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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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Some Facts About Me…

My name means ‘Angel’ so I collect anything to do with angels.

Flanagan is a nickname that means red-haired one.

I also collect key-rings from everywhere I go and all my pals buy me one when they go anywhere!!

I have a VERY strong personality! It takes a very strong man to stand beside such a strong woman.

I am VERY opinionated!!

My dad is the only person I have ever hated.

I was in care for 15 years.

I did drugs for years. (but despise them now.)

I can’t stand people that judge me before really getting to know me.

But I am often guilty of judging someone before I really know them… I feel SO guilty after that I usually apologise and tell them why!

I am still on a journey of self-discovery.

I love reading childhood memoirs & survivor stories, I hope to write my own book in the not too distant future.

My glass is always half-full.

I don’t take anything in life seriously.

I am left-handed.

I LOVE British films, they’re so under-rated.

I wish I’d never lost touch with old friends. (I love facebook for reuniting me with some of them.)

I can’t abide liars and thieves.

I love all vegetables!

I am the proud mother of 4 sons and a daughter. (and it still amazes me!) they are all very special to me in their individual ways, and like any Mum I think my children are better than anyone else’s!

I was a ‘new mum’ in my teens, 20’s and 30’s!!

I am a bit of an ‘Earth Mother’…. natural birth, babywearing, blw, breastfeeding, cloth nappies etc.

I have 9 tattoos (3 were cover-ups so technically I had 12!!) and 13 piercings.

I HATE HATE HATE Marmite!!!!!!!! YUK!!

I HATE horror films so much that I have to watch something nice after, or I have nightmares!!

I LOVED being an Army Wife.

I HATED being an Army Wife!

I am a stereotypical red-haired, scorpio with Irish heritage… RED HOT TEMPER!!! LOL

I am extremely loyal to my family and friends.

I don’t tolerate any type of ignorance… there’s no room in my life for them.

Much to everyone’s annoyance, I analyse everything and everyone in my life!!

I have Bambakomallophobia… I am SO scared of cotton wool!!! YES, REALLY!!! lol

School days were NOT the best days of my life! Teenage years are the worst!!!

I have the BEST friends in the world!! OF course!!! Some of my best friends have passed away over the last few years, I will try never to lose touch with friends again.

I am addicted to E-BAY!!!!!! I cannot live without it!!!!

I have very few regrets…’Don’t regret the things you do…Regret the things you DON’T do’… Fabulous philosophy.

I am a VERY philosophical person, more so than most.

I am a TERRIBLE singer!!!

I miss London so much. I love Starbucks, Pure Waffle, being able to walk to Camden Market and sitting on Primrose Hill with a good book. etc.

I have a very sarcastic sense of humour… some people miss the humour bit! (ooops!) but I never mean offence.

I love nothing better than a good book, a coffee and some peace at the end of the day.

I love blogging as it gives me such an insight into my friends lives.

When I’m happy, I’m on a crazy high… when I’m down, I’m desperately depressed.

I suffer with C-PTSD

I think there’s no excuse for bad manners, I hate it when people push past me… and then even worse, when they don’t apologise.

You can read my mood by how I’m dressed and how my house looks…

I try to raise my kids to be independent, tolerant, domesticated, polite and to embrace their individuality. I think I’m succeeding so far.

I am very insecure though I have learnt to appear confident to those that don’t know me.

I can be sooooo immature… and I don’t care what people think. I’m not dead yet!!

I love the Disney store and Hamleys!

My best night out goes like this… meal, West End Show, drink, walking back home a bit tipsy!!

I am a bit OCD. I have to plan everything, I hate changes to my routine, I do almost everything in even numbers (but my favourite number is 13!?!) & I love the smell of bleach, Milton and Dettol!!

I really hate cooking… I hate cleaning the kitchen after dinner more!

Army wives really do have it hard, no-one realises that.

I am a worrier, I even worry that I worry too much!

I always try to understand the other persons point of view and get upset when others don’t do the same.

I have always preferred humour to good looks in a man, looks will fade with age… humour only gets better!

