My Body Isn’t Subject For Debate.

My Body Isn’t Subject For Debate.

 

On Wednesday, 24th February, a video opinion piece I had filmed with the Guardian Newspaper went live on their website and Facebook page. It was the video accompaniment to my ‘Modern Day Poverty‘ article.

I was excited.

I had managed to (finally) grow out the ridiculous haircut I had done last February, an entire year ago, which was a treat, supposedly, after not visiting a hairdresser for close to a decade. After looking in the mirror at the new ‘style’ I remembered why I hadn’t been for a decade and wished I’d stayed away. But anyway, my hair had grown back, and I’d even used some straighteners on it. It looked good.

I had watched make up tutorials and managed to conceal, contour and powder away my strawberry-red skin. I was happy with the result. I looked a normal human colour instead of like an extra from Attack of The Killer Tomatoes. My skin condition (an allergy to one of my medicines) had cleared up, so I didn’t look like a tomato pizza either.

And I had bought a nice top from Select for the occasion. In a size 14, if you care. Not because of any massive amount of vanity, but honestly because my wardrobe had come down to three T-shirts from Primark and two pairs of jeans. If I was going to be seen by thousands, maybe millions, then I owed it to myself to make an effort.

And here’s the thing. You don’t see my body in the film. At all. You can see the width of my shoulders, my neck, and my face. My face, which was bloated, because on a day when I will be spending hours travelling to and from London, across our great Capital, into Guardian offices, filming, I was not going to take my usual two water pills and be stuck without a toilet.

Oh, yeah. Let’s be blunt about it, as no-one seemed to have issues being ‘honest’ about my weight.

Each morning, I wake up between seven and eight pounds heavier than I weigh when I go to bed. My heart is too weak to effectively stop water building up in my body, and the tablets I take allow me to, frankly, piss away the excess. The water gathers around my ankles and my calves…and my face. It makes me look bloated. It makes me look fat. It gathers during the day, and again through the night. My pills stop it building up, because oedema, especially around a heart as strained as mine, is dangerous.

Now, I’m not one for body positivity. In keeping with the blunt theme here, I hate myself. I can’t stand the way I look. I detest what has happened to my body since my heart attack. My reflection fills me with disgust, shame, and grief. It makes me cry. There is no part of my body left, which I can look at and know as my own. It’s bloated, tired, scarred, and isn’t recognisable as the ‘me’ I used to be. I avoid cameras and photos as much as I can, and only use a mirror to do my hair–and on this day, my make up.

I felt good, when I filmed the opinion piece, though. I felt confident. I was wearing size 14 clothes, didn’t look terrible, and my angina was behaving.

And I knew the instant I caught a reflected glimpse of myself in a window, that I would be ripped apart because my face was fat. So I prepared myself for it. I knew it was coming, and I battened down my mental hatches and waved a figurative hand in a ‘whatever’ gesture, and waited for the onslaught. An onslaught, which pissed me off because my gods there are some dickheads out there! An onslaught, which pissed me off because rather than focus on the very real struggle of so many thousands of people, day in, day out, there were dickheads discussing my size–which they couldn’t see.

For all you can see of my body in this video, I could have been wearing a light grey scarf, and had the rest of me naked, painted blue, with a fucking rainbow across my missing nipple! But despite my anger at their ignorance, I wasn’t upset.

And then I was. Because there are thousands of women, and more than a few men, who were reading those comments, and they had not had the time to prepare themselves for what was being said. They were reading those comments, overweight, perhaps having so little money available that their meals are largely consisting of Iceland Value sausages (40 for £2) and bread (10p if you can get it at the end of a day in Tesco). And I started to get angrier and upset on their behalf. I have a fat face, which deflates when I take some pills. Whatever. But the reality of poverty, as so many people face, means subsistence living and cheap, fatty, unhealthy meals. It means so many people living under the breadline are medically overweight. So, so many.

I am fortunate. As I have previously posted, I learnt to cook by watching Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, The Hairy Bikers and Rick Stein. My meals consist of a lot of rice, pulses, pasta, vegetables, and cheap meat (sorry, it’s not free range organic, but it’s cheap and it’s enough to fill us all up). I can cook. I cook without oils and without fats, Slimming World style. I use herbs, spices, and I am consistently losing weight despite the medication and the water retention.

