As I said in my dispatches from London earlier this month, I was spending money right and left and had nothing to show for it. Food, travel and other basic necessities are so ridiculously expensive that I just don't know how I would cope. Clearing away my credit card debt has been more wishful thinking rather than action. I got them to lower the interest rate to 1 percent for a year, but I still owe in the mid-five figure range. Clearing the hurdles to get a temporary visa are possible, but very expensive. Having enough cash on hand to live there for a year while searching for work will be a struggle and then surviving there after a position is located will be an even bigger challenge. This fact was made very clear to me by my friends Carrie and Roger, who were renting a small flat in a not very desirable neighborhood for the equivalent of $1,400 a month. Insanity!
Today, I read author Jeanette Winterson's new column, part of which talks about how expensive the UK has become. Here's an excerpt:
Too much travelling - fun but very tiring. Full-time building work in England to make my bolt-hole safe and sound.
I think that the combination of a hidden place here and a tiny apartment in Paris will work well. The shop in London gives me a lot of pleasure, especially because someone else makes it happen and I can admire it. Perching above the shop on London visits feels like the Georgian living it is - I don't have an oven and I get my meals from downstairs. In Paris, there is always good food, and in Barcelona recently, I was amazed at the value and the quality of things to eat and drink. All the Spaniards I met told me it was expensive, but not compared to the UK. I don't know how anybody can afford to live here.
I am not very good at economics and I don't understand how everything here costs so much, and yet, we still go on affording it.
My Spanish friends told me that after the 20th of the month, the restaurants are much quieter and there are lots of taxis touting for work. Apparently, it's a 3-week economy - most people can afford most of what they want for the first 3 weeks of their pay-check, then they either use a credit card or go without.
Yeah, debt is the new money.
But what is it with the voodoos of central banks? The euro has made everything in Europe more expensive for those who are in the Euro, and everything in Britain has become more expensive because we are not in the euro.
So, I haven't given up on the dream of living in the UK, just having to be more realistic about my money and the economy there. My friend Donna is hoping to move over in the spring. I do hope she makes it and can give me some pointers on what to do and not do.
In the meantime, I'm taking applications for an English husband, since civil unions are allowed. Older, wealthy gentlemen with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel to the front of the line please!