The most striking thing about the poverty that I come across in the United Kingdom is how expensive it all is.
Sometimes, when I come home from work I find a group of youngish men gathered on the green outside of the old church. They are drinking, and seem to have been doing so all day. The group is not always there and I assume they gather whenever there Giro (state benefits) arrives. This is a tired group who look defeated even on the one day that they have money. How much does it cost to be drunk from ten in the morning to midnight? I honestly do not know- as I would be unable to afford it even if I wanted to.
I see women pushing prams. I would guess they were in their late teens or early twenties yet they have strange duel age quality about them. The quality of their skin and there general air of tiredness make them look old beyond there years- yet there is something of the child about them too- as if they have never been young but hurried from childhood to middle age.
Why are they so tired? One reason is that they eat so badly- they seem to go to McDonald's three times a day. Again, this is not something I could afford. Another reason for there tiredness is that they cannot control there children- or rather, they do not know when to let their children be children. Every time their child moves out of reach he is shouted at- this occurs continuously- about once every three minutes. If the child has to be chased after then he is often hit for not staying near the mother- he does not cry as he is used to it and will probably be hit another twenty times that day.
You think I am making it worse than it is? I am not.
These women also dress badly- not cheaply, just badly. They look poor no matter how much money is spent. Branded shell suits and sports gear is popular- even though it is unflattering and always seems to be dirty.
How much does this lifestyle cost? A great deal. I have no designer labels at all, just good quality that lasts.
Everyone spends money yet everyone remains poor. This is because of a poverty of aspiration. It costs more for these people to be poor and bored than it does for me to live a full life. I know that I am paid less as a security guard than many single mothers receive from the state- and yet they go nowhere and do nothing.
I have an annual train ticket to London. This buys me the finest of everything the world has to offer and most of it is free. Yet many people remain chronically bored.
I am too busy and too poor for this sort of poverty.