Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Contrasts on a sunny day

If I didn't have to go to a PA meeting later I would go to the pond. Yesterday I did, a day much like today. A warm, blue sky, grass and trees all shades of shining green. I would go and lie in the meadow of wild flowers and finish my book: Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which Ellie gave me for my birthday.
It's the tale of a father and son walking through burnt America, heading south to the coast with only a pistol with which to defend themselves. It's a desolate landscape, buildings looted and ravaged, trees once pregnant with life, now stumps in a grey ashen wilderness. Towns now just abandoned memories, everything once known, gone.
It's freezing cold as the father and his terrified, starving child, try to find food or a dry, safe place to sleep for the night, away from the road, where men who find them will kill them for whatever they've got, even the meat on their bones.
I'm half way through. It's emotionally heavy, it's heartbreaking, it's haunting, but it's beautifully written.
Suffice to say, I'm hoping for a happy ending.....


The residents meeting cancelled again because the hall is flooded.
They still haven't pumped the water out beneath the lift so me still carrying the bike down the stairs (ok so good for the muscles in my arm...one will look toned, the other swinging bingo wings... oh well)
And this beautiful sunny morning I'm drowning in the mess in my flat. Paper paper everywhere. Perhaps I should give up thoughts of a research and writing career then there'll be less.
Storage? There is no storage!
I dream I dream......

Friday, 26 June 2009

Matt the mental healh worker says goodbye

Matt my mental health worker popped round earlier to say goodbye. I've been struck off the list as I've been on it too long. I'll miss Matt, he's a nice guy. It was nice that I could laugh and cry on him, share my mad ideas.

Tommy my housing officer was supposed to come round. He sent a letter telling me he would carry out his regular property visit between 9.30 and 12.30. He didn't show.

What's the odds of him writing saying that I wasn't there? That's what life's like when you're a stigmum at the bottom of the bucket.

I'm going to have to wait in another morning now. It's an opportunity to tidy up I know but grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr......

So long Farrah Fawcett

Quite shocked by her demise too, the original Charlie's Angel. The '80's were quite something ey. I never did try and copy her hair do. Alas, there is still time!
Rest in peace Farrah
(what a day was yesterday.....)

So long Jacko

I heard the news bulletin last night after Question Time. I was shocked. You know, that momentary feeling of nothing before the heart starts beating again and you think 'oh god'. Or that's what I thought, there are plenty of spontaneous reactionary words to choose from.

This morning though, as I went outside to have a quick first fag of the day, my next door neighbour came home clutching a tabloid. "JACKO'S DEAD" the headline screamed. Then next door neighbour went into her studio and put on his music REALLY LOUD! It was great!!

My son doesn't know Michael Jackson too well. I've got the odd motown track but no album of his. However outside the lift before I took him to school, he got the hang of a song remarkably quickly so the wait was anything but arduous, we just had to join in

Beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it

Rest in peace Jacko and thank you for the music (yes I know that's an Abba track, I just can't help myself)

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Nought nice to bid on

It's Thursday, bidding day, so off I go and log in to the homeconnections site to see what's there. Quite a number of properties today, 9 in all. Three of them are housing association and the other six council owned towers. There's security of tenancy with the council so I never bid for housing associations. Council properties are cheaper too.

The name of the game is to bid for everything. I do not do this. I don't want to pull my son out of a very good school to go and live in an estate near Kings Cross. There's only one property near me, well, nearish me.

It's on the third floor. I've been reluctant to bid for anything above the second because of carrying the bike but this one does have a balcony so there is somewhere to keep it.

The location doesn't look pretty. It's a block on a main road, but then block on a main road is better than a block hidden in the midst of a large estate, even if it is noisy. It's not often I go out at night but I don't want to be scared out of my wits when I do and have to walk home. My son will have to do it one day.....

Papier Mache Towers is on the edge of an estate opposite where celebrities live in terraced houses. Sometimes if I get the 24 night bus I have to walk through the estate. I walk quickly, it's so quiet and I remain very aware of my surroundings, on high alert if you like. When one's been mugged in a public place and not heard screaming it alters the way one walks around.

I'm already 30th out of 62 bids for this 'maisonette' in the sky. By Monday I'll be 200 and something out of 400 and something. Tis a pointless exercise but it's what we all have to do.

Would you like to play this game?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


I have one. It might get me into trouble. If I am successful it will certainly get press attention and I don't really like that but of course the press will report my success. I will be the sacrificial lamb, or rather mutton. I prize my anonymity you see. Perhaps I will be allowed to keep my anonymity, I don't know how the law stands around this idea of mine.
A good idea always comes with a few obstacles. I shall tell you if I fail. I won't have to if I succeed.

