Maya Angelou once said, I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel and this week, despite the obligations of my hitherto clandestine occupation as debt fighter extraordinaire, I am very much hoping this observation proves to be true.When my world fell apart as a consequence of our financial demise in 2008, it took me two years before I could communicate coherently with anyone. For this reason I remained largely out of sight from all but my immediate family and a few very close friends. All my hair fell out, I lost several stone in wait and I spent every moment of every day consumed by the horror and shame of being in debt. Each and every hour that I wasn’t required to carry out my duties of mother and housewife, I spent explaining our dire circumstances over and over again to our creditors. At the time I was incapable of being anything but consumed by our predicament.
Time has been a great healer and although we are far from out of the woods, and entirely because of the endless patience and kindness of many, many people, I have gradually emerged from a tunnel of overwhelming stress into a life which is different but far from unpleasant. The dark days of repeated panic attacks at the arrival of the postman are a memory I rarely linger on and I am proud to have pieced together a family life which provides both love and security for my children despite the back drop of a million pounds of unrecoverable debt.
Every creditor has been informed of our position and with the exception of HBOS and Lloyds all debts have been written off or are in the process of being written off. Even our beautiful apartment in Spain is due to be forcibly sold when Bankia get round to completing the sale at which point, according to both my solicitor and the bank who holds the mortgage, our community fee arrears of 12,000 Euros are to be settled in full by the bank.
While on occasion the lack of assets and the knowledge that our income remains very small saddens me, any malaise seldom persists because our children are happy and thriving in a school where I continue to work with grateful diligence as Chairman of the Friends. Whilst the head and his wife have been keen to remind me I have created an atmosphere of warmth and enthusiasm at both school events and amongst the ever increasing number of volunteering committee members, I am rewarded in the knowledge I have made a contribution, albeit not a financial one, towards to my children's education.
Despite the ongoing frustrations of my Financial Ombudsman’s Service complaint with regard to my HBOS case, my role as chairman has enabled me to move my daily focus away from obsessing about debt and instead channelled my energies into making myself useful and in so doing I have re-acquired “a life”. My email contact list bears testament to this with its one hundred and seventy three contacts and anything up to thirty incoming emails a day. Only two short years ago I had no computer and no email account, whereas today I communicate with everyone from my children’s friend’s parents, Friends committee members, Governors, teachers, service providers for our events, through to my five children and six grand children to name but a few.
However today, in spite of my relentless determintaion to secure a safe and happy family life for my children, the very foundations of my new found stability have been rocked. Following the discovery that my email account had been hacked and was sending a link containing a virus out to all those on my contact list, I emailed everyone to warn them not to open it. Included in my alert was the wealthy volunteer chairman of the community of our apartment. Unwillingly to accept that Spanish law dictates the arrears on our community fees will be paid in full when the bank takes possession, he has chosen to send an abusive and threatening email outling his disgust at our non payment of the community fees not only to me, but also to everyone on my contact list.
It is certainly true the kindest words in all the world are the unkind words not said” but because of the unkind words born out of this malicious man’s impatience for money, I am now faced with the fact that not only has everyone I know been served a large helping of our shamefully dirty washing, but my children, along with many of their friends, their friends parents and their teachers have too.
It is four years since I discovered the extent to which my husband had borrowed in an effort to save his property business and today my head once again hangs in shame while my heart bleeds for what my children may well face on Monday morning. I can only hope the recipients of this vicious hate mail might pause to remember how I have, during my time as chairman endeavoured to make them feel, before passing judgement on our position. Either way I can only assume my family and I will need a strong stomach over the coming months as, now he has access to my contact list, I cannot imagine this will be the only time this angry man will be making use of it.
The thought of this makes me feel physically sick.