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Benefit Scrounger

I started out earlier wondering how someone can manage from scratch with £12 for the next 7 days.

Imagine that just before Christmas you left your abusive partner and found temporary accommodation for you and your 2 kids under 5.  You left in a hurry with the clothes on your back and a very small amount of money to get through Christmas and into January.

You are now very very short of money (just like many people at this time of the year).  Your cupboards are empty and you have £12 to feed yourself and your 2 kids for the next 7 days.  You can’t ask for help of friends and family, you’re completely alone.

You have no back up provisions apart from 1 packet of spaghetti, 1 toilet roll and 1 tin of tomatoes. Here is your shopping list:

6 eggs
500 gm minced beef
6 sausages
12 fish fingers
1 kg potatoes
500 gms Onions
4 Carrots
1 cabbage
2 loaves of bread

Child cough medicine
4 toilet rolls
1 surface cleaner

You get to the check out and you are over by £3.50. What will you leave behind.

I asked my friends on Facebook…the majority leaving out the cleaner and the cough medicine.  So having established that, what will be your meal plans for the next 7 days? I’ve done one…it’s tough.

Monday Tuesday Weds Thurs Fri Sat
Breakfast Dry toast 2 slices each Dry toast 2 slices each Dry toast 2 slices each Dry toast 2 slices each Dry toast 2 slices each Last 2 eggs Eggy Bread 3 slices
No seasoning
Midday Spag Bol using 1/2 mince & half 2 Onion soup + 2 potatoes 3 sausages, mash, 1/4 cabbage 2 carrots for soup + 1  potato Cabbage soup with 1/2 cab Cabbage soup
1/2 tin toms and one onion for thickening No seasoning. No seasoning
no seasoning No seasoning No gravy, no seasoning
Early evening Omellete 2 eggs 3 slices of toast 2 sausages for 3 sandwiches 3 potatoes make chips 2 eggs for eggy bread 3 slices Fishfingers 2 each & chips Fishfinger sandwiches 6 slices
Omlette divided for 3. no spread No spread/seasoning No seasoning No seasoning No seasoning No seasoning/spread

I am still working on Sunday main meal. Cottage Pie with the last 250 grams of the mince, last of the pots, onion (probably no onion left now) and the carrot. Plus some cabbage.  No season, no gravy apart from that made with the tinned tom and water.

You may have noticed there is no milk…often a staple for young children, no cereal…let’s hope they get breakfast at school!
I have heard so many people saying they could manage easily on hardly any money…and I am pretty sure that they forget all the often essential items they actually have at the outset.  If you ever been on a truly self catering holiday you will know that those small basics can make such a big difference to what we’re serving up each day.
How would you cope? Do you have the skills to cope?  A friend mentioned foraging (common here in France, but in a large city in UK??)  Another friend would very sensibly ditch the sausage and  fish fingers replacing with lentils and chicken…and then we need to consider food education and how well our “Benefit Scrounger?” has been taught both at home and school.
I cannot imagine a day in day out struggle to provide food like this for my growing kids let alone how bland and boring it is.  No tea, no coffee, no wine, no milk, not a luxury in sight.
I used the Benefit Scrounger title to get attention.  So often we don’t see the real lives of the truly poor and desperate people living their lives behind closed doors.
I am grateful I have choices, money, a roof over my head and food in my house.

Katie Hopkins and the judiciary: another pointless lie

On the day that Katie Hopkins’ wilful disregard for the truth landed her, and the Daily Mail, in £150,000 worth of piping hot water, it is reassuring to see that she has not been deterred fro…

Source: Katie Hopkins and the judiciary: another pointless lie

10 tips for lifes caregivers.


Treat yourself as you would treat another who is tired, cold, ill, hungry, scared, fatigued.

  1. Pay attention to what your body is asking for….hunger – feed yourself, tired – take a nap, cold- add more clothes or let yourself have a fire, exhausted – take yourself to bed, scared – wrap yourself tightly in a blanket.
  2. Don’t listen to your internal negative dialogue about how you’re not good enough, not deserving, others are worse off than you etc.
  3. Decide you are as entitled as the next person to be cared for…you’re as human as they are.
  4. Do ask for help, ask someone to care for you for a few hours or a day.
  5. Don’t short change yourself or your needs.
  6. Do remember your aid work and care work is more potent when you are well and rested.
  7. You can be strong and be vulnerable…the two can go together.
  8. Remember those pre flight instructions….take your O2 before rescuing your child.
  9. Yes, I mean you!

Microsoft Corporation owe me $100

Back a month or so ago (I cannot remember exactly) my husband found himself being GIVEN Windows 10 with no obvious way out.  Despite repeatedly pressing a cancel/back button the “upgrade” continued and he had no choice but to work with it.