Whadda ya know, resident meeting cancelled

Yup, no chance to talk to the Tory councillor as 'due to flooding, the meeting has been cancelled'. Given that the meeting is here, at Papier Mache Towers, this is hardly surprising, floods are the order of the day, especially under the lifts (or in them if we're talking urine, dogs or humans who knows....)

Never mind me and my questions, widow from upstairs was going to challenge the councillor about what he might do about the teenagers who use the block as a playground.

Last Sunday, she told me, at least 15 of them had broken the lock to the roof and from there were throwing all manner of things from the top. They poured a can of tango which landed on widow's mum, drenching her in orange fizz. They then moved down to the balcony outside her flat and shouted obsenities to whoever from there.

I told her I missed the lot. I miss everything round here. Although I do hear kids from the back of my block but they're young, doing death defying leaps from one shed to another. These are older kids and I may have heard them tonight. Lots of shrieks and stamping about, so much so the Tower shuddered.

Meeting's been moved to next Monday. The last one was interesting. The focus then was on the teenagers too, who kicked in the glass panel from the 9th floor balcony, who threw a stone at a security officer making his head bleed. They threw glass at single dad too. Apparently then, the fresh waves of crime were caused by Dispersal Orders. Kids seen in Queens Crescent or Burghley Street after a certain hour are 'dispersed' to reduce criminal activity in these areas. Where do they go? Why here! Lucky us!

Change of plan for the Tory visitor

This evening a Tory councillor is coming to Papier Mache Towers to talk to us residents. A couple of days ago on the foyer's notice board it said he would talk about 'housing options.' I thought that would be very interesting given what I know. Today though I see that has been changed and he's going to talk about 'regeneration' projects. Easy peasy lemon squeezy to share vision, make promises.
I'm going. I ought to really given I'm wearing red nail varnish. I'm taking my son, no choice there as have no sitter.
Now, what do I ask?
"Very interesting regeneration ideas Mr Councillor but the Tory's are planning cuts in public funding so how are you proposing to pay for it? Oh by auctioning off the council flats?"
"You were going to talk about Housing Options Mr Councillor, why have you changed your mind?"
The first question is on behalf of the residents who have secure tenancies here, the second is for me, because I'm nosy. I just hope I'm brave enough to ask as I can get a bit dry mouthed. Christ, I'm wearing red nail varnish for cupcakes sake, I can be BOLD!!

British Mummy Bloggers

I have just tried to join British Mummy Bloggers. I found the link on singleparentdad, which I found on the Time's Alpha Mummy. If I succeed I'll try and post the link on here but I am a luddite and don't know how to do such things, or post music links, or do anything, except navel gaze of course.
I wonder if there are any other stigmums on there. Surely there must be. It's quite exciting really!

RBS chief gets £9.6 million bonus

This is, how does one put it? Disgusting?
Stephen Lester, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, gets near £10 million in bonuses while thousands of his staff are made or have been made redundant in 'cost cutting' exercises.
Getting £9.6 million when the taxpayer had to bail out the bank.
Words fail me.
I'm surprised I'm even commenting

Monday, 22 June 2009

Interviews beginning

As part of the Participatory Appraisal social research volunteering I'm doing, the interviews of all the 'stakeholders' begin today.
First up is the head of Camden's Children's Schools and Families. Next week I've said I'll interview the chief superintendent of police.
Dee's done alot of prep for this morning. Bumped into Billie yesterday who's coming, it should be good. The first step's always the hardest. I'm nervous but I'm with some great gals!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Am I being paranoid?

Following last posting and ex support worker's call, I'm wondering about this blog.
Do certain members of the council know of its existence and are gleefully waiting to see what I'll do next and how far I'll take it?

For others in my situation, the blog doesn't necessarily give advice on what to do, it merely tells them what I am doing and they can try it themselves if they wish. What doesn't work for me and my son might work for them.

I've told Hannah to get lawyers, I'll call her soon and ask how she's doing......

It's true, I'm not being paranoid

Ex support worker has just called, to see how I'm doing. He also called to convince me to go on the PRS and worked out how many points I'll get if I do so. I may gain an extra 50 but I may lose my 40 medical points. He said he knows someone who was on the PRS for six months and is now viewing properties. I told him there would be no guarantee if I went for PRS that I would view anything and he agreed.

I have said for a long time to friends that the council are not helping me precisely because they know who I am. It's a coincidence is it not that I haven't heard from my 'proper' support worker since my lawyer wrote to him?

