It’s my morning call to Barry. I gingerly mention that I have spent the weekend going through my accounts.  I don’t mention the trip to Hoxton. 

“I‘ve had a terrible weekend. My daughter, Heather, she’s left her husband, and she’s gone off with a chancer with a fruit and veg stall.”

I want to ask where the fruit and veg stall is, and could I get a trade discount?  I stop myself,  it might a bit tasteless.  Barry does seem very upset.

“She’s moved back into the house with the three kids, the husband’s sitting in the kitchen crying into his tea, and my wife is at the beautician!”

I am so sorry.  Can we talk about the repayment plan?

“Why can’t the husband behave like a man?  Take her back home, talk some sense into her.  They’ve got children for Gawd’s sake!”

Barry!  The repayment plan?

“Oh.  Yeah.  Right! ”

I’ve got a problem.  There’s a shortfall. 

“Have you got on to the credit card company, like I told you?.  Have you made arrangements to make a minimum payment?   Once you do that, you should be able to cut back that shortfall.  So, shall we say a £100?”

What?  £100?  Right…   Well, I suppose…

“So that’ll be £400 a month.”

Hang on Barry.  I can’t pay £400 a month!  I thought you meant a £100 a month!

“We’ve got a problem.  I don’t think I can get the office to accept that, Madelaine.  There’s going to have to be some belt tightening”

What the hell does Barry think I am doing?  And anyway, I have cut the payments on the credit cards.  It’s the mortgage and the second charge that are eating money!

“Get onto the mortgage company and get them to give you a payment holiday and do the same with the second charge.  If you do that, you’ll have some leeway.”

I swallow nervously.  I am very unhappy about a mortgage “holiday”, but okay, I’ll do it.  We eventually agree on £200 a month.

I put the phone down and I realise that I am going to stop paying my mortgage for three months so I can pay Barry £600!    

I make the phone call to the mortgage company.  They agree to the “holiday”.   They ask me to keep them updated on my job situation.   Negotiating some sort of  break on the loan, secured, by the second charge, is much more difficult. They are not as understanding.  I find myself breaking down in tears.  They agree to hold payment for a month, but there will be a £50 fee.   Then, unexpectedly the “advisor” wishes me luck with the “job hunting”.

Feeling emotionally exhausted I go to the vegetable stall.  I buy delicious aubergines, some potatoes and onions.  There’s rosemary growing wild in the church yard.  I can pick some on my way home.  No need to spend 90p on herbs.  We’ll have a tart for supper, the daughter and I,  together with a tomato salad.  I’ll make the filo pastry before I go to work. 

Happy that today’s outlay has been less that £3.00, I go off to the café.  Four hours later my shift is over.  I have earned more than £3.00.  I feel good.

But when I get home, the filo pastry is in the rubbish.  Michael’s in the kitchen.  He’s sorry about the filo pastry.  He dropped the bowl, there was glass everywhere.  Took him ages to clear it up.  He’s making himself an aubergine, potato and onion tortilla.  It’s a very big tortilla.  He’s very hungry.  He’s got a gig.  I look tired. 

Why don’t I order a pizza?   It’s the daughter who tells Michael that we are on a very strict budget.  She climbs up and gets some rice out of the cupboard, and then she offers me the tomatoes.  “Roasted tomato risotto?”

But we haven’t any parmesan, or white wine, I tell her.  Tears aren’t far away.

She opens the fridge and finds some cheddar,and  in the freezer there’s some wine that I frozen in an ice tray. “Ta da”, she says like a magician, a magician with fairy wings.