Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Onwards and Upwards

Monday, May 29th, 2017

I’ve grown some courgettes and squash from seed. It’s exactly a month since I did so and now they’re big enough to go into their forever homes. I realised that, despite my best intentions, I’ve, yet again, grown too much in too little space so I’ve decided to be smart and grow vertical. There’s a dark and dingy area stepping out from the back door, where the back gate, bins and nothing much else belongs. I used to think it would be nice to put some trellised planters there so i could look at them while I was washing up. Or the girls could look at them while they are washing up, see how I think of others? So it made sense to buy some of those planters and use them in the temporary site for the veg garden and when everything’s in the right place fill them with prettiness and put them in front of the kitchen window.  I’ve put the squash and courgette in and some nastursiums to add colour. I think i’m going to have to be vigilant and tie in the fast growing shoots and i may have to sling the squash as they grow but that’s the fun of trying something new.

The runner beans I’ve grown from seed are now in their beds and look much healthier than the garden centre offerings, so that’s a definite for next year, no shop bought runner beans, squash or courgette. Only one of my five pumpkin seeds has germinated so i think i’ve been unlucky with the packet. The purple french beans are really healthy and the dwarf french beans are now planted in their beds. We’ve had our first salad leaves for dinner tonight, happy days, tasty summer munchies start here! Broad beans are thriving, as are the peas, radish, beet leaves, beetroot and soya beans. Cabbages are super healthy looking and we’ve had some kale leaves already despite the earlieness. I’m a bit annoyed that about a third of the shop bought plants have bolted already. I’m feeling quite disenchanted with the whole business of buying. I’m very hopeful that my permanent greenhouse will be in before next winter and i can start things off in the safety and warm and enjoy even better results that I’m doing this year.

This is my half term week off work. I’ve been trying to fill in inheritance tax forms which are a nightmare, mainly because people who don’t expect to die young don’t necessarily get their affairs in order. Let’s face it, even people who do know what’s occuring are hardly likely to waste a second of their time on paperwork. I wish we’d got a solicitor to do the probaate.  We’re also getting the other house’s huge garden tidied up with the help of two professional gardeners. I’m hoping to take a few more plants from it before it goes on the market I tried to take some cuttings of magnolia and red quince last year to absolutely no success, not even one took so I may have another go at those. We’re also travelling to wales for the day to see my mum and dad, have some lunch in the fresh air. I’m a bit worried that my week is too busy already but desperately want to spend some more time in my own garden. Tomorrow is the day. Forecast: Well it’s currently teaming down with storminess on the way but i’m reliably informed by the bbc (who NEVER lie *cough*) that if i lay in till 9am I will be able to enjoy a dry day with the added bonus of a well watered garden which willl mean relatively loose soil. It could be the day to try out the new rotovator!

An Email to Alec Shelbrooke

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Yesterday Alec Shelbrooke MP tabled a bill to introduce the ‘Welfare Card’. I believe this to be a further worrying development in the Conservative war against the poor. I felt I had to bring a few of my concerns to Mr Shelbrooke’s attention. I realised after sending this that I did not raise the question of purchasing toys for child development, birthdays or christmas or how people on limited incomes, who usually buy replacement white goods second hand in a cash transaction are meant to replace a broken cooker or fridge. I apologise for any important points I didn’t raise. If you feel that you can make further points please do email him before the second reading of his bill. If Mr Shelbrooke takes the time to respond I will update this blog with his response.

Hello Mr Shelbrooke,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to me. From the outset I should state I am not in support of this card and believe this, the Universal Credit scheme and almost every other Welfare Reform to be ill-conceived and ill-considered. I had a listen to your speech and have a number of points and queries I’d like to raise.

You suggest that there will be no stigma attached to the introduction of this card. Is it your intention that the card will look exactly like a standard debit card or do you have designs for it to be clearly different, as with the Australian ‘basic’ card model which defines the user as someone on benefit and has been the cause of humiliation for many people at the checkout . This detail I believe is very important as dignity is something that you, I have no doubt, wish to allow the claimants.

You wish to limit the use of the card to ‘essential’ items. I’m very keen to know what you consider to be essential items? You stated food and clothing but made no mention of paper products. Will people be allowed to purchase daily newspapers, writing materials, stamps and other stationary?

Would this card system allow the user to buy from any supermarket with a card machine or would it limit their use to the big three or four and prevent shoppers from seeking a better deal in discount stores such as Aldi or Lidl. One may look down the nose at Aldi or Lidl, considering Tesco or Asda to be the main shops of choice but I can assure you that as a family with 2 full time earners and 1 part time earner we cannot afford to shop regularly at any of the bigger food shops. My years of budgeting have taught me to analyse and compare and since changing my shopping habits I have saved well over £1000 a year in food bills. I cannot imagine it would be in the tax payers interests, therefore, to limit the use of the card to the more expensive stores.