I tell support worker they only want me to join the PRS to manipulate the homeless statistics. I tell him I don't want to play this game.

Support worker said "Yes, it is a game and they know that you know all this which is why they aren't helping you. You did that study on homeless people. You know what they know but aren't saying."

"You can't give me that in writing can you?" I asked, knowing that he couldn't.
"I would but I can't, I wish I could help you."

Yep, so the council does know who I am. I've written enough letters, they have letters from a psychologist, they have a letter from a lawyer. They know the lawyer cannot help me as there has been no correspondence from them since.

I am pretty angry but I am also happy that ex supporter said what I know is true, that I am being ignored, that I am not being paranoid.

It's a bastard system. Who gives a flying fairy cake about me, they're doing this to my son. That is why I'm angry.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

I knew such a man existed

As I decided to ignore my frustration that the lift wasn't working this morning and accept I'd have to carry my bike down the stairs, I ran into Mr Gray down on the fourth floor. A while ago Mr Gray said he'd talk to councillors on my behalf. I did not ask if he had done. I merely said "This is one of the reasons I want to move," as I held my bike aloft like a true gladiator.

He offered to carry it for me, which I declined, but he insisted so I accepted. He asked if I'd applied for one of the sheds downstairs and I told him I'd been on the waiting list for four years despite there being at least 5 empty ones. He said he'll try and get me one.

He asked me how many points I had and I told him it was pointless telling him, they were worth nothing. I told him I had no more aces to play. That years ago I had a psychiatrist and psychotherapist but that had got me nowhere. He told me to get a solicitor, that hadn't worked either. The most interesting thing he told me though, is what I have always suspected:

There is a man who works in a room in the council who can change a persons points from 300 to 800 at the flick of a switch.

He advised I get a new solicitor, get all the information over the five years I've been waiting all together, and get the lawyer to write to the council. I have done this for myself already but I shall do it again.

He said I should talk to the 'big men'. There's a Tory councillor coming to the residents meeting next tuesday.

In truth I do want to surrender, I do want to let go of it all but I do have to think about my son.
I shall do what I am capable of doing without getting depressed about it. Where I see someone I shall talk. I shall get Doris to hold my hand. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

There is a man who can change my points in a matter of seconds. A matter of seconds. In a matter of seconds change the numbers. Change the numbers and change my life....

In the meantime I shall carry on living. After I said goodbye to Mr Gray I cycled into Camden to get food for my son's packed lunch tomorrow (they are all off to the British Museum for the day). I popped into Boots and bought red nail varnish and blue nail varnish. Tonight I take off the blue I'm currently wearing and paint on red. I'm going on a date tomorrow you see; Luke has popped over from Barcelona. My brother and sister in law bought me black high heels for my birthday which I will team with a black and white strapless dress and red lipstick, of course.

We're going to La Clique. It ends its run at the Hippodrome next week. I've been busting a gut to go and see it - cabaret, burlesque, it'll be fab. Darn shame they're turning the Hippodrome into a casino but I shan't think about that. I shall think about where I am right now, and that is here, ending this blog and about to pick up my beautiful boy from school. Aaaah!

Starting over

I am going to start living in a positive frame of mind. I'm not going to try to start living in a positive frame of mind as I've tried and tried and tried with the help of shrinks and self help books but find I fall down time and time again. So now, birthday just been, an opportunity to think yesterday's over, I'm going to live optimistically, going to think optimistic things and ignore as best I can the negative things, like the lift not working.
I have my self help books should I faulter.
These are (and no I'm not recommending you buy them but they work for me)

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
You Can Heal Your Life by Louisa L. Hay
Mind Magic by Betty Shine

I'm going to pick up Betty Shine again because I like her style, it's like my gran's talking to me. all warm and feelgood ya know, I also want to get into visualisation again. It got me through labour, it can get me through life!


I love birthdays. Not just mine, everybody's. I think it's such a special day, this day we came screaming into the world.

I can't remember which birthday it was which I missed. It came and went without my realising it. I was somewhere in south west China, on a horse trek, and it was only when we got back to the town that I discovered I'd turned 27 while I was clip clippety clopping with other travellers. I had so much fun on that trek that I realised a birthday doesn't have to be celebrated. Because I 'didn't have' a birthday, I believed I was still 26 for months and months. On my 28th I thought I was 27. The confusion properly ended on my 30th. I had a giant party in an Eritrean restaurant in Oval.

Since then I 'count' all my birthdays. Since being a stigmum there have been birthdays when I've been on my own in the evening. It's fine, I live in Papier Mache Towers, the view is fantastic, so I buy a half bottle of wine, sit in the chair by the window and look at the sky, the clouds, the silhouette of the clock tower, one year the moon hanging just above it.

