5 May


Times are hard, moneys tight, and like the rest of America I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth. The bank accounts once filled with money now red line their disdain with gaping cavernous mouths; the familial belt holding up my financial embarrassment, drawn and notched for the last time. It isn’t for want of work, as although my material wealth has decreased my work load has not. Still fulfilling my obligatory forty hours of indentured servitude whilst running the window cleaning business on my days off, I support a household, a couple of kids and a full time spousal student. Only the rewards have changed.

Financially we’ve never had it quite this bad and jobs and D.I.Y projects which should be getting done around the house are falling by the wayside as limited funds go to purchase that which is really necessary and not that which would be a delight. A tin of paint perhaps or an unnecessary household accessory to brighten and furnish a house in need of a little attention. A new set of clothes to banish the long acquaintance of dreary rags once deemed couture, now reclassified as impossible purchases.

 Austerity thankfully, at least for the James family, isn’t a permanent state of being. Graduation is keenly awaited and once the wife rejoins the workforce things should go back to normal. Flush with cash we’ll pay off the credit cards, dump the debt and put our new found wealth to good use.

Back in the good old, bad old days when cash was lush and plucked like low hanging fruit. we traveled and dined, enjoying our largesse on foreign shores and snow bound slopes. Breathing in the rarified air of the eternal tourist, sampling local delicacies and enjoying the miscomprehension of native tongues. Vacation correspondence carried out with the flick of a pen and the lick of a stamp – picture postcard remembrances sent to all and sundry. Proud boasts of look where we are, at what we’re doing; weather is here, wish you were beautiful!

Days seemed longer, the taste of food more exotic, the shouldered burden not as oppressive as it weighs today. The only encumbrance an overstuffed suitcase and a bag full of souvenirs rather than the crushing wait of negative equity and final demands.

But those days are scheduled to return; already the little I am able to put aside is slowly building, the cents cosseting the dollars. I am determined to go away this summer with the wife even if it is a domestic jaunt, but then only for a couple of days.

Maybe New York or Washington – perhaps Chicago or Portland?

Somewhere my dollars will translate into good times, happy smiles and satisfied stomachs. A classic case of counting ones blessings; forced remembrance that we’ve never had it so good whilst trying hard to imagine the plight of others. There are undoubtedly families that have to endure far worse than us and yet I don’t see their blog posts decrying their situation and broadcasting to the world the fate of their leisure time. Luckily I can put into words that which they can only mumble into half-filled glasses of overpriced spilt milk.

The one good thing that has come out of austerity is the return to familial 1960’s values – home cooking with evenings spent around the dinner table; a bottle of wine, a piece of cheese and the forgotten art of good conversation. Happy smiles induced by the smallest luxury rather than the digitally enhanced largesse of television. Cherished moments where we truly open ourselves up to each other and discover through social intercourse the child ensconced behind cartoon time broadcasts and god awful talentless talent shows. Cooking has once again become fine dining and the meals served up in our own kitchen far exceed the quality expected in designer restaurants and gauche wine bars. No longer the tapas and micro-bites of designer jean possibility but instead the wholesome southern style of my wife’s heritage that graces our plates and tingles our tongues. Now instead of tuning into the latest episode of corporate served crap we open the games cupboard and select the evening’s entertainment. Whether it’s world domination via the RISK board and the advance of the yellow army at the expense of everybody I hold dear or the monopolizing grip of faux dollars as we pass GO, there’s always something to amuse. We beat our community chests in unison as we celebrate that which has become more important than anything else; time spent together as a family.

We’ve been told time and again that money is the root of all evil, that it doesn’t buy happiness – a truism that in the past was generally uttered between courses in some big fancy restaurant or whilst lounging in a deck chair on some foreign shore; loose meaningless words slipping out between Chardonnay or perhaps yet another tongue-charmed delicacy. When you’ve reached the point of here-and-no-further, entrenched and bolstered one’s line in the sand and when there’s no more to be had from empty savings accounts and plastic backed excess, there’s only one place to go. With our backs to the Wallstreet and financial attribution at its lowest in a generation, it’s time to move forward.

Like a cracked toppling colossus standing in the tunnel I have dug for myself, with my feet astride the rails of the gravy train, I look towards the light and hope upon hope that it isn’t a steam engine!  It was free fall on the way down, however it’s going to be a mad scramble to reach the top. Once the summit has been reached and I firmly re-stake my claim on commercialism I tell myself I have to remember what it was we endured and remember the lessons learned. The simple joys of a TV-less  world, the hours sat chatting around the dinner table, the luxury of having a roof above our heads, even if it is unpainted and D.I.Y. neglected.

Our blessings are manifold and until one achieves the nirvana of realization that there’s more to life than a bulging wallet and the very latest in designer footwear, then one has not enjoyed the dubious pleasure of walking a mile in leather patched shoes. The intention is not to forget how it was, nor to splurge now that plenty is returning, but to maintain current budgetary practices and preserve the feeling of unity that impecuniousity bought in its wake. We’ve weathered the hard times, and although not always easy, have come through stronger on the other side. Just a couple more months and the light which is now just a pin prick to my mind’s eye will be a glare worthy of sun-glassed attention. Not necessarily designer sunglasses but something appropriate with a sensible supermarket price!



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