I have a concern that the shops and outlets which cannot afford the use of card machines will be destined for certain failure. Independent news agents, corner shops, market stalls etc would not be able to survive the drop in income that may occur due to this proposal. The lifeblood of Britain is its market towns and its corner shops. One cannot state enough that anything that does not safeguard the identity of small towns and high streets in Britain should be rethought. Is the government going to freely supply card machines to all small shops and market stall holders so that they can continue to benefit from the custom of all of their potential customers? If so am I paying for those card machines?

How would parents pay for clubs such as youth clubs, sports clubs, brownies, scouts, st johns ambulance and many other great character building clubs that run on a subs basis? Are we to say that things that give children an outlet and a focus are a luxury too? I don’t think they are, in fact, I believe in a home where there is no working role model (whether by choice or misfortune) that such clubs become even more essential to those children. And whilst I realise that most poor and underpaid families can rarely afford to give their children money the importance of them being able to do so cannot be underestimated. Parents need to reward their children and children, especially teenagers need to feel like they are part of society and having some sort of income is essential to meet their needs. As a tax payer I do not resent the idea of unemployed or low-paid parents being able to treat their children by allowing them to make independent purchases. I’m sure you remember going to a record store to buy your first LP or going to the youth club disco or summer trip. These are important steps in any child’s life, whatever their background.

If a low earnings family wish to take a budget-conscious holiday such as a camping holiday how can they do so without the physical cash to pay for it? Are we to say that non-working and low-paid working families do not have the right to expect a holiday? Do these children not deserve a holiday?

The suggested uses of the card you mentioned included paying fixed costs such as rent, energy, tv licence etc. Will this be money that is ring-fenced on that card so it can only be accessed by a different pin number? This would prevent the monies for these fixed costs being accidentally spent by people who may have no head for figures, no experience in budgeting etc and who have an unexpected cost in their month (for example broken heating, car troubles, etc). If a family uses the money that should be paid to landlords for other items then their housing will come into jeopardy. I believe that the monthly payments intended under the universal credit and this card will, together, cause a huge rise in homelessness amongst families and will, as a result of this, lead to greater costs to the tax payer in the way of emergency housing and rehousing.

Will any of these families be offered budget advice and guidance?

How can these families use the card to pay for taxis? Many families in the low/non income bracket cannot afford to pay for a car and rely on taxis to bring home their weekly shopping. Not every person in Britain lives within walking distance of a supermarket and if they are unable to shop at those places and get their heavy shopping home then they will be forced to use smaller and more expensive ‘convenience’ stores, which as you know, is a poor use of anyone’s budget. Most private taxi firms do not have EPOS machines in their cars and the costs of introducing them to all private taxis would be prohibitive and only be productive to the EPOS manufacturers and the banks.

I am interested in what entertainment items would be allowed using this card. Would people be allowed to buy books and music or should all poor people be culturally bereft? Would they be allowed to use the card to pay for a trip to the cinema or theatre? What about theme park entry for those families who will never be able to save for any kind of holiday but taking a day trip to Blackpool or a theme park would help shape their children’s memories. Would they be able to purchase broadband? If not would broadband be supplied for free to households who need to use this card? I ask because we have seen a huge increase in library closures under both this and the last government and the only access to the internet which many people in the low income bracket have is in the library. The United Nations tell us that internet access is now a human right. How will this right be supported if the card does not allow broadband to be purchased or a free service supplied to these households. How are these people who rely on Universal Credit to access those credits without the access to the internet. I believe that any changes in the way monies are paid to people being supported by tax payers money must be considered carefully to avoid unnecessary infringement of human rights and dignity.

I understand that the Australian model of the welfare card, which has come under both praise and heavy criticism has not reduced gambling in the Northern Territories where it has been tried. I also understand that thoughtless implementation of the scheme means that the card user is unable to make very basic purchases such as jeans!

I believe that the Australian scheme allows the card a certain amount of money for things like alcohol and cigarettes and does not disallow them entirely and this is an important thing. By over-parenting the recipients of welfare the government does not make the recipient more responsible it reduces their personal choices and personal freedom. By implementing this card you will be implementing an unequal system where those who are fortunate enough to have jobs that pay enough are allowed to make all their own choices and those who do not have a job or are exploited in low paid jobs do not only have the humiliation of being in that situation but are also ‘monitored’ by the state to make sure they are being good boys and girls. For my money, and it is my money you’re spending, I have no issue with people who face poor job prospects and endless days of rejection having a drink occasionally or having a cigarette to manage what must be intolerable stress. I have no problem with them trying to make the most of that money by bartering with the second hand shop or market stall. I believe that, if implemented this card system will further increase the distance between rich and poor and further alienate the people from their government. If your government is the ‘working person’s government’ why on earth would you suggest that low-income earners should be forced to use these cards?

