18 Jun 2009

Credit Crunched

For the past six months we have been a no-income family. My husband was made redundant last December (and a Merry Christmas to you too, Fidelity Investments).
Since then he has applied for literally hundreds of jobs, along with several thousand other financial services accountants who had also been turfed out of their jobs.
My husband is quite senior and quite specialised, which made the hunt for a new role even more difficult. Recruitment agents, for there were many, were with a few exceptions, useless, often clueless and frequently in need of a few lessons in the etiquette of returning phone calls. The problem is they're not evil, just overwhelmed with desperate candidates all looking for work.
The most depressing aspect was the fortnightly visits to the job centre. Last time, my husband was told he needed to 'widen his scope' in the nature of jobs he was looking for. Thanks for that, Gordon Brown. One minute you're a boss with an MBA, the next you're looking for work as a supermarket trolley collector and all those years of study count for naught. Let's see how you like it next year when your P45 arrives in the ballot box.
I was a 'Blair babe' for the last three elections. I was born a northern, working class girl from a single parent family. I worked hard, got a good career for myself, married and gave up work to look after my special needs children. We are the very kind of 'hard working family' that politicians bang on about. We did what we were supposed to do. Now, thanks to the greed of those at the very top, we're also victims of the so-called credit crunch and lax regulation of the banking system.
Now I've realised I'm no longer working class. I've pulled myself up by my clich├ęd boot-straps into the upper middle classes who pay 40% tax and don't get tax credits of any kind. Blair and his mesmerising rhetoric are gone and in his place is someone who I'm sure means well but for whom I did not vote. It's time for us to have a general election so we can cast our verdict on the state of Britain and who should lead us.
The last six months have been exceptionally stressful. Like most people, we have a mortgage to pay, food to buy and also school fees to pay for our elder son's independent special school. My husband negotiated a good redundancy package and we had hoped he would fall into a job and we would be able to keep most of it.
Unfortunately, that's what everyone else in his sector was hoping too and for the first half of the year their experience 'more closely matched what the client was looking for'.
Still, despite everything, we have been lucky. We are not destitute, we are still up on the deal, just, and my husband has had six months off to tend to his hobbies and his new Brian May Red Special guitar.
I have had company at home, where I work from, and the children have had much more access to their Dad than would have been the case had he been slogging away in the office. The sad thing is, we haven't been able to enjoy it, because of the fear of running out of money and the uncertainty of whether he would ever get a new job looming over us.
I'm going to miss him when he starts his new job in a week's time. I'm going to have to take the kids to school every morning myself as well as pick them up. There'll only be the dog to talk to and I'll have to do all the walking, rain or shine. But that's okay. That's part of my job description anyway and for the first time this year today I woke up feeling relaxed and well rested, not anxious and depressed.
Only now do I feel able to write about our experience. But, Mr Brown, you've lost our vote, not that it ever counted for anything in the Tory heartland where we live in Surrey. Our Conservative MP seems like a nice chap and I may well find myself, for the first time ever in a general election, voting with my head rather than my heart and my roots.