Category Archives: Uncategorized

Half Term Shenanigans

It’s Friday of half term, and boy have we packed a lot into our week. As a parent you will come to the realisation, fairly early in your child’s life that holidays are really not holidays at all. Holidays are a rag tag amalgam of everything you should have done during term time but were too knackered/busy to do, and ferrying your children around from one social event to another in a bid to stop them murdering each other and dancing on the graves of their fallen enemies.

The longer the holiday is, the more you stand an actual chance of having a few real days of holiday, but this will only be in the middle. It will be bookended by the above, and actually worse at the end when you have run out of patience and your children are bored out of their minds by enforced fun and yet still reluctant to return to school, thus creating a dichotomy that is to be labelled ‘hell’. Half term, being only one week long, is like the stock cube of holidays and all of the above applies tenfold.

My children are of an age now where they organise a lot of their own social activities. This is sometimes good, because it means that you do not have to spend half your life awkwardly texting parents you’ve never met about drop offs and pick ups in random venues. Other times it is a nightmare, because you are still nominally ‘pack leader’ despite their avowed independence. You are expected to juggle diaries, provide lifts, churn out cash, feed random people at the drop of a hat, and remember everything, even when your children do not tell you anything until five minutes before they are due to be somewhere.

My children all do versions of  life skills classes, or did. They may be called citizenship or whatever, but they’re all the same. They are supposed to ready your child for the real world that looms towards them at the age of eighteen. They are largely bollocks it has to be said. They teach obscure things, or erroneous things and never anything truly useful like: how not to be mugged coming home from that party (i.e. how to turn your shoe into a handy weapon), what to do if someone plies you with Jager bombs and you are sick into your hat, where to get the best chips after closing time, how to make ten quid stretch for two weeks and still have a social life. That sort of thing.

They also ought to teach you about the difference between thinking that you have told your mum all your social arrangements and actually having told her, and not getting pissed off when she goes mental because that finely crafted time table which relies on split second timing usually gifted only to fighter pilots has been comprehensively wrecked because you didn’t tell her you needed to be outside the Odeon at half past three today. I also feel very strongly that they ought to teach you that parents are also allowed a life, and may want to fit their own social life in somewhere, such as it is.

Having said that, this week has only been mildly frustrating on that front and given that I am now effectively parenting three teenagers, I am grateful for a) no ball pools/Wacky Warehouses, b) no five o’clock in the morning wake up calls and c) no glitter/playdough in the carpets.

Here’s what we’ve done this week.

On Saturday our lovely friends came for lunch, which in the manner of all the best lunches, continued for several hours and involved previously unimagined levels of gluttony.

On Sunday I hosted an interim birthday party for my parents, who I am taking out to afternoon tea in that there London when the weather is better and our diaries are clearer. There were no balloons but there were lots of cakes, also more gluttony.

On Monday the kids and I zoomed down the motorway to that there London. We rocked up in Hampstead for lunch at a very lovely Thai restaurant, walked from there down to Camden, noodling in all the nooks and crannies and walking off lunch. We then hopped on the tube to Charing Cross and found the optometry museum, where a man called Neil gave us a tour and told us about how they used to fit chickens with glasses in an effort to calm their murderous rage. This led on to a story about a boy who had his eye pecked out by an angry chicken, and honestly that was an excellent way to spend an afternoon and has led to a minor chicken glasses/murderous chicken obsession on my part. We ate cake afterwards, and then Oscar shimmied up one of the lions in Trafalgar Square and we went and gave the thumbs up to David Shrigley’s thumb on the Fourth Plinth. We subverted a small exhibition on town planning in Foyles and had dinner in Leon before coming home.

On Tuesday my friend Claire and her daughter Erin came to visit. We talked a lot about Macbeth, drank a lot of pink gin, ate forty tonnes of pancakes and went to pub quiz where me, Erin, Claire and Tallulah came third, and Tilly and her boyfriend, Bread came last. Which just goes to prove something or other.

On Wednesday I waved Claire and Erin off, did ninety million errands I had put off and ferried children backwards and forwards to various events. I also made a splendid Valentine’s dinner, because gluttony.

On Thursday we had another orthodontic snafu, which thankfully was neither mine or Tallulah’s mess up this time, but which means I am still being haunted by dentistry and am wondering what it is I need to learn so that they all sod off and leave me alone. We also went to see my marvellous friend Nicki, who I haven’t seen since my drag party, and frankly it has been far too long. We came home via the chip shop, which was just the job on a freezing cold night. Also, I managed to stay awake for a conference call in the evening, so top marks for me.

