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dissident junk

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  1. Basically, a lot of Cypriot law and administration still dates back to the Ottoman era (they still have muktars, for example). For political reasons, the Ottomans treated ownership of land and ownership of buildings upon the land very differently to the West: they were treated as quite separate legal entities in some ways, but buildings were subordinate to land ownership in other ways (think of it as land overlord and house tenant to get a better idea). Unfortunately, this has meant, today, that a developer or land owner can take out a debt on land and the bank has a primary lien on the land and then anything that is built upon it, so they keep title deeds for the land and anything subsequently built upon it as collateral. If the developer or owner never pays the debt, they never release those deeds. The upshot of this is that you can buy a property in Cyprus and if you instruct a dodgy solicitor, who neglects to tell you the land is mortgaged, they will tell you that so long as the sale of the property is registered, you *own* the property. But you don't ... because your title deeds will still be held by the bank that gave the loan for the land. Without title deeds, you simply cannot sell your property because *ahem* you have no deeds, regardless of what you may have paid. This situation can last for years. My DJ's Cypriot grandmother had to wait twenty years to get her title deeds on her flat. Some people are still waiting for deeds for homes they bought in the 70s. It is a total fiasco. Edited to add ... so the reality is that many people who got caught out by this will simply not be able to sell their homes. In fact, depending on which banks hold the land debt, some banks may not be able to even repo homes they have given mortgages upon that are now seriously underwater. In short, the rats will not be able to leave the sinking ship.
  2. I knew Cyprus joining the euro would be bad for the country, but I did not think it would come to something like this. I remember back in 2005 telling my Cypriot students that the country should not join the euro, that it would suffer the inflation Greece did. But no ... all my students parroted what their parents thought: joining the euro would make them all rich. Regardless of whether they pull the levy or not, this is going to cause carnage. It will be seen as the last straw for many decent Cypriots. They have been expected to deal with a Russian/mafia/migrant crime wave for the last eight years (featuring grenades thrown into "bars" underneath residential blocks, no less), a rocketing cost of living in the last four, an insane housing market since about 2003, a serious sex trafficking problem, deaths of locals caused by tourists playing silly beggars, and wave upon wave of EU and Russian migration, and third world and ME asylum/immigration that has seriously frayed nerves. This is all the more complicated as Cyprus has mandatory military service (so every male over 20 knows his way around an assault weapon), a significant gun culture (hunting) and still serious grievances over the invasion. Cypriot banks are dead. Simple as. Every Cypriot will pull their money out as soon as. It will either go to Arab banks, or be held in relatives' names in other parts of Europe or Britain. People forget Lebanon is only 45 mins flight away. The economy will collapse. Not only that, but personal and mortgage debts in arrears held by banks will start to be called in. This is seriously problematic as, historically, Cypriot banks have not repo'ed Cypriots' housing for political and legal reasons (I know rather a few Cypriots that have not paid their mortgages in a number of years). It is fairly common for Cypriots to have dealt with the high cost of household goods and vehicles through HP or leasing agreements they could barely afford. Once the bailiffs start coming, it's going to start getting really nasty. Add to that the complication of Ottoman-era land law and rights to deeds, and the whole thing is just a disaster -- and it will all be blamed on the Germans. The fundamental problem is that Cyprus is governed in an appalling way. It's not really their fault though. They lose their best and brightest to Europe, leaving the stock of brains for leadership and governance to the corrupt. The elders in the country are very polarised politically (my local cobblers out there has a photo of Lenin on the wall, while others are so right-wing as to be absurd). The younger people have dealt with the situation through the politics of consumerism: cue, more debt. Add to that the old guard, who remember the invasion, will not take kindly to savings being taken by "a foreign power". Then add to this, Russian, British, Turkish, Israeli and Arab interest in the equation and ... to be honest, things do not look good. I can possibly see some sort of military coup, particularly if the Army gets Russian support -- and since every Cypriot household has members that have spent time in the army, such a move may be seen as trustworthy and pro-Cypriot. Oh, what a mess.
