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Benefits Street.

Okay, so there’s this new series on a certain TV channel called Benefits Street…

The main characters all live in houses on what appears to be a run down street and they all claim benefits and are unemployed.

I’m totally split in my opinion of the show…

One half of me thinks that the production company has hand picked the worst examples just to turn the country against people that claim benefits.

I’m not going to name the characters or go into details but there are people with poor hygiene, bad etiquette and rough speech going to get their payments then shoplifting alcohol from hardworking shop owners and laughing about it, There are people claiming benefits as single people but are in a relationship who have had their benefits stopped but are complaining that it’s not their fault and the benefits agency is in the wrong, the children are grubby looking and eating crap and the house is a tip… 2 adults are at home all day and the house is a bloody tip… They are rough and brash and if you were walking down the road with them, their calls of “oi wanker” to their friends would make you cringe…

Then the other half of me remembers how my life used to be and what sort of friends I had and I remember the feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness and depression and confinement.

I remember the ‘fuck ’em’ attitude I had towards the world.

In my last few year in care, when I was living in a bedsit at 16/17, I was asleep and the guy from the room next to me snuck into my room, I woke up immediately, I was used to being on alert when I was asleep… he had a hammer in his hand, it was wrapped in a blood stained tea towel and he was trying to hide it. I was terrified so I let him hide it and then he realised I was awake. To cut a very long story short, he forced me to sleep in his bed and lie to the police that we’d been there all night, I had felt safe there until that night. So I clung onto other teens in my position. We’d all sleep over each other’s bedsits, we’d shoplift for food and clothes, we’d spend any cash we got on drugs and alcohol. I didn’t care about what drugs they were, who cared? They blotted out the bullshit of life and made me feel like I was living someone else’s life. I really didn’t care less if they’d kill me, life was seriously shit and I couldn’t handle it without drugs, men and a sharp object to harm myself and anyone else who took the piss. We’d fight, we’d steal, we’d commit criminal damage, we really didn’t care.

I used to sit on the tube watching other 16/17 year old’s with their parents with bags of new stuff, laughing and hugging, on their way home to somewhere safe, they could sleep without fear and I’d seriously feel hatred… no-one was there for me so ‘fuck ’em’… they’d get home and probably realise their purse was missing, the money spent on drugs they’d never have to take to blot out the life they’d never have to live… fuck ’em.

When social services had finished with me at 18, they handed me the keys to a flat 10 miles from where I had been living and a bundle of benefits forms, a leaving care grant of about £500 and a community care grant form (that I had no idea about) and that was it…

I was a scared, pregnant 18 year old girl, standing in a cold empty flat with no support and no idea what I had to do next.

I filled in the forms and messed that right up, I managed somehow to scrape some furniture together and of course I met the locals… I stopped the drugs and tried to sort my life out but knew that the local junkies would get you anything you wanted for a much lower price than the shops… all you needed to say was ” I need a new kettle” and half hour later they’d be on the doorstep with a £50 kettle asking for £20. You could easily haggle it down to a tenner and course you never asked where it was from but of course everyone knew.

People were always getting evicted or going into prison so furniture was easy to get hold of cheap or it’d be dumped at the back of the block for the kids to set alight to later for a bit of entertainment.

I had an on-off relationship with my eldest son’s dad and by 19 I was a single teenage mum of 2 little boys… A right gobby bitch, smoking, drinking, swearing, stealing, fighting, looking for trouble at the same time as trying to stay out of it and the local police knew my details on sight. That was life, it was normal, it had been normal for years… it was what people expected from an angry careleaver, it’s what they expected from a teenage mum and most of us knew no other way.

Then something happened to change my life forever. I woke up and saw things differently, I saw what I was and what I could be. I learnt to value myself and to value those around me. I learnt about ambition, education, about love, about accepting and letting go of the past, embracing the present and jumping headfirst and grasping onto the future.

I learnt to love myself and value my own life and in turn value other people. I learnt compassion and empathy and tolerance.

I did parenting courses, I went to college and gained childcare qualifications, I spent my days trying to be a better mum and a better person. I made better choices, I started working and being productive, I found a boyfriend, he joined the army. Our army friends had no idea of our pasts so it was easy to change, no-one could point the finger and say “That was her that did ****”.

I changed because I was lucky… I am still in touch with my friends that weren’t so lucky, and I’d love nothing more than to change their lives, but it’s so so hard… they’re not getting away from ‘Benefits Street’ any time soon.

I’m not that much better off now, I live in social housing, only just above the poverty line and I can barely afford the bills, I’m unable to afford to replace our broken cooker or carpets and we have no real luxuries.

