An isolated, insular group of small islands in the North Atlantic
Normally, at this time of year, I’d be enjoying an uplift to my mood, getting up really early, taking advantage of getting out into the crisp, autumnal air, and just generally tipping my non-existent hat to life. I don’t know what it is, but early autumn has always been my favourite time of year, and for some inexplicable reason, I genuinely feel better about the whole shebang. .
Some people have told me that they experience the same feelings every year and that it’s to do with the time of year that you were born. Now I’m not sure that I can completely buy into that theory, given that I don’t trust those all-seeing astrology punters with exotic names like Clinton Baptiste, Eva Petulengro or Russell Grant. But as my birthday is in the middle of October, maybe there’s something in it. Unfortunately, this year’s been different.
The Covid-19 outbreak has plunged everyone into an anxious, nightmare-ridden morass from which there isn’t going to be an early exit. As things currently stand, it could be into the middle of 2021 before any vaccines will have completed the necessary trials to allow them to be rolled out to the general population. And even then, it won’t mean that Covid-19 has disappeared, it will simply mean that treatments and vaccines will keep it at bay in much the same way as the flu vaccine does now.
Brexit is just around the corner and at midnight on 31 December, rather than throwing off all our old worries and celebrating with our friends from all across Europe, we will be facing the prospect of being a small, isolated, insular group of small islands in the North Atlantic who people will, rightly or wrongly, view as xenophobic and pig-headed.
Mind you, Scotland appears to be heading to the point of extricating itself from the catastrophic and incompetent shitshow that is currently being presided over by the Tory Government at Westminster. Support for independence is at an all-time high which is encouraging, but we have to remember that the route to that independence is currently in the gift of the Tories who show no sign of even contemplating the prospect of another referendum.
In short, events have transpired to render my usual autumn idyll redundant, and I feel, like many other people do, as though I’m simply treading in choppy, directionless waters. But it could be much, much worse. I could be one of millions of children in the UK who are constantly hungry and who live in poverty.
Currently, there are approximately 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK. That’s 30% of children in the country, or nine in a classroom of thirty. Seventy-two per cent of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one person works. It’s estimated that of those children, three million are at risk of going hungry during school holidays as their access to free school meals stops.
A campaign started by a young professional footballer, Marcus Rashford, is demanding that those children who would be eligible, should continue to receive free school meals during holidays at least up until Easter 2021. During a national crisis, you would think that it would be a no-brainer for a Government to divert whatever resources it could in order to alleviate hunger amongst some of its most vulnerable citizens.
But no, on 21 October, the Tory majority in Parliament prevailed and defeated a motion brought forward by the Labour party to provide those children with food vouchers until next Easter. Callous doesn’t even begin to describe what these people are.
To his credit, Marcus Rashford hasn’t given up. He has raised a petition which is seeking three provisions: The first is to expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit. The second provision is for meals to be provided even during vacations, and the third is to increase the food voucher for pregnant women from the current £ 3.10 per week to £ 4.25. That’s right, £4.25 per week. By 26 October the petition had received almost a million signatures.
It’s not much to ask, and I really do hope that by the time you’re reading this the Tories will have ditched their poisonous ideological garbage and set about looking after the most vulnerable people in the country.
As I go out to enjoy a walk in that crisp autumnal air, I won’t be holding my breath.