Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Horoscopes #2



Man, woman, happy, sad, open, close, chalk, cheese, black, white, big, small, foul, fair, rice, salad, hats, pens, acne, Portugal, flaky bits, anaerobic exercise, finger food, taxis, squares, some fur... Or: Renee Zelweger. It's up to you.


Text: CAP'C'N033106778830986140229586012790435652866744912234060649 for your horoscope.




You've been feeling squirmy recently, haven't you? It's because you haven't written your list of things to do before you die. It's ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that you do it within the week. No reason.


You should probably go and grab a coffee before The Unbelievable Urn arrives.


Try not to think of things in terms of nouns, verbs and adjectives this month but more in terms of poids, bludges and srith. You might find that this way of thinking makes things a bit pasty and sinister but it'll do wonders for your love life. Oh, and go and talk to Jane.


You know the problems you're having in your relationship? Stop looking them up on the internet. Also, Christmas might be a bit weird for you this year because of all the problems you're having in your relationship. Wear grey.  





December's DOs: Tracksuits, strip-lighting, ITV2, forks, heather, pub quiz, sugar, ham, pottery, counting to 20 in Italian, milk, knocking your funny bone, thinking about the colour blue.

December's DON'Ts: cotton, The Guardian, agreeing with people, keys, leaning, sex, options, kale, the abdomen, looking at other people's shoes, cars, fainting, films.


First of all, things aren't as bad as you think. Second of all, if you think you've got money worries now, you might want to hold that thought until next month. Third of all, your domestic situation will change dramatically very, very soon; think small. Fourth of all, it's likely that you're going to be completely found out. Fifth of all, you should probably talk to Jane as well. More than Taurus should.


You shouldn't be so hard on yourself; you're a really, really good person and everyone knows you're doing your best. Give yourself a break. Have a lovely Christmas.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


You're staying in a cottage while you're away for a week. And you're looking for something to read on the coffee table while you're waiting for the kettle to boil. You pick up a copy of a magazine for women called Essentials. And while you might expect it to be full of the usual sexist bullshit, you absolutely refuse to laugh it off like the other people in the room.

Essentials prides itself on its use of 'real women' (No models , no celebs - just you!). Every month, the 'cover star' is a member of the public who has a story to tell. There are six or seven issues on the coffee table, so you browse through all of them and, lo and behold, get quite angry. It's true, the magazine is full of real women telling their real stories about their real lives with their real minds. Every single woman is, of course, introduced by name, name of husband and names and ages of children. Empowering! In one of the issues, a woman called Linda (not her real name) talks about three things she wants to achieve before she's 50. Here they are (but brace yourself, because they are INTIMIDATING AMBITIONS):

1. To go shopping and come back with all the things on her list for a change!
2. To not lie awake at 2am worrying about her kids
3. To be able to wear her swimming costume without covering the lower part of her body with a sarong

And you think, poor Linda, with her completely depressing list of things she wants to achieve. And then you check yourself and think you're being patronising. And then you check yourself again and think, fuck it, poor Linda! Linda is not ok. It's really obvious that she's not because none of the things on her list are actually about her and you feel, frankly, rather miffed at the editors at Essentials for not picking up on this and a) not printing it and b) not thinking to pay for Linda to have six sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy to address her low self-esteem.

In the most recent issue of Essentials which is, in a nutshell, aimed at women who will be dieting for Christmas so that their husbands don't leave them but, despite this, will be spending the next two weeks in the kitchen preparing all the festive food from scratch so that their husbands don't leave them, there are some ace tips about how to eat biscuits and not feel like a disgusting, frumpy arsehole; according to our helpful friends at Essentials, all you need to do after you've eaten three wedges of chocolate orange is wash up for an hour. Easy! Because you were going to do that anyway so it's absolutely no biggie! In fact, there is a whole list of evil Christmas foods that have been coupled with their calorie-busting exercise housework equivalent. Although, to be fair, they're not all housework; you're allowed to play Twister and go for a walk too, because, Merry Christmas!

And after a little while, just before you think you might have finished your Essentials session, you notice something weird which is that in all seven issues that you've looked in, you haven't seen a single black face. But hang on a minute, you think; isn't this magazine supposed to be all about real women telling their real stories about their real lives with their real minds? Hmmm. So you go onto Twitter and send Essentials a tweet asking for an explanation. And they reply to you and say this:

We have one black woman in this issue, other times we have more. We won a PPA diversity award in the spring for our positive mix of real women.