Today I really need to iron nine thousand items of clothing which should be going onto my EBay page this weekend, before taking the children off on their various dates, but ironing does not have any ALLURE, so I am writing this instead.

NB: This diary section is for me, rather than you, as I tend to forget stuff big time. When I say big time I mean like,  last week I accidentally bought 18 rolls of kitchen towel instead of toilet roll and then we ran out of toilet roll when guests were here, and had to do an emergency Tesco run. This was the day after I took myself and the children to the dentist only to find I should have been there 24 hours earlier. Yesterday I also realised we had given a DVD someone had lent us to the charity shop and kept one to give them which was never theirs in the first place.  That kind of thing.

 

 

Magic

Oscar and I have been reading A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett.

It’s my favourite of the Discworld books. Possibly one of my favourite books ever. There are many reasons to love it, tough, brilliant women characters for a start. It’s funny, and clever and sad and brilliant and it’s all about what it is to be human. And the magic? Well, the magic is in being human too. Here’s my favourite part. Here’s what Granny Weatherwax has to say about magic, and she is right.

‘She cares about ’em. Even the stupid, mean, dribbling ones, the mothers with the runny babies and no sense, the feckless and the silly and the fools who treat her like some kind of servant. Now that’s what I call magic – seein’ all that, dealin’ with all that, and still goin’ on. It’s sittin’ up all night with some poor old man who’s leavin’ the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin’ their terror, seein’ ’em safely on their way…and then cleanin’ ’em up, layin’ ’em out, making ’em neat for the funeral and helpin’ the weeping widow strip the bed and wash the sheets – which is, let me tell you, no job for the faint-hearted – and stayin’ up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin’ on your door ‘cos his wife’s havin’ difficulty givin’ birth to their first child and the midwife’s at her wits’ end and then getting up and fetching your bag and going out again…We all do that, in our own way, and she does it better’n me, if I was to put my hand on my heart. That is the root and heart and soul and centre of witchcraft that is. The soul and centre!’  Mistress Weatherwax smacked her fist into her hand, hammering out her words. ‘The…soul…and…centre!’

Echoes came back from the trees in the sudden silence. Even the grasshoppers by the side of the track had stopped sizzling.

‘And Mrs Earwig,’ said Mistress Weatherwax, her voice sinking to a growl, ‘Mrs Earwig tells her girls it’s about cosmic balances and stars and circles and colours and wands and…toys, nothing but toys!’ She sniffed. ‘Oh, I daresay they’re all very well as decoration, somethin’ nice to look at while you’re workin’, somethin’ for show, but the start and finish, the start and finish, is helpin’ people when life is on the edge. Even people you don’t like. Stars is easy, people is hard.’

Stuff

Hello there.

It has been another busy week.

My brother got the keys to his brand new house this week, and I went to visit him and his lovely partner, Su there. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the house was flooded with light, and is, right now, pristine and full of promise. They are very happy, but also very busy.

It was my mum’s birthday on Monday and my dad’s birthday on Thursday. We visited and ate cake with them, and on Sunday they will come here for lunch, and in a few weeks we will go to London and have celebratory afternoon tea, because we like to eke out these things for as long as possible.

We had a friend round for dinner on Monday night. I cooked a cracking curry. Anjum Anand is my curry hero. She never lets me down.

On Tuesday I drove to London and spent the day with my wonderful friend Alex. We ate disco fries and salted caramel pancakes at The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields. We went to the postal museum in Farringdon and squished onto a weeny underground post train and had an adventure. We went charity shopping in Camden for a wedding outfit for Alex. We did not get a wedding outfit, but I did buy myself some Ede & Ravenscroft ceremonial robes in case I want to graduate again and/or become a barrister. I also found a Grayson Perry print for a fiver. After that we went off to Leicester Square to see Sarah Millican, Issy Sutty Roisin O’Conaty and Bridget Christie recording the Standard Issue podcast, which was fantastic. Then I drove home.

On Thursday I dragged the children to the dentist for their check ups and it transpired I should have dragged them there on Wednesday. This was both a parenting and a dental fail. I have re-booked for March and will try not to be so rubbish.

Today, my husband took me out for lunch, which was especially nice as it was illicit (we bunked off) and a surprise.

