14 September 2007

Credit c.1000 BC-AD 2007

Credit, the system of getting free stuff on tick and then 'forgetting’ to make the repayments and moving house very quickly, has gone to the great debt collection agency in the sky, following the news that the worldwide Credit Crunch has made life difficult not just for homeowners but also the people who lent them all that money to buy a one-bedroom shoebox in Pinner.

Credit was born in around 1,000BC, when Ancient Babylonians grew tired of exchanging their wives for goats and bulls for asses and instead began exchanging their goods and services for credit receipts drawn up on clay tablets, which were not only easier to stick in the pocket of one's robe but also much less likely than the goats, bulls and asses to leave a nasty mess behind while they were in there.

Thanks to its convenience, Credit soon became a way of life across the globe, with everyone from Roman Emperors to humble Chinese paddy-field workers more than happy to 'buy now, try to avoid the bailiffs later'.

By the eighteenth century 'tallymen'(1) had begun to offer their goods for sale in return for weekly payments. It was not long, however, before Credit began to tire of this itinerant life and decided to go into business in the City, signing on at banking institutions the world over and offering itself out to the highest bidder. By the middle of the twentieth century, Credit was everywhere and consumers were happily signing away the rights to their property, chattels and small children to finance their credit cards, store cards and London Transport Oyster cards.

Yet all was not well. So popular had Credit become that everyone was demanding it ... and so soft-hearted were the institutions for whom Credit worked that they were reluctant to refuse it to anyone at all ... even if they did happen to be a penniless Alabama five-year old with a credit-history that would make Enron blanch and a desperate need for a $2 million mansion and a gold-plated Nintendo Wii. Credit found itself spread thinner and thinner(2). As hordes of US homeowners began to default on their loans, Credit began to contemplate its end. Fearful, Credit decided to leave its old friends in the financial institutions behind and go off to lick its wounds at the Bank of England.

Thus it was that when UK building society Northern Rock found itself short of a couple of million shillings to pop in the gas meter, its search for Credit initially proved fruitless. Yet Credit, noble creature that it was, was unwilling to see the tragic little multi-million-pound-organisation- which-had-foolishly-gone-on-bunging-out-mortgages-left-right- and-centre-even-when-every-sane-being-on-the-planet-could-see-a- credit-squeeze-was-coming fail, and so it came down from its lonely Threadneedle Street retreat and offered to lend Northern Rock the money it needed ... after first requiring it to fill in a loan application and have its credit history examined by a surly teenager on the other end of the phone whilst listening to a tinny rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

For all its nobility, the loan was Credit's last mistake: a flood of desperate applications from financially over-stretched borrowers up and down the country caused a run on the Credit markets. And so the Credit Crunch gave way to the Credit Crumble and Credit was no more.

Credit will be buried at St Vorderman's Church of Your Home Could Be At Risk If You Do Not Keep Up Repayments. The undertakers will deliver the casket to the church just as soon as they see the cash… up front… The service will be conducted by Alvin Hall and the congregation will sing Money by Pink Floyd, Money by Berry Gordy (in the style of the Flying Lizards), Money, Money, Money by Abba and Sgt. Northern Rock Isn’t Going To Help Us by XTCCJ.

Credit is survived by Cash On Delivery, Pay As You Go and Crippling Debt.

NB Your mortgage may go up as well as up. Remember your home, bank or building society may be at risk if you do not keep up repayments.

(1) so-called because they kept a record or ‘tally’ of what people had bought on a wooden stick ... which also proved useful in persuading them to pay up every week.
(2) not to mention squeezed into a series of financial vehicles of such complexity and opacity that the only people who ever understood them are now either mad, dead or earning a fortune working out the answers to late night TV phone-in quizzes.

1 Comment:

jmb said...

Five stars!