Now Wait for Last Year

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…was the first Philip K Dick book I ever read. Kenny McBeth lent it to me. I was somewhere between 14 and 16 years old, and had never read science fiction before.

This seems as good a time as any to break it to you that I am neither going to give you a round up of last year, nor am I going to tell you what I’m planning for next. No. We do enough time travelling as it is. Lets take a while to stare out the window.

My current view. Lovely, isn’t it?

And what a lovely view it is and has been for the past week and a bit. Julie generously gave us her house for a fortnight while she Xmassed and New Yeared up in Scotland, and I have spent an inordinate amount of time staring out this window. Or less staring and more gazing. It has been a very literal change of scenery.

Also good for staring/gazing at is fire. There is an open fire in the sitting room and Julie had left us logs and kindling.

This is not a stock photograph. IT’S A REAL FIRE!

I used to know a fireperson. I say ‘fireperson’ advisedly because she was a lady fireman. And this was years ago, and even now, you don’t get many of those kicking about. I didn’t know her well but I found myself sitting next to her at a party once and decided to tell her about a house fire I’d seen in San Francisco. She was, and very well may still be a very quiet woman, but she was suddenly VERY interested. Her immediate question was “How many engines?”

Here’s a pro storytelling tip. Try and notice shit. This is my worst quality in story telling skills – I have a dreadful memory and no eye for those sort of details. I was far too busy watching a big building MADE OF WOOD go up in flames to count fire engines, but her question made me realize that would have been a good thing to have noticed, too.

***

We did NOTHING for NYE. Not unless you count going to see a flat, walking on the beach, getting underwear and shoe soaked on the way home, spending the avo with Collins and Collins, two of our Brighton Besties, and being in bed by 8, listening to The Midwich Cuckoos on iPlayer til about 10 when I zonked out and Ten left me to it to go commune with the Hackspace via hyperspace.

***

The evening before we’d had a few people over and the Gorgeous Gregorie brought over all sorts of bakery.

Gregorie CLAIMS he is a ‘shop girl’ but really he is a BAKER (Well, REALLY he has a show where he does Judy Garland’s audio diaries)

My ‘cookery’ involved doing things like putting a lot of pretzels in a bowl with chocolate peanuts. DON’T JUDGE ME.

Do you think I should teach cookery? Maybe I should. The world needs to know all about chocolate peanuts and pretzels

Alice told travelling yarns, and at one point Chim and Ten took the dogs out and I demonstrated how I get Pops totes excited about going out through the medium of whispering and saying key words. Gregorie, who is proud to be ‘Bri’ish’ (he’s French) was appalled.

Anyway, that was our social event. I literally invited people to come at 7 and leave at 10, which is, in fact, what they did.

I take my bedtime seriously, yo!

***

So, back to yesterday. The flat we went to see involved going past Julie’s first Brighton house. Much as I like the blue, her house was known as ‘The Pink House’ so it was kind of sad to see a change of colour.

Don’t it make my pink house blue?

The Pink House parties were legendary back in the day. I believe the neighbours all pretty much loathed her. Not just for the prodigious partying but also for the fact that she punched a hole in her roof and built a balcony which, due to a mixture of the height of the building and the location of the house on the brow of that bit of hill, looked down over everyone else’s gardens.

The flat we saw was very small and a serious fixer upper, but the location was perfect, and also there was a bonus of a shared well kept garden. For the win, but we have to wait for him to see the Camden flat for a possible three way swap. Tenterhooks!

We took the route avoiding the worst of the hill, something I’m making my business to do, since the whole place is rather more aerobic than I am used to. Passing the trees I mentioned in m’last post we spotted a notice about the flotsam trees.

You can clicky through to the website of ONCA gallery and find out ALL THE THINGS

When I shared the post on fb, Trill told me that they were there to raise consciousness about the rubbish on the beach. Depending on what you are reading this on you might not be able to read the text, but the three trees worth of flotsam was collected in one day by one person.

***

Today we start getting ready to go home. Julie gets back on Friday, and we have appointments and stuff to get on with in London, so we’ll need to get on. It’s been lovely here, the time has flown.

