Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Homes and Gardens

 




Knowing “a house is made of walls and beams” while “a home is made with love and dreams”, I guarantee our sixteenth century grade two listed barn most definitely fell into the latter.  From the moment we saw its derelict shell towering over unobstructed views of the countryside towards the river Severn, we knew it would make the perfect family home.

Over a ten year period we were diligent in our search for reclaimed materials to maintain its character and used locally grown green oak to restore its magnificent vaulted ceiling complete with mistral’s gallery.  With an enormous log burner at its heart to ensure our family was always warm, this lovingly crafted restoration project was my husband’s pride and joy and regularly left visitors gasping at both its beauty and location.
As my children grew old enough to enjoy their surroundings, they discovered our home made a wonderful back drop to the freedom that two acres of land and an abundance of local friends afforded them.  I, in turn, was delighted to finally have a home from which we could put down roots which also allowed us to bring up and school our children in a village community.  Being a developer’s wife had meant numerous house moves throughout the years as a means of growing my husband’s business so I happily embraced a more settled outlook and threw myself wholeheartedly into country life. Quickly making many friends led to our home becoming the venue for many wonderful gatherings and  it was often filled with the camaraderie and laughter of our guests.  

In October 2008 my perspective completely changed.

Discovering we were to be faced with repossession, I soon realised everything I had once considered my own fell into two categories neither of which had anything to do with whether one's property is merely a house or a wonderful family home. A threat of this nature instantly dictates that everything must be viewed either as items against which a mortgage is secured or items against which a mortgage is not. 

As the forced sale of our home gathered momentum, repossession became HBOS’s “hangman’s noose” in the eevnt we be tempted not to co-operate.  During this period I watched my husband carefully strip each and every mortgage free fixture from our home in the hope the harvested items could be sold or reused for our families benefit.  When it came to dismantling our children's enormous wooden climbing frame (which he had designed and built in our field) he endured the sub zero temperatures of one of the coldest Januarys on record. In spite of the adverse weather conditions he carefully removed each and every part of this structure and, piece by piece, transported it to our newly rented home. 


For nearly three years the pile of wooden planks representing all that remained of our beautiful sixteenth century masterpiece was left discarded and ignored. Grass and weeds grew up amongst what appeared to be nothing of value and our children all but forgot about their much loved climbing frame's very existence. Believing its presence was only an unpleasant reminder of “old oak beams and thwarted dreams” I accepted it was unlikely ever to be resurrected again.  


However this week, to the astonishment and delight of everyone, my husband announced his intention was to build a tree house. With a spring in his step and  a renewed vigour I have not witnessed in some time; he resurrected and transformed the remnants of our old climbing frame. Three full days and nearly four hundred screws later it has become a formidable play structure in the enormous sycamore tree at the bottom of our garden and all three of our children have been in excited attendance for every step of its construction. Having now completed this project I believe my husband has not only created another masterpiece but has also laid one last ghost to rest. 

I am told there is no ghost so difficult to lay as the ghost of an injury and the forced sale of our home along with the simultaneous demise of our business, our livelihood and our financial future is most definitely an injury from which recovery has proved extremely difficult. Nevertheless, a tree house rising from the ashes of our lost life has been a very therapeutic start on the road to recovery for us all.
 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Lucky Devils

While sat at my computer in our rented home enjoying the comfort of our Aga heated kitchen I was asked by my twelve year daughter if our family is lucky. It would have been wholly inaccurate to reply with anything but,“Yes”. However, I am in no doubt that when it comes to home repossession and our subsequent persecution at the hands of the too big to fail banking giant Lloyds/HBOS, there are a substantial number of individuals whose luck amounts to far in excess of mine.

For example;
· Sir Tom Hunter, the Ayrshire entrepreneur, appears to have had millions written off by HBOS throughout 2008/9 at precisely the same time as I was being told letting my home to a tenant was no solution to an arrears problem of (eight months) amounting to £27,000.

· Sir David Murray is said to have lost only 78% of his 720 million when in 2009 the recession hit his business Murray Holdings but HBOS saw fit to forgive 759 million of his company’s unrecoverable debt. As luck would have it he was still worth an estimated 144 million because of this write off whereas I was forced to our assets at a vastly reduced price and have been left with a bill of £217,000.

