Thursday, 29 August 2013

Daisy's Story - A Cat's Tale

I guess I've come pretty far in the last nine years. I think my name should be ‘Lucky' instead of Daisy. My first humans were very nasty to me. I know I will never forget it. 

The man had a temper, and he would often shout at me. But, worse than that, he had big boots and would kick me when he was angry. There were days when he would pick me up and throw me if I got in the way. I was just a baby. I didn't know what I had done wrong, and I had tried so hard to make him like me. 

Then one day, when I was about five months old, a lady came to get me. I was trembling and for a while I thought she was going to hurt me too, but she didn't. Instead, she took me away to a quiet, warm place, and promised me softly that she would find me a home, a proper one, where someone would love me. I didn't know what a ‘home' was, but I looked forward to it. 

Time passed, and then at last, a man with glasses came to see me. I made a fuss of him. Even though I was trembling with fear, and nervous around his big shoes, I managed to let him stroke me.  I pushed my small body into his hands, and wanted him to take me ‘home'.  I felt sad when he stood up, and left. 

The next evening, the lady I was staying with bent down and spoke to me. "Come on Daisy; let's take you to your new home." Home, I really had a home! I was happy, but very frightened, and my tummy was still hurting from where the nasty man had used me as a football. 

On the way to my new home I fell asleep in my basket. I was woken up by a pair of gentle hands lifting me out, careful not to touch my tummy. I was so grateful, but all of a sudden I was struck by fear again. I panicked, and scratched the hand. I didn't mean it, and I hoped they knew that.   

When the new human put me down, I was immediately aware of the space. I had never seen so much room. A far cry from my tiny basket! Part of me wanted to explore, and learn all the new sights and smells around me. One of which was a smell I would later become very used to, that of burnt food! Somebody couldn't cook! 

Anyway, as I stood there on the cold tiles of the kitchen floor, I felt panic well up inside me again and I was desperate to be safe, so I ran for the nearest, darkest place I could find, - under the sink.   

For the longest time, I just sat there, cowering. They put food down for me, but I wouldn't come out until I heard the door slam, and I was sure there was no one around. I would eat, drink, and then retreat back to my hiding place. For about two weeks I stayed there. 

Often the new humans would come and peer in at me. They would stay a while, call my name, and then I would watch their feet pass as they left me again. I recognised one pair of shoes. They belonged to the man with glasses that had visited me. I was still nervous though, even though I really did try not to be. Something in me just wouldn't let me move. 

Apart from him, there was a bossy woman with clunky shoes, who wore lots of lipstick and was definitely in charge!  A younger blonde girl was there too. She had big feet, and laughed a lot. She made too much noise, and frightened me all over again. 

Then there was her. 

She was small and had the quietest voice. She talked to me gently as she struggled around the kitchen. I listened to her voice, its tone, rising and falling, and I felt comforted.  Late one night when everyone else had gone to bed, she came again, with a dish of milk, and lay down flat on her tummy. She stayed there talking softly in the dark, tempting, calling, and whispering. 

Suddenly, I knew everything would be okay, and that she would protect me. When I was sure it was safe, I came out slowly and drank some milk. Her shaking hand reached forward and stroked me. It really would be alright, as long as I was with her. I noticed a scratch on her hand, and felt sorry. 

I followed her at first up to her bedroom, and then, as my confidence grew, I went everywhere with her. In time, I knew I was safe in that room. I began to lie on the bed with my tummy exposed for the first time, and I even let her rub it – for a second or so! 

She would talk to me about everything, and I began to show myself to her more. She had a horrible yellow quilt cover that I would lie on. It was too bright, but she thought it was "cool". Having always been a sickly cat, I expressed my displeasure by throwing up on it at every given opportunity! I could always blame it on a fur ball! When she got cross, I would curl myself up and look at her as if butter wouldn't melt in my mouth! She was putty in my paws! 

Some days we would play, when it was just us. She would roll up a ball of paper and throw it for me. I realised that she couldn't move easily as the others, and that there were days when she was hurting, so I helped her by kicking the paper back towards her and then picking it up in my teeth and carrying nearer to her. She told me I was a "clever girl."- She's right, I am! 
She is the best human in the world. I know she is not as brave or confident as she makes herself out to be. When she cried, I'd sit with her and offer a paw to smooth. 

Not so long ago, things changed. A tall man started coming to visit. I think he must be her Tom Cat! He has a soft voice and he looks at her like I do, with love. He strokes me and is nice to me, which is just as well because no Tom Cat comes between me and her - ever! 
Now though, I don't see as much of her as I would like to. You see, when the Tom Cat touches me, his eyes go all red and blotchy oh, and he sneezes! It's not my fault! I just like to keep my black and white fur clean and beautiful! 
I know she misses me and I miss her too, very much. But, she always told me how much she wanted a Tom Cat to love her, and now she has one! I am happy for her. 

Anyway, the point of me talking to you today is to tell you my story. I was lucky to find a human like her. She changed my life, but I think I have changed hers too. I am, and I always will be, her baby. 


Daisy Cat -April 1998 - May 2013

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

No Place For Disabled People

I see no reason to hide the fact that I suffer from depression. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and those feelings have (at least sometimes) been the catalyst for what I think is some of my best work.
I used to give myself a hard time over it, because I’ve been brought up to believe (and I genuinely do believe) that there is ‘always someone worse off than you’. I felt, and still feel, an intense guilt when the depression hits, because I know that I am so very lucky compared to some.
My worst enemy is myself, and I realise that is down to me to solve that problem. There’s a lot to be said for making friends with yourself, and accepting your own limitations.
Have I accepted my disability? I thought I had, but this government coming to power and attacking our rights, dignity, and self-esteem has pushed me backwards in that process.
Finding my strengths and playing to them, rather than looking at the things I can’t do has always been a route through the total despair I’ve felt at times. I won’t pretend that the things I can’t do aren’t a problem for me. They are.
Knowing I’ll never be a mother is something that completely rips me to pieces. I can’t even describe that level of pain, especially when there are reminders everywhere, everyday. I’m better than I was with that particular issue – but I’ve got a long way to go.
I worked for a while (at the MOD) and that was followed by voluntary work at the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. I was physically and mentally exhausted by the end of everyday, and I know that since my various conditions have deteriorated further, a job (in the traditional sense of the word, at least) is not an option.
Cerebral Palsy is no picnic. I cannot walk or stand unaided and that (coupled with Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, depression and a few other things thrown in) means that my body (and my mind at times) have stopped me living a ‘normal’ life, like I badly want to do.
It seems that other people take so much for granted, and that is something that often gets forgotten. Hug your kids and remind yourself that not everyone is so lucky. Try and enjoy your job even though it sucks having to get up early on Monday mornings, and your boss is a prick!
I miss my job. I miss that feeling of earning my own money, and knowing I was ‘contributing.’
You see, in this government’s eyes, I’m not. I’m useless to society and apparently I lie in bed all day, getting something for nothing, while hard-working, striving, achieving, worthy real people pay for me to live.
I only lie in bed all day when I’m in too much pain to move, or I haven’t slept a wink due to anxiety – anxiety which this government has added to.
I’m terrified of ATOS and the ‘Work Compitability Assessment which I know I have been set up to fail. Sometimes (even if it’s only momentarily) I feel like I would rather be dead than judged, and stripped of what independence I am able to have.
At the moment I can help my husband pay the bills, get taxis to the doctors and go to visit friends when I feel well enough. It helps me feel ‘normal’ – as much as I can.
If my Disability Living Allowance is stripped I will be entirely reliant on my husband (and his Pension Credit) for everything. The fact that I have him makes me luckier than a lot of people in my situation, so once again I’m feeling guilty for writing this. It seems so ‘woe is me’ and wrong for me to feel that way.
The independence I am able to have and keep is everything to me though. This government has taken my rights, my self-respect and now they want to take the independence I have worked for too. How is that fair? How is it fair that so many sick and disabled people have died. (or been plunged into poverty and destitution) after being fit for work – either through taking their own life or as a result of deterioration in their conditions due to stress?
I must hold on to my strength. I must remember that I am Helen – and not a useless, worthless ‘scrounger’.
I am a person too. I’m a wife, daughter, sister, campaigner and writer. I am worth more than to be bullied, scape-goated and victimised, simply because I am disabled. I did not choose to live like this, and I would give anything in the world to change it, but I have achieved something (despite what the Coalition wants society to believe).
I am me. I have built myself up, and I will not let them and their vicious, vindictive lies take me down. They will not win!

Monday, 26 August 2013

My Words (Poem 2011)

Today my words are empty,
They stand like used milk bottles,
Vacant and neglected,
Fragile, unprotected.

They once shimmered in sunlight,
Waiting on the doorstep
Until I ask them in,
Now they're left for another day,
Because no one lives within.

Today the skies have darkened,
A heavy leaden grey,
My words
That once were lively,
Have softly slipped away.