THANK YOU JULIE!!! SORRY ABOUT MELTING THE PAINT ON YOUR SUGAR JAR BY PUTTING IT IN THE DISH WASHER!

And finally…

Bob found a sponge and brought it all the way home.

Poppet is entirely confused by these sponges. I think she thinks they should be edible, I also think they seem a bit like salted soft toys, which, putting it that way, I can see the appeal. At any rate, she brought this one all the way back to the house and wouldn’t let go of it til we were indoors and Ten picked it out of her maw.

In Brightlingstone

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“Since we live on an island, and have the sea about us, we cannot want an excellent cold bath”

An excellent cold bath

Do not fear, I have not been out bathing. I have been in bathing, inasmuch as I have bathed, in a bath, but there are those that do, in the sea. All year. No matter the weather. I have met some of them, because a friend of mine made a short documentary about them. But I’ve not seen them this trip.

***

I have napped, and walked, and eaten, and watched a couple of films. I am particularly pleased with my pairing of Manhattan and Frances Ha. I hadn’t seen Frances Ha before, so didn’t know exactly how well matched they were, but they are, and I can recommend the juxtaposition.

***

On our way down to look at the sea yesterday we spotted this tree.

Blending and toning

Here is a closer look.

Monochrome. Classy

On the way back we saw that there were two others, both colour themed.

Blues

Orangery

It’s kind of hard to tell whether this is a grafitti, public art, or community art. Whatevs. There it is.

***

So, and lastly, I’ve made you a little tumblr elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/12/28

Solstice and Shenanigans

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Seasons greetings, whatever theological or tribal stripe you may be, on this, the Solstice, the nadir of the year. It will reach it’s very zenith at 17.11 GMT. Unfortunately, that does not mean that sunny days are ahead. They are, but they’ll be a long time coming. We will have to content ourselves with incremental increases in daylight hours.

Here is a beautifully crafted art work of festive cheer from Poppet’s oeuvre.

And here is a weird Victorian Christmas card.

In time travel news, here’s a picture from July 2012, but it is just as apt this very day, since WE’RE OFF TO BRIGHTON, YO!

However, just because we’ll be away from home, it doesn’t mean I won’t be cracking on with my new hobby, LEARNING ALL THE LANGUAGES.  I can’t remember who put me onto it (WHAAAT? it was all the way back a few DAYS I can’t be expected to remember EVERYTHING) but I am now big into duolingo.com which is a free software for learning languages. Not ALL the languages, but SOME languages. I am currently virtually fluent in Spanish as long as I only want to talk about apples, bread, water, milk, eating, drinking, a man, a woman, a girl and a boy. Still, I reckon I could get by on that. But there’s more! So much more. And it’s a bit like playing a game. I’m very excited.

Ten has just taken Poppet out for the shortest walk in the history of going outside, and I can hear him telling her she will have SOOOO MUCH FUN today, but I’m not sure she’s interested in tenses.

Gotta get ready to travel – in the meantime here’s a little tumblr I made the other day elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/12/14

Alone and Existential in Palermo – What to do?

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Ken is gone, and I have 24 hours alone in Palermo. What to do? What to do?

Can you guess what I did yet?

After a solid week of walking the alleyways, closes and vennels of the old town of Palermo I decided to head over to the Botanical Gardens. Partly to make Ken jealous, but mainly because I knew I needed to pass some time before flying and I always like a garden. In fact, not a lot of people know this, but I used to have a membership to Kew and would go there at least four times a year. I had to check out from the hotel, and although they let me leave my bag with them for the day I don’t think they’d have let me have a lie down between excursions, so I had to do something that was both time consuming and in some way restful. Enter stage left (the direction of the goodies, as we now know from the visit to the Puppet Museum) your friend and mine…

Your friend and mine, Carl Linnaeus, inventor of the binomial nomenclature we use for the naming of plants today.

He’s like – Check out the crazy good garlic. I’m going to take some home with me and give it two names. (It is possible this is not garlic, but bear with me, I am no plantsman, I just like eating).

