It is a great time to relax when you go home for Christmas. I love spoiling my daughter. However some people have no homes to go to…
It has been very frosty in the UK and weather forecasters are predicting a white Christmas this year, which is no fun for those who have nowhere to go and are sleeping rough. Why not make a gift of a night in a homeless shelter or buy a Christmas dinner for someone homeless this year?
I am a yellow sticker shopper. I haven’t always been. I have been almost rich; I have been almost poor. When I am on a limited budget, I become a strict Budgetarian, surviving on very little money, but eating quite well on a mixture of in-season vegetables and supermarket brand basics, coupled with reduced-price meal packs with yellow stickers because they are at the sell-by or best-before date.
When I was a student, I worked as a waitress for Southampton’s Top RankBannister Ballroom in the evenings which included a free burger each shift and weekly cinema tickets.
My College provided cheap lunches during the week; On Saturdays, I would take it turns with five other students to cook a meal for all six of us. I would always look for these yellow-stickerred food packs on the day to decide what we were having and shop late at the vegetable market (Kingsland Square), buying bruised fruit and veg. The menu each weekend was interesting.
One pot stews and curries were common because they were easy, and anything could be put it them. There was an Italian student who cooked delicious pasta sauces, and once someone made a pie using a tin of dog food (Pedigree Chum)as the filling – which was awful – but I could taste the beneficial added vitamins!
Those were very happy, memorable times and very different to today whereby students seem to live on expensive take-aways delivered to the door.
I hope that with these days of student loans, I can offer this article as advice – “Throw away those pizza delivery leaflets, that bombard your letter-boxes, immediately”.
Once I had a full-time job, I ate whatever I wanted and ate out at restaurants quite often, sometimes three times a week.
A year after my chemo I went back to work, but after a year or two, chemo brain(which is slang for a cognitive problem following certain types of Cancer and its treatment) came knocking and I was forced to give up working. So I currently have no income. My husband is paying off a £12,000 debt due to a mistake made by the DWP (pensions department) in 2007. So we are currently back to living a thrifty lifestyle.
We are back to yellow stickers, shopping coupons and free entertainments other than television. By free entertainments, I mean free festivalsand walks – local seniors were allowed in free to Southampton Boat Show. So we went to that last week.
Because we are careful, we are able to treat ourselves to little luxuries, such one pint of beer in a pub or perhaps a discount meal at a restaurant once a month.
My husband was brought up on war rationing, which was really difficult, so he learned many budget cooking skills and how to grow our own vegetables.
I walked to the doctors’ surgery today. It was sunny when I left but I took my waterproof coat, umbrella and wore rubber shoes as the forecast was rain. Here in the UK we check the weather forecast every day and go prepared for all unpredictable weathers.
While sat in the waiting room, the Heavens opened and the downpour filled up gutters with fast-running rivers. But the time I left, the rain was at a ‘normal’ pour but puddles were everywhere. I still managed to get drenched; not from above, but from the fast-driven wheels on cars relentlessly splashing water upwards. I wish I had worn my bathing costume!
It reminded me of the hilarious car-splash-surfing in Lancashire video that went viral last December. If you haven’t seen it then click here – it’s a treat.
Meanwhile here are a few more snaps I took of puddles:
Third Time Lucky brought this challenge to my attention and I just happened upon an old photo from the sixties.
I was an avid autograph hunter then. Here is me bunking off lessons (The Deanery School called it “dooching”) to get Miss World’s autograph at Sydney Man’s Shop in St Mary’s Street, Southampton.
It was a trendy street at the time this was taken. Beatniks and Mods listened to the latest hits in booths at Henry’s Records, bought aftershave and hair-nets from the House of Fraser or shopped for factory rejects of fashionable shoes from Kingsland Market. Sydney’s biggest rival was The Shirt King at the top of the same street, who gained popularity with his collarless Beatle, then later Ben Sherman shirts.
Sydney sold “Rael-Brook Toplin – the shirt you don’t iron” type-of-styles (for its quirky self-made ad click: https://youtu.be/7HUGeDrJB3U ). I expect he tried to out-do The Shirt King somehow with this publicity stunt. It got me a detention after my teacher saw it in the local newspaper.
You may be forgiven for thinking that these young people are out celebrating New Year’s Eve. Well, It is almost the opposite. Let me explain:
Southampton has a population of nearly 245,000. Of those 43,000 are higher education students (students 18 years-old and over, attending universities and colleges – coincidentally, 18 is the legal age to drink alcohol in Britain). Seniors over the age of 65 years make up a mere 13% of the population. Southampton is a transient and vibrant city that caters well for young people.
I happen to live in a neighbourhood, favoured by students, who pass by my home, every night, seven days a week. If the weather is mild, they just gather outside and gossip until the early hours of the morning. It is often difficult to get a night’s rest. But I can hardly complain, because this is exactly what I did when I was a student, many, many years ago.
However, over the holidays, most of the students return to stay with their parents. Then the number of people in my area decreases, leaving mainly working residents.
Christmas can be a very quiet time and on New Year’s Eve people say it is boring – there is hardly a whisper.
I just love walking along empty seasides in bad weather — for some reason they just fill me with so much happiness.
We took a 40 minute drive along the South-East coast to Bognor Regis on a visit to some returned British friends we made in Spain. This is a very run-down, small town filled with Georgian and Victorian decaying old grandeur — which I adore.
