INDEX December 11, 1999

Jonathan Brind
3 St Helier's Road
London E10 6BH
Phone 020 8556 8928
December 11, 1999.

Dear ....., The end of the year finds me very much in the same state as I was at the beginning: waiting for a lot of things to happen. In some ways 1999 was a very good year. Clare and I finally announced we were splitting up and that was good. Arthur got amazingly good A levels (3 Bs) and then started his (Sheffield) university philosophy course with flying colours. He's headed for a first or at least a 2:1. Laura got through her first year of biology at Portsmouth and even managed to survive her re-takes when she over slept through the beginning of one of her exams. She's now 20, so I can't say I've got two teenage children any more!

And then there was Katy. She's a green activist who enjoys a good riot and is a member of the Donga tribe (Twyford Downs). We've been going places together (mostly pubs) since the early summer. She is frustrating, worrying, dynamic, vulnerable, brilliant, thoughtful, kind, vivacious, maddening and a whole lot of other things besides. She makes my life exciting. Katy is an expert at networking. She seems to know just about everyone on the green left and as a result I'm starting to do interesting things politically.

I gave up the Labour Party when Tony Blair was elected. I now realise I stayed too long. Trouble was I was at the conference that elected Neil Kinnock. I voted for him at my branch, at the constituency and then at the conference. I felt responsible for him. And to a certain extent I believe in political expediency. But it is now clear to me that the Labour Party is a bankrupt organisation that stands for nothing but obtaining the trappings of power (not even real power) for a narrow clique. Of course, there are still a lot of good people in the Labour Party (and not all of them left wingers) but the organisation itself is a cancer. It needs to be cut out of the body politic.

Work has been amazing. A little over a year ago I got this job I didn't really want working for a magazine in the double glazing industry. British industry these days is full of people with egos the size of Jupiter. Everything they're being told suggests that business is where it's at and businessfolk drive forward society. That makes business to business publishing (what I do) immensely frustrating. The only income source is the advertising but the advertisers want you to say the most incredibly overblown hyperbole about them. Commercial reality dictates that you have to make the publication almost Pythonesque in its lickspittle editorial content. I know this and treat the magazine professionally. It's not my creative outlet any more, simply a job.

But even with the limitations I have succeeded in producing a very high quality magazine and have pioneered things like the email list. I now have an large list of public relations agencies and marketing people who receive regular emails from me about operational matters. It seems obvious but no-one else has done this. But, and there has to be a but, the magazine I work for is in Westerham, Kent, and it takes about an hour to drive there (cost of round trip about £7 petrol). I would much prefer to work in London and buy a weekly travelcard. I buy several travelcards each week anyway, so it would save me a lot of money. And even though I'm paid quite well (for a left wing hack in a right wing business) by the time I've paid the £4,000 for the kids university education each year (only another 18 months to go!) there isn't much left.

That said 1999 provided a revelation to me. Perhaps, because I was lightening up, perhaps because my attitude to work is changing, perhaps for a whole combination of reasons, suddenly I discovered I don't enjoy work any more. For many years I used to find the job a solace. I might have problems dealing with the office politics or I might be drinking too much or whatever, at least I knew I was doing a good job at work. In 1999 I got fed up with trade journalism (the way I was being forced to do it) and actually started thinking about doing something else. I'm 47 and it's about time I settled down and started my career!

Early this year I started flat hunting. I thought long and hard about moving to Kent (maybe even to the Kent coast where I spent some of my holidays as a kid in the 1950s). However, I was convinced by other people that it was better to live close to the people and the places I knew. Buying a home in a rising market is one of the most frustrating, paranoia inducing experiences imaginable. I went to look at one flat being refurbished by a builder and the estate agent said that he thought the builder would take £71,000. I offered £71,000 and the estate agent phoned back to say no he wanted £72,000. The flat wasn't even really finished. Would the builder have done all the work or would he have relied on my impatience to complete the deal, to skimp? Would the price have gone up again after a few weeks? Would I have been gazumped?

In July I agreed to buy for £65,000 the first storey of a three storey house on one of the main traffic arteries in Waltham Forest, the borough I've lived in, off and on, since 1973. There then followed a long wait while my building society arranged for an inspection and agreed to come up with the dosh. It probably took about six weeks. Since August I've been waiting for the vendors to come up with the necessary paperwork. About a month ago they announced that the freeholder had suddenly turned up (the problem before was that he was missing) and was demanding £5,000 for building works, insurance and ground rent. Given that the papers were full of stories of rampant house price inflation my suspicion has long been that what's really going on is that they are leaning on me to up the price. However, just a few days ago I got a letter to say the exchange of contracts should be imminent. So you can understand why I'm on tenter hooks. At least the papers now contain stories saying house prices are on the turn. If I have to start again it should be easier. But this flat has cost me £800 in fees so far and I can't afford to keep throwing £800 away.

So that's where I am. Still living in the same house as Clare, though separated. Still working as a trade journalist. Waiting for a new home, perhaps a new life, maybe even a new job closer to home. Waiting until the kids finish university. Life, I'm told, is what happens to you while you're making plans. Or there is the (Jewish?) joke: how do you make God laugh-- tell him/her your plans.

Yours with love,

Jo Brind
December 11, 1999INDEX