Of Christmas And Of Gratitude

Merry Christmas! Ho ho ho! Etc etc.

Yes indeed, it’s that time of year when some dirty old bastard stands atop my chimney and empties his sack. Oh and Santa visits us too! Ho hum!

The last few months have been full of varying degrees of introspection. Emo-neering if you will. I haven’t yet worked out if it’s because I’m getting old, feeling unwell or if it’s the state of the UK economy but I’ve been interested in the plights of other people. Random people. People I don’t know. I’m incredibly anti-social, not entirely out of choice, but I can usually tell on sight if someone is worth the effort of my concern or not. Most folk aren’t. But lately I’ve started feeling a little more compassionate. I bought a Big Issue and I gave money to a homeless chap in Highgate. I’ve always had a soft spot for the homeless, but I usually never carry cash and just walk on. I’ve made a point of always having a couple of quid on me, just in case.

You’ve no doubt all seen the stats. 75,000 kids woke up on Christmas Day in temporary housing. It’s awful. My own brother was booted out of his house just before Christmas. He has a missus and two very little kids (1 and 3). He got “lucky”. He knew someone who had a spare house (yay capitalism!) and he’s staying there now. But by all accounts it’s a bomb site. Needs completely re-decorating. The arrangement is that my bro does the work and the landlord pays for materials and discounts the rent. The suspicious mind in me wonders if in two months when it’s all done up and looking lovely if he will still be living there or not. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I feel incredibly sorry for all those who didn’t get to wake up in some form of “home” yesterday. And even sorrier for all those who woke up without a roof. At least it’s been pretty mild these last few days, if quite wet. Whatever the reasons for the rise in homeless families, it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure everyone has a home. And that’s not questionable, it just fucking is! (Naturally I blame Thatcher for selling off all the council homes. I’ve been praying that she gets a dose of MRSA while she’s in hospital this Christmas!) But what are the government talking of doing? Cutting welfare even more. Dictating what someone can and can’t spend their money on. Sure, there are some incredibly feckless fucking people out there who piss the money away on fags and booze. I grew up around many of them. I’m waiting for the announcement that any claimant who bought their kid a present this Christmas is claiming too much and should have their allowance cut!! But if the council houses hadn’t been sold off then the government wouldn’t be giving money directly to claimants to give to private landlords who are choosing a rental value based on how much a claimant can get out of the government.

My brother lives in a town where rents should be about £300-£350 for a 3 bed semi. His last landlord asked how much he got from the council. He said £450. Landlord charges £450. Brother is desperate and agrees. Council realises mistake, cuts benefits, brother can’t pay landlord, landlord kicks him out. Repeat. This system isn’t working. The government can very easily save billions by taking control. Building cheap flats and houses, moving tenants around (I believe that as a council tenant, you don’t have the right to a home for life and you should downsize if your circumstances dictate, but that’s a rant for another time) and taking full control of rental allowance. The government shouldn’t profit out of social housing. There should be no landlords profiting out of the welfare system, then not declaring tax. Keep the money in the system and the government wins. The people win. But the Tories are hell bent on making life miserable for anyone they perceive beneath them. It’s got to stop! It’s fucking criminal!

It scares me how ridiculously socialist I’m becoming lately…

This Christmas is particularly poignant for me. It marks ten years of not having Christmas at home with my family. Back in 2002 I had met a girl and spent Christmas with her and her dad. Seven weeks later I had left home and moved to London (more on this in the coming weeks). The relationship ended and I was almost homeless. Some friends pulled through and I moved in with them. But as is the case in a student town, the people go home around the holidays to see their own families. Having spoken to my family less than a handful of times in the last ten years, this wasn’t something I ever did.

As I opened my presents this year and sat down for a big Christmas dinner with my missus’ family, it struck me that it really wasn’t all that long ago that I spent Christmas Day alone. I could usually always find a straggler for Boxing Day to have dinner with, but Christmas was pretty depressing. One year I had terrible flu which resulted in the food tasting like cack and I went back to bed with a bottle of wine at 1pm and stayed there until the 27th!

Yesterday I felt incredibly blessed. I feel blessed that I’ve found stability. Blessed that I’ve turned my life around. Blessed that I’ve found someone to share these great days with and blessed that I’ve been welcomed into the family where I feel genuinely loved. Something I never really felt with my own family.

As I thought about my niece and nephew, I thought back to my own Christmases as a kid. To be fair on my folks, they were absolutely fantastic. I used to get sooooo many toys. There were four of us kids and we each had a corner of the room stacked full of presents. Bikes, keyboards, action figures, Scalextric sets, books, chocolate, all that stuff. You couldn’t want for more (materialistically speaking). I look back at when I was about 15 and trying to be all cool, I asked for CD’s. £100 of CD’s doesn’t really take up a full corner does it? Without sounding like a bumper sticker, music is my life! Had I known that over the next fifteen years I would’ve amassed a collection of over 1000 CD’s, I would’ve asked for more toys instead. But I was trying to be cool. Had I also known that the people I was trying to impress at 15 wouldn’t be in my life once I hit 18, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time trying to be cool.

Sometimes I wonder where it all went wrong with my family. I think it was my depression and the internet (and my dad’s affairs and the house reposession and and and!). The internet opened my eyes and made me realise something wasn’t right. I imploded and I left. The people I grew up with weren’t the right fit for me. I have no desire to go back there, less desire to stay in touch. But in spite of the blessedness I felt yesterday, there will always be that little spot of emptiness, desperate to be filled, reserved for the family I always wanted, destined to remain empty. Choosing not to have kids of my own has always felt like the right decision but I expect the next few years to be quite rocky. I guess I’ll just have to overcompensate with my brothers kids!!

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