I sold fuck all. I bought a lot of stock. I washed a lot of stock. Tonight I will iron a lot of stock.

I have filled my house with food, because it is half term next week and I have many guests and visitors and food is always high on the agenda. My lovely cleaning lady has been, and my house is less sticky. It will need remedial work in the coming days, but there is not a day goes by when I do not bless the ground that woman walks on.

I have finished two books, Camilla Lackberg’s, ‘The Girl in the Woods’, which I hated. I cannot make my mind up if it is the translation I hate, or just all of it. The second book I finished was ‘The Immortalists’ by Chloe Benjamin, which I really liked. I am almost finished reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown, which is a self-help book which I am actually enjoying and finding practically useful. This may be a first in self-help for me. I am also ploughing through Macbeth as I am supposed to be teaching a friend a revision session on this next week and I am a bit rusty.

I finished watching Derry Girls. It made me laugh and cry. It’s brilliant. I am glad they are recommissioning it.

Oscar is up to his eyes in SATs revision, even though SATS aren’t until the summer term. He has had two or three tests every day this week. It is shit that they do this to children, absolute shit. Luckily we have already discussed with him that SATs are absolute bull shit and he is to treat them like a slightly irritating game that must be endured but that nobody at all, except his current school, actually gives a crap about. He is fine with this and has spent most of the week rolling his eyes rather than getting stressed about it, but I do feel achingly sorry for both children and parents who buy into this constant testing thing. It must be hellish.

The girls are dealing with puberty, academic deadlines, almost adulthood and a whole host of other stuff. They are proving to be remarkably resilient and much more phlegmatic than I was or indeed am.

On top of all this, I am completely, completely bonkers this week. I have spent large parts of it crying. dealing with anxiety and panic and feeling both overwhelmed and doom laden. This is partially down to the fact that hot flushes are waking me up through the night and I am experiencing broken sleep the like of which has not been seen since Oscar was a baby. I am not good with constantly interrupted sleep. I am very, very pleased that I didn’t go on to have six more babies, or I would certainly be in the basket weaving department on a permanent basis by now.

I think it is also down to the ongoing and dreary saga of my cold turkey menopause, the lack of sunshine, the fact that my immune system is staggering about like a drunkard, and the fact that I am naturally quite mental anyway.  Also, being bonkers anyway means that you don’t really have to have a reason to be bonkers, you just are. Good things don’t make you any less bonkers, and nor do bad things, because bonkers is just bonkers, and sometimes you have to grit your teeth and ride it out. I am fine even though I am absolutely not fine. There is not much to be done except endure, and so I do.

 

A catch up

Hello hello, lovely people. Normal, sporadic service has been resumed here at Boo towers.

I saw Andrea on Saturday. She was dazed, confused and mildly elated. We stuffed our faces with dim sum, drank boat loads of coffee, ate large slabs of cake and went to see Network at the National Theatre, which, like the curate’s egg, was good in parts. The food bit, that was all excellent.

I feel that there is a huge amount to tell you, but I am extremely tired, so how much of it I will be able to share before falling asleep on the keyboard, and how coherent it will be, is anyone’s guess at this stage of proceedings.

Let’s start with the good news. I have not been ill for a few days. This is quite astonishing and also tentatively brilliant. In order that I don’t get too complacent about everything, the menopausal insomnia and raging sweats are back with a vengeance. It wouldn’t do to have it too easy, now would it? However, compared to infected salivary glands, antibiotics and the cystitis/thrush that followed the antibiotics, it’s all grand.

I am working hard at selling clothes to lovely people. I am finding some great stock. It would be nice to sell more, but it’s steady and growing slowly which is nice. Obviously, the ever present temptation of finding things for myself too, is tricky, and to be brutally honest, I am failing at denying myself quite, quite dismally. I also cannot be very sad about it.

I am barely reading at the moment, which is causing me some distress. It turns out that I am still not quite keeping all the balls in the air when it comes to balancing family, work, a social life and reading things. I would like to be reading more, and I do have commitments to read things, so I must. It’s just tricky.

I finally got round to watching the latest season of Peaky Blinders. I could watch Cillian Murphy’s cheekbones for eternity. I have also been watching Derry Girls on Channel Four. It is very splendid.  Also, Call the Midwife. I don’t care that it’s sentimental mush. I just love it.

