Lean Times Part Two.
A letter arrived from the benefits people for Paul it wasn’t good news six weeks ago, so I expected the same information again, Paul didn’t like to open any letters he always feared the worst so I opened his letters. The letter said, “You were seen by our Assessor, people are put into two groups to qualify for this benefit, we sent you a letter recently to say you had not been successful, this letter today is to let you know you fall into the second group and that your claim has been successful. Your benefit will be back dated and you will get this benefit every month until 2018.” WOW! I was chuffed for Paul and was thrilled to let him know, he too was relieved. I later told Jaz at work, she was confident that he would get it and was pleased for us too.
The year before we’d had a new boiler fitted, for in winter our boiler had broken down (that in its self is another story to follow) a friend of mine had told me about a Government Funded Scheme that we could qualify for a free boiler and solar panels, I didn’t understand it fully and still don’t but from this, every 3 months we get a cheque for all the electric that we have collected from the solar panels, this was another avenue that money was coming into our household.
Everything wasn’t easy or plain sailing, we were still in dire straits, I remember one day I went to a school friends funeral, I had no money for petrol, it was too far to walk, so with just enough money for a one day bus travel, the ticket cost £4.50, this can be used all day in a sixty mile radius, it would take me three bus rides to get there. It was strange dressed smart on the bus all in black, but I had given myself plenty of time to get there, and I had to walk the equivalent of an hour in between busses. My feet were killing me by the time I got there. I’ve never been to a school reunion before, but this funeral was like one, and although it was a sad occasion, it was lovely to see everyone, many I hadn’t seen for over thirty five years.
Also in this lean year it was the dreaded flaming heck PROM!!!! If my Mum had told me she was broke, I would have understood, but there was no such thing as Prom in Great Britain, when I was young. It was just something we saw on American television, but now it is the norm in United Kingdom. Megan has wealthy friends since she has gone to that school, their parents earn thousands and their houses are amazing, they have lovely parties and sometimes she is invited to sleepovers, one friend was given a brand new car for her birthday, she can’t even drive and she is still at school.
A year before the flaming heck prom, Megan was looking at long glittering dresses, I was hoping she would pick one from TKMaxx where they often have bargains, but whenever she saw something she liked, it was in between payday for me, and by the time, I got paid the tiny, long, glittery dress would be gone. Then last year as the date loomed nearer, Megan wanted to go into the City! A friend who I hadn’t seen for many years, I saw her up town and told her about the flaming heck prom, she said her sister had her own boutique shop nearby and sells many prom dresses, all she makes herself and that she has many ready to wear on the rails, she would be able to adjust them quickly! It seemed like a fantastic answer to my prayers, Macey went on to say, “My sister is about to close for the day, do you want me to ring her to stay open so your daughter can try on some dresses?” I was thrilled and said, “Yes please,” she went on to say, “I will ask her to do you a good deal, as it’s you, but she isn’t dear anyway, as she knows it’s not easy for parents.” This day couldn’t get any better for me, the boutique was hidden in a side street and we were there in two minutes, Morgan introduced herself to us, she asked Megan to look on the rails and she herself would look too, Megan couldn’t see anything!!!!! Morgan looking at how tiny she was, picked up four lovely dresses and the three of us went into the very large changing room. The first dress she put on was a WOW dress, it would not need adjusting, it was the perfect fit, with lots of glitter and the perfect length, I was thrilled. Megan tried on the other three; they weren’t as nice as the first one, I had a big smile on my face when Megan said, “Can I think about it? The smile slowly left my face. Morgan said, “I can keep it for you until tomorrow at 5.30pm.,” I thanked her very much and I said, “I will phone you before then, so you can know either way.”