But now we pay our own way, we never break the law or take drugs, we’re a world away from Benefits Street but I’m under no illusion… it only takes a small action, a marriage split, getting laid off… we’ll be back on Benefits Street and I’m well aware of the struggle to survive…

So when I watch Benefits Street, I watch it with open eyes, I see the state of the woman’s house and see she has no support, she has no reason to keep a tidy house, it’s going to look just as bad with the toys away. The guy drinking is trying to blot out the bullshit of a life with nothing, and it is a life with nothing.

I ask those of you who have nice jobs and live in nice houses in nice areas, would you trade lives with those on Benefits Street? I am assuming the answer is a resounding “HELL NO!” So free money and free housing isn’t a great life.
Have any of you tried to live on £70 a week? £15 on gas, £15 on electricity, £5 tv license, leaving £35 to divide between water rates, food, phone top-up, bus fares, clothes, and everything else a person needs to get by. Now you can see there’s no money to make a home look nice, can you see that the house will never look tidy? Tired old carpets and walls?
And hardly enough to fund a drug or alcohol addiction is there?
And before someone even thinks about that issue of all the benefits claimants owning big TVs etc… Ever heard of Bright House? It’s one of those shops that no matter how bad your credit, you can get a nice modern tv, and better still, you can have it and pay just a few pounds a week… But for a few years! You’ll pay 3 times the rrp for the privilege. A bit like those provident loans where you can borrow £400 to get through Xmas or buy a new sofa but you’ll be paying back £700.
The poorer you are, the more you’re exploited.

You have to be so careful when you’re judging another person’s situation… there is a much bigger picture and no-one is truly happy to live on benefits.

Entry level jobs are hard to get…
You can’t walk onto a building site nowadays an pick up a broom and become a labourer… You need a cscs card before you can get on site. And to get a cscs card you need to be literate, pass an exam and have a few quid for the card… £50 will get you the card alone… Out of your £70 weekly benefit.
The big corporate businesses like British Telecom have sold out our job seekers. Instead of those jobs being available to our unemployed, BT and other companies use call centres in countries like India because it’s cheaper than paying British people a living wage.
And we are constantly being told how single mothers are a drain on the system… But our government is happy to help with child care and pay childminders to look after children so they can force single mums back to work, but are unhappy to pay the mums that same amount to take care of their own children for just a few years?! It makes no sense.

But our government and our media will continue to demonise those on benefits… not the 50% that are pensioners… Nor the disabled (though they are beginning to be targeted) but the 4% of claimants that are unemployed. This is like a modern day witch hunt. Only the media is a much more powerful tool for the hunters….

And remember… Child benefit, DLA, state pensions, housing benefit, child tax credits, working tax credit… These are ALL benefits and those who live in glass houses…

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When ‘Being There’ Just Isn’t Enough…

Most of the time I’m positive about my life and the way I grew up. I know to a lot of people who were raised by loving parents my childhood probably seems pretty horrific, and some of it was I guess, but I have this knack of putting the dark stuff to the back of my mind, the bad stuff is there but masked by the good times, and against the odds I have hundreds of thousands of brilliant memories…

I made the best friends during my 15 years in care and none who understand me better than those who I shared the good times with. There’s an unsaid agreement that you don’t ask what your care brothers and sisters are ‘in’ for but at the same time there’s an understanding between you. No-one’s in care because they had fluffy homelives, it doesn’t work like that does it? I thought everyone’s parents were like mine until I was 7 or 8 and I realised that people don’t like to hear about your experiences if they’re not pink and fluffy so I invented a life before care in true Tracy Beaker style and would relay these stories to all my friends outside of the care system! lol

But the teenage years were the hardest, this is when you really realise that your experiences are so totally different to other people’s and guilt about events in your life sets in. You may try to tell a friend at school by easing into it really slowly, giving a tiny snippet of information and then their shock is so obvious you laugh it off as a joke and retract the initial statement you made and get on with it, knowing that you will never be ‘on the same level’ as your friends.

This is when your care siblings become closer than any of your childhood friends, they ‘get you’, they’ve had similar experiences so you’re tolerant of each other’s mood swings and anger outbursts. When you leave care and lose touch it’s the loneliest feeling in the world.