I have always talked WAY too much!!

… and waffled on & on!!

I get passionate about certain subjects and go on about them a bit when the conversation starts!!

The smallest things can aggravate me!

Although I am working class and I live in a council house, I DO look down my nose at those that cannot be bothered to work and live on typically rough council estates… THEY made those estates rough, areas only get ‘rough’ when the residents don’t give a sh*t about the way they live and it really pisses me off.

I love a good debate, it exercises the brain cells!

The 3 most important goals in my life are:

…..1) To be settled in a loving relationship.

…..2) To be the best Mother I could be. (well, I am still trying!)

…..3) To start my own business.

I hate women swearing, but I do all the time.

I smoked way too much. (I quit in January 2011!)

I am such a craft-geek!! … anything to do with fabric and amigurumi!!

I love to shop!! I love buying things for people, I always see things for friends/family when I’m out and I always wish I had more money!

I write lists about EVERYTHING!!!

Though I lived in London for 37 years and used it almost daily, I am petrified of the tube!! (London Underground, that is!)

But in all I love London Transport! (I miss it much!)

I am never serious for very long.

I carry my life in my handbag… and a load of crap that I never use but ‘may come in handy’!!! ie. swiss army knife thingy, 1st aid kit, nazar boncuğu, babywipes, handgel and more that I’m too embarrassed to admit!! then there’s the usual…diary, makeup, brush, mirror, keys, mobile phone, purse etc. (LOL see more OCD!!)

I love coffee. Not cheap coffee… but the kind that you get from the little cafés in St Johns Wood & Hampstead. (well, if they’re gonna spend £6 million on a house, they ain’t gonna drink shit coffee!!!!)

I am a bit of a snob. I can’t afford to live the lifestyle that I love & that’s probably why I miss living in St Johns Wood so much.

A lot of people have had a huge impact on me, by giving little bits of wisdom and they probably don’t know how much it has affected my life in a positive way. Some of them have been children… kids sometimes have the answers… if you take the time to listen.

I don’t drink often, unless I am in a social situation… even then I don’t always drink.

I have had LOADS of driving lessons and I STILL can’t drive!!! I think some people just aren’t cut out for it! (like those people you swear & curse at on the road!)

I still feel I have a lot to learn about life, and I believe in the sayings “you live and learn” & “you learn something new every day” I think the most unexpected people you can learn from are children.

I didn’t have a very good childhood but I feel it was the life I was ‘meant to have’. It has made me a very tolerant and understanding person.

I hate it when people use their bad pasts as an excuse to be an ‘arsehole’

I love roses, daisies, lilies and poppies…. but I can’t stand flowery things in general. (curtains, wallpaper etc.)

I come across as a very closed off person emotionally but on my own I am an emotional wreck!

I am (& always have been) a daydreamer. I’m so good at it!!

Christmas is my favourite time of year, it is so magical when you have children. I get so hyped up that I even convince myself that Santa is real!!

I am a very spiritual person.

I believe that some of the most aesthetically beautiful people (on the outside) are the most ugly people on the inside and vice versa.

The friends that have touched my heart… Tammy, (she’ll always be my best childhood friend), Shirley (we went through those awful teenage years together), Jane (we learned how to be parents… & adults together! RIP old pal), Angie (the best listener in the world & knows how to make me laugh!), Ray (he was my rock and he never even knew it), Nicki (got each other through some devastating times), Andy (a real good friend, always there when you need a pal to catch a movie! RIP Drew mate), Ann (I never showed her how much I appreciated what she did for me, it was a tough time), Elise (Made me laugh at a time when I thought I’d never smile again), Emma (café buddy & circle-slut. lol), Michelle (I should be a better pal to you) Love them all.

I think the problem with this country is down to bad parenting and lack of role-models. Parents want to be their kids best mate… Do they think their kids need parents or more friends? Can their kids not find their own friends? We are parents, it’s a job, start parenting your kids people!!!

I fall pregnant WAY too easily!!!

Being a teenage Mum was way harder than I thought it would be! It was the scariest thing I have ever done and I think I would’ve done a much better job if I had been older.