Then I have a picnic. I invite all who I know even if I haven't seen them for years. Not everyone comes of course, some live too far away, but everyone's invited. This year my birthday was on picnic day. Over the years the people I know who don't know one another have got to know one another. School friends, uni friends, ex work, Camden parents, Kentish Town ones, the lot.That's what I like best about my picnics; getting people together and seeing all the people I really like... dare I say it, all the people I really love.

I love birthdays - Mine, yours, anybody's.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

My Mother Out-law

My mother out law phoned last night. I've always called her so because I was never married to her son. I like her. She's small, about my height, always elegantly dressed and never minces her words, which she delivers with a soft Irish accent.

I see her about once a year and every Christmas she gives me a box of Clarins goodies because she knows I like that. "My life might be shit, but at least I don't smell like it," I'm fond of saying, though not to her, language 'an all.

My mother out law once said she doesn't like moaners. Her own mother, who I immediately loved upon meeting and only sorry I'll never meet her again, was widowed when she and her brother were both under 3. She worked all her life and is still vehemently independent despite being in her 90's. This Irish family aren't moaners, they are get on and doers.

She wants to meet me for lunch tomorrow, to wish me a happy birthday. My friend Charlie rang me yesterday wanting to meet me for lunch today but I declined. I wanted to tell my mother out law another time, but she's not often in London and well, I didn't want to moan although how I'll put a spin on my life tomorrow, I just don't know. I was thinking about it last night until I found myself in a puddle of sodium chloride (apparently that's what tears are made of).

She'll ask after my dad. He's not well but my mum's told me not to tell anyone so I'll say he's fine.
She'll ask after my mum. I'll say she's fine too. I'll say everyone's fine. Fine, fine, fine.

She'll ask me about the housing situation. Easy to say 'nothing happening' now. Every year it's the same answer, the question is almost rhetorical.

She'll ask me what course I'm doing and when I say journalism, she'll tell me I'm a good writer. Everything I've written for newspapers hasn't been accepted. Comes across abit moany, a bit self defeating.

I'll tell her I'm volunteering. That sounds good.

Do I ask her if she voted? If so, do I tell her I've started a political party? Best not, there are only a few members and I don't want her son knowing about it, don't ask me why. Possibly because there are only a few members which implies it hasn't taken off. Naturally, I want to have taken off, never mind my party. I want to have taken off a long time ago.

I'll ask her about her family. She has a big one. She is one super mamma herself.

Then right at the end she'll say how excited she is that my son's going with them all to Ireland this summer for two weeks. I'm not excited about that at all.

My god I wish I was over everything, over myself. Instead I dissolved into my pool of sodium chloride. Thank the mighty heavens for fish pie, that's all I can say. A mouthful of that will have me looking on the bright side of life in no time (Monty Python's Life of Brian).

Fish Pie

A couple of years ago I contemplated suicide. It was a terrifying experience. It wasn't the first time I'd thought about it. Back when I was 17, I perched on a window sill, six floors up, in tears telling myself to 'jump, you fucker, jump.'

This time, there was no emotion. None whatsoever. Dry eyed I stood before the window in my living room staring out at nothing.

"He'll be better off without you," my inner voice was saying. "You can't take him down with you. Look what you're doing to him. Where are you taking him? Some shit estate? Where he'll fight, get fought, get knifed, knife? Go, he'll be better off without you. Go, fly away. You know it's for the best."

I looked at the window. It only opens about 3 inches, I should think of another way. Should I leave a note?

"Dear son,
I love you more than I love life itself. I have to leave life, but I'm never leaving you, I'll always be with you."

No, no good.

"Dear son,
Mummy's had to go away. You'll be better off with daddy."

No, no no.

"Dear son,
..... "

Suddenly the room was thrown into darkness. It was odd, I'd had no awareness of light.

"Mummy?" My son's voice penetrated the silence. Shit. I didn't know you were there.

"Yes, yes sweetie," I said turning towards him, "it's only a power cut, wait there, mummy will get a candle."

My mind emptied as though a door had been opened at the back of my head and every thought, every word gushed out like air. My hands began trembling and I could feel my heart knocking against my ribs.

As I ran my son a bath and lit candles at each end, I thought "Do this for yourself later." This I did, pouring in lavender oil, thinking, actively thinking, as though catching up with myself, that to do so was being good to myself and I must be good to myself.

Guilt was my companion all night. How could I think he'd be better off without me? Who was I to know what my son would feel should I leave so irreversably?

