Is It Just Me: Who Thinks Cutting Rent Support is Not The Answer?

I am literally rubbing my eyes in disbelief at this one readers.


The latest Cameron wonder plan for saving the UK from it’s massive debt is to cut Housing Benefit.


This is nothing new, and Cameron has announced plans before to cut rates, especially for those in London, I believe (and correct me if this is wrong) so the limit for benefit will be £500 per week. I’m not totally against this in principal, I do agree that some rents are extortionate and that inevitably some con the system (we’ve all heard stories of certain people claiming for houses worth £1.2 million), but that said, I do believe more effort should be made to fund affordable, old style “Council” Housing where the rents are far more controlled.


The next part of the cuts, announced at the weekend, are to scrap Housing Benefit for under 25s.


Erm, no, that’s not fair at all!


At this point, bear in mind that not everyone who receives Housing Benefit is the government styled “layabout scrounger”, the cap wearing, beer drinking Jeremy Kyle show loser that they’d like us to have in the forefront of our minds whenever the subject of benefits come up.


Anyone on low income can apply for Housing Benefit, some use it to top up their modest wage when they are privately renting and cannot afford to buy their own home and/or don’t get very far on the Council waiting lists.


To penalise this bracket, already struggling to find work and affordable housing in the UK, who for the most part are not the cause of the banking crisis as they’ve never had a mortgage or credit card is unjustified.


Of course, Mr Cameron feels its completely acceptable as it will save the “public purse” £2 billion a year. But the Public Purse isn’t that public, we rarely get a say in what this money is spent on, and the majority of us probably agree it’s not spent wisely and hasn’t been for some time.


When I was 17, for my own reasons, I left home. If this rule was in force at that time, I would have been homeless. Some young people cannot go home, either due to arguments or worse, abuse, so to voice the reasoning that the under 25s should shut up and stay living with their parents is ridiculous and in some cases unmanageable.


The first home I lived in was assisted living, for teens who had only just left home, and I had a small room with shared bath, kitchen and living facilities. I lived with a whole range of fellow teens, all with their own issues, but one sticks in my head more than most.


The oldest resident, and perhaps the most vocal on issues was K. She was lovely, pretty, and ballsy. However, after an atrociously bad upbringing by a junkie sex worker Mother and her line up of “step dads”, K had felt that if she didn’t run away, she would die. Her Mother got her hooked on Heroin at 13, she never went to school, and was abused by at least two of her Mum’s pimps. 


If there was no help for K and many like her, what would they do? What would become of them? State Care Homes or Children’s Homes don’t house those the same age as K or the others housed where I was. They can’t go home to their parents, so what’s next? A cardboard box on the street?


I really hope this silly and ill thought out idea comes to nothing more than headlines, and that the Conservatives are out voted on it.


Else wise I can see many more sorry shop doorway dwellers in a matter of months.

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The "I’ve Been to Britmums Live and Got Inspired" Post

Like lots of other bloggers, I have spent the last two days at Britmums Live, and obviously there will be lots of posts of “this is what I did” or “this is who I met” or “look at the brilliant amount of swag I picked up”.


So, I don’t kind of want to add mine to the list and be boring, I’m going to share some thoughts I wrote down on the train home. Inspired by the amazing people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard, and, especially the last seminar I attended, which, for those who weren’t there, was called “Sod the Stats, Blog for Happiness”.


It’s kind of a poem, which I haven’t written one of in about ten years, so amazing that it’s inspired my poetry once more. Thank you.


Here goes:



This is me,
I am learning that I am only human, and part of that means
Not being superwoman.


I like really bad pop songs
(and dancing like a loon)
I’m not good at drinking.
I’m a bit of a geek (but aren’t we all?).


I don’t get SEO, Keywords, 
or the “Magic Formula”
And after six years I guess I never will.
But I’m cool enough not to let it make me quit


I am loved unconditionally
And I love unconditionally back


I’m a Mum,
But more than a Mummy.
I rock inappropriate words at inappropriate times
I sometimes say the wrong thing
Yet I’m fine with knowing when to say I was wrong
And meaning it.


I’m learning to accept that not everyone is going to like who I am,
But I’m brave enough to shrug and move on
And work on the people that I respect.


I dance to Single Ladies like Beyonce
When I think (hope) no one is watching.
I sing in the shower, and to my children
I love doing that.


I love to write,
To speak out via print or ink
To help others through the bad times
And laugh with them through the good.


