Archive for the ‘…Because Life’s Like That’ 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!

Gardener’s Progress

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

I’ve always loved gardens and I’ve always loved food. We moved to this house 9 years ago and our garden has been completely neglected for much of that due to beardieboy not being a natural anything that doesn’t involve a guitar and me being progressively more ill as the years have past. I wanted to take control because we have a great location and space and because gardening is very therapeutic, both mentally and physically, it is also a good opportunity to get some vitamin d and teach the youngest about the value of the food that is on the plate. It’s narrow and very long and gets a lot of sun or would have done if the trees weren’t out of hand, so this is where we started.

This was the garden before we got started.

 

As you look down you can see thick hedges either side. The right side is our responsibility and that hedge was between 6ft and 9ft wide in parts, the hedge on the left is in far better condition and very compact beyond the new growth.  We had some tree surgeons and fencers in.

The hedge filled the entire garden next door as it was being cut down

three trees down, one polarded., fence up.

You can clearly see how ridiculously overgrown the garden was and what a difference taking that leggy messy hedge out and removing the trees has made. The hedge on the left got cut shortly after this making the garden seem even bigger. This was the winter of 2015. I started getting a veg plot together on a temporary site by March 2016.

I have mobility issues. Two bad hips, back problems, grip issues, shoulder injury and an energy limiting chronic condition so I needed to think smart. We couldn’t put the veg plot in its permanent home because the ground needed preparing but we bought a VegTrug to get me started. A vegtrug is a waist high planter that enables a person to manage the crop without having to bend down. They’re also very good for accessibility if  you are a wheelchair user as you can get close to the bed. They’re sturdy but also can be moved. I filled one and quickly went for another. I got two large ones, a herb planter and some vegetable grow bags. I researched growing potatoes and a lot of new thinking is around tubers in individual bags to get the best crop.  I bought a plastic greenhouse to bring the toms along and got started. I mainly used nursery raised baby plants to get started but had a mixed result growing from seed. I pretty quickly felt quite overwhelmed. I’d done a rookie error of putting too much in all at once, no progressive sewing or planting. Pretty quickly I’d gone from an empty garden, see above, to feeling like it was all a bit much, see below. The result of this was loads of veg, yes, but a huge flare up of the chronic condition meant my summer ended in the garden way too early.

Plans to get the garden layout done ready for this year flew out of the window shortly after my summer of gardening came to an early end. Beardieboy’s brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and nothing really mattered after that. I may talk about it another day but for now I’ll just say we lost him on valentine’s day and it’s only been in the last few weeks  that I’ve really got going again. I’ve got a second temporary larger greenhouse, a small vegtrug with a cold frame over the top and a couple of metre square raised beds as well. I’ve avoided spuds this year. Mainly cause even in the bags they were the most back breaking and difficult crop mobility wise. Instead I’ve added a number of different kinds of beans and peas into my plan. I’ve got broad, soya, runner, french beans, all grown from seed and a handful of nursery plants of runners that are looking pretty rubbish at the moment so I may well give them up and replace them with the seedlings instead of using them as a progressive crop. Last years’s seed planting had pretty poor results all round and that I think is down to the variability of my condition. I couldn’t always get out to water things when they needed it. This year my youngest has promised to help and is so far being a star. When the beds are in their permanent position they’ll be set up with a drip irrigation system. Hopefully that will put an end to mildew and other reasons for less than perfect results.

What am i growing this year?

All ready in the beds are carrots, onions, leeks, lettuce, courgettes, cabbage, cauliflower, strawberry, kale, runner beans, peas, broad beans. In the greenhouses I have tomatoes, peppers, chillies. I decided to work on my propagating and have a number of flower seeds in trays in the greenhouse. I also have soya beans, runner beans, purple french beans, lettuce, pumpkin, courgette, squash, rocket, all of which are coming on very well and benefiting from vigilance in the slug department and regular gentle watering. Not germinating yet are cucumber seeds but there’s still time.

In the raised square beds I’ve sewn drills of beet leaves, radish, beetroot and parsnip. The radish are having a field day and will be ready to thin this week, beet leaves and beetroot are coming on well and the parsnips are still a week or so short of germination.