·Remo Dipre had his share holding completely wiped out when the housing market took a nosedive in 2008/9 and left his company Gladedale with 78 million in losses.  Lucky Dipre benefited from a Lloyds write off 533 million pounds at the time and, unlike me,  there is no sign of him being hounded for the shortfall.

·David Sutherland, also in the housing development market, was another beneficiary of HBOS debt forgiveness in 2009. While was being taken to court to force me to sell because the housing crash had and wiped out my husbands livelihood, his Scottish based company, Tulloch homes, got out of trouble by way of HBOs granting a debt reduction of 68 million pounds.


During these early days of the banking crisis, HBOS’s Chief Executive Peter Cummings was said to have been writing off debt to the tune of 37 million pounds just days before Lloyd's TSB was persuaded to take the HBOS helm. However, this convert policy for debt forgiveness was exclusively for HBOS's lucky corporate and Irish friends while for me, two and half years down the line, the company line remains completely compassionless.

At the time The Irish Times reported, "People want to pay their debts but simply cannot afford to under the terms that were originally agreed" and as a result HBOS will be working with Irish people in these circumstances and writing off shortfalls for those in trouble in both the buy to let market and the residential sector.

Lucky them!

Sadly there is to be no such luck for me as, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service, Lloyds banking Group and the infamous HBOS, a mortgage shortfall write off will remain impossibly out of reach for me because of our contractual obligations. Furthermore I am  advised I will never to be considered for debt forgiveness regardless of how the shortfall came about or the direness of our financial circumstances.

As this is clearly a very unlucky situation for me, it begs me to ask;

· What kind of mortgages did these lucky individuals have if they were not contractual?

· What extenuating circumstances qualified them (and not me) for HBOS mortgage shortfall write offs?

And,

· How the devil can I qualify for similar favours?

I am told "happiness consists more in the small pleasures of every day life that occur, than in the major events of good fortune" but had I enjoyed the good fortunes of the favoured few debt forgiveness would have rescued me from the life sentence of HBOS persecution that I am currently serving when instead, it is the Devil and not happiness who remains in the everyday fabric of my life's detail.

This is nothing short of hugely unfair...

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Stamp of disapproval

In 1928 Josiah Charles Stamp, former President of the Bank of England said,“The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleight of hand that was ever invented. If you want to continue to be slaves of the bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, then let the bankers continue to create money and control credit. “It seems to me, not only have Stamp’s observations gone unheeded for nearly a century but the enslavement he talks of has been globally embraced while governments have merely stood by and applauded. 
After reading Ian Fraser’s recent blogs along with Barry Ritholt’s article in the Big Picture which begins, “The US banking sector is not healthy” I can imagine Josiah Stamp saying, “Tell me something I don’t know.” Ritholt tells us the US government failed to “repair what ailed our financial institutions.  Indeed, pouring billions into nearly identical management teams that mismanaged the risk, over-leveraged exposure, and drove banks off the cliff in the first place was an invitation for another crisis” and as far I can see our own government has done no different.

While contemplating my response to the Financial Ombudsman's service and the implications of their HBOS eighteen month respite offer, I am left wondering how ongoing banking mismanagement will impact on my future if  I capitulate with regard to my belief the shortfall I have acquired is not of my making and instead sign an agreement for the sake of some much needed and immediate peace and quiet.  Furthermore, I seems evident the chances of  a write off my mortgage shortfall on compassionate grounds are set to reduce while a “deny, deny, deny” culture persists and the true levels of flawed lending continue to prop up the balance sheets to provide lucrative asset reaping bonuses for those who are eliglible?

HBOS and Lloyds’ refusal to write off my unrecoverable debt from their lending book only provides further evidence the smoke and mirrors culture within banking is alive, well and perpetuating the aforementioned sleight of hand which has led to economic enslavement. I cannot help but feel this leaves me a lifetime of enslavement to HBOS’s harassment to look forward to over a mortgage shortfall they chose to create and one I have no hope of ever being able to repay.

Josiah Charles Stamp also said, “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities” and as I continue to wait  for Antonio Horta Osorio’s reply to my letter and ponder my response to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service, I wonder if anyone at HBOS and Lloyds are even aware of the 1st Baron Stamp or his words.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Off Limits

I have heard it said that limitations live only in our minds and if we use our imaginations, the possibilities become limitless. This point was illustrated to perfection today by my ten year old son when expressing, yet again, his desire to keep chickens.  On this occasion he did not attempt to seek permission to own a chicken but merely stoked a lively discussion as to how many chickens would be required to fulfil his ambition to keep our family in eggs.  Changing tack like this has smoothly shifted the debate from if to when he can have chickens and has made me wonder if taking a leaf out of his book in my dealings with Lloyds and HBOS’s might render me greater success.

