Vegetables are normal

I saw this Tumblr post yesterday, about depression.

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It’s excellent. It’s been picked up everywhere because it makes perfect sense, at least it does to me. It may make no sense to people who don’t suffer from depression.

But the whole point is that being depressed is illogical. On bad days, I force myself out of the house (on the very bad ones I don’t wash first) and I’m amazed my legs still work.

“Look at me,” I think. “Walking in the sunshine like a normal person!  Buying vegetables like a normal person.” But then I don’t know what to do after buying vegetables so I come back home and read or watch telly. But I did it. I went out. I can walk. I’m not agoraphobic. I have vegetables.

There are a ton of things I could do to improve my life. Stop smoking. Sleep more. Clean my house. Wash my hair. See friends. Accept invitations. Exercise. Eat the vegetables. I could do every single one of these things today, most of them right now. By bedtime I could have a clean house, a clean body, have been for a walk, and be ready for a well needed, natural sleep. I could wake up tomorrow smoke free, with a tidy life and tackle one of the bigger things on my to do list. I’ll feel better, look better, be happier and therefore nicer, the lives of my loved ones will be improved, my business will thrive and I’ll be normal. Normal and organised, sunny and practical, placid and slim.

I’d do all of those things go if I could just pull myself together.

And I should be able to, of course I should. As I’m constantly being indirectly reminded, other people work hard every day to keep body and soul together and you don’t see them moaning.

I’m allowing myself to be like this, deliberately bashing potatoes together because I can’t bring myself to go to the shop and buy a peeler.

On the other hand, if I could change, why wouldn’t I? It’s pretty shit being stuck so deep in my own comfort zone that leaving it is just too big a deal even if the rewards are potentially immense.

It’s because I’m fundamentally rubbish at life. But I have an illness, a properly diagnosed one so I’m not rubbish. But I must be because I can’t take even the smallest step towards curing myself. I’m self absorbed and self pitying. I’m standing in my own head shouting “Pull yourself together, woman” but I’m not listening.

But I do have vegetables. And a non metaphorical peeler, so that’s good.

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The F word

I’ve been musing today about being fat, about how it makes me and others feel.
Nobody likes it when you refer to yourself as fat. They pull a face, sad or horrified. “You’re not fat,” they say. “You’re curvy/have a classic figure/look lovely. And besides, boobies.”

These are wonderful people, who don’t want me to feel bad about myself. And while we both know exactly how big I am, only one of us can bear the F word. Curvy is sexy, voluptuous, Rita Hayworth or Marilyn Monroe. Fat is sad, ugly.

But I am fat. It’s an empirical fact. On the medical scale I’m obese. I don’t disgust people, my friends don’t love me any less, men still find me attractive. I’m fat. It’s okay if I say I am because it’s not shameful. But thank you for caring about my feelings.

I’ve always been fat. This is a fact. I was fat at secondary school, fat at college, had a brief stint of glorious weight loss at uni when I lived on Kelloggs Variety boxes and promotional drinks, then got fat again when I married and more so when I became a mother.

But here’s the thing. I wasn’t. I was never skinny but certainly through a lot of my life, I wasn’t fat. This is me as a “fat” teenager, when I had already accepted myself as fat and hid under massive clothes. I was a size 12.

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Fat becomes an issue when you’re not skinny. Anything over a size 10 is, in both the playground and fashion, fat. It’s enough to make a healthy 11 year old feel fat enough that it really doesn’t matter how fat she gets. Once you’re fat, you’re fat, right?

Pink was called fat last week after having a relatively unflattering photo of her. This is the photo.

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Anyone can see that’s not fat. But , crucially, it’s not skinny. And anything beyond skinny becomes fat by default.
I am fat. Pink is not. Neither are the millions of size 12 and 14 girls and women accused of it on a daily basis. I look back on my teenagers years and wish I’d appreciated what I had but by then I was labelled, dismissed and frankly didn’t have the will to fight it.

Still, boobies.

Top bantz

Banter is the word I dislike most. I have no problem with words changing their meaning but banter is now used as an excuse to say anything. It’s the same people who say things like “jeez, love, get a sense of humour” and “I’m a straight talker”.

My mum described Terry Wogan’s breakfast show as banter, pleasant middle aged people teasing each other about prostate exams and how early they put the sprouts on.

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These days banter is essentially Top Gear. An excuse for any amount of nastiness. The sole preserve of bigots and loudmouths.

We seem to have reached a stage where we all have to give in to the loudest, most ignorant person in the room. If we don’t we are humourless and uptight party poopers.

This has reached an inevitable conclusion with the Jeremy Clarkson row currently plaguing my beloved BBC. I don’t despise Clarkson, largely because he looks like my Dad. I know the man is a troll, that he often says things for the specific purpose of pissing people off. And when he does, Twitter duly obliges with outrage. It’s a symbiotic relationship that seemed to be working for everyone.