  3. Going back to the OP vid, I seem to remember a similar argument being made about the cause of the Great Depression -- that the US economy was too heavily reliant on the consumption patterns of the very wealthy in the 20s and when they got smashed in the Wall Street Crash, the economy just vanished. The suggestion was that for a robust economy that can deflect shocks, you need significant purchasing power at every income stratum .. in the "a rich man will never need 100 washing machines, but a 100 working class households will each want one" vein. It is essentially about breadth of demand, and the dynamism of consumption. What creates more jobs? 100 packed Primarks or one empty Louis Vuitton? The problem with the "trickle-down" theory is the notion that only the very wealthy can utilise savings, capital and "great wealth" in an economically catalytic manner. In reality, anyone that is able to save, accumulate capital and achieve "great wealth" (though, to them, great wealth might mean £50K) can have a catalytic economic effect, though, obviously, far less in scale -- but if you have enough people on that stratum in that position ... Interestingly, years ago, there was a very good article published somewhere about the size of lottery wins and their economic effects. The researchers found that the most successful lottery model for the greatest economic and employment impact on a region was the Spanish lotto, which paid out smaller amounts to more people. Instead of someone winning £10 million, often you would find two or three people in a village or town that had won £50K each and they would use this money to extend their homes, take on a new employee, buy a new van for work, start a small business -- the effect of their wins rippled through their local area. What they found with big lottery wins was that the winners moved away, often abroad, and the money tended to circulate within a level of the global economy that just made the already global rich richer.
  4. I think we have to be a bit careful about this, ST. The notion that women en masse suddenly flooded the labour market in the 70s is largely a myth, created by the politically-forced withdrawal of women from the labour market postwar and the collapse of more traditional industries and services that gave pre-war women employment. We think of the 1950s as the way things always were, when, in reality, it was just a blip. If you go back to the 1930s, or even further to the mid to late 19th century, the number of women in some sort of paid work is significant. There were mills and factories in Britain in 1895 where 98 percent of the workforce were women. Example .. 1859 Mill workers at Bocking. The reality is that, rather than something "new" happening in terms of women working in the modern age, we are actually returning to an Victorian social and economic set-up in Britain. It as always thus that most women needed to work. The only difference is that now the upper and upper middle class women work, but that is not particularly a sizeable number in the grand scheme of things.
  5. Back in the early noughties, I was a governor for a primary school in Tottenham. I was asked to do it by a work colleague because they were under the legal requirement for governors and it was getting to the point where the school might be forced to close. It was an eye-opener, I can tell you. Some of the teachers had to spell things out because my brain just could not comprehend some of the things they were saying. One of them was that a significant number of parents just did not feed their children. I am not talking about not making family meals, or not making balanced meals, I am talking about not feeding them at home at all. Zero. Nada. Zip. The school lunchtime meal was the only food these children got on a weekday. At weekends, they might be given a few packets of crisps. And that was it. We started a breakfast club at the school because it came down to the point where we were seriously worried that some of the children were quite literally starving. I know from friends who work in the NHS as district nurses and midwives that there are rather a significant number of young women in Britain now that have absolutely no idea how to look after babies and children. This isn't the typical Daily Mail wail about irresponsible parenting, but that brides are coming to Britain who have no understanding of birth, breastfeeding, weaning or how to clean a home in a western environment. Some of these girls do not even know they need to wash their children. The Greek situation is a little more nuanced than appears. What a lot of the papers are reporting about "Greeks" is actually about what is happening to migrants in Greece, rather than Greeks themselves. A lot of the breadline photos actually show non-Greek foreign nationals, and the news reports interview people who are obviously migrant workers (you can tell because of their names, the fact they speak Greek very slowly, and often because, in the case of women, they are single mothers living in Greek towns and cities without any family support). Many Greeks are surviving the crisis because they have solid extended families -- people are moving back in with parents, grandparents or other relatives. It is the migrants that do not have these support networks so they are the ones in serious "leave my daughter at the church door" trouble. A similar situation would be news reports about "Brits in crisis" where the only people interviewed were Polish nationals in Peterborough.
