to, for fear of being sued for inconsistency. So we let an algorithm decide, and conveniently ignore that they were designed by humans. In one hilarious example, Lloyds Bank told me they’d be happy to lend £200,000… if I could hand over a 50% deposit. I laughed at her, and had a rant. She said it’s best not to get angry and stop lashing out at the system, but work within it.

It’s the age-old caricature. Life, and reality, has a horrible way of forcing you to accept its tedious confines. You question everything, then you learn to game the system and think you’re being really clever. Then you are the system. Then you’re dead.

But still… the next few weeks will be important. I’m trying not to put too much hope on it. A lot can go wrong from here…

A Fiscal Ending

March and April has always had a significant place in my business brain. It is the end of the tax year… and since we became a company, it’s now the end of our company’s financial year as well.

It has, as such, been a time for reflection on the year gone. It has been maybe the most stressful of my business career, but also, oddly, the most profitable.

And yet, the most unenjoyable.

We are reaching the point we we maybe have “enough” general background work going on that we don’t sweat the small stuff any more. People wasting our time with rubbish enquiries that lead nowhere don’t stress me so much. When I was new to business, they used to kill me. I used to worry endlessly about what I did wrong. Turns out some people are just… weird.

So we are considering how we dial back from our commitments. And increase profit that is maybe, unearned. Such as from investments using our company money.

Risky, I suppose. But I am getting old. I was supposed to be a millionaire by now.

Meanwhile, the other company I am still unfortunately involved in is having a fiscal ending of its own. Cash flow crises every day have resulted in many weeks of poor sleep, and strained relations. Our shared office is very tense at the best of times. It’s all rather worrying, to be brutally honest.

We may get there, somehow. Building a new set of houses is not exactly easy. But if it goes well it will be all good money for my main business. If we can survive the strain.

My biggest fear is that our ending of one year is the start of a nightmare new one.

The Spark

Relationships don’t last. I’ve always been a cynic with that even if my mum and dad can prove the opposite. It’s just not possible, surely, to keep liking someone year after year?

I’m now two years into a friendship with J. It’s not as good as it used to be that’s for sure. There are things that irritate me. I’m sure I irritate him as well. I’m bossy at times, as well as contradictory. He tries to second guess me, which I hate. I need him to be himself. Not the modified version of him.

It’s not easy though. The hardest part is the fact that we just don’t have a great deal to talk about any more. I’ve complained about this before, but when you do everything together, there is nothing to keep the spark going. Conversation and banter keep that alight. Shared experiences can help, but we have to live pretty frugally or we’ll never have any chance to own our own home.

Today I’m off to work on a Saturday, which is not unusual, but what is unusual is going into London for a client job. It’s been about 6 months since last time, which has flown. But the most important thing is that it gives me time away for just a few hours. That’s a good thing. There’ll now be stuff to talk about which is great. Though this train journey leaves a lot be desired. More expensive even at weekend and totally full…

I just worry that in another year’s time we’ll be totally bored of each other. I’ve recently noticed J being more suspicious with his phone (and the less said about what is on his work computer the better). He even has Snapchat these days and frankly no good comes of that. I have asked him about it, but if didn’t go anywhere. I’m expected to be trusting. But in this day and age where in 5 mins or less you could be exchanging flirtatious messages with a total stranger, trust is in very short supply.

Either way, what’s the alternative? I often say, out loud, that I don’t see the point in living. J complains that’s a selfish thing to say. But it’s true. If you’re not really living, just existing for the sake of existence, what is all this stress and futility about?

Stress being the name of the game. Work is stressful. The “other business” is also causing stress too as it’s relying heavily on me and J at the moment understanding there legal and logistical arrangements of building a house. Hmm.  We don’t and all we know we learned from Google…

Sounds like our main business actually.

 

 

President Trump

I resist from being political on this blog, mainly because politics has become something that I despise, despite being in possession of a degree in it. It is just too transparently false. Politicians spend all their time telling us what we want to hear, and never dealing with the issues that are long term: environment and social justice. In that area, the media operates to set the agenda, and the bubble/echo chamber resonates back and forth between outlets. This is what you must think of today. And we do.

The Trump effect, and the Brexit vote of last year, have been part of that nexus, much as everyone likes to convince us that they are sea changes in the way people vote. They are not. They are the reaping of decades of relentless right wing mantras about freedom, privatisation, individuality, and lashing out at the changes that have taken place in our world that people aren’t comfortable with, no matter what they are, or what the actual cause is.