Over the last week I have;

·        Received another demand from Lloyds debt collectors

·        Received no reply from Antonio Horta Osorio to my original letter of 4 August

·        Received no reply from Antonio Horta Osorio to my ”chase up” letter of 19 August

This leaves the Irish and the Elite continuing to enjoy preferential treatment for mortgage shortfall forgiveness and me continuing to suffer in purgatory purely because I live in England and do not have a high enough profile to be heard.
I have, however, received another letter this week. The Financial Ombudsman has given me two remarkably good but unexplained piece of news.

The henchwoman at Merrels Ede Solicitors has been called off as a direct result of my compliant and HBOS have, at last, agreed “not to pursue” for the time being, namely eighteen months.  This has come as a complete surprise to me because, in their last letter, my caseworker informed me they could not proceed without seeking agreement from HBOS to investigate my complaint leaving me under the impression the Financial Ombudsman's Service was about to prove completely toothless yet again.

So where does this leave me now?
It leaves me with eighteen months of limitless possibilities.  I don’t know what they are yet but it will be a relief to be able to put my case to whomever I wish without continually having to deal with the bully boy and brow beating tactics of HBOS’s Rottweiler, Merrils Ede solicitor’s. It also leaves me some unencumbered time to consider the merits of a ten year old boy keeping chickens.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Tears and Fears

It is said, "Tears are the words the heart cannot express" but after three long years in my role of one woman debt fighter, tears alone could no longer express the way I felt about the position I found myself in. Consumed with a passion to keep my family whole while covertly facing hundreds of thousands of pounds of my husbands business debt regularly left me void of a means with which to express my grief, my fear and my frustration. When I started my blog, I had no ingenious plan for what I would write nor had I a clearly defined objective.  I was purely driven by an over whelming desire to express words from the heart in a way which had proved impossible to relay by any other method.  

As the months passed, my writing began to focus on the trials and tribulations of living in the aftermath of our outstanding financial obligations and the impact it had on every facet of my life. Publishing my posts in the public domain, although daunting at first, has been a wholly uplifting experience with moments of pure glee if someone new signs up “to follow” or something I have written evokes a comment. I have even received valuable snippets of information aiding my cause and these small votes of confidence have not only supported my resolve but also encouraged me to persevere with my battle. For this I am truly grateful.  

Knowing obstacles are only observed by those who take their eyes off the goal, writing about my desire to keep my family together has kept this vital objective firmly fixed in my sights while blogging about issues with our creditors has not only helped me remain focused on the tasks ahead but aided my understanding that being happy does not mean life is perfect. It simply means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections. However, blogging about the effects of debt on my marriage has been completely different.

Constructing sentences which describe how I feel has been an outlet for a grief I have been unable to express even with tears. My reaction to my husband's deceit has been the mother of all elephants in our room for the past three years and blogging about our lives together has helped create a picture of clarity for me while enjoying the observational detachment of a writer.  It has also enabled me to realise that, as well as battling the banks and refusing to allow my children’s lives to be contaminated by debt, I have also been fighting to save my marriage. However, what I have been completely unaware of is, my husband now knows this because he too has been reading my posts and, just as my writing has helped with so many other aspects of my life, I believe reading my words from the heart have done him, and us, nothing but good.

I believe one should never give up on something which is impossible to go a whole day without thinking about. This has certainly proved the case for me with respect to my children, my marriage and my writing and, because of the immense challenges I now have to face on a daily basis, I have also discovered, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot because in your soul there are infinitely more precious things that cannot be taken from you”. Because of my blog and in spite of the ongoing persecution I am still subject to from Halifax Bank Of Scotland and Lloyds TSB Banking Group, I now find, not only do I have an elephant free marriage, but I also have something infinitely more precious.

The riches I now enjoy can never be stolen.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Kitchen Chaos

I am told chaos results when the world changes faster than the people in it and, whilst the uneasiness caused by global chaos is reputed to allow the opportunity for creativity and growth, chaos in my kitchen seems to be causing nothing but confusion and angst.

It is mid morning and my grandson and daughter are attempting to make a crumble with fruit they have picked from the garden while calling on my expertise, constantly, to help them.

