Saturday, 13 November 2010

Stigmum and me - a song

It's now time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to know.
Find a man settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you've got
For you will still be here tomorrow,
but your dreams may not.

How can I try to explain, when I do I'm turned away again.
It's always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

It's now time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to go through.
Find a man, settle down, if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them who won not me.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

(Cat Stevens featuring Stigmum and me) The next song on the cd is Morning Has Broken and the song after that is Wild World which stiggers sang to me after I met Nick Clegg! Que sera sera ey Doris, que sera sera!

Not going to blog for a while

The time has come to stop blogging. I have to. Stigmum for me is synonymous with housing and I have to forget about that for a while. A long while. It's been a tough old war which I lost but a tough old battle which I won.

I don't think I'd have made it without Stigmum. She gave me the strength to fight until the very end. It's time now to go and unpack my stuff, get my head together and leave the past two years behind. Focus on my son, fully, totally, positively. I can't come back to here too soon, I'll feel I have to bid and my mental health is too fragile right now.

I'll say this to you though.
Ask the universe
Read the good bits of your horoscopes
It might not be enough to help you but it helped me.
Fighting is wearying, it depletes all your energy, all your reserves. When there's little left of you though, you can still hear yourself. Do what you have to do but don't give up on yourself.
Please, don't give up on yourself.
Take care and I'll see you when I see you (and no doubt write again when I need to, though not about housing I hope!)
Followers, thanks for following. Not an easy blog to follow this one....

A dream come true!

The Ham & High published my letter!! Right bang central next to a picture of David Cameron!
Why is this a dream come true? Especially as the CNJ have published my letters and the Ham & High and the Guardian have published my articles.

Well, a dream come true because it was a social political piece of writing without 'me' or 'I' in it!!

Dreams, old old dreams of one day being a social political reporter, but I got my break in business and that was alright because I loved my trade.

I may never write another piece of social political journalism. This may be the first and last time, who knows? The paper put my new address at the bottom of it though and who I am at that new address is yet to be born.

Cool ey? What a lovely way to end my tenure here at Papier Mache Towers!

"This place suits you!"

Annie and Issy came round last night with a takeaway and some booze love 'em!
"Wow" they both said when they saw it. You can see the entrance to every room from the front door There isn't only the illusion of space; there is space.

Chatting away, listening to music, Issy says: "This place really suits you!"

I didn't ask her what she meant, because I knew what she meant. It's the whole 'social profile' thing

It reminded me of the Tory councillor who told me not to go for a council flat but to take private renting. Who told me to live somewhere according to my 'social profile', to take my son to live somewhere more 'suitable' to our 'social profile'. You might remember, I blogged about it.

Well Tory councillor, I've got what you wanted for us. Now do me a favour and don't go slashing the housing benefit.

Incidently, I still don't know what the rent is. When I saw the housing officer on Thursday, he even called his office to find out but no joy.

I think it's the universe telling me not to think or worry about it. So I won't. I don't have the energy if I'm honest. All I want to do now is go and crash out on my new mattress and enjoy the fact there are no jagged springs stabbing my body.

Aah, nice.

Saying farewell to Papier Mache Towers

Sitting cross legged on the floor yesterday afternoon after coming back from new flat, trying to unpeel stickers from the kitchen door.

A reflective moment about my time here in Papier Mache Towers.

If you take out everything to do with housing issues, of which there were a ton, but if you take them all out, it was nice living here.

This tiny flat, with so much light flooding in through the windows was peaceful for me and my son. Little boy, we laughed and danced when the black dog didn't have me mind ridden. I never let the Foca in, ever, so none of that negative energy. The neighbours were all really nice, well the ones I got to know.

Take away good memories I told myself. I hope I can. It may take a little while to get over the unhappy ones.

New place, how different to this place. I could hear my new neighbours music coming from downstairs last night which means they're going to hear ours and our footsteps. Hopefully now my son's older he won't erm, jump around too much! These new builds ey, no soundproofing!

It's also now quite hard to describe where I live. It's not a tower, it's not on an estate, it's not really on a street either. It's kind of a vein off an artery. Very, very different. And only one neighbour, not 50 like here.

I wonder what memories we'll pick up there. Peaceful ones I hope. One immediate difference is that I'll have to let the Foca into this one. My son will want to show him his room. It's not 'our' room anymore, none of his space is my space too.

Time to move on isn't it? Time to move on.....

Whoops, haven't redirected the post....

Letters on the door mat have reminded me that I haven't redirected my mail. What a muppet.
Mind you, in my defence, I couldn't believe that I was going to the new flat until I had the keys in my hand and then when I had the keys in my hand I was told I was leaving the next day.

A race against time to get packing, I directed all my efforts there.

If I hadn't been allowed back here today, I wouldn't have received the following letter. It has served to remind me how lucky I am, how bleddy fecking lucky. It could be any housing association or landlord by the way, so I won't name it. Oh and I'm cutting bits out of the letter that you already know or I'd be here all night.

Here goes:

Dear Ms de Nim


...30 November 2010

You must move out of your home, and leave the property by that date

Please not that any personal property and possessions, which are left in the premises after that date, will be removed from the property by the Housing Association. Under no circumstances can the Housing Association allow you to go back into the property after the eviction has taken place, nor can the Housing Association delay the Bailiffs appointment whilst you remove the personal property and possessions (ah, the Church did, bless it as a landlord).
I must repeat that it will not be possible for you to re-enter the property after the eviction date, and that all or any of your personal items and possessions left in the property will be removed. Neither can the Housing Association nor its agents, or anyone else acting on its behalf will accept any responsibility for items removed from the premises after teh the eviction date.

Would you please stop saying Yours sincerely at the end of harsh letters. Thankyou.

Two lucky things I wish to point out.
First, I am not being evicted by bailiffs
Second, I'm glad the council intervened and got me these few extra days to come back to the property. I found a photo of my family down the side of the desk and the clock on the kitchen wall, though admittedly, the clock's easy to replace, but not the picture my son drew me, which is my profile picture on facebook, which can't be. Nor, I don't think, can the picture.

Lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky me

Leaving the flat in a tip

Oh how lucky am I that I have the keys to both places.

The flat looks like I've left in a hurry. Yesterday and today I've been at it to make it look like I didn't leave in a hurry. With 'everything' gone, I've filled at least 10 bin bags. It still looks like I left in a hurry. Henry's over at the new flat, sitting redundant as there are no carpets there for little bits of whatever to stick to.

I kind of want to apologise to the church. I had to leave that place in a hurry too. Only I didn't think, didn't think at all, to go back to them and say let me tidy it up a bit. But I was very upset back then, I wasn't going to somewhere better.

So yeah, bless me father for I have sinned
I'm a sinner
I'm a sinnerwoman.
Isn't that a Nina Simone song?

Three angels at my door

First off, I will admit to you that I am knackered, absolutely shattered so forgive the bad storytelling but I need to share this because I need to say thank you.

Friday morning. Friday? Yesterday? A hundred years have passed it feels... So yeah, yesterday morning I get a call from the allocations team saying the removal people aren't coming in the afternoon, as stated the previous day, but in the morning.

"Oh my God, I'm not ready," said wired me. "Do you think they'll help me pack?"
"No, you should have done that. They're coming early to remove it because you have a lot to move, so they're coming this morning so that they have time to unload it this afternoon."
"Oh my God, I hope they're nice. Do you think they'll be nice? I really hope they're nice." I race upstairs. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. Where to fecking start?????????

Five minutes later, five, the buzzer goes and three minutes later I have three men standing outside my door. One in his twenties, one in his thirties and the other in his forties (I'm guessing).

"Are you nice?" I'm pretty fecking desperate, my eyes plead, plead, plead.
They stare at me. "Er.."
"Are you? Are you nice? You have to be nice, I need somebody nice. You see, erm, I'm not finished."
Looking over my shoulder they'd have seen quite how unfinished I was but the poor guys hadn't seen the living room or the kitchen yet. Oh shit.
"Some stuff's ready, so you take that and I'll get on with the rest. I'd offer you a cup of tea but I've packed all my cups..."

I can't remember which room I was in when the younger one asks: "Do you want all these coats?"

Ah bless, he'd bought up a box! In went my coat, my jacket from shit school acquaintance, my 'leather' jacket, my son's winter coat and spring jacket. "Leave out the cycling jacket," I said.

The other two were in the bedroom, deliberating if they'd be able to get the big box of clothes out.

I shall cut a long story short. They repacked that big box and packed up pretty much everything else. I don't know what the hell I was doing. I was in the bathroom and one would call: "Do you need this?" and I'd go to that room and forget about the bathroom.

Towards the end there was only the kictchen left to do. The two younger guys chatted while I tried, tried so hard to read sell by dates on food. I couldn't see anything, staring for an age at a packet of flour.

"Are you nearly done yet?" called one of them.
"Er, er..." Fuck it, if I can read it, bin it. Well, not bin it, no time to bin it, leave it, just leave it there.

I had my angel badge pinned to my top. I showed them, said I was always asking for help.

Four hours it took the four of us to clear my stuff.
"Do you think I have alot?" I asked them afterwards.
"No, not really," they replied.
Their big, huge Pickford's van wasn't even half full.

Lovely men, lovely, helping me like that and in good humour too. They didn't give me the impression they were pissed off at all. One told me he had four children under 8. "Four! Your poor wife! I don't know how she does it, one is enough for me!"

"I hope you're paid well," I said, wishing I had a fat tip to give them all.

They drove to the new place. I cycled.

"We're just going to pop out for a bit of lunch if that's ok."

Lunch? I hadn't even had breakfast. I had no money and hadn't thought about whether my bank card was in a coat pocket or bag until all said items had been packed anyway. I'd found a £2 coin earlier. Oh Happy Meal, oh happy happy a meal.

I was so excited when I saw the flat again, properly. "I'm so lucky, I'm so lucky, I'm so lucky!" was all I could say to my champions of the day.

"You've got a nice place," they said when they saw it. And yes, comparatively, when you're moving stuff out of a shoe box to a place three times the size, it's an amazing place.

"When you read in the papers about how benefit babes get to live in luxury while hardworking folk like you struggle to pay your rent or mortage, know that I've fought hard for seven years for a council flat and this is the second time I've failed to get one. It's not our fault, it's the system we're caught in."

I had to sign a form and add any comments so I wrote: "They worked beyond the call of duty, I hope you pay them well." I then asked their names.

"Stuart, Paul and Perry."

Thank you so much Stuart, Paul and Perry. So so much, more than I could ever say thank you.

And thank you Camden Council for providing a removal service for me. Quite honestly, with no driving licence, I don't how the hell I'd've done it or afforded it.

So yes Pickfords, pay your staff well. "Nice" doesn't even begin to describe them.
They are, quite simply, amazing.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

I'm NOT ready.....

Told you I wouldn't be didn't I?
Thought I was moving on Monday.
Got a call today and I'm moving TOMORROW
Fuck fuck fuck
Still looks like nothing's been done
and I'm wired beyond belief
I should try and relax
They gave me the keys today
so if I'm not done
who to call?
Found an angel badge amongst my clutter
Am wearing it
Tea and Nico Teen
been keeping me company all day
and now all night
Have I been turning round in circles
so much to be done
and I wanted to bake a cake
because it's the class tea TOMORROW
and I'm Queen of Tarts (heh heh)
heh heh
heh heh
heh heh heh heh heh
I'm so fucked.......

The loneliness of packing

It is lonely, isn't it? Packing? It's hard if you don't have anyone to help you.

I think that's why I'm not helping myself by blogging so much. Calling on Stigmum for support. Or is Stigmum calling on me to write how it all is, how it all feels? Crikey, sometimes it's really difficult to tell us apart.

My flat at the moment looks like nothing's been done. It looks just as cluttered and messy as it ever has done. It was easier at the weekend with Annie and Issy... packing up, tea and chat break, packing..

Stigs, you better let me get on with it.