I am part of something amazing
Something growing
Unique
I am a pioneer of the digital age
We all are.


This is me
Everything to some,
Not much to others
But me.


And I’m comfy with that.

Dealing with Stress, an AXA PPP healthcare Webchat*

If there’s one word that all busy parent’s use to describe life with children, its the S word. Stress.


Whether it’s worries over education, tantrums, or just making ends meet when you become a parent, most of us, myself included, will suffer varying degrees of stress at one time or another.


Whilst its something that maybe you’ve chatted about with other Mums and Dads, its probably something spoken about in a joking way, and it’s not something that many child rearing handbooks really cover. But with figures estimating that half a million people in the UK now put health issues down to work related stress, why should we be silent on something that has the potential to cause secondary, and more problematic, health issues?


Well known company AXA PPP healthcare has decided it is time to talk about it, and so on the 28th June, between 1pm and 3.30pm, they will be hosting a webchat in their websites “be healthy” section, along with Mark Winwood, their Clinical Director of Psychological Health.


Mark will be answering questions on whatever you’d like to know about stress, such as it’s long term untreated effects on mental and physical health, the overall problems it causes our bodies, and giving tips on how to deal with it effectively.


As usual, you can join in either by taking part in the live webchat, or by leaving a query for Mark to answer on AXA PPP healthcare’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and the team will get back to you with a reply at a later date.


Mark is well placed to answer queries on your own experience of stress- he holds associate fellowship and chartership with the British Psychological Society and is also accredited by the Health Professional Council and a chartered scientist. After joining AXA PPP healthcare in 2008, he has been developing clinical and operational frameworks to allow the joint delivery of evidence based psychological care across its wellbeing and medical services. Prior to 2008, Mark worked as a senior psychologist in the NHS and has many years of clinical experience and research expertise.


I know how stress can go untreated only too well, and the long term damage it can do to not just the person suffering it, but those around them too.


I’m a busy Mum of two, and, like most of us, I’m not great at keeping my own health in check. I wont be the only one to admit that being a Mum usually means that you take on a lot, and generally your own needs get sidelined. Except, in 2009, when Littlest was out of hospital and needed a lot of care due to his prematurity,I started to get stressed more than I’d ever been before. Added to this, I had to carry on the day to day of looking after a toddler Mini who was 18 months old, thus a walking, talking pest! I also had a house to keep clean, cooking to do, shopping to sort out (with no car), and bills to pay. It all became too much, and, despite having opportunity to admit that I was taking on too much and becoming dangerously stressed, I carried on.


Not only did my stress make me open to all sorts of bugs- I seemed to permanently pick up colds and viruses- but in the end I was diagnosed with depression. I had reached the point of worrying about so many things, that I couldn’t sleep without going through a check list of what I had done that day, and anything I’d forgotten I felt I’d failed and, of course, got even more stressed!

I’d like to ask Mark what he would have suggested to me at the time before I reached such a low ebb, what action could I have taken to avoid letting stress get the better of my own health?



It doesn’t have to be this way, of course, and no matter what your circumstances you can, and must, talk to someone. Most things that cause us stress can be dealt with, whether that’s dealing with a niggling issue at work by talking it through with your boss, or whether that’s getting a break from the children for a well deserved night off (even just to watch TV), stress can and should be dealt with swiftly.


If you have a query for Mark, then its simple, take part in the AXA PPP healthcare webchat on the 28th June between 1pm-3.30pm at http://experts.axappphealthcare.co.uk/stress/live-chat/, or, if you can’t join in live, leave a question at Facebook or Twitter. 


It couldn’t be simpler, but it could just show you just how bad that word we all joke about, stress, can be.

The Pre-Conference "What the Feck Do I Wear/Do/Bring?" Post

Yippee! At this time tomorrow, Britmums (and a few Dads) will be on the doorstep of The Brewery, Chiswell Street, for the first Britmums Live, ever.


Now, me being an old timer (cough) in the blogging sense (I’m only 30, so definitely only in the blogging sense), I have been to a few of these meets and conferences before. In fact, it was my third Blogversary on the 19th at this address, but all together I’ve blogged since 2006.


Every year, I’ve done a countdown type post, its a bit later than usual this year but then my brain has decided to fail me the last few months (hence I’m off to a Neurologist next week to find out why, finally).


So, here we have the “What The Feck Do I” post:



WHAT THE FECK DO I WEAR?


