Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blissful budgets

Ever mindful that my children’s school holidays should focus on quality family time and not my battle with the banks, it is always my intention to keep my ongoing traumas to within the hours that my children are at school. I believe strictly adhering to this regime for the past three years has not only enabled me to compartmentalise “my work” at the debt fighting coal face at a safe distance from family life, but it has also preserved my sanity, my strength and secured the re-growth of my hair.

Carefully planning my tiny half term budget to attain maximum reward from an income that amounts to little more than 15% of that which we enjoyed before the demise of my husband’s property business I have,

·        Entertained friends and family on a number of occasions courtesy of the plentiful and economically helpful M & S staff waste sale

·        Arranged two cinema trips for early morning showings courtesy of pre-purchased and hugely discounted tickets financed by my mother

·        Repeatedly invited my children’s school friends to visit in an effort to breathe new life into our favourite board and card games.

Although our life style has changed dramatically since the days of the pre-credit crunch melt down of the property market, I take pride in the knowledge we have lived without discomfort and within our means since the terrifying loss of 85% of our income and 100% of our assets in 2008. Resigned to the harsh reality we are no closer to paying off the million pound deficit we were left with, I am thankful our losses have not increased and am relieved that all but a handful of our creditors have accepted pursuing us will be costly and futile.

In contrast to the satisfying peace and quiet of my modest life I am acutely aware Occupy Wall Street protesters and right wing Tea party campaigners alike are far from satisfied that the US government is taking any meaningful steps towards cutting its coat according to the available cloth.  Both factions continue to be incensed by an untenable situation created entirely by the greedy casino banker’s courtship of subprime lending. As a consequence of this flawed mortgage business together with their hoodwinking of governments and institutions alike into believing their lending books were, in fact, perfectly safe vehicles for the cautious investor, the subsequent government banking bailouts have taken the US national debt to an unprecedented fifteen trillion dollars leaving this unwieldy super power teetering on the verge of global default.

While US politicians attempt to thrash out a solution to government cash flow issues which, if put in household terms, involve expenditure of nearly twice the budget and with only 10% in cut backs to help balance the books, I have been forced to break my holiday embargo on my own credit crunch war due to one of the very banks who actively tailored their lending portfolio to suit subprime borrowers and then required a government bailout of 3.55 billion dollars in November 2008 because of their recklessness. US based Capital One have not only authorised the sending of three letters to me over this half term period but left me feeling both anxious and confused over their content.

This week alone Capital One tell me they are,

·        Happy to look into why they have been instructed to pursue us in the light of receipt of the copy letter they sent me last year stating their decision was not to pursue us. I am asked to “bare with them” while the matter is investigated.

·        Instructing immediate court action as I have repeatedly failed to communicate with them and have left them no alternative.

·        Employing the services of a doorstep collection agent, an action which I, so say, have brought on myself by making no attempt to respond to their numerous attempts to contact me.

Incensed by three such conflicting pieces of correspondence I rang Capital One’s UK agent and asked them which letter I should regard as an accurate indication of their intentions only to be told it was impossible to know as Capital One do not reply to their letters!

I can only conclude, just like their UK counterparts who also chose to romance subprime lending and create fictitious lending book valuations, Capital One are far too busy to deal with their correspondence.  I have little doubt their days are taken up with counting the benefits of privatising the gains they have secured from their government bailouts while the rest of us mere mortals are left smarting from the global fallout of their nationalised debts.

I was interested to read the words of ancient Roman lawyer and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero who said,

“The budget should be balanced. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt.”

I feel safe to say this is evidence that some things never change.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Winning wills

While I appreciate winning is not everything I understand the will to win most definitely is.  Much to my frustration, and largely due to over-commitment on all fronts, I have recently experienced an overwhelming sense that, on occasion, having the will to win can still prove insufficient to gain the advantage in every battle.

Over the past ten days I have,

·        failed to convince my body I do not have an upper respiratory infection resulting in this unwelcome invader knocking me for six

·        failed to convince my landlord to attend to a list of repairs resulting in the prospect of another winter with extortionate heating bills and very little warmth

·        failed to convince the former Treasurer of the Friends to furnish me with much needed banking information resulting in pure guesswork when it came to the allocating of this year’s funds at our meeting

·        failed to work out an economically sound method for my teenage son to travel, via public transport, to an open day at University College London resulting in a seven hour road trip by car

·        failed to convince the Financial Ombudsman to view HBOS’s actions as both negligent and pivotal to the resulting mortgage shortfall I am now saddled with.

However, knowing success is not wholly dependant on drive and persistence while fatigue can make cowards of us all I sent for reinforcements when it came to the assembly of my team for the school quiz.

Carefully selecting friends who have been supportive and uplifting during the darkest hours of my HBOS ordeals, my unassuming band of debt fighting warriors threw aside the trappings of battle to engage in an evening’s intellectual frivolity of fish and chip fuelled entertainment.  Although brows were periodically furrowed in contemplation, we laughed and dined the evening away in untroubled camaraderie and in so doing melted my failures of the preceding days  into insignificance. The by product of this meeting of minds over a school quiz and a few beers was......

We won!

On hearing American baseball player Michael Jordan words,

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

I realise every road to success is littered with failures of the past. However, it has become evident from the success of our quiz team efforts that the individual’s commitment to a group effort is precisely what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work ,


I am also convinced it will eventually be what makes my battle with HBOS work.

