In Praise of Shitty Weather


Friday was ridiculously hot. It was Zone 1 London in the summer hot, with that intimation of hosepipe bans and the feel that it could be one of those summers where fans sell out and people start whining about it being TOO HOT.



I don’t like to be a curmudgeon, and while my mind is of a cloudy turn, my body certainly behaves better in the warm, but now that we’ve moved house a fair few things have changed in the daily routine. On the Tottenham Riviera we were on the ground floor, it  was Zone 3, and on a river, and I didn’t have to have Pops on the lead for most of any outing. Here, we are in the microclimate of the centre of town, up four flights, and the parks are often FULL at the first sight of sunshine. Full, that is, of HAZARDS.

By ‘hazards’ I mean children, people eating, people trying to have some alone time lying down quietly, that sort of thing. All things a Bobbins likes to either actually disturb or threaten to disturb, which amounts to the same thing in terms of having to police her.

In the shitty weather we doggy types get the park to ourselves.

On Friday it was extremely hot and Poppet did her new thing of having to have several lie downs all the way home as well as a couple in the stair. And that was for the morning play. By the afternoon it was baking so hard and the park was so populous that there was no chance of play, and even without it she still played ‘old dog’ all the way home.

When I first got her she was estimated by All Dogs Matter as being about a year old, and thought to have been made to mate on her first season, the beginnings of her white muzzle being thought to have been caused by the shock of this too early breeding. By the time we were on the Riviera and we had a vet appointment she was nominally about four, and he said there was no way she was under seven. Usually if people ask her age I tell them I don’t know, that she was adopted, and I give them the parameters, but if I can’t be bothered or if I think they are really not interested (a lot of people ask a dog’s age, it’s a ‘thing’) then I’ve just been saying “seven” for the past couple of years. Despite her greying muzzle, I’ve continued to argue her youth, but now she’s doing the lying down thing I’ve revised it upward. Her age of convenience is now firmly ten.

Anyway, the weather didn’t do as threatened, and we are now back to the shitty weather we also complain about. However, today it didn’t take a moment to get her out and running about, and we had the park pretty much to ourselves and yesterday was the same, even though this is the weekend. I don’t begrudge the sun seekers their pleasures, but I am going to have to figure out a way around them with the dog.

I was going to write this yesterday but we got waylaid by a chap called Roland and his dog Crunchie. I’m shit at remembering names, but Roland is my brother’s name, and Crunchie is an excellent name for a dog. She was crunching on a stick when we met her. We also know a Harry and Barry, but I have no idea which is the man and which the dog, so knowing their names doesn’t help at all.

Now Wait for Last Year


…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.


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.

Flip Flop Tan, A Visit to Epping Forest, and The Imminent Scaffolding


I wish I could like autumn more. I mean, I do like it in theory, but my body doesn’t. I’d come off preventative pain killers and was doing really well til the weather hit, and then I realized that wasn’t going to happen. If I could work out how to manage it financially I’d look into moving somewhere where the weather was basically UK summer most of the time, then I might even be able to work. I was stunned at how well I was when I was in Spain, earlier.

proudly prehensile… and a flip flop tan, to boot!

Also, I am saying a sad goodbye to this year’s ‘tan’. I do know that most people wouldn’t count this as a tan as such, but if you compare the blue lines where my flip flops have been to the regular flesh colour on the rest of my feet I think you’ll agree that I’ve done well. I’d just carry on wearing flip flops if I could, but even on a hot day there’s dew on the grass in the morning, and what I have discovered with my summer of the flip flop is that it’s not the cold that’ll get you, it’s damp. Any amount of moisture makes flip flop wearing untenable. I even wore my flip flops to Epping forest the other day without major incident, though they are not ideal off road footwear.

Multitasky Ian (feat Cam)

No, Poppet.