Simple, keep it simple guys. There’s no need to glam up to epic proportions, just make sure its clean clothes with no baby sick/egg/food stains, clean hair, clean teeth and be comfy. Be yourself. Yes, the BiBs are in the evening, but, if you’re not a finalist bring a bit of extra lippy to slick on and you’re sorted. If you are a finalist, I suggest a pair of heels to slip into.


If you usually wear jeans, then wear jeans. If you fancy wearing a dress as you haven’t had a chance for a while, do that (just shave your legs first). If it feels good and makes you feel confident then that’s exactly what to do- if you feel self conscious, it will wreck your whole day.


Here’s what I’m wearing:


WHAT THE FECK DO I DO?

Are you nervous, or maybe worried about walking into a room full of people you barely know? Well, I thought there may be a few people feeling this way.

Once you’re in the conference venue, you’ll be so busy you’ll forget your nerves, and, of course, there will be the Britmums Butterflies to sort out the really nervy amongst you.

However, sometimes just getting to the stage of being comfy walking in is a struggle. Worry no more, just get yourself to Starbucks near Moorgate tube station as I’ll be there from 12.45 to meet anyone who wants a helping hand to walk in. There are quite a few meeting here between 12.45 and 1.45, so don’t be shy!

That way, a big group of us can wander along, safe in the knowledge that all day we’ll already have met earlier- takes the scare factor out of all those faces!

As a guide, I’ll be going on the Circle Line from Paddington (heads up, if anyone wants to meet here let me know), to Moorgate tube, and then you head north in a straight line to Starbucks. Turn North out the station, past Ropemaker Street, and the Starbucks is on Finsbury Pavement with Marks and Spencers opposite.

If you can’t meet up, then chin up. Its fine, really, you wont be the only nervous person there, just jump in on a conversation, say hi, introduce yourself and get chatting!

WHAT THE FECK DO I BRING?

Again, something which causes confusion is what one needs to bring.

I suggest a notebook and pen, for jotting down, erm, notes obviously, not to mention to take down numbers or other info like blog addresses on the day.

Also bring some spare make up– not lots, just a lippy and a bit of powder, its a long old day.

Business Cards are optional but I find these handy if you want to find out more from the sponsors after the event. Its also nice to hand them out to other bloggers.

Sweets. These are for me only, obviously, and should be given over on seeing me at any point over the two days. Only kidding. Its nice to have some though, we shared some during the keynotes last year.

Chargers for your tech stuff. It sucks when you run out of battery. There are charging points this year which is brilliant.

Camera– well, there are ‘slebs there. You want to show off to your non-blogging “blogging is for geeks” mates on Facebook afterwards. Think also of the posts you’ll want to write on Sunday too.

Tissues. Those keynote speeches are notorious for making you first cry laughing, then blub at sad posts, then cry again. 

Overall……

Have a great two days, eat cakes, come say hi to as many people as you can. If you are nervous, come find me, I’m happy to guide you, give you a hug and steal your sweets at any time during Friday and Saturday.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Is It Just Me: Who Thinks Maidenhead Chiefs Aren’t Fooling Anyone?

As you all know, I live in Berkshire, in Maidenhead. Originally, I come from Kent, and, as we were leaving 5 years ago before the recession bit everyone on the behind, there were very few shops in my local High street.



In fact, it was a bit of a disaster down there, with a few cheap shoe shops (should you decide in desperation to buy a pair, you pretty much knew that the heel, if not the whole sole, would fall off within 2 days), a Woolies, a Smiths and a CoOp. That was pretty much it. We had a Monday and Saturday market, which was full of knock off, faux designer items which were so bad they were often spelt wrong- Louise Vooton handbag anyone? Or how about a Abibaz sweatshirt? Junkey Coture tracksuit for Wag wannabes? Me neither.


When we first moved here, we were amazed- there were shops! Everywhere! There were no nasty flammable market stalls on the weekend! You could find what you needed and then some. In fact, such was the blatant snobbery  way of the town centre there was not one Poundshop. The idea brought most residents out in a rash (no really, I was once sat on a bus to the Neonatal ward in Slough and two old dears were aghast that a cheaper shop was opening in one of the few empty outlets).


Cut to the last 18 months, and, to quote one of my fave Ska bands of all time, The Specials- “This town, is ‘coming like a Ghost Town.”