Adults really DID have the best advice when I was a teenager and I SHOULD have listened more!!

I was happy being single, I really enjoy my own company, not that many people I know can say that.

I hate infidelity, there’s absolutely no reason to hurt someone like that and definitely no excuse. (no, not even alcohol!)

I have worked in many pubs and I NEVER have ice in a drink from a pub!! (ew!)

I battled anorexia for years and at one point I weighed under 6 stone.

The best job I have ever done was being a childminder.Vicky, Amy, Billy, Sansel, Cema, Necati, Adam & Emily have a special place in my heart, they really kept me on my toes!!

I love music and I am most emotional when listening to music, what I listen to definitely reflects my mood.

I hate seeing girls bite their nails!

I hated being ginger and wished I was a brunette…. until I got to 20 something and my hair started to get darker! I realised I LOVE being a red-head! It attracts lots of positive attention!

When I was little I wanted a VW Beetle painted red with black spots!! (like a ladybird!)

I used to self-harm and get so frustrated at people that think it’s only for attention! (that’s why self-harmers hide it!!)

I love weird pets. I have had rats, ferrets, chipmunks (my fave), lizards (my other fave), as well as the usual dogs, cats, guinea pigs. We now have a guinea pig and 1 Axolotl. (we had 2 but Bob kept biting Margaret’s limbs off!)

psychology is my hobby. (I think it’s because I love to analyse everything and everyone!)

I have an illogical paranoia about public loos. (or am I right? hmmm…) anyway I carry hand-gel EVERYWHERE and refuse to wash my hands at the sinks in them!

I can’t stand procrastinating…. I can’t stand knowing there’s things to be done, I can’t relax until things are done!

I love the Autumn.

Men do ‘fantasy football’… I do ‘fantasy girls night out’!! On my list is… Holly Willoughby, Fern Cotton, Davina mcCall, Sarah Cox, Sarah Cawood, Jade Goody (bless her), Denise Van Outen, Jo Brand, and a few others. I’d invite Paris Hilton just to take the piss out of!

I still have a tatty little ragdoll in 70’s colours called Julie and she’s not much younger than me! It’s the only thing I’ve had my whole life.

I am crap at telling jokes but I am the b*ll*cks at writing best man speeches for people!! (if I do say so myself!)

I have a ‘thing’ for Russell Brand and James Corden!

My worst habit is that I interrupt people mid-conversation… I don’t mean to but I have a shite memory and I get worried that I’ll forget what I was going to say! Sorry!

I used to do ‘voluntary’ work at a Scout Camp and I loved it!

I am a sympathetic vomiter! I vomit if I see/hear/smell vomit!!

I am STILL an E17 fan!

I have a ‘treasure box’ of each of my children. Each contains; umbilical peg thingy, scan pics, hospital wrist bands, first tooth, lock of hair, first teddy, favourite baby toy, 1st birthday cards, pictures/paintings/clay models, sewing etc. that they’ve done in school, certificates, medals, trophies, souvenirs from places they’ve been and a whole lot more! They think it’s all rubbish!! (yes hoarding!!)

I did my 1st Race for Life when I was pregnant with my daughter and I plan to do it every year with her.

I am petrified of bees and wasps!! (I think it’s because red-hair attracts them!)

I had a beloved cabbage patch kid that was stolen from me in a children’s home so my friend bought me an exact replica.(aw)

Because I wasn’t raised by my family, I have always felt like an outcast. I still feel like a loner.

I’m not a trusting person. I only trust someone 95% tops, that gives them a 5% chance at breaking my trust. Then I can’t get hurt can I? I knew there was room for doubt!

I am the only civilian that can iron properly!!!

Since my husband left the army I have realised that the ‘squaddie humour’ that all army wives become accustomed to, is now ‘sick humour’ in civvy street and women aren’t supposed to laugh at it!!!

I have brothers and sisters that I’ve never met. I envy people who have close sibling relationships.

I am a facebook and twitter addict!

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2011 in Life, Thoughts

 

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