Friday, August 29, 2008

About bloody time.

Heard this on the wireless earlier.

I'm a carer. Sharon's various medical conditions are such that she has bouts of immobility. With the best will in the world, she can't get everything done before her strength and stamina give out. I may not always be around but I'm only ever a phone call or a text away. We know through experience that without somebody skimming the heavy stuff and a lot of the menial stuff from Sharon's regime she'd very quickly end up in hospital - at a cost to the taxpayer of £75 per hour. She doesn't like being in hospital, she hates being a burden and does her best not to be.

"Professional" carers working for social services or agencies get anything upwards of the minimum wage. Recently I got back to my car to find a leaflet on it offering £7 plus per hour for care staff. I LOLd. Because I'm classed as a full time carer and therefore unavailable for work, the government pay me carer's allowance of just over £50 per week plus income support of £50. You have to give at least 35 hours per week of your time for caring duties but in reality, you never stop. Even though we live apart I'm still ready to jump and I've often had to pop over long after most have gone to bed. Because I took out a crisis loan when I moved back to Crewe (I got a basic fridge-freezer and a cooker out it. They didn't think carpeting was necessary so I'm still rattling around in an echo chamber) and I still owe them £46 from my previous stint as a carer over a year ago, they make deductions. I actually only receive just over £30 per week CA. You do the maths to see my hourly rate. You're not allowed to take full-time employment or be in full-time education. Any other paid work you do you have to declare. There will be deductions for anything you earn and declare. That's fair enough, you can't care if you're working, but it's usually on a tit-for-tat basis: earn £5 and you'll be deducted same. Earn a little over the threshold and you'll be right up shit creek, back paying council tax and rent. You'll actually be worse off even though you've got a job. You'll still have to do the caring of course, that goes without saying because you do it because you love someone. Because you've earned£5 you'll actually spend hours per month making phone calls, filling out forms and visiting the Jobcentre Plus. I've been there, I know. 4 years ago I received a formal caution because I forgot to declare something during my divorce while I was still claiming CA and Income Support. It was a genuine oversight but I was made to feel like a common criminal. It's the same if you're earning over the threshold because you're still a registered carer even if they're not paying you. There is very little logic to the system and you can see how many well-meaning folk cheat just to make ends meet. The final insult from this so-called caring government is that carer's allowance is taxable. Oh yes. If you've become a carer after being a wage earner and your carer's allowance takes you over the lowest threshold, the bastards will have some of it back.

Carers aren't asking to be paid for doing what comes naturally, we just want something to give us a dignified life and to allow us to take advantage of some paid work when we're able to without being made to feel a cheat. Most of us have given up jobs to care (yes, even me. The day after I returned to Crewe to care for Sharon when her condition took a bad turn for the worst back in March, I was meant to be starting a new job as a postman in New Romney) and those jobs enabled us to have a certain quality of life. Why should I have to go without those things most people take for granted because I'm keeping someone out of hospital? I don't have a tv. I don't have a landline or the internet. My computer's broken and I can't afford to fix it. I don't have any furniture bar a second-hand 2 piece suite, bed and mattress and an old 30s wardrobe courtesy of the local Christian charity. Freecycle (the best thing on the internet) has supplied virtually everything else including my table and chairs, my microwave and most of my kitchen tools. I still have the debts I incurred as a working man to service out of that £82. Even applying for bankruptcy is a non-starter because it costs £400! I can't even afford a sodding haircut because I'd have to go without bread for two weeks! I had to laugh the other week when a women's hairdresser in town was offering savings of up to £82 a booking. Come again? This is Crewe not Chelsea. That's 16 years worth of haircuts for me. Another couple of weeks and I'll have sideburns Noddy Holder would kill for. My car tax is up at the end of September. I'm toying with the idea of getting rid but it's just not practical. I average about 60 miles a week over the year yet I'm perceived as driving a polluting gas guzzler whereas it's a ten year old Rover 600, still averaging 35mpg and pumping out less crap than most.

Dignity, that's all. Dignity and common sense.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Certain things never cease to amaze.

One of my most recent visitors arrived here by asking Messrs Google questions about the following:

bitch leche evil-smelling foot of man

Saturday, August 16, 2008


As I don't have a telly I've not watched any of the the Olympics so far. I've listened to lots on the wireless though (apart from 5 minutes of the horse dancing or whatever it's called) and, as someone with an interest in sport (not a fanatic, just an interest) I'm missing it. Nicky Campbell just can't compete with the pictures. Yes, there are questions surrounding the ethics of allowing a nation with questionable notions of human rights and (of much more global importance as name me a country that doesn't abuse any section of its population in one form or another, such as allowing critically ill patients to die because they cost too much to keep alive) a laissez-faire attitude towards natural resources to stage such an event and I can only hope that more positives evolve from the event for everyone. Whatever your views, as a spectacle of human physical sporting endeavour, it can rarely be surpassed.

