27

These days birthdays come and go without great incident, fanfare or even comment. This week was yet another example of that.

Monday was my birthday, and, unlike last year, I was actually at home for it. The benefit of this is fairly obvious – you can have a proper celebration with family and at least get a little attention…

The problem was that, unfortunately, work has other ideas. Lately the amount of working I’ve been dealing with has been astronomical. There also seems to be a drop off in my productivity, probably corresponding to a) lack of sleep, and b) decline in motivation due to being totally depressed.

The birthday itself was mostly rubbish. I spent all of the day doing work, finally getting a chance to stop at around 9pm to have a takeaway. We were supposed to have been going out for something to eat, as has become family tradition, but no such luck. The joke of it all is that even my meal was interrupted, because I’d done something which broke a website just before I stopped – deliberately I might add so that the client could see what was wrong – and then was ordered that I had to put it back the way it was. Madness.

In any event, I’m now back in the usual place of work. I am increasingly seeing it like that, because all around me is work, not a home. The living room has a laptop setup, which is currently installing 400,000 Windows Updates. There are two PCs in the kitchen, one of which is complete, and the other is in progress. Then my desk next to me, in my bedroom, is covered in paper relating to a couple of ongoing projects. There is no escape.

I look back at my post from last year, aged 26, when I was moaning about stagnation and nothing much changing. Nothing much has changed a year on. A year is actually a very long time. You can get an awful lot done in a year. I’m just not in a position to do so thanks to one thing, and one thing alone. MONEY.

Money rules everything. I’ve known that all my life, and that’s probably why I’ve ended up so obsessed about it. Money money money. I make a good businessman, that’s for sure. Except not good enough that I’m making enough money to have a positive impact on my life. Who cares about whether you can spend £1 and buy some scones. That might make me feel briefly happy, but it doesn’t change my life.

So the days and weeks tick by. Here’s to another year of stagnation.

Debt

It’s never something I like to think about, but I do have a huge amount of it. I don’t like being in debt to people, and I certainly don’t like being in debt to a bank. The very thought that I might be charged for the privilege is what puts me off. A lot.

So the idea of getting a mortgage, despite not actually being something relevant right now, is disturbing to me. The thought that over the lifetime of the deal I could be paying back more than double what I originally took out is worrying. But, let’s face it, it’s not possible for normal people to do it any other way. Tough luck.

It’s this that has got me thinking. As one of my friends becomes the first person I know to be able to afford to buy his own property – and even then only with the help of a shared equity scheme, will I ever be able to afford my own house? It doesn’t seem likely any time soon, especially with the vast deposits required and lack of good mortgages for self-employed people.

If this continues, then I will remain debt-free regarding a mortgage. But there is still something else that accounts for me being substantially in debt anyway.

Of course, that’s the student loan. That hulking great agglomeration of debt that I daren’t think about. Already well over 20k, with hundreds of pounds of interest being added each year. This tax year, I might actually have to pay some of it off. But it won’t cover the interest. Far from it. And so the debt will continue to rise.

Yet if I’m going to get into debt, it’s the kind of debt that should fill all our hearts with cheer. For the fact is simple. I will probably never repay it. Basically, it will be a surtax on me until I stop breathing. I’ll pay an extra few percentage points on my tax bill than everyone else. But with the interest rate so low, and the fact that there is no threat to repayment, there is no logical reason why I should try to clear it off sooner.

Not good for the government. And not really good for me. But its nature means I don’t ever really worry about it. It exists. It steals cash from me, all in exchange for a rather useless degree. That annoys me far more. The fact that I wasn’t really told that a good degree guarantees you absolutely nothing. Oh, except paying more tax than everyone else.

I would much rather people were in debt to me. Sadly, I’ve become that kind of person. I like doing favours for people, and then calling them in in the future. Sometimes with interest. Well, I am running a business, after all.

I’m babbling now. Time to go. Time to try and enjoy the last part of yet another journey home. At least the London Midland trains have some legroom…

Late Night Blues

In the past few days a lot has changed for me.

First of all, I have a job. Not a good one, but a job. It will allow me to earn some money while I work out what I do next.

The bad news is that the job is primarily based around night shifts. Hence why I’m currently awake as 2:35am, way past my usual bedtime.

Even worse news is that it is a job I’ve done before – cashier at a petrol station. Well, a few different petrol stations in fact. Perhaps I don’t really know what I’ve let myself in for. Only now is it dawning on me that unless I want to have to do this regularly – changing my sleep pattern by staying up late, taking regular naps, going to bed early, or a combination of all three – I’m going to have to turn into a night owl.

