Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Do the poor no longer deserve a holiday?

Like a thief in the night, without telling hardly anyone who didn't need to know, I went on holiday recently. And I went abroad..to Spain. You may wonder why I am being so furtive and secretive about something as innocent as a holiday.

Last year in 2014 there came a turning point, doubtless driven by "scrounger"  and benefit programmes on TV, sensational Daily Mail and Express headlines of large families on benefits going on holiday etc. My working poor family had saved like mad for a holiday in Scotland. Naively I expressed my delight on social media about how as a carer, I was excitedly looking forward to taking our sons (including our autistic son) to a scottish island, and how the whole thing was a big adventure. Doubtless there will be families out there with members who are carers nodding their head in agreement with me. A break, a holiday is a big cause for celebration. It's a change of scenery, a chance to relax for a few days, hell if you're lucky a bit of sunshine too to get you through our long UK winters.

But then a nasty online troll took it upon themselves to take me to task as to why I "deserved" a holiday as  I  am working poor claiming working tax credit. This person went through 5 months of getting in touch with my followers on Twitter telling them I had the audacity to go on holiday to Scotland despite being a "benefit claimant". The persecution got so bad I had to threaten the troll with police action if they didn't give up the constant abuse. Blocking them didn't help one bit as they just followed the people who followed me and kept up a constant stream of abuse against me; all down to this one holiday.

Wiser this year, I sneaked away with no photos on social media or the usual status updates to friends and family about how lovely our holiday was. As I write this, I keep thinking "How have we come to this?" Are the poor so "undeserving" we should be bullied and ashamed into not going on holiday or keeping our holiday plans secret?

I live in a seaside resort town in N Wales. We welcome a vast array of holiday makers from every conceivable class and background. Go to the train station and see the excited faces of young children arriving from the big cities like Liverpool and Manchester this time of year and you know what a holiday means to them. I spoke this week to a young single mum with 2 children who had saved in her local credit union for her one week break in N Wales. She works part time and this one week break has been talked and planned about since this time last year. She has gone without so the kids have the time of their lives at the local holiday camp. Precious memories and photographs to be looked back on in future years. Yet she told me that there is indeed a new element of fear in telling too many people or broadcasting the fact on social media she was having a holiday. It seems she didn't want neighbours knowing she was on holiday as she was already having the finger pointed at her as a single mother. My point is: Are her children and the children of the poor and working poor unworthy of a holiday? We're not even talking of a month in Barbados here but a good old fashioned bucket and spade  one week's holiday in the UK!

My own holiday to Spain was blissful. But I still felt unable to join in with the usual pictures of hotel pools, sunsets on the beach and exotic food like so many others flout on social media. Yet my holiday was the break I needed. Oh how those days of sunshine have invigorated me, given me strength, revitalised me, allowed me to feel normal like everyone else! Do I deserve a holiday? Hell yes! Holidays should not now be the preserve of the rich and middle classes, and the "undeserving" poor to think a trip to the Foodbank is a day out! Why should working class kids whose only fault is being born into a poor family not have some kind of childhood holiday to look back on? A trip to the seaside, seagulls, ice cream, buckets, spades and bunk beds in a caravan, eating chips in the rain and for one week having no worries or pressure at all?  It's hard enough surviving through these savage government cuts, hearing rhetoric thrown at you for being on a benefit of any kind, caring for a disabled relative or being disabled yourself  without having some kind of  break away from it all. It's almost as if society now wants to dehumanise the poor and vulnerable by denying us things ordinary people take for granted.

On my return I have vowed to visit local places of interest (which are abundant in N Wales) for day trips during the school summer holidays. As a member of the National Trust I am guilty of not exploring the historic treasures on my doorstep, but always going further afield. Last week I visited a local castle and this week a country house and gardens. However, whilst I was walking around with my family two things hit me: the first was how most people were white and middle aged or elderly, and the second was the lack of working class families there. Instantly I knew it is cost prohibitive. It's not the National Trusts fault; they have to maintain the buildings, but Labour got it right when they opened up museums for free in the previous administration. Why should trips to our historic castles, stately homes etc be confined to a rushed day out on a school trip? Local children often only experience their local history through school visits. It's high time these places were open for all to enjoy without worrying about cost. At least make it free for under 18s so  children can visit and enjoy  local history. As a socialist of course I would say it is vital for children to see how servants were treated and how the grandiose rooms for Lords and Ladies were far different to the sparse servants quarters! We need young minds to explore our culture and heritage and history. Cost shouldn't prevent that.

It doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor. Everyone deserves time away, a break, a holiday. No one deserves to be demonised for that.