Reading an article in a recent Big Issue prompted me to recall an event during my second year in uni, where a situation I was describing in a seminar was interpreted entirely differently by my tutor; an interpretation I was initially quite offended by until we thrashed out the pros and cons and I became receptive to a different view point. This thrashing process is something I was once entirely unfamiliar with and consequently unskilled at, until going to university. Discussion in my household was usually interpreted at 'answering back' and consequently I struggled in latter life. I didn't know how to do assertiveness without aggression, but at uni you are expected to speak and I am fortunately gradually being cured of this affliction.
When I worked, twice a week I would buy an extra sandwich at lunchtimes. One was for me, the other was for the homeless guy who I walked by in order to get to the sandwich shop. He was always quite drunk and not outwardly grateful for the food, but he always ate it and I thought it best to give him food rather than money because he would probably just buy more alcohol.
My tutor said I displayed very patronising behaviour by doing this and I demonstrated an inbuilt assumption that all homeless people are incapable of making decisions for and about themselves, and I was thus inferring that homelessness is brought about by workshy layabouts unable to stand on their own two feet and who can't be trusted with money.
Whoa! I was a bit angry at this, and a bit hurt because I thought my action considerate, not judgemental. I never wore a placard, I just quietly carried on every week for as long as I worked there, because he was less fortunate than me. Really, I never thought about the situation beyond the guy was hungry so I gave him food. End of.
My tutor wasn't provoking me but simply making me think, which is what I am supposed to be there for!
My mum came to stay with me over the recent bank holiday weekend, and joined in our activities with gusto. We drove up to Lancashire to enjoy the delights of a Blues festival where she had never seen so many people spilling out onto the streets from the countless pubs in the town hosting this event, and was staggered by the sheer numbers.
I had tried to explain, to paint a picture for her of what to expect and I think had she been fully aware she never would have come with us. But that said, she made the most of it, enjoying the ambience and the beer spilt down the back of her neck in equal measure and with cheerful grace.
She wasn't so thrilled to learn that this wasnât a one day event and that we would be back for the encore the following evening. I had kept that one temporarily under wraps, slowly divulging the fact under cover of a Thai green curry which she was enjoying and which I queued for 25 minutes to get for her.