Like the museums we visited, the botanical garden was quite small by UK standards, but probably not because they have less stuff, more probably because they don’t hand over acres and acres to lawn. Also, the plants we need hothouses for they don’t. There’s only one greenhouse in the whole place.

There was also a LOT of potting going on. Presumably they are potting things that don’t need a lot of water, or else they’d have to employ everyone in Palermo just to keep the container plants alive.

Here’s the naughty Ficus Macrophylla again;

Ficus Macrophylla. Famously shit at lining up to create an avenue.

So good they named it thrice.

I had a bit of a sit down in the shade IT WAS SO HOT and took a few snaps from there.

Super sunny nice day.

Pretty.

It was really nice to get the overpowering petrol smell out of my nostrils. The sooner Palermans get into electric cars and bikes the better for everyone. The orange grove smelled lovely.

Oranges may not be the only fruit, but they are *A* fruit.

I still had time to be ridiculously early for my flight, and the rest of the day was rather wearing, so the trip to the Botanics was a good call. It’s hard to imagine that I arrived back in freezing cold London at the end of this splendid day.

Not that I wasn’t pleased to see Ten and Poppet, because I was. But, you know. Palermo! I miss you!

***

ETA – Turns out there is another greenhouse, but I missed it. The one I went into had some cactus going on, but there was also cactuses outside. It really just isn’t that cold.

More Blogs about Buildings and Food

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In which Ken and I spend a week looking at buildings and eating food. Yeah, we went into museums, but that’s really not why we came.

Ken has won at blogging this holiday, and that’s a fact. Over the week he’s blogged about our first encounter with an arancino in Oranges aren’t the only meat, about how we have fabricated an entire cultural history of Palermo based only on talking to each other in A backstory for all of Palermo and our eventual sit down encounter with cake in Winding streets and churches and finally cake. I, on the other hand have posted a couple of photos on friendface and have saved up so many photos I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN.

These students didn’t know that I was from the home of rioting since 1982, but they did a little welcome protest for me. Bless them.

The people from the internet were very keen that we should have cake, but it took us a few days to get around to it.

Ken giving ‘our’ dog some sausage skin.

We watched this dog from our window. He seems to spend his day herding traffic. After enjoying the sausage skin and saying hello to us some guys were pushing a van to get it started and he hared off to ‘help’.

This morning’s weather.

We slept like nuns in our little skinny beds.

The room was nice. And the people looking after us were kind but not in our faces. It was an easygoing scenario.

There was some sort of cooking going on behind this scruffy exterior.

The guy saw me taking a photo and waved and got his friend/brother to get in for another shot, but this one was better, so.. sorry friend/brother, you didn’t make the cut.

These trees are not good for making tree lined avenues. Rogue trees.

I think I read about these trees in Kew magazine years ago. Some city, not Palermo, I think, since they don’t seem to go in for avenues here, decided to use these to line a street. The thing is those ropey tendrils come down from the branches and then take root and grow into trees, so the trees just colonize the space over time. Not good municipal planting.

The puppet museum had a full set of Punch and Judy puppets.

It was the least tempting museum for me, but actually I liked it the best. I don’t suppose anyone comes to Palermo to go to museums, but we felt we should.

A couple of holy fellas.

Ken’s last day we stopped in a tailor’s and had an impromptu jam.

I would have walked past here, but Ken saw the instruments and went in. They made us welcome and we had the best time. And the most interaction we’d had all week with local people. Here’s a piece of advice for you – musicians make good travelling companions. Ken brought his uke out a lot, and played to various people, but even without it, music brought us together.

The guy eating biscotti taught Ken a choon.

Simon, the guy in the red jacket, said it was a ‘magic moment’ which it was. He asked if we had an electronic address, which we did. Hopefully he emails and I can send him the link to this post.

Ken leaves in a couple of hours, then I will have 24 hours on my own before my flight home.

Violence, Sleep, and Cake

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It has been some time since my last confession, but let me tell you now, there’s no news like no news, and I’ve got no news. Not really.

