- Anna Dyson
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As the country gears up to the general election in December, people from across the political spectrum are painting the bleakest picture of life under their opponents’ governance, and are offering us utopian visions under theirs, to try to gain our vote.
My children innocently talk to me about their dream jobs, plans for their future, and holiday ideas, and I find my mind wandering to articles I’ve read about climate change, questioning whether there will even be a future world for us to inhabit within their adult lifetimes.
And I never once thought that about the fact that the very notion of planning ahead is a freedom that not everyone has.
In the first of our podcasts (please take a listen if you haven’t already – the series is called Coffee Cup Conversations and available on all podcast outlets), Chris, a writer and podcast host, talks with Anita and myself about our friendship which is the inspiration behind the ToastLoveCoffee cafe. He asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” and neither of us were able to answer the question adequately because Anita was an asylum seeker – she couldn’t plan ahead, she didn’t dare allow herself to dream about her or her son’s future whilst their present status was so fragile. I answered that there was no ToastLoveCoffee without Anita, so if she wasn’t in the UK in five years, then the cafe wouldn’t be either.
Chris moved the question on to more comfortable turf and the conversation continued.
But all that changed yesterday. Because yesterday Anita got a phone call from her solicitor, saying that the judge had read her case files and believed her, condemning the Home Office for the way they have treated her and her son for the last six years and eleven months, and ordering the Home Office to grant Anita and her son leave to remain in the UK; the first step to a permanent new life here.
Suddenly, Anita is planning ahead. She is excited to make plans to take her son on holiday for the first time, she is excited to be able to pursue a career now she can be in paid employment (something denied to all asylum seekers), and she and her son are planning to find and decorate their own home together for the first time, complete with a pet.
For the six years and eleven months that I have known Anita, the version of Anita I have only known is that of her as someone whose future was determined by others, who didn’t have the luxury to daydream about what she may achieve or experience in the future. Yesterday marked the beginning of the rest of her and her son’s lives, and it was as if I could physically see the weight of worry, weariness and helplessness had lifted off her shoulders.
Emotions were high yesterday as we celebrated in the cafe and talked and dreamed together about all the possibilities for their future. Anita turned to me and said, “Today I am free!” and I realised the pure joy and feeling of liberation it is to allow yourself to make plans for your own future.