How long I can put up with it, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll find I like my new living pattern. In truth though, it’s unlikely to work out very well in the house I live in now. There’s no way I’ll be able to sleep very well during the day here. It’s not just the noise of the family, but the heat in my loft bedroom is unbearable at the moment.

Nevertheless, it could be the perfect excuse I need to escape from this house. Though my original plan was to get a part time job to sustain an income from which I could fund more business activities, I’m somewhat loathe to waste any money on that pathetic excuse for a business which I run, the one which has currently not received a phone call in almost a week.

So maybe, instead, I could use my money to rent somewhere. Near where I live they have just built an apartment block. A very nice one too. I could rent a one-bedroomed apartment in an excellent location for transport and shops for £400/month. It’s a lot of money, but I think I’d appreciate the freedom again. I’ve had it with here – it’s just too much. I feel too depressed here. I feel too detached from my brothers and sister because I’m more like a parent now than a sibling – because all I seem to do is moan at them or ask them to do things. Crap. I would have hated to have had an older brother telling me what to do.

The best thing for me would be to be gone from here. But I know it would make my mum and dad’s job incredibly difficult. Things are amazingly stressful around this family at the moment, due to my older sister, my grandparents, and various other circumstances. If I went it would make things ten times worse.

It’s something I’ll have to keep thinking about. There’s no immediate rush to decide, and in the meantime I can earn some money. Tomorrow will be my first night shift ever. It should be OK, but you never know in petrol stations! Either way, if I can get into a routine I’ll probably feel a bit better about it.

Cos right now I feel shit. And it’s not helped by the awful news on the TV. What a night to be up late. Poor Michael Jackson. I had a lot of time for his music. The man himself was clearly not all there in his later years. But it remains a tragedy that he became that way, partly created because he lived his entire life as a celebrity.

It’s a strange world we live in.

Mishmash

It’s been a bit of a nothingness over the past few days. After all the turbulence hinted at in my last post, since then very little seems to have happened. 

That, considering Christmas is around the corner, is a Bad Thing. I still have no idea what presents I’m going to get the members of my family, especially as everyone wants gifts that are too expensive for me. I normally spend an average of about £15 per person… meaning the whole shebang costs about £100 for me. 

This year everyone seems to want computer games or computer peripherals which generally cost small fortunes. Xbox 360 games in particular always cost loads of money. I sometimes con my brothers by buying a joint present as a 360 game, but that is never that well received because they are so hard to please. There aren’t many games that they both want… and I doubt it’s going to work that way this year.

But there was one bright spot last week. Though my self-employment ideas still rumble on, there’s no real reason for me to believe that I’m ready to go. I don’t have a toolkit for starters. And my website that I’ve made needs some photos to break up the text. Stuff for me to work on this week.

Anyway, the bright spot came from an unexpected phone call from my friend who occasionally sends me freelance work. It seems that he actually has something for me to do. Some paid work! Wow, I might actually get some money from somewhere. It’s writing some reviews of games, music and books for a website, so nothing too arduous… and I even get some free stuff out of it. Unfortunately most of it comes daubed with “Promotional Copy – Do Not Resell”… but maybe some of it will pass as a present.

In any event, it will be nice to get some cash. At least I’m going to be able to afford Christmas without spending my savings. Instead, the savings have finally made their way to a high interest fixed rate account, which seems sensible given the fact that by next year I’m likely to be getting absolutely no return on my money. No great loss really… nothing compared to what others are suffering during this recession anyway. Life goes on for me in much the same way as it’s always done, recession or no recession. No job, no prospects. Woo! 

I sit here at the moment next to the Christmas tree, which magically appeared over the weekend. My brother’s birthday was the other day too… it only seems five minutes ago since the last one. 2008 has absolutely flown by. Worse is the fact that this second half of the year, since I left university, has been a case of “busy doing nothing, working the whole day through” as my mum says. And yet the time has zoomed ever faster forward.

I’ve got to sort myself out very soon. But how many times have I said that now?

Watford Gap

On Thursday I had my interview in Harrow. It was the first interview I’ve managed to land in all the applications I’ve sent out. It was nice to at least be considered.

I’m using the past tense here because I sense that the opportunity has closed itself to me. I thought I did well in the interview – I’d prepared answers to almost all the questions they asked. Except one – how will I deal with the relocation if offered the job?

I had done some basic research. I knew how much it was going to be to live in the area. Plus, there is the fact that the transport links are excellent in almost every direction in London. I would be fine, I said. I could live in a cheaper area and just travel more. Bad answer: cos, of course, travel costs would then increase to compensate.