And you sort of want to laugh. Not because it's funny but because the explanation is completely not ok. And the reason you know this is because you've done a bit of maths and you know a little bit about the demographics in the UK; you know that about 15% of the UK population is non-white, which means that if, say, 30 'real women' are featured in any one issue of Essentials, and if Essentials is actually serious about its claim that it 'draws from a wide range of women across the UK', roughly five of them should be non-white.

So then you feel like you want to know a bit more about the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) and whether or not it takes diversity seriously enough to offer awards in that category. So, you go onto the PPA website and have a look at the training it provides but you don't find anything that looks remotely like diversity or equality training. So you send an email asking if any training of this kind is provided. And while you're waiting for a reply, you eat about 12 biscuits and go on a little thought journey about how much better these magazines would be if they took some actual responsibility to change people's attitudes and made a bit more of an effort to be inclusive and reflective instead of churning out the same old lazy, offensive turds month after month (because, by the way, it really isn't that hard when you employ people who know what they're doing to do this stuff) and how it's weird that other people think that you're being a bit mental and scary when you get so fucking angry about it.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Case Notes

2nd August 2012
Client came to advice centre. Very difficult to communicate with as has quite severe mental health issues and found it very difficult to focus. Client has received an overpayment of Income Support for the period ... . Client says that he can't remember what he was doing during this time but that he wants to appeal. Difficult to write reasons for appeal on form as little is known about situation surrounding overpayment. Completed an appeal form with client and advised that he will be contacted when paper work arrives.

9th August 2012
Received a call from DWP. Was told that reasons given on appeal form are not adequate. Tried to explain that client has mental health problems and was therefore not very coherent regarding his reasons for the appeal but that it was thought best to submit appeal form to get ball rolling and so that client can be given advice about his prospects of success when paper work detailing reasons for decision about overpayment arrives. Was told that appeal will not be accepted. Requested a statement of reasons for the decision instead so that client can be given advice about why the decision was made. Requested that statement be sent to the advice centre rather than client. Was told that this was fine.

17th August 2012
Called client to advise that statement hasn't arrived yet. Called DWP. Was told that statement has been requested and that it cannot be confirmed how long it will take but it 'shouldn't take too long'.

17th September 2012
Wrote to client to tell him that statement still hasn't arrived and to advise him to send statement to advice centre if he receives it instead. Sent client stamped, addressed envelope.

11th October 2012
Client came to advice centre. Statement has still not been sent. Called DWP with client present. Was told that there was no record of request for statement. Explained that another DWP rep said that statement will be sent so there must be a record of the request. Was told that this will be looked in to. Asked if this phone call could be treated as request for statement. Was told that it needs to be in writing. Wrote again.

25th October 2012
Reviewing case. Statement of reasons still not received.

31st October 2012
Called DWP as still no sign of statement. Was told that email was sent to relevant department on 12/10. Was told that someone would call back today with an update. Did not receive call back.

7th November 2012
Called DWP for another update about statement and its whereabouts. Was put on hold. Phone went dead. Called back. Was put through to another department. Phone went dead. Called again. Explained situation. Was told that someone will call back within 24 hours.

8th November 2012
Did not receive call back. Called DWP. Was advised that call back would be made within one hour in accordance with 'escalation procedure'. Did not receive call back after one hour. Called DWP again. Was told that manager will now escalate this as an urgent issue and that call back will be made before 5pm today. Did not receive call back at 5pm. Waited until 5:45pm.

15th November 2012
Called DWP. Was told that there was no record of any requests for call backs. Explained to rep that all that is needed is a statement of reasons for decision about overpayment. Was told that this would require a call back from another department. Insisted that call back be made to advice centre ASAP. Was told that call back would be made within one hour. Did not receive call back. Called client to ask if he had been called by DWP. He said not.

16th November 2012
Called DWP again. Pleaded with them to call back today with information about why it's been so difficult for the statement to be sent to client. Was told that call back would be made within 30 minutes. Waited for an hour and no call back. Called DWP again after two hours. Was told that there was no record of phone number for advice centre. Explained that this is impossible as this had been given and confirmed during each call. Was told that someone will call back within 24 hours. Explained that this time scale was unacceptable given that this has been going on since August. Was told that call back will be made within one hour. After one hour, finally received call back. Was told that a statement could be prepared but that there was no record of client having given his authority for advice centre to act for him. Explained that client had given his authority on his initial appeal form for advice centre to act for him. Was told that appeal form is with another department. Asked why it can't be scanned and emailed to the correct department. Was told that it is not clear which department it is with. Was advised to write to DWP an enclose a form of authority signed by client and that when this is received, statement of reasons will 'hopefully' be sent.

