Single parent looking for work after being made redundant from a job that was actually costing money to go to, with travel and childcare expenses and on the minimum wage, but I was foolish, believing I could get a better paid job if I just kept job seeking and applying in the evenings.
A gas man arrived from British Gas Collections for ‘recovery’ as I’d not been able to pay the fuel bills, he came inside my house and I’d just been busy ‘coppering up’ and had a dining table full of 1 pence pieces and 2 pence pieces piled up in to tens, this was what I was counting up to buy food of change I had collected from the bottom of bags, coat pockets, drawers and down the back of the sofa. I explained to the man why I hadn’t been able to pay the bills, redundancy and no more access to credit, which is what I’d been paying bills with before, as I didn’t earn enough, I had a total income of £13,500 with child tax credits and other top up benefits and was paying £6,500 out in Childcare a year, I had to travel to and from work which was 12 miles away and working wasn’t really ‘working’ for me. So I was glad when redundancy came along and I was given £1,100 in redundancy pay. Anyway that was the circumstances, the Gas Man said ‘Well you’re an attractive lady perhaps we could come to some arrangement’ and he eyed me up and down, I’m not that quick with hints and having made many ‘arrangements’ with creditors of late thought it was another financial proposal to offer a monthly payment so I replied ‘What like and arrangement of £5 a month to pay off the arrears’.. Doh!! it was only upon him leaving did I realise what he had actually been implying.
Well I wasn’t about to engage in prostitution with some sleazy employee of British Gas to pay the bills I couldn’t pay. Perhaps some young women would be scared and easily manipulated in such a situation. I couldn’t pay the bills and I wasn’t able to find work from all my job seeking and applying so shortly after other men from British Gas arrived to install pre-payment meters, it was quite horrific because I knew they were cutting off my supply because I couldn’t afford to buy gas and electric then, how could I afford to creidt the meter in the future, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to, they had the words ‘We’re here to help’ written on their work jackets and I pointed out to them how that was cognitive dissonance, they were not helping me, they were oppressing me, just like the Nazi’s.. They were oppressing their fellow humans, their neighbours, other citizens, just like then by orders from above. They were in effect cutting off my heating, cooking devices, hot water and electricity by installing pre-payment meters I couldn’t afford to credit.
I knew myself and my children would have to go without the luxury of those things from now on, I’ve always been frugal, never wasteful, I didn’t the put heating on a timer but tuned it on and off at the boiler when the temperature went below 15 degrees. That was the threshold to which I would heat the house, try and keep it at 15 degrees, most people have theirs set to 25 degress, and on timers, yes they heat their houses when they’re not even in, and they even heat rooms they don’t even use.. Someone laughed at me and told me not to be ridiculous about turning off radiators upstairs if no one was upstairs, then a year later they came back to me and said ‘You were right about the price of gas, I got a shock, my bill was £800 and I can’t pay it, I’ve had to write to them and say I can’t pay it’.. Well yes.. I wasn’t so ridiculous after all. Even at 15 degrees our house was still 10 degrees colder than most but it was fine for us with a few jumpers on.
But what I perceived came true, what followed was no heating throughout winter at all, fecking freezing, electric running out often and sitting in the cold and dark. A Horrible existence, thanks to pre-payment meters being installed but still thankful to have a roof over our heads, that roof somehow makes life still bearable. But winter with no heating and the temperature inside is 8 degrees is tough, you get asthma and coughing problems from breathing in cold air 24/7. You’re wheezing and coughing throughout the night and can’t stop. Your brain cognition reduces because it’s cold and doesn’t function as well. You put 8 jumpers on and 3 pairs of trousers and sit with a duvet wrapped around you while you job seek and apply on average 68 hours a week and by that time you come to believe ‘warmth’ equates to happiness. If only you could be warm, you’d be happy. You’re willing to sacrifice anything to be warm and even get online to do dating in the hope you might meet and get married to someone who can provide warmth. Because being warm is all that matters when you’re cold.
It’s survival and your thoughts turn only to how to solve the problem so you can survive winter. It’s also horrible not getting fresh air to your skin, you can’t undress to get in the bath, you’ve no gas, not hot water, the only time air circulates your skin is briefly during a very quick change of clothes.. And when cold sets in you get mad at yourself for allowing yourself to get so cold because it’s set in, set in to your bones and you know it’s going to take hours for them to defrost before you can stop shivvering and think about something other than the chill you’ve got and the discomfort you’re in. You get the hair drying out and try and heat the coldest parts of you up quickly by jumping up and down on the spot at the same time, but you’re aware you’re electric is rationed and all’s you can afford is about 20 seconds of warm air from the hairdryer. But it’s good and you’re happy and on the way to recovery for those 20 seconds.
Even though you haven’t afforded gas in ages you’re getting in to dept because you’re still suppose to pay the standing charge of .24p per day by topping up the meter with money, but there is no money to top it up with. You’re on electric rations and so can’t afford to fill a hot water bottle because your electric will run out and internet access is your priority so can do what you’ve done for years to try and get out of the mess and search and apply for jobs. Who wants to live like that? Well I hope the investors and shareholders who profiteer from inflated fuel prices are happy!
Here are my pre-payment pictures today, I am using emergency credit to have an elecric supply (two pictures to the left), there is £4.62 currently available left of £5 emergency credit they lend you when you run out, that will be repaid automatically when I next top up, it may run out completely before I get job seekers allowance again as it often does. I try to put £10 a week in but some of that is taken out for what I owe so I have will be taken backI have no gas but owe £25.50, that goes up ever day with standing charge. GAS is to the right, I owe £25.50 in standing charges and that goes up everyday, I have 00.00 on the meter which means I have no access to gas. It’s bloody freezing today at 13 degrees and I’m pretty much wrapped up but still cold. No way I can afford gas in the foreseeable future, I wash dishes in cold water, wash my face in cold water it’s just what I’ve done for years, it’s normal now but still horrible.