Sneaky “upgrade”

Around the same time life was full on and every month I found we needed to pay to boost our internet quota to get us to reset day.  We probably spend more time on the internet than others do and I am good at feeling guilty about this…so as I buy a volume booster or 2 I blame myself for spending too long on Facebook,  Twitter, playing Scrabble and one text based game I’ve been playing for 6 years.

We already pay a premium for our access to the internet being in rural France and too far (by 700 mtrs) from the cable run for Broadband.  So, we are limited and it is a good lump of quota we pay for, and up until recently was enough, enough even for internet radio.

This month we ran out of quota 3 days ago.  I bought volume boosters to get us over the hump. Yesterday at 16h00 we had already used 870 mg of a 1 Gig booster.  I was horrified and realised we cannot carry on paying out this amount of money for leisure.  I envy those of you who have no quota, have no idea what your data usage is and never have to worry you’ll run out before reset.

My husband had come to me a few hours before with a pop up box on his laptop and whilst I was trying to work out what the problem was I noticed Windows Edge and other stuff that I’d not really heard of.  So, I decided to have a look around and came to the sudden realisation that his laptop is using 75% of our quota each month despite me being the prolific user.   We swapped laptops.  After a short time Googling I made some changes to his laptop and am hoping when reset comes tomorrow to give it back to him severely restrained.

Today we had one last 1 gig booster, 3% used when I started out this morning.   He is using my laptop and by 16h00 today we’d used 32% as opposed to 87% yesterday!  I am so relieved and looking forward to receiving the ?$100 Microsoft Corp owe me in compensation for them stealing from my quota with no warning.

Here’s what I did,

How to stop Windows 10 using so much data

I have also added Data Saver extensions to both our laptops and my Chromebook.

Google Data Savers

Next month I am hoping we can relax and enjoy our time online without the anxiety I’ve experienced over last 2 months.


Saturday musings.

Dear Printer, we need to talk.
I’d like it if I could leave you with jobs and you could just get on with them without constantly needing me to come and untangle the mess you’ve made with the perfect paper that I had placed as perfectly as possible in your dispenser.

Dear PDF docs….I’d like it if you just let me print you without having to download yet another Adobe reader.

Dear Adobe Reader,
I’d like it if you didn’t automatically assume I’d like McAfee to fuck over my existing security measures.

Dear Prefecture,
Those docs you want so I can apply for citizenship are gradually coming together. I am exhausted and want to know why you need to know so much about my family of origin and my job history since my paper round in 1966!


Reading Captive State by George Monbiot and reminded that Tesco wanted to build at Gt Torrington as we were leaving. So impressed to see that Torrington has held out against Tesco and recently Waitrose…..







They don’t get it!

“This kind of behaviour is what we call ‘normalisation of violence against women’ and it is really, really scary and damaging,” she wrote. “… Every time you ‘playfully’ tell a woman to get back in the kitchen, every time you smack a girl on the bum because it’s funny, every time you make a joke about rape, YOU are contributing to a society where unfortunately women are not safe.”

“The cop I spoke to didn’t even have Facebook – explaining to her the post, the reposting, the screenshotting, the comments, was harder than it needed to be,” she told Guardian Australia in January. “It’s ridiculous. It’s 2016. Literally everyone uses the internet.”

The case progressed only after it received media attention, she said – echoing a common complaint about social media abuse, that only high-profile users get a response to their reports.”

“Brierley Newton told Guardian Australia the officer who called to tell her said Alchin was apologetic and had no prior convictions in what she took to be an attempt to convince her to abandon the charge.”




The Government Is In Chaos, Now Is The Time To Move Beyond Marching

We all know the fucking script.  This weekend tens, or possibly hundreds of thousands of people, will march through central London.  According to the People’s Assembly, who have organised the…

Source: The Government Is In Chaos, Now Is The Time To Move Beyond Marching

Suffocating refugees in lorries, what’s changed?

In late summer 2015 we were all horrified when a lorry parked on the hard shoulder of a motorway in Austria was opened to discover 71 YES 71 suffocated and decomposing refugees inside. One of those bodies who’d died an indescribable death was a baby girl and 4 bodies were of children.
Only 4 days later Aylan Kurdi’s drowned body was washed up on a beach in Turkey whilst we were still reeling from shock of the earlier story.
What did we do at that point?  How did we react after the initial feelings of shock, despair and utter impotence.
I know what I did.  I spent the next 7 months doing my best to make a difference.  Had I been 20 years younger I would have made several sorties to Calais, Dunkirk and the beaches of Greece.   I would have helped pull people from the water, I would have held dead children and babies and would have questioned every minute the total fucking lack of guts our politicians have.   I have only actually been able to do the last bit and the physical things I have had to leave to those younger and more able.
So, what’s changed.  Over 7 months on, babies and children are still being washed up drowned on beaches, 1000’s of unaccompanied children are missing all over the war zones and Europe and in France 150 have been lost since the Southern End of the Calais refugee camp was bulldozed, burned and razed to the ground in the most violent manner by those acting on the orders of France?  The Fascist Mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart? who knows.
On Thursday of last week the incredible Liz Clegg from the Calais refugee camp received a text from a 7 year old Afghan boy who was stuck inside a lorry in services on the M1 in the UK!   He wouldn’t have had the phone if it weren’t for her and he wouldn’t have had credit on his phone had it not been for the amazing humans I have come to know in the last 7 months who have donated money, raised money and work tirelessly to do the best they can for these fellow human beings.


On Thursday 7th April Ahmed, a young refugee boy from Afghanistan who had been living in the Calais camp, stowed away on a truck from France to the UK and found himself trapped in a locked cabin and fast losing the ability to breathe. Fortunately he had the presence of mind to send an urgent text to Liz Clegg and Inca Sorrel from ‘unofficial’ Women and Children’s Centre in the Calais Camp and they, together with Help Refugees, were able to set the wheels in motion for an emergency response which ultimately saved the life of the boy and the other 14 refugees stowed away in the back of the lorry with him.

The saving of 7 year old Ahmed’s life is partly down to the fast response from the emergency services, partly down to this young child’s ability to convey the severity of his situation but very much down to the fact that Liz and Inca had given him a mobile phone, with credit and emergency numbers and had drilled into him the importance of contacting them if he was in any kind of danger.

Ahmed is just one of hundreds of vulnerable children that The Women and Children’s Centre have provided with phones in this way to ensure the smallest kind of safeguarding. But it’s not enough. Last week 17 year old Mohammed was killed on a truck in Britain, just 14 miles from David Cameron’s home, and in January 15 year old Masud met his death in the back of a refrigerated lorry in France. How many children must die risking their lives on trucks, train tracks or in the hands of traffickers before the French and British governments, the UNHCR and the child focused charities respond and put adequate measures in place to ensure their protection?

Help Refugees urges the authorities to create a proper registration system for the unaccompanied minors in Calais and Dunkirk and to put it into immediate effect.

In the meantime we will continue to provide humanitarian aid to these children in the form of shelter, clothing and sustenance and we will continue to support the extraordinary efforts of the volunteer led Women and Children’s Centre and the Youth Centre in Calais who work daily with the unaccompanied minors and give them sanctuary, trusted guidance and care.

Please sign this petition asking the Government to reunite children in the EU with their families in the UK as a matter of urgency:

What would have happened had these refugees been found suffocated and decomposing on the M1, on UK soil?  Anything different?  There was a time when I would have believed that finally the politicians would be motivated to do something finally to improve the lives of refugees, men, women, children and babies fleeing war.  I now know that hell would have to freeze over before that happens.

This last few months I have met and got to know some amazing people.  People willing to put themselves on the front line and make a difference.  Some of them I have worried for as they take more care of others than themselves.  Some of them I have worried for as I watch them working more hours than they should, more days than they should to make things work, to make a difference and to give their all to their fellow human beings.   Ordinary people like you and I becoming heroes, acting heroically and being so incredibly creative.

Here are some examples. Shropshire Loves Community Interest (includes Caravans for Calais and Mobile Crisis Support Vehicles) all set up by Lea Beven (one day she’ll sleep!)  Rob Lawrie who did what many of us would have been tempted to do and got caught.  His humanity knew no bounds and destroyed his marriage.  He was taken to court in France and thankfully was spared jail.  The Dirty Girls of Lesvos Island who wash and launder all the clothes that the wet and bedraggled refugees discard as they land on the beaches of Lesvos, meaning there are clean and laundered clothes to hand on to newly arrived refugees.  They launder all the UNHCR blankets (having been recalled by the military who couldn’t manage the same workload).  Spanish Lifeguards who went to help last autumn and didn’t go home!  At one point early this year they were arrested and faced charges people smuggling as they’d strayed into Turkish waters to save the refugees on a sinking rubber dinghy.

Many other thinking outside the box and when that box doesn’t work out they invent another.   I have been honoured to be a very tiny part of this and sometimes I’ve only been able to send them money.  I have trusted people I have never met, sent them money and people I have never met have trusted me too with their money.

So….what has changed?  Anything?  Is the crisis improving?  Despite all the above, I don’t feel it is.  What about you.  What moved you to make a difference?  What are you doing you weren’t doing 7 months ago?

Thanks to the individuals who physically attend the places I am unable to:  Thanks Roni, Sarah and Maeve.

Oh and Luscious Lesley….how could I forget.