Cool. Really glad that's all totally sorted.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012




You have a tendency to shout too loud this month. It's because you're an attention seeker, which is fine, but do try to keep it down for the latter part of the month because your power animal is going into hibernation and probably won't want to be disturbed. Also: knees.




If you're feeling low this month, don't worry; it's because the moon's pressing on your liver a little bit. If you're not feeling low, buy some spikes. You'll know what to do.


Polly put the kettle on, Polly put the kettle on, Polly out the kettle on, we'll all have tea! If you don't know why this is in your horoscope this month, you need to do some serious work on yourself. Loser.


Get rid of all your buckets. Or anything bucket-like. We're not sure if this includes cups or not. It probably does. 


Andy? Are you Andy? Where's Andy? WHERE THE FUCK IS ANDY.


Well, well well... (this is a link. You need to click on it)


Somebody, somewhere really misses you. It's someone who really misses you. They haven't seen you for ages and they wish they could. They really miss you. They think about you a lot. They really think about you. In a missing you sort of way. You won't know who it is but they will. Because it's them who misses you.


This month is your month for the Michell Solution! Well done, Cancer!

   \varphi &= A_0~r^2 + B_0~r^2~\ln(r) + C_0~\ln(r) + D_0~\theta \\
      & + \left(A_1~r + B_1~r^{-1} + B_1^{'}~r~\theta + C_1~r^3 + 
      D_1~r~\ln(r)\right) \cos\theta \\
      & + \left(E_1~r + F_1~r^{-1} + F_1^{'}~r~\theta + G_1~r^3 + 
      H_1~r~\ln(r)\right) \sin\theta \\
      & + \sum_{n=2}^{\infty} \left(A_n~r^n + B_n~r^{-n} + C_n~r^{n+2} + D_n~r^{-n+2}\right)\cos(n\theta) \\
      & + \sum_{n=2}^{\infty} \left(E_n~r^n + F_n~r^{-n} + G_n~r^{n+2} + H_n~r^{-n+2}\right)\sin(n\theta) 


There will be lights. There will be cameras. They might be action. If there is action, it will probably be in a car park near Wigan. You're lovely. xxx


Every night in my dreams 
I see you, I feel you,
That is how I know you go on
Far across the distance 
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never let go till we're gone
Love was when I loved you
One true time I hold to
In my life we'll always go on
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
You're here, there's nothing I fear,
And I know that my heart will go on
We'll stay forever this way
You are safe in my heart
And my heart will go on and on


Tick tock, tick, tock, tick tock. Uh oh...
Also: Whales.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Eavesdrop #13

A woman is on a bus talking on her mobile phone:

... vodka just does that to me though, you know? 

It sends me round the absolute bend.

It's like, when I'm fucked on vodka, I just jump straight from the fireworks into the fire, do you know what I mean?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Man

The man is in Somalia

Where there is a terrible war

So the man flees

But leaves his family

He goes to Norway

And becomes a Norwegian

But he has cousins in the UK

So after a while he comes to the UK to work

He works really hard

He makes some good friends

He has quite a nice time

But fears for his family

And then he gets cancer

And gets pretty ill pretty quickly

He has an operation

But there is nothing they can do

Because it's all over his body

The man is discharged to a care home

Where elderly people are slumped in chairs

That are positioned by windows

But the chairs are far too big for their tiny bodies

So their heads flop to one side

Their tiny heads

Like babies

The care home stinks of actual piss

Even though it isn't really a dirty place

It's probably no one's fault

It's just the way these places smell

The man makes a claim for sickness benefit

Because he's really sick now

He was told by someone that he'd get it

Because he's been living and working here for ages

But he is turned down

Because he doesn't have a right to reside in the UK

Due to the gaps in his employment history

The man asks for legal advice

And asks if he's going to be deported

And he's told he's not

That not having a right to reside doesn't mean he doesn't have the right to be here