The following morning as planned we went to the City. I wasn’t happy with Megan, for that was the perfect dress, but as we had planned to go on the Saturday anyway we went. I had told her my budget was £50; she wanted it to be £60. What she don’t realize it, if I spend a lot of money on the day I get paid, it won’t last the month!! We went on the train, so I didn’t have to worry about parking fines and tickets, we went into one shop and asked about prom dresses and the sales assistant told us of a high street shop that had a prom section, we would never thing of going into that shop, yet as we walked through the doors, there it was, glittering, long prom dresses, in all sizes, including Megan’s tiny size, and the price was £60, how fantastic was that! Within minutes she was in the changing room trying it on, I was SO relieved, and when she pulled the curtain to reveal the dress, my smile was the widest ever! Megan’s face however wasn’t and she said, “I don’t like the dress,” I asked her, “What’s wrong with it?” Her reply was the same, “I don’t like the dress, plus lots of glitter has come off it just trying it on!” I was gutted. I reminded her about Morgan’s dress shop and it was then she said, “I didn’t like any of the dresses there!” Oh dear, I thought! Outside the shop I rang Morgan and told her, “My daughter, didn’t want any of the dresses,” She thanked me for letting her know so early on in the day. I said, to Megan, “You can say “No,” to every dress in every shop; it’s you who’ll have no prom dress!” She text her friend, who told her the name of the Prom Dress Boutique and we went there, I was not happy. As we walked into the shop the man said with a wide grin, “Good afternoon, may I ask what your budget is?” I said, “Sixty pounds,” his wide cheesy grin disappeared as he said, “Our dresses start from two hundred pounds,” I told him, “We will try other shops and if we don’t find anything, we will come back.” He replied, I’ll take £70 off certain dresses if you come back,” I said that’s still a lot of money.”
There weren’t as many Prom Dress shops as I’d hoped, so with a heavy heart, I went back to that Prom Shop, it was a different sales assistant who came over to us, she started her spiel, with a ‘business face’ she said, “What is your price range? Our dresses start from two hundred pounds,” I interrupted her and said, “My budget is sixty pounds, but I was in here earlier and your colleague said I could have seventy pounds off certain dresses,” taken aback, she said, “We do not give such huge discounts!” The male sales assistant had seen me and he quickly came over and said to her, “I offered this customer seventy pounds off certain dresses if she returned’ and turning to me he said, ‘I am very pleased you came back, let me pick three dresses that you can choose from and I will take seventy pounds off for you.” He chose three dresses and Megan took them into the very busy changing room. She was behind the curtain, there was a teen there with her mum she had come from behind the changing room curtain in the most wonderful dress! She looked like Cinderella, her mum said to her daughter, “How much is this one?” Her daughter replied, “Only two thousand,” the mum didn’t even batter an eyelid; I think I would have fainted! But I thought if a parent has the money, then why not! But this puts lots of pressure on other children and parents who don’t have it, such as me and Megan! Megan told me later that behind the curtain she had cried and cried, she’d taken a picture of the three dresses with her wearing them, she’d showed them to one of her (rich) friend and the friend had said which one she had liked the best. Megan then showed me the dress she ‘liked’ and as she was SO slim the dress would have to be altered that would cost £20 and then it would be posted to us and that would cost £10!!!! Because this would be cheaper than if I came back to the shop to pick it up! So with a defeated heart I paid a whopping £160! I said to her, “You will be getting no pocket for the rest of the year, do not tell Paul!” With a smile Megan said, “I won’t tell, and added thanks’ Mum.” I did realized then that all she wanted to do was to say to her (rich) friends at Prom, “I got my dress from this Shop, for they all knew that shop!!! Having the dress from the little unknown boutique, would not do! At we came out the Prom Dress Shop we past a shoe shop that was closing down in two hours, we went in and she found killer heels for a fiver! Paul did ask me how much her dress was, I did tell him the price; he didn’t know the grief I’d gone through to get to that ridiculous price! I told him about the two thousand pounds, dress he just shook his head, and said, “That’s crazy,” that dress was bought for her by the way. Megan loved every minute of prom. That was a lean month!
