Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I've been shopping at Lidl. Gone are the lines of Ecover bottles in my kitchen and loo, replaced by unfamiliar washing up liquid and loo cleaner. I'm buying on price now because I'm broke. I panic when I'm broke because I'm freelance. The only regular cash is a small amount from the Open University, a very small amount. So broke really does mean broke.

I remember my mother being broke, too, when I was a child and I look around to see there are plenty of others like me. As I write this, I'm reminded of a brilliant poem by Brendan Cleary about drinking in a pub during 'unhappy hour'. In a lot of his poetry, he writes about the extremes people go to when they're really hard up.

A large feature in the Sunday Times at the weekend about city bankers losing their jobs is like reading a fairy tale but without a moral or a single empathetic character. I can't imagine what it must be like to earn that kind of money, to have second homes, third homes, to eat out all the time, to drink champagne and fine wine, to have cars that cost as much as a house. Then there's all the statistics about how much food people throw away...

We really should be reading more of Stuart Hall. Christmas in consumerland isn't kind to those who are broke. One year, when the kids were younger, we spent it in South Africa. I explained to them that Father Christmas wouldn't be bringing them much because kids in the village didn't get anything. It may be one of their most memorable Christmases. They received one small present each.

This year I'm making a lot of my Christmas presents. Brighton's planning to ban plastic bags, so my small contribution is to make cloth bags. That might offset my temporary switch from Ecover. I'm also recycling old tights to stuff cushions. I have a friend whose parents used to make washers out of old hot water bottles.

Yesterday on Radio 4 there was a cooking programme. One of the guests' top books was one which reproduces wartime receipes. I've been using one of preserves for years since I found it in a secondhand shop. My Christmas chutney comes from it.

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