The man is told that this is a really complicated area of law

But that it looks like he might have a good case

Although the appeal could take a really long time to process

The man gets a look on his face that says, 'time is something I don't have a lot of'

The man says, 'but I don't have money'

The man shakes his head

He does this for ages

Really slowly

The man says, 'they tell me I have the cancer'

And he starts to unbutton his shirt

To prove it

But he's told that this isn't necessary

The man says 'I am dying'

He says it out loud

It might be the first time he's said it

And he says it again

He says he's scared of it and doesn't want it to hurt

And that he tries to pray every day

But that it doesn't work

And then the man starts to weep

And to speak in a language that probably even he can't understand

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Love Letter

Hey you

Do you remember how you always used to say that I reminded you of a bowl of fruit because of all the different colours and flavours of my personality? Well, here's the thing: I feel like I'm rotting to death. I mean, I know that sounds harsh and it might not be completely your fault but I really felt like I needed to say that to you. And I needed to say it to you in a letter and not to your face because of, like, really complicated reasons. I really love you.

I just want to say right now that you're like, the second or third best thing that ever happened to me in my whole, entire life and you've taught me so much about myself. Mainly you've taught me loads of stuff about what I don't want and for that I'm really grateful. For example, I'm pretty sure that I've decided that I don't want the following:

Someone who does what you do for a living
Someone who cries because of 'mean' things I say
Someone who always asks me how I am

Listen, don't freak out, I know what you're thinking; you're thinking I haven't said anything about your bed-wetting. But, to be honest, I don't really mind that. I think it's weird and gross but also sexy. And I think you're really good at it. In fact, I think it's the thing you're best at. And there's a part of me that thinks that I might have played a small part in you developing that side of yourself. I hope that doesn't sound weird. I really love you.

By the way, this has nothing to do with that other guy. Oh God, I love you so much this is so hard.

In short, I just feel that for the past few months you haven't really been seeing me. You know? It feels like it's all been about you doing stuff. For example, you spent ages organising that trip to New York for my birthday. I hardly saw you those few weeks. And because it was a surprise, you completely lied to me about it quite a few times which isn't really OK. And because I could sense you were lying, I thought that there was something going on with you and another woman. And, of course now I know that there was nothing like that happening but because it felt so real at the time, it's almost like it was real and I don't think I can forgive you for cheating on me. And not being able to forgive someone hurts like hell when you love them so much.

And the whole thing about me not wanting you to meet my friends. You reacted so crazily to that! Can't you see that it was a test? Not like a weird, game playing test, but a fun test between two adults who love each other. You kept saying that you wanted to respect my wishes and that you felt like you wanted to give me space and that you wanted to help me feel comfortable about the relationship. In short, you made it all about you. What about what I wanted? What about my wantsneedsanddesires?

So, I guess, in short, here's what I'm saying: I might be a beautiful bowl of different exotic fruits. In fact, it's obvious that I am. But you're a banana. And everyone knows that, as delicious and nutritious as bananas are, they make the other fruit in the bowl go off. 

But I don't want you to think that I'm not taking responsibility. I am. We both know that I don't need to go into detail about that because we both know it's true. We both know how much I love you. I love you so fucking much. That's why I don't 'work' at the moment. I'm too busy working at us. You know that.

You say that you think I'm selfish and that you want me to be nicer to you. Well, in short, I've got one word for you: projection. All I'm doing is protecting myself. And I'm protecting myself from you because I love you so much. I wish you could see that.

I'm not breaking up with you. I'm telling you that I love you but that you've got to be better and less ... I don't want to use the word abusive but you know what I mean.

I'm going away for a long weekend to think. I'm going to drop this letter off at the hospital for you on my way to the airport. You'll probably be asleep so I'll ask one of the nurses to pop it by your bed. I'll try to come and visit you on the ward when I get back if I'm not too tired.

I love you with all my heart.

But you've got to try harder.


Monday, 1 October 2012

Safe From Harm

According to Mail Online's Liz Jones, teenage girls are dangerous and adult men need to be kept safe from them. In response to the story of teacher Jeremy Forrest absconding to France with his 15-year-old pupil Megan Stammer, Ms. Jones wrote an article in which she said male teachers need protection because the lengths that a teenage girl will go to when she fancies a man are superhuman.

Ms. Jones goes on to say, if you’d been, as I was, at White City for a David Cassidy concert, you would have seen that the teenage – and much younger – girl can bring down walls, policemen, any barrier to get at the object of her affection. Safety, sense and reality do not come into the equation. Love at this age is like a fever, and although the young woman is not to blame, she is dangerous, too.

