Archive for February, 2012

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.

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.