Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The monetized barrier...

Tom comes home with a letter from the school.

"Dear Parent,

A small number of vacancies exist for children to have lessons on violin/viola/cello...."

...stuff about commitment and practice...

...then the hard sell.

" Cost of tuition: £231 (3 instalments of £77)

Hire of instrument: £30"

Yeesh, take that right in the face.

"Lessons are free if you are in receipt of:

Income support
Job Seekers Allowance (income based)
Employment & Support Allowance (imcome related)
Child Tax Credit (with annual income of less than £16,105)
Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit (with annual income of less than £16,105)
Universal Credit"

That's not us.

We are just over the bracket of a sizeable enough income to exclude us from any kind of benefit, thankfully (apart from the bastarding life-saving Working Tax ones which they keep messing up, grr.  But really - thank goodness for them. Otherwise we would be homeless by now!)

But only just.

But three installments of £77?

No can do.

At the moment, that's a week's worth of shopping.  Two and a half weeks most months if I'm honest.  It's amazing how far a big bag of pasta can stretch between five and a dog.

I say: amazing, I mean: I am so fed up of pasta.

Tom came home buzzing about having tried out the cello: " I was SO good at it, mum!"

He's scanning my face to see what I'm going to say.

In his heart of hearts, he knows I'm not going to deny him access to something he is passionate about or could be really good at, so we have the conversation:

"You'd have to practice every. single. day."

"I know!"

"You'd have to perform in the school orchestra at events and stuff.  No option not to."

"I know! It'd be so cool...I've seen them do that..."

Then it crushes me - we've had to say no to so much over the last couple of years, he's unsure.  I can see in his eyes he's given up already.  He knows it's not a reality.

I'm unsure now whether it's because he's scared he's going to under-perform in some way, not be good enough or if he can see in my eyes the panic and the calculation of how and when £77x3 might come from over the next year.

When I was Tom's age, I learned the violin at school.  I did it for about 6 years and right into high school...until I suddenly had to pay for it.

See, my mum was a single parent and we just didn't have the money for stuff like that.

I was okay at the violin - I was no prodigy - but I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the group of people who did music; I never felt like I fit in anywhere else really. I was good at Art, but Art was expensive - full of trips to Paris and expensive materials there was no way I would be able to get up the courage to ask my mum for.

Languages were all about text books and more trips abroad.  Very expensive trips abroad.

I dodged them all carefully.  I had a job, but that paid for my school uniform.  I was the kid who got EMA to get by. That's how we lived.

I guess I always assumed that when I was married and had a job and two incomes in the house that this other stuff would okay.

And it will be one day (everything crossed).

But for now, my boy will miss out.  Which is a shame.  I feel like money is the barrier to him maybe being good at music.

Maybe being a wizard at rock climbing.

Maybe being an amazing computer coder.

Maybe getting decent at football or gymnastics or something sporty enough to help him out at school with some friends.

He's not poorly off.  He has clothes that fit.  He has a roof over his head.  He has a big bloody garden to play in and gets gifts on his birthday.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.  Beyond lucky.

We have that 'work/life/balance' thing down (at last) where he spends tangible amounts of time with both parents.

We are safe, we don't live in an earthquake zone, there's no war in our streets.

He doesn't always have what he would  like to eat, but he has enough to eat.

Lucky. Lucky. So, so, lucky.

He has a lot of good things going that other kids don't.

But sometimes I feel like we are the shit in the shit sandwich, you know? We're not the end, we're not the crust but the shit in the middle.

And when he comes home yet again with something else that kids in his class are raving about doing, when he wants to go to the sports class, or try something new or do something out of the ordinary and I shrug it off with the age-old, "sorry, buddy, it's just too much.."...ahrgh, it kills me.

I feel like my kids are forced out of all this stuff.  I wish everything for kids to be accessible to all children, regardless of status.

Especially as opportunities are becoming more monetized.

It's such a shame.

I know I'm probably not harbouring the next rock star.  I'm probably not sitting on some great architect or the doctor who will cure cancer once and for all....but how do we know for sure?

What if he is the next Andy Murray?

What if he has the potential for something we cannot afford to unlock because of the monetized barriers?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Minding My Business

For those of you who don't know, I'm in the business of setting up as a Childminder.