  6. It has taken us about eight years to save for a deposit, and now we are thinking of buying, it is clear we will still need some help from parents. I am gutted about this situation, by the way, but the problem is that eight years is a long time and your needs change - though you might be a FTB, you are no longer "young". Though we could do a typical FTB property easily (say, a one bed flat or a two-up two-down), somewhere like that is now too small as we both work from home three times a week -- so we stay in our rented, larger house. Likewise, an absolute dump that needs serious renovation is in our reach, but I am pushing it in terms of my biological clock and our jobs do not allow us the time to spend hundreds of hours doing up a house. I seem to say "if I were ten years younger, I'd might have bought that house" a lot these days. This HPI of the noughties has created a real problem in that people in my cohort are either stuck in FTB type homes that are too small for their needs (these are those that are frustrated "second steppers" that cannot afford to move somewhere larger) or they missed the "first step" entirely and now need to purchase "second step" type homes. What I have noticed anecdotally when viewing homes is the number of vendors who claim chains have broken down two or three times. The whole system is just screwed.
  7. It's a huge illusion that I think is causing deep ruptures in the social fabric that aren't quite visible yet, but are definitely there. One of my oldest friends is 36 and married to a chap that earns about £80k a year. He is in the top 10 percent of earners in the country anyway, but, for our region, it's more like the top one percent. She cannot understand how on earth, considering her household financial situation, other people are able to purchase some of the fairly okay family homes in our area that are now priced at £300k+ (the really nice ones are now at £500k) -- and her husband bought his first house at a time when he could ride the HPI wave. Now, yes, they have children so that eats cash, but I know what she means. I cannot see how people have done it. We know one case where it is an IO self-cert deal, but surely that can't be the reason for all this ability to fund the cost of houses at over quarter of a million quid. The average salary in our area is about £20K a year Another old friend of Mr DJ bought a bit of a dive for £180k three years ago and spent 20k doing it up. The chap is forking out £1000 a month on a mortgage and him and his wife are really struggling, even though he works full time and she has gone back to work part time now their child is 2. They are on about £30K gross household income; the mortgage eats almost all his salary, and childcare eats a lot of hers. What I have noticed in the last two months is the growing level of bitterness from these people towards their parents, their parents' wealth and the fact that it is now apparent that their parents' standard of living was far far higher than theirs, despite the fact these younger couples are more qualified, work longer hours, and in terms of national income stats, actually earn far more than their parents ever did, and women no longer take five years off when they have a child. Coupled with this seems to be a trend where young couples have less supplementary support from parents than their parents generations did with their parents. It is becoming common for my friends to mention that their parents refuse to babysit for one night a month, when their grandparents would come over three times a week to mind them when their mother was at work. All in all, I can see signs that the situation with the cost of living and the repercussions of it all are pulling marriages and families apart. I have a friend who basically had an enormous breakdown last year because she simply could not manage daily life where she worked part-time in one town and took her two kids to school in another, with a husband who left the house at 6am and didn't get back until about 9pm. She just fell to bits with exhaustion and is now talking about divorce.
  8. I second this. £1000 a month is a lot for a graduate couple where I live. Even for someone on £30K a year, it is two thirds of take home pay. Then council tax and basic utilities (gas, electric, water) eat another £300. A chap full time on gross £30K would be left with £200-ish and he hasn't even bought any food or paid for transport yet. So that's where the other half comes in. But here you strike a problem. Not only are transport costs increased if the OH works, but you introduce a child into the equation and woah ... you end up with the part-time work/childcare juggle, or the full-time work/childcare wipe out. Among the women I know, the best are lucky to bring in an extra £800 to the household pot a month, and that is with grand-parental childcare arrangements where the woman works part time for a pro-rata decent salary. I don't have any children yet, but I would balk at £750 repayment a month (and there isn't much you can get for £170K in my area), especially in a climate where house prices were decreasing. It is just that little bit too tight.
