David Cameron’s Cap… #wrb

Image

Following today’s bullying over-rule of The Lords’ amendments to the much feared Welfare Reform Bill, it seems that David Cameron has indeed got his new cap…

Dying for a fag…

Smoking in cars should be banned. 

Today the BMA have called for smoking in cars to be outlawed due to the effect 2nd hand smoke can have on passengers, particularly children.  I absolutely applaud this, even though it will cause massive outrage to smokers who already have chips on their shoulders as large as the tar on their lungs, over the public spaces ban. 

Ms Cushion would love to see smoking made illegal whilst driving in particular, also ban other distractions like putting on lipstick, eating, kids, changing radio channels after some selfish git someone else drove your car, drinking hot drinks and using mobiles.  What, mobile use already banned, who knew? 

I used to smoke.  I used to open new cigarette packets, light them, drop them, frantically search for lit ones on the floor of my car and nearly crash as a result.  How many of us have thrown a lit ciggie out of the drivers window, only for it to come back in the passenger’s window behind?  Whilst smoking in cars is dangerous to passengers health, it is also dangerous to the driver and other road users.. which is why I support the ban.

RIP Deborah Lawson

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/838249-dropped-cigarette-caused-kent-car-death

Fruity pigtails.. #water

Ha! Tricked you… if you thought this was going to be a cheeky post about my pigtails I am sorry.. well, not *that* sorry. Now you are here, you may as well read on, right?

My bathroom sink is blocked.  The water stays in it for ages now. This morning I looked down at it and it appeared to be yellow.  It wasnt, the yellow was from the amazing sunshine we had today, bursting in through the window and lighting up the whole room.

Yellow water took me instantly back to rural Spain where I lived for 5 years.  We lived in a tiny hamlet that had electricity but no mains water.  My Spanish neighbours, who grew fruit and vegetables had Riega water (agricultural water sent to order via big concrete pipes).  We had ours via a truck.  That sounds mad. It was mad.

I would phone Pepe in my broken Spanish, Pepe would promise to bring water. Pepe wouldn’t turn up. I would phone him again the next day, he would ignore the call or promise but again fail to deliver.  After several days of this my neighbour would go to the village to find him in the bar, he would turn up three hours later with our water. 

I didn’t have a pit for the water so he would put it into our pool… we would then clean the water (which was always yellow with a green tinge and contained various bugs and small frogs) and pump it up to our house as and when we needed it.. Every time we used the water, the pool water dipped. Once it had dipped by about a metre, it was no longer possible to keep it clean properly as the level fell below the filter height.  The water would return to yellow, tinged with green and mosquitos would make it their home.

That is how we lived for 2 years.  Clean water for a week then dirty, smelly water for three until we started to run out and had to try to track down Pepe again. One day Pepe bought a lovely new truck. It was too big to get around the corner before my house so he simply couldn’t deliver.  Without water we could no longer live in our little Spanish hamlet, work dried up at the same rate as our remaining swimming pool water so we reluctantly packed up and returned to live in the UK.

I feel so blessed to live in a country where our tap water is clean and drinkable.  Every time I have a shower I say thank you for being able to wash my hair and for it to smell of apples afterwards instead of pond.

Splash ; )

 

Help others to have clean water by donating what you can and please don’t waste this gift we have been given.

(Remind me one day to tell you about the Riega water system and how I showed the old Spanish men that women aren’t *all that* incapable after all)

M.E and my #ATOS test…

Today I had my dreaded medical examination with ATOS in Luton.  I arrived on time, thanks to The Mothership chauffering me. She couldn’t get parked anywhere near the centre (which has NO designated parking – what a massive fail that is) so she drove to a side street and I went in alone. 

I was in a great deal of pain today, mostly due to my neck flaring up and so the receptionist let me sit down and she came out of her office to “book me in”.  After a 15 minute wait, I was asked to walk down a long corridor to meet Dr D.K.Mallick.   Dr Mallick was lovely, which really surprised me as the last “Dr” I saw there was extremely cold and defensive with me. 

He began by asking me about my recent foot operation, moving on to cover my last employment, medication, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Home life, neck problems and Mental Health.   This took over 3/4s of an hour. It should have taken half of that time.. The reason?  The computer system for Luton and several other towns (names escape me but they were local), has had “issues” since December.  Where they used to handle 10 claimants per day, now they are lucky to see 6.  At one point he was so frustrated and embarrassed he threatened to walk out in protest.  I am pretty sure it is a “sharing” issue as the form he fills in is online.  Possibly the broadband speed needs increasing. Anyway, I’m not a computer expert but it’s pretty much fucked up borked.

