Friday, 16 January 2009

Quid Pro Quo


The library never did manage to find The Thrift Book - but I did borrow this last week.

The author is a single, part-time lecturer living as a lodger in a house in Bristol. Whilst a little bit drunk, at a party, she somehow bet she could manage this £1 a day challenge. [I should point out that rent/utilities etc are all accounted for - the quid has to cover food/ clothes/ travel/entertainment/etc]

She has no family responsibilities, has access to many university facilities [free library and internet access, and social events where food, and drink is often provided] Her main transport is cycling or hitch hiking.

The book charts her progress through the year. I confess I got annoyed with the book and muttered a lot whilst reading it!! Her lifestyle wasn't quite 'average' in comparison to most of the people I know - at the beginning she listed the contents of her wardrobe - and I wondered exactly WHY she needed to get more clothes as the year went on. I couldn't understand how an educated woman had reached her 40s without managing to learn to budget properly or to cook a decent meal - she wrote as if producing a salad or soup from fresh veg was a novelty. Furthermore, I am not happy about encouraging hitch-hiking.

One comment on Amazon said "I think the author's heart was in the right place and the sentiments were good, but I couldn't help feeling this was written by someone with a different lifestyle to the average ...It also seem to boil down to 'how I maintained my social life on £1 a day' and particularly where to get the next glass of wine!! Again I feel this was a shame as the motivation was obviously there but not quite in the real world."

Yes, I DO think we need to reconsider our consumer society, and thoughtless spending [see Bob's recent post ] but I am afraid that the thing that put me off the most was the fact that although she was putting the money she saved towards her brother's wedding, it felt as if the author's day-to-day life was focussed on herself and how she would survive. She felt bad because she could not contribute to a collection at work, as it would eat up her pound. She was fairly strict about not accepting 'gifts' of food from friends - but had no qualms about pigging out on canapés provided by complete strangers, or [I think this might possibly be illegal] going through the recycling bins put out by posh residents of Clifton, and helping herself to magazines, clothes and shoes!

I was amused that in December, she described herself as a Carol-Tart, attending Church carol services for the free wine and mince pies afterwards. If she had been really serious about things, should she not have joined an Alpha Course and had a free mid-week supper for six weeks? I am sure that living in Bristol she could have probably managed a free Fellowship lunch for 52 Sundays if she had attended all the churches in rotation!

I had a great conversation on Sunday over the after-church-coffee about friendships. We were both being dismissive of these turn-of-the-year magazine articles which tell you it is time to "Detox your body, declutter your closet, and decimate your address book" - Are there people who you should no longer count as 'friends'? Why are you letting them take up your time and energy? etc.  Janice and I agreed that is wrong to only count people as 'friends' for what they can contribute to your life.

manchester city mission Maybe this recession is a time when the people who practice the Good Samaritan principle are going to stand out. We can either say "There is not much spare money, I must hang on to every penny, in case I need it" or we can say "Right this minute, the person next to me needs it more, and I can help a little"

I don't usually watch Secret Millionaire - but this week I caught a repeat programme, and was incredibly moved to see the generosity of Chek Whyte, and the commitment of the staff at the Loaves and Fishes Project in Salford. The lady at the end said "I want to go on the roof and shout - God is good, and some people are too"

John Wesley said "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can" [I do not remember him saying "spend all you can"]

And Paul said to Timothy "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs"


  1. I found myself nodding right through your post, I totally agree!

  2. I loved this post. What you say is so true.

  3. Hi, I just dropped over from Bread and Roses. I am laughing at your Alpha comment. We run Alpha at our church as well. If she had gone to Alpha just for the food - and ended up being soundly converted - well, wouldn't that make a great story for the Alpha Newspaper!


  4. I find this kind of stuff a little disengeuous. I think I heard an interview with the author of this book on Woman's Hour, I wasn't all that impressed, simply for the reasons you pointed out. There was a similar book, by an American couple, out two or three years ago. They abstained from all non-necessary expenses, all luxuries; new clothes, wine, going out for coffee, books, cds, going to the cinema and so on.

    And I thought why? Why abstain like this? Why be so drastic? This couple were wealthy, New York professionals, yes, it's important to highlight conspicuous consumption, but what do the poor think to all of this middle-class posturing.

    I also think all of this "novelty extremism" misses the point. Surely, by rejecting some of the excesses of consumerist culture we're embracing a more balanced and fulfilled life. There's little balance in these books, little talk of long term fulfilment. What matters is real thought about what we spend our money on, what matters is the ethics behind the spending.

    Angela, I could go on and on, but I shan't.

    Nice post, by the way!!!

  5. Excellent and stimulating post as always. I always thought it a pity that the John Wesley quotation was hi-jacked by Mrs Thatcher in the 1970s but perhaps you are all too young to remember that.

    From personal experience I can assure you that there are lots of educated women and men in their 40s and above who have never learnt to budget or cook properly. Some of my ex-colonial relations for example,who came back to the UK in the 1950s, had great difficulty adapting to life without 4 or 5 servants to do everything for them. I, on the other hand, have never leant to sew or decorate properly.

  6. Wow! thanks for asll these remarks.
    Yes Kathie - it would have been wonderful if she had gone along to Alpha and got converted!
    DD - you should talk to our librarian - she too felt that it was insulting to those in real poverty for middle class professionals to 'pretend' like this.
    Isabella,I DO remember Mrs Thatcher - and am still ranting about her! But I take your point about many people not learning to cook or sew. I guess I take my experience for granted.
    The bottom line must be that we need to store up our treasure in heaven - and rely on our Heavenly Father who will meet all our needs.

    We ask - as Jesus taught us - for Daily Bread - and God graciously supplies many of us with butter and Marmite too! Let's not forget that and always be ready to share with others.


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