My parents are live long Tories, but increasingly since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition has been in place there are changing their minds about what makes a good government, or rather your government is changing it for them. I will never be a Tory for almost every reason I can think of, however that does not negate my views on your bill. Please take my questions in serious consideration. I may be a wage earning fully independent member of society but I have been in a place where every penny counted and my dignity needed to be intact for me to move forward.
Yours

I Wake Up in Enraged…

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Every bloody day. And if I don’t wake up enraged I wake up prepared to be enraged. There’s a downside to this social interaction. For the majority of my life social interaction meant deciding whether or not to go to the pub, which club I should join and who of my work colleagues I could interact with without breaking out in hives, or which newspaper I could read without feeling herded.

I remember when bricks came in to fashion. I despised the way people stopped having real conversations, actually interrupted them ‘oh, sorry…sorry…it’s the phone…’ to have another conversation which was somehow far more important because it was on a mobile phone.  I remember the first time I used one, I borrowed it and hid in a corner under a stairwell so that no one could see me doing this very embarrassing thing.

I was among the first ordinary people to use the internet for socialising. I had AOL on floppy disk. The one before Aol 3.1 whatever that was, I sat listening to the dial up tones and knew that in the next five minutes I could be chatting to someone in Sunderland, avoiding a creep from Leeds ‘a/s/l?’ or teasing a twit from Norwich, or even a  sheltered nerd from California who thought that Wales was in England and England WAS the United Kingdom. All good clean fun, well all fun anyway. There were times in the day when if I joined a chatroom or a forum I could actually be the only person in there for a while.  Given how few chatrooms there were this was quite a feat and soon ceased with the dawn of fixed price net access (we’d previously forked out by the minute…oh yes, one deeply addicted month my internet bill reached well into three figures).

In the early days I learned about trolls and snerts and the downsides of the next. I had my first stalker on the net, which carried through to real life, scarily. Someone who spied on my conversations and then contacted my family with twisted details of them. All very bizarre considering I wasn’t really that exciting.  However, on the upside I also met my best friend, and even got introduced to my husband on the internet.

These are the ups and downs of socialising on the net. The extra joys and facets to a social life that would never have happened before the dawn of this technology, I no longer needed to join a club, I was a member of the human race. Something I hadn’t quite banked on, besides getting to know a wider ranger of people, was the access to the news in a way I’d never encountered before. News on my terms. News that was passed to me by one source and the freedom to check it and research it and look further into it to my heart’s content. And with this ability to learn more about the world came the awakening of my social conscience, to begin really questioning motives and decisions and policies. I’m not saying I was completely passive before. If you ask Beardie he’ll tell you I’m quite passionate about the things I believe in.

One day, in the history of my internet use, I  joined twitter. I didn’t have a clue, I was twitter jerk and didn’t get it at all. I hashtagged like an idiot and bored myself silly and left it alone for a while. When I did come back to it something clicked and I realised I could use Twitter to meet people who interest me, people who like the things I like and who believe in the things that I have a passion for. I primarily thought about music and my new home in Birmingham and how I didn’t want to be isolated in these things.

What happened next has been quite interesting, to say the least. We had a recession and then an election and from that day on social networking has assisted me to understand more, feel more and take part. I feel I have some point to my passion, some grip on my anger. I can write to MPs, Lords, I can have a pop at Tesco, Cameron, hooligans, who ever it is that makes me angry and I can do these things feeling bolstered by the knowledge that so many others feel the same way. Previously I had an idea that people were angry but thought (wrongly) that they were apathetic. They were not, they just needed some way in which they felt they could make a difference. It is not in all of us to march, wave banners or publicly protest in a very visual way. I am thankful that some people are, very thankful. But so many more people now feel they have a way of expressing themselves and feel part of something very important.

Social media is there for us to utilise in whatever way works for us. It might very well be that Justin Beiber is your new god of choice but it could also be that you are frothing with anger at the treatment of Romany Gypsies, disabled people, single parents, the poor, the unemployed, the NHS, the homeless, the soon-to-be-homeless, the uneducated and broke, the about to be educated and broke, the…oh look you get me. There is an awful lot to be angry about at the moment and I suggest that you get angry or passionate, that you do something about how you feel. Buy the CD, write the email, post the blog, make a difference.

My next blog is supposed to be about how to make chicken, sausage & seafood gumbo.  Hey…food…it’s important.

