Belfast Telegraph

I may be deep in debt but will be a man about it

By Robert McNeil

I have considered the matter carefully, and regret to say that I will not be having a sex change. I say “carefully”, but my actual thoughts as recorded on CCTV were: “Well, that would be one way to deal with my debts. Let's think about it very seriously. No.”

The idea came from the revelation that a man in the West Midlands, Englandshire, had undergone the chop, and some other delicate treatments, in order to change his identity and hide from debt collectors. His anonymous case was highlighted by the actress Sarah Thom, who heard about it from Wolverhampton Credit Union while researching a part.

The citizen had run up £50,000 of debts, presumably not including his mortgage, and couldn't see any way out. I was going to say I feel for him, but would like to withdraw that statement immediately.

What a state to get in, though. Most of us are in debt, and manage to cope with the problem by whistling very loudly and sticking our hands over our ears, while intoning the words: “La-la-la, not listening.”

I do know people who have no debt, and simultaneously I admire and hate them. Several friends have told me they've even paid off their mortgages. Surely even Heaven, with its cheap flights and ambrosia on tap, cannot compare with such a dream. Such folk seem surprised that, on hearing the news, I turn my back on them and start weeping. My own mortgage isn't due to be paid off until I'm 72. I'll probably live till I'm 71 years, 11 months and 30 days old. Oh, to have but one day unshackled from this burdensome boulder.

I phoned my bank recently to ask why, despite paying in dosh every month, my outstanding mortgage never seemed to come down much. A woman with a bad cough told me she had the same problem, adding: “Isn't it awful?” Well, yes it is. But how did she explain it? It was because a great whack of my payment consisted of interest. Even though the interest rates are technically low, they're still creaming hundreds off us every month because they have their own special rates which, in a surprise development, are always higher than the rate set by the Bank of Englandshire. What's the point of the BoE setting a rate, if they all just ignore it?

Anyway, don't get me started. As I say, this poor chap-lass in Wolverhampton was just dealing with normal debt, as it were, not including any loony mortgage he might have had. Fifty grand is quite a bit. I owe several grand and, like most people, keep shuffling it about from one low interest rate offer to another every six months or so. I haven't used any of my credit cards for ages and, still, that debt never seems to come down.

I'd be lying happily in my coffin, thinking “Thank God that's over”, when a knock comes on the lid and a voice says: “Hoy! You still owe us several thousand squids. Plus interest.” I'd probably get to Heaven (work with me on this) and find a letter waiting for me threatening legal action and a black mark on my credit rating. Then someone would tell me I could buy my harp on credit, while the bank gets in touch to offer a “low interest” mortgage on my cloud.

Funnily enough, the poor bloke in Wolverhampton still never got away with it, despite the drastic ditching of his reproductive accoutrements. His creditors still tracked him down, possibly from the “Wolverhampton Wanderers” tattoo on his forehead.

The rest of us, meanwhile, should probably just stick to the genders we were assigned. As for the debts, all together now, hands over ears: “La-la-la, not listening.”

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