Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Great Escape

It's been seven weeks since Dad died and I'm fine. In fact I'm a little worried at how quickly I've defaulted back to 'normal', although there are a hellish amount of unresolved issues both with Dad, and my sodding head. As a result I still haven't started my annual New Year's Final Diet Ever as I fling back metric fucktons of shitty beige food and sedate my issues with alcohol.

I went through the usual stages of grief that began with good old denial, repeating over and over to my stepmother on the night he died, that 'I can't believe he's gone,' as if a poorly eighty-year-old man had it in him to keep going for another thirty years.

Then things took a surreal turn. Due to my sister's habit of logging every fucking sneeze and haircut on Facebook, she'd been detailing Dad's descent, and discussed his healthcare. A journalist picked it up, and it spiralled out of control. A week after Dad died I was in my sister's kitchen peeling potatoes when my nieces screamed at me to come into the living room. There was Dad's grinning face on TV looking back at us and millions of others as a BBC London News anchor mentioned him by name. Then it cut to a report filmed in that same room as my actual sister next to me squirmed at television sister complaining about Dad's care.

Life went on. My sister and I were named in Dad's will as executors, and I had an estate to sort out which sounds rather grand; an Estate, as if he left behind a large mansion house with fine tapestries and objets d'art.

Except he didn't. It turns out that Dad was terrible with money. Actually, let me clarify that: He was fucking appalling, and if it tarnishes his memory to implore the six people who read this who may be in pecuniary straits, then so be it: If you're in debt, PLEASE GET OUT OF IT. Accept that any money you earn simply isn't yours until you're back in black. You're not going to win that cash back at the bookies, or make canny investments that'll solve all your problems. Instead, make huge sacrifices and crawl your way back up to £0.00. At least from then on in, it's all yours.

Dad didn't have a gambling problem, or a drink problem, and certainly not an issue with drugs, so it was a complete mystery as to how he managed to rack up over twenty-seven thousand pounds worth of credit card and overdraft debts. It took a while for the penny to drop, but it was a combination of several decades of a poorly-paying job alongside a stubborn refusal to stop spending money. Dad had a near pathological need to keep buying things; records, CDs, DVDs, cheap Chinese gadgets that pretended to be iPads but weren't, Dad loved a bargain even though he couldn't afford it.

Three years ago the debt appears to have caught up with him, and he pulled out his trump card. The flat he shared with his wife was paid off, so he found a lender who'd give him a huge chunk of cash in return for a slice of the flat - They'll get their money back one day when the flat gets sold.
The trouble is those vampires are charging a hideous interest on that loan and the £60k he took out is now £75k as it increases by (currently) £5,000 every year. So Dad's gone, having left behind a legacy of debt that continues to eat away at my stepmother's home and her children's inheritance.

Last week, she told me she now hates him.

I'm trying to sort out all this mess. My sister and I had a huge argument - all via text as she refuses to speak to me - that was pretty spiteful and mean, mainly from me, because I've dealt with everything alone. I've trashed all Dad's audio cassettes and VHS's at the town dump, and sold a couple of new DVDs on eBay. I've scoured all Dad's paperwork to uncover the debts, then written to all his creditors to start sorting this out. Admittedly she helped find a solicitor and attended our first meeting, but only because she used to work there. I still have to clear out a lifetime of his belongings, sort out his car, deal with solicitors, make offers to banks, and try and tackle that fucking equity loan.

I'm not ashamed to say that despite my strident atheism, I've been buying lottery tickets and scratchcards under the assumption that my dead father is still somehow 'there', and has assumed supernatural powers to make his bereaved family millionaires.

Except nah.

If I've got anything from all this besides a small pyramid of scrunched-up lotto tickets, it's a wrought-iron conviction that products don't make us happy. Consumerism is a giant con, and the most sensible thing in life is to spend less than you earn and save for your retirement.

I'm also no longer scared of death. I used to obsess about it to an unhealthy degree, fretting about achieving nothing and wasting my life. Instead I've realised that Dad used it to escape his debts. He won, in a weird kind of way. Death's great for the deceased, provided it comes at a dignified old age with next to no pain. It's actually shitty for the rest of us.

I've also realised I'm doing okay. I've been doing the right thing all along, though my damn book has come to an annoying standstill three-quarters into draft three, but once I've got closure from all Dad's stuff I can get back to writing it again. And once that's done, I'll have the free time and headspace to get back to my glorious Final Diet Ever so I can date attractive female hominids even though I'm turning fucking forty in as many days,  but that doesn't matter as my Autobiography of a Complete Nobody storms the planet and I become a huge Internet sensation who hadn't wasted his life after all.....


looby said...

Dear Fweng, you have my every sympathy. People who don't have to deal with the legacy of debts don't understand how difficult it is.

In my experience though, a persuasive set of letters to the unsecured creditors can usually result in them writing off much of it.

Another tactic is to pay tiny amounts of it for years, and then they'll start selling it between themselves at discounted rates and will make you offers to clear it which might be something like 50-60% of it, to write it off. Don't accept it of course -- offer something like 20%.

