13/06/14 So, there I was talking to a couple of teenage girls outside some public toilets…

Hey, easy tiger…it was the only available shade in the area while I waited for the local pub to open at 7.

I was in the middle of telling the girls that their environment was stunning…beautiful… when Ella phoned.

They countered, saying it was shit. I asked about their school – that was shit too.

Ella found it hilarious as I tried to sell the wonders of education to them – one wanted to be a nurse, the other a hairdresser.

It was all good natured – even when they occasionally slipped into welsh to take the piss out of me.

‘What did you say?’ I smiled

‘You don’t want to know!’ the friend would laugh.

We talked a little bit about what I was doing and they showed some interest.

‘What are you going to do now?’ they asked

‘Well,’ I said, ‘First of all I’m going to have a lager shandy in the pub, then I’m off to visit a couple in the village who’ve invited me along for a drink,’

‘Who…why…what…where?’ they cascaded.

‘I had a quick chat with them in their car up the road – and they invited me round – all I have is their car registration number and the knowledge they’ve got a caravan in the garden…’

‘Will you stay in the caravan?’

‘I don’t know…’ I laughed at their enthusiasm, ‘that’s the beauty of what I’m doing, I don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next…’

They happily scuttled off, I’d given them a non-business card for them and their parents, I had my lager shandy – chatted with a wwoofer (?) who seemed interested in the ramble, and wandered back out into the evening sun.

‘Can my sister have one of those cards?’ one of the girls had been waiting for me…


and off we all went…

I wandered up to Ian and Kath’s house, knocked on the door, and very quickly realised that this was going to be a walk a mile max kind of an episode.

‘What are your plans for the night?’ Ian asked

‘Eeeeerrr…’ I bet you wish you had my rapier wit and way with words…

‘You can sleep in the caravan…it’s not much…’

‘I’ve been sleeping in a tent…’ I grinned.

Interesting and interested…both Kath and Ian were excellent value for money.

His recent history has been tricky following an encounter with the lovely ATOS.

Ian is 63, has had 2 heart attacks and has an ongoing punch up with depression.

He is also deaf in one ear.

So, he tells me, the work capability test went something like this…

‘Can you put a pen in your pocket?’

‘Can you lift an empty box?’

‘Can you set an alarm clock?’

…followed by the scientifically approved, ‘Stick one finger in your ear while I shout at you,’ test.

Ian passed this incredibly easy job interview (good job they didn’t ask him about his mental health, he managed to slip that under the radar…)

But tragically in passing, he failed.

Suddenly his benefits stopped. The same benefits he’d had to wait for 3 months to start – were cut immediately.

It feels like society has changed.

Where once someone was deemed a benefit scrounger when they signed on and worked on the side – now anyone in receipt of welfare is seen as leeching off the state.

Ian is educated, has worked all his life, has been involved in training others…he has contributed to society.

That shouldn’t matter. We live in a rich country that since the end of the Second World War has seen the value in supporting people when they needed it.

We live in a country where the maximum community service sentence is 300 hours which, at a push, works out at 10 weeks of work.

Meanwhile, in the world of your benefit scrounger, you can be made to work for your benefits. Up until the end of last year that was for anything up to 6 months – now, that’s indefinite.

The minimum wage is £6.31. It’s been accepted that this isn’t a living wage…but it’s a baseline.

If you’re made to work for your benefits that comes out at £1.60 (approx) an hour. For some there’s a cost for going to work – transport – clothing and so on. Some employers help with that, some don’t.

If you declare, ‘Bugger that’ then you can expect to have your benefits sanctioned – stopped for anything up to 3 years.

We’ve all done shit jobs where we’ve been given shit pay – but that was the minimum wage.

Over 600 thousand folk have been sanctioned in this way

For a variety of obscure reasons including

In other news, I can’t for the life of me imagine why there’s been an increase in food banks.

Meanwhile, back with the lovely Ian and Kath, as well as feeding, watering, washing me and my clothes and providing me with wonderful company, they showed me some of the beautiful sights of the area.

Bear in mind, this was a couple I met briefly when they stopped in their car to ask, ‘Are you doing this for charity?’

Gratuitous hospitality and generosity.

On top of this, Ian gave me a book – ‘No fixed abode’ by Douglas Legg, that tells the tale of a fellow wanderer.

More proof, if proof were needed…

Walk a mile


This entry was posted in economy, government, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, walking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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