Right. Maybe we should have a proper look at and an actual think about what Ms. Jones is saying. That would be fun, wouldn't it! Ms. Jones is in bold italics.

Of course an adult in a position of trust should never take advantage of his position – but I don’t think anyone who has not been a teenage girl realises the extent of their sexuality, the extraordinary longing, the passion. Yeah. Or, maybe this instead: Of course an adult in a position of power should never take advantage of his position. End of sentence. Teachers, especially young, male ones, know that teenage girls will have crushes on them. If they don't, they're cretins. It's the teacher's responsibility to not go there. And, more to the point, why would he want to go there unless he had a really fucked up view of women? And Ms. Jones, what do you mean when you talk about the 'extent of [girls'] sexuality' and this thing about 'extraordinary longing'? You're just talking about feeling horny which is a completely normal feeling. Stop talking about teenage girls' sexuality in such predatory terms. Don't be such a misogynist.

Ms. Jones talks about her own, personal experience of having a man for a teacher: Mr Smith seemed to pay me special attention, entering me for writing competitions. But he was too far away and grown-up for me to ever think of him as a love interest, or boyfriend material, and he smelled like an old man – tobacco, and sock. I couldn’t fantasise about him although, trust me, I tried. Right. So, you're saying that you had a male teacher who noticed that you were good at writing and that you didn't fancy him. But that you tried to fancy him. Why did you do that? You're weird. Oh! But you didn't  do that, did you? You're just saying that you tried to fantasise about him to give your argument (which, btw, is  ALL OVER THE PLACE) some weight. Clever clogs! And the reason this is obvious is because trying to fantasise about someone isn't how fantasising about someone works; you basically just said that yourself in the bit you wrote about feeling horny.

I had to fantasise instead about David Cassidy, and David Essex, who were luckily too far away from my ink-stained grip to be harmed. You had to? Who made you? And what, prey tell, would you have done to harm them had they been nearer to you? Are you actually saying that when a teenage girl fancies an adult male, he needs to be kept safe? From what? Accidentally groping her because of her extraordinary longing and passion? Poor The Men! It must be terrifying for them that they're penises run their lives. But, the thing is, we all know that this is bullshit, don't we? How? Because we've all met men who don't behave like that and the reason they don't isn't because they're being kept safe from the clutches of demonic, teenage whores. No. It's because they're nice, un-fucked up people who want to be in relationships and have sex with people they respect and have stuff in common with.

Male teachers need protection, and to be given strict guidelines and protocol. I wonder if Jeremy – the subject of so much bile and whose life and career are over – was told by his superiors how to dress, speak and behave. All teachers need protection, Ms. Jones; like employment rights and good working conditions and fair pay and stuff like that. Male teachers do not need to be protected from teenage girls who have crushes on them. All they need to do is be the kind of men who have healthy relationships with themselves and, therefore, the kind of men who make appropriate choices when it comes to women. And Mr. Forrest probably was told how to behave. The conversation might have gone a bit like this: we don't really need to tell you not to run off with a 15-year-old student because that kind of goes without saying. Happy teaching, Jeremy.

But the problem now is that today’s male teachers look like boy band members so, of course, the affection is directed much closer to home. Oh, fuck off. All people age. And when this happens, they all say things like, 'you know, I went to the hospital the other day to get my leg amputated and the consultant looked about twelve years old! The consultant!!!! TWELVE!!!!' Men who look young are not the problem here; men who are not healthy people are the problem here.

At 18, I wore brown loons, had greasy hair and spots. I wonder if he’d have reacted differently if I’d shopped tastefully at Topshop and learned make-up skills from Cheryl Cole. In other words, 'ugly girls don't need to worry because men only want to fuck teenagers who know how to dress properly. And girls who dress up and wear make-up are asking for it.' Nice. Really nice.

Yes, Megan seemed to wear a uniform, but look at her eyes – caked in mascara – and the pale-pink lip gloss. This is the crucial difference between girls now and girls when I was growing up. I looked like a child, so it was easier for a teacher not to become deluded. Yeah, Megan is EVIL. Just look at her eyes; they're EVIL. She made Jeremy take her to France by putting a spell on him with her mascara and lip gloss. What a predatory, calculating witch.