  9. I remember back in the noughties, Madonna said something similar about being shocked at London house prices. But Robbie says the key word: "Oligarch". Add to that "global-super rich" and you have the cause of the problem. Hate to say it, but I think the development of the noughties and the super-rich have killed London. The place has no soul anymore. Everyone with a bit of something about them under 35 is priced out or struggling to service ludicrously high rents or mortgages in tiny homes. A lot of the 35 to 50 something quirky folks have jumped ship to other regions where they can afford a larger home. Last time I went down, I was astonished how quiet everywhere was at night -- even in places like Soho.
  10. Marriage has always been a transaction for financial purposes. It is just in the western world, Christianity fused with old classical notions of "the whole pulled asunder", and developed this whole "divine union in the eyes of God" concept, which, when them radical preacher folk started drumming it in during the 19th century on accounts of the desire for "spirituality" in Ye Olde Industrial Englande, complicated everything.
  11. If you are in a long term relationship, particularly if you have children, you need to do your research before you decide not to marry. Marriage or civil partnership is NOT just a piece of paper -- this is the biggest fiction ever foisted onto people (possibly by people who have a vested interest). It is a legal agreement that gives you rights as a spouse. I wasn't a marriage person, but when I started looking into it, and asking people about it, I realised that not being married can really screw you if your partner dies and visa versa. Even if you have a will, it can get very difficult. Some pension companies will not recognise you as a partner if you are not married or have a CP. You might not even know that your partner has a spousal payout clause in their private/work pension provision in case of death during service until it is too late and you cannot claim it. Again, your partner's assets can get frozen in the event of a death. Being married gives you certain rights to access bank accounts etc, which might be vital to your household if something terrible happened. You need to look at how you run your finances as a couple and figure out how not being married could affect either of you in the event of a death (and I am not even getting into inheritance tax here). Without a will? Jeez, I would not risk it. Parents can get very strange in such situations. I know of one chap whose partner died in a crash and, obviously, had no rights to any of the money he had put in a savings account under her name. It all went to her parents, and it was half their deposit money for a house (most of which he had earned). Again, I also know about another case where a grief stricken mother demanded all her son's belongings back immediately after the funeral, including everything he had bought for their house. That one got very nasty indeed. When it comes to housing, you need to figure out what would happen in the event of a death for your rental or ownership position if you are not married. For ownership, you want to consider tenant designations very carefully. I know people who have been caught out either way with this: a death meaning half the house goes to the inheritors named either in a will or because someone died intestate (live-in partner told she has to hop it), or a death meaning the children of the deceased don't inherit what the deceased thinks they will (it all goes to the other tenant, who then promptly changes her will so only her children inherit). This shit can get very awkward, very nasty, and very upsetting. We have had some of this in my own family because a family member didn't marry but thought he had sorted it all out in his will. Don't risk it. Please. Do your research before your make a decision to marry or not. You really do not want a rather disliked sibling of your partner demanding to come to your house and rifle through your late partner's things, then taking away watches and wallets and all sorts down to the local pawn shop.
  12. To add to this ... if you control a sizeable area, have enough control over resources (imperial or otherwise) and have enough population, you can essentially operate an entirely internal economy, isolated from everything "outside". The Ottomans did this up until the 19th century. They had no foreign debt before this era because they simply didn't export or import outside their imperial zone. The interesting thing here is that it was industrial and technological advances in the West that started to weaken the Ottoman economic set-up. So if China wishes to become the globally ruling empire overlords, nicking Western technology and teaching before cutting us off entirely is rather a clever way to go about it.
