Claire Black: If I was lucky, in several years I might get 3p for every pound I’d spent
SOME years ago, enough that I’m not weeping as I write this, but not so many that it doesn’t still hurt, I decided to buy a handsome leather chair. I had come into a bit of money unexpectedly and I reckoned that somewhere comfy to park my backside and read a book would be how I’d spend it.
I found a shop in the Merchant City in Glasgow, a place you could describe as a purveyor of aspirational homewares. The man who served me was friendly. He told me the chair would arrive in six weeks. I asked him why lots of the items in the shop – apart from the chair I wanted, of course – were reduced. They weren’t closing down were they, I asked jokingly. He laughed, assuring me they were just clearing some stock. I paid, using my debit card, taking my receipt and my well-thumbed copy of Elle Decoration and left.
Six weeks came and went.
The next time I passed the shop, it was stripped bare – everything was gone, even the plug sockets and light switches, leaving wires poking forlornly through holes in the wall. I pressed my nose against the window and a sick feeling stirred in my guts. The company had gone bust. The prospect of me ever being able to sit in my chair, never mind see a penny of what I’d paid for it, was gone.
As time passed, letters arrived from another firm saying that, if I was lucky, in several years I might get as much as 3p for every pound I’d spent once everything was sorted out. But there would be no chair. Never a chair.
The 116,400 people who saved with Farepak, most of whom were low-income families, continued to pay £1m a week right up to the company’s collapse in October 2006. They had no idea their money was disappearing into a black hole of debt.
Eventually, the ones who were still alive – 200 were not – got 15p for every pound they had saved, while HBOS, the bank who had refused to extend the overdraft to keep the company afloat, had its £31m loan repaid in full.
Last week, a judge said that although HBOS didn’t break the law, what it did “might not be regarded in the public’s eyes as being acceptable”. I can only speak for myself in saying the behaviour of that bank – and that chair shop incidentally – was utterly rank. A generous donation to the compensation fund seems the very least that HBOS should do.
WHEN you imagine bigwigs at Shell and ExxonMobil cheering on hearing that the melting of the North Pole is a sign only that they should crack on with ripping it up in the search for oil, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion they’re probably not the best people with whom to entrust the fate of one of the world’s last unspoiled ecosystems. Good news and good timing then (Shell starts drilling next month) that Greenpeace have launched a campaign for a ban on offshore drilling and unsustainable fishing in the region.
IF I were to look in my attic I know what I’d find – my neighbours Darren and Julie, who live in the flat in the eaves of our building. I’m not saying I’d rather find a Rembrandt sketch (Darren and Julie are nice neighbours) but I quite like imagining it now we know such things happen, one having recently been found in another Scottish loft. It’s being sold at auction on 3 July and is expected to make as much as £80,000. Not bad for a wee scrap found at the back of a wardrobe.
Last week Claire... realised that the question “what’s your favourite insert anything you want here” is, for her, completely unanswerable. She suspects that means she’s either chronically indecisive. Or terribly greedy
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North