With this come all of the crazy and absolutely necessary checks, detailed disclosures and policy-writing which we have come to expect in our society.  Because, you know, why let normal people get on with their every day lives and actually help each other out when it could be a prohibitive, costly and time-consuming process?

If you are wondering where British jobs went - they are here; box-ticking and writing nonsense which gets updated every few years.

Dave and I have just applied for our enhanced disclosures with, like, a bajillion forms of I.D, proofs of address and such. I have had, I think, three disclosures before, and Dave has had about six and also been registered with the Social Services Council as a care manager, but you know - that'll be another £100 please. Credit card.

My doctor has to sign me off.  Without seeing me. I haven't had a named doctor in over ten years.  That includes three troublesome pregnancies.  I could be telling them any old nonsense - 'how many units of alcohol do you drink a week?' Me: 'Oh, none, doctor!  I'm tee-total! *blush*

I'm not a raging alcoholic by any means - but who knows?  Maybe I'm sitting in my bathroom drinking two bottles of wine while the kids eat lunch (I'm not).  There's a fee for this too apparently. Puke. Credit Card.

Social services get a letter all of their own.  I have to declare that I've never hurt a child and they get to sign it and say they've never heard of me.  Again - not sure what this is supposed to prevent.  Any bona fide child abuser isn't going to tick the box and write a comment saying - 'well, actually, I am a bit of a dick to kids' while applying to actively have a job looking after them. No fee - lucky us!

The fire department have to inspect my house (which reminds me I need a fire blanket) and tell me off probably for the polystyrene ties on my ceiling which I SWEAR I'm going to get down as soon as I get a ladder.  Though they are beside our bedrooms, so really, if anyone's going to die, it will be me and Dave in the middle of the night.  We've already weighed this up with ripping out actual light fittings/discovering horrid things underneath said tiles.  The joys of old houses. Credit carding fire equipment.  Jeez, fire equipment is expensive.

There's a First Aid Course. Credit Card.

Induction to Childminding. Credit Card.

Member ship of Childminding Association. Credit Card.

And, well, I have to send off all of the policies I have written (stolen from another minder and edited) saying what I would do in any given situation, which you know, when kids are involved, is never as straight forward and text-booky as anyone would like. £28 to process this.  Credit card.

But hey, just in case...

THEN someone will get to come to my house, which no doubt Dave and I will have panic-tidied into oblivion and I will have my showhome-for-a-day, which will be nice and then IF we pass all of this we get to invite 3 whole children to come and play with my 3 kids after school and maybe for whole days occasionally.

Except at least I get paid for it.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

And probably taxed brutally for because it's a second income.


I'm just a girl, with a shit ton of bills who wants one good, steady income without any faff.

Why is this too much to ask?

Life really is like walking through treacle sometimes.

I just want a job where I get paid, can work as much as I can and need and can progress.

More and more, it feels like I'm never going to get there.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Butterfly Butterfly...

It's a wet day outside and I feel peaceful.

The baby is asleep, the dog is curled up on the sofa and the boys are at school.  Dave is at work too, so it's just me and my thoughts.

It's Monday.

I have a long working week stretching out ahead of me and my brain has been racing with so many different ideas.

I spent the weekend clearing out the garage, purging, cleansing; it felt so good.

Out with the old, in with so much possibility.

It's so exciting to make New Space.

I have so many plans.

My head feels like my garage today.

I've cleaned out some of the clutter and now tons of new ideas are whizzing through my brain.

I have so much that I want to do.

So much capability.

The mind of a creative person can be overwhelming at times.

Dave fondly calls it my 'butterfly' personality; never content with doing one thing, I like to do several things at once.  Nobody but me can see the logic in this.

I'm never content with doing one project in one go - I need to space it out, let it grow and develop.  I want the best possible outcome and sometimes the only way you can see something from every angle, is if you step away for a while and come back to it.

I usually get there eventually.

Today though, I am happy for the peace.  I am happy for the raindrops on the window and the chance to stew a little.

Even us fast-paced, over-achieving creative heads need some down time...

Oooh, look, some fabric....

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Negative Sixteen

I wake up in my lovely home with my lovely healthy family and I am thankful.

I am grateful.

We have our health, we have a roof over our heads and we have each other.

Compared to a lot of people in this world, this country, this vicinity, that's a lot.

