Sunday, 23 January 2011

There's A Hole In My Ideology, Dear Liza, Dear Liza.

Bloody hell, what are Max and I doing wrong? Well, obviously, we're not earning enough - but why? Apart from the undeniable fact that we both have a talent for negotiating the lowest-possible payment for any job we ever do.

After today's events, Max says it must just be because we make very bad decisions - like staying married and declaring our earnings. Not that I can allow myself to listen to him - not when The Boss has already called me a fascist.

I just wish there was the occasional PLP Briefing for dealing with disaffected husbands, as well as for responding to anecdotal evidence that policies don't always work as they're intended to. Some of which we discover this afternoon.

It's getting dark and Max and I are sitting at the table sorting through the bills when Josh and Holly arrive, after what has obviously been a major Sunday shopping spree.

As usual, Josh has bought only one item - yet another bloody hat - but as it's from Northwick's premier men's designer clothes shop, it probably represents a week's wages for him. I have no idea why teenage boys are so set against Primark. Holly isn't, though: she's laden with brown paper carrier bags.

"Holly's dad's going to pick her up in a minute," says Josh. "So we thought we'd just hang out here until he arrives."

"What've you bought, then?" I say. "Come on, show me. I need some excitement."

I'm fed up with trying to make our bank statement add up and, anyway, in my job, one should never miss an opportunity to keep up with what's in fashion.

Politics doesn't exactly offer a multitude of style icons as role models, after all. (Samantha Cameron doesn't count given her clothing budget and, as for Theresa May's sartorial choices: don't even go there unless looking like a slightly deranged Vulcan is the aim.)

Josh shows me a hat that looks exactly the same as all his other ones, so it's a bit difficult to feign much enthusiasm for his purchase. Holly's are a different story, though. She smiles and tips the bags upside down, revealing a series of pretty tops, a handbag, and a really cute jacket. She holds each item up in turn for my approval.

"Bloody hell," I say. "Fantastic. Not that you wouldn't look good wearing sackcloth and ashes, Hol. But how on earth can you afford all that? You must be much better with your wages than we are, if the state of our bank account is anything to go by."

Holly shakes her head and laughs.

"Nah," she says. "I'm not. Just got my EMA, that's all."

I'm confused, but I don't like to say so. Or not to Holly, anyway. I've got no such scruples when it comes to Josh, though: so I ask him for the lowdown instead, as soon as she leaves the house.

"Joshua," I say. "Just curious: how much EMA does Holly get a week on top of what she earns from her job at her aunt's cafe?"

"£30:00, as far as I know," he says. "Why?"

"Bloody hell," says Max. "How - with both her parents working? Don't they have to earn below £10,000 or something for her to get as much EMA as that?"

I shake my head, but Max doesn't notice. He's too busy staring at Josh, who's fidgeting like mad, as if he wishes we'd both shut up.

"Well, her mum only works a few hours a week helping out at the school," he says. "And her dad doesn't work at all, of course."

"Yes, he does," says Max. "He's a bloody window-cleaner. He told me that himself."

"Well, maybe he told you," says Josh. "But that doesn't mean he tells the tax man, does it?"

Seeing Max's expression, Josh leaves the room as fast as he can, and heads upstairs to his room. I think he's probably resorted to shooting virtual nosy parents as therapy now, judging by the sound of gunshots that's coming through the ceiling. Do teenagers have to have the bass so loud on these bloody games?

Max sighs, and looks over at me. He's about to say something, when Pat sends me a text. I read it, then groan in envy.

"What is it now?" says Max, who has abandoned the bank statement and is attempting to "chat" with Connie on Facebook instead - a bit of a challenge for someone with his distinctive one-fingered typing style.

"I'm so jealous," I say. "All Holly's new clothes, and now Pat's got a new dress too - and hers is from AllSaints!"

"I know," says Max. "She's just posted it as her Facebook status too. From her new iPhone, for f*ck's sake."

I  can't think of anything to say to that, but it seems as if Max isn't expecting a reply. He's on a roll.

"Pat still unemployed, Mol?" he says.

"I think so," I say. I have a horrible feeling I know where he's going with this.

"Still doing that mobile aromatherapy service as well?"

"I don't know, Max," I say. "I always think it's better not to ask - and anyway, it's not easy for her to work in a proper job, is it? She's a single parent."

"And no doubt penniless  - just like that woman who's been bonking Lord Strathclyde."

Max rolls his eyes at me, and then shuffles all the bills and the bank statements into a pile, before throwing them into the broken filing tray I brought home from work. It's already full, so they slide straight off and onto the floor, where he decides to leave them.

"Well, at least it seems that a private education isn't the advantage everyone always thinks it is," I say. "Not if Birgit Cunningham is as destitute as she claims. Not very good publicity for Roedean, is she?"

"Maybe not," says Max. "But that's not the point. I reckon we'd better re-think our career choices. At the risk of sounding like a Sun reader: we'd be better off at the moment if I became a supposedly-unemployed window cleaner than I am while doing my bloody job. Unless you divorce me, get pregnant, and become a single, unemployed aromatherapist - if that is how Pat's still not earning her living?"

I open my mouth to say something about the Black Economy of Thatcher's 1980s, when a searing pain shoots though my tooth, and I decide that I can't be bothered. Max watches me wince, then strikes the killer blow in our newly-fascist household:

"I bet Pat's and Holly's families get free dental treatment, too," he says. "As well as that bloody Birgit woman. So you get the J-Cloths, Mol, and I'll find the bucket."


  1. I do wonder where we are going wrong - maybe I should also join the 'black economy' Every day I see people who are better dressed than me, seemingly have more money than me etc etc. The irony is that they all believe I earn a fantastic wage, and in reality some of them wouldn't get out of bed to earn what I do!!

  2. Hullooo

    Just to cheer you up, my news feed from Mid Wife Stasis has today served me up a rather hunky chap in the guise of a 'date rich singles' ad. Not much use to me (still pigging out on the all-you-can-eats with Old Girl) but happy to toss him over to you.

    PS Happy new year (as if).

  3. I know exactly what you mean - it's getting more like the 8os every day, isn't it?!