Angela Merkel’s Not Going To Be Happy, But There’s Another Bail Out Needed
Whilst all eyes were on Italy and Spain, developments in north London will have taken all but the most astute of commentators by surprise. Yes, the next international bail-out will be of my student daughter.
Following the Big Incident in Sainsbury’s we all made up and went home. We left the Very Precious Daughter in the middle of a massive work crisis, and from later reports it seemed that she didn’t sleep for the best part of 3 days as she raced to get her project finished and handed in. With that behind her, she (unsurprisingly) fell ill. A few days later I got the phone call.
“Hi Dad. How are you? What have you been up to? How’s work going?”
Immediately I was suspicious. It didn’t take long to get beyond such pleasantries to the real point of the call. She’d run out of money.
I have to say, I’m quite pleased with the way I handled the call and everything else that followed. I didn’t get angry or emotional, and I stayed reasonable throughout. I am in fact probably one of the most reasonable people you will ever come across. I’m almost unreasonably reasonable. But you wouldn’t think so if you saw many of my interactions with my beloved daughter.
I’m pleased with my restraint because for her to have run out of money at this stage of the term is completely and totally unacceptable. I’m almost embarrassed to reveal just how much financial support we give her. We pay her rent, her bills, and for her phone. We give her a very reasonable (see, there I go again) weekly amount to live on, 52 weeks of the year. We gave her extra over the summer so that she could do an extended internship in a fashion house. Whenever we see her she goes away with enough food to keep her going for weeks. She doesn’t know it but we’ve got money put aside to help clear her student loans when she finishes (which will be in about 20 years time from what I can work out). We are comfortably off , but we are by no means loaded, and this isn’t money we just happen to have lying around.
All she has to do is to make her student loan last over the course of a term. We barely got past half way.
Now I know that being a student in London isn’t cheap. And I also know that she has to buy all kinds of materials (sometimes expensive materials) for her course. But the amount she gets from us, plus her loan, makes her far more Germany than Greece amongst students. For those with no significant parental help, the maintenance loan barely covers their rent.
The VPD has always been terrible with money. Absolutely terrible, and it’s been the cause of far too much tension. We have tried everything we can think of to help her, but she just cannot cope with the idea of making money last over any period of time. She doesn’t have the first notion about how to keep track of where she is. But of course we get tossed heads and a dangerously high OMG-per-minute rate if we try to intervene too much (like suggesting she pays her loan to us and we drip feed it back). This combination of supreme confidence and utter financial incompetence is fatal (although from what I’ve seen in the business world, it could mean she will go far). These car crashes are all too familiar.
I establish that what she’s asking for is two or three hundred pounds for more project expenses, a slush fund of about the same for emergencies, and an increase in the weekly allowance until she can regroup in January. I don’t think she’s really thought this through. It’s just a negotiation. This is perhaps my problem. Why would anyone ever consider for one micro-second that on this subject my daughter would have thought anything through?
So what do you do? I find it so bloody difficult. I want to be fair, but I want her to learn, and there is no doubt that she is going to struggle to do her next piece of work if we don’t help her out. The Beautiful Armenian and I have a summit meeting, and agree the terms of a bail-out. As it happens I had already arranged to meet up with the VPD at the end of the next day in London. We end up having a really lovely evening. She is at her best, and when she is she is irresistible. And unless I am even more naive than I give myself credit for, this isn’t put on. It really is just how she is. When I explain that we are prepared to give her some – but by no means all – of what she’s asking for, but never again, she is very sweet and grateful. I’m not looking for gratitude, but I’ll take it if it’s on offer.
I also get an insight into the world of Frau Merkel and her problems with Greece, because we talk about austerity measures. We agree that no matter how stressful her deadlines are (bless) she can’t afford to spend twice as much on her lunch every day as I do. We get a very imaginative proposal to consider rolling her own cigarettes (yep, a significant proportion of the money we give her is being spent on laying down some solid foundations for future health problems, because she’s really going to need those). And we even go as far as accepting the possibility that time may have to be found in her crucifying social and artistic schedule to get one of those things that boring people have. A job.
Now I’m being a bit unfair on her here. She’s worked plenty in the past – she’s been a waitress, she’s washed up and she held down a Saturday job in a shop for a year. When she moved to London, she decided that if at all possible she didn’t want to have to earn money. Although there is no doubt that this is partly because it bores her rigid, it is also because this course means so very, very much to her and she wants to eradicate anything which may be a barrier to success.
So it’s all been agreed, and we feel that not giving in completely is part of the tougher love policy that we now seem to be following. Now call me insightful, put it down to all the wisdom I’ve acquired in being a parent for the best part of quarter of a century, but I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this yet. I’ve got a very strong feeling that a life already in chaos may be heading for complete melt down, but I think it needs to if she is ever going to rebuild things with any semblance of structure. As a father, it’s very difficult to resist the temptation just to make it all OK for her. The ability sometimes to make it all OK is one of the really good things about being a dad. But not this time. We can’t go on as we have.
I relayed a lot of this to my mother this afternoon, and as she so helpfully pointed out, it all gets a lot easier after the first twenty-one years.