Have you ever had no money?
Not “I’m a bit skint, it’ll be Tesco not Waitrose until payday” no money. Not “I can’t afford to buy those shoes, but sod it, I’ll just stick them on the credit card and sort it out next month” no money. I hadn’t. Even when I was a student I wasn’t properly skint. I lived in a bubble and I was completely clueless.
The kind of no money I’m talking about is ten pounds in my purse, nothing to eat, a letter from school asking for a ‘voluntary’ (yeah, right, if you’ve had them you know the deal) contribution to a school trip, we’re running out of washing up liquid and loo roll and there’s nothing coming in until next Thursday no money.
This started out as a lovely, slightly smug lifestyle blog, all look at my pretty garden and my beautiful cupcakes. It was created (here’s a confession) because I wanted to read the kind of blog I liked reading. It wasn’t really real.
Then – whoomph – everything changed. We got divorced. We sold the house (bought at the peak of the market, sold at the absolute bottom, by the time the bills were paid off there was bugger all left).
And then I experienced The System. Four children, trying to find a job that worked around holidays and sick days and – you know the deal.
You can’t get this money unless you can prove you don’t have that money. Oh, right, you have four children? You can have THIS money. But hang on, you say you sold a house? And you had THIS much left in equity? Sorry, no. You can’t have any money. We’re stopping it all now. Yes, straight away. Sorry you can’t pay your rent, that’s not our problem.
You don’t have any money? Not our problem. Oh hang on, we made a mistake. Here, have this money. It’ll be with you in two weeks.
You can’t survive two weeks without money? Can’t you ask your family for help? Fine, you can apply for a crisis loan.
Sorry, The System doesn’t recognise “I can’t ask my family for any more help, it’s humiliating and they have their own worries”.
Can you stop crying please, our operators aren’t trained to deal with people weeping on the phone. Sorry you don’t fit the criteria for a crisis loan. No, having absolutely nothing in your purse and having to go without food to make sure the children are okay doesn’t fit our criteria.
It sounds insane. Until it happened to me, I had no idea what it was really like. I remember tweeting this:
— Rachael Lucas (@karamina) March 14, 2012
It’s easy to walk away, pretend it isn’t happening. But it’s getting worse and if you haven’t read this piece in The Guardian about the cuts which will be implemented on Monday then I urge you to do so. And to remember that it could be you.
I was walking through town this afternoon with my six year old. We were heading out for a little treat of a hot chocolate – we don’t have loads of money now, and it’s always a balancing act, because being self-employed means sometimes going without and sometimes saying sod it, let’s have a bit of fun and worry about the bills later.
The sun was shining, it was a beautiful afternoon. A man was sitting in a doorway close by the coffee shop with his hat in front of him. I gave the little one some money and together we handed it over.
“Cheers for that, little mate”
Rory grinned back at him and we walked off.
“Mummy I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have money and some people have to be really poor. It’s not fair. Why can’t everyone share?”
The six year old gets it. It’s not difficult, is it?
You’re going to need a cup of tea for this one. Or if you’re not in the mood for ramblings, look away now.
One of the things I’ve noticed so far in the great what-d’you-want-to-see-here blog survey (have you filled it in yet? Pop over here for a moment and have your say) is that people seem to want more personal posts.
~ What was your happiest event?
Being shown around by the owner who said ‘we want someone who’ll live here as a family and love it as their own and bring their children up here’ as I crossed my fingers and hoped they’d like us. Crying with happiness as I saw the attic bedroom with the view over the roofs to the sea. Crying with happiness again when she said she would happily take it off the market even though we couldn’t move in for a month. Sleeping in the dining room on a mattress before we moved the children in.
(Ross will be reading this and rolling his eyes. I saw a psychic who told me I’d live in a house just like this with views to the sea – I am resolute that if you imagine hard enough you can see the sea. Or at least the idea of it.)
~ What was the saddest thing to happen?
Cancer. It keeps trying to take people I love and I’ve had enough of it.
~ What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?
Now this – this is where I really want to write something, but tact and stuff means I can’t. Which is a bit naughty, I know. If you really want to know leave a comment and I’ll tell you. But I’m still cackling over it.
~ Who let you down?
I was surprised to find that some friends who I’d known for a long time couldn’t cope with my getting divorced. I’m not sure why – whether it was because they thought it might be catching, or because (as another newly-single friend commented) it was that they were worried I might steal their husbands. But it was a year of surprising new friendships and cementing old ones.
~ Who supported you?
So many people, both online and off. My best girlfriends* (I was going to name you all but it started and it was turning into a speech worthy of Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars, so you know who you are and where the bodies are buried, so we’ll leave it at that. Love you all x) and of course Ross, for whom I don’t have the words. But he knows. *and their husbands, in the case of lovely Phill
~ Tell us one thing you learned.
I learned that I don’t have to do everything perfectly and that perfectionism can be a curse.
Still working on that one but it’s a good lesson.
~ Tell us one thing that made you laugh.
The Oatmeal – particularly this piece (particularly apposite after one slightly negative comment on my survey sent me into a flat spin of must-give-up-blogging panic). I cried laughing reading this.
