Thursday, 20 December 2012

Lucky (Poem)

I'm lucky
Sitting here,
And safe from the cold.
I have shelter
And a home.

I'm lucky
Sitting here,
Wondering what to eat for lunch,
I'm not a starving mass
Of dying skin
And bone.

I'm lucky
Sitting here,
Thinking of Christmas presents,
I don't face the season
And alone.

I am lucky
Sitting here,
Family not far away
That I'm here at all,
And lucky,
I am loved.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

My Response To Lord Freud's Heartless 'Funeral' Comments

I was stunned by Lord Freud’s comments the other day. Something twisted in my stomach, and I wanted to throw the nearest object!

The ‘well, what do you expect?’ type attitude I got from some people I spoke to afterwards, didn’t even begin to cover it!

Firstly, ‘the poor should take more risks because they have less to lose’ idea doesn’t even make sense to me, and I don’t think it would to anyone who understood what it is like to struggle financially.

For those that have to live on a tight budget (and in more and more cases lately) have to choose between heating and eating, the idea of taking risks with what money you do have is a scary one. You can’t take risks with little or no ‘disposable income’ because every penny counts and you spend most of your life hoping that the proverbial ‘rainy day’ never comes.  

To me and many others those comments alone showed a fundamental lack of understanding that has been central to this government and their policies.  

 According to a May 2012 article in the Telegraph, the cabinet is worth seventy million pounds (source:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9290520/Exclusive-Cabinet-is-worth-70million.html ). How then can they possibly claim to understand the hardship increasing numbers of people e are facing in today’s society? They can’t!

Many of them have been wealthy from birth and have had all the privileges and opportunities that go along with it. This brings me (albeit briefly) onto another important point. Why are we allowing ourselves to be so many clearly ‘out of touch’ elites?

Personally, I think it’s time for some big changes. There should be no more so called ‘career politicians’  who have been fast tracked as a result of who they know, where they went to school and how much money their family have. We need people who have at least lived a ‘real’ life and known what it’s like to do a ‘proper’ day’s work.

I’m a big believer in the idea that the experiences you have in life shape you as a person. If you haven’t experienced an ‘everyday life,’ it is going to seem distant from you and you will view things differently. The decisions being made will not have any impact on the people making them, so they don’t concern themselves with the consequences of their actions.

All this ties in rather nicely with further comments made by Lord Freud in the same interview. He was asked what he knew of a life where having ten pounds less to spend would make a difference? I was impressed by the guts of the interviewer in asking such a question, but the Minister’s response made my blood run cold. He said  

“We have a lot of information feedback and listen a lot, so I think we can absorb the information about what it takes and what’s required…I think you don’t have to be the corpse to go to a funeral, which is the implied criticism there.”

Several expletives and a calming conversation with some friends later, I had just about resisted the urge to throw something at the radio!

What hit me first was the total insensitivity of his comments. There is an average of seventy three deaths per week as a result of Welfare Reform. Deaths of the most vulnerable, ill and disabled people in our society who have either been found wrongly ‘fit for work’ by ATOS and died later or those who had been left feeling so fearful and desperate at the thought of life without vital benefits, that they saw no option but to take their own lives! With that in mind those comments are even sicker than they might first appear.

I was disgusted at the heartlessness of the man. These deaths are happening as a result of policies which he has put in place and to me it felt like he was rubbing our noses in it.  

I couldn’t help but think of the corpses of the people that have died as a result of this, and it isn’t an image any of us campaigners really want to be reminded of. It adds to the anxiety and fear that we already feel on a daily basis. We are confronted over and over again by the reality of what’s happening to us – just because we have the misfortune to be ill and disabled. His comments compounded all that and actually, made me feel physically sick.

May I remind you Lord Freud, that when you attend someone’s funeral, it usually means that you cared about them,  and you valued their life. You have no such feelings about the lives of the poor, disabled and ill. Your comments showed that we are worthless to you and your government. If we weren’t you would never have made them!

If it was up to me, Lord Freud would resign. His comments were despicable and unforgivable. The attitude of this whole government towards the sick and disabled is embodied right there, in the attitude of one man. I was left feeling worthless temporarily, but it made me more determined than ever to fight back, and I did that through writing this article.

I am not a corpse! My life and the lives of thousands of others like me, has meaning and value even if you and your government can’t see it!  It is you that are the corpses because you clearly don’t have an ounce of understanding or compassion. You have no right to make judgements on us.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Christmas is Off! (Short Story)

Rudolf opened a sleepy eye and surveyed the scene. There was no fresh hay, and no one had brought his breakfast yet! It was definitely that time of year again. Hic Choo!  Yes, definitely that time of year again, for Rudolf had a cold. It would help of course, if there were fresh hay and a bit of breakfast when it was required. Neglect, that's what this was – someone should call the R.S.P.C.A!

Rudolf tapped on the ground impatiently with a hairy hoof, and waited. Prancer jerked awake at the sound. Sharing a stall with a diva had its drawbacks! Prancer peered at his companion and noticed that, once again, his nose was red, swollen and sore. Prancer tried to suppress the silent joy that welled up in him. After all, it wasn't charitable to take pleasure in someone else's misfortune, even if it was Rudolf's!
Instead he said brightly, "Gee Rudy, you have a cold!" His words were greeted by a disdainful huff and a gruff "State the bloomin'...hic choo...obvious, why don't you?!" Prancer smiled inwardly, and closed his eyes again.

Just over an hour later Norm, the bespectacled elf appeared, "Sorry I'm late boys! Been a bit hectic upstairs..." Rudolf said nothing, but noted the elf's change in clothing. The usual comfortable brown over shirt had been replaced by a green and red apron. On it were embroidered the words ‘The North Pole welcomes the Festive Season'. "Festive, my arse!" Rudolf muttered, and began to munch his hay. 