The loan on the flat -- that's a tough one though. I don't own any property so can't help with that one. Maybe seek some professional advice about it.

It's a shame your sister and stepmum have chosen to be pissed off and unhelpful. I see ther POV but what's done is done and you need help in sorting it out.

All the best you Fweng.

Exile on Pain Street said...

Take heed of lobby's excellent advice. You'd think he was an attorney, although I know for a fact he is not. Otherwise, things seem to be progressing as well as can be expected. Book, please.

daisyfae said...

no sage advice here... i know nothing about UK estate/bankruptcy law, but convincing your stepmom to take what she wants and just go start over might be an option - if she has any pension income. let the creditors sort it out, sell what they can, and recover their own damn money.

you can then get back to living your own life...

liverdrawer said...

I always assumed debts died with you - at least the credit card kind of ones that are not secured against property. Your sister has always seemed a bit of a dick so no surprises there. You do seem remarkably well adjusted about everything.

Anonymous said...

A friend put me on to your blog. I Just wanted to tell you, you are really talented.
I spent the last hour reading a random selection of your posts and I'm hooked.
Looking forward to your book.

Anonymous said...

Me again.
I have been reading your blog every spare minute. My flat mate thinks I am obsessed with you lol.
I really do think that if you release a book back home you are going to be a big hit(I live in London now, but originally from the US). Americans just love the charming English guy, down on his luck, but gonna win in the end.
I know that being hard on yourself is your 'style' but you really shouldn't be, you're funny and talented.

fwengebola said...

looby ~ Thanks for your advice. I've managed to make offers which have all been accepted so everything's done and dusted now. More or less. Thanks again.
Exile ~ Thanks, yes, I know. I think I've dealt with all the nonsense and hope to be finishing the fucker soon. Should really be starting it now, mind you :(
df ~ Thank you too. My life is almost ready to be restarted. Yes it's taken this long
liver ~ More or less, yes, but if there's a pot of assets, in this case, Dad's newly acquired life insurance that had no-one named for it to go to, then it became part of his estate and was up for grabs. Anyway, all sorted now, barring the loan.
Anon ~ Oh hello. Sorry you've come at a time when things are shitty and I'm not writing much but yes, the book. I'll be restarting it very soon. I think.
And thanks!

Anonymous said...

Me again.
I'm so happy you're going to finish your book. I have a good friend back in San Diego, called Annie Bomke, who is a literary agent. She's like me and just loves English guys. I'm sure she would love to represent you.
I think I've finished every post now, and feel like I know you. I am a bit of an amateur psycho analyzer. My flat mate tells me I should stick to looking after our cat lol. If I'm way off the mark, please don't hate me, but don't you think there is a bit of a pattern in the way you get down, eat more, hate work? I think you're looking for love but may be looking on the wrong side of the river if that makes sense?
Can't wait to hear from you again.

Anonymous said...

Write more!

luna said...

you've certainly grown up triple fast through this ordeal.

like others i admire you being able to steer that ship without floundering! well done with the hassle.

so the step mum didn't have a clue.

who knows the weight of that secret has damaged your dad's health, how sad it needn't have been.

maybe he was consoling himself for something with compulsive shopping.Maybe in that case it was money well spent.

Have you been able to stop the interest on the loan?

Maybe borrowing from decent bank pay it off at once and repay the bank with much lower interests.


all best wishes for your birthday (i forgot about it)

And hum, out of nasty curiosity, the us ex, has she been any help or support at all through the whole tragedy?

P.S. that's brilliant about bbc news. Best way to get thugs changing is through the media nowadays.
But your sister should have told you and let you have your say!!!

try not to hate her too much.With her FB mania she did her bit and magisterially for your father.

i myself have come across a family with the same story.Mother complaining for years of angina pains, her sister had a bypass already, and each time sent home with painkillers and annoyance until she died in her son's arms,in agony and terrified, under gawping gaze of useless nurse.

defibrillator not working due to wrong pads.

the spectre staring at all of us, the NHS.But when it comes to our turn, they will have legalised euthanasia so we'll just get the mandatory injection on our 70TH birthday yaay!!!!not.

fwengebola said...

Anon ~ I'm trying, thanks. Book out in a matter of days via Amazon.
Luna ~ And thank you. I think my old man did pretty well handling all that debt. I think he got to his sixties and pretty much thought, "Fuck it", when most people would've died of stress and yes, shopping for crap probably helped him get through. Like most people addicted to things, the same addiction doing so much harm was the one that helped him too.

The interest is still going strong, so I've no idea how that'll pan out. The ex got in touch when Dad died, was really, really lovely, said some nice things that had me contact her, then found a boyfriend. So that was fun.

And I'm really sorry about your aunt. That sounds horrible. I think everyone has NHS horror stories, but I still support it. The worst thing would be for it to get pounced on by venture capitalists, which pretty much every government wants because the whole edifice must feel like an millstone around their parasitic necks.

8 months to reply. Surely a record.