THE CONDITION MY CONDITION IS IN|
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|Wednesday, June 29th, 2016|
|Date With Destiny (if my landlord was called destiny, and its a meeting not a date).
The waiting is almost over. I had an email today from the new 'managing agents'. I get to meet them and my new landlords on Monday to discuss which conditions (if any) I will sign a tenancy renewal with them. I am confident of my case on a moral level and even fairly confident about some of it on a legal level - but given my experience so far I am not entirely expecting my new landlord to fight fair. It is not just my actual flat that is in jeopardy but effectively anything I have built with my life in the past 20 years and anything I might build with it in whatever time I have left.
No pressure then.
This week I have been mostly re-reading The Enemy and The Dead (both) by Charlie Higson Current Mood: pessimistic
|Friday, June 24th, 2016|
|Green Light To The Right
The E.U. refeerndum has come and gone and the shift feels fairly seismic.
I convinced myself to vote 'remain' despite my lack of enthusiasm it still felt like the right thing to do. Then I woke up this morning to find that a small majority of the country has decided to swallow the right wing bullshit and vote 'leave'. As I digest this news between spoonfuls of breakfast David Cameron slithers out of 10 Downing Street to announce his resignation. I allow myself about four seconds to punch the air in celebration and quietly exclaim, "YES!!" but even before I begin the realisation has dawned - the next Tory Leader and British Prime Minister is likely to be a total shit in a league that will make Cameron look like a fluffy leftie.
Is this the moment for Boris Johnson or worse, Michael Gove? Maybe it will be some faceless shark in a suit but things are hardly likely to get better. Johnson can look forward to senior ministerial positions even if they do not take the leadership. They, farage and every far right looney in the country have been given a green light to attack migrants, the left and roll Britain back towards whatever little England fantasy that gives them wet dreams.
A very British form of Fascism now looks likely. Scarier still is the distant but worryingly likely prospect of Boris Johnson as prime minister and Donald Trump in the white house. A new Reagan/Thatcher era of truly destructive politics could follow.
What a shit result.
If Scotland go independent I will seriously consider moving. Current Mood: pessimistic
|Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016|
I am writing this on the eve of the E.U. Referendum partly as a way of trying to clear my own head. With a matter of hours to go before the polling stations open I still remain unsure which way to cast my vote. This is unheard of for me. I have always known which way I would vote in every election and on any issue. My politics are fairly clear to me and while I am open to change if a persuasive and convincing argument is put to me, by and large my political and moral principles usually indicate which path I think should be taken.
This is pretty new ground for me.
Part of the problem is that the politicians on both sides have put forward arguments that have been shaped to sound like a sales pitch for their particular vision of the world but it is a vision (on either side) that I do not feel invested in and I do not want or trust a sales pitch. I would have liked a quantity of clear information that would help inform my own decision but each side has their own statistics that contradict the other. and then its back to the untrusted propaganda/sales pitch.
My train of thought has run more or less as follows:
I have no great love of the E.U. but I have no truck with petty nationalism, my inclination is to vote remain.
David Cameron wants me to vote remain. Am I on the right side? (Maybe vote leave). It might force a general election in which we could dump Cameron.
Most of the people I hate most in the world (Gove, Farage, B Johnson etc, not to mention far right groups) are on the leave side. All my instincts scream to vote against them, to 'remain'.
Most of the 'far left' with whom I normally identify are calling for a leave vote, including people who's judgement and analysis I usually trust and with sound reason. Vote Leave?
The European conventions which protect our working conditions and legal rights may be lost (in very real rather than just abstract terms). Vote remain?
Vote remain = support the establishment, including Cameron & Osborne. Vote leave looks tempting...
There is a huge upsurge in petty (and serious) racism, fueled by the anti-immigrant line of some of the 'Leave' campaigners. This is even affecting people I know (and I'm sure, many I don't). I ask myself who will be celebrating on June 24th if there is a 'Leave' vote? Gove, Johnson, Farage, The BNP and similar groups. ((Shudder!!!)) Vote remain?
Idiots at work are talking vote leave on the basis of poor understanding and a warped sense of self interest. Still Vote Remain?
This could end Cameron and possibly split the Tories! Vote Leave?
