I’m not being sarcastic.
Yesterday I was stopped in the street by a 17 year old boy (I’ll call him Patrick) who wanted to tell me all about his new job. It took me a while to work out who this happy, smiley teenager was but when I did, I was utterly shocked that he would risk talking to me in our hometown.
Everyone here knows me and talking to me on the streets could mean this boy being identified as someone in need. It’s a risk that I don’t expect any child to take.
I first met Patrick when he was 15. I arrived at his house to bring a food parcel and he was sittting at the kitchen table with his brothers and sisters eating boiled rice with instant gravy.
His mum was very, very poorly and it took a court case which nearly killed her before she could finally get the sickness benefit she needed to feed her kids and pay her rent and bills. Before she became ill she was looking after others who were sick and dying in one of our beloved NHS hospitals.
There were no carpets on the concrete floors in Patrick’s house. No luxuries. When it came to prom time we managed to find a perfect suit for Patrick, donated by my nieghbour. I felt like the fairy fucking godmother when his mum said it fit and he was happy to wear it.
So for Patrick to take the risk of one of his friends spotting us talking was a really big thing. If one of his mates had seen us and asked, “How do you know that Gill Watson?” what would he have said?
I’d like to think that he would say, “She’s a friend of mine.” But what if he’d been brave enough to say how we met? Things are so bad now that there’s a good chance his friends may have said that they too had relied on a food parcel at some point. I hate that we have to hide hunger. It’s all so bloody wrong BUT . . .
Pateick told me, guiltily, that he’d blown his first months wages on clothes.
“Blow your money for two years if you want on anything you like as long as it’s not something that could kill you.” I told him.
He said he wanted to save up for a bike.
These starving kids are our future and in spite of all the shit thrown at Patrick he couldn’t stop smiling and after leaving him, neither could I.