Saturday 26 December 2020

Three bubbles

When our two bubbles were setting off to join us we knew there were covid risks on meeting indoors but we’d taken precautions. 

All my ‘bubbles’ had had negative covid tests in the few days before Christmas. When bubble two arrived they had mulled wine and nibbles on non-sharing plates outside. Afterwards they went off to bubble one’s bonfire where he made the real thing:-red wine, orange juice, star anise and cinnamon sticks heating on a cauldron.

Meanwhile I basted the turkey every thirty minutes and became disappointed that the honey-glazed parsnips didn’t roast properly but they did cook...

And - when we reflected - we lit a candle for our mums who are no longer with us and thought of the truckers holed up in Dover. We thought of refugees and the homeless. We said thanks that we had escaped the worst of covid and that during 2020 had merely only had to put up with civil restrictions. We wore Santa masks and hats indoors and ate at a social distance. Then went outside to let the air in and any possible virus out. From thereon we left the back door open for the rest of the evening.

We hope we took enough precautions. I think we did but we knew Xmas Day was a risk simply by meeting indoors. And in reality we aren’t starving, nor in a war-torn country and we have enough money to be comfortable. We enjoy the warmth from an effective heating system and have had lots of support from friends and neighbours from the beginning of lockdown one onwards.

Best of all we have good friends who wanted to be with us. And we did what Matt Hancock said: on Christmas Day no kissing and no arguing.

Enough said. Happy Boxing Day and thank your lucky stars! 

Sunday 6 December 2020

Exploitation of the poor verges on evil

I am glad this week’s The Observer chose to include a feature about the shocking and shaming scenes of abject neediness in Burnley. This was a follow up to street Pastor Fleming’s short film Poverty and the Pandemic: Burnley which has been showing on BBC News Channel.

In Harriet Sherwood’s Observer piece -  Exploitation of poor verges on evil - she went further than describing how desperately poor some areas of Burnley are. She referenced the increase in the work of The Trussell Trust and its food banks and the evil of loan sharks. But it continued to shine a spotlight on the very poor today.

I taught needy children for over thirty years but even that didn’t prepare me for Fleming’s film.It was harrowing in its depiction of devastated lives. It left me weeping and as troubled as I was after seeing Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home when I was a mere ten-year-old. No one can forget the scenes of Cathy living in a condemned house, being torched in a caravan nor being forced to give up her children to the authorities as she was homeless and could no longer care for them.

After seeing Poverty and the Pandemic and emailing family and friends I managed to get some of us to immediately send donations to Fleming’s Church on the Street fund. More will come. I felt impelled to act.

It was impossible to ignore the Dickensian plight of Burnley’s desperately poor. ‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’ asked Dickens’ Scrooge upon hearing that it was at Christmas, especially, that need was felt. Yes. Lock ‘em up. That was Scrooge’s solution. But how are things any better now than in 1840s London? 

After years of austerity Britain, chronic low pay, a lack of council housing, erosion of the welfare state and benefits plus increased financial insecurity for many how can our poorest be anything but desperate? Especially when they can’t work owing to lockdown. Their story needed to be told and The Observer helped.

Lockdown,shut down, shut out.

‘But they would rather die than face the work house’ said one charity worker to Scrooge.

‘Let them be quick about it and reduce the surplus population,’ Scrooge replies.