But there are thousands out there who don’t know how to cook, and they had to also read the vitriol aimed at my head. A message that said clearly, “You can’t be struggling, you are fat.” “You’re obviously not starved.” “You have enough to buy food, obviously.” (I do have enough – I have never said it’s not enough)

I am so sorry, to all of you who might struggle with your weight, and who read the crap written by the sanctimonious arseholes in those comment sections. Thank you for getting in touch with me to see if I was okay–I was. I am. I hope you are too. You’re beautiful–more than those idiots typing vileness into a comment box can ever hope to be.

But, for goodness sake, people, since when is it okay to ball out someone for their size? To insult a body you can’t see? To grind away the small bit of pride I had felt in my appearance on the day I filmed?

Since when do you have the right to use my body as a debate about poverty? When did my face get in on the argument and write anything? The only thing my face does is act as a front-piece for my head, which holds my brain. My face, and the size of my chins has no bearing on my intelligence. It holds no bearing on my financial status, and none at all on how much money I have left after paying all my bills.

It’s just chins. It’s just a face. Most people have them. They’re nothing special.

And mine, away from the cameras, aren’t much bigger than the average. But if they were?

That’s not up for debate either.

 

Do You Have A Story You Would Like To Share?

Do You Have A Story You Would Like To Share?

Hello, Everyone!

I hope you’ve all had a decent start to the year. I know some of us are struggling, and others are about ready to punch politicians in the teeth (don’t do it – you’ll get arrested and the politician will claim for new teeth on expenses!), but I wanted to shout out to you all to say a huge THANK YOU for all of your support over the past year.

Over the last 12 months, my inboxes have been heaving. You have contacted me in your thousands to tell me your stories, and to give me an insight into your worlds. Some are heartbreaking, some are funny, but all, almost with exception, are inspirational. I never thought for a moment that a blog about a leg of lamb and Jamie Oliver would go quite so viral, but it did. It touched a nerve, with a hell of a lot of people.

And you all have your own stories!

During March, I would like to hear from you. I want your stories, and I want to know how you all live, year to year, week to week, day to day.

I want to hear from you if you have had your DLA/PIP stopped, as though the government think you can grow back an arm (yes, really, I’ve heard from (and of) no less than seven amputees who have had their disability payments stopped). I want to hear from you if you are losing your home because of the ‘Bedroom Tax’. If you are trying to navigate your way through the maze of Child Tax Credits, or Childcare Payments. Has your Working Tax Credit been stopped, based on last year’s earnings? Are you elderly, or a student, living far below a breadline politicians (don’t punch them) don’t think exists.

Or do you have tips from a generation past, and know how to make something from nothing, and think vital skills have been lost along the way?

I want to hear from you.

You don’t need to be able to spell, or be able to pass A-Level Grammar (there’s no such thing anyway). I will take what you send me, edit it, and then publish it after you have read through the final article. You can remain anonymous, if you choose to do so. Or you can attach photos or pictures to your email, which would be amazing.

Over the last year, I’ve learnt that the Reality of Modern Day Poverty is something that affects thousands, upon thousands. We’ve sat in our homes, thinking we’re alone.

We’re not alone. And it’s time to start believing the shame is not ours! So email me. Share your stories. Tell me your experiences. Let each other know we are not alone, and more importantly, let that one person, sitting in the dark, feeling hopeless, that they are not alone either.

This March, let’s group together and share our lives. It helps more than you’d believe!

 

email me at KathleenKerridge@gmail.com or contact me through Facebook.


Kathleen Kerridge is an author of Fantasy Fiction & LGBT Fantasy. Her books are available on Amazon.

It Could Be Worse? Try Saying It Another Way!

It’s just a saying, isn’t it? People say it all the time. They look at a broken leg, and tell themselves they should be thankful they have a leg to break. They get the flu, and tell themselves they should be thankful it’s not pneumonia. Some, like me, get pneumonia in the middle of summer, and are thankful it’s not some fatal rapid-onset variety of lung cancer. We all do it. We see ourselves, and our friends in situations, and we say “It could be worse.”

