Eighteenth century English writer and printer Samuel Richardson once said, “Necessity may well be called the mother of invention but calamity is the test of integrity,” and while there is no doubt the calamitous circumstances of recent years have necessitated a certain amount of re-invention on my part, it has been the loss of my financial integrity which has caused me to suffer the most.
A little more than four years ago I was living the life of a stay at home mother of five children and wife of a successful property developer. We resided in a beautifully restored sixteenth century barn on the banks of the river Severn and enjoyed regular visits to the Costa del Sol where we stayed in our equally beautiful Spanish apartment. Often hosting gatherings both at home and abroad for friends and family while organising and attending fund raising activities for the school, I endeavoured to be an upstanding and contributory member of our small community and a supportive silent partner in my husband’s business.
To my horror, I learnt the credit crunch of October 2008 was not just something which was happening to other people and quickly found being a victim of it meant losing our home, our business and our financial future. While errant bankers were using the sub prime mortgage market to prop up their balance sheets, my husband had, without my knowledge, endeavoured to prop up our own business by borrowing to the hilt. The subsequent and some would say calculated collapse of the property market along with the demise of our business bank Heritable not only meant we were unable to service our loans but we were without the means with which to repay our creditors. I was crippled with the shame from the demise of our financial integrity and made full disclosure of all future financial matters a condition of our marriage’s survival.
During the years which followed I have struggled to trust my husband despite guarantees he will never again exclude me from his decision making. Thankfully our lives, and my self esteem, have tentatively pieced themselves back together and gradually I have relaxed into some semblance of normality. Once again, I live in a beautiful house (albeit rented through friends and shared with lodgers), my children remain in independent schools (albeit through bursaries for which I have gone cap in hand to secure) and through the generosity of our family, we still visit the Costa del Sol from time to time. I have even started to organise and attend charitable events in an effort to once again be an upstanding and contributory member of the community. However, I also spend many a covert hour communicating with our creditors and their regulators and I continue to find tasks of this nature excruciatingly painful.
On the other hand, I am delighted to report that these days life is far from all bad. There are even moments of immense pride and pure joy. Only recently, for example, my eldest son, at the age of seventeen, secured a place at university to read English and Creative Writing only to discover, because of his young age, he would be unable to take up his place in hall without a parent present when collecting the keys. Thanks to the kindness of my older daughter who suggested she drive us, not only did this allow me to relax in the knowledge her company car’s satellite navigation would deliver us to our destination without out issue, but it also gave me a very welcome but all too rare chance to play my part of exceptionally proud mother while, for the first time in twenty five years, enjoying a fascinating afternoon’s sightseeing in London. It was unadulterated bliss.
Four years on from the onset of our personal financial crisis, I am very pleased to find our modest income, with the help of tax credits, continues to cover our outgoings and although my husband’s job with M & S is a menial one, it provides him the opportunity to study via the Open University. Without the worry of creditors hurling abuse at the door, over the phone or via the post I have become settled in a way I would have struggled to imagine in the days which followed my discovery of our true financial position. I have even begun to believe that one day our financial integrity may well be fully restored and allow us to lay to rest the ghosts.
However, this morning’s revelations have blown all thoughts of domestic bliss and hopes for a future of financial integrity to smithereens and I am consumed with fear for what may be to come because,
My husband tells me he has started a small business.
He has opened a bank account and made his first trade.
He tells me there is to be no borrowing and no stock holding.
He insists he will not give up his day job nor will he let this venture interfere with his studies.
He believes this is the only method in which to secure us a reasonable financial future.
He regrets he did not choose to tell me sooner but was concerned I might discourage him or it would cause me unnecessary worry.
He assures me he knows what he is doing.
He promises me everything will to be alright.
The trouble is.....
I’ve heard this all once before!
American actress, playwright and sex symbol Mae West once said, “People who are surprised easily need to be surprised more often” and I am most certainly guilty of being shocked to hear my husband, after eighteen years of marriage, four years of which were endured in the grips of an integrity stripping calamity, has now, without any mention or discussion, embarked upon another business venture. While I have no doubt he views my concerns for what amounts to little more than his opening a bank account as an over-reaction arising from my being over-sensitized to the consequences of debt, I unlike Mae West do not believe the solution to this is to be surprised more often.
Quite frankly I find the prospect of repeating the last four, however remote, nothing short of terrifying.