I'm flipping knackered, so unbelievable shattered. I'll be glad when all this is over. Last night my eyes closed over my dinner. My son asked why I was sleeping. I asked him to run his own bath, I was feeling weak from the 'packing' (no mention of the order) and he told me to lie down and put a blanket over me.

Such a sweetheart my boy, such a sweetheart.

The last time for a long time..I'm guessing

Bidding Day!!

The exclamation because I'm not going to be doing it again for a while, a long while I hope. I'm going to give myself a break from it for my sanity's sake.

What do we have this week?
Two for me and my boy.

The first I bid on was a double/single flat, 10th floor of a tower block on a large estate. Shower only (a smile from me; I don't know of any council flat that has an ensuite shower and a separate bathroom like I'm going to have in the temporary they found me!) There's full central heating, a communal garden and rent is set at £117 a week.

The second was the ground floor double/single flat on a small estate, with a front garden. 1 internal, 1 external step. "Priority will be given to applicants assessed as having a medical need for ground floor, the to applicants with children under 5 living above the 2nd floor and or with overcrowding points." Rent is set at £83 a week.

I'd have liked this one though not the first one. You see, with this bidding lark, you have to bid for what 'ideally' you don't want. You have to try not to hope for what you do, especially if you have a child over 5, are living above the 2nd floor and the policies for your situation don't allow you overcrowding points.

Maybe you can tell I'm feeling grateful today. With good reason to, fecking hell, with good reason to.

Juggling mum and Gardening mum in the playground were really pleased we'd got somewhere.
"You can go and get a job now," said Juggling. "No more volunteering, go out and get paid work."
"Oh, not so easy now," I smiled (smiled?) "Did you read the Observer on Sunday?"

Ah yes Juggler, why should a company or a charity pay me when you are there to pay them and pay me? And on top of that my sweet, still pay my housing benefit as well.

She's got a point though, I'd like paid work, but whereas she thinks I should take any old shit, money is money, Gardening mum's more in tune with me, that I should somehow find something more in tune to my skills and knowledge base.

I don't know what I'm going to do but I'm going to try not to worry about it. I just want to move into my new place and take it all from there.

Flip, hallellujah, a rest from bidding. Hope I don't get suicidal thoughts again when I restart the depressing process.

Stop thinking about that

Yes, thanks stiggers, I'll stop thinking about that.

Trying to safeguard our future

Dear [Allocations], [Manager], [Support Worker] and [Housing Officer],

Firstly, I'd like to thank you all very much for offering [my son] and I the [Attic] flat. Two bedrooms will have a very positive impact on our lives and not only is the flat in the borough, but we are still within a reasonable distance from my son's school and playmates and the friends we have both made in and around Camden since he was born. If it was permanent I would be crying for very different reasons than having failed my son. Thanks to you, I do not feel I have failed my son.

Yesterday I received the baliff's order for this flat. I was told I would not receive it and knowing for the time being we are safe, it still threw me sideways. Memories of 2003 and 2005 still echo in my mind.

I have therefore a huge request to ask.

When the lease ends on the flat, please, please renew it.

Camden renew the lease with Pathmeads
Pathmeads renew the lease with the property owner.

If the property owner does not sell the flat with me in it, [Housing Officer], please ask Pathmeads not to send me the repossession order. I need to feel secure.
If the property owner does sell it with me in it, [Allocations] I will let you know. If we can not be given extra points for insecure housing, for our 4th eviction will be imminent, please let us access points through the exceptions panel. I cannot take my child through an eviction process again, I fear it will just finish me off.

None of us know how things will be in a few years time regarding everyone's housing. At the moment it looks very bleak indeed. Things can change though, so let's hope they do.

Thanks again for finding us somewhere decent to live. My son is really excited, his teachers have been telling me.

Kind regards,
Sue de Nim

P.S. [Manager], if I have got [Housing Officer's] email wrong could you forward this to him. He did write it down on a piece of paper for me but maybe I've packed it. I tried calling him yesterday, questions about the flat, but have yet to hear anything. Fortunately [A Woman] from the temporary allocations team is going to try and call him on my behalf.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I've got the bailiff's order after all

Yep, they said I wouldn't get it but here it is

Ms S de Nim
Papier Mache Towers

The court has issued a warrant for the possesssion of the above property blah blah

The eviction will take place on 30 November 2010 at 10:45

You should arrange to leave the property (land) with your belongings before this time.

What will happen

Well I know, not the first time is it? Thank GOD that this time though I don't have to go through what I did the last time. It was flipping horrendous and I don't want to ever have to go through it again.

Imagine I'd turned down Attic Flat

Two weeks isn't that long you know.

A call to the Homeless Unit and me and my son would be in HRM Hostel next week. No priest this time that I can run back to.

Would the pensioner have let us stay until they found us something more suitable (my definition, not the council's in such circumstances)? Would she let us, the "council's problem" trespass like the bishop let us?

Well luckily I don't have to think about that.

Thursday tomorrow: bidding day. Oh how desperate I would feel right now, I don't know if you can imagine. I can. It feels like flipping yesterday I couldn't breathe for crying. It feels like every single week for so many years now that I won't get what I bid on anyway. I might bid tomorrow anyway, I'm programmed to, may just do it "for a laugh". Funny.

They said they'd 'spare me' the bailiff's order, the housing association.

Oh stiggers give me a hug

My son my sun, my 'other occupier', don't wince if I squeeze you too hard

It's relief baby, A very lucky escape.

Packing or blogging?


I'm finding packing sooooooooooo hard....!

Not sure I'll get it all done but I have to don't I?


Observer(ing) The Sunday Times

Reading the papers you really get to see who understands you and who doesn't.
Take the weekend papers, front page headline both:

Workshy to lose benefits - The Sunday Times
Jobless told: do unpaid work or lose your benefits - The Observer

According to The Sunday Times, I am one of the "layabouts who have become so dependent on benefits that they do not know how to work [and] are to be forced to take jobs or be stripped of their benefits."

This short, eight paragraph article really wound me up because it's very last paragraph states:
"The UK has one of the highest rates of workless households in Europe with 1.9m children living in homes where nobody has a job. A total of 1.4m people have been on unemployment benefit for nine out of the past ten years."