In recognition of this invaluable and ongoing solidarity I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my appreciation of not only my fellow quiz team members, but also every kind and caring individual who has so readily given their time and their expertise over the past three years to ensure I remain on my road to success in spite of my failures.

I extend my heart felt thanks to each and every one of you.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Rights and Wrongs

It appears that George Bernard Shaw was right when he said, “The golden rule is there are no rules,” but knowing this does not make it any less disappointing to find that the Financial Ombudsman Service is upholding Shaw’s theory in regard to my case against HBOS.

The problem with rules are they only work when we all agree to abide by them and it is on days like this I am reminded of just how insignificant my one woman battle of the banks is to anyone but me. Although I have always hoped that my decision to fight HBOS would give me an opportunity to be heard, I never pretended to think my personal plight would be of sufficient interest to make National Headlines or make an impact on banking policy.  I did, however, battle on in the belief that by going through the right channels, remaining persistent and keeping to the rules I would eventually be able to reveal HBOS as negligent in their duty of care to me and brutish in their pursuit of a debt they chose to create and saddle me with.

I hoped my refusal to be swept under the carpet like so many other HBOS misdemeanours might eventually shame them into acting with compassion and integrity. I thought quoting the rules and the guidelines laid down by their own governing bodies would force them into reconsidering the merits of pursuing a mortgage shortfall of £217,000 that they chose to create and hoped it might prevent them wasting more time and money bullying me for something I do not have. I believed the Financial Ombudsman’s Service would help me seek HBOS explanations to my questions about their negligent procedures, discriminatory actions and reluctance to follow guidelines.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I was completely unprepared to find that the Ombudsman’s reply, although very sympathetic, was not unlike a reply I received from HBOS’s former debt collecting agent Merrils Ede.  In both letters I am told it is not necessary to answer my questions regarding HBOS’s duty of care or their flaunting of FSA and government guidelines. The inference is I am merely wasting my time and theirs and moreover should be grateful of the eighteen months respite from debt collecting HBOS harassment for which they have already secured an offer.

So here I am again, back on the self same precipice but this time even more astounded that discriminatory practices and negligence are not something anyone, including the Financial Ombudsman, feel able or willing to comment on.

Realising I have not only been baring my soul to a toothless Financial Ombudsman but also an Ombudsman who is most definitely not neutral I am now faced with a very big question.

What do I do next?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Disgruntled Devils

Against the back drop of David Cameron’s “Let them eat cake guidance,” amidst declarations that the coalition has the bankers under control and while UK individuals are reported to be falling by the financial wayside to the tune of 334 people a day, I have managed to acquire a week of personal hell that has nothing to do with being the victim of a global economic crisis.

In an effort to indentify my adversary it would be,

·        wrong to conclude that I have suffered an overload of Friends work due to three committee meetings, one coffee morning and the horrors of preparing and giving a speech to the parents at Harvest Festival.

·        misguided to believe I have again fallen foul of the locking of marketing committe horns whilst endeavouring to solicit structure to their plans to promote the school

·        inaccurate to assume exhaustion from discussions to;
            over haul the schools corporate identity and website,
            explore the merits of hosting a cultural day of music as a marketing tool,  
            launch my plan for a Bollywood dinner dance for the Friends spring fund raiser.

·        incorrect to surmise I am overwhelmed with the organisational duties of a Friends Quiz night, a Bonfire Celebration or a Christmas Craft Fair supporting local industry all hosted in  my children's school

·        totally without grounds to conclude I am impatient of my sometimes lengthy duties in attendance of my elderly mother’s dental needs, shopping trips or visits to a nursing home to see her friend,

·        mistaken to believe it is correspondence from resurfacing creditors breaking their months of  agreed silence on compassionate grounds only to declare their newly formulate intentions to implement debt recovery immediately.

  ·        erroneous to decide it is two letters from the Ombudsman, the first warning of a twelve week delay for my Lloyds complaint that refutes the default status of a ficticious payment arrangement and the second advising me my adjudicator is still on holiday so will be unable to deal with my eight page reply defending my HBOS complaint.

It would, however, be entirely correct to assume my week on hot coals has stemmed from the discovery my super-bright sixteen year old son is predicting a grade C in A level Psychology which may well preclude him from obtaining a place at the university of his choice. Indignant at the lack of his tutor’s foresight and with no inkling of any contrition, he remains in denial that this blemish on his hitherto astonishingly good academic record has been anything to do with him.

Repeatedly amused by John Clarke and Bryan Dawe’s U Tube postings portraying bankers behaving like disgruntled children did not prepare me to for the image of my teenage boy behaving very much like a disgruntled banker. The outcome of this irresponsible attitude, not unlike like the state of the economy, has been anything but a joke!

Determined not to rest on my laurels despite fierce adolensent opposition I have;

negotiated a reprieve by securing him a chance to improve his predicted grade over half term,

declared him unavailable for work at his part time lifeguard job with immediate effect,

curtailed his socialising and imposed an internet/face book curfew until this matter is in hand.

For these acts of educational concern and unsolicited interference I am now viewed, as some would also say of the Wall street protestors, a demonic and overly dramatic hysteric.

Thankfully I can take solace in the knowledge that although heaven is said to have the best weather, hell is reputed to have the best company and if Devil Woman is a disposition I must maintain to expose the banks, avoid compromising my integrity and save my sons future, at least I and the Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York will have some interesting conversations to look forward to as our reward.