Everything I do seems to have a sequel. It’s funny how life can be like that. I really felt that some points needed to be addressed, however. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Unseen Poor. Let’s kick back with a cuppa and have a chat about a few of them, shall we? Make yourself comfortable and come sit with me. Keep your coat on, it’s not cold enough for heating, but you’re probably going to feel the chill in my house if you’re not used to it. My family and I are used to it. Our old house never had heating for three years, thanks to an indifferent and incompetent landlord. While being evicted when he sold the house was distressing and has left me terrified it will happen again, this house is better. Even with penetrating damp, crumbling walls and mould. We had white fluffy mould and green mildew in the last house–this time we have black mould. It’s good to switch it up, don’t you think? Look carefully and you can make patterns and faces from it. It passes the time.
Comfy? As warm as you’re likely to get? Great! Let’s do this thing…
- Jamie Oliver did not deserve your anger. How dare you insult him? He’s trying to help you, you ungrateful b**ch. Get a grip, he’s doing the best he can.
Okay, now. Hold your horses and calm down a little. Take a deep calming breath.
My post was not a direct attack at Jamie personally. I am disappointed that I am unlikely to get the chance to divorce ‘The Hubs’ and marry Jamie now, but it was not a sensationalist piece of writing done with the sole aim to piss off all my fellow Jamie fans. What angered me is that the tag line for his show was “You Can Eat Like A King Whatever Your Budget.” My budget, Jamie, is £45 a week to feed a family of five. I eat healthy and I eat well, but it sure ain’t like a king.
I manage to do it and I never said I could not feed my children. I said that there are times I might have to make do with a bowl of rice, so they can eat the 20p packet of spaghetti with a home made tomato sauce, pimped up with some Tesco Value dried oregano, so it tastes Italian. I have said that there are times that I can’t afford to heat my house (I already spend £20 a week on gas, thanks to the meter taking a debt as well) and I have to choose between heating, or buying food. I will drink a lot of water, instead of eating a lunch, if the cupboards are depleted. The kids need that food, I am old enough to wait and bide awhile. My mum helps a lot, but I do get by on the budget I have. I don’t find it too hard, either. I never meant to imply that £45 is not enough for food, it is. Mostly.
Now, Jamie, what upset me…really upset me to the point of nearly crying, was when you, on your programme, Money Saving Meals, tried to tell me, with my £45 a week food budget, that I could save money by buying a £22 shoulder of lamb. I am certain Jack Monroe was likewise appalled at the blasé presumption that this richly priced joint of meat could ever be seen as affordable by a large portion of the people you purport to be helping. I hope that clears it up a little bit for anyone who thought I was simply laying into you for no reason. My ire was not only directed at you, but at the producers, programme developers and all the rest of you who, rightly, do not have to live as I do. It is not budget. Give me a call, Jamie–you taught me all I know, I would be more than happy to teach you in return. I make a wicked vegetable curry.
- Sell your computer. Get rid of your TV. You have luxury items.
No, no and…no.
This is indicative of how well we are socially conditioned to believe those left wanting can heal their situation simply by getting rid of parts of their lives deemed superfluous. My children, the three at home, are all at school. Their homework requires the internet. A lot does. My son’s college course is entirely computer based (it is a computer course, so this makes sense). He would love a laptop, but I can’t get him one. He works part time and has recently had to purchase a new bed for himself as I could not afford it. He went to Ikea and got a nice one–and my youngest daughter received a ‘new’ mattress as a result. This is how things work, you see? We re-use, recycle, stick together and get on through! We have the one computer, which is my main source of income. I am an author, I am just starting, in the scheme of things. I have no agent, no publicist, no advertising budget aside from my Facebook Page and word of mouth. And now this blog. Yes, I will use it to promote my work; I self publish and I am only just starting to see anything come from it. I had my first book out for free, to get my name seen, for several months, while I wrote the sequel. I write–it is how I will make money and get off benefits. If there are any legit agents out there…well, you know, I’m free. You all rejected me once, but I’m open to the idea of a second chance 😉
To tell me to lose the web and to sell my PC (A GIFT FROM A FRIEND) is to tell my children they cannot do their coursework, studies, homework and research to the absolute best standard available to them in this country. It is to tell me I do not have the right to work as an author. Work. I do not, as has been said, lounge around writing blogs for my entertainment. I am a selling author and have been for 7 months. I have no intention and no reason to sell the TV. It is the only one in the house, and the kids enjoy it. Why shouldn’t they? Giving up the TV will not make the hard times better. These suggestions are painful to read. You are telling me that I can ‘fix’ my poverty by removing a television and my source of income. It’s not fair to assume a torn off limb could be mended with a plaster; please realise this situation is not going to be helped by losing my children’s source of enjoyment and it will be worsened if I cannot write and earn royalties from my books.