But, and here’s the thing, saying that doesn’t help. It doesn’t make things better. It doesn’t change the dire situation someone is in, just because, somewhere, somehow, it could be worse.

The other night (just before payday, which happened and then, faster than I could appreciate it had happened, it had gone again) I was staring at the contents of my fridge and wondering what the bloody hell I could cook for dinner. As most of you will know, there’s only so many times you can feed kids pasta with a chopped onion and some tomatoes before they begin to riot like French Peasants prior to the revolution. They probably feel the same way about rice, near the end of the month.

You can jazz it up all you want, but it’s still pasta. And that gets bloody boring, right?

So there I was, staring into my fridge, wondering what I could do with some limp spring onions, half an aubergine, and a withering pepper which, to be fair, looked as terrible as I was feeling (I had a cold last week – my heart hates me getting colds and objects in terms I can’t ignore). There was enough to feed one adult, in my fridge. So I looked at my bank balance and decided to risk a small top-up shop. Up the road to Tesco I went, and began to choose the cheapest food my extortionate little corner-Tesco offers. Seriously…it’s a Tesco Metro. This means they can scrap their value range, replacing it with premium brands. It means tomatoes aren’t 32p. They’re, like, a million pounds (or 85p, whatever). Anyway, I was staring just as blankly at the shelves in Tesco as I had stared at my fridge. I debated walking the two miles to the bigger Tesco, but my energy was gone. I thought about walking the mile to Lidl, but honestly, walking to the end of the road was already pushing my hard limits that day.

Then, miracle of miracles, I saw the man with his mark-down gun. He marked down chicken, and potatoes, and vegetables. I tell you, I grabbed that food as though I was in a bread queue in the USSR circa 1986. I paid (it came to under £3.00, and I had two days food, plus lunches. RESULT!) and I went home. And I told myself ‘Well, it could be worse. I have food. Many don’t. There are starving people in the world. Homeless people. My husband has a job, many don’t. I’m not dead yet, so that’s something.”

And it sounded, for once, like what it was. A trite remark, which is meaningless. It’s something people in dire situations tell themselves, and others, in the hope that it will carry them through one more hour, one more day. The politicians, bludgeoning us all with figures to make it seem we’re better off than we are, love it when we look at each other and say ‘It could be worse!’

Maybe, instead of saying ‘It could be worse’, we should start saying, ‘It should be better’. Because when we realise it should be better, we will make other people hear the truth. The truth about rents of £1100: more than the total take home pay of an average earner each month. The truth of council tax that costs close to an entire week’s income, every month. The truth of shops who hike up prices to over double the cost, because they’ve not got competition and because they can. The truth of energy suppliers, who are given a license to steal our money and increase their prices, because no one will stop them. The truth of a government who would have their cronies believe a working family with Tax Credits is playing the system and deserves the same irrational contempt they give someone who isn’t, for whatever reason (and there are many) in work. The truth about media portrayal of the poor, victim shaming and blaming until everyone is too scared to admit the struggle they face, despite being nurses, or office workers, or managers, or shop assistants. The truth that poverty is real, but hidden, and shameful.

So yes, it could be worse. But, for crying out loud, it should be so much better.

Cosmic Pigeons, Metaphorical Poop, & the 80s!

Cosmic Pigeons, Metaphorical Poop, & the 80s!

I have got to know my city.

This is one of the positives to have come my way since my eviction notice fell through my door last Thursday morning. I have walked the length, and I have walked the breadth. I walked diagonal, in circles, up and down…I could have started a one woman tourist agency. No, really, I could have. Portsmouth is a beautiful city, when you look at it with fresh eyes and an optimist’s filter. I’m a human Instagram, when it comes to making things look better than they are. Rats? Great wildlife locally! Overgrown bushes? I do love a good Nature Reserve! Crushed and discarded beer cans strewn haphazardly across the grassy patch on the corner of a road? Modern Art, dude! You get the idea.

So, in a week that has had me walk more than 60 miles, look at 5 houses, apply to view another 70 (yes, really), and speak to the Council (I saw the really cool guy who was on ‘How To Get A Council House. He’s lovely in real life), I thought I would kick back and look at those positives. Remind myself who I am, remember what I have been through, and understand that, as with all things, “This Too Shall Pass.”.