After my flurry of visits abroad I’d got rather mired in the Tottenham Riviera, and it was great to be asked on a day out to Epping with my friends Ian and Al and Al’s little boy, Cameron. Ian did the driving, and we arrived at the bit where the bikers congregate. I would have liked to have taken some pictures, but, well, bikers. Friendly enough but lets not push it. There’s a little cabin where fried food and hot brown beverages calling themselves ‘tea’ and ‘coffee’ are sold. These are seriously muck, but the bacon sarnies are just the job at fortifying you for a woodland walk. Poppet had a fantastic time eating horse poo and wallowing in stinky water and running about like an idiot. Cameron had his BMX bike with him, so we could walk quite far without Al having to carry him, which has been a feature of our walks thus far. For the past few years Al has actually had to carry both Cam and a bike a fair bit, so it’d just as well he’s a gym bunny.

Al and Ian are the people I see most, and do feature in my “should I move?” scenarios. I’ve been all over the place with the home swapping thing this summer, and I’ve had to wind it down now. Partly because it was taking up too much of my head room, and partly because time is passing, and my window of relative wellness is becoming smaller as we move towards the winter, and November is the scheduled time for the scaffolding to go up, probably for several months, while we get new windows and roofs and they replace our heating systems. This should effectively trash what decor there is here, and so between the unsightliness of the scaff and the likely wreckage indoors I can only see the keenest person looking past all that. So rather than field inquiries over the next while I’ve left the profile hanging with just central Brighton as a preferred swap. It’d take me away from easy striking distance from Al and Ian, but nearly everyone wants to visit Brighton, and of my friends who have bought, most have two bed flats, so I can visit THAT LONDON as they call it, and also reconnect with my Brighton friends. Anyway, we mustn’t hold our breaths, since I’ve rarely had a bite from a Brightonian.

In the meantime, Have A Word is coming closer and closer. I’ve done a bit of writing but must do more. It’s mainly about picking blackberries, but then, what else is there to write about? Hardly anything. Blackberries it is.

Down the Sofa of Memory, an Unhappy Birthday, and ALL THE PRESENTS


Good morrow, my friends! It has been some time since my last confession/blog post due to the rolling migraine situation here at l’hermitage. Which is annoying, because I have so much to tell you about, and I’m sure lots of BRILLIANT ideas will have been lost down the sofa of my piss poor memory. Obviously, I have been doing very little, but I have been thinking a lottle about what I want to do for Have A Word in October… It’s in a proper theatre so there’s the opportunity for projections, props, what have you. It’s nice to consider all these things before probably opting to write something down then, er, read it out.

Never mind! Lets live for today and search the camera for the yesterdays…

First of all, there’s a little catch up from foreign travels before they become too old timey to comment on. It was hard to edit down all the stuff from Paris, and this is a shot I didn’t take until I was already home. It’s from the ‘in flight’ magazine they give you on Eurostar. Well, I don’t think they mean you to take them, but at least I took a whole one, whereas the woman next to me tore pages out, which may or may not have been disappointing for the next traveller. These magazines are kind of meh. But there were a couple of things I wanted to refer to. Here’s one about what the French call a Brazilian.

ticket de metro

What you may need to know is that the Paris Metro ticket’s metallic strip is rather more elegant than the London Tube’s. Not judging, mind. Don’t have one for you to see because modern travellers on the Tube use Oyster cards which don’t have a strip. They have a COMPUTER which is sending INFORMATION about you to the GOVERNMENT (this sentence is dedicated to Amy’s Dad. Click on the side bar and look at virtually any Lucy’s Football post and you’ll see what I mean.) Pictured is the back of a Metro ticket, which I have kept, in the spirit of throwing a coin in a fountain, as a promise of return. Though without genital waxing, thankingyou.

My other thing from down the back of the sofa of time is this little rig featuring a mozzie repellent from Spain. What you may not know is that European plugs are different from UK ones, although, confusingly, we do use adaptors for electric shavers though not much else, so I had one lying around. But it goes uppy downy so I had to find an adaptor that would make it go sidey ways.

con fused

We were eaten ALIVE every night by mozzies and it was only on the eve of the last night that we thought of buying a repellent. This one is basically just citronelle presumably gently warmed up – seems to work here just fine, which is good because we do get the odd mozzie on the Tottenham Costa and I’ve never seen these gizmos on sale. Damned if I was going to leave it behind, though I did miss a trick leaving the garlic. Frankly, it didn’t take me long to wish I had thrown out all my clothes and just stuffed my suitcase with garlic and cheese.