The internet is no better. People say we don’t need the media any more, but after all of the above, those of us who care one way or another largely then go about constructing our own alternate reality on the internet. We follow people on Twitter who we agree with. We read websites, and join Facebook groups of like-minded individuals. Twas ever thus, I think, in my mind’s endless game of devil’s advocate. But this is different. This is now egregious, 24/7, direct access to the brain, swished across our eyes in close proximity by a glowing wand of interconnected hive mind. It is superficially attractive. Like a 2 year old child, sitting and poking away at an iPad, intuitively knowing how to use it. Our brains love it. They are addicted to the prolefeed. This is different.

What makes me wistful is that today is the day we harvest the results of that crop. Today President Obama, a man I placed so much hope in, is gone. We usher in President Trump, a man so vile and so unworthy of such a high office that I do wonder what the point of anything is any more. He has no idea of what it means like to live in poverty, or what racism is, or the scourge of latent sexism that he has again unleashed in people. He’s surrounded himself with a cabinet of billionaires. He will now represent the USA.

But people want this. Just like people want the Brexit – that indeed I voted for – because people want to take any opportunity available now to lash out at politics. The politics that we don’t care about, and, in reality, wouldn’t even miss if it wasn’t there. It’s much more convenient to complain about an unchangeable force. I know it. I’m sitting here doing it now. But it’s because I feel so powerless. We are in this era of nothing, where no one cares, and society has fragmented so much. We have nothing to live for, no greater good, no feeling that we’re part of a movement of change, to tackle impending environmental catastrophe, or international wars and disasters. We can’t do it. We won’t do it.

It’s easier to complain. We have no actual political choice. When one is available (see Corbyn, Jeremy; Foot, Michael) – the institutions of the state and the media make sure they are made to look a fool on a regular basis. Do you know that’s exactly what they do in Russia? A fake political choice is presented. Only one result is accepted.

Trump is not a political choice. Never was. While he was and is a disgusting excuse for a human, he is no threat to the political culture or elite. The media may feign their irritation at being shut out, but they love the drama. The daily soap opera. Brexit is the same. It will not be allowed to change anything too seriously. That is what politics and the prevailing liberal market economy has achieved in its ultimate victory. It continues. The faces may change, but they will never threaten the consensus.

I don’t like making predictions any more, but my main one is this: Trump will change nothing. Brexit will change nothing. If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that nothing changes. Just different faces, eventually being crushed by the institutions of the State and the media to implement minor variations on the same old nonsense. Capital is power.

Just a shame that this latest face represents a boot being stamped into the face of a human. Forever.

And we love it.

2017

As is tradition at the start of the year, the tradition is to make some predictions. Or, at the very least, some modest hopes or aspirations.

I really don’t feel like doing so any more. I’ve commented before how school and university give life a structure. All being well, you know what you’ll be doing in spring, summer, etc. But that hasn’t been the case for me for almost a decade now.

First of all, what of the New Year? Last night was a tremendous disappointment. As the years have gone by they seem to have all got worse. Last year was bad, but this took the biscuit. The level of illness, still high in Dad, Mum and my older sister, and the general malaise that sets in when you’re not having a proper party, just meant that we sat here for hours doing nothing.

When the New Year came i resolutely refused to go outside, much to the chagrin of J. Mum was too drunk to even notice that I didn’t go out there. In our family we usually go outside into the street and sing Auld Lang Syne. Last year we did it, but no one really wanted to. I wanted to keep up the tradition, a tradition I know my grandad would be proud of. But people only barely joined in last year. This year, along with the general feeling of “this has all just been rubbish” – I decided that I’d stay inside.

No one sung Auld Lang Syne. Without me there it was a non-event. There was no family festivity. There was no fun. I just sat and watched the New Year fireworks on the TV.

And why bother marking it, when it’s all been so shit? Last year was good for me, but not for the rest of the family. I barely go into any detail on their various disasters now. I don’t want to, it’s too depressing. This year will probably be the same, except I feel like it may be worse for the family. There is too much illness. Too much bad fortune. Too much bad behaviour. I look at my oldest nephew, who turns 18 soon, and behaving like a total dick. He can be treated as an adult when he acts like one.

Then there’s my youngest brother, who is also a self-absorbed narcissist. He does nothing for anyone. He doesn’t even wash a dish. Aged 22, he also seems to be encouraging the nephew to be even worse.

Then there’s my younger nephews, aged 5 and 3, who are, frankly, just weird. Strange children, they are noisy and loud, like children should be, and then act like they’re deaf, dumb and mute when anyone walks into the room who isn’t their mum, dad or grandparents. They seem extremely socially inadequate. Could it be because they are glued to phones and iPads constantly playing stupid games? The smartphone era has a lot to answer for. They can speak, but they often choose not to, instead just shouting a noise, or nodding.

So perhaps my first wish for 2017 is actually that my family get better. There is just too much general bad blood and stupidity floating around. Could 2017 please bring some respite from this? I wish my nephew would grow up. I wish my brothers would start to behave like adults. I wish them some good and lucky breaks.