  13. Taxes have a lot to answer for. My OH came back from a poker night and told me a chap he knows there has said he will have to wind down his business (self-employed). Reason: it's now costing him £400 a week in diesel. He is working purely to pay for the cost of his fuel. I have noticed this year that retailers and businesses are discounting constantly. Every day, I get another offer in my inbox. In fact, there are so many continual sales that I am not buying what I actually need (new skirts for work, as we had a mishap with some bleach ) because I've seen continual discounts on new season stock as soon as it hits the shops, and I ain't paying a ticket price only to discover a reduction of 50 percent before I have even worn the damn thing. So look like I truly may be turning into a Japanese housewife. It did cross my mind that this discounting could be essentially wiping out the impact of the VAT rise on government coffers. 17.5 percent on 100 percent ticket price will bring in more than 20 percent on 50 percent ticket price.
  14. It will cover rent, if you ask me. The idea is to stop the state paying housing costs for someone over the entire course of their adult life. This is moving towards the "safety net" notion of the welfare system, rather than the redistribution notion. It also looks like the spaced childbirth approach to secure consistent levels of benefits will no longer work either. Some people are going to get an enormous shock. They will have to find work ... and it will put an enormous downwards pressure on wages as the supply of labour expands dramatically. I can't see the NMW being increased in these circumstances at all.
  15. I reckon their problem is their grocery bill. And I reckon I might know why. It is very easy to spend enormous amounts of money on groceries if you have a family with two or more children if you don't run a tight ship: stock-taking regularly, planning meals, cooking single or split meals instead of stews and casseroles made from scratch for the entire family, replacing fat content with sugar and grains in an attempt to be "healthy" etc. What I notice in a lot of my generation are couples with children that do not operate their households in a family way. They run their lives as though they are couples with children, sometimes even two house-sharers with children that *somehow* live there, rather than a family unit. Children eat entirely different meals to the parents, for example, which necessitates someone making two separate dinners; instead of meals just coming out of the same pot at different times. There are also a lot more single unit items consumed: pots of yoghurt, cans of soda, packets of crisps, that sort of thing ... and this is expensive. I have a friend with three kids who says as soon as she gets home from shopping, all the yoghurts and crisps will have gone within an hour. Well, this is like -- what? -- three quids worth of food? And they still want dinner? You have three kids and your family can consume an entire loaf of bread in a day just on breakfast and lunch. Still, their grocery bills are still very high.
  16. I lived in London for 13 years, and we moved back to my hometown in the North because we realised we would never be able to afford housing down there. I mention this because many of the friends I have who are still down there are in their late 30s (37/38/39) and they are still living in one-bed flats with their partners and husbands. It is becoming obvious that the choice to start a family is being made for them, purely because they can't afford anything bigger than a one-bed flat, and they don't have the household income to cover the cost of a child -- and these are people on decent salaries. Even people in their early forties who bought a London place prior to the boom have moved up to where I live because they have had a child and cannot afford an extra bedroom in the London region. In a sense, this is a kinda good thing for the North because we have a reverse brain drain thing going on. But it goes to show how the house price boom and cheap credit have seriously impacted on a generation - one chap I know moved his entire family 250 miles just so his two kids could have bedrooms of their own, as soon as he found a job in the nearest city to us. The flipside of this, however, is that money from boom-time London housing sales has entered our local housing market, and pushed up prices. We now have the bizarre situation where some of our family homes are being valued at similar levels to a four-bed semi in a nice area, 30 mins from the City of London. While they aren't always selling for so much, these "anchor" price points changed vendor and EA mentality to the point that, up until recently, they would tell vendors to price at a level in case "someone from London wants to buy" -- the idea being that Londoners could be seriously ripped off because they were so used to silly London values.