Half the carrots will be ready early next month, they will make room for courgette and squash. I’m trying to think carefully, diarising my decisions so i can review them next year and make changes if required. I’ve got apple trees growing along the fence line and very shortly will be planting the cane fruit and bramble. I find myself praying for a lull in pain and an increase in energy to coincide with a day of good weather. I think that having that to look forward to and hope for is a very good thing for someone with a progressive illness.

Meanwhile we’re getting on with readying the permanent home of the veg plot, ready to move the raised beds in autumn and may even get round to laying a water supply and a lawn before then too.

I’m Back, Did You Even Notice I was Gone?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

It’s been a while. Lots of things have taken place, which I will expand upon another time, as if I told you all of it now you would weep for me. I will summarise, however, because I feel I need to justify my particularly long absence. We have had cleft-palate ops, experimental diabetes treatment, break ups, new relationships, three graduations, a serious motorway accident, aspergers, dyslexia and dyspraxia, deaths, illness forcing change of work pattens and tests for auto immune disorders. I wish I was joking. not that one jokes about much of that. It’s been a tough couple of years and we’re starting to slowly have longer and longer spells between shouting ‘FUCK YOU GOD’ very loudly. Yes, there’s at least a day between curses now.

My favourite gardening supervisor – one of far too many losses for us this last couple of years.

I remember back in 2014 making menus for the week and cooking almost everything in one day because i had so little energy by wednesday but even that was utterly miserable and unsustainable. I’m now working part time, I get chance to rest more and have spent some very important time focussing on trying to be active in a measured way. I took up gardening after years away from the soil. My lovely beardie bought me some raised beds to grow veg in and it’s like riding a bike (although I’m guessing that because I haven’t riden a bike since I was 12 and I don’t think exercise bikes count). I’ll be doing some fairly regular gardening posts as a result. I’m waiting patiently for a large greenhouse and potting shed. I’m told it’ll be between this growing season and the next so we’re busy digging out the ground to extend the shed base. When I say, busy digging,  it’s more like poking at the ground with a spade, grimacing with back pain, saying ‘FUCK YOU GOD’ and pushing all my grief into the soil. I pointed out that the next growing season will start earlier IF i get a greenhouse. That’s its job. If anyone has any new and interesting varieties of veggie seeds that they’d like field tested, feel free to get in touch. I’m not a novice more of an enthusiastic grower with something new to learn every day. I was taught a suprising amount of stuff that I remember now by my grandmother, late father in law and my dad, who now grows his own on a small scale after being an apprentice gardener many moons ago. There’s always the more experienced growers willing to share their knowledge. It’s like being a green geek.

What is it about being in your 40s that is so difficult?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

I’m 46 and I don’t care who knows it. I’m sure some of you would guess it and I’m sure others would argue I don’t look it. Only today I was told I don’t look old enough to have a 26 year old son or a grandchild. It was very nice of the complimentary person, but I don’t really care. I am 46 so would it matter if I looked it? Is there a secret special thing to looking younger? Will I be treated better? Who knows. Anyway, I’m 46. My biggest issues with my age are my utterly rubbish health and my wardrobe. Knowing I don’t care if I look 46 and then seeing me say I have a wardrobe problem doesn’t make much sense does it? Lots of people dress too old for their age, making them seem and act old before their time, a fixed attitude often gets adopted and the world shifts a little bit for every 40 year old who wears a calf length A-line skirt.

This is where I should insert a photographic example of a woman in an aging outfit but I was spoilt for choice. Google ‘frumpy’ and you’ll know what I mean.

It shifts even more for every 40 year old who steals nightclubbing outfits from their young adult offspring. A volcano erupts every time a 40 year old woman wears a plunging neckline or transparent top without a gravity-defying bra.

Perhaps a bra, madam?