When I left care I was more alone than I’d ever been before and first got the keys to a crappy bedsit at 16/17, well shared house really. I got moved into 2 or 3 bedsits until I settled in the last one. I was the only female and in the room to one side was 3 heroin addicts straight out of Brixton jail and on the other side a 40 year old pimp who scared the shit out of me so badly that when he tried to kill one of the other guys in the house with a hammer and hid the hammer in my room I said nothing and silently agreed to share his bed for the night so when the police turned up I would be his alibi… I once saw him chase his missus with a meat cleaver then beat her to a pulp so I wasn’t going to get on the wrong side of him.  downstairs was a fucked up ex copper and a 65yr old knicker stealing alcoholic so life as a care leaver wasn’t the best but you make the best of a bad situation and get on with it with the help of drugs and boys and alcohol and petty crime until you’re 18 and social services helps get the ultimate prize… your own council flat.

Anyhow, because of the joys of social networking and facebook, I’ve been reunited with a few of my care brothers and sisters and though it’s made me happy, of course it has, the people that I grew up with, fought with, cried with and laughed with were back on the scene… but it has brought with it a new heartache.. the realisation that life could have been different as it has been for so many of my siblings.

To find out that for some suicide was the best option has broken my heart and I’m left thinking ‘why wasn’t I there for you earlier’. For others prostitution was their way to get through life, for a fair few hard drugs, for others alcohol, for many crime and jail and some of these haven’t made it as far as the rest of us… but the ones who my heart aches the most over are the ones who tried so hard to break the cycle and failed… not through any real fault of their own, but because of shitty circumstances the children they love so much have been taken from them and placed in the same system that fucked us all up and made us the way we are.

These are the ones I want to help the most but I feel useless and ‘being there’ for them just isn’t enough to make a difference in their circumstances and it’s an excruciating pain that the friends you once considered your brother or sister are going through that.

There is no happy ending to this post for now, I can only hope that being positive and being here when they need me is enough to get them through the next day, and the day after…

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Life, The Past.

 

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Being Positive About Being Positive…

Anyone who knows me knows that I love social media, Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook… they’re all on my laptop, my tablet and my iphone and I use them daily… a few times… ok more than a few times. 😉

Of course those of my friends that follow any of my profiles on these, are well aware of my positive attitude to life and most are pretty understanding as they known of my struggles in life and know it’s because of my positive attitude that I’m still here. Many of my ‘siblings’ are not so lucky because of drugs, suicide, murder and that all consuming spiral that goes from abandonment, neglect and abuse to self-loathing, self-harm and self-destruct. Of course you know I’ve been there, sometimes the worst abuse a victim of abuse suffers is ultimately the abuse they cause themselves… drugs, self-harm, suicide attempts, alcohol, men, all those things that can be used negatively when the hatred of oneself takes over and all too often destroys from the inside out. It’s amazing that isn’t it? That the destruction starts from within? On the outside the person looks normal and in control, until the effects start to show on the outside, by then its far too late to be able to do anything to reverse the process.

So it took me many many years to realise that I deserved better than I had got up to that point. I realised that it wasn’t the things that I experienced that shaped me but the way I dealt with them and how I allowed them to affect me.I became so determined not to allow my upbringing destroy me or allow the cycle to continue so I started to take a moment each morning to reflect on what I wanted from the day and I read a positive affirmation to reinforce the knowledge that I was only going to focus on the positive things.

When life started to get more and more positive and I became a happier person, I looked around at my friends and became despondent… I felt so happy and positive about life but those I love were still unhappy and going through their own traumas over and over again and I wanted to do something to help them, so I shared some positivity. I would post a positive affirmation or quote every morning and a humorous one liner every evening. I started to see more positive statuses and tweets from friends who had started to look for the more positive things in their days.

Now this leads me to today, I hadn’t posted so many positive quotes for a while so I made a conscious effort to post one every morning again. Last week 2 people sent me messages having a ‘moan’ about me being ‘overly positive’ and said it’s ‘annoying’. Then someone made a funny comment about it in passing and someone close to me agreed that i came across overly positive and it really hurt my feelings. I can’t get my head around how a person can be viewed as overly positive or too happy? At least I’m not a miserable bastard, when I do have a bad day and have a good old rant, it’s usually warranted but to be accused of being too happy? What do people want from me?!

I’ve decided to have this rant with a f*ck ’em attitude and get back to being positive. I had a negative attitude to life for far too long and I won’t go back there. I believe in the law of attraction and like attracts like. I’m generally a happy person, I know I have a long way to go but I don’t tend to dwell so much on the negative nowadays and I’ve learnt to deal with my past for the most part. If people cant celebrate that accomplishment with me then it’s their problem.

As they say “Don’t let the bastards get you down’…

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Believe, Faith, Life, The Past., Thoughts

 

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Riots?? In Civilised London??? WTF?!!!

Firstly, I’d like to apologise in advance. There may be some swearing in this post as I’m so angry!

