And so to a conclusion…..

I have completed the challenge I set for myself. Some decisions I made I were better than others and I some days I finished weary and  disappointed with my own lack of self-control. Other times I reflected on great sadness and I have been amazed at the human capacity to keep going. I have been surprised by lack of awareness and misunderstanding that some people have shown and wrestled with many ethical issues. Each day in itself has been a new beginning.  This has been quite a journey for me and in a way it feels very strange to be at the end.I am of the mind that whilst things begin I am unsure that they ever truly end. We will see as the days progress where this has taken me to. It has been too much to take in on occasions and I’m convinced that as time progresses more will be revealed. I have over the last 5 weeks had the privilege of being on the receiving end of acts full of  love and kindness, and have had the joy of meeting people from far and wide. I would indeed do something similar another time and would encourage  everyone to give something like this a go.

I have learnt several things:

Although I may never (I pray not) have a complete understanding of an asylum seekers experience I have new awareness that will stay with me for ever.

People around us are capable of amazing things and as a result I know that I am closer to them. We have shared in much.

We don’t actually need half of what we possess and through ownership we have no security. I hope this experience will continue to affect what I buy, what I give away and what I share.

It will be a long time before I eat porridge again.

Now that I am no longer ‘classified’ as an Asylum seeker I was challenged to have a go at the “Life in the  UK ” test which is required of those who wish to become a British Citizen or take up permanent residence in the UK. For those that wish to have indefinite leave to stay you must prove that you know about life here. I have therefore in response to this challenge attempted a few online practice questionnaires. The actual test is 24 questions and you must have a correct answer rate of 75% or more to pass. Out of 8 tests I gained 79% in 5 and therefore passed. However, in the  3 remaining tests I would have failed with my lowest score being 66%. I don’t think that I am alone in this and feel that most of the British population would fail. There are some difficult questions, I find the parliamentary ones tough to answer. I do wonder what the test really proves. One question made me smile,

Dogs in the UK have to wear:

 A) a collar with the name and address of their owner,

B) Wellington boots in the puddles to stop their feet from getting wet,

C) Sunglasses in the summer?

It’s true, it really was a question.

I still firmly believe that our way of living falls short of what is intended for us but in the presence of a lord, our saviour Jesus Christ, we, our lives and the world can be restored. The only thing we can set our sights on, rely on, provide us with strength when times are tough, heal us, is God through His Son.
Jesus said:
” I am the way, the truth and the life . No-one comes to the Father except through me”.  John Chapter 14 Verse 6.

I pray you will discover this truth for yourself. As for me and my house we will continue to walk with God and try to follow His ways. There is one verse in the Bible that particulaly sums up for me at the moment around what we should be doing with/for those around us and the world we inhabit. It is Micah Chapter 6 verse 8,

“And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.”

Thanks then, for all your support, contributions, encouragements and comments, I hope that we have all learnt a little on the way.  I will let you know what the total sponsorship money comes to when I have collected and counted it. I am now going to prepare a family meal and see what tomorrow brings.

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Never look a gift horse…..

After my husband had relayed the bus stop conversation he went on to tell me that he had got my lunch for the following day so as not to worry about spending.I knew he had been to a farewell ‘do’ at work and probably food had been part of the celebration. Ah, I thought how thoughtful, 5 weeks in and he is just starting to become helpful. “it’s a cheese ploughman’s” he said.
Even better, I thought, I have missed cheese and they’ll be some sort of salad and if I’m really lucky maybe pickle. I adore pickle but non of the others rate it at all. I felt very warm inside thinking of the consideration my husband had given to me. He went towards his work bag and began to rummage and I began to wonder how he could have brought home a ploughman’s lunch. He pulled out a package, inside was sandwich and with that he told me. “I got this for my lunch and found it has Branston inside and I couldn’t stand to eat anymore. There’s half left.
To my amazement he presented me with a half-eaten baguette showing rather tired looking lettuce peeping out along the bite marks. Yum, thanks love.

