Back to Earth

by Rick Johansen

I was not at my best this morning. I think I may have drunk something that disagreed with me. Whatever it was, the sweetest hangover, Labour’s great election victory, was put, at least temporarily, on hold as I reported for duty at our local food bank, situated in the imaginary town of Melchester.

Yesterday, our food bank was a polling station so people in food poverty had to wait another day to see us. We were uneasy about this, but in truth there was nothing we could do about it. Everything we need to operate the food bank, especially the food, is in one place and non-transferable, not there is another venue we could transfer it to.

It is fair to say that all the volunteers were pleased at the election result. I cannot say the same about the admin staff because they are politically neutral, as they have to be. If they were loud-mouth pro Labour gobshites, like me, I do wonder if supporters of other political parties would be keen to donate food to what they might see as some kind of political organisation.  If the Trussell Trust was run by Nigel Farage or Rish! Sunak, I wouldn’t go near the place. But a woman who came in to collect an emergency food parcel on behalf a client – the story she told was beyond upsetting – reminded me why last night’s result was so important.

“I’ve been doing this job for 15 years now, supporting families, and things have never been worse than they are today,” she told me (I am paraphrasing a bit). “When I started out, there were no food banks. Now, I spend much of my job referring people to food banks. It is an epidemic of food poverty.”

Obviously, as a food bank volunteer of just two years I only know a time when food banks were the norm, rather than the exception. But here was someone, an expert I would say, who remembered a different world, one in which the safety net was social security. Now, the safety net is the food bank. Today, as I staggered through the morning after the night before, half deaf, by the way, as a result of an ear infection, I felt hope that sometime in the next few years, I could be made redundant from my job at the food bank. I love what I do, I love, yes love, my fellow volunteers and the admin staff and if food poverty was ended I’d be as happy as Larry, whoever Larry is.

My feelings as to the election result are more of relief and euphoria because I know what a difficult job Keir Starmer and his government will have as they sift through the wreckage left by the outgoing Conservative government. Food banks are but a symptom of the malaise inflicted upon us by David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Fucking Johnson, Mad Lizzie Truss and finally Rish! Sunak. As I have been saying for far too long now, everything is broken and nothing works.

What I have now is hope where before things were hopeless. We have our future back. We have men and women in government whose mission is to serve us and not fuck us over.

Things, as the song goes, can only get better. I genuinely believe that. The political deadwood has been tossed aside, hopefully to float off beyond the horizon and never be seen again. The reality of today’s food bank trip brought me back to earth. But now I can dare to dream. During the last 14 years, hope was in scarce supply. Now it’s there in spades. I hope it never goes away, which is not the way I feel about this endless hangover.

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