I know a ton of "workless" mothers who volunteer, so how can they say that 'nobody has a job'? And anyway, parenting is a job, the more children you have the tougher it is I'm guessing.

The Observer, in contrast, not only continued its article 'on page 7' where it acknowledges that actually finding work is a considerable challenge but also investigates "Britain's new welfare state' inside the paper (which I've yet to read so I'm going to pack it and read it in the new flat). It made no judgement that we are workshy or layabouts because the majority of us aren't.

What really wound me up about their article was: "The Department for Work and Pensions plans to contract private providers to organise placements with charities, voluntary organisations and companies."

In short, I could be forced to go and work for a private company but you, the tax payer, earning not very much yourself,will pay the company to take me on and you the taxpayer will pay my wage.

Good news all round, don't you reckon?

The Virgin mother

Chatting away to the woman at Virgin media, trying to get a sweet deal on my move (ho ho) by talking about my situation, she suddenly said:
"It only took me five months to get a council flat, I can't believe things have got so bad."
"Oh yes, in London it has, I don't know about where you are."
She had a familiar accent... Cheryl Cole...Newcastle.
She asked me how old my son was. Her daughter is the same age.
"Do you know," I continued.. free call from my Virgin phone to Virgin call centre.."Every single mother I have spoken to who works, I have asked how they afford to and they say 'I live in a council flat.' It bugs me that the government doesn't realise, half of society doesn't realise, that we need the council flats to enable us to go back to work."
She agreed, of course she agreed, so I carried on.
"I don't know what my rent is at my next place but I do know that whatever job I find, I will have to claim for housing benefit. And here they are..." cutting benefits, abolishing lifetime tenancies, not building or renovating empty flats... oh you know me.

I'm going to get the letter soon, switching me from income support to jobseekers. It's a full time job finding a job so I'm going to go to my doctor and ask her to sign me off, at least until January (and I hope she does, making me cry like that the last time).

If I can't prove to my symbolic husband that I am "actively seeking work", it will cut my benefits.

I can't physically, emotionally, mentally go through this process at the moment.

I have to settle into my new home,unpack, settle in my child. I have to wait for a telephone connection so I can plug in Lily Laptop and access the internet and then before I know it, it will be Christmas. I'll see what's around jobwise because I'm interested but I don't even want to be forced to do that. I trust myself enough, shame my symbolic husband doesn't trust me.

Flip, you know what? The Virgin mother told me that she's charged a month for what I'm charged a week in rent.

Oh a mum can dream of secure, affordable rent but my dreams must go on hold.

Though let's hope my dream job finds me before I'm forced back to the factories...

Preparing the boy for no TV!

The new place doesn't have cable. I called Virgin to tell them I was moving and got the news.
They'll have to deliver their services over a BT line.
Should I just change providcr? Get a bundle from BT?
If the place was permanent I might, if ultimately it kept my costs down.
I'm staying with who I've got though, it's easier. The woman on the phone even said she'd talk to her manager to waive my connection fee after I said I was being evicted.
What do I do about a tv though? Isn't it all going digital? I just have a tiny portable from the last millenium, will I be able to get a picture if I just plug it in? Have those days gone?
Gosh, it's all so unknown.
The woman connected me to a guy who tried to sell me some kind of sky package with 6 months free rental. I found it all rather confusing and well, sounded pretty expensive.
It's all going to be expensive though isn't it?
They said if I get a freeview box I "won't get so many channels" (I don't care but my son might...) but that I also needed a good aerial on the roof (I didn't look)
I'm all for simplifying my life at the moment, so when my son comes back from school I'll tell him we won't have access to any tv programmes in our new flat. No TV! No more! Back to basics!
I imagine he won't take the news very well....
We won't have access to anything for a while because Virgin can't connect us until the end of the month.
Thank God I've got a stereo, that's all that remains to be said (apart from saying I'll miss you blogspot).


If the outcome of this battle was different and my son and I were on our way to HRM Hostel, I would be tears right now. I would be totally inconsolable. I would be sitting in the midst of my mess, and believe me, it's right messy, wailing as I thrashed my arms in my own flood of despair.

Most of the boxes packed are filled with my son's things. He's amassed quite a bit in the five years here. I would want to take them all even though I'd know there'd be nowhere to put it.

Me, it's just books mostly, this time. All my stuff from the last place is already in storage because this one bed is smaller than that one bed was.

There's a shed load of papers and notebooks I've written in and not written in and magazines I want to keep all on the floor at my feet. It is these that have made me think: I can take EVERYTHING!!!!!!!

I'll just shove them all into boxes and sort them out the other side because:

It's a two bedroom flat! It's a bigger space! Even if there's not much inbuilt storage (and I did open the cupboard with the boiler in it and you can put nothing in there), there is still the opportunity to buy odd bits of cheap furniture or better still, grab some from the recycling depo I've been told is nearby.

It's a new start we're going to. I'm going to really try, really, really try to keep it tidy.

Of course I'm taking Diana Ross with me

If you need me call me
No matter where you are, no matter how far
Just call my name, I'll be there in a hurry....

She's the only one who's ever been able to get me started on fecking boring repetitive necessary housework

Music, I tell ya, where would we be without it?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


I have to call the council and tell them how much stuff I have for them to deliver to the new place.

On Friday they called asking me to let them know yesterday and I duly called but I still didn't know.

Annie, Issy and I packed 15 boxes between us on Sunday afternoon, in between numerous cups of tea. The flat looks like we didn't even get started. Shamefully I only managed to box up two more yesterday. One with books, one with cds. I need the music to carry me through the rest of the week.. don't want to pack that yet...

The woman was very accommodating on the phone yesterday, didn't make me feel any pressure. I tried to guess what I'd take:

"I have a washing machine, a book case, 1 set of shelves, about 50 boxes, 10 laundry bags, a hoover and a guitar."

"Does the guitar need to go into storage?" she asked.

"Storage? No, no, everything's coming with me, it's a bigger space where we're going."

Split second panic subsided.

