Thursday, February 19, 2009

Living on three euros a day

WEEKDAY mornings usually start off with a wrestling match to tune the car radio in as I drive the Hockey Star to school. It’s a fight for either the local thump-thump-tonka-tonka rock station or the news analysis discussion programme. No guesses for who chooses what. The Hockey Star has the advantage of not having to keep his hands on the wheel and, quite frankly, I’m not much up to a fight before my second coffee. So we have the seat-vibrating stuff on the way there and the political post-mortem drone on the way to the office.

Today, after ten minutes of button-pushing even My Boy admitted there was nothing worth listening to, so I got lucky. We tuned in just as they were asking, what would you spend your money on if you had to live on three euros a day? Ho, I thought, a coffee is one euro – and I need two to get operational – which would leave me with a euro to eat something – one euro of food for the whole day? I’d have to cut out coffee so I didn’t fade away. Gone would be the days of dribbling industrial quantities of olive oil over a toasted bread roll and a steaming hot coffee for breakfast. That costs over two euros.

We listened some more. A lot of people interviewed said food, many others would rather starve and buy cigarettes. One hygienic chap couldn’t live without a toilet roll. It started us thinking. Bonzo said he sometimes buys a bread roll and a couple of slices of something porky from the supermarket next to school during break time. That costs 60 cents. You can get a 1.5 litre bottle of water for around 25 cents. Not much of a breakfast but it will keep you alive and leave you with 2.15 euros for the rest of the day.

On the home front we’d be sleeping in the street on and under cardboard we’ve found in the rubbish containers – so no costs there. We could also get one free hot meal a day and an occasional shower at a homeless shelter. I don’t think there are any costs for showers – but there might be. I told the Hockey Star that I’d seen a programme where a reporter lives rough for a month. She’d filled up a small plastic bottle she found with liquid soap from a public bathroom (so don’t say you don’t know now). Same soap will do for bod and hair. So by now we’ve had breakfast, showered and had lunch and still got 2.15 euros. Free meals involve a lot of queuing but we can cast our eyes over a library book or a discarded newspaper. Both are in abundance and keep us culturally up with the best of the property-owning capitalist bunch, err like you and I for instance.

I think you get the gist. Clothes from the bin or from the church and so on. It can be done if you pare life down to barely an existence. Sadly millions cope like this every day.

Street sleeping and a tramp’s life means hardships beyond my imagination but I think the idea of trying to work out how to live in Europe on a ridiculously small amount of money is an instructive exercise that can highlight just how much we spend on unnecessary things. And talking of unnecessary things, now that I think of it I shall do away with Bonzo’s pocket money. What’s he need it for anyway?
Weather today: High 18ºC/64ºF Low 9ºC/48ºF. Sunny. Light southerly wind 11 km/h. Pressure 1017 mb. Relative humidity 73%. UV index: 3

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I’ve felt like a dog this week

OVER THE last week my companions at work have heard me coming well before I get through the office door. The elephant-bellowing nose blowing that precedes me is a hint. And try as I might to be discreet, I just can’t get my atomic-blast, brain-lifting sneezes down to a polite kerchu, kerchu. Some women can. I can’t. And that’s on a good day. On a bad day, I accompany the above with a range of sniffles, tragic sighs, croaky voice and a cough that masquerades as a St Bernard’s bark. I also look very sorry for myself. At the risk of cracking a cheap joke, and I can’t resist it, I’d say I was well in touch with my male side. Sorry chaps.

However, this bout of gungy germs – my first this winter I can proudly claim – has its bright side too. It means I can finally doze and do dying-maiden, err correction, I mean dying-matron, impressions on the sofa with a clear conscience and not feel lazy or under pressure. Real colds, or imaginary, are also amazingly good at keeping the old gaffers at bay and my cheeks free of toothless kisses which are almost all I can expect these days.

The vicious microbes that have knocked me rather more off my feet this time than I expected are still with me a week down the line. I had hoped they’d be on their way to another bod by now. It must be an age thing, but it serves as an excuse, or reason even, to apologise yet again for not ‘blogging’ more often.

In fact, truth be told, I’ve hurried back today because my amigo El Funcionario (, where you can practice your Spanish) has linked me once again to his increasingly famous blog, not as a favour you must understand but more as a whipping to get my act together. At least I can be consistent in my constant apologies for not keeping this blog up. And being consistent is a good thing, so I am told.
Weather today:
High 17ºC/63ºF
Low 7ºC/45ºF
Light southerly wind 11 km/h
Pressure 1017 mb. Relative humidity 55%. UV index: 3