The truth is I still do not know. If I had voted last week I would have said vote leave. Since the weekend (and especially since the murder of MP Jo Cox and Farage with that fascist poster) I have felt quite strongly to remain. Yesterday I would have voted to remain. Tonight I still don't know. I do not want to base my decision on superficial factors or short term gain but all I have to work with are untrustworthy sales pitches and a gut instinct that is pulled or pushed in both directions.
Dammit. This has not helped at all.
This week I have been mostly reading: Untold Stories by Alan Bennett. Current Mood: confused
|Tuesday, June 21st, 2016|
I browsed the local newsagents when I was home visiting my mum over the weekend and was pleased to find the shelf stocked with the latest issue of 2000AD, much as it would have been when I was a kid - this was the first shop where I ever bought 2000AD and was where I usualy picked it up if I was buying. The issue number was #1985 - which ironically was the year when I first bought it, I am pretty sure. The issue featured Slaine - a favourite of mine back in the day. This was pretty much a perfect storm of nostalgia but I managed to resist on the basis of I m not really going to start reading/colecting them again (especially at £2.25 per issue!) and I am also in the process of downsizing my collections so adding more stuff is just making my own job harder. It was nice to see it still running though. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, June 20th, 2016|
|Attila The Stockbroker And Friends
My friends Tina & Dave bought me a ticket to see Attila The Stockbroker (a punk poet, anti-capitalist and all round good egg) at Le Pub in Newport, one of my former watering holes. For Christmas last year they bought me a signed copy of Attila's autobiography, 'Arguments Yard' which was a great read. Obviously I had no idea when I read this that I would actually see him perform live so soon after, much less in my home town.
The gig was brilliant (with proceeds going to an emergency aid convoy to the refugees in Calais). It was great to see Tina and Dave too as we rarely hang out longer than it takes to have a cup of coffee and even that doesn't happen too often. The evening also had a couple of other bonuses. I got to visit one of my old watering holes, which brought back some memories I didnt even know I had! I was also reunited with my old friend and Comrade Des - who was both one of the instigators of the event and also one of the support acts! This was a brilliant night.
This week I have been mostly reading: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, June 19th, 2016|
I have just returned from another weekend visiting my home town in Wales. Several factors made this a trip different to the usual. Firstly my friends Tina and Dave bought me a ticket to a gig on Saturday (or which more later) and the other thing was that with my mother, my brother and my sister all struggling with health/job/money stresses, this combined with the gig meant that I was not able to catch up with the friends I usually see, nor the other half of my family. My apologies to everyone I missed. I usually try to book the Monday off from work too which allows me an extra day to spread myself around but I could not manage it this time so my time was both limited and very much in demand. Everything went as smoothly as it could though - I am just sorry to have missed the people I would normally see. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, June 15th, 2016|
After taking in the Shaun Tan exhibition I strolled down from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square through the 'back streets' of St James'. At the National Gallery I sought out a small free exhibition called 'Dutch Flowers' which was a small room full of painting which explored that very specific sub-genre and placed it into an historical context. I wouldn't say the exhibition of itself was enough of a draw to make me travel across town but as I was in the area and it fitted in with my plans it pleasantly filled in half an hour and helped make me feel human again after a tough week at work. Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, June 14th, 2016|
|Shaun Tan's Surrealist Vision
On my way home from work the other day I swung by the Illustration Cupboard - a small gallery that specializes in children's book illustrators - to see the Shaun Tan exhibition they are currently showing. Shaun Tan is one of my favourite illustrators and I have been a fan of his work for years. This small exhibition was a bit of a new spin on his work as there was a heavy emphasis on his surreal side which to be honest was never far away from the surface. The exhibition doesn't run for long and I wish there was more of it - but it was well worth catching.http://www.illustrationcupboard.com/exhibition_illustrations.aspx?eId=266&ePage=0
This week I have been mostly reading: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami Current Mood: awake
|Monday, June 13th, 2016|
|Waiting for the Landlord
After the huge rush of emotion and activity caused by the sudden announcement of a huge hike in my rent events of the past week have pretty much ground to a halt - until today when I heard that the new owner and the new property manager want to meet with me to 'finalize' an agreement.