I did in fact have it for my lunch to the amusement of my colleagues and it’s just as well as I’ve gone and bought food for a ‘GCSE finnished’ tea for my daughter. She completed her final exam this afternoon. Hooray.Thankfully she doesn’t have expensive tastes. When asked what she would like, she stated “Bacon and Pancakes”, so that’s what she got and she was delighted. She has a very great love of bacon! I pushed the boat out and bought strawberries and icecream.Yet again I find myself with very little left but the end is now in sight and so it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. I would have spent all of my allowance to treat my children after all the hard work that has gone into the last few weeks, just to demonstrate how proud I am of them. I can see why some parents choose to go without to relieve their children from the possibility of hunger.
I was indeed very grateful for the free lunch afterall.

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Word gets around

On my return home from work yesterday my husband informed me of a conversation he had at a bus stop. He and an old lady got onto the subject of the Refugee Council. “Oh said the lady It was only Monday that I was listening to a young lady talking about Asylum Seekers on the radio”. “That’ll have been my wife” he replied.

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Thirty five pounds to spend?

It is actually not that simple. I learnt that each person searching for asylum in Britain is given what is called an ‘Azure’ card (a card that is credited with their allowance each week). This card is their money, they are not given any cash. The card allows them to buy at certain shops so unlike me they can not go simply to their nearest shop or search several for bargains. It somehow seems to me to dehumanize people and denies them further freedom to live as you and I do. The cards are automatically ‘topped up’ each Sunday but the amazing thing is that if on the Sunday they have got more than £5.00 left their card is wiped clear. This means that people are unable in effect to save, to save up for an item that might cost that little bit extra i.e a winter coat. I asked one lady how she managed to live on such a low-income she told me it was a continual struggle but she got a lot she needed from the charity shops. I wasn’t clear if charity shops accepted their Azure cards or how she bought goods if they aren’t. Whilst we talked she showed me the shoes her young children wore that were second-hand. They looked very smart but they wouldn’t have been fitted by an expert like we expect our childrens shoes to be. She had to get what she could.

As the economic climate becomes harder please keep donating your unwanted clothes etc to charity shops. I am aware that as everyone tightens their belts they are more likely to sell rather than give away but where we might earn a pound or two on e-bay, or the like, some one else really in need will have to do without altogether. It’s only a small ask really isn’t it?

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International women’s group picnic

I had the honour of being invited to and joining in a picnic organised by the refugee forum for an international women’s group in our local area. We have a fantastic park in the middle of town which on a day that started cloudy provided a fabulous venue. I did not know what to expect and at first the park was host to a couple of groups of women, mostly with their heads covered and their young children, silent and seated on benches. Within moments the sun broke through and a crowd of 30-40 women congregated around a picnic rug heaving with dishes from around the world. A rumble of languages mixed with the birds and everyone met together over food. I found it a wonderfully hospitable gathering, an act of sharing the said and unsaid experiences that brought these women together. A few of us wore western dress but the majority were dressed in clothes from their home country, some sat quietly, others chattered with ease. Alone or in groups these women had much in common. Albanian, Chinese, Afghans, Indians,and Iranians. Most had a refugee status, several had come to be with their husbands after several years apart, one was currently waiting for her asylum request to be processed. Their stories are  ones of immense bravery and tenacity, trying to keep  families safe and settled. One lady, who shares accommodation with another from a different background, shared with me that since arriving into the UK under 2 years ago she and her family have been taken to an airport against their wishes and spent time in a Deportation Centre. This was described as a prison. She told me that she fears every morning. Around 5am  is the usual time for ‘raids’ so early each morning she peers out of her window and along the street to check for signs before starting her day. These are people on our doorstep. My heart went out to her.
All of the ladies I spoke to said they felt welcome in the country and that Britain had been good to them. Some of them were able to start courses, most trying to learn English and all grateful for this refuge. Non volunteered voicing their reasons for leaving their countries but I could see in their eyes that there was pain and sadness. I was treated like one of them but also as a guest and although we were all very different we were all the same.

