So this time a couple of weeks ago we were celebrating 100 years since women got the vote, (subjective to their class and status of course. Women had to be over 30, and occupiers of property or married to occupiers). Did the women who tied themselves to lamp posts and threw themselves under this Kings horse do it for this, a female Prime Minister bribing MP’s to vote against free school meals?
Her DUP party made sure they were exempt from the new law which will affect a million children. They kept their own were safe, then voted against the rest. The whole situation is so unfair it’s laughable it’s allowed. There should be an Office of Fair Government that oversees biased decisions.
I don’t know how Teresa May can look at herself in the mirror. Has she ever been hungry? Has she ever had to go to her boss and beg for an advance on her wages, or put back shopping at the till because she didn’t have enough money? How, until she has experienced disadvantage or poverty, can she make an informed decision about what is best for people who live it every day? I’ve been too poor for food. I told people I was on a diet, but actually, cereal was all I could afford, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I know what pity looks like and it’s not pretty.
An article in the Guardian written by a secret teacher heartbreakingly read; “Friends in nearby schools report that they’ve joined the Brushing Buddies initiative, teaching children to brush their teeth, as their parents see toothbrushes and toothpaste as an expense they don’t need. Others tell of pupils who have to take school stationery home to do their homework, where they share beds with siblings or sleep on mattresses on the floor. A school in Lancashire recently made the news because it’s washing clothes for parents almost every day, and giving many of them breakfast, as well as their children.”
The teachers doing this are no doubt facing cuts to their schools and wages, digging deep into empty pockets to try and improve the life of their pupils.
How can kids learn when they are hungry? My kids refuse to walk home unless I bring food to sustain them. Shamefully, I take a selection of treats, in case the first one doesn’t appeal. My children have their own cupboard of snacks they can help themselves too. It’s constantly empty save for the rice cakes.
I never thought myself privileged because mum bought us Wagon Wheels after school, but now I see I was. As an adult, I voluntarily go hungry to avoid the middle-aged-spread. How disgusting is that? I have a fridge full of food I try not to eat, while others are starving.
I’ve been using food to bribe the kids into doing learning at home. Not because I think the school isn’t doing a good enough job, but because they are under pressure and under-funded. I’m sick of people moaning about it but doing nothing to help. Rather than going in and complaining about the lack of learning or the banality of the curriculum, I’m having a go myself. I can only fail after all.
This week, I taught them the poem ‘Timothy Winters’ by Charles Causley about a boy who lives in poverty.
Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.
His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.
When teacher talks he won't hear a word
And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,
He licks the patterns off his plate
And he's not even heard of the Welfare State.
Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren't boys like him any more.
Old man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier.
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy's dosed with an aspirin.
The Welfare Worker lies awake
But the law's as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.
At Morning Prayers the Master helves
For children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars "Amen!"
So come one angel, come on ten:
Timothy Winters says "Amen
Amen amen amen amen."
Timothy Winters, Lord.
My children copied it out whilst scoffing custard creams and chocolate brownies, happily oblivious to the fact Timothy Winters represents thousands of children in the UK, soon to be more thanks to Teresa May’s latest cut backs.
There is nothing we can do to change what has been passed, other than teach our kids to appreciate what they have and give what we can to those who need it.
I will be signing up to the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership to do my bit. I hope, in light of the cuts being made, that others will do the same. To me, it’s always been simple; why should I help someone else? Because I can, because there for the grace of ‘god’ (luck and circumstance) go I.