But, in truth, the salary is probably not enough to live in London from the job. £19k a year is only £14.5k net. Rent at £800/month is nearly 2/3rds of my income gone. This was what got me. I felt a bit stupid. I blustered with excuses that I could carry on with freelance work that I get from time-to-time from a friend, and also that I could referee to earn a little extra, but I think the damage had already been done. I looked like I hadn’t done my research properly, and that’s fatal.

The daft thing is that the salary for the job is actually better than what I would get if I chose to pursue the London MP assistant career. Which is such a bad choice anyway because the progression route is so badly defined. The miserable pay is a result of the huge demand: everyone wants to work there so they reduce the wage. Only the most desperate apply. Am I that desperate?

Anyway, they said I would hear either Friday or Monday. Friday went without a call, but at least I have the weekend off from worrying about it now. In any case, there’s nothing I can do. I guess I have to keep looking. There can’t be many people who get their job at their first interview, anyway. I knew I wouldn’t be that lucky. I never am.

The day itself was actually a lot of fun. Travelling by train is always something I enjoy (as long as I get a seat!), especially now I’ve got an MP3 player. The time just flies by. The weather was excellent, and I even got a chance to sit in the park for a little while before hand to prepare myself for the interview. It’s a very nice area. I really would have liked the job – it would have suited me perfectly, I think.

If I don’t get it, I’m going to have to reassess my position. Maybe my experience is just not good enough to apply for these kinds of jobs. I feel like I’m trapped in the old circular logic: to get experience you need experience. No one advertises their post saying “Inexperienced PA required immediately!”.

In any case, if I don’t get it I don’t think I’ll be doing any more applying for jobs a long way away unless they offer to reimburse my expense. It cost me £70 in total, train fares, taxi fares. And I did a lot of walking. It was a nice little adventure, a nice break from sitting here all day, but I could do that anywhere and it wouldn’t cost me so much money.

The waiting game is on hold until Monday. I’m sure I’ll be put out of my misery then.

UPDATE: A few minutes after writing this post a rejection letter turned up. Oh well – at least I didn’t have to wait all weekend after all!

IOU

Yesterday came accompanied by some rather startling news. Though I feared it would come, I did nothing about it. Primarily because I couldn’t.

As the Icelandic bank Icesave was put into receivership, bang went the money I had invested in their financial products. We’re not talking about very small sums here. Let’s just say I’m a pretty good saver. Plus, all those extra student loans had to go somewhere.

Yesterday things were looking pretty grim. Although there are compensation schemes which should have gave me reassurance that I would get all my money back (eventually), there was a lot of talk that the Icelandic scheme had no money to pay. And so, there was a distinct possibility that I could lose a small fortune.

This morning, the government have rode to the rescue. They didn’t have to. All of a sudden I’m feeling slightly more warm towards our politicians. I have never voted Labour (or Conservative, for that matter) and, in truth, am not likely to start now, even after this. But… (assuming all goes well) I do owe them a debt of gratitude for rescuing me and 300,000 other customers from this position.

It’s really hitting home just how much this financial crisis is impacting on everyone now. Banks disappearing left, right and centre. Money drying up for loans. Have you noticed that there seem to be far fewer of these adverts for easy credit today? That’s definitely a good thing. They were always the worst anyway. “Dad’s found yah scoo’ah!” and all that.

The age of austerity is soon to be open us. This is good. It is time that people tamed their wild and excessive spending. The problem is that people were spending what they didn’t have, thinking that they were rich because their house price was rising. When, of course, the value of your investments may go down as well as up.

And down they have gone. My parents, foolishly, have an endowment mortgage. It’s probably only going to reach about 2/3rds of the target, leaving them with a mega shortfall. They’re likely to have to borrow it off me, assuming I get my money back and still have it in five year’s time. But otherwise, they didn’t take part in the borrowing craze, and so they’re going to be just fine. In some respects, I’m equally glad that I didn’t graduate sooner, because I may have been a house owner by now, and would probably be in negative equity.

All through the system there are huge IOUs, and no one knows whether people will be able to pay them. Another one was created yesterday, and properly reinforced today. In some respects it was slightly amusing to be holding a credit note to the government of Iceland. Today’s it’s not so amusing in that it will be paid by my own government instead.

And then, in the long run, as all this economic turmoil is worked through, it will be me as a member of Generation Y, and the new members of Generation Z who will pick up the tab, through higher taxes, lower spending and the interest on all this huge borrowing. So we will, ultimately, pay the government back all the costs of the financial mismanagement that they’re picking up now.

It’s just such a shame that “we owe government” has a very unfortunate acronym, otherwise the concept might catch on.

