Despite being a nation of self-flagellators and pessimists, let’s be honest, Britain’s not that bad a place to live. I don’t mean for everyone, but certainly the likes of you and I. Ok, things could always be better, some people still stand on the left of escalators, far too many people rely on Southern Rail and if you’re English you have to put up with being hated by all your neighbours for no other reason than the fact we’re generally better than them.
But overall we have little to really complain about. As a rule we’re allowed to say what we like, believe what we feel and have the freedoms a Russian factory worker can only dream of (if indeed the state saw fit to let him dream).
And, on the whole we treat each other well. Of course we can be idiots and bigots, but as a rule these are people who have failed in life and are desperate to find someone to blame for their own self-loathing, and of course if you go down certain streets you may meet some wannabe gangster frantic to impress their hierarchy, and will mug you for your KFC should you happen to cross his turf. But generally we look after each other.
As a society we take for granted so many things we don’t have to pay for up front. Our children go to school, paid for out of the communal pot without any question of the parent’s financial situation. The same goes for our NHS, famously free at the point of care with no stigma to anyone using it. People using the NHS aren’t considered a charity case, nor someone to be looked down on. The same goes for so much in society. Items paid for collectively, used without question by those that need them.
Travel for the young and old, street lighting, police, I can even go into a library and society will provide me a place to sit and read and even take home a Mills & Boon for my own personal pleasure… should I be that way inclined. And all these things are considered a right our society provides to all, no matter if I’m Stephen Fry or that chap down Wetherspoons at 7am for a Guinness, we’re treated as equally entitled.
But sometimes we miss the obvious ones. I could decide my nose doesn’t fit, is upsetting me and therefore book a tweak on the NHS, and no one would question me, call me a scrounger, nor expect me to pay a penny. But what if I’m hungry and cold? At best I have to justify my position to receive funds to feed me and too often I’m treated as a charity case, someone to look down on and encouraged to feel ashamed of myself. If I have a home I often need to prove I’m desperate and plead my case to an organisation such as Citizens Advice to get a voucher. Then I have to plod on down to the local food bank and collect my “rations” of supplies. These, sadly, are a vital part of our society, but often the food is donated and much like the “harvest festival” when I was a child our typical mentality is that “if I’m giving something away, it’s got to be a lower quality that I would normally buy”. So random boxes of low quality, low nutrient-dense grub.
And if I don’t have a home, then it’s worse. Shelter and soup kitchens that often move, where they dish out meals made from an eclectic mix of donated leftovers or budget produce. And, despite being let down by society leaving me in such dire straits, I’m expected to be grateful for the small mercy given me, whilst all the time it’s enforced and I’m made to feel that I truly am a lower cast in society.
It’s one of the quickest ways to divide our society. Of all the items we provide without question of ability to pay, we segregate society on one of the most affordable. I don’t fully know why, but my money is on votes. Little Jonny’s mum is going to have more sway politically with her vote, and unconsciously prioritises the need for her little cherub to have an allergy free safe space in the library, than some unfortunate soul more worried about how they’re going to get through the next couple of days without getting their head kicked in, that worry about voting (and that’s even if they have the right to vote without a fixed abode).
Well we think that’s crazy. There’s no way anyone should be going hungry in the UK. And we certainly shouldn’t be making people jump through hoops or be grateful for a bite to eat. So we thought “sod it”, and set up Eggs And Bread. Yes we know it isn’t going to change the world, and yes there’s only one (for now), but it’s a start. Our only aim is that everyone deserves a good start to the day. We genuinely don’t care who comes (well, except sometimes the militant vegans), and it’s great to see the complete mix coming in. Posh city boys off to work, snotty kids on their way to school, to people with nothing better to do with their morning who may be looking for a cup of tea and a chat with our lovely staff or each other. We’re trying to make it the best place to begin the day no matter who you are, this is certainly no charity kitchen.
We’ll change, I’ve no doubt. Unless you’re talking about Trump’s hair nothing stays the same forever, but hopefully that change will be for the better as we learn what works.
And if you haven’t been down here, well what’s your excuse?? It’s about time you did!