But the real fuss, the thing getting his fans so riled that over a million people signed a petition that was delivered to Downing Street in a tank, is that the BBC had the temerity to suspend him after he physically assaulted a producer.

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Is this what banter has become? Actual violence? It would seem so. Those petition signers would probably never dream of assaulting a coworker but Clarkson is their maverick hero.

Yesterday on Facebook a local “weirdo” from our small village was outed as a paedophile. No evidence but the person intimated he had knowledge. I questioned both the legality and morality of this, and spent the entire day having to justify myself on the original post, on my own page, and even in a personal message from someone I’ve never met.

The same happened when I complained on a local site about two shocking anti Muslim posts (one was a picture of two Muslim police officers, intended to show how our country is no longer ours). That resulted in two days of being called every name under the sun. I was a do gooder, a member of the lefty brigade, a terrorist sympathiser, a spoiler of fun, a nazi queller of free speech. Also humourless, frigid and, in a marvellous leap of logic, a lesbian. It was relentless and carried on for almost a week, with the group administrator sending personal messages full of indignant vitriol.

Both of these incidents included the word banter.

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Inciting hatred and violence of a vulnerable old man who dresses eccentrically, banter. Anti Muslim propaganda, banter. Punching an underling at work, banter.

These people think know they’re in the majority because they shout the loudest. I look around my group of friends and realise they are not. Most people are essentially good people. The problem is drowning out the noise of the idiots.

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The truth about housing benefits tenants – a landlords’ guide

Last week I blogged about the search for a home for my son and I, and the difficulty we are having because we will be relying on Housing Benefit. Nothing has changed for us since then.

I’ve read a lot and discussed it with people and I have been convinced that it is mortgage lenders and insurance agents at fault. If not them then the estate agencies. It is never the landlords.

Landlords get a bad press and it’s not fair. At any minute a family on benefits could take over their property and they are rightly scared. So, as a guide for them, here is the truth about benefits claimants, and why you should never, ever rent to them.

1.
With the first HB cheque, or sometimes as soon as they get made redundant, tenants start bashing mirrors with their heads and shitting on the carpets. Just the other day I found myself smearing spaghetti hoops on the wall for no reason other than I don’t have PAYE tax status.

2.
Children growing up in benefits-claiming houses are feral. They may be small and innocent, they may be polite and caring and clever. They may be well read and even show potential like my son, but don’t be fooled. They will grow up to sell your children drugs, impregnate your daughters and pop out the next generation of workshy scroungers.
The only way to avoid this is to deny them homes then maybe they’ll freeze to death.

3.
Benefits recipients don’t have needs or feelings like normal people. They’re basically animals. Their failure to hold on to a job during a recession proves this. Their spurious claims that they need homes are just to make the property-owning classes feel somehow bad. A mouldy bedsit in a shared house is ample for their simple needs. They can produce up to five children in a litter so more space just encourages them to breed.

4.
When sent a housing benefit cheque, benefits claimants stare at them, open-mouthed in confusion. They may try and eat it or use it as toilet paper. The brighter ones go to the nearest shop and swap the cheque for Special Brew and pornography.
This is why they should never be trusted with either money or homes.

5.
They are where they are because they deserve it. Don’t feel bad for them. Your job is safe, you will never ever lose it because you’re better than them. They are scum, their children are scum. You’re doing the world a favour.
The only way to encourage them to get out of London / starve to death / commit suicide is to buy more houses and keep them out.

It’s a jungle out there, landlords. Stay safe.

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Self awareness through Tinder

I just joined Tinder. I’m well behind the times but my blog, my out-of-date interests.

Tinder is fascinating. A catalogue of men in my area (I’m in London, there are many) for me to instantly judge based on nothing but a photo. How awful is that?

As an unphotogenic person myself I know photos mean nothing. And who am I to judge, an average, overweight woman on the wrong side of 40? But judge I do, fulsomely and with extreme prejudice.

So far – and this doesn’t make me proud – I dismiss men with no hair, bad teeth, necklaces and earrings, football shirts, no shirts, leisurewear and crocs (clearly). I left swipe gym lunks, men in flashy locations or with flashy cars, extreme sports, beery group shots. And dude, is that your girlfriend?

When I do right swipe it’s almost exclusively over men of my own broad ethnic background. Does that make me a terrible person? Theoretically I genuinely don’t discriminate but judging from my Tinder behaviour, I can’t back that theory up.

I know that I feel most comfortable with a certain kind of person. Clever and funny, someone who watches Breaking Bad and listens to Radio 4 or 6. Someone interested and a bit cynical. Someone, in short, from my middle class background. My ex husband is middle class, my lover is middle class, my child isn’t yet 10 but reads Private Eye and Douglas Adams, and knows how to cut an avocado. Middle class.