Dr Mallick skipped through a few points (including the physical exam) as he was so stressed and could see I was in a lot of pain. He did have a look at both of my feet though and told me that I would probably be called back in 6 – 12 months.  Luckily for me, I won’t have to go back as I have been offered a job working from home.  My Fabulous New Bossman (FNB) knows all about my health issues and is happy for me to do what I can, when I can.  I have, for once fallen *on*  my feet instead of falling because of them! 

Something struck me though during the process, he kept referring to CFS in a “mental” disorder, rather than a neurological condition. I called him out on this at the end of the session and he explained that the computer test is set that way.. However, this link from @latentexistence   clearly shows that CFS is regarded as a physical condition for DLA claimants. I hope that when the current ATOS test is reformed, this is corrected.

Although my examination went well today and the good Dr told me that I should have passed with no problems, the ATOS test is badly managed.  Claimants who should be exempt are still being called in, the current test is a “tick box” one which is simply not working. 

Please sign the petition below if you care about this important issue.

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/sack-atos-healthcare/sign.html

Want to make an FOI request about ATOS? Click this link: http://foiwiki.com/foiwiki/index.php/Main_Page

****UPDATE***

Whilst I gained enough points to qualify for ESA, I was added to the “Help back to work” group and an interview was arranged for me at the Job Centre.  I never made it to the interview however as I was lucky enough to be offered a job by my neighbour.  I have been working for him ever since and am SO grateful to him I can’t tell you, nobody else would have given me such a chance with my recent sickness record (and another operation pending).   I now have my dignity, a decent standard of living (despite what some say, life on benefits is REALLY hard) and I met a lovely man who fell in love despite my very attractive boot ; )   I know I am one of the lucky ones but I promise to keep fighting for the rest of you who are being so very badly treated by this government. Much love, HC x

The Winner Takes It All.. too far?

Wikipedia statistics show that 15% of alcoholics commit suicide. Fact.  As many as 25% of alcoholics suffer from severe psychiatric disturbances.  The most prevalent psychiatric symptoms are anxiety and depression disorders. What leads an individual to take his/her own life is a subject for another day, this post is about one alcoholic in particular. Her name is Rachel Butler.

Rachel Butler is an alcoholic.  She is also a woman whose husband left her just after Christmas (just 2 weeks ago).  She has not only lost her husband which, although the marriage was (in her own words) long dead, she has lost her dignity to boot.   

For most people, a relationship breaking down is painful and stressful enough. Add to that alcoholism, betrayal and mistrust (regarding dates) and what have you got?  A terribly vulnerable woman who, rightfully or wrongly gave an interview to the press…

A former friend is now openly having a relationship with the available husband John (but only SINCE he left the family home we are told ). Upon being informed that Rachel had given an interview to The Mail, this friend posted press releases on her blog-page which state that Rachel is an “abusive alcoholic”.  Amongst these is one from Rachel Butler’s daughter Lucy in support of her father’s new relationship, denouncing her mother. Heartbreaking.

The statements were then published in full, in The Daily Mail and many other national newspapers since.  In response, the distressed Rachel has admitted she is an alcoholic, declared that she would name her former friend on the divorce petition and labelled her a “marriage wrecker”.  The Daily Mail again acting as host.

It’s all gone a bit Jeremy Kyle with this publication (but without the patient doctor waiting in the wings to offer his help). Nor are there bouncers at hand to prevent the parties from further blackening not eyes but reputations on all sides.

Time for our media to grow up and take some responsibility, this is not a side-show, these are real people, one of whom at least is extremely vulnerable.  They should not allow or encourage even more damage to be done to an already damaged woman, in the name of readership figures and “entertainment”.  Why not? I refer you back to my first paragraph.

I truly hope that the rest of this sorry tale can be played out in private, with all sides finding the help and happiness they deserve.

If you would like to speak in confidence about an alcohol problem you can contact Alcoholics Anonymous here.  The NHS also offer advice on their “Live Well” page, which has links for your local area.

* Since finishing the post I have discovered this Daily Mail article..  “on and on it goes, where it stops, nobody knows”: Willy Wonker.

** This post has been edited since first publication as it contained my personal media experiences which I have since decided to delete.

