Who wants back in the good old UK?

I have in front of me is an e-mail from a former colleague and friend in Wales. In her more detailed message about children's and human rights in general, she is a lawyer, she includes some detail on growing food queues in UK cities. Kids Company in London, a charity, reports children as young as five years old turning up unaccompanied, hungry and in serious need of assistance. An organisation called Asylum Justice is reporting how many families fail the '50% likelihood of success' criterion for receiving state assistance and are being driven into deeper and deeper poverty and despair. As she says 'the plight of some of these families is dreadful'.

I am using a story from The Sun about this situation. Yes, I know it is The Sun and should normally be treated with a tongue in cheek attitude, but this story corroborates other reports, including on the charity's own website, in the most straightforward and comprehensive way, so read on:

'A CHARITY has launched the first-ever appeal to feed starving children – in the UK.

While hundreds of charities campaign for funds to feed Third World youngsters, new research from children’s charity Kids Company estimate a million children in Britain now suffer from ‘food insecurity’ – equivalent to two in every school class.

British kids are going hungry through poor parenting as mums and dads abuse drugs or alcohol or have mental health problems, while others struggle to budget enough to feed their families.

The organisation has seen a shock 233 per cent increase in kids relying on charity to be fed in the last 12 months. The average age of children attending the London centres for meals is just ten years old, with many bringing younger siblings and babies.

Recent cases included children who were caught stealing frozen raw meat to eat while a nine-year-old girl was discovered locked in a flat eating pictures of food she had drawn on paper as her mother left her without food.

The charity currently feeds 17,000 London youngsters but it appealing for £1m to expand its services nationwide.

While the problem is worse in inner cities, cases have been reported as far apart as rural Cornwall and Northern industrial towns.

In some areas 88 per cent of Head Teachers surveyed reported poor nutrition is having an impact in their school while 25 per cent of inner city schools said three quarters of all pupils are affected by lack of food.

On average, affected children eat just ten meals each week – 11 short of the 21 meals a week needed to stay healthy.

Going without food means children cannot concentrate in class and are more likely to be malnourished, leading to infections, slowed growth, impaired brain development and even learning difficulties.

Starving children are also far more likely to steal, shoplift food or engage in anti-social behaviour and get into trouble with the Police.

Kids Company founder Camila Batmangelidjh said: “We are seeing a lot more children struggling to get hold of food. We have kids who were so starving they stole frozen meat from a flat they visited and they ate it raw.

"We’re seeing effectively responsible parents who are just not managing to have food in the house. Children don’t have a public voice so they can’t tell us.

"We have a collective responsibility to make sure every child has enough to eat. This is something as a society we can solve if we want to and change children’s future for the better.”

Three in five parents quizzed for the charity know local families where children are going hungry as their parents cannot afford to buy all the food they need, while over half are aware of parents not feeding kids as they are abusing drugs or alcohol. Just under a third claim the problem is worsening in the last two years.

The charity has launched a ‘Mobiles for Meals' campaign with parenting site Netmums which urges the public to donate an old phone to feed a UK child. Funds from one recycled phone can provide meals for a child for a month.

Phones should be donated at any Orange or T Mobile store nationwide.

Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard said: “This situation is unacceptable. Too many children are not on the breadline, they are way, way under it. It’s horrifying to realise how many kids are suffering around the UK. They are having their chances ruined before their lives have barely begun.”'

There are often posts here on SFN from people who want to pack and go 'home' to the UK. Sometimes the impression they give is that life will be better there than here. Either they will have to live blind to such phenomena as those described above or ignore them. Is France any better? As yet no amount of websearching gives me such stories, but no doubt given the economic situation it does exist. At present, rural poverty appears somewhat worse than urban, however should that result in a new massive wave of rural to urban migration then we can expect a grim outcome.

The real measure has got to be one that some SFN correspondents have expressed strong feelings about recently - that the rich-poor dichotomy is out of hand and it is time for us all to think again and seek change for good. Starving children on the streets of the Northern Hemisphere belongs in 19th century history, not 2012 and whilst it is intolerable in the South it is just horrifying that it is back in the North.

So people, if you are thinking about going 'home', just reflect on what you may be returning too. I suspect it is not the UK you left or have in your minds.

As far as Brits returning to the UK, yes the numbers are way up. Its always been higher than people realised, less than half make it living abroad and return, since the economic crisis, the numbers have increased substantially. We decided living in France wasnt for us....our house is with 5 agents...they have all told us the vast majority of their properties for sale are Brits wishing to return. We approached Savilles this week (we are in the UK at the moment) and told them we wanted out of France...the comment back was, and so do the rest of the Brits who have bought there as well as in Spain, Italy and Greece. The guy we spoke to said the numbers returning were higher than ever before and they have a burgeoning list of European properties for sale. This is why its so much tougher to sell, those buying houses in France that are above 400k are the French. There are still non French buying cheaper houses/flats and also wealthy Russians and Australians buying in sexy places like the Cote d'Azure and Provence...but the high dollar UK buyer has gone. Those not in the Euro using countries are avoiding investing at the moment, not trusting which way the Euro will go. There was an article yesterday in the Sunday Times saying some confidence was returning to the French market, but there is still an expectation of further drops in value of housing in some areas. Frankly, apart from cheaper housing and alcohol, everything else is cheaper in the UK...and for us living in a small market town where we have no less than two theatres, a 10 screen cinema 13 plus restaurants, 9 pubs, two good shopping areas plus an out of town shopping area half a mile from the centre of town, 3 gyms and 4 swimming pools an NHS dentist I have managed to sign up to, a great GP practice and a brand new spanking community hospital 3 miles from our front door...plus countryside within 2 miles of the centre of town, we have way more facilities here and we found we missed them in a French country town. Each to his own I guess...we are keeping the flat in the Languedoc for the time being as we love the area and love coming to France for holidays. We have 2 friends in Spain trying to sell...without hope they tell me, another 3 friends in Spain who can not even get health treatment things are so bad there....but they cant afford to sell up and come back to the UK thought they are desperate to do so, another friend in Cyprus who says they cant afford to continue living there on a pension. The friends we had who had always hoped to retire abroad have changed plans, one is now in Hereford from London the other has chosen Devon.

