Thatcher’s children turned 18 with the country on an economic high and confidence soaring. Blair’s children turn 18 at a time of deepening recession and unemployment touching 3 million. Such are the circles of history and the echoes which come from whoever is writing the great story of life.
Okay, yes, I know that things are not so simple, but try arguing with ultra-loyal Labour supporters about the real reasons behind the current economic problems faced here and world-wide. They deny that £800bn debt (and climbing) is of any real concern. Gordon Brown was looking somewhere else, doing something different, it was the Bank of England really, nothing to do with anyone on the Government benches. It is such cowardice from Labour and their more vociferous supporters which makes their certain defeat in 2010 all the better to look forward to.
As I wrote some weeks ago this month has turned out to be the complete opposite of what I was expecting. To have only around £7 to stretch out across three weeks is entirely my own doing. How I have lived, and what I have experienced, puts the national politics and economic headlines to one side. I do not want to come across as enjoying these past few weeks, acting like some kind of “poverty tourist” doing it for show.
It has been rather humbling, if nothing else. My 9o’clock or 10o’clock jaunts to the “reduced to clear” aisles as Tesco reminded me how much food waste there must be in this country, and how many people must live without the spare cash available to impulse buy or stock up on expensive treats. “Invisible poverty”, the reality of life behind closed doors, is something which affects thousands of people across the country. Thousands of pensioners who have to choose between heating and eating; a growing number of millions who cannot find a place back on the job ladder.
The first week following the discovery of my less-than-a-tenner situation has been something of a struggle. Entirely my own doing, I have to stress how much I realise this. I have become quite the fan of cut-price hotdogs and sell-by-date skimmed milk. Walking to work – five miles each way – is still hard to master. At Bamber Bridge I start something resembling a hurried trot: I must resemble a sit-com bridegroom late for the wedding after a list of “hilarious misunderstandings” and “you couldn’t make it up” situations.
I had to bite my tongue whenever a beggar asks “Do you have any spare change?”, as strictly speaking I actually don’t, which is different to the times I shake my head and mumble something indistinct about having ‘nothing to give’, whatever that means. As I type this – free Internet!, such things now become welcomed with open arms, thank you, thank you Lancashire County Council! – my bank balance is around £2.70. This should be fine, though, I’ve stacked up on Aldi Shredded Wheat and cup-a-soups. People from work are being quite generous with left overs and unwanteds.
But it’s not a situation I want to repeat. This is a window into another world; of actual poverty, of real life for thousands in this country and millions around the world. Unlike my temporary inconvenience, a lack of money and no guaranteed access to food is the reality for those in developing countries and so-called developed Western superpowers. It’s a bit much, I admit, taking one man’s overspending into the context of starvation in the poorest countries on Earth, but it takes a little of “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” to put things into context.
However – and it’s a big “however” – having said all this, and with two weeks of struggle and lack of food still to go, this pay day weekend will be marked by a night of spending money with some abandon. It is surely my right to acknowledge the achievement of living this way by having one or two swift ales and the best darn foodstuffs So! Noodles has to offer of an evening…