Crisis? What Crisis? #LHA

Thought I should write about today.. Today we had our application for a Social Fund Crisis Loan turned down. It seems that as we are not “at serious risk” we do not qualify. Even if we had, they would have disallowed the rent deposit and referencing costs anyway, only paying removal expenses and one month’s rent in advance…

If you want to rent a house through a Letting agent, they always ask for referencing costs and 1.5 months rent to be held by a third party incase of damage to the property.  When you vacate, should there be damage they will take the repair costs from your deposit, returning the difference.

Letting Agents are reluctant to rent properties to Local Housing Allowance (formally known as Housing Benefit) recipients.  They blame the landlords and insurance companies for this. Although Letting Agents are prevented by law to discriminate against disibility, race, gender etc, there is no such law in place to protect other LHA claimants.  Nor does the current legislation go far enough, the onus is on the claimant to prove the discrimination is down to their personal status. This is very difficult to prove and the Agent can merely blame the landlord/insurance company anyway…

Another problem that was highlighted by the Agents I spoke to is that LHA is now paid to the tenant, not the landlord/agent – except in certain circumstances.  This has put a great deal of landlords off from renting to LHA tenants, the result of this change in policy having serious affects on the rental market.

So the problem is.. I have a large deposit tied up on my current house. I have no money, having been made redundant in November. We have overstayed our tenancy and our landlord has applied to the court for an eviciton order. Our local housing association have no vacant properties within 15 miles of my childrens schools. It is GCSE year for my eldest so moving out of the area is out of the question.  In three weeks time I will be physically incapable of moving house myself, following my foot operation.

I am not looking for sympathy nor help by writing this blog, I am writing it as a record of the problems faced by people in my situation.  It was suggested to me that I take this up with my MP. That is out of the question so I will ask another about a possible change to the law, preventing Letting Agents from discriminating against LHA recipients in this way.  Perhaps the Government could offer it’s own insurance for LHA claimants?  Also, I suggest an urgent return to LHA being paid directly to the agent/landlord, this policy (introduced in 2008) is NOT working and although the idea behind it was to give tenants more financial responsibility, it has served to create chaos within the housing market.

I’ll keep you posted.. in the meantime I am praying for a HA property to become available in our area.

2010 in a coconut-shell…

2010 was weird and wonderful in equal measure.  As I lost my mobility and personal freedom, I gained Twitter and blogging.  Twitter gave me company and self-esteem through a horrible year, I have even made real-life friends through it, “tweeting up” locally and in Derby. Blogging kept me sane and allowed me to explore writing styles and share my sense of humour in bigger doses than I could do on Twitter (sorry about that 🙂 ).

The Eurovision and World Cup gave me the best laughs of the year as I was inspired to make avatar pictures to represent each country. Eurovison night itself was a massive challenge as I had to change profile picture 25 times! 

Eurovision Avatars!

 

World Cup Avatars

 

Throughout the year I raised awareness for many different causes.  I got myself into a LOT of trouble with my local MP who “outed” my real name, much to my dismay. I really like being Humphrey!  Then, in November I won two Twitter awards, which I am incredibly proud of.

I also cried a lot, more than I have done since I lost my father to cancer.  I cried through sheer self-pity, pain, frustration, anger and loss. Coming to terms with a disability is one of the hardest battles I have ever had to face. I am still dealing with it, every time I look at my feet in the bath I imagine how they will look with their scars and shorter big toes ( first operation is 25th January *shudder*) .  I love my feet!  Always so proud of them, with their elegantly sloping toes and dainty nails.  I think I will have them tattooed with flowers when the surgeon has worked his magic, to cover the scars and make them pretty again : )

Not much else happened through the year, I had a couple of dates, annoyed some people, lost two cats, gained another who is my darling : ) 

Jasmine & Pickles

So, yup!  That’s just about it..

Here’s to 2011, may it be filled with knowledge, wonder, laughter, moustaches, love, excitement and joy!

What starts with “E” and ends in homelessness?

Eviction is one of those words that you’ve heard your whole life, like bankruptcy or jail but never in your darkest, cheese-induced dreams did you ever think you might face yourself.  It’s a “grown-up” word, a word whispered in corners or highlighted in a seedy documentary.

I certainly never considered for a moment that it would ever be a word to cause ME sleepless nights and heart-thumping panic.  That was until I lost my job. Many of you are aware that I’ve had on-going medical issues over the past year, you may not know that I was “let-go” in November.  It was very quick and painless, without  fuss or ceremony, just a P45 dropping quietly onto my doormat.

