There are various ways of dealing with being poor. To accept that there is only one way is to admit defeat and degradation. One can slouch around like a tramp but live comfortably, or one can hide it from the world. I have maintained a high level of poverty throughout my life.

I'm not a spendthrift. I never waste money. I never have. It's always been spent on essentials. At present I'm on the dole, so by any standards I'm poor.

The strange thing is that it doesn't seem much different from when I was comfortably-off or nearly-poor. Even then I never had enough to go around. With a flash of hindsight, I can see that it is possible that the difference between wanting and needing has escaped me. I have always muddled along not being able to cope with money. As time has gone by, I have simply adapted to my chronic state of poverty.

Take the present state of affairs. Last week I needed some busy Lizzie to plant in my terracotta pots. In order to buy these plants, something would have to be sacrificed. I wrote my shopping list out to see what I could do without. I plumped for tea bags and bread.

I decided that if I went easy I could make what I had in the cupboard last until the next giro day. But after three days of admiring my busy Lizzie, I discovered that I only had two slices of bread and three tea bags.

Making bread is very easy. Eating the bread I make is another matter. Despite the fact that I use all the correct ingredients, my bread is always leaden, shrunken instead of swollen and about as easy to swallow as fossilised mammoth tusk.

Tea is no problem. I put one tea bag in a mug, wiggle it three times and remove it, without squeezing, and save it. In this way I can have a day's supply of pale orange hot water: the sugar and milk do the main job. I stress here that the water is always boiling. No economies in that direction, thank you. Electricity bills come in quarterly, so there's plenty of time to worry about that.

A birthday card and stamp may cause a bread and scrape week, with barely any margarine, but if I fold the slice of bread in half, it's not bad at all. If my planning goes wrong, though, it can result in fossilised mammoth tusk with nothing to lubricate it on its way to my stomach.

Telephone bills exceeding pounds 30.00 play havoc with meat: it's shepherd's pies for a month. My behaviour with money has set my children a good example of how not to be. I do think they're a bit hard on me when they say, 'No way am I going to end up like you,' as they budget and save.

I have a friend in a similar position to me financially, but her cupboards are full of food and cleaning materials - not to mention enough toilet paper to see her through the great siege when it happens. But she hasn't got a Lambeth Doulton vase.

I'm just recovering from the dress I bought for a special occasion. I've now stopped watering down the milk (a tip my like-minded niece gave me). I confess, it is nice to have a decent cuppa and the occasional chicken drumstick with tons of veg.

Soon my hypoallergenic make- up will need replenishing. That will most certainly cause of lot of dipping and waggling of tea bags. It may even mean not paying the water rates again. I wonder if they'll ever cut my water off? I can't get too worked up about that. I mean - water - it's everywhere. I could always borrow some of that without having to repay it.

I've been thinking about redecorating my sitting room this year. The two things which stop me are the high ceilings and the possible disconnection of my telephone because of the cost of the emulsion paint.

Perhaps I should remarry? On second thoughts, I'd rather rig up a wooden scaffold and eat mammoth tusks. Men waste money on silly hobbies that cost a fortune - even without the hat to go with it.

And whoever I married would probably get made redundant and sit at home using tea bags and eating bread. It would mean proper shopping - at the expense of essentials - so he could have dinners. I'll settle for keeping up appearances.

Comments