To make matters worse, when I am drawn to men from different ethnic backgrounds it tends to be Europeans, who are broadly white.

The non-white men I’m drawn to tend to be demonstrably British, Londoners, the sort of men with whom I am familiar.

Now I have white middle-class guilt. Am I racist? Guilty of some form of Western superiority complex? A snob probably. Facile, certainly.

But I’m human. And being attracted to people like us is very human. Most of us end up with people like ourselves because they want the same things, are easy to be around.

How human it is to judge potential lovers or partners on nothing but a photo is another matter.

I’m certain that if this was published in the Guardian that I would be dismissed as a racist by half the comments panel. I’d probably be called a nazi .

But luckily nobody much cares about this blog so I can carry on being an imperfect mess of contradiction like everyone else.

Everybody needs a home

We’re looking for somewhere to live, my young son and I.

Debts built up since my marriage broke up, combined with benefits sanctions then the government policy against housing benefit for homeowners mean I have had to sell our family home.

I’ve been positive. Being debt free is a huge relief and although we’ll be on housing benefit, my cash deposit and homeowners guarantor plus the fact that I work and I’m a decent person should mean we find somewhere, no problem.

Except…

Benefits are no longer a reliable source of income in times of need. Punitive sanctions mean all income, including housing benefit and mortgage relief, can be stopped for an arbitrary amount of time.
Housing benefit payments are now sent directly to the tenant instead of the landlord, as part of the universal credit system being rolled out.
More cuts are promised and who knows where the axe will fall? Certainly not the landlords who rely on those payments to cover a mortgage/top up the ISA/pay for a holiday in Dubai/mollify shareholders.

However, when I asked at The Property Studio in East Barnet why they had a “no benefits” policy I was told this:

“A small minority give everyone a bad name.”

So it’s not about payment after all, it’s about prejudice. Government and media alike have used the poor, the unfortunate and vulnerable as whipping boys, the people responsible for the financial fubar at the highest levels. RBS may owe billions, but that scrounger there has £2 a week more than he did and that’s worse.

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A small minority gives us all a bad name. Unlike Estate Agents.

Hunters in High Barnet also didn’t want to know , albeit politely and in a sympathetic tone of voice.

Andrews can’t help because my guarantor needs to have an income of three times the yearly rent. In Mantles in East Barnet, that’s a flat non negotiable £47k income. Average London income is £35k.

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So where does that leave me? As I write, I am in a coffee shop where two estate agents are sitting behind me discussing how glass fronted shop agency fronts help “bring the money into London”.

Luckily three or four agencies have deigned to put me on a list.  Right now, on a list feels like a blessing. I may yet find a home.

I agree with Natalie (or, How voting Ukip is better than voting Green)

Labour, eh? Once the party of the people, now a party with a legacy of financial deregulation and illegal war, desperate to disassociate itself from the very working groups that built it up. It breaks my heart.

You don’t need me to tell you what’s wrong with Labour, you already know. So what is the socialist to do now, with nowhere to turn? We need an alternative. We need the Greens! Look at the Greens, so left wing, so liberal, arguing for the end of austerity measures, renationalisation, renewable energy. What socialist doesn’t want these? I know I do.

Now let’s talk about the Lib Dems. Five long years ago, Labour were being blamed for a global financial meltdown, they were responsible for Iraq and Tony bloody Blair, an embarrassment to socialists. We were saved, though. We had Nick Clegg and his longstanding Liberal Democrat party. No tuition fees, public services, decriminalisation of weed. Nick would save us all.

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As far as he’s concerned he did. With the minute amount of power available to his party, they managed to stop the Tories going too far with austerity measures. I’m unsure what they managed to dissuade the government from: Perhaps they were planning to steal guide dogs to sell on the black market, or make pensioners sleep in bunk beds. I don’t know.

But what actually happened was that the Labour vote was split and we ended up with the government we have now. Of course, it will all be different this time, if we vote Green.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Green Party, I really do. I like their policies, their ideals and their refreshing lack of media training. But they’re not going to get in. They just won’t. You know it, I know it.

The right wing equivalent is, of course, Ukip. And right now, Ukip are doing more good for the poor and vulnerable than the Greens. By splitting the right-wing vote, they are doing more to scupper the Tories than Labour and the Greens put together.

While a huge swing away from Labour to Green will certainly prove a point it will not get the Tories out of power. This is not the time to make a political statement. It may be an academic question of principle to you, but people are homeless, starving, suffering and even dying thanks to Tory cuts, which they have already promised to extend. They need to go, now, and the only way that will happen is to vote Labour.

Or Ukip. Either way.