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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