  17. I am not sure it is quite so simple. I think many people innovate for far more complex and deeper personal reasons that just the desire for wealth; I believe humans have an innate desire to create, produce and influence their environments, to have something to point to and say "I did that", or "I made that." Often, great innovations can be more fueled out of an obsession about something rather than a desire for money. Indeed, research suggests that it is very difficult to achieve a goal if your primary reason for doing so is just money or fame. You need something a lot deeper: that doing something gives you a sense of autonomy, competency and relatedness. I think the tax aspect is interesting because I ain't so sure it is about tax per se, but rather about the necessity for human actions to have consequences in order for humans to feel they are having some impact on their life or surroundings. Tax increases remove an aspect of this. You work and work, but your salary starts to decline in terms of purchasing power, for example. If you don't replace this slide in some other way, I think the human mind can get very disheartened and kinda negate itself. I read a very interesting thing about North Korea, about some event that occurred in the noughties where the peasants lost all of their savings, money they had saved bit by bit for years. I can't remember what caused it, but I do remember that there were reports of significant numbers of suicides in the aftermath. People have to feel that their work means something, changes something, alters something. For those peasants, it was the fact of their savings. And when they were wiped out, there was no strength there to carry on.
  18. People misunderstand Rand. I also think very few people have actually read Atlas Shrugged. When I have tried to discuss it with people, it becomes clear they only have third hand knowledge of its contents, which are usually wrong. What becomes clear in Atlas Shrugged is that Rand loathes corporatism, not community. In fact, it was Rand that really helped me to understand the processes of state capture and how corporatism can destroy an economy and a country, and how easy it is for collectivist modes of thought to allow this to happen. Rand guns for the parasitical elite: those that inherit wealth without earning it through their own labour or skills, or use political power to boost their own failing businesses or sponsor their pet projects to the detriment of those that create the wealth through their labour. I dread to think what Rand would say about today's financiers and Wall Street. No doubt she would point to the Solyndra fiasco and say "I told you." Rand's heroes and heroines are those tycoons who actually spend time chipping metals out of rock down a mine, casting steel on the furnace floor, or operating a signal box on a railway line -- half of them are from working class origins. Indeed, her heroes are those engaged in industries that create and spread wealth; it is not accidental that a large part of AS is about the efforts to build a railway bridge to open out parts of America to trade and commerce and create the ability for factories to operate in other regions, all juxtaposed against the blighted areas where factories have died and people are starving because of the idiotic ideas of owners that use the value of the labour of their workers to fund personal and unsuccessful social hobby horses. Indeed, the motivation for Rand's heroes in AS is altruistic, but it's big picture, long term altruism -- the altruism that understands building an aqueduct to bring water to a village square is better than someone fetching a pail of water from the hillside for the old lady next door. Again, her heroes in AS do not do what they do for avaricious reasons. In fact, neither Dagny Taggart nor Hank Reardon seem to give much of a shit about money apart from its ability to help create, build and employ. In fact, they seem to actively loathe luxury. Rand's parasites are the figures she calls "looters" -- from the tycoon who does political deals to steal successful well-run lines through government legislation to boost their own personal profit right down to the lazy, greedy wife of a tycoon who loathes her husband because his business is "dirty" and he is from a working class family, but constantly demands he pays for new jewels and "artistic" parties for her. The interesting thing about Rand is how "Soviet" her mentality actually is. She lauds the worker and despises the bourgeois and aristocratic. She is, in some ways, a fascinating example of a strand of Marxist-inspired Russian revolutionary thinking that did not go down the totalitarian pseudo-collectivist path where the Tsar is simply replaced by a Comrade Number One.