Family stuff has been taking up a lot of time. We are all fine, but sometimes it takes a lot of work for us all to be fine, and a lot of love, and a lot of time and attention. None of these things are bad, but they are emotionally consuming and with five of us, if it’s not one thing it’s another. I hate to sound cryptic and vague book, but a lot of the stuff isn’t mine to tell, even when it impacts me, and so I plod on, learning to be a better parent, learning to be more flexible, learning to be open hearted, and we are all ok, and that is pretty damn good, but I do feel I’d quite like to drink a lot of gin at the moment, quite a lot of the time.

Instead of that, I am going to go to bed, and hopefully not doze fretfully among the night sweats and insomnia, as I am back of down to London tomorrow to see my lovely friend Alex, and we have a long and exciting day planned in which I intend to drink a great deal of coffee as I shall be driving there and back, and not home until the wee small hours.

 

Living Below the Line – Day Five

It’s Andrea’s last day of living below the line. Trumpets and fanfares, streamers and party hats. Tomorrow, we meet up in London to go to the theatre, and we will eat. We will eat, and drink and be merry and the past week will be properly over and done with.

This is marvellous, obviously. If you have the means to eat well at your disposal, you should use them. It does nobody any good to starve yourself. This is not about flagellation or meaningless self sacrifice.

On the other hand, it is really, really important to understand that for those living below the line, there is often no end point. There isn’t any joy when pay day rolls around, because as Andrea pointed out in yesterday’s post, payday at best, will keep the wolf from the door, but he’s still on the front path.

People living like this do not have the ability to shrug off a crappy week at work by going out on Friday and Saturday nights and drinking their cares away. Actually, weekends might be their worst times, not their best. If people are at work then they have heating, lighting and sometimes food provided for them. They have social contact, and somewhere to escape from the ever pressing reality of their domestic poverty. Stuck at home with no money to go out,  and/or no heating or food to get by, the weekend can be long and miserable.

There are always those poverty deniers who say: ‘I see them people on the estates, wearing expensive trainers, and sitting at home watching enormous tellies. How come they can afford them when I can’t? They can’t really be poor.’

Firstly I would say that these people are excellent mind readers/psychics and should definitely go on telly with their super deducting skills, because this week, if nothing else, has highlighted just how difficult it is for people to admit or recognise poverty from a single glance. Secondly, you have no idea how a person got into poverty and whether they had these things beforehand, or if they got these things given to them. And thirdly i am reminded of George Orwell who, back in the Thirties, when he wrote The Road To Wigan Pier, which seems more and more relevant by the day. He said that if people living these relentlessly terrible lives had spare money, and chose to spend it on frivolous things, he couldn’t blame them, because there had to be something good in a world where every day was hard, and terrible and bad. I agree.

Finally, I would like to post what Andrea wrote yesterday. She talks about pay day loans, and high risk loan companies, and their offers of easy money at extortionate rates, and how they prey on desperate people, and how it’s them we should be targeting with our scorn, not those people who just want something nice in their lives, or just want to eat well for a change.

It became clear during our chat that Dave had not really considered that people can be in Food poverty when they are in full time employment. He obviously didn’t believe me, so we did some sums, it went something like this….

Me: A 40 hour week on minimum wage brings in £300.00 a week gross.

Dave looks a little worried and mouths ‘three hundred’ to me.

Me: So say £1200 per month, then there’s tax and NI to come off

Dave sits next to a chap from finance that we shall call F

F: No, there won’t be any tax and insurance at the minimum wage.

Me: Yes there will, NI kicks in at about £150 a week at 11% and then the tax allowance is less than £1000 per month.

Dave: OK, so say they take home £1100

*** I’ve just checked this on the ever reliable Money Saving Expert site, they have an Income tax calculator that tells me the monthly salary for a £300 per week wage comes in at £1300, there’s £68 tax, £74 NI leaving a take home pay of £1157. This does not allow for any potential pension contributions. ***

Dave started to look a bit concerned at this stage, so lets do the maths a bit more thoroughly.

On RightMove the cheapest flat in Aylesbury is £600, council tax comes in at around £100, Energy say £50, Broadband £20, Insurance £20. It’s unlikely that a cheap flat will be close to your work, so say £100 a month for bus fare to and from work, how much of our take home pay have we got left.

I make it £267, loads! No food poverty here!

Oh hang on, we need more than food, there’s general household things like washing up liquids, shampoo etc. There’s clothes, though charity shops may help here. Shoes can be more tricky, and generally more expensive. Is a phone seen as an essential item? it probably is these days. Are we allowing a TV, if so there’s a TV licence. What about that annoying woman at work who is collecting for charity!! And that birthday gift for mother….