Everyone who knows me, knows I’m a very opinionated woman, with very strong values. I find it difficult to accept that other people can’t have good values or morals as I don’t think it’s that hard, nor do I think you necessarily need to be raised with these morals and values.

I didn’t have the very best start in life. I suffered abuse and neglect. I was taken into care aged 3 and I never felt loved as a child, in fact, I rarely felt ‘liked’. I had a very low self-asteem and I thought I’d amount to nothing. I lived on my own in a bedsit at 16 or 17 still under social services ‘care’ and was deemed ‘institutionalised’ and ‘at risk of being overly dependant on men’. I dabbled in drugs, committed some petty crimes and ended up pregnant at 17.

In fact I was a single mum of 2 by 19 and living in a flat on the 8th floor of a tower block on a shitty council estate.

None of this is an excuse to raise my kids like feral animals.

Last Thursday, Specialist officers from Operation Trident were involved in the pre-planned attempted arrest of a man from Tottenham, 29 year old father of 4 Mark Duggan, which led to him being shot dead by police. There are allegations of the family having to wait 36-48 hours to see the body as well as other issues between them and the police. I don’t want to speculate on the death of this man as I really don’t know the cold hard facts.

Do I think the police were justified? My thinking is that he must have been under surveillance for some time and he ‘allegedly’ had possession of a handgun, and I do believe in  ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’. If someone chooses to carry an illegal firearm, they have to be willing to use it. And somewhere down the line someone will shoot at them, whether it be the police or another criminal.
Do I think he fired it at police? I don’t know, though evidence suggests not.

Do I think the police can make mistakes? Of course. They are human the same as the rest of us.

The bottom line is that because of this, the family and friends of Mark Duggan and approximately 300 people had begun a peaceful protest to demand answers from the police, this erupted into violence…

From there it seems, every youth in London that claimed to be ‘disadvantaged’ has jumped on the bandwagon and instigated violence and vandalism across our country’s Capital city.

Many town centres have been destroyed… shops smashed up, looted, and raised to the ground. Cars smashed up, overturned and set alight. Bricks and missiles being hurled at the police.

There is no reason for this now, I keep hearing phrases like ‘mindless vandalism‘… this isn’t mindless!! It’s a premeditated, pre-planned operation! Kids have been using BBM, Facebook, Twitter and suchlike to organise rioting and looting across our great capital and the police just haven’t had the manpower on the street to deal with it! People are frightened, youths are going feral and there seems to be no stopping them.

Here is a video of an injured Malaysian student. Ashraf Haziq was attacked and robbed randomly in Barking. He is now in Hospital with a broken jaw, and broken tooth and awaiting an operation. He’d been on his way to visit a friend when he was beaten and had his bike stolen, then this happened and he also lost his mobile phone and wallet.

Please be warned, it is VERY distressing.

It’s hard to escape talk of the riots, it’s been 4 nights now and if you take a walk down any High Street in practically any town you’ll see the damage that these thugs have done. Once they finish looting they set what’s left on fire. It seems that every JD Sports, Foot Locker, PC World, music shop, games shop, phone shop, designer clothes shop etc. has been looted… Waterstone’s, the book shop has amazingly remained unscathed.

More seriously, people’s homes have been destroyed, their businesses, cars, everything. The bustling shopping areas of London look like a warzone.

These are from Barking, one of the lesser hit places.

But then amazingly, out of this devastation, a new community spirit is emerging… People are vowing NOT to allow these thugs destroy our city. Monday night, a few people on twitter decided that they were going to start something new… #riotcleanup began! Communities were coming together and planning clean-up operations everywhere that had been destroyed. Yesterday morning armed with brooms, gloves and black sacks, thousands of people came out and swept the streets clean.

The Wonderful People of Clapham!

Of course we have the fabulous Emergency Services to thank for the relatively quiet night last night, a few towns outside of London were targeted… Manchester, Birmingham and a few others, but the presence of 16000 police on London’s streets may have scared the little thugs back under their rocks!

And I HAVE to mention the wonderful Sikhs of Southall! Hundreds of Sikh men, patrolled the streets outside their Gurdwara (and also stood guard outside the local Mosque while Muslims were worshipping!) Peaceful and dignified but not willing to put up with thuggery from British youth.
The British Asians of this country showed the EDL (English Defence League) what defending England is all about!

Though the EDL haven’t done much defending at all! In fact they sat in a pub in Eltham getting drunk all day yesterday, tying up police resources as they were risking public order!

As was tweeted last night… ‘ Bloody immigration. We let these Sikhs into our country and all they do is defend our boroughs and communities’. ;0)

This brings me to add a bit of humour to the post, this wasn’t about the riots but it always makes me smile. ;0)

 
 

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