Trifty Living: The cheque's in the post, the nice lady says. Yeah, right

Rosie Millard
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:51

Oh god, my bank manager calls me with news of impending Armageddon on my bank account. Money I've been pounding the doormat in expectation of has mysteriously been held up on the magical "cheque run" from one of my many employers. It's two months late! I'm fed up with sending polite invoices and email reminders. I decide to call them in a thinly disguised fury. Got to be careful, though, shouting at employers, particularly as this lot pay lavishly.

Someone very nice comes on the line. Oh, your cheque, she says vaguely. It's in the system. No, she doesn't know what happened. But it's all coming right, now, with the next cheque run. Would I mind waiting another two weeks? Can I wait?! Of course I can't! We're not talking a £75 tiddler; this cheque is for £2,000, and that would staunch the holes in my weakened financial edifice rather perfectly. "Send it over now, in used notes!" I feel like yelling at the nice lady.

Of course, remembering that you don't shout at your paymasters, I do no such thing. "Oh, that's fine," I murmur, putting the phone down with a sense of despair.

Then, to add to the muddle, my French bank manager calls to say exactly the same thing about impending Armageddon etc etc happening to me on the other side of the Channel. I know, it's luxurious having an account in France but believe me, when it goes wrong, the French are merciless. They start taking away your furniture and blackening your global credit rating after merely a couple of weeks in the red.

My brain slowly gathers speed as I range through my options. It dawns on me that I could burgle my weekly savings account, which is currently gathering momentum in order to withstand the forthcoming avalanche of my July tax bill. My savings account! Raid it! I quickly log on and transfer handfuls of cash. Only because it is an online account, the transfer operates about as quickly as the thigh of a tortoise. Four working days to transfer money online! Pathetic.

Even worse, I discover I can't transfer anything online to the European mainland, even if I have all the correct IBAN numbers, indeed, not even if I have BIC codes coming out of my arse. Yes, I am using a term from Middle English because, financially speaking, we're in the Middle Ages.

So I have to arrange an online, very slow, transfer to my London bank, and then an equally slow transfer to my French bank. Which cannot be done online, over the phone, or indeed by any method, bar the ancient channel of ye olde fax machine. Naturally I don't have a fax. I feel like screaming. Down the road I trot, to the chemist that owns the only publicly operational fax south of the Watford Gap. Have we been down this route before? Why yes. It's pathetic.

Not only that, but come July when I will have a bill of non-dom proportions, I won't have anything to pay it with, because I've raided my savings account. So I'll have to raid my current account to pay my tax bill, for tax on earnings already spent, and then we will be back to square one with my account. Never mind. As Scarlett O'Hara will soon be saying in the West End, tomorrow is another day, and the July tax day is several tomorrows away.

"Robbing Peter to pay Paul," says Mr Millard sadly, wagging his head in mock despair as he sees me in a flurry of online, fax, phone calls and bilingual conversations based, broadly speaking, on Longmans Audio-Visual French, stage Un. He is very irritating at the moment. I suspect this is because he was beaten not only by Ben Fogle, Gordon Ramsay and several bananas in the London Marathon, but also by moi. Even so.

"Now that the credit crunch is officially here," he calmly continues when I return from the chemist, "we have to start officially downsizing." What more can we do? Our family expenses have already dwindled like a set of Russian dolls. I pick up the paper. It advises everyone to start looking for cheaper options in life; from nanny to au pair, from taxi to bus, from Pizza Express to sandwiches, from theatre to television. So, no Scarlett O'Hara in the West End, not with tickets at £60 each. I'll have to make do with renting the original on VHS and toasting Vivien Leigh with Babycham as she cuts up the velvet curtains for her dress. Actually, what a great idea.

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