My youngest son, furious to find someone has been using his Uno cards again, communicates his indignation by way of a walky talky at full volume that picks up passing police transmissions at the same time.

My husband who was, until summoned by our eldest son, mid point of yet another Internet based job application, stands silent and hovering in the doorway in readiness to fulfill a “no notice” request for a lift to the cinema.

The same sixteen year old son is attempting to procure the Orange Wednesday code from my phone whilst telling me to chill at my handbag invasion and show more respect when conversing with him.

I, on the other hand, while doing my best to both relay cooking instructions and referee the Uno card dispute,  am endeavouring to communicate to my sixteen year old son the benefits of  being less demanding of instantaneous social gratification and more responsive to the numerous tasks of educational importance that he has seen fit to neglect.

Getting nowhere with anything, but still with all eyes on me I decide to,

·        ask my daughter and grandson to take a break from prepping the crumble and play Uno,

·        ask my youngest son to switch the walky talky off and join in with the  Uno game,

·        tell my eldest son it is too short notice to go to the cinema and suggest he crack on with his list of more pressing issues.

This leaves my husband free to return to his CV and me exhausted, but with some semblance of order and an empty kitchen.

“Miracle Mum,”, some might say?

“Dictator and control freak,” they cry,  while during all this, my husband stands silently by.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Despicable Me

Buddha said, “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle yet the life of this candle will not be shortened”, and by the same token, “happiness never decreases by being shared”.  It saddens me to hear these words because although I believe them to be true, it is not how married life is for me.

My husband’s monotones seep into every crevice of our lives and his overall lack of enthusiasm is only punctuated by occasional self-amusement at a play on words that comes to mind from listening, but not engaging, in the conversation of others.  Perfectly able to speak with animation about a new piece of information he has acquired, he sees no need to offer even a hint of a smile when conversing in other ways.  To him it is excessive and unnecessary to crease his dead pan facade as he either enters a room or sees a familiar face across a crowd, even when it’s me.

My daughter, now almost thirteen, calls him “Daddy glum face” as she teases him about his expressionless demeanour.  He replies, without offence, that it would be uncomfortable if he smiled any more than he already does and, as he sits blanked faced throughout every meal, every car journey and what seems like every moment, I regularly wonder how many hours of silence I have spent with him to date and consider, with sadness, how many more I still have to come.

“Move on,” I tell myself in moments of desperation only to have my resolve falter at the price my children will pay for my inability to cope with the man they love.

“Get help”, say my friends when I tell them, in tears, about his mood swings of indifference to rage, only to find I shrink from the task of broaching the subject with him, let alone finding the money to fund it.

“Keep trying,” is the voice that persists, in spite of his wagging finger declaring the fault lies entirely with me. For this is a broken man I speak of who once was my closest friend in a time gone by, before bereavement, before debt and before financial despair. 

They say that sometimes being a friend means knowing when to exercise the art of timing, with a time for silence, a time to let go and a time to leave well alone for people to hurl themselves at their own destiny.

·        I have been silent while he built a business on what proved to be foundations of sand

·        I have let go so he could seek his own destiny and achieve great things in his own right 

However, it is also said a friend should be prepared to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.
“But how” I ask, “do you pick up a man in pieces when he believes himself to be whole with no part of the problem lieing with him?”
I end today knowing there is no delight for me in a life unshared and sadly, all too often these days it is my computer, not my husband, that is my closest friend.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Will and Power

Some would say watching people reveal their cynicism makes it possible to identify what it is they lack in life and I suspect it would be easy to assume that someone in my position would be cynical about their reduced circumstances and the paralysis it can sometimes bring about in everyday life. Today, for example, my children had their feet measured to establish if they need new school shoes.  In the past, if their feet had grown I would have simply bought them new shoes immediately, but current circumstances demand I defer the decision to spend money until I have checked the month’s outgoings. I cannot, however, say I am at all unhappy about this situation having always believed Mr Micawber’s recipe for happiness, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and sixpence, result misery,” is a very valuable lesson for my children to learn.

Nevertheless I have little doubt those who choose observe me would definitely see immense frustration rather than cynicism as a result of the lack of progress I am making in all I am attempt to achieve.
In the last ten days I have,

  • Sent my “All I need is you” letter to Antonio Horta Osorio and, as yet, received no acknowledgement or reply.
  • Sent my blog “All I need is you” to the Financial Times and James Quinn editor of the Telegraph and, although in the case of Mr Quinn it has been acknowledged, again there has been no further communication.
  • Sent my blog link and a synopsis of my writing to a literary editor who specialises in Misery Memoirs only to receive a sympathetic but disappointing reply, “I fear I don’t see this making a book.”