I'm not one for taking things for granted.

I have a job that pays money.

My husband also has a job that pays money.

We have cars to get us to and from those jobs.

We have managed to jiggle childcare so that our children are safe and looked after when we are at work.

So far, so good, right?

Today is the third day that I have woken up with the knowledge that we have zero money.




In fact, the next time we get any, we will have to give up about £16 before we have any, because, yes, we are over our overdrafts (plural).  Again.

What I have discovered is that people, unless they have been in this situation themselves, do not like to talk about money issues.  They get embarrassed or it becomes a game about who has less, who is struggling more.

It's a strange thing.

Like everything, I am probably far too honest and frank about our situation.  I like to keep things real.  Mainly because I really don't see why it has to be such a big secret; we had a hard time, we had to bail ourselves out and now we are suffering the consequences.  We are working as hard as we possibly can every single day to get through it, but it's not going to suddenly get easier any time soon.

And it is really hard.  And it is really fucking stressful.  And I am sorry, but if I don't talk about how hard and stressful it is sometimes, I really am going to implode with the worry and the strain of it all.

While we are lucky to have what we have, it doesn't make it any less stressful when you suddenly run out of baby milk and have no money to buy more. And cannot for the life of you think how in the heck you are going to find that money within the next couple of hours.

In the last month I :

Owe more money to more people than I am comfortable with for services already rendered.

Have not eaten a square fucking meal. I survive on bread based items with the occasional vegetable chucked in for good measure.

Had a decadent night of wine and cheese and instantly fucking regretted it because honestly, do you know how much reduced bread I could have shoved in the freeze with that money? Ugh!

Got stopped by police on a Saturday morning on my way to work (!) for a flat tyre which I then had to pump up in front of them at the side of the road while hoping and praying that they wouldn't clock that I need another new tyre (new tyres are, like, £45 each!)  Thankfully it's a super-slow puncture and it held and is still road-legal.

Spent two hours crying because I realised that at the end of the month my car tax is due and thus I need to add yet another direct debit on to the bunch which we cannot afford.

Have properly panicked when Tom announced cheerily 'it's less than two months until our birthdays!' *hyperventilation!*

Frantically been round the house trying to sell anything of any value.  Then our oven door broke and even though we really need our oven, we couldn't afford to pay the excess on the bloody house insurance to get a new oven, so we are stuck with the shitty oven which I'm sure doesn't work properly (we did however credit card a new door for it....ugh don't get me started on the credit card fear)

It did however lead us to a conclusion that there's probably no point in us paying for contents insurance, because honeslty and promisdly, aside from the playmobil castle that our lovely neighbour handed in for our boys, we have nothing in our house which could not happily be replaced for less than £100.

Panicked like crazy because Tom now has to pay for school dinners now that he is in p4. Free school dinners until P3 was a fucking godsend.

Annnnnnd I hoping that the government has fucked up our tax credits somehow and that we get more than we are getting, because honestly, they have sent us three letters now and it's like some horrible fucking game where they reduce the amount every time; it's like torture.

I'm a do'er.  In situations like this I fight, I think outside of every box I can find and I try my best to make a new situation to fix it.

I dream daily of the freedom to run my own business so I can work long hours and get a living from it, to not be tied by corporate rules and regulations.  To have the freedom to earn.

I have so much energy to give, can do so much - why is it not fucking good enough to make sure that my kids have shoes that fit, that we all have enough to eat, to put a fucking tyre on my bastard car when it needs one instead of playing fucking russian roulette everytime we drive?

I need opportunity.  I don't know whether I need to make that for myself or not because I am sick fed up of pounding at other doors and asking.

The stress, man.  The fucking stress.

No wonder I'm going grey!

I have to try and remember the positives, because honestly, we are fucking blessed really, but sometimes it really is shit, you know?

Sorry for all the swearing.

Swearing helps.

But honestly, I do think we should talk more about money stuff.

And not in the 'oh, it's terrible, our savings are doing nothing, hahahahaha!' kind of way (as someone recently said to me; try not to cry when you've not eaten jack shit for a week and someone says something 'funny' about savings...everyone's a joker...)

I think it should be okay to say, 'actually, we are really fucking tight right now' and maybe get a hug instead of an embarrassed silence.

Things get shit for everyone sometimes.  And that's okay.

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