THE world has changed in the area where people, young and not so young, meet, fall in love, and decide to embark on a journey through life together. Often that can last for a significant length of time; a number of years in some cases, although these days relationships seem measured in months before disenchantment creeps in, around the same time as the bills.

When Mrs Shawcross and I started on that rocky road, our options were clear. We saved a deposit for a house, presented ourselves at the bank or building society when we found one we liked and could afford, filled in the necessary forms and answered questions relating to our jobs, salaries and ability to meet mortgage repayments. Once these were accepted, we moved in and began the difficult bit: living together.

The world hasn’t changed with regard to the meeting and falling in love. That’s been the same since Adam met Eve. But in these difficult economic times, with financial institutions reluctant to approve mortgage applications, it is a sad fact that many couples, particularly young ones, find it impossible to get on the home ownership ladder, unless they have wealthy parents prepared to give them a significant leg-up.

This has resulted in the property market undergoing a seismic shift, with “For Sale” signs being replaced by “For Rent”. You need only thumb through the property supplement of this or similar publications to determine that selling has become very difficult and owners, faced with continuing mortgage repayments, are offering their homes for rent.

In certain areas of the UK, London for instance, renting has pretty much always been the case for couples starting out, as house prices in the capital are significantly higher than in most other places in Britain. Now, because of restrictions imposed by banks and building societies, few can buy anywhere and renting is the norm.

This has been so for years in other parts of Europe, especially France, and no one seems troubled by it.

Maybe owning your home isn’t considered much of a necessity by “les Francais”, but here, to my generation at least, it always has been.

Through our eyes, paying anything from £450 a month for a two-bed apartment, and possibly £650 and upwards for a decent semi or “luxury” detached, is money chucked in the street, as my dad was fond of saying. Regrettably, a lot of money is being chucked in the street by couples, unless they are funded by the DSS. I’d rather not go down that route, but my sympathies do lie with the working “Jack and Jills”, anxious to make their own way in the world. They’ve been dealt a bum hand.