  19. You sound in a very similar position to me, except with twice as much money and a fair bit younger. First up, I know what it is like living with the pause button -- the garden thing, the furniture thing. One thing I would say, from my own experience, is not to let the pause button stay depressed for too long. I've done seven years of it now, it just sped by in a flash while we were saving and waiting for prices to become more sensible, and all of a sudden I realised I've lost half of my 30s in a haze of work, and am now heading towards 40 -- and I still do not have a wardrobe for my clothes I literally cannot remember much of the last seven years at all. I've hardly been anywhere or done anything except work and save. Please do not let yourself do something similar. I also understand your thoughts about IRs and early capital repayments. This has been my thinking too, though we have a shorter time frame for overpayments because I am seriously pushing my biological clock now. Our problem is that house prices in our area are still being overvalued beyond what we can actually viably afford, and few vendors have got the message, despite their homes being on the market for three or four years (I do not joke). The scenario I worry about is stretching that little bit further to get something viable, lumping in early repayments for three to five years, only to find that IRs suddenly shoot up around 2017 and we haven't got enough repayment ballast in the hold to stop us capsizing. To be honest, if something like that happened, and we ended up getting repo'ed after all this, I don't know if I could actually cope with it. But then, you sorta say, well, there's no guarantee that rents wouldn't rise astronomically at the same time as well. There is one slightly more personal thing I will say that is worth bearing in mind. "Housing stasis" can start to feel like "life stasis", as you yourself mention, and the feeling of "life stasis" over a significant period of time can affect a marriage in very negative ways. As you get older, you can start to want to feel, acutely, a sense that you have moved forward, that your actions in life and your work have had tangible positive consequences in your life, that you have "affected change" and moved forward. I have never found that figures increasing in a spreadsheet give you that feeling of "consequences" or that your actions impact on the world around you. I am quite a way down this road, and I do have to say that living in a situation for so long where the work you do just results in higher numbers on a screen and nothing else (ie. saving endlessly) , you can start to feel like you do not really exist. I think humans define and understands the fact of their existence through the visibility of their impact on external surroundings, so if you never perceive any tangible impact or change, because all you do is save and work, you can start to negate yourself -- and that is not a good space to be in, and can affect a relationship. Now this may very well not apply to you, I don't know, but it is worth being aware this can happen. The other thing I will suggest is to examine postcode boundaries between SE London and Kent, and then go for a drive around. There are a few quirky little spots where you can buy a sizeable family home in a lovely area that is just over the line from an elite area, but as the postcode is the "wrong prefix", the house is markedly cheaper, but because the area is less developed in that spot, the majority of the "bad postcode" is quite a way away.
  20. I too have had enough. It is not an angry "had enough", I've gone beyond that now. Instead, it is a kind of sad resignation that nothing I do makes any difference. We have lived like misers for six years. We have saved everything we could. My OH has done hundreds of hours of overtime. I have taken every freelance work I could on top of my own job. All in all, I have mostly sat in front of a damn monitor 12 hours plus a day for seven days a week, only taking time off when I felt my head might explode. I am now in my late 30s, I want to have a child, but the house we rent is not safe nor appropriate for a baby. Then, two weeks ago, a three-bed terrace back-to-back near us on a main road with no garden, garage or drive went on the market for £290k. I saw that ad and something inside me just broke. The house in question is a horrid place; no one in their right mind would pay over £160K for it. But the fact the EA had even thought it viable to stick it up that that price just made me realise how insane EAs and vendors have become --- and I realised that it is just not going to end, not unless something enormous happens, which would no doubt take us down with it. We make reasonable offers but vendors are so deluded, they think their two-bed semis with no kitchen and no electrics, sitting by a main road, are somehow worth £220K plus. People say "live your life" but it isn't that easy. At some point, we will have to move and the awareness of that makes us anxious about spending money that could be put into the deposit pot -- so life is on hold, and has been for six years. I'd love to go, but we would still need to earn a living, and my parents are getting on now. We've just found ourselves in a kind of hell. I go to work and it just seems to be getting worse and worse out there. No one smiles anymore. My mum took me to a play a few months ago, and I couldn't believe our local town centre at night. It's like a drunken kindergarten with street angel "nannies" stopping the infants from collapsing and braining themselves on the concrete. When I go away, I find it so bizarre how there is a "proper society" with old people and families and children out at night, no matter their creed, even in places where there has been a civil war in the last thirty years.
