I am reading this interesting book at the moment – another gem from the charity book sale at work. Interesting title! It is about a totally hopeless mother who drags her poor children from one terrible situation to another. They are dirt poor, mostly because of the woman’s ineptitude and increasing reliance on ‘the social’ to pick her up when she is down. It is told through the eyes of the oldest child. I am half way through and really hoping she won’t follow in her mother’s footsteps and go for a life of booze, fags, drugs and useless men.
It reminded me of a childhood friend I met when I was 12. I was always aware my family didn’t have much to spare and money was tight, but if I ever felt hard done by then meeting this girl stopped all that.
Her mum had agoraphobia and couldn’t be alone either at home or on the few occasions she left the house. Dad was in prison. There were four children at home. I remember being shocked that they had a boarded up window and that my friend had terrible old clothes and seemed permanently hungry. They didn’t have hot water or heating and she had to strip wash at the kitchen sink. Either she or her brother had to bunk off school to be with her mum as she couldn’t be alone and the two youngest children were too little.
I really tried to help by giving her clothes, inviting her to dinner and I take credit in persuading her that she needed to come to school so that she could get her O levels. The truancy officers were always on their case and her mum had been taken to court several times. I can’t remember what arrangements were made but I do know she started coming to school almost every day.
She eventually got a Saturday job and ended up running off with the manager. I think he offered her safety and security, and the chance of a comfortable life away from the grinding poverty of her early years. She also passed all her exams and the last I heard had a great job with a government department. Her mum had also got treatment for her mental health issues and got over her agoraphobia.
It shows that poverty is all relative and, whilst we may feel cash strapped, most of us will never have to suffer such real deprivation.
I truly feel for those that do, especially at this time of sometimes ridiculous excess. It makes me grateful that I have a job, a roof over my head and money left over for a festive celebration or two.
I have all the presents bought and wrapped, the decorations up and the cards posted. I just need to write a shopping list for the Christmas food and will hit the supermarket very early on Christmas Eve and get it done. Then I have a whole 10 days off so will make the most of it.
How are your preparations coming along?