Thankfully, I have also,
  • Been sent an article from the Times about people in similar circumstances to me in an effort to help me feel less alone in my endeavours.
  • Received an invitation to spend a weekend in a beautiful coastal hotel in celebration of a friend’s birthday, all expenses paid.
  • Had a phone call from my eldest daughter praising “Beaches and Blessings” as a wonderful piece of writing and , in her opinion, my best so far.
  • Received an email from a lady who worked on my case for the CAB in which she praised my writing and said I am an inspiration to others.
  • Had my blog sent to the CAB's Social Policies coordinator along with my original case worker.

In an addition to these much valued signs of support I have also been repeatedly told by my good friend Christine during my frequent crisis' of confidence,
  • Lloyds Banking Group will eventually be exposed for fabricating correspondence about fictitious payment arrangements and be forced to address my situation rather than continue to persecute me.
  • Their is a slim chance the Financial Ombudsman may well rule in my favour and not HBOS’s (as I fear) with regard to my mortgage shortfall complaint and for this reason I should be patient
She also insists,
  • My writing is not drivel.

I am only too aware it is the fate of many people to fail in their endeavours, not because they lack strength, but purely because they lack will. Bolstered and strengthened by the support and generosity of others I am left with renewed vigour to persist with the making of fresh plans to take the place of those that have so far failed. Thankfully for me, HBOS and Lloyds Banking Group will never be at liberty to repossess either my will or the camaraderie of others.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Beaches and blessings

Like pediatrician and author Dr Marianne E. Neifert,  I believe “a family is what you make it. It is made stronger, not my the number of heads counted at the dinner table but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have both as individuals and as a unit”.

With this observation in mind and sincerely hoping “a family in harmony will prosper,” I decided to combat the growing number of sibling disputes by way of a visit to the seaside.  Good weather combined with an unexpected mid week day off for my husband not only enabled us to get to the coast without running the weekend traffic jam gauntlet but also offered us an opportunity to take our ten and twelve year old as well as three of our grandchildren ages eleven, six and three. A substantial picnic along with buckets, spades, wet suits, flotation jackets and an inflated tractor inner-tube were carefully crammed into every available space in and on our car, while a selection of choral offerings from our passengers marked the level of excitement in the air during the journey.
Within an hour or two of our arrival, once a lengthy disembarkation had been completed, lunch served, crabs collected and sandcastles built, I was left to snooze in the sunshine while endless swashbuckling adventures involving our five charges and the inner tube were played out on the shoreline under my husband’s watchful eye. Towards the end of the afternoon, prompted only by the onset of hunger, my wanderers returned to find their beautifully engineered sandcastles, both lovingly and expertly constructed with the help of my husband, had attracted some enthusiastic but clumsy interest from some neighboring children.  Panicked by the potential for destruction, my ten year old son very politely suggested they ask their own Dad to construct a similar offering which they would be then be able to call their own.

As the small boy and his little sister got up to leave he said without malice,
”I can’t ask my Dad to build me anything because he left us when I was little and even though my Mum got us a new Dad he had to leave too because he and my Mum hated each other.  Now I don’t have any Dad but I really like your sandcastle.”

I could see from the look on my children and grandchildren’s faces that they were shocked and saddened by the boy’s statement. After a few moments of thoughtful silence, a discussion of some gravity had all five of them locked in debate.  Before long an agreement was reached and my husband and I were informed that a new sandcastle village was to be built for the sole use of the fatherless boy and his sister. An hour later the boy was found and presented with a comparable architectural masterpiece and this time the look of shock was on his face rather than the faces of my own children.

Twice he said,” Is this really for me?”

As I watched my five charges move off towards the shoreline to embark on more inner-tube adventures, I saw the beneficiaries of their efforts settle down to some intense sandcastle based play wearing faces that shone with unadulterated pleasure.
Not only am I immensely proud that my children and my grandchildren showed understanding and compassion for two children they believed to be less fortunate than them, but I am doubly impressed they applied their collective expertise to design a solution through a caring commitment of their time as a unit. I am also all only too aware that, had I chosen a different path when our HBOS troubles began, it could well have been my own children explaining the lack of a fatherly presence to strangers on a beach and not someone else’s.