The huge increase has been negotiated down to a still painful but more manageable figure, at least for this year. The landlord has already indicated that they want to go up to the full whack next year. As far as I can see there are only a very few items left to be ironed out. This may well be the last year in my flat (or any decent property that is not a shared space) but I am prepared to kick on with it if the landlord is prepared to not be a total dick. Some hope, that.
As it happens it is probably going to be the best part of a fortnight before any such meeting can be arranged - partly because of the overtime I am being forced to work to cover the new rent costs - an irony I will be happy to point out to the new landlord! For now it is still a case of watch this space. Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, June 11th, 2016|
|Euro 2016 Starts
The footie has kicked off again in the form of Euro 2016. I wrestled hard with my conscience and allowed myself a couple of bets on opening night. I usually enjoy a little flutter on the big competitions and usually come out a little ahead (maybe more so) but with my landlord situation being what it is I am tending towards the strict micro-managing of my budgets.
As a reward to myself for budgeting so tightly this past month I have allowed myself a budget of £40 for betting purposes. £20 I put on Germany to win the competition and £20 I put on France to win tonight, with both teams scoring. The second bet came in nicely so I have covered my original stake and made a modest profit into the bargain (hopefully the Germany bet will pay off at the end of the competition too.
I am not sure if I will bet again in the competition. I dont fancy making a prediction about any of the matches in the next few days. Next time I do place a small bet at some point though it will come from my winnings rather than my own pocket and that feels pretty sweet. For France and for me tonight was a small but welcome victory. Current Mood: awake
|Friday, June 10th, 2016|
I first joined my local library when I was about 7 years old (after a lengthy lobbying of my family to assist me). On my first day I took two books home, read them and was back at the library before the 3.30 closing time to return the books and check out two more. I remained an avid library user and have been a member of my local library ever since - until I moved to Harrow.
When I came here 11 years ago I wandered into the local library, had a look around and ended up leaving disappointed. I actually had (I felt) a better library in my own flat that the local library could offer. Once you took out all of their Jeffrey Archer, Jackie Collins, Danielle Steele and other similar (worryingly popular) tripe the library had little to offer at all, so I made a decision not to bother joining.
From time to time this has played on my mind, especially with libraries up and down the country being forced to close by funding cuts. I decided that as I was downsizing my own book collection I would donate some to my local library and sign myself up for a library card while I was there. I picked a pretty decent selection of non-fiction (History, science, politics etc) books in excellent condition as was told, 'We don't really need any books because we already have plenty' and 'we might need to put these straight into our books for sale
section.' I told them they were welcome to do with them whatever they thought best. (I was on my way to work so had very little time to take the books anywhere else though the alternative probably would have been a charity shop or similar).
Talk about broken hearted! The philosophy of the library manager is so very different to my own but I guess that she is operating a very different set of priorities to me. Her words were just not anything I ever expected a librarian to say. "We already have enough books." In my ideal world such a concept would never exist. I did still join the library though. It may come in useful one day and our libraries should be supported and if possible protected - including from their own librarians! Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, June 9th, 2016|
|The Spider Woman
At work yesterday somebody rang our intercom. A woman's voice asked, 'Is that the care home place?'. I confirmed that it was. She then asked, could you please come down for a moment outside the gate?' I told her that I would be there in a moment and set off to find out what she wanted, thinking to myself, 'This can't be good.'
As it turns out one of my colleagues was just going off shift and so had made it out of the building while I was finishing on the intercom - so the lady sought my colleagues assistance first. What I soon discovered was the lady (a neighbour to the care home) has needed help because she had found a big spider
. I have no idea what the spider was doing that menaced her so, possibly merely existing, and the fact that she made it out of her building to seek our help is even stranger. Phobias are clearly awful but whatever this spider was up to the woman felt better leaving her property, seeking help from strangers and in the process looking slightly bonkers in the process rather than dealing with the spider herself or just leaving it alone.
I didn't get to see the spider itself but from my colleague's reaction it was not a big deal. I hope the poor woman gets some help dealing with her fear because that shit id debilitating.
This week I have been mostly reading: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, June 7th, 2016|
|Squeezing In The Museum Of Childhood
With all the shenanigans about my landlords and the fight over my rent increase I had forgotten to mention my after-work visit to the Museum Of Childhood last week. I had originally planned my visit to take in an exhibition about child migration but found a couple of other cool exhibitions that were also running.
