What some in the UK see as important issues are menial compared to the scale of appalling poverty that people still live in today.
To prove it, the Soton Tab challenged incoming Features Editor Sammy Brichard (and his mate) to survive on a ridiculous two quid a day between them for food and drink- and document their bloody awful experience living in even more horrid squalor than they’re used to.
Chances are that they’ll have lost their mind after almost a week without coffee and alcohol and just be a quivering wreck, although apparently some 17,000 Brits struggled through this challenge last year and an appalling 1.2 billion have to every day.
While they’re taking it pretty damn seriously, and will be stuck rigidly to the pound per person per day rule, it’s probably going to be a case of going to ridiculous lengths to get free beer. With a fridge compartment as empty as Katie Hopkins’ brain and a dangerously close parallel between their wallet and the Greek government, Sammy tells us how he got on.
Day One. Felt super-cranky about six seconds after realising I couldn’t have a morning cup of coffee so drank something called water instead and cycled to Aldi. We thought buying enough food for two quid between us would be like Xeno’s bloody paradox but it was actually pretty easy.
Feeling smug, we walked out ten minutes later with a kilo of spaghetti, some pasta sauce, four onions and a block of lard for frying stuff in.
We had the same meal for breakfast and dinner, which made me sad. As soon as I go home I’m buying my cat a different brand of cat food to apologise for the fact it’s being having the same one all its life, poor little sod. I’ve only gone through a day of eating repetitive muck – that poor mite’s had value cat biscuits for a good two years solid. He’s getting some Whiskas.
It’s a cliché but it is impossible to realise what you’ve got until it’s taken away. Those who will be dining on Tesco meal deals for lunch have no idea of the real pain.
Day Two. I had a glass of water for breakfast and just noshed down the same rubbish meal (for the third time in a row) for lunch. Went to get more gloopy pasta sauce and a loaf of bread even though there is nothing to put on it, while there is still half of yesterday’s spaghetti left.
Most importantly though, we got ten sachets of weird-tasting coffee. I genuinely can’t remember being this grateful for anything else since birth. I had the cup of swirly, frothy Aldi cappuccino without milk or sugar that I’d been dreaming about for thirty something hours.
It was probably more delightful than most of the orgasms I’ve experienced.
Given that I can resist everything except temptation, I also had a wild fridge clear out, chucking all the stuff which would soon be out of date, apart from the bits you can freeze. And the precious beer, which I’m planning on drinking in a rampage at exactly 00.01am on Saturday, by which time the delirium tremens that killed Edgar Allan Poe will most likely be bleeding my brain inside-out.
It was Sobar Tuesday, and even if we weren’t going it was only polite to at least attend pre-drinks, given that it was in our kitchen. Crouched weak-willed in the corner with our tap-water, trying to be as antisocial as possible, there was eventually a moment where we just had to have a drink. Or two. No need to wait ’til Saturday for that beer.
The decision to allow just one drink spiralled out of control, like a pyroclastic surge storming over the Vesuvian hill-tops. By midnight we were both clubbing off our twit with no clear memory of how we’d arrived there, and neither of us really minded.
Day Three. Cometh the morn and we were still clearly not in a position to be making rational decisions. We were sharks who had tasted blood for the first time and were no longer content with even the finest gourmet cuisine that Aldi could offer for under two quid.
We stumbled to Nando’s for breakfast. We had failed and done it spectacularly. The bitter-sweet taste in my mouth was numbed with medium Piri-Piri sauce.
Day Four. At some point we clambered back to the world of sobriety. I made the bold decision to simply pretend days two and three didn’t happen, deciding it would be better to act like we’d bought more pasta sauce and were still having a crap time wallowing about in deprivation. Then I changed my mind.
I pondered over how much difference my hunger strike would have made, if I’d have stuck to it with the supernatural tenacity I didn’t have. Like most of the Western World I was a rich privileged kid who cared just enough about the worse-off to look good, but not enough to let it ruin my night.
It turned out I wasn’t bothered enough to do anything to help these poor hungry sods, with any level of commitment anyway. But it didn’t separate me from the rest of the privileged spoons I’m friends with either.
Day Five. We munched on cheap fried bread with some fifty pence pate we’d allowed ourselves, even though it was unclear at this stage whether it was worth finishing the challenge. I had spaghetti a la watery sauce again, washed down with the dregs of poisonous sachet coffee.
I’d kept the receipts from the week – four that came to various amounts between £1.78 and £1.97, and one for a £10.35 mango & lime chicken burger with a side of chips.
I thought it only fair that I click up the UNICEF website and donate that £10.35, so off it flew into a random persons challenge fund, someone who had actually seen the bloody thing through.
I probably won’t stop complaining to the Dominoes delivery man about how little money I’ve got to last this semester as he takes my order, but at least now I might feel a twinge of guilt about it. You ought to as well.
Although we did the challenge for a bit of a laugh, we’ve realised a pound a day isn’t funny for a lot of people. Admittedly (and at risk of seeming insensitive) we spent a bit of time absolutely trashed this week, but we also sat around hungry and dissatisfied for quite a while as well.
It wasn’t good, and people in the world shouldn’t have to put up with it.
You can donate to UNICEF’s fund for those living below the line here.