Yesterday I took my little boy to see Santa. He’s only two, he has no idea who Santa is and has little interest in him beyond the beard, but it’s a nice thing to do. It’s one of the things we do with our kids from no age, for us more than them if we’re honest, for the photos, for the memories. We fill them in later and, with a little artistic license, Harry’s first visit to Santa was a beautiful day for us all.
This visit to Santa however turned out to be tainted by one of the most out of touch people I have ever met. This person was the Mayor of Wirral.
The party for the kids was held at a mother and baby unit on the Wirral. This is housing for young mothers who require some level of support. Wether this is due to mental health issues, homelessness or a requirement for social services, these young women have children ranging from three months to two years, all sharing a house, a garden and 24/7 staff.
Having worked with young people in care previously, having lived in supported accommodation myself as a teenager and from having friends who had lived in this very building I was well aware when I arrived that this was a hard way to live for even the toughest. I was always impressed by the resilience of these women, the united front they put forward to authorities, for better or worse, was often honourable.
With the odds and the all-too-familiar stream of Tory cuts stacked up against them, these girls were getting on with it and carving out a life for themselves and their children wherever that was to be found.
When the Mayor walked into the room, I recognised him only by his livery collar. I don’t think many of the other mums recognised him at all, and even after he’d said he was the Mayor, there were still a sea of blank stares looking back. There are no mayors in Rockferry.
One of the funniest girls I’ve ever met piped up “I like your necklace.”
“Ah!” He exclaimed, speaking a little louder and sweeping the room for anyone listening, “This is from (1800 and something) and it’s solid gold.” He beamed, impressed even with himself.
“You’d get a fortune for that in cashies. No, you honestly would.”
I loved her for that. Because it immediately pointed out something that had already irritated me so much. These women don’t give a fuck about your expensive necklace mate. They’re more worried about where their next bit of cash is coming from, if they’re going to be able to budget it, if they’ll even have enough to bother. If he didn’t feel foolish, he certainly looked it. How patronising, how flippant.
This is a man who proudly introduced himself to us as the “first citizen,” a phrase which the council website tells us means that he is literally more important than any one of us. He is subservient only to the Queen. You would think a man that we voted into this position would be more concerned about the living and working lives of these disadvantaged mothers than boasting about his wealth in front of them.
I thought it was crass, he didn’t ask any of them anything beyond the ages of the children. How disappointing that the man in charge of our council, who are in part responsible for these women and children, has nothing more to offer them at Christmas than a look at his gold.
I cropped him out of our Santa picture.