The Sterling Crisis: A suburb focuses on survival: The high streets

WIPING his brow, the solicitor visibly sagged over the lunch table as the news was gently broken to him. 'God's teeth,' he said. 'Five per cent? That's staggering. I've already got a massive overdraft, and I only get paid on the bare bones of legal aid. Are you sure? It was only 2 per cent before lunch. Have you got a telephone in your bag so we can confirm this? I'm absolutely staggered.'

But then he allowed himself a brief smile, as he remembered his 'clever wife'. Along with many others who foresaw yesterday's interest rate rise, she had taken out a 9.95 per cent fixed rate mortgage the day before, so saving the solicitor and his family a hefty sum on their pounds 60,000 mortgage. Not everyone has been so prescient.

The solicitor received the news from the Bank of England as he digested a late lunch at the Bella Pasta Italian restaurant in Kingston-upon-Thames, the constituency of the Chancellor, Norman Lamont. The news did not help the digestive juices as he spat out his views on the Government, and what it had done to his business in the last five years. But he will survive, even if his spleen does not.

So will Yves, the music teacher who was playing Mozart's flute concerto in G major around the corner from the restaurant as the solicitor ordered a black coffee and brandy to help him recover from the shock.

'I'm making between 30 and 40 per cent less than I did two years ago' he said as the Kingston public threw a few coins in his direction. 'I used just to play on Saturdays, but now I'm having to play on weekdays as well. This announcement is not going to make things any better.'

It was to be a constant refrain from Kingston shoppers as the news from the Bank of England got progressively worse. However, this is Kingston. Once, it had the lowest level of unemployment in London and a wealth which made it the second most desirable retail location in Britain. The affluence is not so evident today, but Mr Lamont's constituents are not about to march on Westminster and lynch their MP.

They may stop spending so much at Marks & Spencer though. Loading up pounds 40.30 of prawn terrine, various prepared meals, and other M & S necessities, one woman was in a tearing hurry to get out of the store and like the solicitor refused to believe the extent of the increase. When persuaded, she slowed down on her way to her car using words like 'devastation', and 'disaster'.

She is the wife of an accountant, and will weather the storm. But she does worry about the children. 'I have two children who are first-time buyers. What's going to happen to them? The housing market is non-existent at the moment. Because of this increase, there will also be lots more repossessions. It's a disaster area.'

If there are first-time buyers trawling the house market in Kingston-upon-Thames, they weren't doing so in the offices of Gascoigne-Pees. Stephen Hewlett, the manager, said there hadn't been any customers in the office since the announcement in the morning of the 2 per cent increase in base rates.

'This is not the news we were waiting for to say the least. It will drive the whole market even further down and we'll be back to the 1989 situation.'

In 1989, Ferguson Kent was a struggling assistant at his father's fruit and veg stall in Kingston market. In those days, his father Charles was looking forward to retiring from the job he had been doing since the end of the war. Before yesterday's announcement, he had realised he would probably have to put off his retirement to help Ferguson with his pounds 120 month mortgage repayments. The Bank of England's announcement make it a virtual certainty if they stay at the same level.

The Kents' colleagues at the market are also suffering. Five or six stalls have been forced to close in the last two to three years and everyone has been affected by the recession.

Charles Kent said: 'People used to come to the market almost every day but now they are coming only occasionally. They realise that what they save by coming to the market is taken away by the car park fees. Today has been a bad day.

'It costs me pounds 130 a week to rent my stall and by the time I have paid for my lorry and van, my expenses are over pounds 200. I have lost money this year and I can't see how things are going to improve particularly because of the increase in interest charges announced today.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture