The Times (UK), August 3, 2003

Britain goes loan crazy

(snipped for Keanu content)

Money is cheap and the living is easy. As consumers rack up record amounts of debt, our correspondent reports on our increasing willingness to chase dreams with credit - and the risks it poses.

When it comes to her obsession with Keanu Reeves, Jennifer John, an assistant bank manager from Walthamstow, will stop at nothing. The trousers and T-shirt that Reeves wore in the film Speed have pride of place in her GBP 140,000 (US$ 210,000) east London terraced house, which overflows with memorabilia of the Hollywood star.

"Obviously he's handsome but I find him an intriguing person, too," explained John, 32, who claims that her husband, a computer engineer, is happy to tolerate her love of all things Reeves. "Keanu rarely speaks about himself or his innermost feelings, which adds to the mystery."

Flying around the world to see the enigmatic actor - she gave him a kiss at the Cannes film festival - is expensive, but affordable thanks to easily available credit.

To finance her passion, John has taken out GBP 20,000 (US$ 30,000) of loans from her employer, the Halifax, at 6.9% interest. "The fact that money is cheap to borrow has been a big factor," she said, "It has all been worth it - Keanu actually recognises me and gave me a wave when I was in Los Angeles."

John is part of Britain's boom in borrowing to fund not essentials but lifestyles, hobbies and eccentric fascinations. It is a phenomenon fuelled by the lowest interest rates for 48 years.



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