Sunday night, my mate Charlie came round with more boxes. I'd taken out "My Book That Will Never Be Published" to show him some crappy little thing I'd written about the July 7th bombings (which as you might know an inquiry about it is in the news at the moment). After that phone call, I picked it up again.

There's a chapter called "Suffer Little Children". It's the fear I felt in 2005 of going into a hostel.
In it I'm raging, defiant, that I will take all my son's toys with us, that his life is not going into storage.

It was odd looking back on it. Back then, under 5's weren't prioritised, then the policy changed soon after.

We're not going into a hostel, we're not, we've escaped it again. I've a great deal to be thankful for right now instead of contemplating my defeat.

Right, I best get some packing done.

Still no idea what I'll say to the woman when I call her again, so perhaps I will call her to tell her I will call her tomorrow.

I need to call the electricity company too (thieving fuckers) and Virgin Media, flip and the tv licence people.

Who else? Oh bollocks... who else?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Discriminatory policies

In a nutshell, in the allocations system you fall into Group A or Group B.
Those accepted as homeless fall into Group B.
When we were evicted from the church property my son and I were Group A so we got insecurity points
When we evicted from here my son and I were Group B so we didn't.

I knew this. I did my masters thesis on this.

There is no space for self recrimination but I'll say this now, knowing so clearly what I do.

I am glad I am still "statutorily homeless" and not in the private sector, even though the points system would reward me better in the private sector should we be evicted again.

I'm glad I think because I'm hoping. I still trust the state as landlord above all others. I am hoping that in two years time all the leases on the flat we've been placed in will be renewed. It will be if the council and the housing association renew theirs and the housing association and the property owner renew theirs. I will write to them and ask them that they do.

No more evictions, please. My son and I have been given a good space to wait. In this sense, we are extraordinarily lucky. Let us quietly accrue the points we need until the next move is our choice.

Yes, it costs the council, it costs the taxpayer, it costs me.

The answer is more affordable housing. It's that simple.

Credit where credit's due

My response to an email Allocations sent me on Friday:

Dear [Allocations],
Yes, I have accepted the move to [Attic Flat]. If I hadn't my son and I would have been sent to [HRM Hostel] and I was so tired of being threatened with a move to a hostel. I can't help feeling the policies discriminated me and my son, especially as I've seen numerous families get housed with many more points than us who have waited much less time.

I'd like your assurance really, that never ever again do my son and I go through this. His third eviction is enough I think for one childhood. I personally do not deal with it very well. Earlier today for example, following the stresses of the past few months, I was unable to start packing in anticipation of the move but instead lay shivering fully clothed under a blanket all afternoon before picking him up from school. Relief, relief that it's all over for now. I also need assurances my points won't be reduced as they were in 2005. I hope not, I have so few as it is.

We are very, very lucky with the flat we've been given and I'm grateful to the council and [the Housing Association] for that. There's even space for our bikes and you know how much that means to me!

I did ask how much the rent was but [Manager] and [Housing Officer] didn't know. Either way, I have to find work and I have to keep bidding. I was hoping I'd never have to do the latter again. I may leave it a while before I start again, I find it very hard.

Thanks for leaving yourself available to me should I need to contact you again. I hope the tenancy goes well with [the Housing Association] this time round (I became quite reliant on the property owner for repairs so quite a blow when she wouldn't let us stay here)

Thanks again for the flat. It took my son 10 minutes to cycle to school this morning and should we ever need to walk there, it's not far. I really can't thank you enough for that.

Kind regards

Sue de Nim

Friday, 5 November 2010

When do I move in?

By the grace of God, I've got Annie and Issy coming over tomorrow to help me pack.
By the luck of being statutorily homeless, the council are going to get a removal van to transfer my stuff. I didn't know how I was going to do that.
A woman from the temporary allocations team phoned and told me the moving in date is for a week on Monday.
I told her that when I've moved, I'm going to stop bidding for a while.
She told me no, I should keep bidding, I never know when I might get lucky and get something permanent.
Thursdays are the most depressing days of the week for me, I told her. I hate bidding. I've done it for so long, it's so hopeless and weekly I'm reminded of that. I try and move on from housing and Thursdays and bidding just drag me back.

You know, when it comes to housing, it's stiggers who keeps me going
Maybe I will bid, maybe I won't
It's up to you stiggers. Me, I've got to lie down
you've got to let me
lie down

Accepted temporary flat

"What do you think? Do you like it?" asked the council manager and housing officer.
"Um, um yeah, I'm a bit overwhelmed if I'm honest."

It's a box flat! It's bigger than here, which isn't difficult, this place is small. Mine and my son's rooms are big (again comparatively). They have inbuilt wardrobes! One has an ensuite shower! "My room!" I said to my son who looked a tad dismayed when I said that even though his room might be bigger (hard to tell, slanted wall on one side, we're living I think in a converted attic)

You can't sit in the kitchen, nor put furniture in it but that looks roomy because it's square. Didn't look at it properly to be honest, check out side boards and stuff but there were builders in the flat finishing off repairs here and there.

The living room looked twice the size of this one. How do I make that space look homely?!

Best of all? A balcony! Zat has a home that doesn't clutter up the hallway! There is quite a spacious meter cupboard on the ground floor which they said I couldn't use for the bike but I might keep my son's down there. It's one thing me lugging Zat up four flights of stairs, my son doesn't have to be doing that twice daily.

This is bigger than the council flat I viewed three years ago. Others I've seen, like my mate charlie's, are abit bigger again. Just as you're lucky with what you get with a council flat, I feel very lucky with what we've been given as a temporary. It is not a hostel. It is near my son's school.

"Can we live here forever?" asked my son.

Silence. We adults looked at one another

"No baby, we can't," I replied.

Last night my gut feeling was everywhere. Do I turn it down and take one more risk for permanent?

We can't let go and make a proper home of it; no drilling shelves into the wall or any of that stuff. I had no sense, when we were in there of 'phew, we can stay here' but you know what? I'm so exhausted, so utterly exhausted. By just accepting it, it seems all the tension lodged inside me these past many months has just evaporated.

I'm feeling very dizzy, very weak and need very much to lie down.