~ Tell us one thing that made you cry.
~ Tell us something your children did to make you feel proud.
Dealt with tremendous amounts of change, moving schools and making new friends and settling in to seaside life amazingly well. It’s easy for us as adults to say children are resilient, but I think that’s a cop out and not really true at all. I moved schools a lot as a child and I remember that new-school feeling so well. So dealing with that, and a new stepfamily, and their dad living in Canada – well, I’m incredibly proud of them.
Oh and one more thing – both Verity and Archie learned to make coffee. For those of you with small children who wake at 4 or 5am who think there’s no end to the early morning risings – hold on to that one. It’s bloody amazing.
~ Tell us one thing that made you proud of yourself.
I started the year with no money, no job, and surviving on benefits which was a massive shock to the system. I had no idea how difficult it was to get anything – the Daily Mail stereotype of the single mother raking in money is so far removed from reality. Every time I sorted one thing, another one was taken away. There were periods where I couldn’t afford to eat, and I was too proud to ask my family for help when they’d already helped more than enough.
I ended the year with a job, the blog coming back to life, the book edited and ready to be published this month and a plan. Lots of plans, in fact.
~ Tell us one challenge you overcame.
I think learning to cope with the children’s father living in Canada. We’ve reached a point where we all get on well, where they feel secure and confident in their relationship with him, and I feel like we’re all working together well.
~ Tell us three things you’d like to change about your life in 2013.
I’m going to be more organised with my time (about which more in a future post)
I’m going to get to the gym regularly and get back to a decent level of strength and fitness
I’m going to take time to look after myself – there’s a gorgeous spa round the corner and I intend to start using it. I turn 40 this month so it’s time to start having facials (or is it too late? eek).
And finally Jax at liveotherwise has asked me to tell you all about my Next Big Thing. Well, that’s not that hard: later this month my book Sealed with a Kiss is released into the wild. I’m currently reading through the edits of the edits of the edits. I dream about typos and stray apostrophes. And cover art.
If you’re still here you deserve a prize. Congratulations. Sure you lot still want more personal stuff on here?
I’m writing this on a train to Glasgow, so there’s no photos, nothing exciting to look at, just words. I don’t write that many wordy posts on here, partly because I’ve always kept a journal, which is where all my thoughts go, and partly because when you write a hybrid gardening/writing/baking/whatever-this-is blog it’s tricky trying to work out how much of myself I should put out there.
It’s been an amazing, exhausting, magical, infuriating, wonderful year. Six children are hard work. Living with ex-partners on the doorstep is harder in lots of ways than dealing with ex-partners who live 6000 miles away. Juggling working from home, writing, gardening, living, blogging – all these are difficult and I seem to spend a lot of the time getting the balance wrong. I think I’m getting better though and I’ve never been so happy or laughed as much as I have this last year.
I haven’t blogged as much as I’d like to, and there have been weeks where all there’s been to see on here are boring guest posts which are nothing more than advertorial – something I always swore I’d never do on here, but I haven’t had the luxury of choice this year with money sometimes horribly tight and bills to pay. But you lot have been there, reading and commenting and chatting away on the Facebook page (I love it over there, it’s like a little secret gang) and I really do appreciate it.
I’m planning lots of things for Tales from the Village next year: loads more gardening posts and photography, more about my book and chatting about the process of rewriting book no2, cake and gossip and author interviews and – well, I don’t know what else, yet. If you’ve any ideas about what you’d like to see, I’d love to hear them!
Have a gorgeous 2013, everyone and here’s to the fresh and crispy new January that awaits us. I’m thinking about the garden and new shoots and growing veg and filling the borders with flowers and I can’t wait.
When I started quizzing Ross about his Christmas traditions and he looked bemused, I realised perhaps our family is a bit deranged. My mum has been known to call me in September and discuss Christmas table colour themes and a couple of years ago I managed to completely Christmas myself out by buying and wrapping all the presents before October half term. We have all sorts of mad rituals and I love them all, especially the new pjs under the tree on Christmas Eve as a special early present.
So it was with huge glee (me and the six year olds), slight suspicion (the eight year old) and varying levels of reluctance (Ross and the 12 and ten year olds) that we visited Santa’s Grotto this weekend. But when we peeked into the magical room and saw THIS everyone was amazed, even they cynical big ones.
Actual Santa. The real Father Christmas. With a REAL beard and actual white hair and everything. And pretty impressive jewellery.
Anyway I couldn’t help noticing that there seems to be a letter from a certain ten year old tucked into the little bag on the mantlepiece, so I think visiting Santa is one tradition we’ll be keeping up for a while to come.
This is our first Christmas as a family of eight, so we’re making things up as we go along. If you have a family tradition you’d like to share in the comments, I’d love to hear!
Before we moved to the seaside house I promised the children a Hallowe’en party as a settling-in present. I happen to love Hallowe’en, so it wasn’t really a hardship for me.
(me being a witch last year)
So R and I went slightly mad in Southport’s shops and filled the house with cobwebs and children and chocolate and cake.
And yes, that glass of wine in the bath was bliss. Next stop Christmas! (You’ll hate me if I say I’ve already been planning – and shopping – won’t you?)