Every year just before the six weeks holidays, for the last fifteen years I have gone into the Infants and Junior school, our children attended and I have had a day teaching and doing Tie & Dye with 30 children! I always said I would never work as a volunteer, but I love doing it SO much I don’t mind. I tell Marie the Teacher who has known me many years, and had invited me each year, what to get, buttons, string, elastic bands, salt, gloves, each child is to have a clean, white t-shirt with their name on, she picks the three different colours, I go to the school get the money for the dyes and I buy them. I book the time off work, or if the date falls on my day off, then that’s even better. I go to the school for 9am and leave about 3pm. In the Art Room I get the string, elastic bands, three buttons each per child, on three round tables, then ten children come in with Marie and a Teaching Assistant I introduce myself and tell them, “My children came to this school,” and I show them various examples of folds and what they can do with their 11” string, elastic bands and buttons, I let them know, “You can’t do it wrong, they will all be different, unique like yourselves.” I say to them, “Where it’s folded, it will resist the dye, all the twists and buttons will resist the dye too. I love it when they call me, “Miss.” I let the children know I will come round and check each top to make sure the string or elastic band it very tight. Then the first group goes back to class and the second group comes and the processes is started again and then the third and final group for the day comes in and all the process is started all over again.
If I see a child who looks ‘poor’ or I feel they are not as popular as some of the other kids, (I can sometimes tell by how another child is putting another child down), or the poor quality of the top, they have brought to be dyed, I add something special to their t-shirt that I haven’t told the others about, when I am ‘checking’ it, so their finished top will be even more WOW! Every year, there is always one child out of the thirty who is SO clever and shows real talent, dexterity, pure and simple, their string, elastic bands, buttons twisted in tight and neat, better than the Teaching Assistant!! When I check theirs, there is nothing I need to do it, it is perfect.
I love it, the children love it, the Teaching Assistant and Mare love it, she brings in her t-shirt too. After the tops have been soaked in the dye, it should be an hour but time is of the essence, so that crucial time is cut short, the clothes have to be washed in non bio detergent, so as not to upset the children with sensitive skins, the schools machine is used, then Marie puts up three clothes line and as each one is finished washing, Marie and I hang them out in the warm sunshine. Marie takes pictures of them on the line. They look amazing! They are not dried in time and the following day they are ready, the children are allowed to wear them in assembly.
Last year, Marie said to me, “I’m going to ask the Head if she will pay you, as other people come into the school and they are paid, I will ask Miss Chamberlin (another Teacher) what the going rate is for one day, I think its ninety pounds.” I replied stunned, “That’s a lot of money, I wouldn’t expect that much, I’d gladly do it for half that price!” Marie replied, “Oh no, you work really hard and we all appreciate you, if other people can get this ninety pounds why shouldn’t you?” I was skint and forty five pounds would make a big difference to our lives, let alone ninety. At the end of the day, when all the children had gone and I’d finished, Mare came to me and said, “Thank you SO much for doing all this, we all DO appreciate you, the children still on non uniform, school days, wear tops that you have done with them, many years later, I did ask Miss Chamberlin, the going rate and it is ninety pounds, I also asked the Head and she informed me, “They don’t have a lot in school funds, so they are not able to pay you,” I was very disappointed, but I said, “That’s OK, I love doing it for the children,” Marie added, “If you don’t want to come again, I’ll understand,” I could tell she was embarrassed, I said, “I’ve enjoyed doing this for many years, I will continue to do so.” She gave me a lovely box of chocolates that she had bought me.
This year when I went to the school, I was invited to assembly the following day, “Other parents would also be there,” Marie said, “The children will be wearing their dyed tops; other children would be showing what they had done with their other projects.” I was able to go as I didn’t start work until the afternoon, as we all waited for the classes to arrive and take their seats, the thirty children who were wearing their colourful tie & dyed tops spotted me sitting behind them, they nudged each other and gave me a wave and a smile. I waved and smiled back. Assembly started and the various groups went into the middle of the square,(so the whole school sat in a large square shape) to fill the square shape room, then it was the turn of the children who had done tie & dye they all went into the middle of the room, then to my horror Marie invited me to join the children, I hesitated as I REALLY didn’t want to, she kept beckoning me to come, so I had to, I thought I was going to die of embarrassment! She gave me lots of praise to the whole school. This year, after I’d had a wonderful day with the children; Marie bought me a large bunch of flowers, again with her own money. Next year, God willing she wants me to do batik with them, I have done this and sold batik clothes on my craft stalls in the past, major safety will be the key, with the hot wax.
We’ve all seen the adverts on telly about PPI, what was that about? I knew there were other Companies doing similar things but one company stood out, so we decided to give them a call .....