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

Plates of Meat – Part Five #Hardware

Ouch.. no flipping wonder my foot still hurts!  Had X-Rays and have been told off a bit today, I’m not allowed to walk without the crutches for another 6 weeks : *(   and I still have to wear the stupid boot.  On the bright side though, I can bathe again tomorrow *sniffs armpits*, think I got away with it though : )

 

 

Plates of Meat – Part Four – Changes…

 

Humph's little piggies 2 weeks ago...

 

Last week I had a Lapidus 1st metatarsal / cuneiform joint fusion with Kessel Bonney osteotomy of hallux and a Cartiva synthetic cartilage implant or in other words, my big toe was broken, a piece of bone taken out from it which resulted in it being shorter, bone overgrowth was sawn from the top of the joint, a metal plate and screws were affixed to force my foot to perform properly and a piece of fake cartilage was implanted to protect the joint from further wear and tear.

Check out the sexy footwear, these are sure to be a big hit on all the European beaches this year ; )

*awaits wolf-whistles*

But whose foot is this?  I knew it would look different but was unprepared as to how alien the toe would look. It is short and stubby and points upwards now, like a little ski-jump nose.  It isn’t mine, I think they have made a mistake and sent me home with the wrong one, or does that just happen with babies in bad might-be-reality-but-might-be-made-up shows? I suppose I could give it a chance, wash and dress it and see if we bond.. maybe I will even grow to care for it and paint it pretty colours.  Or maybe I will just turn my back and hide it from myself and everyone in the hope that if I ignore it, it will go away.  Either way, I’m stuck with it and it is stuck with me and I have to accept that my “toe-sucking” days may be over. ( Honestly, you should try it but do your best not to think of Fergie or it will all go horribly wrong)

Ouch..

 

This little piggy went "weeee.."

 

Tee hee, check out the pen marks from me scratching under my bandages, the Mothership thought it was my veins sticking out, gross.. !

Plates of meat… part one.

Blugh, I SO do not want to write this post..  Why?  Because I don’t want to think about my feet and in particular, my forthcoming – longed for, way-overdue operation.  However, I think it is important to document my feelings/pain/recovery/experience in this way as it may help others in the future.

My name is Humphrey, I am brave and strong! I am not afraid of ANYTHING!  (with the exception of nasty stuff happening to my family) Always the first to enter into dangerous situations, memories of derelict Spanish houses come immediately to mind! I’ve had three children “the old-fashioned way” with just gas, air and ridiculous panting to get me through. So why, oh why am I so nervous about my operation?  It’s ridiculous, I can’t even read the literature the Surgeon gave me. I have made very vague plans for transport, after-care etc, I have pretty much blocked the whole event from my terrified mind.

OK, focus.. the operation itself is to correct deformity in my right foot.  My foot first started troubling me when I lived in Kent in 2009, it was just a sore toe, didn’t think much of it.  I had to have a full body scan for suspected arthritis that year, it showed up in the big toe on my right foot.  It has been a long, hard slog getting a date for this operation, originally a much less invasive on which was scheduled for May 2010.  Following the removal of accountability to the 18 week waiting lists, my operation was abandoned and I was left hanging on the list..  My foot has deteriorated a lot since then through usage (although I’ve been very careful not to walk/stand much since last June) and it now requires different, more serious surgery.

*breathes*… the surgeon is taking a piece of bone out of my big toe, just before the big joint which has bone over-growth on it, preventing it from moving.  He will also remove the overgrowth and possibly the joint, depending on how eroded it is.  There will be a metal plate put in to stabilise the foot and maybe some fake cartilage.  This is all designed to force the foot to perform properly and prevent it “rolling” to the right.  In time my left foot will need the same treatment. 

It is really odd, nobody else in my family has had problems with their mobility, save for my little niece who has a form of cerebal palsy.  I am certain that my condition has been brought on by Rheumatiod Arthritis, this has yet to be confirmed although my hands have been diagnosed with mild arthritis and my neck has “wear and tear”.  I am due back with the Rheumatoligist in March, hopefully he will test me for RA and take new X-Rays of my neck, I have been in severe pain with it for almost a year!

Back to the feet…  Today I collected my post-surgery painkillers and received my hospital “check-in” letter.  Sunday I will go shopping, topping up all the essential items and buying lots of pro-biotic yogurts.. I will be on anti-biotics for a week or so and they always seem to wipe me out completely, due I am sure to lack of good bacteria.  That’s my theory anyway : )

I’ll write more about feet in general and post some pics of pre and post surgery as the week goes by but enough for now.. *puts operation thoughts back on a floaty cloud and blows it skywards*

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.

Should old acquaintance be forgot …

She twirls in the mirror, the silken skirt swishes around her knees with a gentle sigh, then falls still.  Hand reaches to brush her gold hair for the last time before she sprays it with a fine mist.  Lastly, a hint of colour to her lips and she is ready.  One last look in the mirror tells her that she looks lovely tonight. Slowly she closes her eyes as though in prayer then, with a determined nod of her head she leaves the room and heads off to the party.

Smile and walk.   Hold glass tightly to breast. Keep moving.

“Yes, lovely isn’t it? Wonderful food”.

Dancers glide.  Laughter rings. Stand in corner. Still.

Glasses are charged and raised, the countdown begins.  She is pulled from the shadows, smile firmly fixed into place.  “Three, Two, One.. Happy New Year!” 

Emptiness.

Couples gaze, whispers of promises made. Soft kisses exchanged.

Pain.

She slips away as the crowd link arms in preparation for “Auld Lang Syne”.  Nobody notices her leave, so entranced are they by the colourful images of the brand new year, bursting like bubbles in each other’s eyes.

Home. Slips off coat and shoes, places evening bag on the bed.  Looks in the mirror.

Emptiness.

Merry Christmas Twitter : )

Sorry I can’t say Merry Christmas to you all individually, you know I would if I could!  Here’s the Christmas cards I made for you, hope you like them : ) Have a great day, love Humph xx

Serious one first..

And a bit of silliness… well, what else did you expect from me? ; )

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