Thank heavens that, at least in the UK in the twenty-first century, poverty is more-or-less in check. That isn’t to say that there is no poverty. That isn’t to say that there aren’t still problems to be addressed, or that we shouldn’t be addressing them.
For the vast majority of us, however, there is no such thing as daily, unrelenting poverty, not even of the moderate sort that I have known in my lifetime.
This, of course, is a very good thing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way... I really wouldn’t. Privation is unpleasant, not to mention unnecessary in twenty-first century Britain, and, while Mr Cameron seems to have his heart set... No, I’ll amend that... While Mr Cameron seems to have his mind set on recreating some of that privation for the least of us, and shame on him, for those of us who’ve known some small privations, but also always knew there was a light at the end of that particular tunnel, there were lessons to be learned.
Just as there used to be pleasure in anticipation, in saving up, in waiting for something, there also used to be a certain satisfaction in what I came to call poverty consciousness.
There was satisfaction, then, as a student, mostly, but as a young mother, too, in learning what had real value to me... what I could learn to live with, and what I could learn to live without.
There were times, for example, when it was a straight choice between toothpaste and deodorant, if I didn’t have enough money in my purse for both. Whoever has to make those choices now? I know it’s been a long time since I had to make a decision like that. There are probably half-a-dozen tubes of toothpaste and half-a-dozen sticks of deodorant in the larder pantry right now; I toss them in the trolley, without thinking, whenever I shop, whether I know that I need more or not.
When I was a young mother, I prioritised hot water over central heating. I couldn’t stand to turn on a tap only to find cold water, but I never minded double-socking or putting on an extra sweater, especially in the evenings when the kids were snuggly tucked up in bed.
I’d choose not to eat meat at all rather than eat cheap meat, and generic cornflakes are revolting, but any old generic weetabix are fine. I never cared what washing powder I used, so I’d always buy whatever was on offer, but always branded, because the cheap stuff never got anything clean. I used a carpet sweeper to save on the electric bill, rather than drag the hoover out, but I turned on lights, because I couldn’t stand a gloomy room.
I learned what I could live with and what I could live without.
I apply the same principles now. I can’t stand cheap clothes and I’m not the sort of woman who hankers after a huge wardrobe full of them, so I buy good, but I always launder properly, hang or fold everything, never use wire hangers, and keep spare buttons. As a result, I have dresses that I’ve been wearing for two decades. I have shoes that I’ve been wearing since the eighties for crying out loud! (boxed, obviously, and I keep a proper shoe cleaning kit). I have given up darning socks, except for the cashmere ones, but they’re totally worth the effort... Besides, I know how to darn. I also know a good cobbler and a reliable dry cleaner.
Like I said, I know what I can live with and what I can live without.
I didn’t live in a disposable World as a kid, and I don’t plan to now. I don’t see the need for it, or, frankly, the attraction.
Funny... If you think about it, my childhood looked and sounded and felt very much more like my parents’ childhood than my kids’ childhood. Today, I’m tempted to cherish little corners of that.
Instant Gratification part i garnered a lovely response that proved me wrong about anticipation. It proved that my kids’ generation anticipates lots of things for lots of reasons that I simply don’t happen to relate to, and I’m very glad of that.
I’m hoping that someone half my age will prove that my kids’ generation knows a little something about poverty consciousness, too; it’s a valuable asset, and I sincerely hope it won’t be lost... just as much as I hope that Mr Cameron’s nasty politics don’t make it woefully necessary, because of real, honest-to-goodness grinding, day-in-day-out poverty.
Oh, and just so you know, it's the brushing that really matters when it comes to keeping your teeth clean; the toothpaste is really just for fun, and you can manage without, if you have to, at least in the short term. Of course, good old-fashioned soap and water will keep body odour at bay for short periods of time, too. Come to think of it, when did we become so obsessed with hiding so much about ourselves from the people around us? Why the shame?
Oh dear... I feel another blog coming on...
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