Saturday, January 03, 2009

Credit crunches I have known

I met one of the partners of the firm I used to work for this morning, and chatting to him reminded me of the crashes and crunches of the past.

I was at school in the 1970s and the winter of discontent. It seemed great fun as a kid when the power went off. We had to use candles. My dad cooked our dinner on a makeshift barbecue in the yard (he never did it again, much to my disappointment) and we had a coal fire. But other than that I can’t really remember much about it.

Then there was the depression in the early 1980s. I was just out of University and living up north. It is the only time in my life I have been completely unable to find a job. No-one was interested in my geography degree. I cheered myself up by reading War and Peace in about 5 days, reading non stop all day. Its a funny feeling when you read non stop all day like that. But it helped.

Mainly as a result of the early 80s crunch, I moved down south to live with my parents, and started the long process of qualifying as a solicitor (London external law degree while working, and then the Law Society finals). During this time I bought the smallest flat in Blackheath. After passing my last set of exams (and taking a lifelong vow never to do any more, ever), I took a year off to travel, after which I planned to move up to Norwich to do my articles (thats what we called it back then, articled clerks, not trainee solicitors).

That was 1988. During that year the government decided to get rid of MIRAS. Couples all over the country were desperate to buy before the deadline. I can remember sitting in the British Embassy in Mexico City reading in The Times about the selling frenzy back home. “Well”, I thought, “Should be all right selling the flat when I get back”. Ha! I arrived back to the property market crash. It took me nearly a year to sell my flat. (Later of course I wished I had kept it ...).

The property crash went on for some time. Lots of people were in negative equity. Sales went through the floor. During my stint in the conveyancing department at work (articled clerks did 6 months in four different departments then, I don’t know what they do now), I had hardly anything to do. I can remember sitting in my office and reading the Yellow Pages (not as boring as it sounds, I was researching local services) and looking up obscure points of law in Halsbury.

So here we are again. Crunch time. They say it is the worst ever (apart from the 1930s depression), but in many ways many of us are much better off (in England that is). When I was a child, for a long time we had no fridge or TV, and I don’t think we were particularly unusual. Personal computers had not been invented. When I was at University, no-one had a car, we all used bicycles. Things feel more prosperous now.

But we will have to see how it goes during this new year of 2009. Good luck to you all. And a happy new year.

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1 comment:

Paphos Property said...

Really Tessa there is so much fun that we have when we are far away from realities. Though I was born in 1978 but I can imagine the kind of things that might have prevailed during credit crunch times. Today we all face a new financial crisis that is eating into the jobs of thousands of people. Hopefully this time we are well prepared to recover from the lows quickly.