And Finally…

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Yes, so I’ve been away for a bit. I had to make some hard decisions about what I can do with my energies and blogging sort of came bottom. I’m not promising to do better.

I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough and I thought I’d share. After years of dreadful, mysterious and downright annoying symptoms the doctors finally decided to look at the whole instead of each individual symptom. Novel. I’ve been sent to this specialist and that specialist only to be told ‘no it’s not X’ or ‘definitely not Y’ but never being told what was actually wrong. Symptoms ranging from stomach and bowel problems, hair loss, painful joints, exhausted and sore muscles, feet that can’t cope with shoes or duvet covers, hands that need to soak in warm water because they’re too painful to touch, a feeling of being poisoned, a feeling of being windswept/overexposed, dry skin, headaches, nausea, well….the list goes on and on. It doesn’t always come at once, i get waves of feeling dreadful and get slight improvements, never back to my carefree days and then the dread feeling of the wave of greater illness coming on.

‘What’s wrong with you?’

Well, there are things i know that are wrong. A facet joint damage caused by a nasty car accident which took a couple of years to get over at the time but has never given me a day off work but does give me continuous pain. I also have a leg length differential which went on undiagnosed for long enough to start me on a path of osteoarthritis in my hip. I now have a cyst on that hip bone and am waiting for a replacement. But the other stuff, what could I say? ‘I feel ill’ ‘I’m exhausted’ ‘It hurts when you touch me’, it doesn’t really cut it for me and it doesn’t satisfy other people. I’ve often felt that people think I must be a bit of a hypochondriac, complaining of problems but never being able to say more than ‘joint pain’. I’ve recently found out that there is a recognised phenomenon of feelings associated with Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUS) directly related to other people’s perceptions of those symptoms. How can they be real if they don’t have a name?  I can assure you that those symptoms for me, and many others, are very real and have a huge impact on daily life.

Finally though I went to see a Rheumatologist who listed, looked, read my notes, asked questions, and then delivered not only a diagnosis but also a plan of action. The diagnosis was dependant on other diseases/syndromes being  ruled out by blood test. I went home and waited. Last week I came home from a busy busy day and sat completely wasted on the sofa, I carelessly opened my letters and glanced at a letter, another appointment for another Doctor I thought but no, it was THE letter. The specialist had gone to the trouble of not only giving me that diagnosis but listing all my other problems. I have multiple issues requiring an holistic approach to help me.  I have Fibroymalgia Syndrome, Chronic Facet Joint Syndrome, Leg Length Discrepancy, Right Hip Osteoarthritis requiring full Hip Replacement. I’m using capital letters, these are my enemies and they now have names and I respect them.

Fibromyalgia has been mentioned to me before but the list of symptoms seemed so horrendous I didn’t want it to be me. When I found it it was me I smiled, I cried a bit and felt completely relieved and finally felt recognised. The plan is to go to a Pain Clinic to assess my drug regime and see if anything further or different might help. I’ll also be given a physio plan designed to get me as fit as possible before my hip replacement after the summer holidays. My difficulties now are that I feel shattered walking to the bus stop, having to stop and assess my pain even on this short route and I pay for that walk all day. I fell very badly last christmas thanks to the hip and damaged my shoulder’s rotator cuff and a/c joint, this makes it very painful to use my walking stick and I’m worried about how I’ll cope taking all my weight off my hip. I’m hoping this physio will help with that.

Someone said to me, not long ago, when I was feeling extremely unwell, that I should give up my music and concentrate on work.  Why should I? You aren’t forced to chose a life of no fun/creativity and work yourself into an early grave, and I won’t take that path either. Money is important, work is vital for the family and for my wellbeing and while I can work I’m going to carry on,  but it’s not the be all and end all. At the moment I can only stay working full time by basically doing little or no house work and very little cooking. My amazing family supports me so that I can stay in work. I’d love to work part time and maybe improve my quality of life, reduce my pain etc but there’s no chance of getting higher DLA in the current climate which means I’ve got to continue grinding myself into the ground. Doing something pleasurable like music enables me to feel that it’s worth it.  Even so, one 25 minute gig leaves me feeling like I’ve squashed in an extra day’s work and I’m not sure I can keep up the balance, because it isn’t really balancing out. I hope the pain clinic can help that.

The current debate and plans for welfare reform horrify me. Not just for myself but for all people who are in unfortunate, vulnerable, weak or disabled circumstances. No one chooses to be made redundant, disabled, the parent of a disabled child, a vulnerable person, etc. No one wishes to be in a position where they’re unable to move out of house that’s too big due to housing shortages but unable to rent the spare room out due to threats of being criminalised. People don’t chose to give up work due to increasing illness as ‘lifestyle choice’ they do so because it’s Hobson’s Choice.  I feel very lucky that I can still drag myself in on my bad days, because I cling on to the knowledge that I can spend 48hrs in bed at the weekend if I need to. When the cost of my week in work exceeds the compensation of 48 hours in bed at the weekend then I will have to take stock again. I’m not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me but I have paid into the system that’s supposed to protect me and others in these circumstances. I need to know that if I can’t continue to work full time I’ll be supported to continue to work for as long as I can, as much as I can by a welfare system that is there to help me.