A crevice appears in the streets of LA every time a 40 year old man renames himself Bert, wears braces and grows a handlebar moustache. Accept your reality and enjoy it. You don’t have to act like a 20 or 80 year old when you’re 40 (although if that IS your gig then enjoy it my friend, be happy), being 40 is great. Being 40 is all the experience with none (or little) of the incontinence. So who do we turn to to dress like ourselves but ourselves in our 40s? What shop is that recipe from? Jacamo? Wallis? I don’t know but I’ve yet to find the written rule book. There are obviously those words that don’t need to be spoken when a 48 year old man wields a replica 80s Adidas bag or when a woman of 47 buys a dress with cut aways in it.  On one hand I admire the determination to wear exactly what you want regardless of whether you’re slavishly following trends or whether you’ve worn this style of dress for 30 years and you’re not changing now; but on the other hand I feel like there should be more, a layer of shopping and fashion that is not round, one that we can’t access and have no help with  so can we be blamed for looking ridiculous or mundane beyond measure? Yes I’m judging, but I’m not just talking about the choices that we make, but also the choices that we have. Anyway, it’s nothing to worry about, if my crap is just crap, I’m not the Minister for Age-Appropriate Clothing for Ex-Goths and Metalheads, Post-Pubescent Punks and People Who Can’t Dress Down, Even 2 Weeks into a 2 Week Holiday. No, I’m just a person in their 40s trying to be comfortable with my style and questioning whether I ever had one. I have also watched my friends, who used to be hippies, heavy metal faithfuls, new romantics or punks really struggle with the ‘what do we wear now?’ question.

I’ve tried every kind of fashion, non-fashion and trend. Some are a disaster on me, others better, but really I’ve only known one style suit me all my life and I don’t even know if it suits me, I just like it and that’s enough. I bought my first nehru collared tunic from Phool with my Saturday job money at the age of 15. I have loved the simplicity of Eastern design for ever. The last time I bought such a thing was yesterday, a pretty shirt from East but I love kurta and admire a lot of the Asian designs my friends wear. I prefer plain but colourful or simple prints. The main difference, 25 years on, is the design, the accessories and mainly the person inside it.

The only think that seems to be a constant is the older you get the more you have to spend to look good. Where I used to be able to buy a high street dress/trousers from the likes of New Look or River Island I find that I have to pay a bit more and at the very least go to Next and M&S for the basics. I’m the UK average, a 16 and have had four kids. Let anyone who has had one baby fill you in on that, there’s a lot of things that can no longer defy gravity *grim nod*.

Other than the basics and apart from liking Eastern influenced design I have a huge fondness for European lagenlook (which means ‘layering look’ in German) . I have bought a number of pieces over the last few years including a Mary Portas dress which fits into the oversized, layering style of lagenlook that I bought just yesterday (it sounds like I’m always shopping but I’m not, I can’t remember the last time I came home with shopping bags containing clothes for me). Leaders in design of Lagenlook include Sarah Pacini, Rundholz, Privatsachen, Completo Lino, Hebbeding and, well the list is by no means exhaustive and I’ve found the odd piece that fits the look in Primark but that is unusual.

A beautiful outfit from Amalthee Creations. I adore it but the total of the three pieces is over £200. It’s undoubtedly good quality and well designed but ouch.

 

The clothes are normally very expensive and well made, they transcend the changing seasons of fashion but at the same time can be very edgy and fashionable. I have friends in Germany who are extremely chic with what appears to be no effort, which usually means it’s cost them a bob or two. I need a job with a better salary to enjoy such comfort but I keep buying bits and pieces and know that it is never wasted money (the resale on lagenlook is suprisingly good and very consistent). My difficulty with this style of clothing is that because it’s expensive and because I can’t afford much of it I can’t wear it to work on a daily basis because I can’t wear it consistently so I’d rather stick to relatively mundane for work and keep my happy clothes for outside of work.

One day, when my older children are out if uni and relatively self-sufficient or when I win the prize of a better-paid, more enjoyable job, or even when my ship comes in, I’ll wear what I want all the time. I’m sure it will look great with grey hair.

This Week’s Menu

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

We both work full time, Beardie often works more than 12 hours a day so needs lots of food to keep him going. I have diabetes and fibromyalgia so i have to watch my diet. Although we work full time I very rarely resort to ready meals mainly because of the high fat/sugar content in them, so when I do feel too ill to cook or too tired I don’t feel so guilty buying the odd one.

Breakfast
Homemade multigrain porridge
3 parts oats
1 part rye flakes
1 part barley flakes
dried berries, usually try to include some ‘superfood’ like goji berries, but tastes just fine with mixed fruit in. Make as usual with skimmed/semi-skimmed milk and a dollop of fat free greek yogurt.