Nothing to be alarmed about, we have systems in place to help the unemployed of Britain don’t we?  Yes we do and I am so grateful for them, I am a lot worse off financially now than when I was receiving the minimum sick pay from my employer but I knew that with adjustments we had enough money to live on and a roof over our heads.

Then my Landlord gave me notice.  Not a worry, I began looking for another house and found one in my village almost immediately.  Then came the bombshell that made the “Eviction” word a part of my world.  Since the government announced their planned Welfare Reforms, Letting agents will no longer rent properties to Housing Benefits claimants.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Who claims Housing Benefit ?  Single parents, lower-paid workers, mature students, pensioners, unemployed and the disabled.

Putting aside the others as this post is for the Broken Of  Britain, Housing Benefit is claimed by the disabled who are unable to work due to their disabilities or who are in poorly paid employment.  Not only are they already under a lot of financial strain and living in fear of the benefit changes being implemented but now they risk  homelessness as well.

There is a way around the letting problem though, you provide a guarantor for the letting agency.. at double the usual referencing cost and at huge cost to your pride and self-esteem. 

But what if you can’t provide or afford a guarantor?  What will happen to these people? Local Housing Association lists in many areas are already so strained they can only allot houses to homeless people.  My dream is to have a LHA house, to be able to afford the rent which would be half (yes HALF) what I am paying now to my private landlord.  The money I am saving in rent would remain in the public purse, rather than filling the fat wallet of my landlord..

One suggestion I have to address Letting Agent’s concerns is for the government to return to the policy of paying Housing Benefit directly to the Landlord, rather than the claimant. Another would be to reassure claimants and Letting Agencies that HB will always be paid to the low-income disabled and ill people of Great Britain and, if it isn’t already, to make it illegal to discriminate against them in this way.

As for me, I lost the village house to a working family but am now in the “referencing” stage of renting another.. My Landlord has filed papers to commence the process but I am keeping EVERYTHING crossed that the “E” word doesn’t soon become my reality.

Regrettably…

This is a post I hoped I wouldn’t have to write.  On Monday the 8th of November this was posted on the blog of Nadine Dorries as “evidence” that Nadine had not in fact as stated by David Allen Green, “attacked a constituent”, but had in fact “attacked a political candidate”.

The freezepage which features my photograph and personal email address was one taken from a free blog that I had set up after attending my first and only CLP meeting in September.  At that same meeting nominations were taken for candidates for the local election, I volunteered immediately.  It has long been an ambition of mine to be a councillor and my intention was to take a politics degree, hopefully moving up in the ranks over time, forging a long-term career for myself.

Regrettably, that career choice has been taken from me due to the lies and smears that have been made about me.  I have advised my Chairman that I can no longer stand for council and have deleted the Facebook and Twitter accounts that I set up for our CLP, along with the blog.  I will not allow my efforts to support the local party to be used against them in future elections.

Last night I posted this page on my Labour Blog… Ending…

A Vigil for #Ashtiani…

It works, we work!  But we need to keep the pressure on. This Sunday, 7th November there will be a peaceful, hour-long,  silent vigil held at the Iranian Embassy 16 Prince´s Gate, London  SW7 1PT starting at 16.00. 

Candles will be lit in support of Ashtiani and her family.   If you can attend, which I sincerely hope you can..  please bring tea lights or candles in jars as we shall leave them there when we leave. 

We understand from Amnesty International that the son and lawyer of Ashtiani have also been arrested, their current whereabouts and physical condition unknown.

 

Press release yesterday:

An immediate and worldwide public outcry followed an urgent press release by the International Committees against Stoning and Execution giving notice of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s imminent execution. Shortly thereafter more than half a million people sent letters of protest, there were two million tweets on Sakineh, and rallies and events were held in a number of cities.
 
The International Committees against Stoning and Execution issued the press release after receiving credible information attesting to the plan to execute her on 3 November. Reliable sources within Iran confirmed having seen the actual execution order sent from Tehran to Tabriz prison’s office of sentence implementation and also seen Sakineh’s name on a blacklist of those to be imminently executed.
 
The Islamic Republic of Iran often executes people without any public warning or notice and even without informing lawyers and family members in order to avoid local and international condemnation. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights, at least 23 people have been executed these past few days alone without any official announcement.

 

** Updated 8th November 2010 **

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvey the Mascot !!

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