There are currently something like 56 empty shop units, one whole side of the indoor centre is empty, and week in week out shops shut up and disappear overnight. Its not just the indie retailers either, its the big guns- it seems every shop which went bust- Bay Trader, Woolies, Waterstones, Game, Peacocks, Zavvi, the list is endless, was resident in Maidenhead. 


The thing is, Maidenhead is a bit, well, snooty, in places, by association of being part of the Royal Borough- ie, we are kind of near to Windsor Castle if you forget about Slough, Taplow and Burnham. House and rental prices continue to rise, but what is there for people who live there? Apart from a train station out of the mess we call a town centre.


The councils idea to stop the rot?


Erm, well, it’s not great. They paid for close to 20 “Flower Towers”, at £700 each. In a period of drought. So they are slowly dying. They are meant to lead to the larger local park, which at the moment is hard for kids to play in being that it has building sites on either side and the noise is deafening. And the air is thick with dust.


They also decided to fill the empty shops with art by indie artists- all very well and good, but who can afford £900+ for indie art?


One of the aforementioned building sites is for a hotel, designed for the many visitors we are being told to expect over the Olympic fortnight. Except they didn’t get planning in time so it wont be ready. 


Finally, they decided to, and this one kills me with laughter, to fill the windows of all the empty shops (so god knows how it costs to do so) with a big sticker showing people out in town having a cuppa, shopping and laughing in a jolly old fashion.


Except one small detail- none of the images is of Maidenhead itself. They are stock images. 


It kind of leads me to wonder what they were trying to achieve. They may as well have said “look, this is what we used to have, in the good old days before the Tory’s messed it up for everyone, and the banks gave out ludicrous loans and then called them in to cover the huge bonuses their management pay themselves for watching it all crumble and doing nothing to stop it happening. This, oh skint dwellers of Maidenhead, this is what you are missing”.


Less Betjeman’s poem of “come friendly bombs and fall on Slough, it isn’t fit for humans now” but “come traders all and migrate to Slough, we are not fit for shoppers now” instead.


How about, save the money spent on Flower Towers (most of which being outside pubs no doubt have been used as urinals as well as ornamental ashtrays), art work and the pointless stickers, and lower the bloody rents of shops? Simple, no?


Town centre officials. Please. Give us some shops.


Maidenhead- less “Live It, Love It, Make It Maidenhead”, more “Give Up, Go Out, Get The Train to anywhere but Maidenhead”.

Job Hunting Related Issues

Job hunting. Let’s be honest, no one enjoys or looks forward to job hunting, unless you’re like my clever sister in law and get head hunted lots. 


I always said that, once both Bratling’s went to school full time, or were approaching doing so, I would go back to work. Mini started in September, and, at the time Littlest started Nursery, so I thought the time had come to start my job hunt. Except Littlest, as we know, had a major health relapse so the job hunt got put on the back burner for a few months.


Now he’s better, and we’ve got him booked in for full time school in January, the Office programme was duly fired up and my CV writing skills were dusted off and rebooted. 



I wasn’t overly concerned- I never really had issues getting jobs, and only once got turned down for a vacancy when I was 19, and that was because I was too experienced. That’s not me bragging, that was what the manager told me from Argos when I phoned to find out why I had been turned down, and I only rang as I was feeling pretty crap at not getting employed. I started to think, as you do, that if Argos didn’t want me, I must be losing my knack. But the manager was lovely and said she thought I’d be wasted in such a boring and monotonous job. 


I’ve worked in shops since I was 14- I didn’t like the idea of paper rounds as, to me the summer rounds are fine, but the idea of getting up at 6am to trudge through the rain and then snow that makes up the majority of British weather didn’t appeal. So,I used to work for an hour an night Monday to Friday after school, then 3 hours on Saturdays and Sundays, restocking shelves in my local convenience store, for the Princely sum of £1.10 an hour. Slave labour or what!


I don’t particularly enjoy shop work, but it’s a means to an end and I never finished college so that was that. I do love the idea of something in the media, hence starting up the blogs years ago, but with so many talented writers, and many media types being a bit anti about bloggers, it isn’t happening the way I’d like it to. Being a Mum, I can’t be picky or selfish, it needs to be reliable. 


I employed my old style of going in to shops locally- which in itself was hard as they seem to close down weekly in Maidenhead- and asking if they had any vacancies. 


That was the first shocker- at least 3 major stores told me they were getting rid of staff with a view to closing down. The rest were either not hiring or said they don’t employ in store anymore, and that their staff come from online applications. 