Lunches
Jungle chicken curry (fresh ready meal) and deli samosas – £1.44 reduced from £4 at tesco.
Lemon couscous stuffed bell peppers with lemon and cracked pepper mackerel
Lentil soup
Vegetable soup
Leftover Christmas Cheese and bacon Frittata

Dinners
Monday – Freezer fish stew
Tuesday – Chicken and chickpea casserole
Wednesday – Sausage and red wine casserole
Thursday – Left over day (I always make too much of everything)
Friday = Christmas party chilli (evidence that I make too much of everything)

The soups are home made and follow no set recipe. I always make a litre to fit in empty ice cream tubs I use two stock cubes, 2 sticks celery, 1 large onion, salt and pepper in everything I make. The veg soup this week has sprouts, carrots and parsnip in but I’ll use whatever veg i have in the house. The lentil soup has a full mug of dahl lentils in (just a mix of lentils, ready mixed for the supermarket but my experience is a cupful of any lentils will work), carrot and cabbage. Be as adventurous as you like, I leave the garlic out if it’s soup for work.

I found a recipe online called ‘leftover cheese pie’ but figured the cheese made it fatty enough, without pastry so I just made the old faithful frittata and replaced the usual cheddar with whatever was left from christmas – stilton and cheddar with chive. Now I know it works I’ll keep my eye open for reduced cheese chunks. My general rule of thumb is I cook enough vegetables to ensure I can’t see the bottom of the pan (all are optional except the onions and potato) –
diced courgette
onions/spring onions
peppers (sliced frozen peppers are £1 a bag at iceland)
mushrooms
celery
broccoli
1 large potato microwaved, skinned and thinly sliced (or left over spuds from your sunday roast)
6 large free range eggs well beaten and approximately a mug of grated cheese.

You can sweat the veg off in a frying pan then put them into a quiche dish add the eggs and cheese and bake for 20mins at 180c or if you have a hob to oven pan just stick it all in and pop it in the oven. Once it’s cooled slice it into thick wedges and wrap in greaseproof paper, keep in the fridge.

The Death of a Lonely Bewildered Widow

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Like the biggest tragedies throughout the history of Great Britain, the loss of our industry and the discouragement of social responsibility through the lives of an entire generation is something that continues to cause pain to the people of this country, it is an open wound, unfinished business, an unrepented sin against the working people.

The death of Margaret Thatcher is not something that should be celebrated, in my view, it is sad. It is sad that the irony of her death is not realised by her home county buddies. That her children barely saw her as she lost her grip on reality, that her so-called friends thought the best thing for this frail, demented, elderly widow was to put her in a hotel, thereby fulfilling their responsibilities toward their ‘friend’ in the twilight of her day. She died, like many old people in today’s society – alone, not really cared about, dealt with; those who were meant to be there had consciences clear. Why did this happen? It happened because in three terms as prime minister, Margaret Thatcher may well have led the country with authority but she did so by pushing down the poor, encouraging selfishness and greed in those who wanted a better life and made them believe that by putting themselves first and trying to attain more wealth they could achieve that better life. She did very well, and her buddies in power today continue to do this well. So she died in a manner befitting, with no one considering her, no one caring, all too busy making their own money and using it to put her where they didn’t have to think about her. That is what she considered was the right way to live and so it must be the right way to die, for her. It’s very sad though, as a human being I feel sorry for her in death and the way she was left to decay, regardless of her unforgivable behaviour in life.

I won’t be celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, I think my time is better spent thinking about the families and communities who were torn apart by the loss of the coal and steel industry and the people who lost an important part of their souls along the way to their success. The behaviour of the bankers who caused this new tragedy of global financial despair lived exactly by the words of Margaret Thatcher and they continue to rake it in while the poor really do continue to reach breaking point (that’s the point that’s so far under the breadline that most of us can’t comprehend it). My Nan, in the final days of her life, with all those she loves around her, told me that the important things in life were the ones you need to take the most care of and she also told me that there are no pockets in a shroud. At the end of your life, all that wealth she encouraged people to accumulate, that stays here and you leave. You are no better off in the ground a rich man than a poor man. I’m sad for Margaret because she didn’t have my Nan’s wisdom.

April Fools Day Plebs!

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Today Britain will wake up to the greatest changes in modern times.