And so it goes on. On a good month you might have a little to spare to go and have a drink with your mate to get out of the house. On a bad month, well it all gets a bit Mr Micawber doesn’t it.

This of course, all assumes there are no children to take care of too. A tiny studio flat is not a great place to be bringing up a child.

On these income levels, it doesn’t take too much to fall into short-term crisis, the washing machine breaks down, you are ill and need to take a few days off work, you simply need a new pair of shoes for work.

This is when those oh so helpful loan companies that advertise in such a friendly way on the TV come into play, I wasn’t looking for it, but when searching for something else an advertisement flashed up offering me a loan (probably one of those clever Google algorithms working out that I’m living below the line!), the APR was 1277% representative. There are no decimals there, that’s twelve hundred and seventy seven%!!!!!!! REPRESENTATIVE which means it could be higher if I applied. The Bank of England base rate is currently 1.5%.

This is loan sharking by another name, all the furore dies down over Wonga and they all crawl out of the woodwork again. This is repellent to me, it is exploiting the worst off in our society in moments of crisis. It is on a par with the rows of betting shops on the high streets of our most deprived areas.

The Trussell Trust is there to make sure people can eat in moments of crisis, it is also helping people with debt counselling and money management to try to get people out of poverty for ever. Please spread the word that there are alternatives to these companies.

You can make a donation here, to help fund the work the Trussell Trust do.

Huge thanks, as always, to those of you who have already done so. The page will stay open until the end of February for donations, and our Facebook Page is something we are going to keep adding information and resources to indefinitely. If there is a link to a local charity or group near you that helps people in poverty, please feel free to post it there.

Living Under the Line, Day Four

Good morning. I’m dashing this off as I prepare to dash off myself. My brother has to go and meet lots of tradesmen at his new house, and as my parents are currently wobbling up the M6 with all their goods and chattels to stand the Bingley antiques fair this weekend, it is up to me to stop three, huge great Danes from eating all the furniture for the next few hours.

Ha ha ha.

So how goes it with Andrea, who is gamely struggling on?

Well, needless to say, it hasn’t been getting any easier. You would think, now we’re over hump day that it would, but in reality, living on this little, there is no hump day, there is just more of the same, only less and less food until your next payment, so actually, rather than looking forward to Friday, I suspect for many it’s the grimmer end of the week, and the weekend must simply be endured.

And this is something that’s clear in her post this morning. She writes.

I think of myself as fairly resilient but even with the knowledge that in another two days I can return to my usual lifestyle I can see how having to live in this way for an extended period will knock the stuffing out of you, if you’re not careful it can be ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here’. It falls to organisations like the Trussell Trust, staffed mainly by volunteers to show people that society cares about them, your support here is showing that too, it is passing on the love in however small a way, I know it is appreciated.

If this was your reality every day, it would be very easy for your mental health to erode. You have the constant worry about balancing your budget. You have the anxiety of what external factors will happen to impact you, from a rise in bus fares to a party invitation and beyond.  Andrea is doing this with a group of people who are all living the same way. On Tuesday, one of them dropped the box of eggs she had bought. They all smashed. There was no money to buy any more. She was devastated. You can appreciate why this small accident, something that could happen to any of us, would be a real crisis to someone genuinely living this way.

You have the stress of having to think about food all the time, but not in a good way, in a way that takes any joy out of eating at all. You have the social isolation, which we have touched on this week, the constant shame, the worry that you will be ‘found out’, or punished in some way for something which is largely out of your control. There is the ever present fear of sanctions, of failing to interpret labyrinthine and ever changing demands by the government to your paperwork, to your allowances, to the one little thread that connects you to a tolerable life, that might be cut at any time. Where do you go if you fall when you’re already under the line? You fall off the map. It’s terrifying.

If you already have mental health problems (raises my hand) this is only going to exacerbate things. If you didn’t have any, after months of living like this, you might. If your mental health problems become unmanageable, the chances of falling off the map increase hugely.

Andrea also wrote:

Another common observation is that the food we bought is heavy in carbohydrates. This is sensible, after all we need to achieve cheap calories and staples like rice, pasta, cous cous, potatoes and bread are the way to go. Such an unbalanced diet that is so high in carbs and low in fibre is inherently not healthy though, and for people with conditions that can be controlled or limited by diet, for instance diabetes, an over reliance on such cheap foods can be disastrous for their long term health.