I made a tumblr this morning elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/11/25 in which I, possibly rather redundantly, reblogged every post I’ve put in the End Of. tumblr so far. Weeeelll… it’s World Day Against Violence Against Women so why not?

It’s a small man…

It is the flimsiest of coincidences that I post an Italian poster here… but here’s a segue – BECAUSE IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW ALREADY IT’S THREE SLEEPS TO PALERMO! And by sheer magic, kismet, what have you, I have already put my foot in it by announcing on facebook that I am going to Italy. NO! I am going to Sicily! Quite different, apparently. Also, by sheer spooky coincidence, apparently Palermo is the city of CAKE. This is not entirely good news, but I’ll take it. And I will also take yoga pants in order to forgive what may occur to my waist.

In the meantime I have become a fan of and facebook friend of one Phil Lucas who, it turns out doesn’t just make amusing internetty things and daft fake council notifications around Brighton but does some sort of stand up/spoken word. So he is MY PEOPLE even though we have no fb friends in common and I probably came across as a crazy stalker lady when I friended him. This is modern life. Or postmodern life, if you prefer. I don’t because I think postmodernism is a massive hoax.

From the webbery of Phil Lucas

So, I’m quite the schmoozer, considering how seldom I leave the house. I’ve also friended up one Graham Duff, who I do have fb friends in common with, which makes me feel slightly less like a mad fawning fan, although, of course, I am, and that’s not how we met (we haven’t met IRL yet). He wrote Ideal, starring Johnny Vegas, about a small time drug dealer in Salford. Forget Breaking Bad, this is the real deal.

And how I ended up facebook friending the writer of this is that I met the person Tanya is based on! She IS called Tanya, but she stresses she DOES NOT do shoplifting. Even more amazing is that we met at all, since she is possibly even more hermitty than I am, but that’s the UNIVERSE and it’s mysterious ways, yo!

Of Beds and Bedrooms

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Being somewhat criptastic. Or spoony. Disabled? Certainly I have the dread Invisible Illness. I have spent the past couple of months in bed. I have also spent this morning, in a short window of relative wellness writing to my MP and encouraging others to do so too, on the subject of the reviled Bedroom Tax. For those who don’t know about this it’s a measure apparently designed to help families move into under occupied public housing -which seems fair, right? The way it works is by docking Housing Benefit for low income or non working people so that they can’t afford to live in their homes. This has had two main effects that I can see – first of all, claimants who have what is designated as a ‘spare room’ are pushed to move into private rented accommodation at whatever cost and inconvenience that entails only to have to claim a much higher rent for less space. The second thing is that this affects families with disabled members disproportionately, since they often have extra room for various reasons (storing equipment, quiet area for Autistic kid, bedroom for someone who might otherwise share a bedroom but can’t because of illness) and their home is often specially adapted for disabilities (ramp, grab rails, non slip flooring). I am not personally affected by this ‘bedroom tax’ but as a disabled person of some description I have been affected by other measures this Govt has taken in it’s war against the poor and disadvantaged, and I don’t like it.

I can’t bring myself to write a straight political post, it’s not in me. And there are plenty out there who are doing so anyway (here and in more detail here. If you are in the UK and your MP voted against repealing this punitive and pointless legislation or, maybe even worse in a way, if they were Labour and they failed to bother voting then do please write to your MP here. It’s the work of moments, really easy, and if there is ever going to be any point in voting for these lazy half wits again we need to remind them who’s actually boss. WE ARE.

