How the other half live

When we usually think of poverty, we think of the pre-welfare state starvation that could happen to any family who were suddenly jobless or parent less. People died of ‘filth diseases’ and starved; internal parasites were a common cause of death. Anyone who reads this and works in education in the UK, will know of families who live in real deprivation and their children suffer. Usually, they don’t do well in school and it is the minority who rise up out of their circumstances and make something of themselves: I know, I was one of them. Even though we do everything we can to raise aspiration and close the gaps between rich and poor; it’s difficult to support your children with their maths homework when you watch the last 20p count down to zero on the electricity key meter.

One of my greatest ambitions once I am debt free is to do more for others. I have to admit I was physically in pain, when I watched the Channel 4 programme “How the other half live”. The premise of the programme works to find a family who will benefit from sponsorship by a family who can afford to do so. Up and down this country tonight, in over crowded, sub standard housing; families will be doing what they can to get by. There are incredible families, often ‘working two jobs’ where mum will come in from work and dad will go out and somehow they manage to just pay the rent and keep the bills paid. There are however, families so deeply in debt, trapped on benefits, without any qualifications who can see no way out of their circumstances.
The Channel 4 programme I watched, showed one such family. Mum and dad were of very limited ability, both had health issues, their children had learning difficulties and seven of them lived in a two bedroom house in the middle of a crime ridden council estate. They were given much needed relief by a supporting family who gave them some money. The children were bought beds, bedding, shoes and clothes and you would have thought it was Christmas day. That moment humbled me and made me realise how incredibly fortunate, well off and comfortable I really am.
It also made me incredibly grateful for the intelligence and resourcefulness of my parents. My mother would buy jumble sale jumpers, unpick them and knit me something fashionable from a pattern in a magazine. She would also buy jumble sale clothes and fashion them into something nicer with her sewing machine. We were very well fed from fresh veg from the garden and the fish my dad caught from the harbour wall. We kept warm from well stocked open fires because Dad and his friend would clear the trees that died from the 1970’s dearth of Dutch Elm disease. We were well educated because: they made us respect and work for our teachers, we went to Sunday school and we were taken to the library every week. We never knew we were poor.
I am lucky enough to be part of the other half, who has a warm comfortable house that I can afford to pay for, with a plentiful kitchen. We both have good jobs and we never go without. I should never forget how well off I am and today and every day; should count my blessings.


9 thoughts on “How the other half live

  1. Great post. We do take a lot for granted these days, and relative poverty is now so far from absolute poverty that we have lost sight of what being really poor is.

    I can remember being one of 6 kids and we ate very simply, but were well fed. Mum knitted a lot of our clothes, and most of my shoes were second-hand. I shared a bedroom with my 3 older brothers for years, and we had an outside toilet.

    My own daughters on the other hand have their own bedrooms, new clothes, get their feet measured for shoes and pick and choose what they eat. I'm not sure if that makes them any better off though.


  2. I don't need to comment here really…I am one of the readers of your post who you suggest may agree and see first hand such families. I have no more to say other than, great post FQ and keep up the good work. I look forward to the day that it's you I see on my TV screen with your own series! This country is in dire need of someone like you. Resourceful and creative…and so very honest and giving. x


  3. Supposedly ninety percent of the worlds wealth is in the hands of ten percent of it's people. It's a common statistic, which is often banded about.

    What is so often not said is how low the bottom end of that ten percent actually is, I believe anything above £15000 puts you in the ten.

    I live very close to similar estates, very close indeed and see many who you wonder if they have a chance. Patterns very quickly establish and the children will pass on the same to their children no doubt.

    The sad fact is though so few try and break the cycle. I've worked the other end of the system at the Job centre and dealt with so many wasters that don't deserve the help because they squander it, whilst the few that do deserve get nothing.

    Money or not we are all ultimately responsible for our own actions or lack thereof, but it is important we have people like you who may just make the difference to one child somewhere.

    It's easy to forget just how big a role teachers have in our lives. You should not understate the importance of that either Froogs,
    Give a man a fish…


  4. Liek you education gave me a way out, even though i am in a goo djob, and i struggle from time to time, I am so much better off than i used to be and my children never do with out. The simple thing of having your own things as a kid, was brough back to me yesterday as shopping for the millionth hair brush for my lil man ( ther emust be a hair brush goblinin my house) and it struck me how when i was a kid this was avaluable possession, i shared with my sister, and how even now, there are kids in my school, that value these possessions o much when they get them, just the little things that make a difference, a place to sleep of your own, a place to put your things, and some personal items, soem of the kids I teach have non of this, and it breaks my heart, I have been there, and can understand.


  5. It breaks my heart – so I give to Shelter every month. A tiny amount – but I hope it all helps to make a difference.

    We also have a big office collection at Christmas to help young people in our area who coming out of care – little pressies for them to give to their families, and treats – like chokkies or fancy biscuits or nice bubble bath and so on.

    Remember there are always groups like Emmaus who do fantastic work too

    Bless you FQ – great post!


  6. My childhood was very like yours and our parents must have read the same book on how to be resourceful.
    I am often reminded how different my children's childhood has been, especially when they moan that they're cold and I tell them 'Well put a jumper on then!' 🙂
    Good post FQ x


  7. Hi, I've only just found your blog and am just skimmimg through at the moment.
    “How the other half live” is an excellent programe. I have watched several episodes and have never failed to be moved and challenged by what I have seen.


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