Hey everyone. As Easter approaches, I think of the end of lent and the period of fasting and sacrifice. I see this period as being a time for reflection and contemplation. It is also a time of humility and mapping your plans for the next part of the year. As we approach another summer of austerity I am lucky yes lucky that many of my main interests cost nothing but time especially as there has been a change of economic circumstances for the residents of Smith and Marshall mansions.
Therefore I am lucky, that most of my interests and activities are by any standard pretty low maintenance. Be it blogging, campaigning, politics, spoken word events, or writers groups, there is a minimum cost involved in many of my social activities and believe me this is important at a time when every penny counts.
Having arrived at a more difficult place than I ever imagined possible I decided to visit my local food bank on Tuesday afternoon to find out the qualifying conditions for using such establishments. The food bank which is held at Sandyhills Parish Church from 2 till 4 PM is staffed by volunteers from the Trussell Trust and relies on donations from supermarkets and members of the general public. It was revealed recently that there are over one million people registered to use this emergency facility in Britain today.
In all honesty I never thought the day would come when I would need to use a food bank or even ask about one but as I said circumstances can and do change and having a cupboard so empty that I recently received a sympathy note from Old Mother Hubbard I knew I had to take drastic measures and make tentative enquires about my eligibility criteria.
As I arrived at the venue I found it was almost ready to pack up for another week. I had however arrived just in time and the gentleman who met me invited me in for a about my circumstances and whether or not I would qualify to use the services provided.
The first thing he said was that food banks were not just for anyone. For example you couldn’t just turn up and claim entitlement to free food. To be fair to the man, I think he already knew that I knew that but he still had to say it anyway by way of explanation. He went on to inform me that you had to be referred to the food bank by a social worker or the local citizens advice or benefits office who would supply you with vouchers which you would exchange for an average weekly shop.
Much to the annoyance of the Daily Mail and the right wing of the Tory Party, food bank users are not work-shy, feckless individuals who are careless spenders with more money than sense. The vast majority are people whose benefit has been delayed or who are in financial crisis with all their spare change being used to pay to bills. Believe me when I say this is the biggest issue facing Britain today.
As I wasn’t registered with any official agency I was told I could not receive any food on this occasion but the organisers were very helpful in informing me who to contact should myself or my flatmate find our situation does not improve soon.
Reluctant to let me leave empty handed the organisers gave me a bag of food from the out of date box which I have to say was greatfully received. This contained not just food such as breakfast biscuits, pasta, and tins of fruit, but toilet role and a bar of soap which it could be said were in the short term even more important.
As I made my way back to my home, after what has to be said was a pretty humbling experience, I thought on the two most contrasting attitudes I have ever heard regarding entitlement to food. The first of these was the ‘let them eat cake’ viciousness of the french aristocracy in the run up to the revolution, the second is the kindness of organisations who provide food for those who need it. The comparisons between them could not be greater.
I was lucky that I came home stocked with supplies which were of significant short term value to myself and a flatmate who has endured far more than anyone on earth should ever need to. It is at times like this I value my faith more than ever and there are certain friends who know who they are who have kept me strong in difficult days and it is those friends I turn to when crisis comes to call.
You know it is fair to say that the last month has not been easy for me or my flatmate, we have enjoyed better days and those days will come again. Until they do, I’ll get by in the knowledge that friends and faith are the only foods to nourish my soul. I would however like to end this very difficult post by saying that in contrast to the old Etonians and Oxbridge set who run every key establishment from the Government to the press, from the civil service to the broadcast media in this so called united kingdom. These people and yes I do include the Labour Party amongst them, no doubt feast at the top restaurants dining only on the finest of fayre. Neither I, my flatmate, not anyone who has had to use this emergency facility wants as the press and media would have you believe to over indulge and eat all of the cake. That is not and will never be our way with regards to food or to anything else for that matter. We want enough to go round for us all we just want our fair share of it.
Love And Best Wishes