The Happy Cartographer 1990


Ah, the poverty idyll! This is the next snapshot from my diary. Life is simple, I’m grateful for the assistance with rent and food, there’s a beach and being tired is almost irrelevant. And I still have my dream. Of course I’m not worried about the plates!


‘September 1990
The house.
We’ve got a house now. We’ve got Housing Benefit and Pauper’s Allowance. I don’t care what they call it, it feeds us, I’m grateful. I stay at home with my daughter and every time the sun shines I take her to the beach. The house is out of town so I do a lot of walking and pram pushing and carrying the shopping and the washing. We’re getting a replacement washing machine soon. I overloaded the old one but it shouldn’t have blown up like that. I’m still a sleepless mother. I’m twenty years old but too tired to feel anything about it. I get to daydream though, I still think about that big family home I want. To get in the spirit we’ve invited some of the family round for Christmas this year; just the fourteen of us; and I’ve got a recipe for a traditional cake. I haven’t got enough plates but: never mind. I’ve borrowed a cake tin.’

I think we ate in shifts, rinsing plates between servings. I don’t remember what the cake was like. The washing machine going bang was a bad thing; I’d been so looking forward to being able to do washing in my own home, but somehow (also not recalled) it was replaced and that was definitely like a miracle to me. I thought 20 was a grown up age, which is why is I thought I should have an opinion about having reached that venerable point of existence. And I did go to the beach a lot, and not missing opportunities is a cracking way to keep a smile on your face.
It wasn’t really called Pauper’s Allowance, that’s a flippant reference to the social stigma of being in receipt of benefits. Flippancy is a defence mechanism, but being grateful shows some  humility. On the surface, deflection, underneath, reflection. 

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