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My Childhood Nightmare Starring Rishi Sunak
Anyone else have dreams of the Childcatcher?
I wasn’t in the best of moods last week. Each time I switched on the news, there was Rishi Sunak preaching what we already figured out a good few weeks ago …
It’s going to be hard!!
Two years ago there were mutterings of ‘ooh could Rishi be the next prime minister?’ as he leapt into action and rolled out the furlough scheme. He saved the day and everyone loved him. Articulate, charming and seemingly a decent chancellor - someone knows what they’re doing we thought, breathing a large sigh of relief, he’ll get us out of this mess! We knew it would come to an end and it shouldn’t be a surprise that we are where we are. But I can’t help myself, there’s a comparison going around my head - Rishi with his furlough scheme and the Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, with his cage all dressed up as a sweet shop….
Here we are children, come and get your lollipops …they’re all free today!!
Of course the government has to claw back the money, and the war and the cost of living has caught everyone off guard, but the way it is managed matters. Westminster telling people to consider budget brands or take cooking lessons couldn’t be less helpful or more insulting if they tried. And then to top it off, there’s Rishi with his flashy smile plastered everywhere as the first frontline politician to make it onto The
god-awful Rich List. I can’t say I’ve ever read it, or care about it, but the irony was missed by no one. The reality is, that people with the privilege of comfort, will never know what it is to struggle.
There’s a leaning these days toward pairing down and simplifying the way we do life. And as positive and necessary as it may be, it’s not comparable to poverty. It’s simply not possible to know the plight of empty cupboards and the fear of a final demand bill with every flutter of the letterbox unless you’ve lived it. When budget brands are the norm, there’s nowhere other than the foodbank to go - and that’s just for food. What about the escalating bills? Shall we tell people to wear another jumper and have hot food Friday?
20 years ago, the girlfriend of my ex-songwriting partner took pride in looking slightly scuzzy, she preached the joy of Oxfam type shops and refused to drive a car. She needed a lift one morning, so I picked her up in my bashed up banger which cost every penny I had to keep on the road. I followed her instructions and arrived at the gates of an enormous detached house in Richmond, one of the richest boroughs of London. It turned out she still lived with her parents. I thought how easy it was for her to preach how to live with little, when she comes home to that level of luxury every night. It’s easy to play at going without when there’s a healthy inheritance waiting down the road.
What we need from Rishi right now is reassurance and solutions -neither of which are appearing on the horizon.
I remember very well the recession of the 80s. We lost our home, our family fell to pieces because of unemployment and subsequent mental health issues, and we ended up homeless. I was put in care for a while because fewer mouths to feed means fewer overheads. It was an awful, awful time.
In the 90s, when the boom began, I remember hearing a woman being interviewed on the radio. She talked about how hard the 80s had been, that she and her husband clung onto their home with all their might and did all they could to survive. She was now enjoying the fruits of the property boom and she looked back on the 80s glad for hanging on. I will never forget that interview, I banked it in my memory as something to remember if the time ever came again. And even now, having had a reliable income for the last 20 years, I still rarely go into the supermarket without thinking ‘this could all change one day’.
I have no answers or easy solutions, but I do know that history, like with the pandemic, shows us that we come out of these bleak times. It may well be hard Rishi, but we can and will do this! We will rally together, support each other, tighten our belts and give where we can - because that is community, and that is the essence of being human. It will take a lot to convince me otherwise, but I am certain that our nature is to be giving, like the trees.
Brian and I went to see Sandi Toksvig last night. She was wonderful and I can’t ever remember hearing a more adoring roar of applause aimed at someone walking out on stage. As expected, she was funny, clever and a little bit naughty - they always are when off-camera! But she went on to talk about how lockdown had changed her, and that she had discovered the secrets of trees. I nearly yelped with excitement! She went on to talk about what we said just last week, that the community of trees provides a lesson to us all. They have a deep underground network that connects them to one another and gives them life.
We can do that too!
Something else I spotted in the papers over the weekend was that Rev Richard Cole had just preached his last sermon having said that he didn’t feel welcome in the church anymore. He will be a sad loss as I thought he rather upped its appeal, but maybe his retiring early will highlight the reality that organised religion isn’t necessarily the arbiter of faith, love and charity. And perhaps it will prove to be a timely reminder, that the capacity to know and be community with one another, isn’t exclusively under a pitched roof and steeple. It is within us all.
Love one another
In this Post Covid world that creaks under the strain of debt, and the rising cost of living, we need community now more than ever. We don’t need to be part of an organisation to do it, and we definitely don’t need to wait for an invitation. Every community has a small handful of those who give all the time, whether it’s Michelle who runs the village shop or Susan who organises the food bank - we make ourselves feel better by assuming they’ve got an empty diary that needs filling, but perhaps they’re just as busy as we are.
Returning to the wise words of Morrie last week, am I being the person I want to be? Is today the day? Whether we like it or not, tomorrow we could win the lottery and tomorrow we could be hit by a bus. Today is all we have. Today is all that matters. Let’s not let Messminster and the leadership of this country with their lockdown parties and endless lies prevent us from being community to each other. Yes, this is going to be tough, but together we can hang on and make it work.
Until next time, I hope you have a great week!