I’ve had a disaster since my last column. I was driving back from work one evening in December when a car veered on to my side of the road on a bend. I went off the road straight into a tree. Luckily, I was only going at about 10 mph and, though my little Kia was written off, I was physically OK. If I’d been driving any faster I would have gone over the edge with a 20ft drop on the other side.
No car means no work. I had to scrape together £750 to get myself a new motor. The only reason I managed was that I’d just taken out a £600 social fund budgeting loan from the government, which is available to me because I’m on employment and support allowance. That 600 quid was going to help me through Christmas – ask anyone struggling financially and they’ll tell you how tough that time of year is, and it’s much harder as a single parent like me. In the end, the £66 from the energy bills support scheme enabled me to put enough bits and bobs away to buy the kids presents. Cars loomed large again. My son got a remote control car. I gave my daughter a £50 New Look voucher to get herself some new clothes.
I was disgusted when I went to get my energy grant, though. While people who are billed for their electricity (generally, people who are better off) get the £66 a month automatically, those of us on prepayment meters have to apply for it. It’s not even been well promoted, so loads of poorer people on meters haven’t applied, and it’s going unclaimed. Those of us on prepayment meters usually pay for our electricity at a higher rate too. Yet again the government has rigged things in favour of people who are better off.
When you’re down is when you get to see who your true friends are. A few weeks ago I shared with others how difficult things were for me and the kids. It’s the first time I’ve gone public about it. I wasn’t asking for or expecting anything, but the response was amazing. Before I knew it, there were parcels left on my doorstep. Bernadette, the mum of one of my daughter’s friends who works for the NHS, sent round a whole lot of stuff – sweets, chocolate, crisps, slices of meat, dips, Dreamies for the cat. I was so touched.
When you’re struggling is also when you get to see that some friends aren’t quite as true as you’d thought. Take Danny, who I’ve been mates with for years. He recently said he wanted to ask me something, but he was embarrassed about it. I told him we were close enough for him to ask me anything. He muttered something about wanting me to do something for him, and that there’d be money in it for me that could help the kids. The next thing I knew he’d sent me a photo of his naked arse, with an angry red whip mark slashed across it. Yep, that’s right, he wanted me to be his dominatrix.
I was offended on three fronts. First, Danny knew so little about me that he thought I’d do it. Second, that he would take advantage of my situation to ask me. Third, his bare-faced cheek at sending me the photo of said arse. I told him I thought that would be crossing a line and it’s a line I don’t want to cross with him, or anyone else for that matter. Actually, in the end I told him to get lost. So it looks as though my friend Danny is now my ex-friend. Meanwhile, Bernadette, who I barely knew, has shown that she truly is a friend.
As told to Simon Hattenstone. Liz is in her 40s and lives in the south-west of England. Names have been changed
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