It’s not been my best week, and it’s only 5.30am on Wednesday. I often think that everyone else is having a nice time and I am the only person who isn’t, for whom every day is something to be endured.
On Monday, I was proved right. I got a text from a friend. ‘Hi Lizzie. I am by the pool of my villa in the South of France because it is SO HOT! Am eating peaches beneath a palm tree. Making me grumpy, actually, the heat. How are you?’
I replied, Eeyore fashion: ‘Am in a meeting with the Official Receiver in Newcastle. I’ve had no food for three days. Bye!’
She then sent me a photo by way of reply, with her in the pool in a bikini.
Having said that, I left the meeting feeling better than I have for years. An end was in sight. I explained how I had got to where I am, and the Official Receiver understood. I told him that I’m not a risk taker. That I paid tax without fail or hiccup for well over 30 years. It only really fell apart when I employed a huge, corporate firm of accountants. I asked whether my basic Barclays current account will be frozen, as I’d been warned, and was told it was possible, but it would soon be rectified, as there is no point freezing my assets when they are 43 pence. I am no longer Liz Jones The High Flyer: it’s unsettling, to be stripped of who you are, to have every aspect of your life picked over and examined and queried.
But, in the world of Liz Jones The Low Crawler in the Gutter, it was a good outcome. I slept on Monday night without waking at 3am, sick with worry. And then, on Tuesday afternoon, I got an email from the Official Receiver, saying that my rent is not sustainable or acceptable and I will have to move, again. Maybe Philip Green has space on one of his super yachts.
I always think my nightmare is over, but it never is. No one will give me a break, or see that I was ill advised, had to sign tax returns with only an hour’s notice, while I was in Somalia or Bangladesh or Pakistan or Milan for work. That no one listened when I sent emails saying my income had more than halved overnight, as I had been sacked.
I told the Official Receiver in the meeting that I have never had a day off sick since I started work in 1981. I’ve never been late, or falsified a single receipt. Never had sick pay, or maternity leave, or help with childcare, or a sabbatical. When I worked for a national newspaper in the 1980s and 90s, I actually qualified for a year’s paid sabbatical, and I never took it! It is interesting, isn’t it, that this is a rich country, that people on benefits can smoke and drink and have children and never work, and yet I have worked for more than 35 years and I can’t even feed* myself. I don’t even have contents insurance, so if my laptop breaks, that is it. Game over. I cannot replace it.
Showing willing, that afternoon I booked to see a house for rent. I said my name was Mrs Scrace (sorry, David), as if anyone hears my name, they put the phone down. I met the estate agent in the road outside the house. ‘You’re Liz Jones, aren’t you?’ she said. It was game over.
I’m sorry to have to write this column. But I have nothing else to write about**. I wrote about my trip to Marrakech, and there it was on the Official Receiver’s desk. It wasn’t a holiday. It was work. I spent the entire four days in total, abject fear, in case the hotel suddenly decided to charge me for a lunch that wasn’t on the itinerary. I write about Mini Puppy, and the Official Receiver knows it, and tells me I have to give her up. I won’t give her up. Or Grace Kelly. I may have to go on the run.
* Poverty is when the last crust of your loaf burns in the toaster.
** Perhaps I should do what all the clever, rich, award-winning columnists do and write about loading my dishwasher or lugging a turkey across North London in a black cab.