It's not over, but it's over


Cycling in to view

Dawn. My son and I were viewing the flat at the break of day as the housing officer couldn't wait until after he'd finished school.

I was going to blog last night; not my fears (which visited later at 3am, as a parent you might know it, when the weight of responsibility sweeps upon you and you're grappling for something to hold on to and there's nothing, just the unknown and I thought myself lucky that at the foot of my bed I could hear my son breathing and that brought me back to where I was: in my own bed, mattress supporting my back, folds of the sheet between my fingertips)

No, I was going to blog my hopes; that this flat would be box shaped, not rectangular, which might mean there would be space for Zat bike..cluttering up the corridor my baby but safe at least.

Instead I wrote a letter. The local paper had on its front page a story about how the borough spends £720,000 a year housing just 20 families.

A great article, balanced, not an inflamed tory view, but I wanted to put my argument forward as well.

You know, they might not print it, probably won't - it's a bit long but hey, my big bro would be proud! Not once in my letter did I put "I" or "me" or "my situation". No "I" or "me" whatsover! I didn't think I could do that! I was tempted to put my address as "Between Houses" but that meant putting myself in the letter afterall so I just did it all properly.

It felt great to let go of myself like that. Like I said, bro, you'd be proud of me!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Facing eviction again in two years time

My housing officer has just called informing me that I have to sign for the new flat on Monday. They cannot leave it "void" because of the costs to the "owner" - the housing association therefore is not getting its benefit payments from the treasury.

The lease on the new flat began in July, he said, for three years, so in two and a half years time, I "may be" evicted again.

"Does this mean in two years time I will receive a repossession order?" I asked.
"Definitely," he replied. "We have to ensure vacant possession at the lease end in case the owner doesn't want to renew the lease."

This is the same flat someone's just been evicted from.

Routine. Upturn people's lives as a matter of "routine".

Is it the end of "Stigmum"?

When I started this blog, my plan was to stop it when my son and I got housed.
I held on fast to the hope we would be housed in a council flat. I would stop moaning and put potential followers out of their misery.
I would label my final post: "We are securely home"
The message would be: "The End"
If people like me asked me how I got my flat, the way I ask people now, I would direct them here: "That's how I did it and that's how I felt about it all. You will come out of your situation."

I haven't "done" it. I haven't achieved it. I am still in my situation. I'm directing no-one here.

I am not going to tell people, parents in the playground, strangers in the park, those kinds of people, that my new home is temporary. I am not going to inform people of the wider injustice, told through me.
I'm not going to talk of my 'housing' any more.

I'm not entirely sure I can promise you the same thing.

Same shit, different location

My new landlord is a housing association
who has a lease with a property owner
The council has a lease with the housing association

This is exactly the set up I am in now

The difference, the big difference, is that my son will have his own room
So will I

When I move, I will have to think of these positives. Failure to do so will result in a double dip depression.

Why I favour state housing

The state is a landlord more likely to house the poor; either those on benefits or low wage
Even under this coalition, the state is still the only landlord most likely to renew a lease (I'm hazarding a guess from my experience)

It's why I have to keep knock knock knocking on my 'husband's' door when it sure feels like I'm knocking on heaven's (Guns and Roses)

Dilemma of two bed I've been offered

The two bedroom flat in a great location is not the best the council can offer me
but the best I can accept
The best the council could have offered me is the two bed I bid on a couple of weeks ago, or the one the week before that, or the ones every week before those

Although I suspect that some members of society would rather see me and my child placed in a hostel, it is worth knowing that these rooms cost £400 a week.

Build build build, cap landlord's rent

What society thinks of me

Some of the comments from the article I wrote (I didn't mention my "sense of entitlement" by the way...):

Stigmum's asking that I and people like me be forced to pay for the secure home for her child and that if we don't want to, she demands that our homes and our possessions be taken away by force and that we be incarcerated.
I've been boggling at this all day. I just don't understand where she gets her sense of entitlement.

Try not paying the taxes that Stigmum wants to subsidise her nice new home.

This is what happens when you make yourself so helpless you're completely reliant on the government for everything. A bit of self-reliance goes a long way. Working people have enough trouble paying their own mortgage and rent, they can't be expected to pay other people's. The sense of entitlement is breathtaking.
Btw, housing benefit is an abomination, increasing rents and property prices for the benefit of landlords, at the expense of working people.

it is true there is a dearth of social housing left available in central london but those who qualify turn it down for the stupidest reasons " there is not a place to park my bicycle" i must have sky tv etc etc.. the ones who went in private rented were given town houses, waterside apartmants etc, way out of the reach of working folk.. the result was, and i am afraid to agree with the daily mail, but benefits babes could get rent free housing in central london well out of the reach of working familes. the true victims of the housing crisis are those having to pay their own rent because they are working. free luxury accommadation in central london is readily available for homeless familes. this has to change. working people are penalised in favour of people like Stigmum who have several options presented to them by the state.

Fortunately a few people understood:

Mr Cameron et al. no idea about how the world works - how does he expect to build the Big Society when people like Stigmum have no security in their homes and the cannot be certain if they will be living in the same area in 6 months time? or perhaps those living in rented accommodation don't have anything to contribute!

At least give her somewhere decent to rent.
The trouble is that renting here is a nightmare: you can be evicted on the whim of a landlord within six months (fortunately most courts take a dim view of evictions so long as the tenant is not anti-social and has been paying the rent on time).
In Europe, there is greater security for the tenant.
The bottom line is that apart from defence and financial services, this country doesn`t have much of an income (please add other examples if I`ve missed anything - which I probably have!) The housing bubble is one fo the things that is an indicator of the financial health of the UK - not good.
Until a government takes the bull by the horns and tries to remedy housing problems, this situation will go on and on and on. Whatever the ins and outs are nobody should be facing homelessness.

Unless you have really hit rockbottom you will never have sympathy with the people who decline first into the private rented market, (don't even think about it, if you get benefits they soon chase you out into the worst areas where nobody with any sense would want to live in the worst part of social housing). I don't know where the goverment gets the information from that all who are on benefits can cope.The benefits system allows you too survive, nothing more.

"Keep bidding" forever....