Then there was my birthday. Being a monday, and last year having been a proper celebration, perhaps it was always going to be a non event at best, so things were surprisingly festive when Angie Nutt turned up with her balloons on birthday eve…

squeaky bouquet. note ten’s hand ready to restrain poppet from any inquiring bites

On the day lots of people sent me good wishes on the interwebs, and I even got some actual cards, and in the case of the Kirsties presents. One baked good being a hat, and one being a knitted pie.

the pie in question being a fairly accurate rendition of a mason’s pie, traditionally to be found in a scottish chip shop. my mum and her sister used to take them to the swimming pool and put them on the pipes for afterwards, calling them a ‘shivery bite’

the day started off well enough, with strawberries and cream for second breakfast. that’s last year’s present from phillip renshaw in the frame.

However, this perkiness did not last. I got a call from a friend who I chatted happily enough with for a bit, but then he started telling me what I “should” be doing about disability benefits and what I “should” be doing for myself. He meant well, but I started really spiralling while he was talking to me, and ended up saying that I couldn’t cope with the conversation and hanging up. I then went into the bedroom and had a proper howling cry, something which I know flares migraine, but which, for once, I indulged. A visit in the afternoon from Hazel and BJ who bore cake barely lifted me from the gutter, however, and what was worse was that the next morning I woke with the cold toad of depression squatting on my chest.

i saw this in the river and thought it summarised the downfall of my birthday rather well

Lets all sing along with Morrissey…


One nice thing that has happened is that I requested a CSI Helsingborg t shirt from my friend Mark whose band it is (of course it’s a BAND, did you think the POLIS are likely to give away their merch?) AND he sent me not one but TWO!

merch from sweden. i am well connected

Naturally, I had to attempt to take a slightly POLIS type photo – but in my half baked style you will just have to imagine a police badge instead of a camera, and while you’re at it de-domesticate the background, oh, and flip reverse the photo so you can read the T shirt. Thanks.

not photoshopped


Not to be outdone, Poppet has been acquiring presents, too. Neighbour Paul let her have his dear departed doggy’s toys. Buster had clearly kept his presents nice, but you can see in the picture that Poppet has made a start on ripping the face off one of these already…

not the face!

And lastly in Tales of the Riverbank, we had squatted moorings! Yes. All the excitement here on the Ferry Lane Estate. Obviously, Poppet had to go have a little investigate and made friends with them, and I ended up giving one of them a pair of flip flops. I guessed her shoe size – 5 1/2 – which might sound weird, but that is also my size, so no, I am not about to reveal a foot fetish or a past working in a shoe shop.

squat – tastic

So, that will have to do in the way of a catch up. In the meantime, if that’s still not enough, here’s a tumblr collection for your further edification “

Doggy Drama, Passport Photos, and Pork Pies


A-And they called it Puppy Love…

a break between bouts of fight club

There’s been ALL THE DRAMA with the Hector adoption. A couple came to see him and they were really keen and really nice, but they both worked full time. I did think this was a bit ambitious of All Dogs Matter since Hector screamed the place down at the vets, and not because of the snippy snip. He doesn’t mind going next door to Steve’s, but he does cry if I go out, and they had said they would want to take special care of his separation anxiety. Turned out there had been a bit of miscommunication, so the couple were sadly disinvited from adopting him. Better for him, but they really loved him and will be terribly disappointed. I am glad it wasn’t up to me to tell them.

They do have someone more appropriate lined up, but I’d rather they went with my neighbour, Brian, who has a staffie, Max, who likes Hector. He is retired and he takes Max massive walks every day. He says he is keen, but even if he phones today the guy who ADM like is coming to see him TOMORROW so there’d have to be something go wrong for him not to want him, I guess, and this guy does sound good… I suppose there’s another doggie who Brian and Max might like. Considering every time they post on facebook I repost with oohs and aahs, so they’re not short of lovely dogs.


