Canvassing yesterday evening I knocked on a door and entered a veritable adventure.
I realised there was an important story to be told about the reality of life in contemporary Jersey. This is the invisible world that the four media entities care to ignore. Within twenty minutes my cameraman was in attendance to record an interview. This enabled me to nip across the corridor and speak to the neighbors who will be voting. The issues they raised were precisely the same as every pensioner – surviving on a fixed income in the face of inflationary prices and oh yes, a dysfunctional government of millionaires.
Sandra has emphysema. Her kitchen is being replaced. The original dates from 1995 when the building was constructed. There is dust all over the kitchen and in the flat. No thought has been given to its potentially detrimental effect on her health. Why? We know why stupid.
Her bathroom suffers from mold on a regular basis. This seems to be a lack of ventilation. The bathroom is internal and relies on a fan to remove steamy air.
When the lights went out following an all island power cut, none of the emergency lighting in the corridor worked. In other parts of the building it did. This would be extremely dangerous for a disabled person evacuating the building, say if there were a fire, especially as the exit is down several narrow steps to the road.
Sandra is a disabled person and this is supposed to be a ground floor flat but is accessed via eight steep steps which are not to modern safety standards and she has fallen down them.
She has been cared for by her daughter for years who is now attending Highlands College on a vocational training course for which the widowed mother has borrowed money from a money lender to pay the fees - if the daughter had just signed on at SS as unemployed she would receive about £90 per week but receives nothing apparently because she is training at Highlands.
The financial burden is great upon this widowed mother. Family photos show the young English born deceased husband as a handsome - fit young man but he was for years incapacitated through illness and their young son also died.
This is a family that knows tragedy and hardship - even when the proper order is restored to this flat and it is all re-decorated - across the road the old Wesley chapel site is being redeveloped and there will be 18 months of noise and dust ahead.
When the island-wide power cut doused the lighting the mother went searching for the electricity meter in the pitch dark but found that it was already loaded with money ---this is the measure of poverty in modern Jersey where electricity can only be afforded by the meter full....what will happen when the cold of January and February hits this struggling family?
PS. I actually discovered a use for Mary O’Keefe-Burgher’s four page manifesto – I found a copy that was lying on the floor beside the letter boxes in a discarded pile of others and rolled it up to keep open an external building door that would otherwise have locked behind me. Everything has a use value and not necessarily its original purpose - it just requires a little imagination.
Mary has the following paragraph in her Manifesto and this may explain why so many copies had been discarded on the floor by tenants. I am not sure if I would tolerate such patronising snobbery either.
"The number of people wishing for social housing has risen. The Government needs to help people to understand that social housing is not a right but rather encourage independence of States (sic) benefit. Understanding that this is an extreme fall back position in exceptional circumstances and should not be an automatic domestic ambition."
Having watched this video I wonder if Mary now considers the reality of social housing less aspirational and more a deterrent?