Faint Praise (shhh)

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

I regularly roll my eyes at Beardieboy for his lack of insight, inability to understand women and self confessed disconnection when he’s preoccupied. He leaves me curling my toes with his tendency to sleep in his day clothes; distresses me incredibly with his lack of ability to have a meaningful conversation. We have the most challenging relationship I’ve ever had in my life, in both good and bad ways. He drives me to total distraction, hurts my feelings and makes me feel isolated at times. At other times he is so caring, loving, and thoughtful I feel mean for ever having had a negative feeling about him. We work brilliantly as a pair of musicians, and wonder now why we waited so long to ‘get it on’.  He’s also pretty hot, for my money anyways.

The last few weeks I’ve been ill and had an operation on Monday. In all that time he’s been obscenely hard working. Up to 60 hrs a week at work, rehearsing, practicing his German (he’s now better than me – crapsticks) and on top of that he’s done ALL the cooking, virtually all of the cleaning and entertained the troupes. Even preparing the house for viewings, which means folding towels neatly and actually closing drawers.  He’s stepped up to the plate and he’s been the best husband a woman could hope for (apart from his infernal snoring). I’m not normally a sappy chick but when, in the past,  I’ve thrown my wedding ring at him for his utterly shittastic behaviour I’m now rather glad that he didn’t pawn it for guitar strings.

Don’t you dare tell him I said nice things about him. His head is frigging enormous.

in the next photo he sticks his tongue in my ear...this is sexy stuff girls

You Don’t Get Away From Me That Easily

Monday, February 21st, 2011

I’m back! It’s been a while eh. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been lost for words, I haven’t got bored of blogging and I certainly having ‘dried up’. No, it’s quite simple. I discovered this weird science shit, the time thing, y’know, the thingie about there being only 24 hours in a day and only seven days in a week. Who bloody knew? I was really pissed off when I found out.

There I was, working full time, husband, kids, au pair, dogs and goldfish, doing an NVQ at work and in my second year of studying towards accreditation as a Counsellor. At the same time as all of that I’m rehearsing, writing and performing music and attempting to be better than average at it. All of that and I realised that I quite like sitting on my arse doing nothing. It’s a bit gutting when you realise you’re really a lazy bint when you’ve signed up to be superwoman. It doesn’t really leave a girl with much room to manoeuvre. I decided to cut out all the bits I couldn’t manage to do. I stopped baking, I stopped making home improvement plans and I stopped writing my blog, for a bit, anyway.

I’ve got at least a couple of weeks off work now, possibly more.  This won’t be the last you hear from me.

technorati: B6FPEQBRHBUX

Invisible

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Anyone who follows me on twitter may be aware that I’m a fan of lifelong learning. Last September I took the hugely insightful Basic Training for Prison Work course, run by Prison Link who are a referral agency for the Probation and Prison services. Prison Link is a christian charity which works with Black Minority Ethnic prisoners literally acting as the link between their prison life and preparation for their new home life. They listen to them, support them and help the make the transition to a positive new start (hopefully). I learned so much but the more I learned the more I realised I knew nothing and had few skills to help. I decided to start a counselling course and was lucky to find one starting immediately, completing level one and level two in quick succession and through a lot of hard work and commitment.

Counselling is one of those things you can’t just walk into. You have to work your way through the learning process, from the bottom up, building experience with theory behind it so that you don’t go out into the big world and fuck up someone’s fucked up life just a little bit more.  I’ve learned about myself since I started studying. I’m now horribly aware of my selfish attitudes in conversation; of how I used to plan my next step in the middle of listening to your current sentence

‘my husband hates me, my life is falling part, I don’t know where to go from here….’

‘I just need to pick up some bread, and milk…and…sorry, what did you say?’

Yeah, I could be a bit shit, and without constant self awareness I still can be but I’m working on it. I also now know that what I thought were my weaknesses are my strengths. I’m told constantly by Beardieboy that I allow others to put themselves before me. I don’t see it like that. I make a decision to nurture and put the ones I love first.  I am in charge of that decision, I don’t feel put on. What am I here for? I’m here to take part, to be a mother and a partner and to do that well I do need to give of myself. I like that about myself.