The following morning I decided to make him a fish pie. He loves fish pie. I rarely make it as it's so labour intensive, so time consuming. Well, Annabel Karmel's recipe is. It's expensive but then there's only the two of us, so I can freeze what we don't eat.

When I put it in the oven I went outside for a cigarette and from the balcony I saw not one, but two rainbows. They were messages I could not compute, but I knew they were beautiful. Life. Life is beautiful.

I've been feeling really quite shit recently which culminated in a good cry last night. This morning I made a fish pie.

I'm not telling you this because I feel sorry for myself. I don't, I know how lucky I am even if I do lose sight of it now and again. I'm telling you this because I'm not the only stigmum, not the only mother, not the only person who has felt that there is nowhere else to go; that there is a way out.

I know widows, mothers with disabled children, mothers caring for elderly relatives, who just get on and deal with the obstacles in their lives. I admire these women, understand the others who struggle.

As for my fish pie today, I ran out of butter, so it was a butterless mash and a sloppy white sauce as I had to reduce the amount of flour for the roux. If I've aspirations to be Bree Van de Gilt, I'm falling short. But nor can I be compared to Susan Myers. She's a hopeless cook but her house is tidy. I spent hours a couple of weeks ago sprucing up my flat as my son had a friend come and play. As he walked into the room, the friend declared: "Your house is really messy."

Can't win 'em all.......I'm a desperate housewife, but not that Desperate it would seem.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


I'm still at a loss as to why I went down to the polling station and marked X on a spot this morning. God help me during the general election. I may abstain then for any choice I make will be the wrong one.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

It's not all shit - the perks of a parasite

I went to the Hampstead Heath Ladies pond today. Temperature high high at 27 degrees. I had homework to do for my course tomorrow. I've handed course tutor nothing since she assassinated my last piece. Felt I better do something. But oh the sun, the sun! I don't work in an office! The housework can wait!

I packed my bikini, a towel, a pen and a notebook and off I toddled. It's so nice there!

I found a little spot in a meadow near the pond. I cocooned myself amongst the wild grass shoots and buttercups, lobbed off my bikini top and got scribbling. A restaurant review, that's what the tutor wants and by chance I went to a restaurant just last week. Bintang on the Kentish Town Road. It was like being back in Asia. Blissful interior and exquisite food and bring your own bottle and friends.

Scribble scribble rest rest rest. Scribble lying on my front rest rest rest. It was so hot. So I put my bikini top back on and dived into the pond. I like that, cutting through the cold water, feeling it wrap around my head, my shoulders, my limbs, pushing through it, rising to the surface. At one point I looked to see if I could see my legs in the water. They were orange, seemingly dismembered in the murky space.

I thought I'd swim the circumference of the 100 metre pond. Breast stroke; I'm rubbish at the crawl and anyway, with breast stroke you can keep your head above the water or forge it under. On one of the life rings there were five little ducklings. They'd commandeered it. I wish I knew the names of ducks, I'd tell you which ones I swam with.

I went back to the meadow, wrote some more, relaxed some more, wondered at the name of the wild purple flowers which bordered it, got fidgety, left. Picked up my son from school and suggested the Lido. A massive contrast is an understatement but alot of fun with my boy.

To go to the pond now and then is food for my soul. Hampstead Heath has saved my soul. I live on that place. On Kite Hill, in the forest, by the ponds, the walks to Kenwood, the walks to who knows where but I hope I find my way back. I feel at home there. Hampstead Heath is my Home.

Honey's moved

I was really happy for her, then she told me it wasn't a council flat.

She asked her hostel manager if she could have a room with a bath as her son's eczema had got so bad that his skin was cracking and bleeding. She was told that the rooms with baths were smaller than hers. "Smaller?" she asked incredulously, the inference being of course that she couldn't imagine a room smaller than her own.

They said she had to be rehoused urgently on medical grounds, was given 40 extra points. This obviously was not going to get her very far so they placed her in a private rented flat.

She is happy, she looks happier. Her son's skin has calmed down. She's quite pregnant now too. She is in a better space. She says it's big, two bedrooms, a front garden. She also says it costs £395 a week.

Her landlady lives abroad and has said if she isn't housed by the council when her three year tenancy expires, she'll renew it. Private landlords are the real winners in this....

I told her I was jealous. I told her I wished I was 20. I wouldn't give a flying fairy cake if I was in my early twenties. I moved around a lot back then.

I don't want rent I can't afford myself. That's who I am for that's who I was.

That's my problem. My past was good. I know better than this shit.