Bedroom Tax will come in, anyone making a new claim for Disability Living Allowance will be put through the lower paid PIP test (this, apparently this lesser amount of money to support their medical care and mobility needs will give them greater personal independence). Let’s not forget there are still test cases being considered in court for the most profoundly disabled of us (and they are among us, they are not just ‘them’, they could very well be you or I tomorrow), as the Independent Living Fund is being taken away and councils will be expected to help these people themselves but the money for the funding of complex care will not be ring-fenced – ultimately human beings will end up being hostage in their own bodies as councils opt to use nappies for disabled people who are NOT incontinent so that they can leave them alone all day, put currently dignified adults to bed at 5pm so that we can pay carers less and people who are currently working, studying, contributing to society will be confined to their homes or IN HOMES as councils may find this the only way they can ‘manage the problem’ of the severely disabled, yet the fund is working well as it is and is very cheap in comparison to putting human beings into ‘homes’ that couldn’t be further from homes.

Let’s also not forget that ESA is already under deep scrutiny by everyone except those how prefer not to know the facts and those who are implementing it. The assessments, in a bid to make them fit everyone, fit no one. People are actually dying because of the assessments and NOBODY THAT CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT IS DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

BUT, back to today From today, Councils across the country will ask the lowest earners to start contributing to their council tax (on top of them potentially losing up to a quarter of their housing benefit through the Bedroom Tax). Let’s not forget that these people, many on minimum wage, in part time jobs, TRYING, are kept below an acceptable standard of living by a subsistent benefit system.

FROM TODAY, The NHS WILL NO LONGER BE, at least not the way you know it, all decisions will now be made by GPs, not NHS trusts, but not really by GPs cos they don’t have time (who gets to see their gp when they need them?) , instead it will be done by PRIVATE management companies who will put all works and supply opportunities out to tender, what where it goes from there, but don’t worry about neck ache, standards won’t be going up!

From today, thousands of ordinary people will lose access to Legal Aid. That’s it, if you need legal help, screw you, you should earn more and then you can have justice.

Universal Credit rolls out, only in one area, and why is that? because it’s so badly designed and the system has so many bugs that thousands of people are likely to be left high and dry while system errors are resolved. It’s a social disaster waiting to happen.

Welfare Benefit Cap will start. Let’s hope none of us need more than the national average to live on. Which sounds ok, if you’re an average family, in a part of the country where you need the average income, I’ve yet to meet a family like this.

Benefit Uprating will start, this is bringing benefits in line with inflation, which is a good thing because so many people in social housing, under most councils will be an average of £900 a year worse off due to the rest of the cuts. Imagine trying to cut your monthly budget by £75 when you’re already only able to spend £50 a week to feed your family of four.

On the plus side the 50p tax for high earners is being scrapped, good eh! We’re all in it together.

You might think that nothing except the NHS changes affects you (as if that’s not enough for you to grab your pots and pans and make some bloody noise!), but you’re wrong, if your neighbours are suffering, then your community suffers, domestic abuse will rise, child neglect will rise, illness (depression, suicide, self harm) will all rise, obesity will rise (it’s STILL cheaper to eat processed food than eat fresh wholesome food), homelessness will rise, crime will inevitably rise. All this affects you. You, me, everybody. We’re all in this together, us, the 99%.
Things were not even this bad under the last draconian Tory government (and let’s not kid ourselves about who in this coalition is in charge, shame on your leaders libdems) Write to your MP, whoever they are and whoever they represent politically because regardless of their politics they are paid to represent you and if you don’t tell them what you want from them they will assume you don’t mind what they do. Write to your council, protest, tell your friends (it’s amazing how many people don’t know what’s happening). Be peaceful, PLEASE BE PEACEFUL but be heard, make a BIG NOISE. Tell the opposition what you expect from them if they get into power, make people responsible for the promises they make. Stand up for what you believe in. Love your fellow man, oh and please stop reading the Daily Mail.

