N30 day of action for pensions justice

I made it to about midday yesterday and had to do something. I called Mr R at work.

‘I can’t sit here doing nothing,’ I said, ‘I may not be a public sector worker any more but I need to be there supporting them.’ Mr R sounded utterly  unsurprised.

‘Text me when you’re on your way home,’ he sighed. ‘Oh and try not to get kettled.’ 

I packed water, my camera and a warm hat and was up at Charing Cross within the half hour. I joined the march at The Strand and zipped open my jacket to reveal my lime green Unison t-shirt, a relic from March 26th.

We wandered down to Victoria Embankment where representatives from various unions gave speeches. It was good hearing from ordinary representatives of various professions: the nurse, the probation officer and the doctor proudly in their uniforms. London Mayoral candidate, Ken Livingstone popped up for a chat.

Speeches over, we politely filed off back down the road, banners neatly propped against trees. The majority of the marchers headed straight for the pubs for some post rally cheer and the rest of us wandered back to the tube. So much for the notices advising demonstrators to use tubes stations further afield to avoid a crush- I was the only marcher in my tube carriage all the way home.

There was a huge police presence and Trafalgar Square was closed up tighter than  George

Osborne’s purse. I loved seeing hordes of bored police officers climbing into their riot vehicles, McDonald’s bags clutched tightly in their hands.

Like my experience of the March 26th march, this was a polite but angry gathering of ordinary people fed up at having their careers mucked about. And I’m sorry Jeremy Clarkson if think that we should be shot for that. Yes I know you were trying to be ‘funny’ but you were wide of the mark. Oh and that ‘damp squib’ of a strike as the prime minister arrogantly called it saw over 2 million people striking and 50,000 alone on the demonstration in London. The only damp thing about yesterday was the weather. Wake up Mr. C and listen to the people.

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How to work from home

Next week I’ll be joining my fellow redundantees in celebrating our six monthiversary of being out of our local authority jobs. Some are working, some are looking, some are retraining and some are self-employed like me.

So it’s time to reflect on what I’ve learnt. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks they say but I have so that must mean I’m not either a) old (but if you read that Guardian interview you will know this is sadly not true or b) not a … well, how very dare you for suggesting it.

I’ll start with working from home. My previous employers called it working at home, the idea being that it was an occasional occurrence and that you would be called at least once from the office to check you weren’t slumped in front of Homes Under the Hammer or in the changing rooms at New Look.  And it was only ever for one day.

But now I work mostly from home and this is what I’ve learnt:

1)      Work where you like. We are lucky enough to have an office in our house. This is mostly occupied by Mr R and his collection of guitars, amps and other music gadgets but it also has nice bright windows and plenty of shelving. So do I work in there? Do I heck. I’m happiest at the kitchen table. It’s near the kettle, a room away from the living room and telly and near the front door for the many callers we have. I recommend the kitchen able also because you have to keep mess to a minimum. My stuff is neatly tidied into one box and one pile of stuff which, when it gets too large, is transferred into the box. See? Gotta have a system, as Harry Hill used to day.

2)      It’s a whole new world out there.  We’re lucky enough to have really friendly neighbours and now that I’m around more during the day I bump into them more often. It makes for a much more friendly place. And for those of you out there who believe that London is one big scary city with muggers lurking on every corner, come and visit us. We’re nice really. Our postman is adorable and stops for a chat on his round and keeps an eye on the place when you’re away. The letterbox barely stays shut as we get a huge amount of junk mail hitting it. We average eight to ten pieces of junk on a good day but it can be up to twenty. It’s Friday today so there will be a flood of menus later today. My sister in law was staying a while ago and was in the house when we were both at work. When I got home I found her a glassy-eyed wreck. ‘It hasn’t stopped,’ she said pointing to the letterbox. She jumped out of her skin every time something came crashing through so had not had a restful time. She lives by a lemon grove half way up a mountain in Italy so I guess she doesn’t get many kebab menus and tarmac -your -drive flyers on an average day.  We also get a lot of charity works coming round for my money, church members asking me if I know Jesus and people trying to flog electricity/ gas/ double glazing/ life eternal.  I’m always polite but firm. I have certain charities that I give money too, I’m happy with my gas/ electricity/ supplier, my windows are fine and yes I think I saw him in Budgens buying Sugar Puffs. Today was an offer for loft insulation.

