A charitable moment

111946913Right, that’s it, I’m having a Christmas meltdown and I’m having it now. Mainly because there won’t be time next week. I sat down and wrote a to do list yesterday. It filled the screen. And this morning when I looked at it again I could only tick off one thing – and that was “fix the internet”, which happened by magic anyway.

Cards and stamps are unbought, unwritten and unposted. I’ve yet to round up any relatives at all for a Christmas get-together and my bedroom makes Tracey Emin’s bed look like something out of The White Company Catalogue. I should follow Vix’s example and take refuge in the virtual world – she’s downloaded a photograph on to her phone of the most perfect room she could find and labelled “my real bedroom”. She opens it up in times of crisis.

The tragedy is that for thousands of people in this country this Christmas the only place they will have to call home will be just like that – a picture in their head of either Christmas past or Christmas future.

The debt advice charity Money Advice Trust revealed yesterday that rent arrears are the biggest growing debt problem in the country. Calls to their helpline from people unable to pay their rent have increased by 137% over the last six years with 20,000 calls from January to October this year.

Shelter, the homelessness charity, says the number of people needing emergency bed and breakfast accommodation is the highest for ten years. Having a roof over your head doesn’t make your life perfect but it does take the sting out of being poor – and those of us with the luxury of a door to slam are the ones in a position to help. I don’t mean by doing a Shula Archer, who took in waif and stray Darrell, with disastrous results – I mean by offering practical or financial help. Shelter (shelter.org.uk) has dozens of ways people can help ease the crisis, most of which are as enjoyable as they are fruitful, for example making and selling a gingerbread house to raise funds.

It’s so easy to slam the door – I almost did the other night when the doorbell went and I found myself face to face with a teenage boy trying to flog me a sponge for the now non-existent car. Of all the charity muggers around, the tea towel sellers are at the bottom of the heap – they’re young, usually a bit leery looking with their hoodies and their cheeky chappy banter about trying to go straight and being only ten dishcloths away from a new start. The internet is awash with vitriol against them and I’m sure there is more to the operation than meets the eye, but the bottom line is the bottom line. The young boy with a plastic bread rack stuffed with cloths and windscreen washers attached to his hip was about the same age as my daughters, one of whom was packing up her laptop to come home from university and the other one was halfway through dinner with her little brother and sister. He was outside in the cold flogging dishcloths and we were inside, together, eating sausage and mash – so yes – I spent a fiver for five overpriced dishcloths and a timely reminder that charity begins at home, especially if you’ve got one.

Amanda’s Advent Spending Calendar

Christmas pudding or Christmas star? You decide.

£5 on five less-than-impressive dishcloths from a doorstep waif

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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