The Drawing Board Is Bored

Over the past few days, I have sunk a little further into depression at the situation I’m in, but I’m still trying out options to change it.

For instance, I decided to finally get off my backside and register as a referee again. So, with a bit of luck, I will soon be back to doing a game a week, and though it only provides a small financial infusion, it is better than nothing. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I just hope I don’t get injured again.

Meanwhile, I found it in me to put in a couple more job applications. This time I feel a little more positive about the whole thing. I’ve found a job, a six month temporary contract, that could be ideal for me. It would buy me some time to think things over, and provide me with cash at the same time. And it would make sure my current employment gap doesn’t become embarassingly long, making it even more difficult to get a job.

This whole situation has come about for a number of reasons, but chief amongst them right now is a broken promise from a friend who pretty much guaranteed me that he would be able to just give me a job. One of his staff left a couple of weeks ago, and he found out about it a month ago. He said he would be able to get me her job once she left. It didn’t happen. He’d already broken a promise to find me work earlier in the year. Now, maybe it’s just the downturn in the economy making his business not want to give out employment right now – that would stand to reason by the sheer lack of jobs available at the moment – but whatever, I’ve been hanging around, waiting for something that was never going to appear.

Fortunately, the Sunday morning football, around again today, is going to provide me with enough distraction to give me something to do. Plus with the training on Wednesday night that I go to and help out, there’s always something a few days away to look forward to. A shame there’s no money in this. I love it so much that I have now broadened my job hunting search to look for anything football related. Oh, how I’d love to be the Company Secretary of a Premier League club…

I’m also getting more and more involved in a project that is exploring the possibility to make a new football club from scratch. That would be good. And in time, it might even pay me if I’m good at it. I think I am, I just need someone to give me a chance.

But to do the things I want, like making a new club, I neeeeed money. Refereeing and it’s attendant £20 a week is, sadly, not going to do it for me.

And neither is my continual stream of thoughts relating to ideas I’ve got. Much as they’re interesting, in the business jargon, they’re “loss leaders”. That is, they will never make me money. Starting a computer fixing business is an absolute non starter – the market is saturated already. All they’re good for is taking the odd £20 off a distant family member for fixing their PC, riddled with viruses and spyware.

Right now, the drawing board is sick of the sight of me.

Views On A Nephew

I say “a” nephew, but I mean “the” nephew, because I only have one.

He is the biggest nuisance I have known, but at the same time he’s awesome. But, because his father is useless, I, as his eldest uncle, feel like I should take a bit more responsibility for him.

I would love to, I really would, but it’s not as simple as that. I do play with him. I play games, I play football. I sometimes take him the park. But I have nothing else to offer in terms of doing things. The kind of things a father is supposed to do.

The main reason for that is because I don’t have any money. I would love to take him to the cinema or to a football game or swimming or ice-skating or whatever… but all of these things aren’t cheap.

Furthermore, until now, I hadn’t been around all that often, thanks to university. But now that excuse has gone.

My nephew is now nine years old. He is starting to notice the fact that his dad is a waste of space, but at the same time he will never be able to admit that his dad is not the hero that he claims to be. His dad plays perpetual mind games with his mum (my sister) and the impact of this psychological warfare – and I can see it as clearly as night follows day – is definitely rubbing off on my nephew.

Thing is, I don’t really see him as a nephew. He is more like a brother. If my parents had had just one more child only four years after their eventual final one (and they easily could have done) then I would have had another sibling of the same age. The age gap is not significant enough to make me feel like an uncle (I became an uncle at the age of 13). Spare a thought for my youngest brother and sister, who became an uncle and aunty respectively at the ages of 5 and 4.

And so, not feeling like an uncle, my mindset is trapped in a brother mentality. And much as me and my brothers all like each other, we don’t tend to do an awful lot with each other. We give each other their own space and freedom to do what they want with life. We don’t do anything together, and though this is much more obvious now that we’re getting older, it has generally been the case throughout our lives.

So I treat him like a brother and do not much with him other than brotherly things, like playing with Lego.

I feel like I ought to step up to the plate. His dad is a non-entity, a worthless loser, who does nothing other than fill my nephew’s mind with rubbish about his mum and the rest of the family. My nephew still likes him, but maybe it’s just because he’s the only male role model that gives him some attention, even if it is only on one day a week.

Maybe I can do something about this in the forthcoming summer holiday.

Well, I would if I had some bloody money. And the money I’m owed from the council from a job I did is now delayed until I fill in a medical form so they can tell me I’m fit to do the job. Which I’ve already done and won’t be doing again. Bureaucracy…