The migration exhibition was not as I imagined about current (child specific) issues in migration but specifically about the decades where it was British government policy to ship British kids off to far flung corners of the British empire. The kids were usually sent from deprived areas and it was hoped they would help populate the British colonies and often ended up as little more than slave labour. This unexpected focus was surprisingly informative and still yet managed to shed some light on current migration issues.
The other exhibitions included an Oliver Postgate themed collection of Bagpuss and Clangers puppets and in the lobby of the museum a collection of drawings called, 'It's A Hard World For Little Things' featuring children carrying heavy objects - literal and metaphorical. Sadly beautiful and thought provoking. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, June 6th, 2016|
Well, my new landlords have been up to some shenanigans since I last wrote. I thought I had agreed with them a new extortionate rent that was slightly lower than the one they originally demanded. On Friday they sent me an email confirming the figure but now also demanding the following:
£32 rent arrears payment,
£90 'tenancy renewal' payment
that my new tenancy begins (and first monthly payment of £875) on 19th June.
I have replied that I am unaware of any £32 arrears. The previous landlord never mentioned it. If it turns out that I do owe this figure then I will indeed pay it, but they need to prove that I owe it.
The £90 fee is bogus. I have never previously paid such a fee (what does that cover exactly?) and I have signed no contract which agrees to that payment.
That tenancy date has no correlation with my existing tenancy and I have my original tenancy agreement to prove it. Money has been coming out of my account on the 1st of each month for many years - and they have already received my payment for June!
I sent them a strongly worded reply on Friday saying more or less exactly that, pointing out that I will not be bullied and am prepared to go to court.
This is true, if they try to take additional money from me but my prevailing feeling at the moment (especially if they do not back down) is to hand in my notice on the flat and downsize straight away to a small studio or even a house share. I will have to get rid of most of my stuff (already started) and find a storage solution for the rest but I have looked at some prices and if I can get a reasonable place in this same area I could end up massively boosting my finances - though not my living conditions. That may well be something I could live with - which is more than I can say for these new shit-bag landlords.
I spoke to my neighbour the other day. He told me that they have also tried to strong arm him but he has already handed in his notice to quit. The landlords accepted this but demanded he pay the new rent for the two months until his departure! This is without him signing any new contracts and with his current tenancy agreement due to last until October! The fuckers do not even seem to understand the law or at least they hope that we do not.
Everything is pointing to the 'Time To Go' sign, as much as I wish I could stay.
This week I have been mostly reading: After Daybreak - The liberation Of Belsen, 1945 by Ben Shephard Current Mood: angry
|Friday, June 3rd, 2016|
|The Story Of The Blue Lamp Of Trust
Something odd happened to me as I came out of work earlier this week. I was on my way to catch my bus when a woman in the street asked me a question. I expected that she was going to ask for money but did not hear her question at first because I was listening to music on my MP3 at the time. I asked her to say again and when I still wasn't clear (something about Jesus Christ..?) I ask again. It turns out she was asking me about trust (not Christ), and do I have a few moments to talk about what trust means to me.
At this point I was suspecting either a college project of some religious pitch but it turns out to be a TV interview. A brief handful of questions later (I have no idea what I have said or if I made any sense) but the interview ends, I am thanked for my time on behalf of a TV channel of which I have never heard (possibly Arabic?) and offered a blue Ikea tea light lamp for my trouble. I thank them in return and accept (I wasn't expecting a prize never mind anything this random but I know somebody who will very much like it).
So, until I re-gift the bonus lamp of trust it sits on one of my shelves and somewhere in the world is a tv channel with some footage of my less than profound comments on the nature of 'trust'.
Awesome. Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, June 2nd, 2016|
The news on my rent is that the landlords rejected my offer of £800pcm and are requesting £875pcm. This is a massive amount better than the £975pcm they were originally demanding. I have spoken to some of my other neighbours and judging from the way their negotiations had gone (one of them offered £825 but was rejected) I think this might be the best offer I am going to get.
I have considered going to tenancy arbitration which can set a legally binding rent but they tend (as far as I can judge) to decide more on the basis of what is fair based on market averages rather than excessive rises. They could still be an option but I doubt if they will improve things.
My plan, I think is to request a very few minor alterations to the contract but basically accept. The landlords offer was not even phrased in terms of this being the new rent as such but rather that they will hold off the full increase one year - meaning that I will get hit for the full whack next year whatever happens.
