The Mother was always astonished at how much money she managed to spend over the summer holidays, helped in no small part by her children. Although neither child actually uttered the word “royalty”, she knew deep down they both expected to live like kings over those six long weeks. Any purchase that was vetoed during this time was meet with, “But, Mum, it’s the holidays.”
By the end of August, her kids were incapable of walking for more than 10 minutes without needing a drink from the shop. A drink from home was completely out of the question – it had to be “from the shop”. Heaven forbid that they bring their own bloody water bottles with them.
“Mother, it’s the holidays – one simply cannot drink tap water,” she could hear them thinking, in a south London accent. Once in a shop, although she’d hoped to get two 25p cartons of Sunshine Cordial, she suddenly found herself buying two Mars milkshakes, a packet of Randoms and a Crunchie. Plus a copy of Hello magazine and the Guardian. Well, she had to get something nice for herself; after all, it was the holidays! And, in the blink of an eye, she’d parted with a tenner before they’d even reached the park.
So here she was again, worrying about money, with the summer holidays about to roll out in front of her like a ceremonial carpet. It is a difficult time for most parents, but even tougher if you are skint. One of the many joys of temporary employment is no proper holiday pay.
Predictably, the dole had wasted no time in turning down her claim for benefit. The reason they gave was that she had a temporary job to return to in September, so currently, she was only available for temporary work. “Not good enough, Miss Knight.” The result – six weeks with no income: that seemed totally fair.
Fortunately for the Mother, perhaps foreseeing this moment, she’d applied some weeks earlier for a credit card. A credit card which was now in her possession. A nice, new, shiny card that had an introductory offer of a £1500 credit limit. Pay no interest for 12 months. “That will do nicely,” she’d thought.
The Virginia credit company didn’t want to know about her work history or her qualifications. They didn’t care who she shared her bathroom with or why she’d left her last job. Christ, they didn’t even check she had a job. All they cared about was luring her into their lair with too good to be true promotional offers. Then keeping her there long enough to hit those colossal interest rates and thus own her soul forever. But what else could she do? She couldn’t exactly take a trip to the food bank and ask what they had in the way of organic yogurts and smoked tofu. The Mother had got used to a certain standard of living; sadly, it was a standard way beyond her income.
It wasn’t just feeding the little blighters that seemed to cost a fortune in the school holidays, it was all the other bloody stuff they needed as well. Sunglasses, sun hats, suntan lotion, sandals, summer clothes, ice lollies. Water guns, Slush Puppies, goggles, and yet another bloody wetsuit. Why did they have to grow so bloody quickly? Half the stuff she ended up getting, she was sure she’d bought them last year. If Esme could actually be bothered to look in her half of the bedroom, the Mother was positive she’d find all this crap. Well, apart from the Slush Puppies, although…