A day at the beach and a regrettable gap in a small boy's life provided me with a heartwarming opportunity to see just how much my children still have in spite of our financial traumas.  It also afforded my an illustration of how much they value and have benefited from the rewards of a loving and secure family environment which, thankfully, has remained uncontaminated by unsympathetic creditors.  It is for this reason and for their sakes that I continue to covertly struggle on behind the scenes while battling with the Lloyds Banking Group. I do this in the hope that one day my husband and I will be able to enjoy family life, after debt, free from the legacy of HBOS greed and economic recession.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Infiltrations

Having read that the Smurf’s have recently been seen on Wall Street opening the New York stock exchange, I am beginning to wonder if, far from being a new development, Smurf’s have in fact been quietly infiltrating our financial institutions for quite some.  If this is indeed the case, the meaningless correspondence I continue to receive from Lloyds Bank is perfectly understandable when one considers it may well have been written by a large blue fluffy creature with very little between its ears.

Amidst the comings and goings that go hand in hand with children at home for the summer holidays, it appears I am now be subjected to a Lloyds Banking Group “pincer action”. On the one hand Merrils Ede Solicitors are waiting like vigilantes to pounce in the hope that the Financial Ombudsman will throw me to back to these HBOS wolves, while on the other, Lloyds TSB’s credit card and small loans department are bludgeoning me to distraction with their stupidity. The frustration of getting nowhere in both directions at once is nothing short of infuriating and, as ever, threatens me with yet another migraine melt down.

The crux of the matter is this.

I and the CAB have only ever corresponded with Lloyds TSB to ask them to forgive my husband’s credit card debt and personal loan (amounting to approximately £20,000) on the grounds of an inability to pay, combined with compassionate reasons. Lloyds TSB have spent two years ignoring these letters and then, just over twelve months ago, invented a communication in which it was agreed a payment arrangement should be set up. I have no knowledge of making an arrangement with them of any kind and nor haas the CAB so have I repeatedly asked for the documentary evidence on which they have based this assumption.

A multitude of letters later and almost year on, Lloyds continue to fail to supply me with anything. My exhaustive efforts have managed to ascertain nothing more than their repeated confirmation that a payment arrangement has definitely been made. Today’s letter states, yet again, this is their final response and advises me to deal direct with their collection agents in the future. This is, I am told, customary with debts that are in default of a payment arrangement.

Stupidity of this magnitude has led me to believe this level of stupidity can only be the work of ungoverned Smurfs if Smurf history is to be believed.

In 1964 when the first of their adventures were being heard, Smurfs were experiencing a leadership struggle following the disappearance of Papa Smurf. Although two potential leaders were soon indentified the Smurf population quickly became disenchanted when trying to arrange a vote because Smurf’s, as a rule, prefer only to vote for themselves. The community continued to struggled between choosing one candidate who was intent on making empty promises and using demagogical tactics and another who was arrogant and opinionated. Order and productivity ground to a halt while battle broke out between the independent factions. Thankfully, after much discontent and disruption amongst the entire Smurf population, Papa Smurf returned to save the day immediately restoring harmony and industry in the Smurf village once again.

If my suspicions are correct, the reason my requests are being continually ignored is because they are falling on the ears of ungoverned Smurfs within the Lloyds Banking Group. If this is truly the situation, Papa Smurf must return to restore order and productivity amongst these Smurf dissenters as a matter of urgency. I believe his presence is imperative I am to have any hope of procuring some sense out of Lloyds Banking Group and the tax payer is to avoid paying the price of banking lunancy once again .

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Others

Knowing much of human life is lost in waiting, I appreciate I must not be tempted to rest on my laurels in anticipation of a response to yesterdays flurry of letter writing.  While day dreaming of exposing HBOS’s ongoing penchant for the persecution of the financially bereft I can only wonder at the sums the Lloyds Banking Group spend endeavouring to keep their public image sweet and promoting their wholesome “You first” and “For the journey” campaigns when in reality they appear to persecute their shortfall victims for sport. 

It appears the coffers are exceptionally well stocked when it comes to the HBOS and Lloyds TSB advertising budget. This a clear indicator of the extent to which their public image is of value to them. What's more, in recent years, the groups funding for advertising has substantially increased in an effort to protect, as well as enhance, their public profile and counterbalance the less than endearing headlines which have dogged them since the early days of the economic recession.  At a time when many businesses are being forced to tighten their belts and economic growth is made harder by increasingly stringent lending criteria, Lloyds TSB and HBOS “increased their advertising spend by “76% and 65% year on year respectively equating to a combined £82m,” spent on avertising according to More about Advertising’s March 2011 issue.