  1. I can have a massive clear out.   I am naturally a bit of a hoarder. I like *things*, and I tend to pick them up from everywhere I go. Even if it’s only to the local Tesco, I end up with some small bit of crap that caught my eye. I have enough books to fill a study, maybe enough to fill a small library. I have clothes (too small, too big, kids outgrew them…) enough to start a charity shop. Maybe a rag shop, actually, because they’re not really that great and some are from the 90s. I wish that on no-one. I found my recycling mojo kicked in when I looked in, and around, my family’s wardrobes. DVDs, CDs, and, believe it if you will, cassette tapes. I have accumulated so much tat and crap over the years, the BBC could do a one hour special on ‘Things We Should Throw In The Bin’. It’s worthless, old, and mostly junk. Positive #1 of being made homeless? I can justifiably throw away the remnants of a life long lost.
  2. I will be forced to save every penny, and replace my mould-infested furniture.  This sounds harsh, but new furniture has never really happened in my life. Not much as a child, and definitely not as an adult. I had friends with old sofas, and beds no longer used. They had tables and TV units. They had an old wardrobe, which was going to the tip. They had coffee tables and freezers. You get the idea. It’s a constant source of amazement to me, how generous my friends and family are (and in one case, how much of a shopaholic pack-rat one friend is: a lot of the ‘second hand’ things she offered to me at huge discounts were a month or two old, and she’d simply gone off them). It has meant, of course, that I have not had to buy new pieces, or spend extreme amounts of money. It has also meant I have never chosen what will go in a room, what we will sleep on, or how our dining table would look. We always ‘made do’ as many others always do. Now, thanks to all my possessions being ruined, I need replacements. I have decided I will save, constantly, when we have a secure roof over our heads, and I will buy cheap, cheerful items, chosen by me. They might well come from thrift and charity shops, indeed, they likely will, as I love the 60s & 70s home decor look (don’t judge me!), but I would have chosen them.  Positive #2 of being made homeless? I can start afresh and get things I like. Also, the kids love camping – they get to have sleeping bags and roll mats, until their beds can be replaced. Yay!
  3. I get to document everything, as it happens.  The people I meet, the resources available, the robbing rental agencies! There is so much involved, when one is becoming homeless, it seems scary, daunting, and at times insurmountable. Hoops are put up to jump through, then moved, just after you have launched yourself up into the air. The rules of the game change, but that’s not so bad, because it turns out I was playing Cluedo, and everyone else was playing Chess. Typical.  I’m hoping to gather enough information to be of some good to someone, somewhere. I’m not the only one out there, in this situation. I won’t be the last. So I will collate and make note of anything useful. Positive #3 of being made homeless? I can make it into a small adventure and hopefully help people as I go along my way.
  4. I survived the Eighties. So this, in comparison, should be a piece of cake. I was brought up on a Council Estate, by a single mum, in the bloody Eighties. I had day-glo socks and a big perm. I wore white stilletto shoes and ra-ra skirts, with shoulder-pads to rival Joan Collins. I had Converse and Hi-Tec trainers. I am battle hardened to austerity, I have lived through boom times and fallen through the recessional floor. I can do this. I must do this. I will do this. Positive #4 of being made homeless? I have realised how strong I am, and that I can get through it.  Because…
  5. I have the best friends, anywhere, everywhere, in the world.  Truly, you are all amazing. Thanks to your support and messages, I have not crumbled on the worst days, and I have laughed on the not-so-bad days. I’m exhausted, worn out, and disheartened. I will not patronise myself, or anyone else in the same predicament, by pretending otherwise. But thanks to all of you, I know I am not alone. Just knowing I have support, good wishes, love, and people who care? It sort of balances the cosmic pigeon enjoying itself by shitting on my head from a great height. I might be getting shat on, but you all hand me the baby wipes to clean myself up and carry on. Thanks go to all of you, but a special mention will be made here to a lovely woman, Zoe Gray. She heard what had happened and set to making a difference. There is now a Go Fund Me page, if you would like to help financially. Many of you have asked, and now, thanks to Zoe, there’s one set up.

