I’ve just returned home from ‘shopping’. Shopping isn’t in inverted commas because I’ve been splashing the cash in Westfield. Oh no! That hasn’t happened for a good while and neither can I see it in the future! No, shopping consisted of a loaf of basics bread (50p), the cheapest milk (£1), reduced fresh quarter pounder burgers (£1.14 down from £4.50, BARGAIN) and super cheap toilet roll (the days of buying Andrex are long gone). Thankfully I had £2.50 on my nectar card so all I paid was around 83p. Of which I was scrambling round my handbag looking for the last 2p! As I stepped through the door I updated my eldest son with today’s shopping experience at which he was most impressed with my thriftiness!
Yes, this is life and to quote Floetry ‘this isn’t my idea of fun’. But, this is how many people are living these days.
My friends and I all come from the same social background. We were brought up in council housing, now live in council housing with our children, we’re all predominantly single mothers, have attended university as mature students with children, have had a last child in that final year of university, we work in public services and haven’t had a pay rise in line with inflation in years.
So what has that got to do with anything? Well I’m really not sure and I’m sure there’s someone out there with a PHD in Social Sciences who will be able to analyse it but all I know is that we have now entered a time where we are seriously struggling.
It’s pretty reminiscent to the struggle our own parents went through in the 1980’s under Thatcher’s government. Those dark, dank times when everyone wore brown, and it was cold and grey. I remember a cousin bringing a big bag of rice over because he’d just got a job with Tilda and that’s what we ate for a few weeks. Mum and Dad literally didn’t have the money to buy any food.
When my friend came over the other day we sat and planned how we’re going to do our Christmas shopping. We were not planning through excitement. We were planning the Christmas food shop so that we can get to every supermarket in a 6 mile radius and pick up whatever reduced food is available.
The realisation that we actually can’t afford to buy our children presents is rapidly setting in so we’ll compensate by having loads of nice food… yep not really washing with me either! Why? Because my children need me to buy them things, regardless of whether they are wrapped up in shiny paper, like pants and socks and pyjamas and trainers and pens and books. Those are basic things that I have not been able to buy them all year. If it snows, the £6 pair of canvas shoes I bought them in the summer aren’t going to offer them much protection.
A couple of weeks ago I had a letter come from the homeless charity Crisis. In it they were urging people to have fund raisers within their Christmas parties to raise money for those in need. I sat thinking for a while and thought that it would make more sense for me to have a Christmas party at home for my volunteers, rather than us all paying out for a meal that we firstly can’t afford and secondly will probably moan about (we’re a fussy bunch!). That way we can spend a fun evening together and fund raise at the same time.
I have my children, we have a roof over our heads and I always find a way to make sure my children are not hungry. My children are not wearing rags, at the moment they don’t have holes in their shoes and I have family and friends who will help us if we do get to that point.
Sometimes we need a reminder to make ourselves realise that there are people suffering far more severely or have a greater financial or emotional need for help and assistance.
Sprinkle the universe with a little love and kindness. No matter how small the gesture, there will always be someone who appreciates it.