"It's not an ultimatum," new support worker told me yesterday. "You can keep bidding."

Ok, I just have done, a two bed, £110 a week.

If I turn down the temporary flat I've been offered will I get this flat?

Of course I won't.

How do I know?

Because I've been bidding weekly for at least the two years you have known me and I've got jack shit.

Even a "pressing need" can't get me a council flat. "Pressing need" is how the council identified to me those who have been housed and have waited a mere six months.

So the temporary offer is an ultimatum, the alternative is a hostel. Would I have a "pressing need" from there? Sure I would, but I would be moved to alternative temporary or the private sector. That is what has happened to some I have met.

If my family is going to be bounced around through this system the best I can hope for is somewhere my child has his own room.

I cannot risk turning down the flat I have been offered, not even on the grounds of "expensive and insecure"

If in the future I still want "affordable and secure" I will have to "keep bidding" for it. If I want to avoid another eviction I have to "keep bidding" for it.

Twenty three months I have taken you on this journey to eviction. I really hoped I could give you a happy and hopeful ending. No-one can say I haven't tried.

You know how it ends now

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

An isolating evening

My friends will be really pleased I've been offered a flat.
I am pleased
or is that just what I would tell them because I know I'm supposed to feel that way?
You see, I don't know who to call
Anyone if I was saying 'yeah brilliant fantastic aren't I so lucky!'
I'm frightened though
I am lucky
I am frightened.

Earlier on the heath, this is what I wrote (amongst other things)

Pros: Location
Cons: Not the end of bidding

If the coalition hadn't wrecked the landscape I'd be so upset
The coalition has; I don't know how to feel - grateful only that this time round I've succeeded in remaining in my community. Given current climate, that's huge.

Between now and next time I must do something but don't know what.

When I told my son we were moving near his school he was so excited: "My own room! My own room! Can I do what I like to it mummy?!"
"You'll have to ask them when we go to view it," was all I could reply.

It's a "3 to 5 year lease" apparently

Time goes quickly, time goes very quickly

That's why I'm frightened
That's why I'm not going to call a friend
even if I knew which one I could.
I know
Nico Teen
Nico Teen and Watson Telly

Creating space

When I woke up this morning I couldn't breathe. Well I could obviously, I am alive, but it felt very claustrophobic to be living within myself.

Nico Teen was a good idea. I stepped outside where the view is amazing and took in the bright autumnal colours of the leaves on the trees.

Dropped my son off at school and continued to put one foot in front of the other. One foot infront of the other, one foot infront of the other, trying to release the pressure inside me.

Saw the widow who lives upstairs. She asked me what's going on with my housing.

I said that I wasn't going to receive the bailiff's order anymore, but the housing association and council had unanimously agreed not to tell me anything because of my 'ability to communicate with the mass media'.

"Oh my god that's taking the piss isn't it? They're just dangling you over the edge. I can't believe it. Actually I can believe it. Shit, you can't do anything can you?"

Her life, if I could tell it, I would. I came upstairs thinking it was worse than mine; the gangs of teenagers I see collected when I walk back from somewhere collect themselves on her floor and she confronted them the other day. Called the housing patrol who said there was noone available to come, called the neighbourhood police who also said there was nothing they could do (these kids routinely gob down the stairwell so you have to watch where you stand, and according to the widow, kicked out a pane of glass from the top last week which narrowly missed two children coming in from the playground when it crashed to the ground.)
There are problems with her young child that I can't go in to.
There are problems with her benefits now she's been transferred from income support to jobseekers but you may hear about that from me when it's my turn.

I came home and switched on my laptop. Went into my inbox and was surprised to see an email from the council. Could you call it a coincidence?

The claustrophobia I am still feeling is akin to a kettle on the hob which is now whistling at full pelt.

I could keep writing until it subsides or I could get the hell out of my flat.
I need to find some space within my claustrophobia, take a tip from Tolle and place myself in the "present moment".

I finished "A New Earth" yesterday. Erkhart Tolle speaks of the forest, how it looks chaotic but is actually ordered.

The Heath is right near me. I am going to take my chaotic mind and place my body in the Heath's natural environment.

I don't really "need" to go anywhere but I do "need" to feel the sun on my face, the breeze on my cheeks, red leaves in my hand, and not think for a bit.

If you feel like me, try something similar.

Good luck x

Viewing properties

My support worker has called asking me if I agree to view the property the council has found for me.

I asked, if I was not to accept it, would we end up in a hostel and he said the likelihood was yes.

He said it's not an 'ultimatum' though, I can 'keep bidding'.

Oh my life, it's changing but it doesn't change.

I should be delighted, I should be grateful, I should be totally relieved: a two bedroom flat walking distance from son's school.

With the coalition's new policies, it's a different kind of defeat this time.

I mustn't think about next time. I mustn't.

Support worker has said I can view it today because he's on leave until next Monday. I could wait until next Monday but he's said he'll call the temporary allocations team to get things moving.

The overwhelming feeling is that I have 'lost' again. Won an important battle again, but lost my war for security again.

I mustn't think like that. Mustn't mustn't mustn't mustn't.

I've won I've won I've won I've won I've won

We are going "home"

Dear [Allocations],

Thank you for your email. I am available to view the property whenever you want. I am sincerely grateful you have found somewhere that doesn't negatively affect my son's education, is in close proximity to his friends, because I know I have to accept this offer.

You know how I feel regarding temporary accommodation, and I do accept, at this late stage, that there is no alternative.

I will try not to be afraid of the future but do try and understand, without judging me, that everywhere my son has lived, the property owner has not wanted him to remain. A council flat represented in my eyes, security for my child and affordabilty for me. You and I both know that the coalition is abolishing this for everyone.

Who 'owns' the property?
Is the landlord different as has been the case here?
Could you tell me how long the lease is for?
Could you tell me what the rent is on the property?

When I've moved I have to start thinking very seriously about getting a job.
Thankyou, from the bottom of my heart, for not placing us in a hostel.
One last request: after I have viewed the property, could I be given a couple of weeks to pack and make calls to alert energy companies, water companies, telephone companies that type of thing before we move in? I haven't been able to do anything, gripped as I have been with fear of the unknown. To be honest, I still can't get my head around your email this morning so viewing the property will help me a great deal.