The bedroom tax debate full list of Labour non-voters, all 47 of them:
Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth
Bob Ainsworth, MP Coventry North East
Douglas Alexander, MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South
Jonathan Ashworth, MP for Leicester South
Ed Balls, MP for Morley and Outwood Clp
Hugh Bayley, MP for York Central
David Blunkett, MP for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough
Gordon Brown, MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath
Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda
Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport
Huw Irranca Davies, MP for Ogmore
Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West
Gloria De Piero, MP for Ashfield
Jim Dobbin, MP for Heywood and Middleton
Frank Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras
Brian Donohoe, MP for Central Ayrshire
Frank Doran, MP for Aberdeen North
Clive Efford, MP for Eltham
Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead
Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West
Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South
David Hamilton, MP for Midlothian
Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking
George Howarth, MP for Knowsley
Lindsay Hoyle, MP for Chorley
Siân James, MP for Swansea East
Alan Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle
Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood
Gerald Kaufman, MP for Manchester, Gorton
David Lammy, MP for Tottenham
Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham
Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden
Alan Meale, MP for Gateshead
Meg Munn, MP for Sheffeild, Heeley
Jim Murphy, MP for East Renfrewshire
Pamela Nash, MP for Airdrie and Shotts
Dawn Primarolo, MP for Bristol South
Joan Ruddock, MP for Lewisham, Deptoford
Anas Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central
John Spellar, MP for Warley
Gerry Sutcliffe, MP for Bradford South
Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham
Joan Walley, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North
Dave Watts, MP for St Helens North
Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton, Test
Shaun Woodward, MP for Se Hellens South and Whiston

Here’s what Lib Dem MPs did on Labour’s motion to abolish the #bedroomtax

Absent

ALEXANDER, Danny, Mr
BIRTWISTLE, Gordon, Mr
BROOKE, Annette, Ms
CABLE, Vince, Mr
CLEGG, Nick
CROCKART, Mike
FEATHERSTONE, Lynne, Ms
HUPPERT, Julian, Mr
KENNEDY, Charles, Rt Hon
LAWS, David, Mr
LEECH, John, Mr
LLOYD, Stephen, Mr
MULHOLLAND, Greg, Mr
REID, Alan, Mr
SANDERS, Adrian, Mr
SWALES, Ian, Mr
TEATHER, Sarah, Ms
THORNTON, Mike, Mr
WARD, David, Mr
WILLIAMS, Mark, Mr
WILLIAMS, Roger, Mr
WRIGHT, Simon, Mr

Aye (voted with Labour)

FARRON, Tim, Mr
GEORGE, Andrew, Mr

No

BAKER, Norman, Mr
BEITH, Alan, Rt Hon
BRAKE, Tom
BROWNE, Jeremy, Mr
BRUCE, Malcolm, Rt Hon
BURSTOW, Paul, Mr
BURT, Lorely, Ms
CAMPBELL, Menzies, Rt Hon
CARMICHAEL, Alistair, Mr
DAVEY, Edward, Mr
FOSTER, Don, Mr
GILBERT, Stephen, Mr
HAMES, Duncan, Mr
HARVEY, Nick, Mr
HEATH, David, Mr
HEMMING, John, Mr
HORWOOD, Martin, Mr
HUGHES, Simon, Mr
HUNTER, Mark, Mr
LAMB, Norman, Mr
MOORE, Michael, Mr
MUNT, Tessa, Ms
PUGH, John, Mr
ROGERSON, Dan, Mr
RUSSELL, Bob, Mr
SMITH, Robert, Sir
STUNELL, Andrew, Mr
SWINSON, Jo, Ms
THURSO, John, Mr
WEBB, Steve
WILLIAMS, Stephen, Mr

