Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Jam tomorrow

I have to admit, I was pleased with this morning's radio news, that Barack Obama had retained his Presidency and could carry on Democratising the United States of America. It means continuity for the world, and another chance for him to show that America can handle things better in the next four years. And it should leave a progressive and sane legacy that ought to endure for a lot longer than that.

I like what I see of Barack Obama - and what I see of his wife, and his supporters, which include the charismatic Clintons. Say what you will about his personal weaknesses, Bill Clinton is still a man who commands a huge following, and his backing of Obama and the Democrat Party really matters. But Obama himself, handsome, intellectual, articulate, the untainted front man, has been the right sort of leader to dash the cup of samian wine from the lips of Mitt Romney and his big business backers. And he did it. America clearly had staunch faith and trust in Obama, clearly felt that his hands were safe hands, and not enough people believed Romney's confident assertions that he could wave a magic wand and all would be jobs and prosperity. And that America would remain undisputed top dog. The world has changed.

But the race to the White House was not discussed at the Claire Project monthly Posh Nosh last night in Brighton. It was at an italian restaurant called La Capannina. We hadn't been there before. The experience was good. There were fifteen of us. The service was friendly. The ordinary house wine, although drinkable, was not distinguished (we had something better for the later bottles), but the food was excellent. The bill was honest too: no arithmetical errors; it reconciled to the last penny.

So what did we talk about? Marriage and pensions! Two kinds of security, you might say. A sign of the times?

Marriage in the sense of 'what would you do if a very nice person suddenly proposed to you?' The concensus was that one would leap at it. I demurred, sticking to my usual line that I love my independence far too much. But obviously 'being married' has an extraordinary appeal to a lot of people, even people who may have very little real-life chance of actually finding someone suitable. Top reasons included the romance, the companionship, the cuddles, the sharing, setting up the home together, the planning of wonderful holidays together, or just giving life some point. I was unpurturbed: I know how someone who lives alone can have a full and busy day, with plenty of nice experiences to enjoy. I like the unfettered choice available to me, the ability to do as I please, go where I please, meet whom I please, eat what I like and when, hop in the car and whizz off if I want to, decide on my evening's entertainment, all without having to consult anyone, or defer to them in any way. I have my routines of course; I have my daily to-do list; in fact I am fiendishly self-organised; and I would resent sharing my life because it would not then run nearly so smoothly. There would be an unpredictable and uncontrollable element, and that would stress me out. Marriage or serenity? Peace and quiet, everything in my own time, no arguments, my own company, my ways, my tidiness, and none of your irritating clutter, if you don't mind!

The topic of the State Pension and when it would be paid also had a big airing. It's something around £105 a week for most people just now. Not 'living wage' money by any means. Even the proposed uplift to £140 a week won't be nearly sufficient on its own for active older folk who like to get out and about. It's money to ensure you won't starve or die of cold, not to live the Good Life on. But a very useful financial support for all that. And I say it's entirely proper that it's universally available, a caring, practical 'thank you' to all the country's elderly citizens, the country's award for simply living a long time and hopefully contributing something to the common good, even if all that amounted to was paying your way and keeping out of trouble.

But when? That was the issue. When will it come into payment? At 65? At 67? At 70 or older? It depended on your birth date.

In my own case, it will be 6 November 2014, when I'm 62 and a bit - and so by coincidence yesterday was exactly two years away from when my State pension begins. You might say that for me the 'countdown' has started in earnest!

And in effect all big plans and projects must now be on hold until I get my Romneys (i.e. mitts) on my State Pension. Two years of prudence, of treading water, while I slowly rebuild my dangerously small emergency fund and make no new financial commitments. Two years of hoping that my bills will stay within bounds, and that I won't be affected by bad harvests or fuel shortages around the world. Two years of managed austerity. Rather like the menu now being placed in front of America's people. Except that, provided I don't spoil it by falling under a bus, or some similar accident, I will get a guaranteed permanent leg-up on 6 November 2014.

But it's still 'jam tomorrow'. It still seems a long way off. I do hope Obama and the rest do wise things, and nudge the world along in a good direction. And not push us all over the cliff edge.


  1. In one way Lucy you could do with a husband...a rich one! Oh well probably pie-in-the-sky and not what you'd like so you'll have to watch the pennies. Happy belated birthday! Mine is two weeks away on the 21st. I shall of course be 39....(ok stop laughing,,,,I will be 67)

    Shirley Anne x

  2. My birthday is actually on 6 July. A while back I would have got my State Pension at 60, but the Pension Act 2007 deferred it by 2 years and 4 months.



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