  21. Hummm ... I am not entirely sure Britain has the social capital to allow women to stay home full time anymore. Part of me thinks when they broke the system, they broke the system. Back in the day, 50s and 60s, we had community set-ups that supported women at home: neighbours, meat vans, the ability to walk to a local high street to buy groceries, coffee mornings ... things that stopped women becoming isolated in their homes day after day with young children. Your street would be open, friendly, you would interact with other women by just stepping outside your door. Most of that is now gone across a lot of the country, and it is very bad for mums to get isolated in their homes. Very bad indeed. One of my colleagues is going on maternity leave and says she will return to work. 1) They need the money to pay the mortgage (surprise!) but 2) she is terrified of turning into her sister-in-law who stayed home and has basically turned into a zombie (mother's little helper style). And it is not the first time I have heard such anecdotes about mums that have stayed at home in modern circumstances. In our modern society, staying at home with a baby or a young child can make you very strange indeed because we have chucked out any surrogate "long house" scenarios that once existed. People live away from parents and family. Neighbours most probably work if they don't have children. Everything requires getting into a car outside the major urban centres. We have made our society mother-and-child unfriendly.
  22. You know, Winkie, I am really surprised today's young men haven't exploded. Well, actually, maybe they did in last summer's riots. But generally, overall, I am surprised they haven't started getting that "hard eye" about their circumstances. They are -- lets be honest -- totally screwed. I live very near an area with a lot of NEETS. There seem to be two kinds of lads now: obese and pale, and scrawny and desperate. It's almost like a scene from the 19th century sometimes. And I tell you, it wasn't like that in the 70s or 80s. I remember those times. What we really need is for government to declare tax-free zones in certain areas, so long as businesses etc employ and train a percentage of local residents. I have heard a lot of complaints from small outfits (two-man-band joining or plastering firms etc) about the expense of taking on an apprentice and paying NMW for someone who cannot actually produce value for a good year or so. A tax-break for these kinds of SMEs might go some way to mitigate the problem.
  23. I am not blaming boomers for anything really. I think a lot of the benefits boomers had was down to the time of their birth -- for a start, there was significantly less economic and cultural competition from those born just before and of the previous generation, and of the generation before that, because of the world wars. My dad (typical baby boomer) was born into an environment where there was literally no-one one to five years older than him in his local area, and the numbers of males in his parents' generation and grandparents' generation had been reduced by war deaths, and by the *missing* children that were then never born because husbands, fiances, boyfriends etc had been killed in action. So, of course, there was social mobility. Of course, a working class lad born at this time could go to the local school and do well -- class numbers were signficantly less than they had been in 1938. The competition that would have been there without the wars had "disappeared." The thing is, these days, it is very hard not to play by their rules. I have noticed an astonishing difference between today and even fifteen years ago. Everything that belonged to "youth" has been commoditised and rendered plastic by multinationals. Nothing belongs to young people any more. I see this across the generations in my family. My mum spent her teens at the Twisted Wheel, bopping to Northern Soul; I spent my teens at underground clubs and raves; my cousin at twenty years old? There is nowhere for him to go apart from Revolution and Walkabout and shite clubs that play Beyonce all night.
  24. I can understand why they are doing this, but the potential consequences are interesting. I reckon this will affect university towns and cities for a start. Someone graduates, gets a job, it disappears after a few years ... they are 23 and cannot claim HB? You could see a reversal of the brain drain to the SE, which might actually be a good thing. IME, it will also affect a lot of "young nomads" as well. In early nougthties, I knew a lot of people in their early 20s that lived through a mix of JSA/HB and temp work (work for six months, draw dole/claim HB for six months) in order to live in London or Manchester and pursue "creative" goals. And to be honest, something that alters the subsidised playing field for very young mothers with no household income might be a good idea as well. It was always pretty galling for me when one of my oldest mates, who got pregnant accidentally at 15, got HB to pay for a lovely two-bed, brand-new semi when she was 19, even thought her parents rattled around a six-bedroom mansion in grounds, and I couldn't even afford anything bigger than a box room in a shared house and couldn't actually afford to rent a house (rather than a flat or room) until I was about 33.
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