There have been a lot of conversations about this story, some of which have been kind of worrying. People have proclaimed that the age difference between Megan and her teacher isn't that big; that they really are in love; that the boundaries are 'blurry'. Hmmmm. Maybe they are; maybe they've got loads in common; maybe she's really mature for her age, whatever that actually means. It's doubtful though. Yes, age differences happen. But there's a huge difference between a 15 year age gap of people in their 30s and 40s and that of a 15-year-old and her 30-year-old teacher. And yes, we're all hearing the beautiful 'love stories' about two people who were in a similar situation to Megan and Jeremy and who are still 'incredibly happy together'. But, there's money on these people probably not really being OK and not really functioning in a healthy way. No offence.

In the midst of rebellion, challenging their own personal boundaries and trying to impress their peers15-year-old girls do a lot of stuff they're not sure they want to do and, even when they're pretty sure they don't want to do it, they can be crap at saying so. They'll boast about stuff that they actually feel like shit about, pretend that they can handle themselves when, in fact, they're terrified. Everything is hugely confusing. They'll make mistakes. Sometimes they'll learn from them. The odds are, patronising or not, that Megan Stammer hasn't really got a clue what she wants even if she is insisting otherwise right now.

Teenage girls can engage in risky behaviour with men and often enter into situations that they have neither the wit nor the experience to exit. Any 30-year-old male teacher who claims not to know this is not OK. And if he really thinks that he wants to be in an actual relationship with a 15-year-old then he is, at worst, really unwell and needs much help or, at best, a narcissist. 

Oh, and just to be clear, it's not the men who need protecting in these situations. Teenage girls need to be kept safe and the adults around them need to do their absolute best to help them make friends with themselves.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

5-7-5 #7

When shame came knocking
With its grins and milk-puffed cheeks
We played Hang Man. Twice.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

A-Z #5

I'm Not Religious, I'm Just Quite Spiritual

Asceticism has been a really amazing journey for me
Brrrrrrrrr!!! Your aura's incredibly cold!
Connectedness is when everyone holds hands and has a beautiful cry
Denial is when people don't believe in fairies. It's really sad
Everything is made of blessings. Everything
Fasting is easy because I'm full of love
Glastonbury Tor is my Power Place
How am I? I don't think of myself as how I am; more how I am. You know?
I feel really lucky to be so totally self obsessed aware
Just to let you know: I have seven souls. Sometimes eight
Karma is when people who are really poor were really bad in a past life
Love = Joy = Peace = No more war! It's so simple! xxx 
My reiki teacher can see right through me. Literally. He's amazing
No room at the Negativity Inn!
Pairs Utility is an anagram of 'spirituality'. Need I say more?
Qi, or ch'i, or chi, or ki. Or cheese
Self-realisation has been so good for me and my relationship with myself
Transcendentalism has been so good for me and my relationship with myself
Universe: do my bidding! (I mean that in a really gentle way)
Very, very, very, very depressed. Please, someone help me
When you ask the Universe for something, it always comes true
X-rays really fuck with your yin and yang
You are so nearly as spiritual as I am

Thursday, 13 September 2012


H is a single mother of a nine-week-old baby. She's been suffering from chronic depression and anxiety because of various life experiences. Understandably, H has been quite worried, since giving birth, that her depression will be aggravated further and that she will start to display symptoms of post-natal depression or postpartum psychosis. Thankfully, so far, neither has occurred.

Shortly before H gave birth, she made a claim for Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) - a benefit for people who are not well enough to work - on the grounds that she was depressed and anxious and unable to be around people she didn't know very well. H was not told it would have been better for her to make a claim for Income Support as a lone parent; entitlement to this benefit, in H's case, would have been unequivocal.

H received her first ESA payment and was under the impression that her claim had been finalised. She was not made aware that she would be required to attend a work capability assessment with a medical professional and that only after this assessment, would a final decision be made about her entitlement to ESA.

H attended her work capability assessment when she was heavily pregnant. Apparently, the medical professional assessing her had not been trained in the welfare system because H was not advised, due to the imminent birth of her baby, to cancel her ESA claim and make a claim for Income Support to which she certainly would have been entitled and for which there is no medical assessment or points-based test that has to be passed.

H had her baby. A couple of months after the birth, she sought advice from a welfare rights specialist about any other money she might be entitled to as a lone parent with health problems.