As for me, I hope that me and J can grow closer together. We’ve drifted a bit over the last few months, and it’s all my fault. I will maybe go into detail in the future. But suffice it to say we’re just struggling a bit at the moment. I still love him, a lot, but I need to find a better way of coping with the fact that we don’t really have anything to do with our free time except go out for walks, watch crap on the TV, play games on the TV, and very rarely have sex. The latter is part of my sadness at times. Sex is fun, but most of the time feels dull and perfunctory. So maybe 2017 can improve our relationship somehow…

Thirdly – can we possibly find a different business? I know it’s not going to happen, but for some reason I am starting to feel our days as a business are numbered. I could be wrong. We may still have a good few years at it. But i am increasingly looking for a change. I don’t want to start from new. I want to buy an existing business. I know this is crazy, but I just can’t imagine that I’d like to still be doing this rubbish by the age of 40. That’s a modest long term goal, surely?

Alternatively, I’d settle for making the business less stressful. My feeling is growing that, if not this year then next, we should simply consolidate. No new clients. Just look after the current ones. And maybe close down the repairs angle. If we could manage without the money I’d do it in a flash. Maybe this is a silly idea right now. Money is king. We need to pile up fat stacks of it.

So finally – could maybe 2017 bring a better hobby? A hobby that both me and J can find fun and productive. Something that can bring us together. It might be sport. We both like swimming. Or badminton. Something that gets us out and about, and is reasonable exercise. J is always on about it, in the hope that it will make him more shapely and lose the folds of skin that he’s left with having lost lots of weight since he was a big podge. That amused me for some reason. Podge is funny.

So come on then 2017. Let’s see what you bring…

 

The Year: Reviewed

2016. Oh, what to make of you. You’ve been challenging, that’s for sure.

It’s time to reflect. On this, the final day of yet another year, I sit and consider what was. It was… something, I suppose.

I got older. Really older. 31 now. I look old. I couldn’t pass for late 20s any more, I think. The hair has put paid to that. It has always looked shit, but now even more so. Now it looks more forehead than hair. I jest, but only a little. At least I’m not bald like a friend of mine, same age, is. I’ve got all that to look forward to. Yay!

So too did everyone else. That’s the bad thing. We are all older. This Christmas has been a disaster of sorts. People have been sitting round, coughing, hacking up mucus, sneezing, snotting, being rather muscularly and skeletally challenged. Is skeletally a word? It should be. I like it. But it has been awful. We all look older and tireder. Lots of us look old and frail. Dad hasn’t been well at all this year, and it is frightening. Genuinely, truly frightening. My mum was saying the other day how she thought her parents would live forever. They don’t. I hope it’s not soon, but it is coming. It is tragic.

The year overall… formally, I would say it’s been a Good Year. It could never have competed with last year, which, apparently, was a Really Good Year. I just read last year’s equivalent post. I’m not so sure in hindsight, but hindsight is like that. It makes the greatest things less exciting. It’s make the most horrendous things less shocking. It all turns to a dull, neutral, grey. The entropy of life being stretched out over the months and years.

Why is it a good year then? It doesn’t really look like I set myself high targets. I mean, look at them. They were very modest. One was to keep things going with my partner. Check. Two was for business to be kind to me: this was less good, but overall we made money and are still trading well. You can’t ask for more really when we’re not ambitious about growing it. Third, the “other business” is still here, and still being a PITA. Fourth: the house was a disaster, but never mind. Finally: we’re all still here.

The first and second points are, however, of sufficient weight that they can make things out to be a Good Year. I’m happy enough with that. Much as it pains me, I feel that I will have to modify the way I assess life. Middling mediocrity is where it’s at, because, frankly, anything more exciting is just too difficult to obtain. I don’t get any lucky breaks. We get hammered with shite in our work. What more can we do?

Life is all about accepting that what you were told in childhood: that you are great, you are talented, and the world is your oyster, is nothing of the sort. For 99.9% of us, life is just about getting through it safely, because there is no alternative. We get the odd glimpse of fun and excitement to distract us from the interminable stretches of dull. The every day, getting up, having coffee, having breakfast, going to work, going home, having evening meal, then a sliver of relaxation, then sleep. Repeat ad infinitum.

I wish it could be different, but it isn’t.

We’re here now. Me and J have now been “together” (as we say) for 17 months. It’s so many we don’t even count it any more. We used to do it all the time. We take it for granted. Just like life.

But these modest gains and general stability are actually things to be happy about. We are fortunate to have them. We are fortunate to have a successful and generally quite profitable business of our own. Not many can say that. These are good things, and I am – in my more reflective moments – happy for them.

I just need to remember that more often.

Thank you, 2016. You’ve been OK.

The world outside it: not so much. I mean, David Bowie? Alan Rickman? How could you…