Regardless of exactly how many millions are spent on the marketing of this banking giant, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to hear that the Lloyds Banking Group are prepared to shell out huge sums of money on business promotion and public awareness in order to maintain their market share.  Nor does it surprise me to hear them being accused of being “happy to poor money down the drain with digital marketing”.

Nevertheless, what continues to amaze me is how one department of this huge corporate machine is rewarded exceptionally well to do the vital job of keeping the Lloyds and HBOS name squeaky clean and at the forefront of every potential consumers mind, while another department, belonging to the very same Lloyds and HBOS corporation, are paid equally well to ride roughshod over the victims of an irresponsible HBOS culture without compassion or integrity risking public disfavour;



·        By insisting, due to past experience, the reason they have not bothered toddress either of the above is because most people in debt do not wish to talk to their creditors.

Surely someone at HBOS or the Lloyds Banking Group understands it is irrelevant whether £82.00 or 82 million pounds is spent on promoting a positive corporate image because it is completely wasted if HBOS letters such sexist and inprofessional statements reach the public domain, regardless of how much Antonio Horta Osorio talks of resilience in a difficult market, slimmed down balance sheets and improved customer service in his press releases?

They say the wise understand themselves while fools follow the reports of “others”. Believing Antonio Horta Osorio to be nobody’s fool, I cannot imagine he will be either happy or humorous when he discovers his efforts are being undermined by the actions and reports of the HBOS “others”.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Busy Bees

Still hoping that success comes to those who are too busy to go looking for it, I have been occupying myself with a number of widely varied tasks.  In the last twenty four hours I have,

·        Accepted delivery of three grandchildren for an indeterminate  period of time while my grown up daughter trains for a new job

·        Prepared, served and cleared up four meals for six people to eat “al fresco” while providing endless towels for mid meal swims in our paddling pool and refereeing numerous disputes

·        Arranged transport for my sixteen year old son to a youth hostel that, it now transpires, is two hundred and fifty miles away

·        Argued with said sixteen year old, who, having gone for a sleep over at a friends house, has arrived and discovered he has taken no money with him

·        Answered a phone call from a Gok’s fashion fix researcher who, having got my details from a neighbour, wishes to offer me and two friends a makeover, only to find the majority of my friends are running for cover at the very thought.
And,

·       Sent yesterdays blog, “All I need is you” to Antonio Horta Osorio at Lloyds Banking Group, James Quinn business editor of the Telegraph and Sharlene Goff retail banking correspondent for the Financial Times along with Ian Fraser's article about Lloyds sins of the past.

Here’s hoping they are not too busy to read them.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

All I need Is You

It has annoyed me intensely to be repeatedly accused of “using delaying tactics” and “ignoring a problem which is not just going to go away” by HBOS’s henchwoman at Merrils Ede Solicitors.  It is a statement which could not be further from the truth. I have never enjoyed a disposition which allows me “a head in the sand” approach to anything.  Nor do I have the patience for delaying tactics.

Despite my best endeavours over the past three years, my HBOS trouble's have not only remained unresolved but I have been aggressively pursued by their solicitors for a shortfall which arose from their fire sale of my home. Racking my brains for a solution which would allow me to move on with my life while despondently sifting through the numerous letters both written and received from HBOS, I have concluded it is probably time to write one more, This is because, in my heart of hearts, I know full well the toothless Financial Ombudsman Service will do one of three things, 
  • Sidestep the issues I have outlined in my complaint, 
  • With-hold their opinion a on a technicality or
  • Wriggle out of making any meaningful judgeme 
However strong my argument against HBOS is, I can not see the Financial Ombudsman’s Service setting a precedent which would open another set of misselling flood gates hot on the tail of the recent PPI ruling and, without a face that fits or a high profile case currently in litigation (and supported by a lengthy list of fellow victims) I still believe I am extremely unlikely to be heard. It is for this reason I have decided to give writing to Antonio Horta Osorio chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group another shot. I am, after all, one of “his dead” and I have been waiting without patience to be brought out “from under the drain cover” for a very, very long time.

