The relentless drizzle is getting me down. Today feels like Sundays used to, before you could waste them away in DIY centres, when the only noise you could hear in the street was an afternoon film or a family quarrel.
The sound of the rain gurgling in the drain outside my window, a dog barking in the nearby park and the occasional yell of a neighbour is creating a miserable soundtrack for a miserable day. I do hope my life isn’t becoming a Smiths song.
I wonder how other people are spending their time. This is a dangerous pursuit, considering how others are spending the weekdays as you lie on the settee, not realising how dark the room has become. I also wonder how the very rich are spending their day.
They don’t have to do anything but, I assume, manage to play tennis, go horse-riding, enjoy a lunch with pals or whatever it is they do to fill their time: I suppose if you’re not demoralised and used to having nothing to do it doesn’t come as a shock.
I think this having read that the UK has seen a big rise in poverty with a further 600,000 children being pushed into destitution and deprivation by falling incomes – hitting both middle class and working class families. Poverty for all is financially defined as people living on less than a certain amount:
- Single adult, no children: £165 per week
- Couple, no children: £248 per week
- Lone parent, 1 child: £215 per week
- Lone parent, 2 children: £264 per week
- Lone parent, 3 children: £314 per week
- Couple, 1 child: £297 per week
- Couple, 2 children: £347 per week
- Couple, 3 children: £396 per week
This amount is to pay for all bills, clothing, food, travel and other expenses we each have just for existing.
I can hear the school playground from where I’m sitting and know that today, in this relentless drizzle, children are going to school hungry, in tatty uniforms, not being able to keep up with their well-fed, well-dressed classmates. I’ve worked in schools with children unable to concentrate because they’re so hungry, frustrated by the journalism activity because it will make no difference to their day, their eyes revealing they’ve witnessed misery beyond their years.
The Department for Work and Pensions say they will tackle the problem – expected to reach a massive 3.1 million children living in poverty in just two years – by “making work pay”.
This means 1. assuming most of those in poverty are on benefits, 2. pretending there are well-paid jobs available (the Institute of Fiscal Studies state that poverty will increase due to “a large decline in incomes”) and, 3. ignoring the realities of poverty while continuing to cut essential services that make day-to-day existence for those struggling that little bit easier. The IFS adds, “the net direct effect of the coalition government’s tax and benefit changes is to increase both absolute and relative poverty.”
Poverty is about much more than the amount of cash coming into a household: it is about how you see yourself, how others see you, about feeling punished, being angry, a lack of control over one’s life, and not seeing an end to a situation that is as miserable as it is absurd.
I found some quotes from others to explain the reality of poverty:
“Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.” Eli Khamarov
“The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty.” George Bernard Shaw
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Gandhi
“Poverty makes you wise but it’s a curse.” Bertolt Brecht
“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.” Muhammed Ali
Good news: A friend has bought me an early Christmas gift of a halogen heater, meaning I no longer fear the mini Ice Age (but still have to pay a surcharge for not using the gas meter)
Further good news: Today is giro day so I have a fridge full of food and a Chaplin full of cat treats