I've been out for cocktails. It's mid-month, so this is a risk as payday is still a long way away. But I've been trying for so long to live within a strict austerity budget in a seemingly endless attempt to reduce the debt I'm in. Initially I viewed it as a challenge: anything the ConDem government (was there ever a more apt abbreviation?) can do, I could do better. I was determined to be financially solvent by the end of 2011. I had purpose.
The summer, therefore, has been something of a damp squib - and not just because of the weather. No holidays, few big nights out, minimal expenditure and old, faded clothes.
Yet now the novelty has worn off. I'm close to breaking point. Close to embarking on a FTW spending spree on credit cards and money that's not mine but that the bank seems more than happy to provide. The end is in sight, but the monotony of my existence has become painful.
So cocktails it was. And despite the ample amount of gin, rum and whisky, I can't shake this feeling of irresponsibility. Unemployment figures are up, but I have a job. I may feel frustrated at being 26 and still living at home, but I have a roof over my head. I have a family, friends and at least some money each month to piss right up the wall.
This feeling is compounded when a homeless person stops and asks me for change. I start my usual "sorry, I haven't any change" response, but it sticks in my throat. I give her a pound, but that seems woefully insignificant compared to the amount I've just spent on alcohol. It doesn't seem right. Maybe this is a symptom of what's wrong with society? My inability to go without, I mean. My feeling so hard done by when really, I am among the better off.
Yes, I am broke, most of the time. But I'm still part of society. I'm not excluded, ignored or kept on the edge. I think back to my time working in local government. I hated the job, it wasn't something I wanted to pursue, but it was hard not to empathise with some of the people I met; many of whom had suffered and still do suffer the exclusion and fear I've thus far managed to escape.
It's partly this experience, I think, that causes the boiling rage inside when I read comments under right-wing newspaper articles, or when I hear the government demonising the 'benefit scroungers' that are supposedly bleeding our country dry. All this, from a group of people who have, I imagine, never known hardship, nor even approached it unless it offers a PR-friendly photo opportunity.
This city - perhaps even this country - is a cruel mistress. London is, in my opinion, an incredible place. Much like an outdated office block giving way to a gleaming skyscraper, she changes her look, her mood. At times the streets seem paved with broken dreams rather than gold. At others she glistens like a huge Christmas tree, beckoning to you, offering her cultural delights, her unrivalled social scene, a feast for someone with the money and inclination to gorge themselves on.
And so I find it impossible. I can't imagine my life without London, but at the same time I can't imagine being of the few with the means to really enjoy everything on offer.
I will settle for the middle ground, which I can, I hope, realistically aspire to. I will try and resist the seduction of happy hours, 2 for 1 offers and everything else that's distracting me from my route to financial solvency. At times, it will be boring. At others, it will be difficult. But the end result will be worth it, I think. There's enough to worry about (double dip recessions, illness, the volcano under Yellowstone National Park) without adding money to the huge pile of woe. So back to the budget, Read, and stop whinging. You could be a whole lot worse off.
Fuck...all that from a mojito...maybe drink is my problem, rather than my budget.