Today is Wednesday, which means political and social comment – and this week I shall be discussing how, for the past five years (and previously in my life) I have survived poverty. Then next week I shall be giving you my top tips on how to survive abject poverty.
Of course, the first thing to say is to admit that it hasn’t really been abject: we have clean, safe running water, a dry house, beds to sleep in, a bath to bathe in and a flushing toilet. We have so far managed to avoid having our electricity cut off and have scraped together sufficient funds to keep phone and wi-fi going.
So are we poor? What do we really need in life? When asking ‘what do I need?’ there are two levels to consider. On the first level, survival, we are doing pretty well: we never have a totally bare cupboard or empty freezer (and we have a freezer!); we are never thirsty and there’s always hot water and soap for hygiene. We are not short of clothes to wear, and are able to keep warm in winter and dry in the wet.
On the other hand, we do run out of simple items to cook, leaving us with staples like rice, flour, couscous and dried beans, which take longer and which the children barely recognise as food. (Nonetheless our supply of these foodstuffs would look like untold wealth to many people.) Shoes are also a problem – I have nothing waterproof at the moment besides my hiking-boots, and even those leak; and I live in almost daily dread of Daniel saying he needs new footwear.
Much of what we do have is due to the generosity of others: gifts of food, clothing and money have come our way in abundance and without the munificence of friends and family we would not have a freezer or a decent cooker, to name just two items.
So much for survival: now for the second level, which is the ability to participate in society. It would be very difficult for me to do my work without daily access to the internet, as opportunities come up all the time and often writing can only be submitted to publishers electronically. So in order to live without wi-fi at home I would have to spend a couple of hours every day in the library – and Mark would have an even greater problem as he wouldn’t be able to do his videos or chat to patients online. Likewise we need the phone so people can make appointments for herbal or yoga sessions.
Just generally keeping in touch is important, not only for work but to avoid isolation. This is essential for our mental health.
Next time: my top tips on how to survive abject poverty.