More Information

Things you can do:

  • Write to your MP here
  • Write to your council by googling your council , eg search for Birmingham Council, a council website usually ends in .gov.uk and following the ‘contact us’ links. 
  • Write to your favourite newspaper by sending letters to the editor.
  • Organise or take part in peaceful demonstrations by searching for them on social networks like facebook or twitter, just search the thing you want to protest against along with your area, eg ‘chester’ ‘nhs cuts’ and see if there is an activist group in your area. Remember you have the right to peacefully protest, please do not ever use violence, we aim to make the world a better place. 
  • tell your friends and neighbours, start conversations, inform people and read more, inform yourself. knowledge is power!
  • Join twitter, search for the subject you are angry about, you will often find a hashtag has been created (a hashtag is like a subject heading, it helps you join the conversation about the things that you want to talk about) eg #bedroomtax and read the tweets, answer them, write your own. Do not underestimate the power of your own words and beliefs
  • sign a petition – be thoughtful about this, sign a petition that you believe closely represents your views, again this helps you be heard.
  • join in in your local community. Many of us live in a small bubble, never reaching out to those we live among. Say hello to neighbours, check on the old and infirm. Can you do more? Probably, most of us can. Why should you? Because your life and the lives of others will be improved.
  • all the other stuff I haven’t thought of. I am just one person, I can’t think of it all, but together we can come up with more ideas, more ways of making ourselves heard, giving ourselves a voice, making our lives better.#

What are all these benefits you’re talking about?

Who’s losing Legal Aid? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21668005

Universal Credit – a proposed system of benefit payments where most benefits will be made in one single monthly payment, this benefit will be given at some level to all people who are either out of work, in work or unable to work if their household income does not come up to the required minimum without assistance. It is not just an out of work benefit. You can find out more about it from Shelter here

ESA – ESA is not disability benefit. It is similar to the old Sickness Benefit, in that it is given to people of a working age who are unable to work for reasons of health. Some of these people will recover, like when you break your leg and need 7 months off recouperating, or if you have a continuous and debilitating illness such as severe depression, cancer, mental health issues, fibromyalgia, arthritis, epilepsy etc. The difference in the new benefit (ESA stands for Employment Support Allowance) is that ESA requires the applicant to have an assessment, currently managed by ATOS. This assessment is meant to determine if the sick person may be able to return to work (not immediately but at some point in the future, with support). However it does not offer support it directs them to complete unpaid work or if they can’t do that (possibly because the assessment is wrong) then they can either appeal (currently 40% of those who appeal win, more when professional help is given) or come off the ESA altogether and go on Jobseekers Allowance. There have been problems with this when the person is clearly too ill to be seeking a job they have been directed to reapply for ESA and the process starts again. The people assessed as being able to work in some way are placed in the WRAG (work related activities group) the others are placed in the support group before being reassessed at some point in the future.  Government info about ESA here and the controversy about it here

Disability Living Allowance – this is not an unemployment benefit,  a person who is disabled may or may not be working and in many cases may only be able to work due to the support given to them through the DLA. A person who is sufficiently disabled can be assessed and receive Disability Living Allowance for either a set period or for life if it is clear they will not get better. There are two components: Mobility and Care, each of those components can be given at a low, medium or high rate. A person may receive both components if their health requires that much support to help them maintain a degree of ‘normality’ in their lives.  – From 1st April 2013 any new applicants or current recipients who need their care reviewed will be put on to PIP (personal independence payments) .  You can find out the government facts about DLA here and about PIP here

Housing Benefit is for low income households, a portion of the housing costs are met through housing benefit. If the family’s income increases the housing benefit will be removed or stopped.  From 1st April 2013 families can lose up to 25% of their housing benefit if they live in social housing which is assessed as having too many bedrooms. It is believed that two-thirds of those who are in this position are disabled or have disabled children. You can read and get advice about Bedroom Tax here

Independent Living Fund – a government fund for those of us with the most complex care needs, which is about to be decentralised to councils who have no obligation to use the funding for its current purpose, leaving councils to decide what standard of ‘life’ is acceptable to the most vulnerable in their community. You can read about the fight to stop this here


 

 

Planning or the Absence Thereof

Monday, February 20th, 2012

I’m not even going to pretend to be any kind of expert in sociology or policy.  I’m not going to pretend to be poor, although I have been. There was a time in my life as a divorced mum, working in a number of part time jobs, that I got by by going around kwiksave with my head down, never changing the list, never buying biscuits, squash, sauce, soft loo roll, etc. I never had new things, we lived in second hand clothes, I never had a car and didn’t take holidays. I was 35 before I had Sky TV and went to the cinema about once a year.