As I write this I'm round my friend Christopher's house on the pretext of editing his book (I am, honest) and watching the telly. And I've just seen the most extraordinary piece of athleticism ever. To watch the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, to all intents and purposes skipping over the line in the 100 metres final and still obliterating the world record was quite astonishing. He wasn't even looking where he was going.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Tales from the Middle # 3. At least I think it's 3

In an effort to deplete my readership figures even further and attempt to discipline myself (in a productive way, I mean. Honestly.), I have resorted to trawling the dusty mulm of my memory for inspiration. I didn't find much but you can have this. Anyone not interested in the one and only true faith, turn away and go now. Apologies for any formatting errors, Cheshire CC library computers take a real pounding and not much of this heap works particularly well.

For several years across the back of the 80s I played club cricket in Sarf Laanden for a team called Stanstead. It was named after that bit of the A205 South Circular that runs between Catford and Forest Hill called Stanstead Rd. Believe me, when the club was founded, it was all green fields and gambolling deer round that part and there wasn't a modified snub-nosed .38 to be had for love nor money. We, though, plied our trade at the Old Askeans sports ground in Shooters Hill. Followers of the oval ball will be familiar the name.

As is common with any established club it had a number of long-standing fixtures and one of these was against a team of old boys. A few years prior to my joining there had been something of a schism and several members had left under a cloud. Time had mellowed them and many had buried the hatchet. Bar one. We shall call him Dave (That wasn't his name, by the way. I'm not being mysterious or careful, I just can't remember it). Dave was, and let's not be shy here, a total arse. His mouth often entered (and was kicked out of) the room long before the physical presence arrived, and when it was afforded the luxury of an audience, it spouted the most ignorant and idiotic spew imaginable. His brother was OK and often continually apologising for him out of earshot.

Dave did not keep in touch with his old club but, we reasoned, would listen to rumour. We hatched a cunning plan. We had a new bowler, Simon. Or "Sack". I cannot explain the origin of his nickname as I'm sure there are ladies still reading. Suffice to say it originated in the dressing room and was a testament to the lad's suppleness. He was also an ex-submariner and presumably spent hours amusing himself. By himself. Sack had trialled for Hampshire in his youth and was an extremely good bowler, with a classical action reminiscent of Dennis Lillee. He wasn't nearly as fast though; not many were. Ralf the Mouf, our other opening bowler, (who had played with Graham Dilley in his youth and reckoned he was "just a yard slower" than the Kent and England slinger), was actually quicker and bowled a "heavy" ball. All wicketkeepers will understand what I mean. Dave though didn't need to know this and rumour and hearsay regarding Simon were duly propagated.

Come the day of the match at the luxuriously appointed Catford Cyphers ground in SE6, we were all well rehearsed and put our plan silkily into action. We batted first but I can't remember what we made. It was, to be honest, immaterial, although I do recall one of us getting a century. I haven't a clue what I got but I suspect it wasn't much as my rich veins of form were few and far between. Tea was taken between innings and at the resumption the old boys went into bat with Dave due in first wicket down. As befits a secret weapon, Simon was kept out of the attack but he didn't have long to wait. The first wicket soon fell and at the end of the over the skipper threw the ball to him and we sprang into action.

Sack took his marker and paced out three-quarters of the way to the boundary, considerably further than his normal 8 or ten paces. He dropped the marker, took a few more paces and charged in for a practice run-up, pulling away before the crease. Dave turned round to Bill, the wicket keeper, only to find Bill about 25 yards back. "Fuuuu..." To Bill's right were five slips, two gullies, a fly slip and a third man. There wasn't a single fielder in front of Dave apart from Simon. "Two legs" murmered Dave at umpire Ray, beads of sweat forming on his shiny brow.

Ray dropped his left arm, the signal for play to recommence. Sack began his run up, the fielders crouched and Dave banged the end of his bat limply into the blockhole. Sack leapt into his delivery stride and swung his arm over in a blur, the ball just visible in his hand. Dave prodded aimlessly forward and ten fielders plus Simon leapt into the air as Bill took the catch. Ray raised his finger and we all ran foward, the ball still in Bill's mitt, to congratulate Sack on his first ball wicket. Dave stood there, absolutely dumbfounded. "I never fackin' saw it. Never saw it. Faaaack me." He turned and trudged off while we stood as a group and watched, grinning. Halfway to the hutch, Bill called after him. "Dave. Neither did we." Dave turned to see Bill and Sack each holding a ball aloft and laughing. His face was priceless. "You caaaants."

(If anyone read this between 1pm and 8pm on Friday, it didn't make much sense. Apologies for that. Something to do with what the public computers decided to save and reject)