This is something I have been thinking about this week. It has been coming up in all the posts I’ve been writing. If a woman is on her period, she needs iron rich foods to stop anaemia becoming a problem. I always had problems with low level anaemia during my menstrual life, and I eat well, I’m just naturally not very good at hanging on to iron. Anaemia at best, can make you very tired, which given the toll of living under the line is not going to make anything you do easier. At worst, it can kill you.

Then there’s the issue of diabetes that Andrea raises. You need to be really, really careful about what you eat with diabetes. Contrary to popular opinion, you do actually need sugar in your life in some form, but you also need to steer clear of carb rich foods, because they convert to sugar in the body, so all the things Andrea bought to bulk out her diet and stop her feeling hungry, are all the things diabetics need to avoid.

Protein is essential for health. It provides the building blocks for life, but protein is expensive. Cheese, meat, eggs, even mushrooms for vegetarians are not cheap. Calcium is important. We do not absorb the calcium in milk unless we are children, whose bones are still forming, but we do get it from dark green, leafy vegetables. Yesterday’s post pointed out how hard it is to get adequate fresh product at affordable prices and in the right quantities, and the fact is that fruit and veg are just not filling, so to feel full you have to buy and eat so much more of them. So much for your ten portions a day.

Let’s make a list of what we’re prone to so far, with this lovely lifestyle. Anaemia, obesity related illnesses, conversely also malnutrition and diseases related to being too skinny, almost certainly rickets (it’s making a comeback, how nice), osteoporosis, problems related to stunted growth in children, diabetes, and there are certainly others I am missing. Last but not least, your mental health will suffer to a greater or lesser degree. The NHS spends a lot of time and money talking about preventable diseases, which these largely are. They aren’t if you’re living below the line.

Andrea also says:

A comment from Sunday’s post mentioned the cost of gluten free products like bread and oats. I know the Aylesbury Food Bank carry gluten free oats, but food intolerance can go way beyond gluten. Nuts, lactose and eggs are only the start of the list, for some, exposure can be fatal. So how do people who have allergic reactions to food classes cope if they need to fall back on emergency aid?

The answer to this is, fuck knows.

The NHS is being serially underfunded by government, and is being forced to make cuts where it can, to keep core services functioning. One of the things that local authorities (CCGs) look at, is what you can get on prescription for free and what you can’t. It used to be the case that those with severe gluten allergies, and other food allergies could get food parcels of gluten free/appropriate products from their GP. Certainly here in Leicester that is no longer the case. To give you a sense of how devastating this is, a loaf of gluten free bread currently costs about £2.30. Not only that, but it is about half the size of the average loaf (and resembles Terry Pratchett’s dwarf bread, but that’s by the by). You’d be amazed how many things have gluten in them.

It seems that food allergies are a luxury afforded only to those with money, except we all know they aren’t, and not taking them seriously can have serious implications for your long term health.

We know, through the sheer numbers of baby boomers living to a ripe old age, but often with multiple long term health issues, that our NHS is only going to be put under greater and greater strain in the coming years. We have not even begun to count the cost of the 13 million people living under the line and the health conditions that are being created by what they are enduring.

You can donate here. Thanks are not strong enough words to say if you already have. x

Day Three Living Below the Line – Period Poverty

In Andrea’s world things are looking fairly bleak right now, and it’s only Wednesday. Here’s a list:

She still has no coffee, and eighty green tea bags are not cutting it. This means permanent headache/exhaustion, and no money for pain relief, or extra hours to sleep. Her job is pretty demanding, but she just has to struggle on.

The only fresh food she could afford was carrots. She’s using these to snack on when she needs a quick boost on the go. Not only is she almost out of them, but the ones she does have are now looking somewhat limp and unappetising.

As an aside, no Trussell Trust food bank accepts fresh produce, and yet it is vital if you want to stay healthy. There are a few smaller food banks that do offer fresh produce, and if you want to donate, you could Google one in your area. In Leicester, which is where I live, you can donate fresh products to Action Homeless, based in the city centre. You can also sign up to the Olio app, which allows you to donate opened packets of food, and food past its sell by date but still good, as well as fresh food. You can also donate cosmetics and toiletries.

