Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Article excerpt

We've been wailing for the letter for weeks. Will we? Won't we? The suspense is killing us. After all our elaborate scheming, procurement of technically true documents, concealment of dodgy credit history and wishful calculations of childcare costs, the time is nigh for us to find out if we've managed to get a mortgage.

Curly brings the envelope to the breakfast table and opens it with a trembling hand. Two-year-old Larry is halfway through a chocolate croissant (it's a Saturday, the day upon which I gag the censorious middle-class mother in my brain and give in to sugar and saturated fats), so we have at least five relatively peaceful minutes in which to digest the news.

He draws out the sheaf of paper and reads it painfully slowly. Meanwhile, I am rehearsing my emotional response to both possible outcomes. Either way, I reassure myself, it's absolutely fine. If we do get it, that's obviously brilliant--whoop-de-doo, we will have our own little family home, no matter that it doesn't have a functioning kitchen or bathroom, smells quite strongly of rotting meat and fish, and is located slightly closer to the North Circular than is strictly speaking ideal.

And if we don't get it, that's fine too because we get to stay and be cosy in our flat. Generations of decent, hard-working people have brought up their families in these flats, and if they could do it, why shouldn't we? We'll just have to pare down the toy collection and throw out a few books to make room once baby Moe gets too big for his Moses basket. …

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