Monthly Archives: June 2012

A change for the better

Frances instructs me to park on some loading bay while she rushes off to the cash machine. Then it’s back to the row of shops next to Dunbar Street where she messes about for the camera before going into the newsagents.

“Ten pounds, please,” says Frances as she hands over her plastic key. The woman behind the counter isn’t in the least bit curious about why one of her regular customers is accompanied today by some bloke talking pictures of this mundane process. I’m just glad I don’t have to justify myself.

In the entrance lobby of Frances’ block three or four of her neighbours – other mums with babies or small children – are debating what to do about the benefit payment debacle. At least one has also run out of electricity in her flat.

“What will they do?” I ask Frances as we return to her flat. “Can’t the staff help out?” There’s a small office next to the front door where there always seem to be at least three support staff.

“They’re not allowed to loan us anything,” explains Frances, “not even allowed to loan us a ciggy. That blond girl, the one with no electricity, she can use the communal kitchen downstairs at least, so she can get by.”

And then tonight I wonder? Has she got candles for when it gets dark? At least it’s the longest day. And for that young mum, it will be, because of some administrative error in the banks.

Frances puts the plastic key in the meter outside her flat door and when we walk in the place has lit up. “We have power!” she declares triumphantly.

Joanne is blowing bubbles towards Mia who is sitting, delighted, on the carpet. I see a photo opportunity. “I could do loads before,” says Joanne, trying her best to create a cloud of bubbles around her niece. “Look, she’s trying to eat them.”

While we’ve been out the post has arrived and Frances is now tearing open a couple of envelopes while she waits for the kettle to boil. One, ironically, is from an electricity supplier. “Do you want a change for the better,” says Frances, reading the headline out. “Hah!”

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The lecky’s off

Wythenshawe is in two minds today. Bedraggled Union Jack bunting is still slung across some house fronts whereas others have moved on to the George Cross, nervously optimistic after our win against the Swedes.

“I haven’t been paid today,” says Frances as she leads me upstairs to her flat. “There’s some problem with the banks and the tax credits haven’t gone through.”

Joanne, one of her sisters, is here today with her two youngest children. Two playmates for Mia.

It’s grey outside and the flat is dark. There are no lights on. “We’ve run out of credit. The electricity is off,” says Frances. “I can’t even boil the kettle to make her bottle.”

There’s a small freezer – new since my last visit – sitting in the living room, just outside the kitchenette. “What about that?” I say, “That’ll all defrost.” Frances shrugs.

“I can loan you a tenner,” I suggest, switching to dad mode, happy not to have it back.

“No thanks,” replies Frances. “I’ll just wait till my money comes through.”

I lift the lid off the freezer. “But that’ll all be ruined by then.”

Frances refuses to take my money. Before I arrived they were thinking of walking to the Civic Centre so Joanne could get £10 from the machine to give to her younger sister. It would be just over a mile there and back; in the rain, with a baby, a toddler and a four-year-old. The local shop has a cash machine but that charges £1.50 for each withdrawal.

While I gently try to persuade Frances to take some money, I take lots of pictures of Mia and her cousins playing, trying to capture her new ear studs in the light. It seems daft to me that Frances won’t let me help out.

“Come on Frances. This is crazy. Let me take you to get £10 on your electric thing.” I’m not familiar with her prepaid key operation. They both find that amusing.

“Are you on a contract for your electricity?” Joanne asks.

“Yes. Direct debit.”

She explains she used to pay quarterly but found it too expensive, all in one go, and has gone back to the pay-as-you-go system. She knows exactly how much she pays each week, each month. I hope she doesn’t ask to compare payments, I wouldn’t have a clue.

“Frances this is hard work! Let’s go!” Still she is resistant. “Okay, what if I take you up to the Civic Centre to get money out of Joanne’s account?”

This seems to be an acceptable solution and soon Frances and I are taking the short trip up the road. I bring my tape recorder, hoping I will be able to hear Frances’ voice over my screeching wipers.

“So tell me, why are you reluctant to take a loan from me?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “If I was at my mum’s house I wouldn’t even take money off her but back in the day, when I was living there, I’d happily snatch it off her whenever I could.”

“Is it because you feel you want to be more independent do you think?”

“I try and make myself get through until the next pay day because if I don’t I’ll just have less the next time and I might have to borrow again. I don’t want to get into that cycle.”

“What if it’s an emergency?”

“Then I’ll ask Joanne. She’s the only person I’d get it off.”

“Why her?”

“I don’t know. I’ve always had money off her. She looks after me. She used to babysit me the whole time when I was younger. If we went to town, she’d end up buying me something.”

“How old is she?”


“So it’s a bit like having another mum for you, isn’t it?

To be continued…

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Her first tooth

Frances writes:

this week was ok apart from i didnt go out much. i had a doctors appoiontment for a hpv jab (civical cancer) but when i went to pick the jab up from the pharmasist they didnt have it so i had to re book my apiontment. mia has been screaming all week and finally yesterday she got her first tooth i was buzzing i told everyone on the bus when i went out. i went to see my mum yesterday not seen her in a week she is doing better again tho. i dont no when sheis getting her leg yet but she has just had an intercom fitted so she can let people in with a botton insted or rolling there. bit down this week for money dont no how but i really dont get as much as a need but i just have to do with it. hassan is ok he is just looking for more jobs and playing the lottery hoping he is going to be a big winner 1 day but we’re not getting anywhere.i love this lap top its wicked i take it everywhere i can do everything it’s helping me plan mia’s birthday 2 so convienient, i can just go on it when ever i have an idea.

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Moving up in the world

Frances writes:

cant really remember what i have done this week my head is blank lol. i pierced mias ears today my sister brought her ear piercing kit down and done it, she is qualified to do it and i done mine again. going to see my mum tomorrow because i havent seen her since wednesday. not really got many plans for the week just going to stay in i think and relax yaay (lol). cant wait soon im going to be on level 2im moving up in the world.

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