3)      Kids. I live near a secondary school and when I was working I never saw the students. Rather like an episode of CSI Streatham, however, it was possible to piece together the evidence that they were there: used cotton buds in the morning on the way to school; chip papers and cigarette butts at lunchtime and drink cans, crisp and sweet wrappers at home time. Nowadays I actually spot them scuffing down the middle of the road in herds, hoods up, heads down.  Once the grunting and loud dubstep has lurched by and I’ve held my breath as they swing their school bags past the wing mirrors of my car I pop out and collect the debris for recycling. I don’t mind them too much and let’s face it, they and their school ensure that house prices remain stable in our road and that’s no bad thing in these times.

4)      It’s good to talk. It’s important to talk to other colleagues if you’re working from home. Several home-workers had already told me this so I’ve made an effort to catch up with friends and ex-colleagues. I’m not usually a fan of the café culture mainly because I don’t (whisper it) drink coffee. It’s a matter of taste rather than for health reasons. I’d love to sip an espresso at a bar, order a macchiato at diner and enjoy a cappuccino at breakfast (which of course is the only time of day you should ever order a cappuccino) and I’ve tried but to no avail. I drink tea- wimpy green tea or Lady/Earl Grey without milk or sugar. Which is basically a tea bag in a mug of hot water and I can easily make that at home. Cheaply.  So until now the whole coffee shop experience has rather passed me by. I now, however, meet friends in cafés  and enjoy it. My favourite local is Earl Grey and Rose for a cup of the proverbial and they do the most delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels.

5)      Eat when you’re hungry. In an office people tend to stare if you have lunch at 11 0’clock and roll their eyes in sympathy if you eat at 3pm. There was nowhere in the office to eat your own food save at your desk so it was never a relaxing experience . I get very grouchy if I don’t eat on a regular basis so when at home I nip to the fridge at make something to eat. Contrary to what you might think I eat less now than in the office (far fewer biscuits around) and I’m a much nicer person because I’m not hungry. If you come to visit you may wish to bring Jaffa cakes. Just in case.

Tea at mine. Note the homemade baked cheesecake.Yum.

6)      What to wear? I asked a self- employed friend if she got up early and dressed properly before sitting down to work. I had fears that I myself might be skulking around in pyjamas at four in the afternoon watching Jeremy Kyle repeats and eating cakes. My friend assured me that she not only gets dressed, she does her hair nicely and puts on makeup before firing up her laptop. I found that it makes me feel more professional to get up in time to spend a few minutes with Mr R before he goes to work, perform my ablutions and then get dressed. It’s strange putting on casual stuff rather than smart clothes and heels and I now look forward to dressing up on the occasions that require it. Of course there’s no really need to put on make up to work at home but I usually at least smear on a bit of mascara for fear of scaring the lovely postman (see point 1).

7)      Household chores. I was also worried that instead of working I’d be rushing around cleaning the house. I do notice that the floor needs vacuuming and the window sills need dusting but I’m at work ok? Proper work is much more compelling than cleaning anyway. Mr R has decreed that I can at least keep an eye on the milk level and buy milk when needed. Unfortunately I’m rubbish at this and only remember seconds before he arrives home ready for a coffee. Don’t get excited, I don’t make him that either. Not being a coffee drinker (see point 4) I make terrible coffee. I usually end up rushing to the shop, which is luckily only at the end of the road, with seconds to spare and acting all nonchalant and efficient when he arrives.

So that’s how to work at home part one. If I think of any more points there will be a part two. Meanwhile, feel free to add your own observations below.

….Today’s post was brought to you by elementary typing, much hitting of back space and mild swearing…. 

Crime and punishment

Now that the riots of earlier in the week seem to have fizzled out there has been endless talk about what now. Most of this rhetoric has been about who to blame and how to punish the offenders. Callers to radio talk shows are keen to string em all up or at least ship em out to Afghanistan with nothing but their hoodies and stolen trainers.

