I resisted the urge to tweet last night, although several thoughts went through my mind as I was watching the latest episode in Channel 4’s series.
After having the night to mull them over I have come to a few conclusions that I need to work through, whether for myself or others I don’t really know.
The Radfords work hard, have a baby every year (pretty much) and are devoted to their family. The mum, Sue, washes and irons all day, and is calm, cheerful and looks amazing for 37. Noel is a powerhouse of energy, be it in the family bakery, coping with the meals or knocking up bunk beds for six.
The Salims are overcrowded, untidy, living off benefits and the dad seems to rule the family in an offbeat anarchic way. His wife Noreen seems downtrodden and depressed, and also quite ashamed that her husband has no job. She also seems terrified that he wants more children.
Or at least that is what the media seem to want us to think. There was evidence that the Salim children have been targeted due to their father not being in work and being called “scroungers.” Can they really be called scroungers? I don’t claim to know a huge amount about the work situation in Rochdale but even I am fairly certain that the north of England has been very hard hit by the latest recession. Maybe Mr Salim has depression and is struggling to cope with the idea of changing his whole life e.g. looking for non-academic work. Just because he can laugh and play with his children does not mean that he is in good mental health. Are the Radfords as content and coping as well as they are portrayed? I certainly hope so – but how can we know unless we personally know them? It could be all smoke and mirrors.
BUT I am so aware how manipulative television can be – just leaving out 20 seconds of film and editing another few hours’ worth into a sound bite can manipulate the unwary viewer into thinking something very different from what is actually happening. We have no way of knowing what goes on behind closed doors unless we are living with the families portrayed. I know from twitter than Tania Sullivan, who was in the last series and is due to be in this one, was shown as a mum whose unborn twins lives were in danger, whereas she was in fact unwell with an infection and needed simple medical treatment.
All I know for certain is the following:- it is blooming hard work keeping track of clothes toys and books etc even with a relatively small family of 7. If the Salims are struggling to do this in a 4 bedroomed house with 11 children I am not surprised – you’d have to be super human not to struggle.
Sue Radford puts me to shame. I have no idea how she runs the house the way she does. On a personal level I feel she does way too much ironing but that is her business. I know I wouldn’t want that many children myself but they are a great advert for the larger family.
My personal feeling is that one shouldn’t be actively trying to conceive another child when on benefits, but it is just that, a personal feeling. The Salim family appear to have energy, intellect and boundless energy, their children seem polite and articulate, so calling them scroungers without being in full possession of the facts seems unnecessarily harsh.
Last fact – I find the programmes unmissable! Clever Channel 4, getting me hooked on another controversial series.