Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Happy Cartographer 1990


Ah, the poverty idyll! This is the next snapshot from my diary. Life is simple, I’m grateful for the assistance with rent and food, there’s a beach and being tired is almost irrelevant. And I still have my dream. Of course I’m not worried about the plates!


‘September 1990
The house.
We’ve got a house now. We’ve got Housing Benefit and Pauper’s Allowance. I don’t care what they call it, it feeds us, I’m grateful. I stay at home with my daughter and every time the sun shines I take her to the beach. The house is out of town so I do a lot of walking and pram pushing and carrying the shopping and the washing. We’re getting a replacement washing machine soon. I overloaded the old one but it shouldn’t have blown up like that. I’m still a sleepless mother. I’m twenty years old but too tired to feel anything about it. I get to daydream though, I still think about that big family home I want. To get in the spirit we’ve invited some of the family round for Christmas this year; just the fourteen of us; and I’ve got a recipe for a traditional cake. I haven’t got enough plates but: never mind. I’ve borrowed a cake tin.’

I think we ate in shifts, rinsing plates between servings. I don’t remember what the cake was like. The washing machine going bang was a bad thing; I’d been so looking forward to being able to do washing in my own home, but somehow (also not recalled) it was replaced and that was definitely like a miracle to me. I thought 20 was a grown up age, which is why is I thought I should have an opinion about having reached that venerable point of existence. And I did go to the beach a lot, and not missing opportunities is a cracking way to keep a smile on your face.
It wasn’t really called Pauper’s Allowance, that’s a flippant reference to the social stigma of being in receipt of benefits. Flippancy is a defence mechanism, but being grateful shows some  humility. On the surface, deflection, underneath, reflection. 

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