A senior government official in the UK has stated it is wrong to tell teenagers they would make good mothers. Conflating age with income, maturity, and mental health, he went on to say social workers should not press pregnant women with personal difficulties to bring up their children.
Construction has commenced on my Portland house.
When I bought the place in 1996 it was boarded and derelict, yard strewn with broken glass and stolen cars.
I pulled the boards off the cracked windows and had the cars towed away, but never made any other gestures toward renovation. We lived without a thermostat until Polly showed up in the middle of the night to install one, without bathroom doors until Donna offered carpentry services, without proper running water in the bath ever.
Finally settled in a place I love, threats material and emotional conquered and discarded, whatever should I write about?
Hmm. How about. . . food!
It is so nice my daughter is an adult: the risk of kidnapping has vanished!
I can disclose my location, discuss and describe my immediate vicinity, share contact information! On my daily perambulations I can look at flowers instead of scanning for bad guys!
I no longer need to sit with my back against the wall.
Miles and years have converted the threat to piquant dinner table anecdote, but it was legitimate. Real. True. Not just a shouted refrain in a custody dispute: oh no. Someone factually held a loaded handgun to my head and made very sure I understood.
Between genuine economic woes and the efforts of the coalition government to push through hasty, misguided, and largely ideological reforms, we have the rare moment of hilarity.
Like former Tory party vice-chairman and new life peer Howard Flight, personally selected for the honour by David Cameron, wading in with commentary like (paraphrasing headlines) cuts will encourage the poor to breed.
When my maniacal giggling subsided I pursued the point and found that technically he said "We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible."
Jolly expensive! How quaint!
Setting aside our obvious political differences, he has a point. The child benefit was income-blind precisely because it was felt that every child, regardless of background, deserved nominal support. This idea plays well to the British notion of gamesmanship. If everyone has the same base funding, same healthcare, same right to housing and schools, then it is jolly well your own fault if you fail. I say, old chap, what what?
Personally I think it is all just a fiddle. I spend more than £1,000 per year on coffee - I don't need child benefit, and I don't claim it. Other people would call that sum the difference between life and death, and they won't lose the money under the reforms. Somewhere in the middle (hence the term 'middle class') are the people who will indeed feel the pinch. And you know what will happen to them? They will claim elsewhere - they will require, and the government will provide, a program that covers services they would otherwise pay for out of that £1,000. Let me make a spooky prediction: within the next three years the number of children seeking free lunches will go up.
Not to mention the fact that right now the administration of child benefit is simple - every legal resident who asks for it gets it. With means testing, the government will need to assemble a massive bureaucratic structure of clerks, supervisors, advisors, and directors (drawing salaries and benefits) to hassle parents for proof of household income.
Of course that is one way to create jobs. Though I suspect it would be easier and cheaper to continue funding the current child benefit system.
I have a few Tory friends. One family shells out to send their "bright" child to private school, waving the other three off to the local and markedly inferior school. While, and this is the bit that amazes me, they openly discuss the bias in front of the children. I wonder if they will reflect on the wisdom of the policy a few decades from now, when those same children are making choices about elder care.
Caveat emptor and all that.
Regardless, it is nice to have an opportunity to reminisce about old projects. Ten years ago:
My cousin died on election day and his loss has become entwined in my mind with political mayhem.
Why? Because he was once a beautiful, brilliant baby and someone should have saved him.
Teachers and social workers must have known he was enduring horrific abuse: the bruises and scars were visible. What sort of person is so recalcitrant, such a recidivist, they spend the majority of life from age ten until thirty in jail? A criminal, obviously, but why - what caused it? This is not a trick question. The answer is simple.
I became a parent before I was officially an adult, and have devoted the better part of twenty years to that project, in fundamental and fierce ways.
It took ruthless and heartbreaking commitment to launch this family on our grand international adventure.
Of course I suffer from the classic complaint of immigrant intolerance, and have a tendency to ask my eye-rolling offspring if they understand how good their lives are, compared to mine at the same age.
Yeah, whatever, cancer cancer poverty poverty blah-blah!
This is a journal of displacement, documenting my decision to leave behind a place and life I loved in search of something different and somehow better. Not because I wanted to, but rather because it was necessary.
The rationale is simple: to stay alive I need medicine and access to doctors. To get that, I need health insurance, money, or to live in a country with socialised health care. One foot followed another from school, to marriage, to England.
For three quarters of my adult life I have earned as much or more than my partner. Going way back to my teens, this included a stake of cash - an emergency fund - consisting originally of blood money from the accident. Thanks to that haunted reserve I was able to cover rent, buy books, stay in school, demonstrate my academic skills, long enough to earn merit scholarships sufficient to pay for my entire education.
It's frightening to be poor. It's much more frightening when you have a family with five young children. My husband's mental illness had exacerbated into schizophrenia. He'd applied for Social Security Disability, which was then -- as now -- slow at being approved. We had to accept welfare from the New York City Department of Social Services.
Feeding the family was difficult. In the 1970's, with food stamps, coupons, and careful shopping, we just about managed.