25 Jun 2017

Racing for Life

Me, my siblings Eliza, Jess, Sooz and George and my sister-in-law Rosie are doing Race for Life 5k at Peterborough on Sunday in memory of our Mum.

My mum never saw an oncologist. She wouldn't go. She knew there was nothing they could do, so she wouldn't go. It made no difference. But it meant we were never offered genetic counselling or testing to find out if we carry the genes that make some women more susceptible to ovarian cancer. We don't even know for certain where Mum's primary cancer site was; the histology was not clear. Having endometriosis means I have an increased risk of ovarian cancer anyway, but my gynaecologist is reluctant to test me for the genetic fault on the NHS until someone else in my family gets it. As the oldest ovary-containing child of my mother, the test case is me.

My mum's type of cancer was unusual and incurable. Even if she had been diagnosed two years before, when we suspect it started, she would have been dead within five years. And she would have hated that. She would have hated the tests and the treatments, the desperation and the fear and the hope that led nowhere. I am glad she didn't know. As we come up to the anniversary of her diagnosis, I am glad that we didn't know.

But now we know.

We are not just racing for life. We are racing for hope. Hope for ourselves. Hope for others. Mum has not been the only cancer death close to us in the last year.

So we run (/walk) the Race for Life, and we hope that we live to be a hundred. We will walk around a field on a Sunday morning in the hope that we never have to go through this again. We will walk, we will sweat, we will giggle, we will pant because we are hopelessly unfit, and we will hope that if it happens to us, they will be able to help.

As of today, we have collectively raised £815 (+£167.50 gift aid) and we are so grateful. That's the cost of two MRI scans. The cost of two colposcopies to diagnose cervical cancer. Four prostate biopsies. Eight sessions of chemotherapy.

It's a lot. It's not a lot.

Please donate if you can, if not to us, then to someone who else who is racing or directly to Cancer Research.

August 2016 <3

14 Jun 2017

London's Burning

Imagine your house catches fire.

Imagine, worst case scenario, it burns down and the fire investigator declares it was because your electrical supply wasn't earthed, a dangerous, but preventable occurrence. Imagine, as you sift through the wreckage, how fucking furious you would be.

Now, imagine the above, but also imagine that you knew about this electrical fault. You'd known about it for years, and spent years trying to get the electrical company to come and fix it, only to be told it was fine and to stop making a fuss. Imagine your rage.

This is akin to what the people of Grenfell tower have suffered today. Because they knew their house wasn't fire proof. They knew there weren't enough fire exit routes. They knew the cladding the council had covered the building in was iffy. They knew what happened to similar tower blocks in the area. They knew. And they were absolutely powerless, as council tenants, to do anything other than try and get the word out.

Nobody knows what caused the fire. They've only just put it out; we won't know for months. But we do know that the tenants were formally advised to stay in their flats and put wet towels against the bottoms of the door in case of fire, because the fire wasn't supposed to be able to spread. The flats were supposed to be self-contained fireproof units. The tenants ignored this advice, and thank god they did, or they'd all be dead by now.

Some are dead. Many more are injured. And everyone who lived there has lost everything they owned. Perhaps that is the part that will resonate most strongly. We've all made the mental lists of what we would grab in case of fire, knowing deep down that we probably wouldn't grab anything in our haste to get out. There's nothing left of Grenfell Tower. It will never house anyone again.

I have seen many people say that this is a tragedy that shouldn't be politicised.
I did not see these people claim that terrorist prevention talk was politicising a tragedy after Westminster, Manchester and Borough Market. I did not see the people claim that dead Syrian refugee babies being washed up in the Mediterranean was politicising a tragedy. I did not see these people claim that talk of gun control after Sandy Hook was politicising a tragedy*.

Is a tragedy more or less political when it is directly caused by a lack of legislation?
Is a tragedy more or less political when it affects the poor rather than the unlucky?
Is a tragedy more or less political when it throws the unsavoury housing policy of the incumbent government into sharp relief?

More people have already died at Grenfell tower than died in the whole Great Fire of London.

When David Cameron began to gently dismantle public safeguards and services, he tried to package it as Building a Big Society, where everyone helped each other, so there was no need for governments to do it. Kensington has absolutely thrown itself into helping the people of Grenfell tower, with massive donations of money, goods and services. The badly cut fire and ambulance service has been out in force. But it should not have happened in the first place.

Ultimately, people should not have to face the possibility of losing all their possessions, their home, their loved ones and their lives just because they are in poorly tended social housing.