Thanks again. I will give my son the good news when I pick him up from school.

Kind regards,

Sue de Nim

(I feel sick stiggers, a curious response ey?)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Dreams of victory and defeat

There is victory in defeat. You've heard that saying before yeah?

I had a wierd dream last night where I was standing outside the Courts of Justice saying:
"There is defeat in victory."
I was smiling.
Like I say, wierd...
Just thought I'd share that with you!

Location TV programmes

Location Location Location - how many properties do these people view in one hour long programme? I don't watch it... six or seven?

I was thinking, if Channel 4 did 'Location Location Location - The Dark Side' and took people in my situation, a person would view nothing in an hour long programme. Infact, you could follow them for an entire 'season' and they would still view nothing.

Different lives ey....

Britain's street kids

A harrowing but excellent Dispatches documentary about Britain's street children last night on Channel 4.

Children who run away from home, or forced to leave, or in the case of one put into care and then running away from that.

The difficulty they face accessing secure accommodation (one so happy when she got two weeks in a B &B).

We were told that upwards of 100,000 children become homeless every year and following the spending review, is likely to increase.

There was one, a Scottish girl called Robyn, a heroin addict. She said at the age of 12 she was so desensitized by the violence she experienced at home that the street could only be a better place for her. She's met them all; rapists, peodophiles, the mentally ill who in a moment of rage would threaten to kill her.

Later in the documentary you see her selling the Big Issue, talking about how she envies girls her age who don't realise how lucky they are. With her wisdom, she could become a teacher. I went to bed so wishing someone watched that documentary who can add to the opportunities she's trying to create for herself.

Another 16 year old who was featured was a girl called Chelsey. It's very hard for some teenagers to ask for help as there's so much mistrust of authority. By the end of the programme though, she has been offered a long stay hostel and is training to be a plasterer.

Seventeen year old Sophie squats with her 34 year old drug dealer boyfriend having been abandoned by her mother years and years before. The relationship ends, we see her sofa surfing here and there and finally reunited with her mother. This doesn't work out. What will happen to her as she turns 18?

There was only one boy, Haydon, evicted by his mother after several 'last chances'. An agency finds him emergency accommodation but he realises he's 'too young' to live on his own and returns to his mum, which is lucky for him.

I want the coalition to reduce the deficit by skimming from those who tax avoid and tax evade, not by taking from those who have so little in the first place.

It was an important documentary this, coming at a very good time. Things can get worse but it doesn't have to, and it shouldn't have to.

Monday, 1 November 2010

New neighbours?

A man is shouting. I can't catch what he's saying other than "fuck" something ,and "fucking" something else. His voice is really strained. There's another voice screeching, soprano to his alto but it's him I'm hearing most of all.

A couple of times as I've been posting this morning my walls have shaken. Banging is coming from the next door studio. My old neighbour moved out over half term, left me a note (oh why not your number too lovely girl?) The voices sound further away than that though.

On Saturday some people moved in to a two bed a few floors down. Is it them? Or is it coming from next door?

If this is how it's going to be I'm glad I'm moving. As I sit here redundant though, not knowing quite what to do so opting for the safe option of doing fuck all, I mustn't let my mind run away with me. My future hasn't happened yet, it's best I don't think about it.

I can't believe I'm laughing

A parent and a member of staff at my son's school asked me independently this morning how things were going in relation to my move. I told them I'd been told I wouldn't get the bailiff's order but nor was I going to be told anything. I laughed, they didn't.

Staff member was horrified and in the end suggested I get a private flat. "If they're going to treat you like that, get them to pay for it," she said.

"I could," I smiled, "but that wasn't much of an option before and now, with the cuts to housing benefit, it isn't one at all." Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha!

"It's disgraceful," she said. She still wasn't laughing.

Back at the Tower one of the pensioner sisters tells me a lease holder is selling his flat on one of the floors, she told me to phone the council and see if they are buying it back and whether I could move into it.

"It's a studio that one isn't it?" I asked when she told me which one it was.
"Yes but anything's better than where you are going,"
Where am I going? I have only time to think that when she says:
"And anyway, they've got plans to knock down this block, knock down everything from here to [there]. I've seen the plans. It's disgusting what they plan to do, be worse than New Delhi."

I start laughing again. Hundreds upon hundreds of adults and children are going to be made homeless. Take the problem out of my locality, thousands upon thousands of adults and children are going to be made homeless.

Meanwhile I can't help wondering what rent Cameron has set on his Notting Hill home while he and his family reside in Downing Street.

The cap doesn't fit, does it Dave?

You laughing too?

Being "ready"

I have a sneaky suspicion that when I get the call telling me that I must now move and that I have only a few days to do so, I'll be thinking: "I'm not ready!"

Funny isn't it, for more than two years I've known I'm going to have to move. Since last september with the repossession notice definitely, last Christmas with the possession notice undeniably, last month with the housing association's eviction notice, without doubt. How can I possibly be "not ready"?

Well I'm not. Nothing is packed. Nothing has been put in bags for a charity shop. Everything is how it has been for the last six years.

How can I describe this total blockage?

A mum of three I know successfully bid on a three bedroom flat in August. She was told they have to do some work on it to bring in up to a decent standard but she should start packing.

She was so excited to finally be leaving her flat that she got boxes straight away. Two months on she's like me, not knowing when she is going. Some boxes have been unpacked again to put a little soul back into her flat for it's hard to sit there surrounded by boxes for weeks upon end not knowing when the weeks will end.

I get her, I really do.

So yeah, I'm just warning you. Whenever whenever is, I am likely to post that my son and I have been found a flat and I'm "not ready" to move, I need a little bit more time.

I guess I'm saying if you're going to judge me, judge me now, don't judge me then.

In the meantime I do have to get my head around what I have to do.
I could ask the audience, but you don't have much of one do you stiggers?
So I'll phone a friend.
My friend Annie moved into a shared flat only a few months ago. She'll remember where she went to acquire boxes.

It's a start, isn't it?