Teller: Noes
Liberal Democrat WILLOTT, Jenny

***

Now then. Back to the world of me and mine. What’s weird about getting a bit better is that it doesn’t necessarily make a person feel  better. When I first got ill, or should I say when I crashed so hard I could no longer ignore the multiple systems failures occurring around my body and mind, it was really very very bad. I lost all sense of who I was – I’d forged my identity through work and socializing, like many do. I wasn’t in a relationship, didn’t have my dog, was just totally incapacitated. Actually, at first I felt a bit scared, but my brain was really foggy so I didn’t really feel much at all for weeks and weeks, running into months. Also, one of my major things was some really weird stuff going on in my back which had been giving me referred pain – so, in fact, my migraines were at a peep. I was mainly a vegetable. After a few months I took a little job backstage at the Shaftesbury Theatre with the idea that if I was used to working every day over the summer I could go back to teaching that September without too much trouble. Unfortunately, because of one thing and another, a shitty doctor, a prescription med that made me go quite mental, for a start, I missed that moment, and also couldn’t continue with the theatre work either. Between inappropriate care and medication and the continuation and exacerbation of various symptoms I actually got worse. The brain fog faded somewhat, and the back pain was less incapacitating, but the migraines got worse. A lot worse. 16+ a month is the definition of chronic, and I was starting migraines during migraines, and was lucky if I got a handful of days a month not in writhing pain. This went on for several years. A few months ago I started getting Botox treatment, and it is helping a bit. What it does is make a bit of distance between trigger and pain which in turn helps the triptans to work. I am still taking as many most of the time, but I had quite decent breaks in the summer, so when the weather hit, I actually took it pretty badly. I’d got used to being able to write, and Pattern Recognition went down well at October’s Have A Word. And they asked me back for March, so I started writing a second piece. Then the pain and the brain fog and the usual crap kicked in, but I’d had this taste of being normal and I’d liked it. Some of you who know me on facebook saw that I was really beside myself on Monday, because I had a really massive unmanageable day of pain – absolutely nothing by comparison to the endless days and nights I used to get, but now I’m not used to it, and it frightens me half to death. It’s like although the medication is all about giving me a higher pain threshold I actually have a lower tolerance to it when it comes.

Nobody Died

When I first got ill I did have a friend who berated me for having time off, and who tried to persuade me that I should use this strategy or that to get back in the game, but at that time it was impossible anyway, and what I needed to do was to rest. I moved house and learned more about pain management and meditation. Eventually, having become effectively housebound I got a dog. You didn’t know I had a dog? Here’s my dog.

She likes yoghurt, and then, for desert, she likes the carton.

I also acquired a boyfriend, no mean feat when you never really leave the house, and haven’t socialized live for several years. Then I moved house again. The first move was a transfer – my HA accepted I needed to move on health grounds, and I was grateful at first, but then after 8 years I found I wanted something else, and the tech for swapping within public housing had evolved. (Years ago you could swap, but you had to go to the council offices and look at lists – no pictures, no real details, just lists of people usually desperate to get out of whatever version of hell they were living in – nobody at that time moved just because they wanted to.) Now, of course, it’s all online. You can upload pictures, you can set up some limited search parameters, and you can swap not just because you  have to for work reasons, or because you hate your neighbours, but because you want a change of scene or a different kind of home or locale. It’s quite civilized really. I wanted somewhere quieter, and I got it. But what I wasn’t expecting was to totally fall through the floor physically. I became unutterably ill after the move. Maybe this is why I am so sympathetic towards people being forced out of their homes. I elected to move, the new place was better for me, I could afford the move, I had no dependants, but even so, the upshot was that I became extra ill on top of my ‘normal’ level of illness, and I had to ask my boyfriend to look after me, look after the dog, do everything, basically. After a few months of spiralling out of control with inadequate health care – zero continuity except for my neuro, and a lot of difficulty getting any comprehension of what my problems and needs were I finally thought “fuck it” and attempted suicide.

As you might imagine, this took some getting over as well. With a massive bolster of psych drugs and a bit of  attention to the physical side of things I got a bit better. I started having the Botox treatment, and began managing a small kind of sustainability of daily routine in my life. If I didn’t have financial support from my family I wouldn’t have managed any of this – and bear in mind both my parents are elderly and pensioners, so taking £500 a quarter for Botox is something that can’t go on forever, but I’m hoping a year’s uninterrupted use will have some overall effect.

So yeah. Yesterday’s vote. Very bad news. Moving house is recognized as being up there with divorce and bereavement in terms of stress, and I only had my own illness to contend with, and I didn’t have financial issues or children to deal with and I did have support. Imagine any number of permutations where you have extra stress on you and you’re being forced to move out of accommodation that does work for you into accommodation you will never be able to afford on your own, might be less easy to get to work from, you might have to have your kids change schools, you, your partner or your kids might have sickness or disability issues that can’t hope to be addressed in private accommodation and you have a glimpse of why the Bedroom Tax has got so far under my skin.