I hope this sparks reform, I really do.

*Well, I did, but mostly from gun-nut Americans and they are not my friends. 

3 Jun 2017

Stewart Jackson: Redux

It's election time once more! Last time, despite my pleas, Peterborough foolishly elected Stewart Jackson as MP once more by a scant 1950 votes. And, as his leaflet dropped on our doormat the other day, let's take a look at the Life and Lies of Stewart Jackson.

So, the front page. Stewart Jackson stands with Theresa May, as you'd expect really, considering he's a Tory. He's hardly going to claim he hates the bitch and would make a much better PM. There's also a photo of him beaming in front of Peterborough guildhall and supporting a bee protection charity. That's ironic since he's consistently voted against climate change protection measures.

Within the leaflet, he marks out the work he's done for the area, like blocking the solar energy farm that was going to be built on Newborough fen; raising a petition about Werrington freight line  - he doesn't mention it submitted before GE2015, went unanswered, and the plans went to the secretary of state three months ago - and trying to improve the A47, which is underway, notably with the FUCKING AWFUL traffic lights at Wansford A1 junction. Such a trooper. In fairness to Stewart Jackson, he does write to the cabinet with questions pertaining to Peterborough (most of which already have answers available in the public domain), and voted in around 85% of all votes. He pushed for Brexit, which is no surprise, and he's even curbed his expenses a little. He's very proud of Peterborough's low unemployment rates. He also claims that the NHS is his top local priority, which is an absolute joke considering his voting history.

His voting record remains a catalogue of misery for anyone who isn't an older, healthy, white, heterosexual, salaried, homeowning British citizen.
He has consistently voted against gay rights, race laws, benefits being raised in line with inflation, and increasing jobs for young people. He has voted for the bedroom tax, for restricting disability benefit, for restricting disability benefit to those who have been disabled from birth/youth. He has voted against limiting letting fees for tenants. He has voted against people with cancer receiving extended ESA, He voted for the tuition fees raise, for the academy system, and for the various bills undermining the NHS. He has voted against ID cards, but for mass data retention (the Snooper's charter). He voted against a right to remain for EU citizens. He has voted against special provision for military families in the welfare system. He has voted against slowing the rise of rail fares. He has voted against nationalisation of public transport.
Of course he has, he's a Tory.

The rest of the leaflet is given over to the words of The Great Leader Theresa May. Theresa swears she has set out a clear approach to Brexit, which...has she? Really? She says she has a strong negotiating hand. The Tories have been openly mocked by the rest of the EU and Theresa May has demonstrated that she couldn't successfully negotiate a child's bedtime. We have nothing to negotiate with, except tax haven status,
And then, in a rehash of the last election, we are told our election choice is Strong and Stable Leadership in the National Interest OR A COALITION OF CHAOS with Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron. DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME, CONSERVATIVES, THAT A COALITION GOVERNMENT WITH THE LIB DEMS IS A BAD IDEA???

The leaflet then tells us that Trump winning was a shock, even though Theresa May fell over herself to rush over there and hold his grubby, orange mitt. Brexit was a shock, even though the Tories definitely wanted it and it's gonna be amazing, honest guv. And Corbyn winning two leadership elections was a shock.

Maybe Britain is fed up of your lying bullshit about caring, Theresa. Maybe hardworking British families, who are also apparently irresponsible benefit scroungers, have had enough of your shit, of your punishing the economically weak for the faults of the strong, of being told if they would JUST WORK HARDER, they too could be RICH. Maybe normal British people fancy someone with a bit of integrity, someone who is decent, who inspires faith in the politically inactive. Someone who hasn't promised on national TV to NUKE THE WORLD, you fucking bloodthirsty maniac. Maybe the national debt going from five hundred billion pounds under Gordon Brown to a staggering ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED AND THIRTY BILLION POUNDS in just SEVEN YEARS of Conservative government doesn't inspire a lot of confidence about your FUCKING ECONOMIC NOUS, which has always been the Tory selling point.

People are dying under this government, unnecessarily. The NHS is being stealthily dismantled, as is the social care contract. We go headlong into Brexit, fronted by a vindictive racist who couldn't lead herself out of a paper bag; who thinks you will vote Tory because you think they're a safe pair of hands. They aren't.

All voting information from They Work For You. Economic information from UK Public Spending. Leaflet published by Matthew Dalton on behalf of Stewart Jackson. Vitriol my own.