The caseworker called the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as a matter of course, to check the amount of ESA that H was receiving. The caseworker was told that H's ESA had been cancelled some weeks ago because she had failed her work capability assessment and was no longer entitled. H had not been written to about this and so was not aware that this decision had been made. She had not checked her bank account for some time as she had been busy with her new baby. Her only income at this point was Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit amounting to approximately £80 per week with which she had to buy food and household items for herself, nappies, formula milk and other provisions for her baby, pay her bills and pay for public transport to get to appointments to see her social worker and other people.

H was advised to make an immediate claim for Income Support and to ask for it to be backdated to the day that her ESA stopped. The caseworker talked to her about appealing the decision about her ESA but it was agreed that a claim for Income Support was a better route because H was definitely entitled to this benefit and the stress of an appeal where there was no guarantee of success would have been overwhelming for H.

H was also advised to apply for a crisis loan from the Social Fund while she was waiting for her Income Support claim to be processed.

Some days later, H contacted her caseworker in a state of panic to say that her application for a crisis loan had been unsuccessful. H had been told that she was ‘not in crisis’ because she was being paid Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. Someone in H’s situation should be receiving around £152 per week in benefits and tax credits. H was receiving about half this amount and was spending approximately £20 per week on nappies alone.

The caseworker tried to contact the crisis loan department on the telephone in an attempt to resolve things quickly but was greeted with the word, ‘no’ and the line going dead when she said who she was and why she was calling.

H is now in the process of appealing the decision about her entitlement to a crisis loan and is still awaiting the outcome of her Income Support claim. This does not solve her immediate problem of lack of funds because of poor knowledge and bad decision making on the part of the people working within the services that were designed to protect her.

It was not OK for a H, new single mother with complicated mental health problems, in an extremely vulnerable position, to have been told that she was ‘not in crisis’ when she said she was. It was not OK for people in positions of authority not to have noticed that it would been much better for this woman to have made a relatively simple claim for Income Support rather than a long-winded, stressful, humiliating and unsuccessful claim for ESA. It was not OK that H did not receive written confirmation of the decision about her ESA. It was not OK for H's caseworker to be greeted by a virtual brick wall during an attempt to help her.

What's also really not OK is for David Cameron to say that he wants to protect the most vulnerable in our society when there are very few, if any, examples of what he actually means, especially given that H’s case is by no means unique. 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Borrowers

Does anyone have a van to help me move at the weekend? If so, could you PM me your details ASAP? Ta.

Does anyone have a red dress I can use for one night next week? I'm planning on going out in red and I don't have anything red, so... xxx

Does anyone have a digital camera I can borrow for my first time with Stewart? (Eek!)

Does anyone have one of those things for getting staples out of stuff? I've got loads of staples in stuff and I need to get them out. It's urgent-ish.

Does anyone have a gigantic house plant (and car) that they don't want any more? I mainly need the car.

Does anyone have an entire orchestra's worth of instruments? I've just had an amazing idea to do with music!

Does anyone have a baby I can borrow? Preferably for a few years?

Does anyone have all the episodes of Neighbours, Home & Away and Eastenders? I need to watch them all quite urgently for a thing I'm doing about addiction, loneliness and overeating.

Does anyone feel like helping me tidy up the mess I've made in my house? I got a bit cross yesterday and burned quite a lot of stuff. #oops.

Does anyone have, like, an hour or so to spare once a week?

Does anyone have a bed? In their room? That I can sleep in? With them?

Does anyone have a healthy sense of boundaries that they could teach me?

Does anyone have a bike, some masking tape, a wig, some sheets of glass, a bible, some coffee, a Kula Shaker CD, some ash, a cock stop, a banana a filing cabinet and a quid I could borrow for twenty minutes?

Does anyone have any advice about anything? I mean just in general?

Does anyone have about twelve of those little wooden scooters that are in the shape of various animals? It's for a kids' music/theatre/group show/workshop that me and Jonah and Jemimah and Juliah and Joshuah are doing.

Does anyone have any idea where I am? All I can see is pylons if that's any help... 

Does anyone have some guns? I've really fucked something up.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Eavesdrop #12

An elderly couple are on a bus.

Woman           I tell you who I'd like to see soon and that's Bob

Man                Bob died. He died

Woman           He died?

Man                Yes, he did. I didn't tell you because I knew that you loved him and I didn't want you to be sad before Julia's wedding