Thank you so much, all of you who bought a book. You have no idea how fast the 29p royalties add up when hundreds are buying.
- You took your daughter to Cardiff
This one is an easy one. I should not have to justify taking one of my four children somewhere for their birthday, but I will. I’ll also tell you how I did it.
Meg, my daughter, turned 16 shortly after the new year. All of her friends are doing the big American parties and ‘Sweet Sixteen’ stuff. I said I would try and find a free hall, maybe pay for a DJ and lay out an Iceland Party-Style buffet. She said no, thank you but no thank you, because it would end up very expensive and she’d have nothing to show for it afterwards. She said it was a waste of money. I save up for the Big occasions, and 16 is a milestone. I told Meg I would give her a party, that I could afford it. She said no. She asked, instead, to go to The Doctor Who Experience. She asked in October–do you know many 15 year old girls who would have the foresight to ask 4 months in advance to go to to something where the tickets cost £16.00 for an adult? Me neither, but my daughter did just that. I Immediately went onto hostelworld.com. They gather all the backpacker hostels on one site, you punch in a postcode, they show you what’s available in that area. We stayed in a room with bunk beds and a single bed. My mum came to help cover the cost of the room, and to buy us some food while we were there. Luckily, the Nomad has a big kitchen you can use, so it’s almost like self catering. They also feed you cereal in the morning. All this is £40 a night for the room and breakfast for three people. I booked in October and paid a £20 deposit. I then started squirrelling the money away for the extortionate train tickets and the tickets for Doctor Who himself.
We did not spend a fortune in the mall–I said go prepared to spend a lot, because it is very expensive…if you buy anything. I should have added that we window shopped in that mall for 6 hours. It was good fun. They have a Lego Store and we looked at individual Lego, but we did not buy any. We walked to Cardiff Castle, and we looked at that too. We did not pay £22 each to walk up the stairs and actually see it. That’s how much they charge, to walk past the gates. I never had that much in my purse, not for me and Meg to go. Had she really wanted to have seen inside, I would have paid for her ticket and sat looking at the walls, with my mum. Meg said no. The Saturday night was spent in the recreation room of the Nomad, talking to a backpacker and watching the voice, munching on a Tesco salad bowl. The high life of luxury? Not quite.
I loved visiting, but I found it over priced and impossible, even though I left all my family at home, bar one daughter. Please do not resent her birthday present. She has a right to be allowed gifts and treats, just the same as other children. Without my mum, we could not have gone at all.
- You should not have bred. You shouldn’t have had children. You’re not fit to parent. You should have got Critical Illness Cover. Kill yourself, they’ll be better off. Just go die somewhere and stop moaning. You should have insurance. You should have saved.
This is simply ignorance at its best, isn’t it?
Because I am poor, I should not have children? I work and work hard. So does my husband. We did not know what was coming and we were young enough to feel immortal. Why would I have thought of critical illness cover? I have life insurance–when this illness kills me, which it will one day, my husband and children will be shooting out of this poverty trap. I have to die to fix this. I will not cancel an insurance I had the foresight to take out aged 22. Not to save pennies. It’s a good policy and I got it before my condition. It will leave my family comfortable. I myself will be going off to medical science when I do die. Rest assured, it won’t be because I have taken the above advice though–that would void my insurance.