So, it’s hard, being made homeless. Bloody hard. But there are positives, if you know where to look. I’m off now, to drink some coffee and tend to the immense and epic blisters I have. Then I’ll throw clothes away and old ornaments, and maybe even that old shirt I have had since I was 11. I’ll sing along to Material Girl, and throw out mouldy linens. And I’ll hope for some kind of cosmic Pest Control guy to come and kill the cosmic pigeon. I’ll remember this is but another phase, and I will be moving on. I’ll remember I have friends and people who want to help me — and in turn, I’ll remember to accept that help.


Kathleen Kerridge is a Fantasy Fiction Writer. Her books can be found on Amazon here. Or here, if you are not in the UK.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Lightning Strikes Twice

Lightning Strikes Twice

Benefits, Private Renting, and The Ever Feared Possession Order.

Can a rented property ever become a home? It’s an important question but one we rarely think about when we look at renting. Buying a house will likely always remain an impossible dream for me; bad credit and worse health mean that the ideal of home ownership will not be mine to know. That’s okay, I made my peace with that a long time ago. It’s not an issue…or at least, it had never been one before.
I first wondered about it when my last landlord went down with the recession and plummeted as fast as my husband and I did. We were reminded, in the harshest possible way, that we were not in control of what happened to us. He needed to sell the house. Fast. So, one morning, out of the blue, he called me to tell me I had six weeks to find a new place to live.
I remember the horror, the panic, and the consuming terror. In one sentence: “I need to sell the house.”, he had made me homeless. We entered a nightmare of uncertainty and sleepless nights. My health worsened, my mental state hit the darkest place it had been in a long time. We couldn’t be housed with all four of our children: properties with 4 bedrooms were rarer than goldfish riding bicycles. My eldest daughter, then 16, moved in with my mother and, as a shrunken family of 5, rather than 6, we found a 3 bedroom house in the private sector, with the help of our local council. We were told it would be affordable, long term, as secure as it could be, and better managed than the home we had lived in for 8 long years.
We were lied to on all counts.
Our new house is, as you will know from previous posts, riddled with black mould and damp. The walls run with water. The windows don’t shut and open fully. The back doors do not lock. The roof needs flashing, there are rats in the rafters, the bath leaks into the living room…and at £800 a month, it was too expensive for us on our new, much diminished, wages and tax credits.
And today, I received the second eviction notice in 4 years. Ironic, I know, considering the year I have had so far, helping other homeless people and pointing families to the right places to go, so they may also find help. Now, it’s happened to me. Again.
This time, I looked at the paper deciding my fate, and I realised I felt nothing. Only worry about where we would go. I looked around at the walls that keep us locked away (to an extent) from the outside world, and realised it was not my home. Just a shell. It was never, had never, would never be, my home.
My biggest concern is financial. I can afford rent, but a deposit and between £300 – £400 administration fees on top of an £800 rent are well beyond my means. It may as well be a mortgage application. How can fees of £200 per person be justified? How am I meant to find that money?
The simple answer is, sadly, that I can’t find that money. We’re on a breadline. That doesn’t miraculously change because we’re facing, yet again, homelessness. Despite receiving assistance with our rent, that assistance can’t be used for a deposit, or to pay for advance rent. It can’t cover the administration fees. It can’t find moving costs. I need everything from a washing machine to beds for my daughters, as this house was part-furnished. I have to start over from scratch. It’s a scary prospect, when I thought I was in a stable situation.
I am one of thousands facing this dilemma. There’s not really any options, or places to turn to. I have an appointment with Housing Options, at my local council, but I know I only have a slim chance of a future with anything approaching security. There may be help to allow me to pay a deposit over time, but I know what I’m facing and I know how much I need to be able to pay out of my own pocket. When you are living on a breadline, it’s hard to keep a chin up, and a lip stiff. But I shall, as always, endeavour. I plan to document this journey and keep you all informed, right to the end. Whatever the outcome, wherever my family end up, I’ll be chatting to you as we go. From £1 a day living (to try and save every penny possible), to selling off anything I have left to sell (not much, my wedding ring and other jewellery are long gone), I will let you all know.