I strongly suspect Mr Horta Osorio, if made fully aware of my case might well agree that spending more taxpayer and investor money chasing people like myself (who have been left penniless as a result of the banking crisis) for mortgage shortfalls which have already been proven to be unrecoverable, is not good business practice. My problem is not what to write but how to get my message in front of him. 

My previous attempts have repeatedly failed.

However, in the unlikely event that Mr Horta-Osorio's inner circle might finally allow my message to reach him, this is what I would say,

Dear Mr Horta-Osorio,
In October 2008, having previously been kept completely in the dark by my husband and having had no contact with HBOS until this time, I was informed by Dryden’s (HBOS' solicitors) of their plan to repossess my home.  I immediately contacted HBOS to discuss my options and informed them I had secured a tenant who was willing to sign an assured shorthold lease and pay £2,200 a month to rent our property for a three year period. By the time the HBOS' possession order was due to take effect, this sum not only covered the mortgage but would have provided a substantial contribution towards paying off the arrears.  However, HBOS flatly refused to accept this solution when we found ourselves without an income (as a consequence of the banking crisis and our Icelandic business banks collapse) insisting my proposal was made too late for them to consider. 

In November 2008 HBOS to us to court, secured an order for possession which came into effect in January 2009 and completed a forced sale on my home in April 2009.
They were aware from outset neither my husband or I had the means with which to pay any shortfall arising from the discounted sale yet we are now being pursued aggressively for a shortfall which was not only of HBOS' making but for funds they know full well we do not possess.

Furthermore, HBOS’s actions escalated an arrears problem of £27,000 (which I could have been resolved by my proposal) into an unrecoverable mortgage shortfall of £217,000. Despite this, I am now being hounded for this shortfall by HBOS' appointed debt collection solicitors Merrils Ede.  Both HBOS and Merrils Ede have repeatedly been told by both myself and the Citizens Advice Bureau that my husband’s income of £15,000 plus assorted state benefits is simply insufficient to service any of the £1,000,000 unsecured debt we were left with when our property development business failed in 2008.

Following the receipt of our financial evidence from the CAB, the Bank of Scotland has already very kindly offered to write off my husband’s Bank of Scotland credit card (amounting to £15,000) on compassionate grounds, but your  mortgage collections department say that a shortfall of £217,000 can never be written off  whatever our circumstances.  I cannot understanding the thinking behind this let alone work out a solution for demands which are simply beyond our means.

Over the last two and a half years I have been persistently harassed by Merrils Ede Solicitors on HBOS’s instruction. I can only assume our file has proved a means of milking the HBOS cash cow because Merrells Ede, like HBOS, know full well there is no financial resolution I can offer them. Merrils Ede have repeatedly advised me of your plans to issue legal proceedings towards bankruptcy “without further notice” which I can only see as another illustration of how happy they are to recommend the unnecessary spending of HBOS money when both I and the CAB have made it crystal clear we have no capital wealth to offer and no income with which to make a payment arrangement.

On previous occasions I have,

·   Written to your predecessors to explain our circumstances asking for a compassionate write-off in the light of our financial demise.  It has been repeatedly denied.

·   Asked why HBOS did not contact me about our arrears, nor sought to offer me any debt counselling advice or even include me in any conversations at either the inception of our mortgage or later when arrears became a problem. I was told that people in debt rarely want to talk to their creditors and because I am a married woman, they assumed my husband dealt with our finances.

·   And, I have repeatedly asked myself why I was not allowed to save my home and our financial future by renting out our property but I struggle to understand the logic behind an HBOS decision that turned £27,000 of arrears into a shortfall of £217,000.

When you took up the helm at Lloyds banking group this year you famously commissioned your executives to “bring out your dead” asking them to leave no stone unturned.  A “sense of humour failure” was promised if, in twelve months time, more skeletons were found in the Lloyds and HBOS closets. However, I and my family remain one of your concealed dead, festering on an HBOS desk where I lie in a purgatory which has not only put my life on hold but consists of repeated and relentless financial persecution for money I simply do not have.  I have remained in this position for nearly three excruciating years while those at the Lloyds Banking Group move on with their lives. I desperately need the luck of the Irish buy to let borrowers or perhaps the vision of HBOS funded businessman David Murray in order to secure a mortgage shortfall write off and free my family from the continued bullying of HBOS debt collection agents.
On the other hand, if this letter does ever reach you, all I may need is you.

Yours sincerely

Life after Debt