On a side note, when I said ‘the good times’ they were simply comfortable, not rich. I could fill my cupboards and not worry about feeding us all. I was able to replace shoes/trainers and I could meet expenses. At no point have I had enough to take my kids abroad. They have been on two Haven Holidays; one in 2004, to Warmwell (it was amazing, even though I was pregnant), and one in 2006, just before it all went downhill, to Clacton-On-Sea. They loved it and I hope to be able to go again, one day.
Now that’s over, onto the good stuff!!! (Yay, I was depressing myself, and I’m not a gloomy kind of gal.)
- Food Banks do not require Social Services Intervention. You will not be deemed as Too Poor To Parent, if you go to your GP and get a referral. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau can also do this, as do some churches, outreach programs and community-based groups. Some do not need a referral. If you are in dire need and cannot find these resources, please contact your local Sikh Temple. I was contacted by a few dozen lovely people from a temple who said all are welcome to sit with them, enjoy a vegetarian meal. It is, to the Sikh Community, a religious obligation to help their fellow humans and treat all equally. They will welcome you and your children. Women, please wear a headscarf, if you have no scarf, they will supply one for you.
- There are a lot of benefits a lot of the ‘invisible working poor’ are not aware of. If you are struggling, please go to your Citizens’ Advice Centre. They will make bloody sure you are getting all you can. I have done this and I *do* receive all I am entitled to. It is simply not enough to cover rent, council tax, heating, water, electric, other bills…you get the idea. You, though, may be in a different place and there may be more help available to you. I shall be applying for this PIP allowance everyone has told me about. I have had a little over a thousand messages and comments telling me about this. I was turned down for DLA, but who knows, eh? I’ll be doing that next week.
- There are community groups that might sound a bit like a communist soup kitchen to the uninitiated, but are actually amazing when you delve a bit deeper. These places will have community gardens and often an attached hall. Sign up, learn some gardening, cook and eat what you grow with new friends–all in the same boat. You can ask about these at your local council offices.
- Poverty is a big issue amongst LGBT people. Please know there is support and people out there who will be able to talk to you and help you. There is no need to be alone. If you want advice, a chat, or help with anything, please contact Stonewall as a starting point–they will point you in the right direction.
- You can get emergency payments to cover rent, from your local council, if you are entitled. It is not simply Housing Benefit. This is a further award that might be given, if you are in dire straits.
- There are support groups as well. These vary considerably depending on where you live, but they should be there. If not, come out as ‘poor’ and see if one can be started. I have had an overwhelming response. Not simply from people who are jobless and on JSA, but nurses, teachers, office staff, waiting staff–the list is as varied as any community ever is. I…we…are not alone, and we have nothing at all to be ashamed of. Poverty shaming only works if you allow it to work. Group together and stand tall.
Please please please feel free to contact me via my Facebook Page if you need a friendly ear, or are unsure of which way to turn, just email me or send me a FB Message. You are not alone. I have asked a friend and my husband to help admin the site. We are keeping on top of all messages and, where we can, we will point you in the right direction, if you need help. Even if you just need to offload and reach out to someone, that’s okay too. Please be aware that my page is all about full equality in all things. Please be respectful of everyone who likes it and pops by to visit. We’re a motley bunch of all things Rainbow. We don’t care how you identify, what your sexual preference is, or where you come from. You will be welcomed.
I would also like to say if you would like to donate and help food poverty, contact your local food banks or The Trussel Trust, who will be able to help you.
Please feel free to pick up one of my books (shameless plug, I know, but it is seriously the only job I have to be able to work my way out of the Grey Area). The series is called Searching For Eden, and there are currently two books available here (uk) and here (rest of world). The paperback of #1, Into The Woods, can be found here.
Thank you all again for all the support. I am humbled by you all.