I have one year to either transform my life with a fabulous new job/lottery win or prepare for downsizing and a move that will set my life back about 20 years in terms of living arrangements. Brilliant.
This week I have been mostly reading: The Rings Of Saturn by W G Sebald Current Mood: crappy
|Monday, May 30th, 2016|
Recently at work I was supporting one of my service users out in the community. For various health reasons this guy is an extremely slow walker. The usual procedure is to walk a little way ahead (slowly) then wait for him to catch up, the repeat. During these excursions there will be short bursts of conversation punctuated by periods of silence. A trip to the local cafe - five minutes walk by most standards - is a two hour round trip.
Consequently I found myself with some time on my hands so I was humming to myself (it was a nice day) and doing the mental equivalent of doodling. Before I knew it I had written a set of alternative smutty lyrics to the tune of 'Chim-Chiminee' from Mary Poppins. The words are not profound or even original but they fit to the song perfectly and have a recognizable beginning, middle and end. I was absurdly proud of myself! They went like this:
You've told me your thing
Now I'll tell you one -
I once met a hooker
That looked like your mum.
She'd dress like a school-girl,
She'd dress like a nun
And wouldn't charge extra
For one up the bum.
I am not saying
It's your mum that I met,
But from all that I heard
It's a pretty safe bet.
I will stop singing
This song it is done,
Next time you see her
Say 'hi' to your mum.
Now that I have typed it up I'm kind of ashamed of myself, but still oddly proud! Current Mood: amused
|Sunday, May 29th, 2016|
|Enough To Make A Martian Chunder
Having woken up unseasonably early for a Sunday on my weekend off I set about making myself some breakfast. Today it was porridge with kiwi fruit. I have never done that before, mostly because I don't usually have a bunch of kiwi fruit lying around the house but also because it is quite a faffy breakfast and I would rarely have time in the mornings to arse about making porridge and peeling/slicing kiwi.
It turns out that if you mix a bunch of sliced kiwi into a bowl of porridge it looks exactly like a martian has thrown up - but if you sprinkle in a bit of cinnamon its lovely. Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, May 28th, 2016|
I have learned a lot in the past week and I have taken steps to keep my options open.
It turns out that it is not just me that is facing these huge demands (40% rise, etc.) but so are my neighbours and the shops in the block below the flats.
While there is some protection for tenants during their agreement when their period of tenancy ends (as mine just has) there is little protection from huge rent rises. If my landlord wanted above the market averages as a rise we could easily appeal, but as they are 'only' asking for the average the position is less clear. Tenancy arbitration is possible (and is binding) but again is more concerned with market averages than severe rises.
My plan then is to table a counter offer (which I did today) and see what they say. They are likely to decline but if they do I will move to arbitration. Now that I am currently out of tenancy my landlord could still serve me with notice to quit at any point. I don't think I have any protection against that so I have to tread carefully.
I have begun to dismantle and distribute among friends my book collection which should make me more flexible when it comes to moving (now or in the future) and actually feels like a healthy decision even if I end up staying here.
I have looked at properties in this area (and in other areas) and I will almost certainly have to downsize if I do move (whether I end up saving money or not) so remaining here remains the first choice if I can make it work.
I put my name down with Harrow council to appy for social housing but the website basically told me to jog on before I even typed my name in. The borough of Harrow apparently has a council stock of 5000 homes, demand is high and with no dependent family I stand no chance of being allocated anything even if I waited for years.
I have however applied for a care worker job in my home town, Newport just in case it comes to that. The pay would be shit but better than benefits especially if I have to move back with my family.
That is where we are at. I should hear from the landlord about my counter offer sometime this week. I am looking forward to that!
This week I have been mostly reading: Rose Gold by Walter Mosley Current Mood: awake
|Friday, May 27th, 2016|
On Sunday I took three of my service users to the annual butterfly exhibition at the Natural History Museum followed by a quick excursion around the nearby V&A Museum. They had a pretty good time and I must admit I felt the benefit too. The butterfly exhibition isn't huge but it is very pleasant and a great way to relax. (I go most years now). The genuine enthusiasm of my sevice users (who had never been before) helped a lot too. Current Mood: awake