I have until November 24th to relocate, settle, and maybe find a home. It can’t all be bad. I’m not a naturally pessimistic person. If there’s a bright side, I’ll find it! I’m hoping for laughter, as well as tears. I’m hoping for a life my children will be happy to live. I’m hoping for a small space, somewhere, where I can plug myself into the mains, and write my books. I’m hoping. Hope, right now, is one thing I have in abundance.
So watch this space. We’re going on an adventure, and you’re invited to tag along.

Kathleen x

Kathleen Kerridge is an Amazon Best Selling author of LGBT+ fantasy fiction. Her books are available here (UK) and here (rest of world). She can be found on Facebook, and Twitter, so come and say Hi!

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Homeless Doesn’t Mean Cardboard Boxes.

Homeless Doesn’t Mean Cardboard Boxes.

I don’t have a lot of material goods.  I don’t own my home.  I’m not rich by even the wildest stretch of the imagination.  Yet I do have something in my life, which right now, is a lifeline to a friend of mine.  I have a two-seater, second hand, 15 year old sofa.  It’s the only seating in my house, except for wooden kitchen chairs.  We used to have a leather three piece suite…clawed and scratched up by a previous tenant’s cats, but serviceable.  It belonged to our old landlord, though.  When he sold the house from under us and evicted us with only four weeks notice, he refused to let us take the suite.  He wanted £200 for it.  It had cost £30 second hand.  So, we had only the kitsch old sofa I’d bought years ago.  It’s small, beaten, weathered and ugly as sin, according to my husband.  I bought it (and a three-seater which unfortunately died) as more of a joke than anything else.  It was in a charity shop window and it was so hideous I felt sorry for it.

Now, that old battered and beaten sofa is my friend’s new home.  I wrote before, about a friend made homeless due to bereavement.  That same friend has once again found himself with nowhere to turn.  Much as poverty is hidden, so is much of this country’s homeless.  My friend, who shall remain nameless, has numerous personal issues.  One of which is another ‘hidden’ and ‘shameful’ blight — depression.  He needs help, which is proving difficult to get.  Suicidal Ideation is present and, when he told his doctor he wanted to die, he was told he had to want to help himself before he could expect help to be given and to go back in two weeks.  Isn’t that lovely?  A homeless man, out of work, no close family, nowhere to turn, suicidal…told to go away and come back in two weeks.

My sofa isn’t the comfiest thing in the world.  It sags and can cripple anyone with a back injury.  But it is under a roof that can keep off the rain and it comes with love and an ear attached to it.  It also comes with a meal a day.  I will need to juggle and get creative, but that one extra mouth needs feeding, so fed it shall be.  Until we can jump through all the hoops of ESA/JSA, and get him some kind of benefits.  Until we can get council help in finding him a place where he shall not need to be able to produce a deposit, as well as one month’s rent and £150 in agency fees.  To be able to be housed, this man — homeless, without money, without savings and without, right now, hope — will need to find about £700.  To some, that sum will seem insignificant.  To those in his situation, it may as well be a million.

His is a world where, when benefits come to him, he shall be living on a pittance.  One so small, that when he gets a bedsit, charged at an extortionate rent, after he has paid utilities and bills, he shall be left with pennies to survive on.  They are pennies he is grateful for.  A small amount, but one he appreciates.  His health and mental state make work an impossibility.  This is his life and will likely stay his life.  It’s not one he would choose, but it is his and it is worth keeping.  Worth fighting for.

This is where friends rally around.  Where we will sit with him as he wades through the minefield of legal gumpf and fills out enough forms to fill a wheelie-bin.  We will be at his side to help him find a small, cramped, cheap bedsit.  We will find him items to cook with, so he can eat.  Right now, he has a duvet and clothes from his life ‘before’ it was all lost.  We shall prop him up whilst he is too weak to stand, and we shall cheer when he takes those first steps into a new future.  We will be there for him for as long as we are needed.

So will my small, insignificant, beaten up, battered, hideous old sofa.  Because this is the world of the hidden homeless, and that sofa will mean he is not vulnerable.  On the street, left to the elements and discarded from society like a worthless old bit of junk no-one wants in their life.  That sofa, as ugly as it is and as uncomfortable as it might be, is his new home.  The sofa is more than an item of furniture.  It is a promise that it will be there, to hold him safe at night and keep him warm and dry.  It means there is a roof, not the sky, above his head.  It means he is not alone.