It seems in the 5 years since I’ve been employed BB (Before Bratlings), the job market has started to resemble the cheese counter in a supermarket. You take a virtual ticket, and if your number comes up, the company will package you off to where it can, and that doesn’t necessarily mean locally. I talked to one Mum who applied for a major supermarket, and after 6 months was offered a position over an hours train ride away. Hardly practical. 


The problem is the large gap in my CV, which, despite it being due to having children, it may as well say “was a lazy layabout sitting on the couch watching kids TV and eating crisps whilst occasionally tending to the every whim of two children”.


It feels like with the gap, they wont see that I worked non stop from the age of 14, have good GCSEs, had managerial training and jobs, they’ll just see that massive gap and bin me off. 


I have written down that in that time I’ve edited the sites, and won or been nominated for awards, but then I wonder if they’ll then think the TV and crisps thing for 5 years plus epic geekery too? 


Job hunting, what a sucky thing that is. 


I feel like I’m on the Motherhood scrap heap at 30, penalised for having babies and looking after them until they bogged off to school. 


Anyone else had the same experience? What did you do to get a job? Did you give up? Let me know!

Is It Just Me: Who Thinks Its One Rule for the Cams And One Rule For Everyone Else?

You may remember my post questioning why Anthony Worrall-Thompson was allowed to get away with 6 incidents of shoplifting from his local supermarket before anyone called the Police.


At the time, I pondered why being in a privileged position as a celebrity chef equalled getting away with a crime that Joe Bloggs would have been arrested over straight away.


Well, once again, a position of privilege means yet another famous face gets away with something a normal person like you or I would have been in all sorts of trouble over. Its not just any famous face either- its David Cameron and his wife Samantha.



It seems that Dave and his missus, along with another couple and his bodyguard went for lunch at a pub in Buckinghamshire. The Cameron’s brought their three kids along with them, and I should imagine, a very nice afternoon was had by all, considering the events which led the story to be reported on TV this morning.


(At this point, I like to imagine them glugging back bottles of wine on expenses, after all, this is the Tory Prime Minister we’re talking about).


Off they went home, Dave getting in a car with his Bodyguard, and Sam Cam getting in a separate car with two of the children.


Notice the “two of the children” there. They both managed to forget one child, 8 year old Nancy, leaving her at the pub.


Neither noticed that the child was missing until fifteen minutes later on returning home, and both suggest the other was at fault as both thought the eldest of their kids was with the other in the other car.


Firstly, how the hell do you all manage to leave the pub at the same time, knowing you’re off in different cars, and no one manages to communicate which kid is going with which parent?


Secondly, this isn’t just a kid from normal parents, this is the PM’s daughter, so why the hell was she not being closely guarded as a possible kidnap target? 


Thirdly, why on earth did no one at the pub ring the Police? This is an 8 year old girl, left at a pub, by both parents. 


This is yet again a case of the haves and have nots. I’m sure as hell that if Elder and I had gone to the pub with mates, got a bit squiffy and then left say Mini behind in the bar, only realising when we got home of our epic parenting fail, we’d have had the police and social services on our backs straight away, and with good reason.


Imagine, if you will, that the Cameron’s were just any David and Samantha from, lets say, an estate, no PM, no Tory Party, no notoriety and money. Imagine they were in a pub on a Sunday and left their kid behind. The whole thing would look, as it does, appalling. Mum leaves pub after drinking in the daytime with the Dad. Neither talk out who is taking what child and when. Which, I’m sure to an OTT Social Worker (after the Baby P scandal) would suggest relationship issues as well as a possible drink problem. Dad also leaves pub afterwards (did they have a row? Why do they not travel together? Had Sam been drinking and then, drive?) leaving one child behind. Neither realises until quarter of an hour after leaving the child behind. 


Reading it as just a normal couple, it makes frightening reading, and anyone else would have to explain what led to this kind of cock up. The fact they were drinking in the daytime only makes it worse.


What makes this even harder to swallow is the Tories new idea to offer- and the irony of this couldn’t be bigger- parenting vouchers for new parents or those it feels aren’t doing their jobs correctly.


Perhaps the Cameron’s could be the first to make use of these courses?


Yet again, no one will investigate- I expect the Bodyguard will take the wrap. But the fact is, whoever you are, PM or not, you are ultimately responsible for your kids. 


Next time you go out on the drink, Dave, I suggest doing a head count.


That’s just the basics of parenting. Add it to your course if you like.