The beach yesterday after Cyclone Pam, who was mercifully kind to us!
Especially if the root of the problem is just me feeling sorry for myself. You see when Liam left home a month ago I expected miracles to happen overnight. With my delightful and adorable but high maintenance eldest now living independently at the other end of the island, I envisaged it wouldn't be long before Ali and me would be rolling in money. He recently started a job at the local fishing shop and works there before and after school and on weekends. He buys everything he wants or needs for himself, including petrol for the car he has just bought off his brother and is paying him weekly for. I bought a second hand bike in great condition for $20 on Facebook and use my car as little as humanly possible. We don't watch TV, use minimal power - I can't wait to see the difference in the next power bill - in fact we use minimal everything really!
So why in heaven's name did it feel as though we were getting absolutely nowhere at all? In fact, as I looked around one afternoon it seemed as though things were actually WORSE than they were before! I can honestly say I had never had so little food in the house in my life. We had no eggs, no sugar, no butter, no cheese, no oil, no rice or pasta, no stock cubes, not even a tin of tomatoes - all the things I could normally scratch together to make SOMETHING, I had none of. And I couldn't afford to go and buy a single one. Most heartbreaking of all was when I went to open a brand new 5kg of flour and found there had been a split in the bottom of the bag and it was full of weevils. That just about did me in, I could have used that to make so much! But now there was nothing for it but to throw it out. 'Holy shit!' Ali said when I showed him the fridge and pantry. 'We literally have NO food', I looked at him seriously. 'Honestly Mum, we still have more food than Sam* (Ali's friend, not his real name)', he said matter-of-factly. 'We do?' I asked in amazement. 'Oh yeah, they have way less than this at their house', he assured me. I knew he wasn't kidding either; he has given them his own money several times before now to enable them to buy bread and milk. They always pay him back, even though he tells them not to worry about it. Anyway that pulled me up pretty short. Quit your whinging Jack.
Even so, it irked the hell out of me that we weren't further ahead. I guess the best way of putting it is none of the money I earn is mine; it's all gone on bills from the moment it goes in my account. I receive $133 per week Working for Families tax credit from Inland Revenue and that has to feed Ali and me, put petrol in my car, pay for haircuts, printing costs, posting things to Liam, doctor's, chemist, car registration, everything. Which isn't very helpful when you get stung by a poxy bee and have to spend $40 of that money on antihistamines just to stop your hand exploding! Still, most of the time we manage OK. There just comes a time when you eventually run out of everything and by the time you use that $133 to buy your flour, butter and so on again, well there's bugger all left for anything else so it feels like you're no further ahead really. Don't worry, I know I'm incredibly lucky really. I haven't had to buy vegetables for weeks, my ex-husband and my mum have kept me supplied with produce from their gardens. My ex also brings us meat quite regularly. If it wasn't for them - well, I don't know how other people get through. I really don't.
But for every step backwards there's one in the right direction to match. I was right about predicting Spark would penalise me when I changed phone and Internet providers recently. In fact the very next day after I wrote that blog I got an invoice for $171 for services from February 23rd to March 31st. My services with Spark ceased on February 22nd. I wrote and asked why they were charging me for a whole month's worth of service I no longer had? They responded because I hadn't given 30 days notice I would be changing. I told them they had already had my custom for 22 years and I would happily go back to them should they come up with a better deal - but not if they made me pay this invoice. They agreed to waive it and said they hoped to be able to lure me back in the future.
Then I received a letter from Inland Revenue advising me that my $133 per week Working for Families tax credit would be continuing until March 2016 based on my income. Which I realised had halved in the past 12 months according to their figures! A quick phone call and as of April 1st Ali and me will be entitled to $30 a week more. Hopefully this will help to ensure we can always buy flour from now on!
So once again things are on the up. Even if it's only a small up, it's still an up! And I apologise for getting down in the dumps on you. The good thing is, I never stay that way for long. It probably sounds as corny as anything but my way of thinking is, if you do your best to be kind and live a good life, then life will be kind back to you. For example the other day I advertised on our local Facebook Pay it Forward page that I had way too many apples going to waste in my garden and invited people to come and help themselves. This resulted in 12 families coming round and picking them and 10 of them I would never have met otherwise. It was lovely to chat to everyone as we picked bags full of apples and there is still so much fruit on the trees you wouldn't even know anyone had been! The same week I met one of my neighbours for the first time and told him the same, to help himself to whatever fruit he and his family needed. Their property backs onto ours and I apologised for the unkempt state of my back yard, explaining that now Ali had a job he was too busy working all hours to get time to mow them. Blow me down but it turns out Ali's boss is his son and he offered to mow my lawns for free! You just never know what good fortune is around the corner!