During this time all hell was breaking loose. I had been to Housing Benefit to see if there were any properties available, they had absolutely nothing to offer me. I was on the waiting list and also going around to local estate agents, not one of them would touch me because I was on housing benefits. I put an article in our local newspaper, went with a letter to every church in the area and still nothing. I was being helped by a wonderful woman at the Citizens Advice Bureau who would see me whenever she could as I was really struggling to hold it together, I was terrified of being homeless again.
I felt such a failure and could not see anyway out. At the same time, unbeknown to me, a friend had been asking my friends if they could all rally round and help me to buy the property, she had wanted to surprise me for my birthday, but when it came to my 40th birthday weekend, she was so upset to tell me what she had been trying to do and not managed to.
I had my party, an open house for the whole weekend. Breakfast with my son and a lovely friend of mine Zora , a picnic where everyone brought something and then a lovely long evening followed by people crashing out and breakfast the next day for those who stayed. One thing that I had not taken into account was how unwell I was, even then, emotionally.
An old friend came along, a friend of mine who none of my other friends really liked and who always put me down, the odd comment and I was a gonna. She had entered my life again and I was begining to see why she had been out of it, but I was like a bee to honey. We were outside in the garden, me and the girls, five of us altogether and all of a sudden, from nowhere came this slap down, I was powerless to stop it. I went inside and cried my eyes out as she carried on with my party. A school friend came and found me, I told her what was going on for me and she could not really understand it. I had no resilience to this and never have. I could not cope, thank goodness she was so lovely to me, as I watched the girl dominate my party, become the life and soul and me slowly shrink, I knew something was wrong, but I did not know what. My school friend had been down a few weeks before and I finally told her I had to go to the doctors, she asked what for and I told her about my mind and thoughts and she burst into tears, she had not idea, I had become so good at pretending, masking my pain and playing at being happy, I had almost fooled myself as well as everyone around me.
I managed to enjoy the time, although somewhat subdued and of course my other friends could not really work out what had happened. Fortunately I was sober because this stuff was what I drank on, being put down, and staying down instead of having the language to say, please don’t speak to me like that or something to take care of myself.
The Bradshaw man had asked me what I would like for my birthday and in my mind I said, a car. I was with my prayer partner a few days before my birthday and we were praying for the house situation and also about how my son was going to get to the school and how I was going to manage the whole thing. I got a picture of a black car, just the front of it like on a brochure and she got the same. We often had this when we prayed together, it was a very powerful experience. A few days later, the Bradshaw man turned up with a brochure of the same care I had seen in our prayer meeting, and asked me if I would like a car like this.
One of the things I was very clear about when being offered this opportunity was the practicalities. If my son was going to take up this offer, he was not going to be a poor boy in a rich school. Also there had to be a promise of meeting all the school fees etc because I often didn’t know if Iwas going back to school one term from the next and it was very stressful for me. Also the school was not on a bus route and to get to the classes, after school clubs, sports days etc was a necessary consideration. I could not believe my negotiation skills to be honest but I was sick of having crumbs and feeling so less than. He and I sorted out a very good arrangement and everything changed for us from this moment on.
I also had to put in place the budget for petrol because on benefits I could not afford it. I was behind with all my bills, electricity, water, he also helped me to clear those up as well, together with a littlewoods catalogue debt I had accumulated so I could afford clothes. There was a time when I could only afford pants for my son so when he grew out of his boxers, I would wear them and buy him new ones. Same with his clothes, some of his trousers were ok for me. The other supply for me was friends bringing round their stuff before putting it into the charity shops, it felt very humiliating. I could not even choose colours anymore, I just had to take what I was given. I think there is something about choosing stuff from a charity shop if you can afford other things, and not being able to afford it and having no choice, I felt so totally crap about myself.
I remember his school friends all had kicker shoes at £80.00 a go, this was totally out of our league but a must have, so we would wait til the sale and then, get his feet measured, and see which ones they had left in his size at £40.00 and I had managed to save up enough for those. I had no way of understanding just what was going on inside of me at this time, I just knew I was ok for a while and then, I was out of it again.
The housing people offered us a place, a shitty, dark, damp, electic wall heated ( the most expensive) with lino on the floors which my son refused to live in. I was beside myself. I asked the man where the carpet was and he replied it is not our place to provide people like you with carpet……….I slid down the wall, tears in my eyes and said, I hope you never find yourself in this position and if you do, that someone doesn’t speak to you like you are speaking to us now.
We refused the property and because of this were penalised by the housing list. The only other thing they had on offer was a single parent hostel miles away………..it was all looking pretty bleak.
One friend said to me, why don’t you ask the man to buy you a house or put a deposit down on it. Surely that is more important? Somedays I think maybe that would have been a good idea but at the time it didn’t occur to me as he had not offered and to me getting my son a good education was paramount in my mind.
Little did I know that as I was seeing the lady at the Citizens Advice Bureau and talking with her, praying with my friend and asking others to pray and obviously doing it myself, another friend of mine had spread the word amongst her friends in our area to see if anyone knew of a property for us.
During my prayer time I got a picture of a house on a hill, with windows all around it and masses of greenery, huge garden and lots of light, somehow it gave me hope. I had no idea where it was but it felt like there was somewhere for us to go.
One man who I had never met, had never even heard of yet, said to my friend he wanted to help, and rang around everyone he knew. At that time, another man was waiting for his mortgage to come through and was about to move into a property, and nobody knew of any others……….then all of a sudden, two weeks before we were due to move out, 1st September 2000, the mans mortgage comes through, the house becomes available and we are moving into one of the poshest areas in our town with a garden the size of 4, rhodedendrum bushes my favourite colour and up on a hill as I had seen in my prayer time. The garden was overgrown and the house had been empty for 6 months but friends came and helped us. Unfortunately for the friend who had offered to move us, we had done virtually no packing at all, I had just ground to a halt………….