So anyway, I decided to do level three. It’s a big step but it’s a step closer to working less for better reward. I work full time, taking an NVQ3 at work as well and have children, a husband, make music, perform, have friends, etc so take another course, with a demanding homework schedule is only for the committed. I also happen to have a mobility problem.  I mention it because it affects me but I mention it last because I don’t want it to rule my life (and god knows, it tries to).

I have stealthy arthritis in my hip, toes, hand, wrist, shoulder, blah blah blah. I also have a back problem from a nasty car accident over a decade ago. Go on, get your violin out. I write badly, and the longer I write the more painful it becomes and the less legible it becomes. I need to move regularly to stop myself ugly pained faces, you know, the usual shit. Oh and I get very tired, but hell, I’m a parent, I think it’s possibly in the job description.

I applied for the course and arrived at the venue. The seating was limited and all low with no arms. My nightmare. I can’t stand, I can’t sit. I had to ask to be shown to a proper chair like a great aunt. We filled in forms and were told they were oversubscribed. We needed to take a test and if we passed that, an interview. Isn’t this government’s funding policy great. A course is oversubscribed so…turn people away. Whatever you do DON’T put on another course.

I arrived to take the test and again there was nowhere to sit and I had to ask. They wheeled out a huge chair that had a sign over it with an arrow pointing at my head saying BLOODY NUISANCE. I sat on it and ignored the sign. We were directed to our test room and another lady with a walking frame was left at the back. She was audibly embarrassed so I strolled along beside her chatting to make her feel less so, making me last to arrive. I explained I needed the bathroom, was nodded at and went as quickly as I could. I got back and was shown a seat but before i could even take off my coat he said ‘turn over your paper’. I pulled him over and said ‘um, I need extra time. I have a problem with writing, because of my hand.’ He said ‘I WISH you’d told me SOONER’. Hm, like when?Perhaps I should have texted him from the loo. He stood looking indecisive for a few minutes until I said ‘The longer it takes you decide the more time I lose anyway thereby making me more disadavantaged’. I begrudgingly received an extra 10mins, but at the end of the normal time he looked at my paper and said that he could see that I don’t need more time so I could stop with everyone else.  I was so disgusted I agreed and handed my paper in without making my writing more legible, which was what i needed that time for.

I left the college feeling pretty invisible, no other word for it. I was made to feel different by another person’s indifference to my disability. I wasn’t asking for cotton wool, just a fair chance. I was determined that it wouldn’t happen again. It did.

Tonight I had my interview and they spent half of it asking me if i felt I could meet the learning outcomes of the course given my health problems. ie are you worth our effort? are you worth a place on this course? will you spoil our success rates? (how’s that for a multi-part question?) I had to fight my corner until I finally said, ‘I will not be refused a place on the basis of my disability’ to which a horrified face stared back at me. ‘oh no, there are a number of reasons why a person might be turned down, we just meant how would you feel if you couldn’t achieve the 80% attendance rate?’ Much like the rest of the class would I imagine. Shouldn’t they actually be asking me ‘how would we best support you in ensuring you are not disadvantaged?’ or how about ‘let us know if you’re ill and we’ll work it out’. All of the above.

They looked at me for further reassurance. I smiled and shrugged my shoulders, the penny dropped and they finally did say ‘if you are ill we could possibly arrange extra tutorials, but you might have to accept that if you have a long period of illness a deferment might be necessary but would be possible’, but it really was a long time coming . I looked at them and they looked up at the neon LIABILITY sign over my head and said they’d get back to me. I left feeling invisible again.

As it turns out they’ve accepted me on the course. I knew they would. My folder was great (it said so in the comments, if not on any of my overhead signs) and they realised I might make a fuss if they turned me down without good cause. I now have to get higher marks than anyone else to prove to myself that they didn’t just take me on out of fear.

I was going to become a counsellor for families of prisoners and offenders. I was going to do it to give people a chance to break the cycle. Now I can see that what I need to do is counsel people to enable themselves, so they can see past the boundaries and labels other people give them and they give themselves, so that they can become visible.

(sorry if that was a big maggoty dog turd of a post but I had something to say, and well, this is the pooch poop dumping ground).

Boys

Friday, September 17th, 2010

5yo: I’m going to chase after boys with my lips like this *purses lips for a kiss*, they run away…

me: I can imagine

16yo: We’re not at that stage in our relationship

me: Well just make sure it’s right for you (internally) thank christ for that!

19yo: I’m going to get drunk every night of freshers week

me: Think of your liver

19yo: You think of my liver

22yo: I’m getting a tattoo, on my back, with my nan and grandad’s names on

me: That’s lovely (internally) no names, no names ohhhh no names *mental note: you didn’t phone your dad and tell him*

Birmingham and I

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010


This is what you get when you put me to bed with a laptop.

