Treading Air: How I Survived Abject Poverty

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.

Kirk out

A Poem for Proust

I did not sleep well: woke up at please-don’t-let-it-be-4-am-again-oh-clock! and couldn’t get back to sleep for several aeons.  While lying there my consciousness began thudding.  You know how it is: you tell yourself you need to pee and go straight back to sleep, but in defiance of your every wish, your brain begins to stir.  You watch it in horror, like some rough beast, its hour come round at last; some monster in a cave that you’ve awoken by shouting too loud.  The monster stirs; it blinks: it stretches and yawns.  Noooooo! you think.  No!  Please stop!  Go back to sleep, nice monster!  You give it some medicine to help it to sleep, you sing to it, you try to lull it to sleep, but it’s no good: the monster’s awake – and while it’s awake, it decides – just of the top of its head (that’s your head) that it might as well give you a couple of lines for a poem.  Perhaps it’s thinking of that other great insomniac, Marcel Proust, because you find yourself searching for a rhyme for his name and coming up with ‘roost’.  The monster wants you to write it down, but you tell him no, you’ll remember it in the morning and now you REALLY, REALLY need to sleep.  So you lie down motionless, developing that super-consciousness of your partner’s every breath and twitch.  You swear you can hear the blood circulating in his body and the air entering his lungs.  You know you can hear the air exiting his colon….  and thus passes a very entertaining hour or so before you fall asleep just in time to be awoken with tea.

To be fair, Mark does get up and make the tea every morning, so I get tea in bed when I wake.

Which is nice.

So that was this morning – and now, having cleaned the bathroom and sliced up a Christmas tree (same old same old) I am ready to start work.

Mark’s strategy for sleep is to listen to the radio; in fact he sleeps like one hooked up to a monitor, with a white wire coming out of his ear and connecting him to the ether.  I could never sleep listening to the radio; it would set my monster off on a journey and he’d never come back.  Soooo…. today I shall be mostly trying to re-format a play wot I wrote last year about a Richard Dawkins-type character who starts to hear the voice of God.  And then I shall probably get on with the Ian Rankin I borrowed because it’s due back on Friday.  So far, it’s pretty good.

Reader Interview

So, now that I’m awake, here’s another reader interview, this time with Facebook friend and Home-Educator Sue Pamp:

Lizardoga:  What would you say was the most important thing about you?

Sue:  Two things – my family and my business.

Lizardyoga:  Who’s in your family?

Sue:  My husband and I have two girls, aged six and fourteen.

Lizardyoga:  What made you decide to home educate?

Sue:  I always wanted to but work kept getting in the way.  Eventually I had the time to do it.

Lizardyoga:  What approach have you taken to HE?

Sue:  I guess you could call it eclectic.  It’s semi-structured with some autonomous learning.  There’s a whole debate around autonomous versus structured learning and we’ve kind of taken a middle course.

Lizardyoga:  Have you got as far as exams?

Sue:  My older daughter is doing IGCSE’s in May

Lizardyoga:  What subjects?

Sue:  English, Drama and History.  For History she has chosen some American topics such as the New Deal and race relations.

Lizardyoga:  Where are you from?

Sue:  I’m Canadian but now settled in Stockport.

Lizardyoga:  What about the business side of things?

Sue:  I’m an entrepreneur.  First I was a freelance nanny, then I did cleaning, office work and admin support before going into Complementary Therapies.

Lizardyoga:   Which therapies did you study?

Sue:  Aromatherapy, homeopathy and herbalism.  But my real interest is in Life coaching and Aromatherapy.  I’m also a mobile nit-nurse using neem-oil to combat headlice.

Lizardyoga:   Headlice are a menace.  I know ours had them.  Anything else you’d like to mention?

Sue:  I’m very keen on Flat Travellers

Lizardyoga:   What is that?  Some kind of flat-sharing?

Sue:  No!  It’s a  a character that is made of paper and fits in an envelope. They are sent to a host family, the host family takes your traveller around with them on everything they do and take some photos.

Lizardyoga:  So I guess it’s a novel way of telling people about what you’re up to

Sue:  Yes.

Lizardyoga:  You seem fairly settled in Britain.  Is there anything you find strange about us?

Sue:  Allotments!  Can’t get my head around that one

Lizardyoga:  LOL!  Anything else?

Sue:  Driving on the left.

Lizardyoga:  Fair enough.  Well, thanks very much Sue.

Sue:  Can you put the links up to my various activities?

Lizardyoga:  Will do.

And here they are:

And you can find Sue’s blog at:

If you would like to be interviewed for this blog, just comment on this post or contact me on Facebook.

Kirk out