In travel news, my friend Lottie has asked me if I would like to go on holiday with her and her sister and her sister’s kiddo. Why, yes, I would like to go stay in a lovely villa in Spain paid for by their dad, I most certainly would. As you know I am BRILLIANT at Spanish having bothered to learn “bathroom” for our previous trip, and managed very well with just that and mime. I think it helped that we were in deepest Spain, and I was twice the height of everyone else and blonde. I was probably like a cross between Boris Johnson and Big Bird to them.

Suddenly I remembered my passport had run out and I’d failed to fill in the form for a new one, so I got to it last night, and threw in a pair of photobooth photos with the application. It was only this morning that I thought that the likelyhood was that these photos were even older than my last 10 year passport so I’d better get some new ones done. I opened the envelope and retrieved the ridiculously young me photos and prepared to meet my face in the mirror. I haven’t worn make up for a really long time, but photo booth photos bleach your face out anyway, and since I have near invisible eyebrows and a pale face I though’t I’d better do some colouring in. Just as well, too, since the photos came out rather bleached anyway.

not a serial killer, just not allowed to smile for passport photos

Imagine if I’d gone up there bare faced? I’d have looked like a balloon in a wig.


On the 11th I go to the Headache Clinic at the Neuro Hospital. IF they bestow me regular botox I could be looking at having a significantly different prognosis. Also, going into the summer, if it’s anything like last year, I should at least get three decent months. Last year I just needed a break and I took it. This year, knowing that it would be forwardable, I would first of all be into dropping as much medication as possible (already started, CHECK) and dietary reform (already started, LIKE A BOSS). The problem with dietary reform is everything you aren’t going to eat any more becomes super beguiling. Even stuff you didn’t like before. One time I knew someone who was on remand in prison. Edgy, I know. Anyway, he craved pork pies, which, he said he never liked normally. Now that’s me, only without the prisony bit.

The Banality of Evil is alive and well and is represented by ATOS and the UK Govt.


Okay, call me on it if you like, but we are way beyond Godwin’s Law right here and now. We are in the realm of Hanna Arendt’s ‘Banality of Evil’.

Susan Neiman breaks it down a little here

So, the problem is less that we need to recognize political, and for that matter big business leaders as the sociopaths they very well may be, but that there is a myriad of people who are entirely happy to carry out their cruelty. We now live in an era which splits the wrongdoing into bite sized chunks for different individuals to carry out, so that when you point out that you are not able to do whatever they are demanding of you it is not in their remit to, for instance, assess your disability, just to ensure you find a job.

The way it breaks down for me is the initial assessment form from ATOS the firm who are ‘not’ the govt, just carrying out orders, and from which they deduced that I was capable of being put in the ‘working’ group. These forms are dealt with very quickly, and it would appear that multiple disabilities do not count – my ‘points’ were based on my psychiatric status not fibromyalgia, and not chronic migraine (classed as chronic if you have more than 16 a month, at which point the World Health Organization consider a person to be more disabled than a paraplegic) and without contacting my GP or Consultant Neurologist or Psychiatrist. Nothing against nurses, but if you do get assessed (which I wasn’t) it is carried out by a nurse in a short interview, without reference to any of the hours you have spent with your more qualified GP and your very much more qualified in their specialist area Consultant/s.

THEN to add insult to injury, the govt has commissioned companies to carry out work previously done by specialist career counsellors with appropriate specialist qualifications. Attending a “voluntary” (compulsory) meeting with my unqualified ‘counsellor’, in conversation he told me he was ‘going’ to become qualified, but that he ‘didn’t read’. This may sound snobbish, but how does someone who ‘doesn’t read’ advise someone with two degrees and sundry other qualifications about the best career path for them?

For the past few months I have been left in a state of grace to get on with dealing with my myriad aliments, this being something that I am not even on top of, so how I am supposed to work as well as manage shopping and eating regularly (difficult) my medications (horrendously difficult) and personal care and environment (always a case of catastrophe management) I am not entirely sure. When I was called in for an ESA (Employment Support Allowance, the benefit I am on) group induction (with less than a day’s notice, the advisor phoning from a screened number and when the call was dropped he didn’t even phone me back to tell me which office it was going to be held at) I honestly doubt I would have made it without Ten shepherding me there. I was in full migraine incommunicado. Ten switched the mic on on my phone before I went in, because I wanted to be able to listen to it afterwards, but the sound quality was too poor.