Tomorrow a gust of wind may blow,
I might hear a shattering sound,
Those perfect shimmering milk bottles
Lie in pieces
On the ground. 

(Image: Google)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Happy -(poem 2012)

I feel so happy today
For now there is no pain,
I am floating high above cloud nine
And dancing in the rain.

I feel so happy today
There is sunlight on my face,
All the agony that was there before
Has left without a trace.

I feel so happy today
You won’t take that away,
I’ll be standing for as long as I can
And begging it to stay.

I feel so happy today
A perfect peace descends,
I’ll grasp it for as long as I can
And hold it ‘til the end.

I feel so happy today
I will again tomorrow,
And for all the days after that
I’m done with pain and sorrow.

I feel so happy today
Here’s to defying gravity,
The world can take another shot
It will never destroy me.

Image: Google

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Bedroom Tax: DHP or not DHP?

 I have been biding my time before writing the Coalition’s ‘Spare Room Subsidy’, or as we opponents call it, the ‘Bedroom Tax’. The rules were changing so quickly that any article I put together would probably be out of date before it was published.
However with several more national protests due to take place on the 24th August ( http://tmso.org.uk/)  I felt now was the right time.

The government denies that it is a ‘bedroom tax,’ but the way I see it is this.

 If a Housing Benefit Claimant has to lose fourteen percent of their benefit for one spare bedroom and a further twenty five percent for each spare bedroom after that, then what is it if not a ‘Bedroom Tax?’

Whilst no one is denying that there are families that are in accommodation that is too small for their needs, the reality of what the ‘bedroom tax’ will do (and has done already) cannot be ignored.
 People who cannot afford the extra charges imposed on their bedrooms are being forced to downsize.

They can of course apply to their local Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment (but that only amounts to around £2.40- per household- and is temporary). As things stand the claimant needs to reapply for Discretionary Housing Payment every thirteen weeks. This will only add to the stress of the situation.

The money itself comes from the national government and has not been ring fenced. The government can use it somewhere else if necessary. can use it for something else if necessary.  

Also, the fact is it will be nowhere near enough to cover all those that need it and I can’t help but feel it has been severely under publicised.

The governments ‘pay up or move’ idea will actually cause more problems than it solves. To begin with there is a national shortage of social housing since it was sold off in the 1980’s as a result of Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ incentive. The social housing stock has simply not been replaced since.

According to the National Housing Federation, there are 70,000 one bedroom properties available, and 188,000 properties. I have been told that there are at least two million people who will need to be rehomed. 

This leads to the obvious question – where will people go? One and two bedroom homes in the social housing sector are few and far between, and it is undeniable that there will be an upsurge in homelessness as a result. Source:  http://www.crisis.org.uk/pages/why-we-need-your-help.html

 In fact, even before the bedroom tax began on April 1st this year, there was a rise in people and families seeking accommodation in hostels, and local councils were placing people in Bed and Breakfast as the austerity already began to bite. This is no way for a family to live, but it’s better than living on the street which many people fear will be the only option for some.

The government is of the opinion that most people will choose to stay in their homes and pay the extra costs. Was this the plan all along? Is it just a money making exercise? In my opinion, yes!  We are dealing with Tory ideology after all, and once again it is the poorest and most vulnerable in society paying the price.
You may already be aware of the various exemptions that the government have (begrudgingly) agreed to after intense pressure from campaigners and charities.

Families with disabled children are now (apparently) exempt from the tax. However,  even since the Burnip case court ruling, this has not yet been implemented. It is a step in the right direction, but disabled adults are not yet exempt. It is a fact that two thirds of those affected by ‘bedroom tax’ are disabled.  

Those with learning difficulties and mental illness are not exempt either. Can you imagine how being forced out of a home you feel safe and secure in would be for someone who has these issues? It is unsettling and stressful enough for those that are not dealing with illness and disability, never mind for those that are!
Benefit claimants are not just numbers on a page. We deserve security, safety, a decent life, and respect. 

This government are stripping the poorest and most vulnerable in society of even that.
Bedroom Tax and all the pain and suffering it is causing (and will go on to cause), should stop now.
Forcing people out of their homes is not the answer. We need more social housing and an end to the austerity measures.

This crisis (along with many others) could be ended if tax loopholes were closed and the money was reclaimed from those corporations and rich individuals that have not paid their share.
We need to stand together and fight against this policy and many others that are a severely detrimental and heartbreaking affect on people’s lives.

Source: for Discretionary Housing Payment information: