Saturday, 21 March 2015

Poverty and Parenthood

Two and half years ago I got married to the man of my dreams. I had never wanted an overtly extravagant wedding, but I also knew that I wanted to share the day with as many of the people that I cared about as possible. While I admired the people who were able to elope with just their beloved and marry in front of two unknown witnesses, I didn't want that to be my wedding. I wanted to celebrate my nuptials and to show everyone I knew how in love I was with the man standing next to me. We succeeded and our wedding day was absolutely perfect. It was also achieved on a fairly reasonable budget. That said, it still cost us around five thousand pounds. We were lucky enough that we had friends and family that were generous enough to help enormously toward to the honeymoon of a lifetime but still, that few weeks of our lives didn't come cheap.

Shortly after the wedding, we moved out of my parents' house and into our first marital home, naturally incurring all of the costs that come with that. Those two huge events meant one thing: debt, and a shit load of it. However, we were both working full time and were managing to get things paid off, however slowly.

Then I got pregnant. We both strongly felt that waiting until having a baby was financially viable wasn't really an option; we'd be waiting forever. So we went for it, and I'm glad we did. I didn't want to be forty five with no debts and an achingly empty house; I wanted a family and I wanted it while we were young. In short, biology won.

Of course, the financial implication of that decision is that the debts haven't gone away but our ability to pay them off has. After nine months of statutory maternity pay (or 'peanuts' as I lovingly refer to it) followed by a necessary move into part-time work, money is tight. And by tight I mean that there is more going out than there is coming in. Luckily, I'm not a proud person and I am very good at identifying the problem and dealing with it. I don't ignore phone calls from creditors and I ask for help where it's available. My family are not going to starve any time soon. The debts won't be paid off until I'm around one hundred and seventy two, but frankly that's fairly low on my list of priorities right now.

I do miss having disposable cash though. Thanks to dropping out of school at seventeen and managing to survive on dead end jobs ever since, I've never had a lot of spare money, but I did at least have some once upon a time.

Here are some things that I currently need/miss being able to buy without much thought:

  • A pot of vaseline for my constantly dry lips.
  • Hair dye more than once every three months or so.
  • Night moisturiser.
  • A Friday night bottle of wine.
  • A new mascara. Back in December I picked up a blue one by mistake. I opened the tube before I realised and haven't been able to afford a black one since. So if anyone is wondering why I've come over all eighties in 2015, there you have it.
  • Lunch from the sandwich van at work when I fancy it.
  • New vests for Blake (it isn't all about me).
  • Hotels for the upcoming weddings we have this year.

There are a million other things, but thinking of them is beginning to get me down so I'll stop there. 

The thing is, I still don't regret my decision to start a family without a healthy financial situation. It has taught me some valuable lessons. For one thing, I now know that credit is the devil. A few years ago, I would happily buy anything I wanted and worry about paying for it later; now I have to think about whether I really need something before I commit. I also have to pay up front because my credit rating screams 'DO NOT LEND THIS WOMAN MONEY!'. It's made me incredibly resourceful too; when I do really need something, I have to find the money from somewhere and I've lost any sense of sentimentality with material goods. In other words: I'll sell anything that people will buy.

Most importantly though, being poor has taught me to be grateful for the areas in my life that are very full indeed, despite my empty purse. Every morning, when I'm greeted by Blake's beaming Disney smile, I realise that I'm a very rich woman indeed, and that's worth all the material wealth in the world.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Death Isn't Cruel - Merely Terribly, Terribly Good at His Job

I was an angst-ridden fourteen year old, standing at the top of my uncle Thomas's staircase, peering at his forever heaving bookshelves and wondering what to read next. I had always enjoyed books, but puberty had temporarily robbed me of my appreciation for my former favourite, and I was looking for someone to replace Roald Dahl in my heart. This bookshelf seemed like a good place to start.

Suddenly, a small paperback caught my eye. The busy artwork on the spine and the confusing way that the tome was titled grabbed me, so I took the book to 'borrow'. The white cover was decorated with darkly colourful illustrations, front and back, that sprawled confusingly with characters and action. The title was given as 'Faust' in gothic lettering, but this was crossed through in red, with 'Eric' printed in a font designed to look like scrawled handwriting. I was intrigued.

Eric may not seem like an obvious starting place when it comes to the Discworld but somehow, up until this point, its entire existence had passed me by. It was only after devouring my first book that I started to notice the signature busy cover art featuring on the bookshelves of almost everyone I knew.

It seemed as though I had stumbled onto some sort of a cult...

Over the following years, I read as many Discworld books as I could get my hands on. As my teenage years progressed, I found myself struggling with issues that I had never even imagined having to deal with and Terry's words gave me an entire world to escape into. His quick satire and dry wit put a smile on the face of a young girl who often worried that she might never smile again.

Crucially though, Terry taught me a love for words and for storytelling that would stay with me long after I'd put the books down. In short, he is the person responsible for making me want to write. I had always enjoyed stringing words together, and had always had a knack for doing it well, but suddenly I understood the power available to me. He gave me the words that I didn't realise I had; a voice that I was able to use to full effectiveness thanks to what he had shown me.

When I heard the news yesterday that Terry had died, a small piece of me shattered. I felt that the magic had been sucked out of the world and felt unbearably sad for all the new words that wouldn't be written. Luckily, I didn't feel that way for long. A few hours later, I felt altogether different. I felt inspired; I wanted to write. I was spurred on by the fact that Terry's life was unfairly short but he filled it with as many words as he could untangle from his head, and I owe it to him to do the same. I've been given a gift and I'll be damned if I'm going to do Terry the injustice of wasting it.

So I'll write. Like Terry, I will continue to string these sentences together until Death comes for me. I only hope I can do him proud.

Sleep well, Sir Terry