Friday, May 24, 2013

Sofa Cushions

Sofa cushions are pretty awesome. That’s just a fact. They support our bums in the evenings, when the ravages of the day have rendered our legs incapable of holding us up any more.

The undersides of sofa cushions are pretty marvellous too; when we’re hunting around for change, it is almost guaranteed that we’ll be able to find enough for a Cornetto beneath their foam filled form. We may also find pizza crusts, long lost toys, a map describing how to get to Middle Earth and SEVEN different kinds of fluff.

But the marvellous underside of sofa cushions are not so marvellous for everyone. First off, there’s people like me, whose sofa cushions are completely integrated. Fixed in place. Non removable. Sure, they’re comfy, but when I hear the tinkling melody of an ice cream van outside I know that I can’t rely on my sofa to yield sufficient change to make visiting it worthwhile.

What's under there? Fuck knows, but I can't get at it.

More seriously, there are many, many people whose sofa cushions are removable, but who know damn well that there’s no point looking underneath them for Cornetto funds. They know there’s no money there because they already looked. They looked down the back of the sofa when they were trying to find the money to buy a loaf of bread, or some milk, or a pair of shoes for their toddler.

Poor people. People living in poverty. People who the government don’t think exist. The sort of people who we’re currently seeing on a programme called Skint on Channel 4.

I’ve been told that Skint has given rise to some pretty unpleasant commentary on Twitter and other social media. You know the sort of thing: “get off your arse and get a job”, “these people just don’t try hard enough”, “my taxes are paying for their fags, booze and flat screen TV. Cunts.”

Sentiments which are such excellent examples of compassion for other human beings it can’t help but warm the coldest depths of my cynical soul.

To the people who say things like that, I have a question for you: do you feel lucky?

I ask this, not because I’m about to go all Clint Eastwood on people, but because I don’t understand how people can feel comfortable being so self righteous about someone they see on TV and know very little about.

Were you born in the UK? Yes? Then you’re lucky.

Born in the south of the UK? Lucky.

Born to parents who have had an education and gone to work? Lucky.

Had access to family and peers who, in times of desperate need, you could turn to and ask for help? Lucky.

Got an inheritance which acts as a safety net? Lucky.

Never fallen seriously ill or had a significant injury? Lucky.

Any or all of the above, as well as countless other possibilities, may put you in a far better position to succeed than the people who drive you to spout angry words on the internet.

How many months’ salary are you from needing to dip into your savings to pay the mortgage? How many additional months until your savings run out? How many failed job interviews away from needing to think about downsizing to a smaller car?

Unless you are extremely privileged it’s likely that your personal safety net is not as robust as you might like it to be. I know mine isn’t.

Are you really so sure that you’re far enough removed from poverty to be so superior about people who are actually dealing with it?

Many of us are only one big change away from delving into the marvellous underside of sofa cushions to scrape together the small change for life’s essentials, some of us should try a little harder to remember that.


  1. Well said that man.

    Although I did wonder where you were going with that!

  2. The scary thing is how close a lot of us are to going under should a job / income just go and the benefit system / tax credits doesn't just step in to help as a lot of it is based on the previous years earnings. Which is crazy. So yes, we should not judge as we could easily be up the creek without a financial paddle of support.

  3. David from Its A Dads Life here. Can't fill out user details via mobile so posting as anon.

    Totally agree that almost all of us are just a bad choice and some bad luck away from shit creek, and I would never ever criticise someone for being poor, or unlucky.

    However, what these types of shows often show us are families with kids that terrorise, vandalise and are a general problem along with parents who do the same. In my view there is no excuse for that. Good upbringing and good morals are not based on money. So when you see people like that on TV it is very easy to dislike them for what you are being shown.

    I haven't seen Skint so can't comment directly on that show, mainly because I don't want to watch it. I will either be frustrated that families who are trying their best are getting trodden on and suffering, or that I'll get pissed off at the terrible behaviour and attitude I may see, Tweet something and be branded for doing so!

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  5. Fab post. Couldn't agree more, some of the comments I saw on twitter whilst this show as broadcast truly sickened me. Most of us are very very lucky, some more so than others. I know that I don't have much of a safety net and it does worry me that one mistake or a job redundancy would see us in a scary place. Becky (@writingforfun)