The prime minister has declared it to be the fault of the police and the police blame cuts. Parents have come under fire for not being able to discipline their little darlings and the rest of us tut about society break down and the youth of today.

In today’s Guardian G2 Alexander Chancellor declares that teachers should shoulder the responsibility and that parents should, ‘somehow be coerced into siding with schools.’ Good luck with that and don’t forget to tune into Thursday evening’s #ukedchat on Twitter to see what real teachers think.

My local Co-op. Business as usual.

So who is to blame? I think we all need to take some responsibility here. Much as I’d like to blame everything on the government (and believe my teeth are gritted as I write that sentence ), as I wrote in my previous post before everything had really kicked off across the country, many factors have come into play. We all need to take responsibility be we parents, educators, politicians or ordinary folk about our daily business.

I also think we need to think carefully about the punishments the guilty receive. Custodial punishment needs to coupled with proper rehabilitation and restorative justice. Lock em up and throw away the key is really not going to work in the long run. I’d like to see those involved in looting working activitely. This might be cleaning up, working at the youth centre, shopping for old folk or digging flower beds. I’d also like to see them listening to those affected by what‘s happened. I think there is a view that stealing is a victimless crime but it’s important to understand how many lives have been turned upside down as people have lost their hard-won business (and all business that are still standing after the recession are hard-won) or their homes. I’d like to see looters listening to old folk who are scared to go out of their homes, families that are moving out of their homes because their afraid for their own safety and business owners and workers who are now unemployed and struggling. I’d also like to see the looters and arsonists come face to face with the guy who watched his family furniture shop that had stuff for five generations first burn and then be demolished. 

So let’s stop pointing the finger at each other and accept responsibility. It’s up to all of us to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  Are you listening Mr. Cameron?

 

 

 

The Big Little Society

Today the Prime Minster relaunches the Big Society. This will iron out the misunderstanding that it’s just a way of getting things for free once the bulk of staff have been redundant from councils and third sector groups have their budgets cut to the bone.

 No funding for schools? Set up a free school! Library closing? Run it yourself! Woodlands being sold off? Plant an acorn! Leisure centre shut? Go for a jog around the woodlands acorn seedlings!

 Rather than Big Society I prefer Big Little Society. I’m lucky enough to live in a part of London where there really is strong community. We have a community choir run by the music department of the local secondary school. We have a summer festival run by locals and we have a community Arts centre. We also have a community forum where we can share ideas and ask questions.

Our house has just sprung a leak and I’ve just found a list of local plumbers on there. The sergeant from the Safer Neighbourhood Team answers questions on the forum and the ward councillors sort out local problems.

 I’d also like to see some more basic community issues being addressed across the country too so we can all take more responsibility. Here’s my list for the Big Little Community:

  1. Make friends with your neighbours and keep an eye out for each other. Offer to keep an eye on their property and invite them over every now and them for Christmas/ Eid/ Diwali etc.
  2. Sweep the snow from your little patch of Great Britain and don’t be put off by gloomy emails about being sued if someone slips outside your house.
  3. As above but with litter. It only takes a moment to pick up the rubbish outside your house and pop it in the bin/recycling. And pick up your neighbour’s junk mail that he insists in throwing out onto the pavement. Or is that just me? If you live in a super clean part of the country, vow to pick up and dispose of two bits of litter when you’re out and about.
  4. Challenge anyone who drops litter without believing they’re going to stab you. I can’t help myself doing this; I think it’s the teacher in me. Mr R once challenged a woman who chucked her rubbish on the ground in front of her kids. ‘If you’re so worried about, ‘ she replied, ‘you pick it up.’ So he did because he was.
  5. Keep an eye on other people’s kids when they’re out and about but tick them off if they do something silly (eg point 4). Parents: allow this to happen.
  6. Use local shops as well as out of towners but insist on using your own bags. Hold the door open for the next person and say please and thank you. You may also wish to smile.
  7. As a wise man once said, ‘Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights.’ And stand up for others too. If you think that something is wrong or unfair in any part of your life, don’t whinge about it, do something. And if anyone upsets your friends, family, colleagues or neighbours, stand up for them.

 Right I’m off to phone a plumber. So in this new Big Little Society what would you like to see?

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