I'M TRAPPED, tied, stuck.
Reader's voice: "That sounds serious, Rab. Pray tell us: whit are ye oan aboot noo?" I will you what I'm on about noo, I mean now. There's an albatross dangling from my neck. "Speak clearly, Roberto." Very well: the ornithological attachment to which I have alluded heretofore is my mortgage.
You may have one of those too. Perhaps you like yours. You lick it and give it cuddles. But I loathe mine and I'm stuck with it. I never thought I'd become captive to a mortgage.
I thought that was for that other race of people: the people who owned cars. I didn't even become one of the latter till I was a well-matured fellow. For many years, on reporting jobs, I'd rely on photographers to give me lifts hither and, if it was big story, yon.
Once, I was late for a fire at a stately home because the bus I got took ages. Even when I waved my press card and told the driver my trip was urgent, he crawled along, stopping for other people on less urgent business and even at one point – until I put a halt to it – conversing with an elderly passenger.
My driving test was sat eventually in a peculiar place that lacked traffic lights. Reverse parking came with the instruction: "See if you can get it in there, between the field and the sea."
Around the same time, my thoughts started turning towards buying a house, though it was still many years more before I committed to that. Socialist friends had long urged me to get on the property ladder, but I resisted. I didn't want the responsibility, and the sums involved were way beyond the fivers and tenners that formed the normal limits of my mental currency.
A house and a car: how dreadful. These were for adults, and I never planned on being of those. But, at last, I threw in the towel and grew up, long after my contemporaries.
News this week that house prices in Scotland had fallen again left me feeling old and done. I'm chained to my partially harled brick walls, a prisoner in my mortgaged demesne. I'm not saying I definitely want to move. But I'd like the option, which I don't really have, if it means a big financial loss.
I put all my savings into my current home. And when I say "savings" I refer to the accumulation of profits made every time I'd moved house before. If I moved now, I'd lose much of these ill-gotten gains.
Technically, of course, I remain a free man. I've no family ties. The bank is the nearest thing I have to a family, and they don't send a Christmas card. I could cut loose. Go travelling. Not abroad. Never fancied that. But I could sell up and take a year out to explore the villages of East Lothian or the shopping centre at Livingston.
I could move to another house, somewhere cheaper but detached, which would mean moving to Wicker Man country. But if I moved, who'd feed the birds? The wee dunnock who watches me do my morning exercises was joined today by a crow in a nearby tree.
Crow: "What's yon beardie loon daein'?"
Dunnock: "Ah dinnae ken. Ah'm just a wee dunnock. A' ah can say wi' certainty is that he moves aboot in a peculiar manner and then leaves food a' ower the shop."
I've become part of their landscape. It's a landscape in which my cheap and cheerful removals men would enjoin me to remain. How they groan whenever I call for yet another move. They hate all the books and urge me to destroy them.
Ach, maybe I'll just accept my imprisonment, with no hope of release till I'm 72.
In related news this week, experts said interest rates could remain low for years, limiting the banks' evil usury.
That at least lets those of us living on the financial edge breathe out a little, as we tug on our pecuniary chains and peer through yet unpaid-for bars at the free blue skies ower yonder.
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