Too right Brian. When I begin to get mine later this year it will be a measly £40-something a week according to the last forecast I had, because I did not make my 18 years contributing minimum by some. Nobody warned me years back, when I might have considered 'paying back' (their expression!) the difference, and that may well be the case for others. Plus so many of us lost a lot or even all of our private pensions with the collapse. My saving grace is my German entitlement, my OH being a couple of decades younger than me and having a profession I can work in until I drop or go (more) gaga. So it is easy to understand people giving up the ghost and going back. However, looking at the road this government and probably the next, even if it is party swap time, are going down, how much of that will be intact soon. It sadly looks swings and roundabouts.

sounds like a lovely friendly commune Cate

always good to have the community support at times like that....wonderful...glad is going well...its lovely that you have been taken to the heart of the commune....and I am sure it works that way for many of expats..

Best wishes for your wife from us too. It is very nice when everyone rallies round and asks after you. One of the upsides of village life!

I do hope things go well for your wife.

I am a cancer survivor and there are plenty of us around!

The idea came from my french friend Marie-Jo.

that is such a good idea Jane....I may well go and try to find some others to do that with....thankyou for a very good idea!

We have a small circle of four ladies who meet on Monday mornings, two english and two french and we choose a subject, print it out in our own language and then we read it and translate. The first one was Johnny Summerton's post on sexual harrassment laws in France, or rather the lack of them!

Sometimes we go into the garden, or we cook someting and then eat it!

actually my stock in phrase when I get cold called is....I speak no French...so sorry.....click as the phone goes down...

On the cold calling although I can understand their droning on about double glazing, solar panels, kitchens, frozen food I always say I can't and it's a failsafe way of getting rid of them. Yes we too have an inter quartier and we had it two weeks ago. There is a sprinkling of Brits in the teams, two of us are on the committee etc and yes these things do help a great deal. Similarly there's ariver cleaning party which has been up to about 40% expat. I don't do it but they have a splendid and long lunch in recompense. If you help with anything you get asked to a Benevole's lunch or dinner and they are often great fun.

That's a great way to learn both languages, Jane. Everyone benefits. I have my little neighbour, Serge, not a young man, who lives up the lane. Every time he sees me outside if he's walking his dog, he stops to have a good old natter. He learned English by chatting to another lady who lives in our hamlet and he's keen to improve. I'm more than pleased to help him but it's not improving my French which is bloomin hopeless (and I literally just had another person hang up the phone on me when she realised I was Anglaise so couldn't understand her sales pitch, lol).

We have our local "Quartier" do at the end of July, we are the only Brits. We find that when we do go out to lunch or dinner our french friends speak English quite well and there is an interchange between the two languages, often starting a sentence in English and finishing it in French.

I tend to agree with you, David. Many of my friends in the UK think that part of French life is a constant round of sitting outside at various neighbours' houses, sipping aperos as the sun goes down. It's not. Okay, you might experience that if you stay in a holiday village where people are simply vacationing but otherwise people generally have work in the morning.

One nice thing about the hamlet we live in is that they hold an annual get together only for the people who live in the hamlet. It's a two day event in August. On the Saturday, it's the 'French turn' with drinks, local food etc. On the Sunday, the Brits who live here lay on a full English breakfast which can go on for hours and apparently (I say apparently as it's our first year, but this is what I've been told) the French love it. So we get a taste of both cultures in one weekend and everyone mucks in to buy the food, do the cooking etc. Wonderful.

On entertaining and after a long time here I think that there is often a gulf between incomers and locals in France. By incomers I mean not just the large expat group here. "Dinner parties" just do not happen amongst locals. Very occasionally there might be a large party, usually on Sunday lunchtime (like this weekend). You might be invited to an "apero" with snacks and drinks in an evening and that might stretch out into a long evening. Locals round here tend to go to bed very early- by 10 at the latest. Most events are held in the summer months and very little in the winter. It's not like Paris or London and we don't expect it to be. Many of the larger parties here are held by expats and some of the locals are happy to go but don't expect the same sort of reciprocity. That doesn't mean they wont be generous and helpful especially in times of crisis, as I have seen.

I know everyone has moved on and in such a beautiful way in discussions about neighbors. However, I ran across this NPR piece and wanted to share the link. It is pretty realistic. http://www.npr.org/2012/06/15/155103564/cycle-of-poverty-hard-to-break-in-poorest-u-s-city?ft=1&f=1002&sc=igg2

Will that be two bottles of wine tomorrow....? lol.

We have two tractors tonight!!

We have two tractors tonight!!