I used to live in a beautiful little welsh valley town with a population of just under 3,500 which swelled to over 40,000 during the summer months. It was a town where 95% of the population is white and about 60% of the population is middle-class with the kind of lifestyle within the working classes that mirrors a few Enid Blyton/Viz stories (depending on your age and alcohol intake). My happiest memories were watching fish jump out of the river, sliding down the mountain into the bracken on pieces of cardboard, then eating my squashed white bread and jam butties and being in ‘clubs’ which were basically corners of someone’s dad’s shed, which we earned by mowing the lawn or picking up leaves. My brother’s favourite moments were catching the fish, punching me in the arm and throwing darts at my Sindy dolls.  Yes, it was nearly perfect (and we were the poor(ish) people).

In the next picture my brother kicks me

In fact, it was so perfect that when I grew up and got married, I determined I’d give my family the same kind of upbringing. I use the term ‘grew up’ loosely because I actually, stupidly, got married at 18 – not pregnant and no one tried to stop me! I had three kids and sadly divorced. I say sadly because although I am happily remarried now I feel that if I had understood life more I may have made more effort to make things work. I was not properly tooled up for the task at hand. Fortunately, neither myself nor my exhusband are total arses and we continue to have a pretty great relationship (this means I don’t call him a dick and he doesn’t call me a bitch – to our faces) and he’s a wonderful father to our three kids.  I stayed where I was, giving the kids the best I could afford, which wasn’t much but it was my best and eventually bumped into Beardieboy on the Internet one night, talking about music. It turned out we’d both performed on virtually the same circuit. We got on like a house on fire. This means we were happy chatting without the need to jump each others bones. It was all good. We started talking on the phone and eventually arranged to meet…

I’m going to skip the bit where we jumped each others bones, got sprogged up, got a business and then decided to get married. Maybe that’s for another day. Suffice it to say we did do that and then tried to sell the house in wales to move here. This is the house that I lived in for 20 years and raised 4 children in. By the time we’d sold it I was a heap of nerves, I was moving to a polluted pit of overpopulated, underfunded greyness and I was leaving my friends, family and fresh air behind. I was horrified, I questioned what kind of fruit-loop I must be. I photographed every inch of my house as if I’d never taken any photographs within the walls before. They basically led me weeping from my empty home and I cried the entire way to Birmingham.

A close up would show teardrops on the carpet.

A close up would show teardrops on the carpet.

I arrived, I moved in, unpacked and hated it. I hated you lot. You were all rude, all pushing and shoving, all in a  hurry, all didn’t care. I couldn’t believe how hung up on colour and culture you all were. I couldn’t get over how you all defined yourselves by these things and not by your individual nature. I was confused. I was Welsh yes, but mainly I was me, a creative being, frustrated by daft barriers of my own making, a mother and a musician and someone who was never happier than when feeding and comforting others. That’s it. I arrived here to find complex characterisations of people, by themselves and each other. People who defined their person by the fact that they were white Muslim, Pakistani Muslim, Irish catholic, black, Somalian black/Muslim, Sikh, white, Chinese, etc, etc. I was no longer surrounded by Johnny Saw (carpenter), Maggie who makes pots, Pete the Milk, Joanie Bigmouth (yes it’s true, she was the local fishwife, god love her). Suddenly I was surrounded by people who defined themselves by their religion or colour and I was confused. I didn’t know where I fit in, I didn’t know any welsh people,  I didn’t know anybody that wasn’t introduced to my by Beardieboy. I did know some musicians by this means, but it’s hard to find common ground with people who are as close to Napalm Death as you are to Alanis Morissette.

I remember the first time I took a stroll down City Road. I had my toddler in a buggy and I realised I couldn’t breathe such was the air pollution. I wept imagining what it was doing to my child’s lungs, came back and rummaged for an inhaler and never walked down that road with her again. The same happened when I went up Bearwood Road at home time. I couldn’t get over how dirty I was after a day shopping. The city is a dirty place. And the litter…don’t get me started on the litter. Cripes people, pick up some rubbish will you.

Our business ground to a halt overnight. I am not joking either. One day we were happily moving rich people from one big house to another, smiling and wrapping up their bone china, and the next day recession hit, and along with 10 other removals companies a week, we simply stopped working.  Fortunately we’re hardy buggers and Beardieboy immediately started driving HGV for the only growth business in the recession – Poundland. He’s never been out of work since, thankfully and I immediately got my job and was only out of work for the time it took to check I wasn’t a secret cat burglar.

