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So friendly is Ross, our little town!
Everyone smiles when I walk down
To buy my paper, and on the way
People stop to chat, just to say
How lovely the weather but didn’t it rain…
Well you know how it goes, I won’t explain.

Quintessentially English, I don’t mean twee,
We’re not all out enjoying afternoon tea!
The pace of life seems slower and time
Just dawdles along – and all seems fine.
Until recently I thought I’d always be here.
I’d felt safe and content – I want to be clear.

But then one day a purple bus appeared.
My heart truly sank, it was as I feared.
UKIP in town on their anti-foreigner ticket
Believe me, I could to say where to stick it.
The worst of it was the bile of their supporters.
Have the lessons from history really not taught us?

I have family members whose ghosts haunt Auswitz
And a mum whose nerves were shot in the blitz.
I know where bigotry and hatred leads
And don’t tell me I exaggerate, please.
So now I no longer smile and say Hi
But just keep my head down as I pass by.

Alliance blog

In May this year, I joined members of the Mental Health Resistance Network at an event at the Old Vic. It was a panel debate on the state of mental health provision in the UK, one of their Voices Off events linked to the production of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker. The original panel was Luciana Berger MP, Shadow Minister for Mental Health; Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind; and Simon Wessely President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. MHRN members protested that there were no service user speakers, and eventually Peter Beresford and Alice Evans were invited onto the panel.

Inspired by the desperate lack of service user voices, mental health activists rapidly got together a zine to distribute at the meeting – a passionate collection of first-hand experiences of living on the sharp end of mental health disability in the UK. Jay Watts of the Alliance contributed a cartoon…

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Through the Window

I see that it has stopped raining, but It’s still grey and miserable. The passing cars have their lights on. Most of them anyway. Probably permanently set on automatic.

Someone just went past, glanced up at the sky, scowled, and started to speed up. A man in a blue mac who is probably regretting leaving his car at home. Especially as the cars are sending sprays of water across the pavement.

The next door neighbour has just pulled up. I move away from the window slightly. Why did I do that? He couldn’t possibly see me through the thick net curtain. And so what if he did see me … but it would matter, and I feel my heart starting to bang against my ribs in panic. Breath! I must calm down. I start to count the vans that go past, sometimes it’s minis, or blue cars. Counting helps me to focus and feel less stressed. By the twentieth I am much more settled.

There are patches of blue sky in the distance. I look at the clouds to see which way the wind is blowing. It looks hopeful that better weather is heading this way. There are more white clouds now. Sometimes I see animals or faces in their shapes. Other times they look like mountains. I love the clouds.

It must be near to the end of school as there are troops of so-young women, pushing buggies, heading in that direction. I decide to count how many are fiddling with their mobiles. Five, no … six. They can definitely multitask. So much noise… a gaggle of mums, is that the collective noun?

The bus to Monmouth goes by. When I was more well I sometimes went on it, just for a change. It was always pretty empty, which I liked. Less risk of someone trying to talk to me. If anyone did get on, I kept looking down so they couldn’t catch my eye and start a conversation. That was quite a while ago now. Maybe even a year?

Nobody knows what it’s like. People think I’m stupid for not answering the door – or the telephone. For just sitting here, staring out of the window, day after day.

The other day, or was it last week, it was so sunny, I was determined to go out for a walk. It took several changes of clothes before I thought I didn’t look like crap; combed my hair and even put on some lipstick. I unearthed my sunglasses from the bottom of my bag and headed for the front door. And that was where it all fell apart. I couldn’t bring myself to turn the key, let alone the door handle. Dread, fear, panic … oh such indescribable panic, followed by floods of burning hot tears as I ended up sliding to the floor in despair.

So since then, I am back by the window, watching the world carry on without me. It’s better that way.

DWP, Contempt, & Hunger

Trying to keep calm ain’t working!
This morning I read how the online benefit payment system crashed in East Lothian, leaving hundreds to resort to food banks. DWP said there was a “small-scale problem”.
East Lothian, through no fault of its’ own, was chosen to be Scotland’s trial with the loathsome fully digital Universal Credit system.
So much is wrong with all this, I don’t know where to begin.
The suits in London government offices, so removed from reality, have just assumed that everyone has a computer, tablet or smartphone. No! When confronted, the common response is that claimants can go to their local library and use their PCs … oh, hang on, libraries are closing at a rate of knots due to cuts …
They assume that all claimants are computer-literate, are not visually impaired or have learning difficulties, don’t have dexterity issues, are not so ill that they could do without this stress.
I am seething so much, I have missed lots of other points to be made, but the main point is this – this cruel change from separate benefits to one only obtainable online, is not due to economics, but to ideology. It’s a way of cutting back and exclusion, deliberately reducing the number of claimants.
Anyway, the original report is here: http://www.thenational.scot/news/hundreds-left-penniless-due-to-system-crash.21169

Same Difference

This is the bizarre moment a disabled man was arrested by police at a McDonald’s drive-thru on suspicion of being drunk in charge of a mobility scooter .

The man was arrested under a Victorian drink-driving law when he was stopped on Monday after he tried to order a takeaway meal.

Security guard Jack Solomon, 25, took a series of pictures of the man as he was breathalysed at the McDonald’s restaurant on Grand Parade, Skegness, Lincs, at 3.30pm.

He said: “I was working opposite the restaurant and saw a load of police so went over to see what was happening.

“I was shocked to see an officer talking to a fella on a mobility scooter.
Jack Solomon/SWNS

image: http://i1.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article8546162.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/PAY-The-abandoned-wheelchair-after-the-man-was-taken-away.jpg
The abandoned wheelchair after the man was taken away
The abandoned wheelchair after the man was taken away

“Another one of them breathalysed him before taking him off the scooter…

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Ramblings of an Ordinary Man

Lime St, Liverpool packed out for Corbyn Lime St, Liverpool packed out for Corbyn

In their thousands they came. Carrying home-made placards, they came. Women pushing prams, their kids in-toe, the young, middle-aged and old, black, white, disabled, the old left and the newly awoken; in the pouring rain they came. They filled St George’s Plateau and still they came, until they filled the road and the central reservation and the pavements beyond. 10,000 strong they closed Lime St, stopped traffic, and still they came.

This is a movement, a mass outpouring that demands, no, deserves to be heard. “Not the usual crowd,” said a friend. That’s us I thought. I’m part of the ‘usual crowd’. The old left. Veteran’s of struggles past. We were there alright, but this time to simply bear witness. This is a spontaneous movement. Some deride it and call it a cult, but that belittles the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people…

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