She is struggling to navigate the difficult moral waters of whether to accept help from people. It may only be a cup of tea, in this case, or a sugar lump, but what does she do? Obviously in real life, she would almost certainly say yes, but she already pointed out that she feels she cannot go to the work pub quiz because then it would be a pint, or a meal, and that becomes much trickier. If she accepts, she feels beholden to the giver, but is in no position to pay back what has been given. Some people give freely, others less so, and what if people end up resenting her because they feel owed? If you’re never in a position to return a favour, you become a ‘charity case’ with all that entails. How comfortable are you with that label?

It’s payday today, and she’s talking about the rent/food/heating conundrum that this might bring up for people. Pop over and see what she’s thinking.

She is also struggling with the need for sugar. She has, as she confesses, a sweet tooth. Me too. This sweet tooth turns into a sugar craving in the week before her period is due, and that time is upon her. Yesterday she tried to make cookies out of oats and lemon curd with limited success, and the rising hormone levels and lack of sugar are making her feel decidedly grumpy.

This news brings its own worry, not that she will kill everyone she works with in a hormonal, sugar and caffeine deprived rage (although this might happen). The most worrying news is that her period is due.

Watching the film,  I Daniel Blake when it first came out, one scene amongst many that really upset me, but which also shocked me viscerally, was the episode in which the young woman in the film attempted to steal some sanitary towels from her corner shop because she couldn’t afford them. Stupidly, it had never occurred to me that this was a thing. I was washed through with a hideous sense of shame that I had never, ever thought about this. I immediately started adding sanitary towels and tampons to my food bank donations.

The good thing is, that this was something a lot of other people took away from the film too, and research into period poverty, and campaigns to give free sanitary towels to women and girls in need, are hitting the headlines for all the best reasons. Research from schools in Leeds, showed that many girls, as young as ten, were missing vital school time because they were unable to afford sanitary towels and tampons.

The article I linked to above, talks about the drive to give free sanitary towels to girls in schools. The comments below the article (and I know, you should never read them) make for interesting reading. I was totally unsurprised that they came largely from men. Here’s a sample:

Sanitary towels are really cheap now. You can buy a packet for 75p. Why don’t they just do that?

It’s just bad money management.

If girls can have free sanitary towels, why can’t boys have free razor blades?

This from some women:

What about moon cups?

As we’re showing this week, if you have £1 per day for food/domestic arrangements, a 75p packet of sanitary towels leaves you 25p to live on for the rest of your day. If you’re in pain, you may end up spending that 25p on generic painkillers to cope with the cramping. You suddenly have no money for food, at a time when you can be bleeding heavily and your energy levels are even more depleted than normal. Anaemia is a risk with heavy periods (I know this. I had it). You need iron in your diet, but you can’t afford to eat if you spend money stopping yourself bleeding through your clothes.

So it isn’t bad money management really, is it?

It also assumes that there is a) only one woman in a household, and b) that that woman can manage for an entire week on one packet of sanitary towels.

In my house there are three women. Before my hysterectomy we would, as is quite normal, sometimes all be on our periods together. One packet of 75p sanitary towels will not do, not by a long chalk.

Even then, if it was just me, there was never a month when one packet of towels would do. I started my periods at the age of 12 in middle school. I bled heavily and profusely for the first few years, having to leave classes to go to the toilet and change my towel, even then not always managing to time things properly and regularly managing to bleed through my towel, and ruin my clothes. In these last few years, before surgery, I could easily go through an entire packet of towels and tampons in the first forty eight hours of my period. It was also not unusual for my periods to last up to ten days. That’s not going to be managed by 75p’s worth of standard towels.

That’s before you take into account the amount of pain relief I had to take just to get by, and the amount of washing of spoiled bed sheets, knickers, towels and whatever clothes I might bleed through.

I’m not even going to dignify the razor comment with an explanation of why it is irrelevant.

Moon cups are interesting. They are reusable, but they are also expensive to purchase, and I suspect that if someone had the money for a moon cup saved, and they were routinely living below the line, they’d probably want or need to spend it on something else.

My granny used to have to use strips of rag, and soak them overnight in a bucket when she was on her period. She once told me the most liberating moment of her life was joining the RAF in 1939 and being given sanitary towels.

Just think that this is how some women are still managing today, in 2018, and somehow we’re supposed to be ok with that?

I’m not ok with that.

N.B. A million kisses to you lovely lot for donating. Thank you so much. If you haven’t and would like to, here’s the link. Bear in mind, even a quid can feed someone for a day.