I got my job working in the heart of public service, in the heart of the biggest court in Europe, in the heart of the second city and I loved it. I don’t talk about it, it’s my job. I do, however care about it. Through my job I’ve got to know the best and the worst or Birmingham, literally. I have learned about the driving forces behind city crime, community division, the risk of falling into the educational abyss, cigarettes, whisky and wild wild women. I’ve learned how cultural identities help people create communities in what would otherwise be a heaving pit of humanity lacking any cohesion. I’ve come to see how it can be positive for some people to identify themselves in this way in the absence of ‘the village’ and how it can cause strife. I love the diversity in this city, in my office, amongst my friends. I always have enjoyed diversity on the level of personalities but now there’s an extra dimension within culture/religion/ethnicity.

I find the city’s architecture fascinating. It’s such a challenging city. So chopped up by trends and ages but somehow it works. It’s exciting and forward thinking. Brummies are not afraid of a challenge. Not just in building but in so many ways. If you don’t believe me take a look at http://www.justdoit.org to see how many different organisations need you to make a better Birmingham.

I saw all this and set about making a life for myself here. I set about finding people who valued their own individuality and other peoples’. I’ve used social media for its most perfect purpose. I’ve found people I have got to know, and people I am getting to know and have noticed people I’d like to get to know and you are probably one of them if you’re reading this (especially if you’ve read this far).

I’m back writing and singing and am at the point of ‘putting myself about’ along with Beardieboy with our ‘Less for Murder’ project. It’s a strong project. We like it and so do others. I’m hopeful.  I’m even more hopeful for my eldest daughter who is displaying the result of being brought up surrounded by musicians and has a fearsome untapped talent that is jumping up and down to be heard. I’m just as excited for my son who is about to begin reading for his degree at Birmingham City University and for my youngest, who will grow up  remembering nothing of her birthplace, other than as a location we visit to see friends and family. Only my eldest has shown no interest in the city, but that’s ok. I remember hating it when I arrived. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

I am still welsh in my heart, the valley will always be mine. I still gasp for fresh air and feel my skin is suffocated by the pollution but I am hopeful and excited by this city and I feel I have a place in it, not just a nameless, faceless body in an unremarkable home but I have a place being me, being constructive and creative and contributing. After two years I’m ready to start taking part.

We Went to London

Monday, March 29th, 2010
A poncy photo of Big Ben by my photo crazy daughter

Look Ben, it's not big and it's not funny. Ok, so it's big, but it's not...

So, there I was bragging about how cheap it all was, what good value for money it was and how planning ahead was the way forward. I booked my train tickets  and hotel back in February and picked the tickets up on Friday to discover I’d bought outward and return journies for Saturday. Yep, both for Saturday. Arse.

I called thetrainline and explained how I was a regular and good customer, had made a genuine error and needed help to transfer my tickets. ‘I can do that for you, there will be a £50 admin charge’, I looked at the phone in disbelief, ‘but I can book new tickets for just £42, why can’t you just transfer them?’ ‘I can, the charge is £50’, ‘Waive the charge’, ‘No, I can’t I can only waive £10 or £20’ ‘Are you going to offer this?’ ‘No’. Ok thanks for your unhelp.

+£42

Arrived at the hotel to discover the the second bedroom information had overwritten the first bedroom information and we had a small double and large double for 5 people. The suggested the teenagers share a bed. ‘No, my daughter is 15, my son is 19, not only is it inappropriate it’s likely to end in violence, they’re siblings’  Oh well, we’ll move their room and put a foldout bed in your room for your five year old.  (So much for a romantic weekend). Oh and there’s an extra charge of £15 because our software system screwed up your booking. Arse.

+£15

We had plans to go to the Tate. Sidetracked by the companionship of a small scruffy bear from school (sent to accompany us on our travels), Beardieboy decides in his wisdom to take a detour to see Westminster ‘so the bear can have it’s picture taken’. No, really, this is true. We arrive at Westminster, haul arse to the wrong side of the Thames, glare at each other and the stupid bear has its stupid photo taken with the five year old, on the shoulders of Beardieboy, too close to the edge of the Thames. Consequently this detour resulted in a dozen photos of my five year old looking utterly terrified on the shoulders of a Beardieboy who smiled with barely masked anger due to me cringing at the sight of my child in such jeopardy. Fortunately the bear is quite photogenic.

image of a teddy drinking coke, it's ok though, it's diet coke

Paws drinking coke, it's ok though, it's diet coke

The detour also took an extra hour or so leaving us precisely 15 minutes to do the Tate and take a taxi back to Euston. Extra cost of unscheduled taxi was £12.80.

+£12.80

A picture of my derrier

Apparently this is me being a grumpy arse

Don’t let me plan your London trip unless you have a spare £70 cushion in your budget. I didn’t and it’s a good job we like lentils and beans.

picture of a lion statue at the Natural History Museum

At least some things are set in stone...not the price of trains, or hotels mind you.