Just then, Mrs Clause appeared in the doorway with her hands on her hips. Her face was pinker than usual. Norm wandered over to her and draped his arm around her shoulders. The Reindeers exchanged glances, ‘Aye, aye, what's going on here then?' From the doorway they clearly heard the words "Christmas is OFF!"

Much later the Reindeers were still in shock. Rumours, whispers and speculation suddenly abound. Had the placid, loving, long suffering Mary Clause finally had enough of her husband? Was she going to leave the North Pole with a certain bespectacled elf? "Let's face it..." Rudolf interjected between sneezes, "He's Brad Pitt by comparison!" The other reindeers sniggered, but no one could avoid the dark clouds of doom that seemed to be gathering over the North Pole.

It was just before dawn the next day, when a large man wearing faded jeans and a crumpled shirt that was two sizes too small wandered aimlessly into the stalls. Rudolf failed to recognise him at first, but as he came closer the long white beard gave him away. A beard which contained pieces of cornflake, traces of tomato sauce and if Rudolf wasn't mistaken, chocolate cake. ‘So this is what Santa Clause looks like on his days off is it?' Rudolf mused, ‘Charming!'

Santa pulled up a stool and perched beside Norm, who, for most of the night, had been sitting reading a novel. Rudolf watched. ‘There may well be fisticuffs.  What would happen then?!'
The two men sat in silence for a while. It was Santa who spoke first eventually. "I'm too big for the sleigh" he said simply, "I know..." Norm responded, putting his book down, "...She did warn you Clause. She tried to change your diet, bought you one of those ‘Wii' thingies to help you exercise more. She knows how much you love your ‘Play station'. "Yes" came the soft reply.

Rudolf listened to the anguished conversation. A moment ago, he had nudged Prancer awake and now they stood alert, uncertain and hardly daring to breathe.
It was true that Rudolf hated Christmas. He hated the chaos, the long, seemingly endless journey and he hated his constant...hic choo...colds, even if they had helped make him famous, he thought smugly. But he loved Clause. They all did. Rudolf caught Prancer's eye, and they knew they had to do something. For now though, captive audience that they were, they carried on listening.
"...You kept on eating, sneaking food when you thought no one was looking..." Norm was saying matter-of-factly, "...and that ‘Wii' thing is still in its box!" Santa nodded sadly. "There must be another way..." Santa said quietly, "We can't just cancel Christmas. Think of the children!"   

Despair crossed his features, as he thought of children around the world, that he, he would let down.  "Someone could go in your place..." Norm said brightly, trying to sound hopeful, but he knew what Santa's response would be, and he was right. "It's against the rules!" Santa replied, his voice gruff with emotion.  Norm stared at the floor, and thought for a moment. Suddenly, an idea struck him. A magnificent idea!  "We could make the sleigh BIGGER!" Norm exclaimed excitedly. 

The little elf began hopping from foot to foot as enthusiasm took hold of him, and his imagination ran riot. Santa looked over at his friend, "We could, but there is just not enough time Norm!" Santa sounded helpless. "We have just over a week"...Norm replied, shaking Clause by the shirt in excitement ... "IT CAN BE DONE!"

While the workshop hustled and bustled, hammered and sawed, the reindeers went into conference themselves,
"I see we weren't consulted about any of this!" Dancer commented, between bites of carrot. All the other reindeers turned to him, "SHUT UP!" they cried in unison, "Was only sayin'" Dancer muttered, "Well, don't!" Rudolf replied, hammering a hoof on the ground with authority. "Hey man, you had a visit from the ghosts of past, present and future or somethin'?!..." Dancer questioned, tilting his head to one side ..."You hate Christmas!" Rudolf was ruffled, "I hate...hic...choo...Christmas, but I don't hate Clause!"

There was silence for a moment while the other reindeers looked at Rudolf with new eyes. Maybe he wasn't as selfish and egotistical as they all thought he was, perhaps they had judged him unfairly.
"We need to contact ‘The Reindeer Council'"... Prancer spoke up ... "There won't be enough of us to pull the... uh, new sleigh." "Consider it done!" Donner called from the back stall. The reindeers, a short time ago filled with such uncertainty, now found themselves bursting with a new sense of optimism and camaraderie.

As dusk descended on Christmas Eve, the Pole was alive and buzzing like never before. In the workshop dishevelled looking elves, lead by an ecstatic Norm, tested and retested the extended sleigh. Its front had been widened and painted beautifully with gold, red and black paints. The pieces of metal that held the contraption together had been replaced, buffed and polished. In short, in shone and gleamed like a new penny.

Rudolf stood proudly at the front ready to lead his friends and the large group of ‘agency' reindeer on their journey. "Hic..." "Uh oh!" Donner said from the back,"CHOO!" completed Rudolf. "I wish I could shake off this cold..." he commented, "It's really beginning to get under my fur..." "Or up your nose!" Prancer retorted from behind him.

After finishing what was left of his salad, Santa kissed Mrs Clause goodbye. She touched his cheek affectionately, "Remember what I said, NO mince pies!" Santa groaned, "Which leaves me with?..." Mary Clause smiled, and looked deliberately toward the door, "Rudolf's carrots!" she said loudly, knowing that our favourite reindeer would hear. The sound of chortling and the distinctive sound of a hairy hoof hitting the ground told her he had!

With his wife and the elves watching from the windows, Santa saluted them all, and climbed aboard his brand new sleigh. "Here we go boys!" Santa said, taking the reins and shaking them.
The ecstatic reindeers and a smiling Santa took easily to the air. He waved at his family once more, and watched the Pole fade into the distance, as they began their journey.
Christmas was once again ON!

(Image Courtesy of Google)