Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: A mortgage is for life, not just for Christmas

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

There are many things I'd banish from my life: my nose, my knees, my vast collection of books about decluttering. However, more than all of these, I long to banish my mortgage. As with most folk, it's my biggest monthly expense.

But, worse than that, it goes on forever. It's a curse, a chain, a chronic illness.

Now we read that folk are so desperate to get on the property ladder they're taking out 40-year mortgages.

It's arguably a sensible move, since the chances of them living in the same house 40 years hence are pretty slim and, over time, they might make funny money on the investment.

Speaking of which, comedian Patrick Kielty has put his and wife Cat Deeley's retro-maison on the market for £400,000.

Alas, the plush property in Dundrum, Co Down, features a home gym, and I couldn't live with that kind of guilt.

And I'd need more than 40 years to pay off the mortgage. Forty years: such a commitment. But, even for a commitment-phobe like your columnist, there's a sense in which it doesn't matter. It's only money.

But, as time drags on, a big debt like that just gets heavier, like a marble on a chain that slowly becomes a bowling ball.

I've been in my current demesne six years, far longer than I've stayed anywhere, and feel a need to move, to sell, to shake things up a little, cock a snook at the bank, blow everything on cruises and organic fruit before settling down as a homeless waif for the last 60 or 70 years of my life.

Of course, I could rent the place out. I see a joint in Belfast is set to rake in £2,250 a month. It has marble flooring, underfloor heating and an internal sauna.

I've just searched my house and don't seem to have any of these.

Must have been ripped off when I bought it.

Apparently, the last tenant of that Belfast flat, in Millennium Court at Downshire Place, was a rocket scientist. But rocket science isn't journalism, you know.

The filming of TV series Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland is also boosting rentals for fancy flats, since stars and crew need somewhere to stay.

But we can't all play Game of Homes. Besides, you'd only have to find somewhere else to rent yourself.

So it's on with the mortgage.

Still, nothing lasts for ever. Just feels like it.

Saturday: Why cheap comes at a price

Great to see the capitalists complaining about competition. Aldi and Lidl are eating into Tesco's profits. And it just isn't fair.

Mind you, supermarket pricing is mind-boggling at the moment. My supermarket "price matches" other supermarkets. They might as well all just merge. The only difference is the muzak. But I suppose Aldi and Lidl are forcing the other ones to cut prices. So ... yay for capitalism.

Mind you, while I like the idea of Aldi and Lidl, the actuality is a bit too eastern European circa 1982. Just because they sell cheap doesn't mean they have to look cheap.

Sunday: Hungry for equality...

Poverty has brought a return of rickets to Britainshire, and there's been a substantial increase in the number of people taken to hospital for malnutrition.

Meanwhile, big bonuses abound, and big cars float serenely through a sea of want and illness. Not so much two different countries as two different worlds.

Monday: Witty Moore has me in oh oh heaven!

Former Bond and The Saint star Roger Moore still retains a twinkly, self-effacing sense of humour at the age of 86. By that age, many elderly people have faces locked in permanently sour grimaces. Happened to me at 46.

I trust Sir Roger laughed at the online news report that quoted him saying: "Thankfully I never had to squeeze into the drunks that Daniel Craig wore." Tricky business squeezing into a drunk. Even Q couldn't come up with a gadget for that. Wish he could have come up with a gizmo for diabetes, though.

The illness has forced Sir Roger to give up Martinis, prompting the following confession: "Diet Coke is now my vice."

Shaken or stirred? Just pour it away, mate. Moore's new book is called Last Man Standing, a reference to his longevity. Man's an immortal, even if he is a self-confessed martyr to hypochondria.

Tuesday: One is discombobulated by these selfies

Her Majesty, a queen, is becoming increasingly discombobulated at the lieges taking "selfies" with her magnificence unwittingly captured in the background.

The Queen, indeed, has much in common with Kate Bush, who recently asked fans not to take pictures or movies with their portable telephones.

According to the US ambassador to England, the Queen was essentially saying: "I miss eye contact."

Prince Harry, meanwhile, also said the first intelligent thing of his life when he ululated: "I really quite hate Twitter."

Many people criticise the Royal family for being reactionary and stuck in the past. Correct. Doesn't mean they're wrong, though.

Wednesday: Or should that read web-nesday?

This morning, I walked into a spider's web, and something scuttled down my arm. Happens nearly every morning, when I blunder sleepily into the back garden to perform my morning aerobic (I feel more than one is excessive).

The spiders never learn. And neither do I. Do they freak me out? The little ones don't. The big ones? Once, many years ago, I put my face into a web containing a huge spider. I still have nightmares about it, waking up with sweat running down my face and my wee legs going like the clappers. As spiders prepare for their autumnal invasion of human homes, the lieges of Northern Ireland are similarly running about in a panic. However, top expert Paul Hetherington told the Bel Tel we'd nothing to fear. He was backed by a leading spider which said: "We aim to remove people from their homes humanely."

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