I HAD reached the point that people who will never sink that low often talk about. In fact, I had gone beyond it.
My mate’s stag party in Dublin had been enjoyable, but I knew before I went that the hangover would be worse for me than the rest. They would make his wedding, but I wouldn’t.
The plane landed back in Manchester, we caught the minibus home, I stayed at my parents’ and in the morning told my mum: “I can’t get back down to Devon. I don’t have enough left for the petrol.”
I can’t recall the exact amount I had in my bank account but it was less than £20 with no pay cheque to come. I was past that stage people refer to when they talk about the thousands who are just one pay cheque from being homeless.
Of course, it wouldn’t have come to that. I could have given up my life in the south west and moved back to Skipton. Started again.
My partner wouldn’t have been happy and it would have been a strange move, not saying goodbye to friends, coming back as the non-conquering zero.
The solutions I could see were grim and without my parents I wouldn’t be here now. I had gone over the road to see my grandad and my burst in and handed over some money. I can’t remember how much, but I think it was £100, certainly enough to get me back and see me through a week or so. She cried. I cried. They didn’t have much money and perhaps I didn’t realise how little, but I know now that she raided the shortbread tin — it was always a shortbread tin — which was generally full (sometimes not so full) of notes put to one side to pay the electricity, gas, water bills and such like. I don’t think they got paid that month. I’m not sure my father knew.
I realise now just how close to the breadline we all lived. Yes, my dad went to the workers’ for a couple on a night, my mum to the pub with friends one night a week and they might go out on a weekend, but there were no restaurants, no fancy clothes, no impromptu weekends away. Everything was budgeted for almost to the penny and through the periods when the factory would place my dad on short-time things had to go, right down to the level of swapping one brand of biscuits for a lesser one.
My parents made it through the difficult times — somehow — and so did I, but I have always appreciated the value of money, the urge to “splash out” on something unnecessary very rare.