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My Mum :)

I am the daughter of the author of this blog; lightlyliving. I am extremely proud of my mum for taking up this challenge. I don’t know how she has survived on £35!! I would not like to be in her shoes. Not only do I love good food too much, but sometimes mum has to go without something.
My favourite foods are chicken and pork, but due the price of decent, as well as ethical meat, mum has had to have limited amounts. Some of the food she has come back with, I have wondered whether she’s got it just because its reduced!
I have to say that she has done very well; watching the family and I eat ‘proper’ meals as well as the cakes or biscuits we’ve had. These things, I of course have thought of as treats, but after this I know mum will think of them as complete luxuries.
It’s been quite strange, even though I have not been doing it myself. Every time I get something to eat I have to check that it’s not ‘mum’s’ because otherwise I’m (literally!) eating into her budget.
Before now I have never really thought twice about getting food out of the cupboards; for breakfast, my packed lunch, a snack when I get home as well as having a delicious, filling, warm meal when I get home from school everyday. There are so many people who are living on limited funds for food, and they don’t just live in those poor undeveloped countries we always think of like Africa.
Even making the tea has become a bit of a chore. I have to make mum’s with her tea bags and then mine and dad’s with the normal ones. Then I have to use different milk too. So many times I have made a cup of tea for mum, just to be told that she can’t have it. Consequently I give her a confused look, until I remember!

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my radio debute

I have doubts as to whether staff at the radio station have indeed read through the blog before this mornings interview. Why do I conclude this? Well, mainly because not a single piece of toast or croissant were in evidence either on my arrival or departure.

I was of course nervous before hand and although I had set my alarm for some unearthly hour so that I could get to the studio on time when it came to it I didn’t need to be artificial awoken. In order to be as true to the challenge as possible,  I decided that I needed to go by bus instead of car. However, this set me back the bus fare which in theory I didn’t have . I wonder if I had asked for expenses I would have been reimbursed? Doubt that too but I did get a decent coffee before I went in to the recording studio. I think the interview went ok and I hope that I made a positive stand for those I am representing. Listeners will soon let me know I’m sure. Mark Murphy, presenter, did indeed look quite shocked when I offered the gift of eggs. I had brought them so as to  to back up the knowledge I had gained that often it is the poorest who are the most generous. His slightly embarrassed ‘thankyou’ appeared mingled then with the regret that he had nothing to offer in return. The return gesture is not always required by the giver, but I hope that it reinforced  the point.
I left the studio still before life was stirring properly and needed really to remain in town for about 11.30 as I ought to have been somewhere else too. I began to wander aimlessly around wondering just how I was going to fill in the time. As stated during the radio interview it wasn’t going to be with buying an early morning cup of tea or coffee. Everyone else around looked purposeful, probably trying to get to work on time and I had nowhere to go, no money to spend and no pleasure from window shopping. In the end after I realised that one of my shoes, not very old and a decent pair, were splitting I couldn’t bring myself to waiting around for another 2 hours and caught the bus home. When I am able to chose to squander time I enjoy doing nothing, I like nothing better than a spot of people watching and I love walking. When it was enforced I felt lost, heavy with the thought of simply wasting away a long morning and didn’t want to spend energy on finding meaningless things to kill the time. How does this feel every day, having little to get up for and hours that just need filling, struggling to make ends meet? Not any fun at all, I think and I am glad that this is not how I have to spend my life or at least the forseeable future.
P.S My finances are now down to zero, and I hope that my shoes make it through the week. Unlike some I do have other pairs to wear, as I am reminded by my daughter (I am not an Imelda Marcos of this world), but they are the ones I wear 80% of the time now the weather is improving. I suppose I have worn them to death and am extremely fortunate that after next week is over I can replace them.
I once wondered why an asylum seeker I have had contact with always seemed to wear flip-flops. Now of course I know!

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