Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Everyday Is Exactly The Same
A recurring discussion at home is that of work. Life as it is, is hard. The house is always a mess. It cannot be anything but. We have a boy who isn't even yet two years old. We have jobs. There is always something to do.
Clothes get dirty. Toothpaste gets onto shirts. Dishes get dirty. Sauce crusts in. Glasses get dirty. The carpet gets grapes ground in. Milk stains sofas. Toys get flung behind tables, televisions. DVD's are taken from cases, smeared in jam, and thrown into books. Books with red buttons make incessant meowing noises. Small plastic ambulances nee-naw at random. Toys with no off switches squeal. Clothes need washing, hanging, drying. Shirts need to be ironed. There needs to be enough socks. Shoes are distributed at random across the house. Small plastic blocks strut out waiting for feet to bash them. Nappies need to be changed. Bottoms wiped. And then, every six hours, it's time for food. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. And the washing up. And the vaccuuming. Beard grows.
Outside the grass grows. I need to cut the grass at some point soon enough.
Need to take the bins out as well. Have a shave. Wash your face and armpits. Get a haircut. Charge the mobile phone. Cut your fingernails. Shine your shoes. Change a nappy.
There is no peace.
How can you keep a grasp upon all this and stay sane?
And then, at 6.45 the alarm goes off. Time for work. Time for breakfast. Get dressed quietly, and tiptoe out of the house so as not to wake the children. Try not to make the lock click loudly in the door. Let the cat in. Is it raining? Do I need to change my coat? Have I forgotten my ID card? (Yes, today, I have).
And out of all of this, and in no bad way, there's work, which puts me out of my house for at least half the day five days a week. It is a rare day that from 6.45am to 7.30pm my life is not defined by my job : either by doing it, travelling to and from it, or the exhaustion that comes with it as well. My partner finds it hard that I am out so much. So do I. But what other option is there? Is there anyone else who would be able to find a better way? Millions of people live like I do. It is not easy.
And of course, if she wants me to go out at 9.00am and come back at 5.00pm, that's not an economically viable option for me or anyone else. I could work closer to home, but there are no jobs available and any job would not pay enough money for us to be able to live without moving to a one bed flat. We have a mortgage and that is, now, slightly more expensive just than renting : but the mortgage will stay fixed and rents will always increase. In the six years I have lived here, rents have gone up about £200 a month, even if the properties are still mortgaged to ten year old prices. Give it another six years, and in the age of hyperinflation, rents will be higher than my mortgage. Come the end of my mortgage period, I'll be 57, and I will own the house. And I need not be scrabbling around to find rent every month when I'm 82. Not only that, but the total life cost (including inflation) of owning is far lower than renting with a far higher return.
In my life there was only a small window – maybe a year or two at most – where I was able to get a mortgage given my circumstances. Not that they were extravagent, but I had student loans, divorce debts, and a career that was always rising not-quite-as-fast as insane house prices. Given income multipliers, I was able to get a mortgage at what was, then, five times my salary with no deposit.
There was no way I could have got a deposit. At the time, including servicing my unavoidable debts, I wasn't making enough – especially after tax – to have a few grand lying around. Still ain't. I don't live extravagantly. No fast car. No foreign holidays. My passport expired six months, and I'll get another one but I'm not sure when. Next year, probably. Our son got hold of it at one point, and god knows where it is now.Buried under a year old decomposed orange, probably.
The crazy thing was that I was paying more for my flat than I was in a mortgage. But the mortgage was too risky in the eyes of the banks ; even though by an absolute margin, paying rent was and is far riskier. Paying rent cost more and I got less, but paying less, and making a bank an enormous amount of money as an unavoidable consequence wasn't – apart from a very short period of my life, around a year or two – attractive enough to the banks. I dread to think now about the prospects for some many people barely younger than me, living in a world where wages are low – and allegedly “market competitive” - where house prices are often, on average at least seven times the average net salary – and where banks won't lend.
And thus, twas ever thus. Property values here are relatively low in some circumstances. And salaries are relatively low as well. There's often little in the way of careers and jobs. The commuter train keeps the economy running because millions of people travel to London every day to keep the capital running. I am one of them.Everything is being cut. The high streets are dying. We were sold an adequate dream and it is becoming a pisspoor reality.
The misery is nothing special, or unusual. We are like millions of others. Young Married Couple In Debt, Ever Felt Had? Shopping is meant to be my sport according to the adverts.
Hundreds of pounds a month goes to support my ex-wife – one day this will stop. One day eleven years and four months away. Hundreds of pounds in debt – one day these will go. Hundreds of pounds just to get a train to get work to earn money. The days are long and hard, the nights broken with a child, and the house trashed by little fingers that tear wallpaper off the walls and thrown toys into televisions. I never thought my life would turn into this at all.
I always hoped I'd find a better way. But that door never opened.
Much as we have tried – much as anyone has – it is a hard life. “What is the purpose of life? To make it as painless as possible”, was a sign in Philip Glass' apartment that the camera dwelled on in a documentary I watched a while ago. And that is true. Life as it is is not always an easy or fun place. The point of it, as much as there is a point to anything, is that pleasure, love, fun is fleeting and rare. You take joy where and when you can, for it is often hiding.