The original draft of When Dad Lost His Job, was written in fury. It came as I meditated on the on the cost of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, and the fact that more and more people are reliant on food banks to feed their children.
I passed the text on to couple of friends; both female, one’s an economist, the other a teacher. There were two main points of criticism: one, it was too depressing and quite scary (in the original both parents are unemployed and one develops a serious illness). And the second point of criticism was the book offered no hope. The move at the end of the book had the child estranged from her grandparents.
Family configurations vary; many children have one or more grandparents. Many are cared for and given a safe-haven by a grandparent. Books tend to shy away from the sad reality that biological parents do not always make fit parents. I, like a lot of children from my class and background experienced a grandparent as a surrogate parent. Not only did I receive the usual gifts of sweets and toys from my grandmother, she also provided clothes, food and shelter.
The child in When Dad Lost His Job may not live with her grandparents, but her life is sustained by them. It’s grandmother who pays the parents household bills, and the grandparent’s caravan provides a holiday. They provide much needed hope and financial support.
Real world examples of this are happening every day. I know of a family who without the support of a grandparent in her 80s, would have been forced to default on their mortgage. And for those without such support: there are food banks and squalid temporary accommodation. There’s hopelessness hard to imagine if you only breathe the rarefied air of Westminster.
When Dad Lost His Job, contains no dedication, but if it did I would dedicate the book to my grandmother: a woman who supported a whole family of unemployed brothers during the last depression; who lit a fire for her (shoeless) pupils to warm their feet; and who taught me how to be compassionate and humane.