We were herded into a room and told that from April we would be treated as Job Seekers. (Job Seekers have to show that they are applying for jobs and have to account for themselves on a regular basis.) If you do not attend for any reason you will be sanctioned. I get about £90 a week, and I have heard of benefit being cut to £21 a week for protracted periods for non attendance – even if this was because of a hospital appointment. I said that I was awaiting a tribunal to go onto the other version of the EAS which is for people deemed too ill to work. I was told in no uncertain terms that this was not their problem. They are not there to consider your disability, just to find you work. In the same breath they apprised us of their ‘Member Charter’ in which they state that they will treat you with ‘respect’. A respect which does not take into account your disability. What kind of respect might that be?

They were very keen to have us consider self employment. If we sign off and become self employed before April we will get benefits not far off what we get now, for a year. Their great idea for us is to become hairdressers or cleaners from home, or sell Body Shop products from home. This, with no respect for how many people visit us (in my case Ten, Lottie, and my neighbour Stephen and Ian and Al most months, other people less often) or OUR DISABILITY which might prevent us from cleaning, for instance. I used to work as a cleaner, you have to be bloody fit to do a good job, and I only just keep the worst of the physically endangering mess and dirt at bay at home. If you get DLA (another benefit – one I have never managed to get) or are a single parent you can consider yourself self employed if you do 16 hours a week. If not, like me, you should do 30 hours a week. That’d be 5 hours a day six days a week which would be the equivalent of me being accepted onto a space programme or running a marathon. I doubt I could do 5 hours a week. I’ve done considerably less than 5 hours a week setting up the Training With Awareness website, and it’s still quite crap. And I couldn’t have done more.

Evidently the govt wants people off EAS ‘working’ group and into work. Probably they don’t fancy putting us into workfare, since being stretchered out of their partners in crime’s premises wouldn’t look good for them. So we are being funneled into this self employment thing – which, lets face it, is going to fail for most people. Usually when people go self employed they do way more than 40 hours a week (the nominal weekly full time hours in the UK) and a LOT of them fail. This, with money to put in, full energy and ability to focus on something they are probably passionate about. So what’s going to be the reality for ‘us’? We are expected to earn £71 a week – if I could earn £71 a week I’d sign off ffs!

In the “Charter” they claim they provide “a welcoming, comfortable and positive environment” – The strip lights in the windowless room meant that I was glad I was wearing shades, there was no concession to physical disability whatever, and I consider the way they treated me as being about a -3 on “welcoming”. They were irritable, bossy, and disrespectful. Ha! Point two is “We will listen to you and treat you with respect.” Really? They go on to describe themselves as “helpful, polite, and professional at all times”. I was disinclined to communicate with them and spent most of the time in silence. When they asked if any of us had hobbies we could turn into self employed professions, the woman next to me said shyly that she liked to write. She was put firmly in her no mark place!

D’you know what? I’m not going to go through the rest. I expect you can see from this tiny taster the sort of bullshit we are dealing with here.

So what am I going to do? Pretend to be self employed for a year and hope to god something rescues me this time next year? Tough it out and maintain my more or less silent protest? Hoping that I don’t get so financially penalized that I lose my home?

Re the tribunal – the likelihood of the tribunal happening before April is quite slim. One is considered ‘work capable’ until or unless a tribunal overturns such a judgement, but even getting a tribunal has taken over a year. From what I am hearing going from having your appeal processed to actually having a tribunal can take several months.

I guess I’d better have my St Ann’s bag packed. With a copy of Janet Frame’s An Angel at My Table in my bag for added irony? Feeling that a mental hospital is a sanctuary from ordinary unhappiness exacerbated by a slew of people ‘just doing their job’ seems to me quite a good example of ‘the banality of evil’.

Have at it, Godwin, with your Law!