TRANCHED: Life after CDOs, Week 17

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Alistair Darling came out last week and said the UK was in the grip of the biggest downturn in 60 years. Mr Darling must wish he had been somewhere else the day Gordon Brown dropped in to offer him the job of Chancellor. His appointment in June 2007 coincided nicely with the start of the global financial chaos: talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The reality of a downturn is far more subtle than Darling would have us think. The idea of a recession might drive newspaper editors wild with glee, but for the majority of people recessions have little or no effect. There may even be a positive outcome: no longer able to extol the virtues of home ownership, television networks will be forced to update half of their schedules. 'Repossession, Repossession, Repossession' doesn't have quiet the uplifting ring of its chirpy predecessor.

My own shift from prime to sub-prime was confirmed this week on a trip to the bank. I was opening a savings account for my baby daughter and was working through the forms with the Account Opening Supervisor (a spotty teenager with a tie knot wider than his neck, cheap shoes and enough grease in his hair to kill a flock of seabirds). We came to the section of the form that asked for my employment details. After so many years of rattling off my employer's details and address, I had to confess that this section of the form was no longer applicable.

A few months ago, this experience would have felt slightly humiliating. Last week, I felt I had moved on and had finally accepted my current position in society. To be absolutely honest, I felt almost rebellious, as if I had opted out of society free to blaze my own trail, free to choose my own path. I guess this is what makes hippies seem so self-satisfied.

Unfortunately, this jaunt into fantasyland was only temporary. Watching my daughter later that evening, I was struck by the realisation that while a spacious two-bedroom flat in one of London's nicer suburbs suited my wife and me perfectly a year ago, it's less well suited to a fast growing baby who is beginning to get a firm grip on the concept of crawling.

My wife and I sat down and did the preliminary maths on houses in the area. The reality of the situation is that my sub-prime status is not going to cut the mustard with a mortgage broker, so any rebellious trailblazing notions have been thoroughly quashed.

I am going away today for a two-week holiday in a quiet villa in the sunshine. Upon my return it will be time to pull the trigger on a job. Two weeks to enjoy my freedom before reality bites again.

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