Today I work full time and earn a low but steady wage, my husband earns reasonably too, albeit by working 50-60hrs a week. We are currently ok, but if my disability becomes increasingly problematic (as it is threatening to be) then we may have problems, mainly because we no savings other than in the equity of a house that we’re unable to sell in a financial crisis. We feel lucky though, we have our own house and know that if times turn harder we could rent a room out and make ends meet.  We live on a nice street but just a street away there is evidence of extreme poverty. I live in Birmingham edging on Sandwell and this evidence is everywhere. I see stressed people. I also see a real lack of job opportunities and an increasing lack of hope.

The Guardian (who are doing a stunning job of reporting attacks on those who cannot defend themselves and the very nature of British society) have noted London council plans to assist people to be rehoused to cheaper accommodation in yorkshire, hull etc.  I’ve seen an unsubstantiated report that Haringey council are planning on/already in the process of rehoming people to Birmingham. Let’s think about that for a minute. Birmingham where the Birmingham Mail reported in December last year that we are currently only building half the housing stock necessary and that the West Midlands as a whole has a housing crisis. Birmingham where the Post reports we have the highest unemployment rates in the country. In 2008 the Guardian reported that Birmingham was the epicentre of child poverty in Britain. Oh but that was then, this is now, now we see that 46% of children in Ladywood are living in poverty. So for every two children you see in Ladywood you know one of them is potentially going hungry. We see that food banks here are one of the few growth projects. I could go on, fuel poverty, crime rising, you name it, we’ve got it. (Don’t tell my mum, I don’t want her to worry.)

How can moving people to places already riddled with difficulties help them or the area they’re moved to? Do you think this will make the people happier. Are we to get extra funding? Extra youth clubs? Hm, doubtful. I reckon we may see extra food banks though.

The only comforting thought when councils make ridiculous statements like ‘To live in Westminster is a privilege, not a right‘ is that they will be able to boast of plenty of job opportunities in the lower end of the job market in their area because no one will be able to afford to live there and fill those vacancies. The other comforting thought is that while more and more unemployed, desperate people flood the west midlands seeking low rent accomodation  then the area will need increasing numbers of drug & alcohol workers, nurses, teachers, council staff and police.  Yay for social engineering.

 

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.

The Man in the Park

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Mads sat at the table tonight and described a man, whom she saw one day, in the park.

“He had Gangster clothes on and had a dog”

Me: ‘oh he sounds mean’

Mads: ‘Yes, he was reaaaallly mean’

Me: ‘he had Gangster clothes on? Tell me about that…’

Mads: ‘He had a biker jacket on’

Me: ‘oh yes, very menacing…’

Mads: ‘But he cut the arms off, it was sleeveless’

Beardie: ‘So he was wearing Summertime Gangster clothes?’

Mads: ‘Yes, and he was covered in tattoos, all over his body, on his face he had a snake around his face!’

Me: ‘wow, he sounds interesting’

Mads: ‘Yes, and he had dark blue trousers on and they were short and you could see the bottom of his leg and he had the word ‘England’ on it’

Me: ‘oh, that’s quite a look’

Mads: ‘He had sandals on too’

Me: ‘A gangster in sandals?’

Mads: ‘He has tattoos on his feet as well, but one didn’t say ‘Wales’ on it’

Me: ‘Did he have painted toe nails?’

Mads: ‘no they were tattooed with um, A, B, C *thinks to self* up to um, J on his toes’

Me: ‘Oh and what does it say on his hands?’

Mads: *holds out hands, pointing to one finger at a time’* ‘look.at.my.feet.if.you.want.to.know.the’ *turns hands over to show palms* ‘and then on this side it said – Alphabet’

Me: ‘but he only has the letters up to J on his toes, what about the rest of it?’

Mads: ‘he doesn’t use the rest of the alphabet. He had a dog too, as well’

Me: ‘oh right, yes, that’s quite a look, all that and a dog’

Mads: ‘and he had words written in the snake on his face as well, perhaps it was the other letters of the alphabet’

Me: ‘perhaps it was, and tell me about the dog’

Mads: ‘it was a Chiuahaha’.

I wish I could draw this man, but I never want to meet him.