Bognor is one of the oldest recorded Anglo-Saxon place names in Sussex. In a document of 680 AD it is referred to as Bucgan ora meaning Bucge’s (a female Anglo-Saxon name) shore, or landing place. Bognor Regis was originally named just “Bognor,” being a fishing (and smuggling) village. In the 18th century it was converted into a resort by Sir Richard Hotham who tried in vein to rename it Hothampton.
King George V bestowed the suffix “Regis” (“of the King”) on Bognor in 1929 when his physicians recommended he convalesce there to recover from lung surgery. The King, when pestered with petitions for the town while undergoing his treatment, was said to have uttered the line: “Oh! Bugger Bognor!” — which has never been forgotten.
In 1959 Butlins (who ran affordable holiday camps for the British working classes) opened their resort here. It declined in the 70s but started to make a bit of a come-back this decade with the “staycation” trend to holiday at home. It was hoped that these would be a way out of Dismaland (see my blogs on Banksy’s Dismaland). Seaside resorts are not popular with young adults; many have no wonderful childhood memories of them like us oldies — and prefer music festivals, or active holidays such mountaineering or trampolining in disused Welsh mines. Butlins have launched vintage weekend raves which seem to be gaining in popularity though. Recent immigrants to Blighty, have opted to live near cheaper seaside towns like this, in the South’s warmer climes. Polish shops have started opening up next to ye olde rock shoppes, so the fashion of the British seaside is once again changing.
Anyone who comes to visit any country in Europe must notice at first hand the increase in the number of its own citizens sleeping rough on the streets. Depression like this – we haven’t seen since the 1930s. Let me tell you about my City…
When I was a child, the only homeless people one would see on the streets in my town were alcoholics. These were normally Merchant Seamen, who had spent their whole 6-months pay on booze and women in one go. Every December 25th, my father, usually a bit of Scrooge all year, would invite someone off the streets in to join us for Christmas Dinner. My brother and I would be quite put out about this and thought it diverted attention away from us. Not least of all because the invited guest would hit the free booze as soon as possible. They would swear and tell tales of sexual exploits that were not suitable for children’s ears. My mother would hide herself away in the kitchen – we kids would hide under the table. Once there was a Canadian novelist, who made money from selling his books all about the sea. He told some very interesting stories – but he still drank heavily.
Today however, many of the homeless are just normal people, who have hit bad times. Many cannot afford to drink or smoke. I have talked to a variety of homeless people in and around Southampton. I do not offer any analysis, but here is my general observations: The youngest I spoke to was 14 years-of-age, the oldest was 82. Other vulnerable people included those with mental illnesses. I have met five couples and two families. Most are single. All of them were white. About half were British (from every country except for Wales) and the other half were from a variety of Eastern European countries. About one-quarter were ex-servicemen. Two years ago, I noticed many with dogs, now however, I notice very few with dogs.
Before I go out, I try to make up bags of sandwiches using up any leftover ingredients that we would not get through ourselves. I include fruit and unwanted chocolates. If they are sleeping in nearby streets to where I live – I take cups of tea, coffee, soup or hot-chocolate. I have also recently discovered an organisation called Curb that re-distributes food waste via pop-up shops and cafes.
My own husband has debts to pay to the Department of Work and Pensions. Last Christmas he was informed that his Pension had been over-payed for the last eight years and sent a bill for £12,000 ! We are paying this back in instalments somehow. This Government is clawing back as much money as possible from the “welfare” budget (we had no idea that pension was welfare).
We are certainly not alone, we were told that thousands were in the same situation. The “trickle down theory’ is obviously not working here. When billionaires walk past the homeless to buy a new yacht at the marina, it is obvious to me that the rich are getting rich and the poor are getting poorer. It doesn’t seem too long ago that we thought of ourselves as comfortably off.
However, I am truly thankful that I am alive, with a roof over my head, I am not at war, I eat well and have a wonderful happy family.
So though I cannot hand out money, left-overs cost me next-to-nothing – and after all – “There but for the Grace of God go I”.
Much as I love Southampton, which has some wonderful positive things to offer cruise ship tourists (which I shall get around to writing about more – I am usually a positive person) these are some snaps from my home city in support of Banksy’s Dismaland.
If you have not heard of Dismaland then please do an image search online. This is a ‘bemusement’ park that has been opened up in South-West England, for six weeks, by a group of 59 British artists including: Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Jimmy Cauty, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo… headed by Banksy. Actors (as disgruntled security guards and staff) and writers have also been employed (Julie Birchill re-wrote a macabre Punch & Judy script).
The Tropicana swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, a one-time holiday-haven, has been turned into an anarchistic statement about Western capitalism – A Disneyland gone wrong.
Banksy hails from near-by Bristol. He possibly recalls as a child, summer days on the sands and pier at Weston-Super-Mare, which have deteriorated now. The type of British family that used to spend their holiday here, no longer have money for resorts. Pictures like this can be found at tourist areas throughout Europe. In London, visitors are sad not to meet people like characters from Downton Abbey.
But don’t book £3 tickets on the Dismaland website, or you will just be trolled. The project highlights the down-side of Britain emulating USA-style boom and bust financial strategies. Our boom from the 1990s sub-prime-type/hedge-funding and such, burst its bubble in 2008. Although the Government has announced that the Country is now “doing well” – giving themselves generous pay-rises; people argue that these strategies have little way of ‘trickling down’ any benefit to the common people. There is also a sense of childhood loss, a feeling of being cheated by the false promises of a fairytale with a happy ending.