The day started foggy, a chill in the air. I love the way that the fog mediates the colours of autumn with its cool silvery filter graduating the warmth of orange and yellow from distance to foreground. Secondborn liked the way, he said, the fog made the trees huddle together.
Recent times have been substantially fogged by financial worries. To say that I am not good with money is a monumental understatement. Only someone with the economic sense of an underdeveloped sea cucumber could hang around for three months after losing their job attempting to bring up two children on their own without any maintenance or other financial support.
Eventually, however, back in July, even the limited intellect of the sea cucumber grasped the concept that the savings would one day, very soon, run out. That was three months ago. Today, after the culmination of a series of mind-blowing encounters with the British benefits system ranging from the ridiculous (why was all my paperwork returned to me recorded delivery at the end of August without a word of explanation and without having been sent on for processing? why, once the paperwork finally made it to the right place was my case mysteriously marked “closed” without any action having been taken on it?) to the sublime (the woman at the office rectifying the first mistake who worked through her lunch-hour and then, when we’d finished, told me to stand up because I needed a hug, which she proceeded to administer; the four people in two different departments at the processing centre rectifying the second mistake sympathetically, swiftly and efficiently) I and my children have finally been officially certified as members of the deserving poor.*
It’s only with the gaining of this extremely dubious status I realise quite how stressful the interim period has been. Without knowing when or indeed if any more money was going to come in we’ve been living as frugal an existence as I can manage. Most difficult has been trying to acclimatise the children, accustomed to years of double-income financially incontinent affluence, to more straitened circumstances.
But the silver lining of the financial fog has been the extraordinary pleasure that the simplest things have the power to convey. A glass of wine at a friend’s house? the taste is so alive, so present. A half-bar of favourite chocolate found at the back of a cupboard? never has the complexity of flavours been so good. The company, support and generosity of friends? Almost heart-breakingly lovely. Just as the near leaves in the fog are brighter for the presence of the cloud-dulled not so far away. Such an observation is, of course, a truism, but one difficult to grasp in theory and easily realised in lived experience.
Uncertainty is difficult to live with. Now at least there is a degree of stability and a financial framework, whatever its dimensions, within which to structure our lives.
When the fog lifted in the late morning the sun was low, golden and crisp with that watery clarity autumn light sometimes has. The leaves gleamed. But I saw them more clearly for having also seen them through the fog.
* Well, I was told over the phone this afternoon that the aforementioned certificate (and a cheque) would be put in the post the same day. So I don’t actually have it yet. But I live in hope.