It means there is hope.


I am a Fantasy Fiction author (too much ‘real’ in my life as it is, thank you) and my books are available on Amazon.  I am Independently Published — my ‘team’ are my friends.  My début novel ” Into The Woods” can be found HERE (UK) and HERE (rest of world).  Links to my Author Page and other books can be found through these links.  The paperback for Book #1 of the Searching For Eden series can be found HERE.  Book #2 shall be available shortly.

Disconnect The Poor In The Internet Age

Disconnect The Poor In The Internet Age

The Internet Is Not A Luxury.  It needs to be said before we go any further.

If you have children, they need it for homework and studies.  They need it to send in assignments and to keep up to date with coursework.  “Libraries!” I hear some of you shouting, “Go to an Internet Cafe!”  All well and good, but for a lot of people, their nearest library is in the centre of their town or city and would mean a two mile walk each way.  Sometimes more.  The walk would have to be done daily after school–because buses are not cheap and feet are free.  This is, of course, after leaving the house at 7:30am, walking the half an hour to school in all weathers and putting in a full day of studying.  Internet Cafes’ charge for the privilege of using the computers.  It is not a viable option for most.

To not have the internet at home, a child from a poor family would have to stay out of the family home for approximately (in our case and based on the distances my daughter walks to school) another three hours.  She would not get home until around 7pm at night…and would have to walk in the dark, through a not-exactly-great area of the city (neither myself or my husband drive; we cannot afford a car…and cannot afford the lessons anyway).  Meg is a straight A student.  She dreams of university life and becoming a doctor.  It is all she has wanted to do since she was four years old.  At just turned sixteen, she keeps a relentless study schedule.  She works from 8.00am through to 9.00pm as it is.  At home, she is safe, [mostly]warm and can eat her dinner as she studies.

The Internet Is Essential.  We are told the way to lift ourselves high and achieve riches untold, is to be well-educated and get a professional career.  Are only the children of the comfortable and the rich allowed to follow this dream?  Are the children of the poor to be raised with the depressing knowledge in their young heads that their lot in life is to serve the children of the rich?  To clean, and sweep and toil and slave, with no hope of realising their aspirations and dreams…because school work now requires an internet connection, to get the best education available.  Each time a struggling family is told their internet is a luxury, they are told their children do not deserve the access to it in the home.  They are told their children should be thankful for their lot, and stay in the ‘place’ they were born.

There are disabled people, housebound and alone for weeks on end.  They do not have the option of walking the two miles (or more) to their library, to be able to sit down and make some contact with relatives living apart from them.  To see pictures of their newest little cousins, or a new grandchild.  They cannot spare the money from their living allowances or benefits to use an internet cafe.  To say to them that the Internet is a luxury they can do without, to save money, is to isolate them and cage them in their loneliness.  The quality of life of the elderly and infirm increases dramatically, if they are taught to use a computer, laptop or even a smart-phone, and can access and utilise the web.  Depression caused by isolated living is lifted, just a little.  Shopping can be done, friends spoken with, people contacted, programmes watched.  The Internet is essential.  That they need to choose between eating, heating, or human contact is appalling, and they should not be expected to make that choice.

Job seekers are told, by the Job Centre, to apply for an initial interview online.  School Admittance Forms? Fill them out online.  Best grocery offers?  Online.  Job searching?  Property rental?  Council Housing Register?  You’ve guessed it–it’s all online.

Is it reasonable, therefore, to look at the poorest sections of our society and tell them to save money–sometimes as little as £6.99 a month–by getting rid of their internet.  Are we, as a society, so judgemental that we believe those in the poorest households must sit in the dark, without a television, without a computer, without communication?  Is that what we have become, now, thanks to the portrayal of poverty in the media?  To take away the web, is to disconnect more than Google.  It is to disconnect ourselves.


If you are affected by any of these issues and would like to chat, or ask for help, please do contact my Facebook page HERE.  I answer all messages that come through to me and will always try to point you in the right direction if you need help/advice.