Don’t Use The P Word!

I’m not talking about racist slang or words for what dwells in men’s underpants, the P word in question here is politics.

Now, I’m not an activist, far from it; I’ve only ever been to one march and if I’m perfectly honest I left part way through to go to a pub. It’s not that I don’t have a political viewpoint, I do, quite a strong one, I just don’t usually have the energy or inclination to argue about it.

(FWIW I’d say I’m a left leaning liberal with some socialist ideology)

The other day I broke my ‘don’t use the P word’ rule and tweeted in a slightly less than complementary way about the Unintelligent Kill Immigration Party (you know the ones, they like real ale and dislike accurate figures), I *might* have even retweeted the suggestion that people book tickets to the public meetings and not go. And I *will* admit that I might have said that I, myself, have done this. I got a couple of negative tweets, blocked a couple of people and thought nothing else of it.

A couple days later I was reminded of my tweets. My book got 10 one star reviews within a minute or so of each other, all of them not verified purchases. Some of them were boggling. some of them just meant to upset, almost all of them badly written.

My favourites are this angry yet somehow poetic description of my chick lit as some sort of Marxist propaganda:

DO NOT BY (sic) THIS FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR RESPECT FOR HUMANITY. Absolute disgrace to literature. The left wing propaganda is just a whole other plane of madness. A true leftist hates freedom.

and this one which, if it is an ironic mis-spelling, could be pure genius.

What tripe. Honestly couldn’t believe I paid money (um…you didn’t) for the intelligible (well, thank you.) ramblings of some socially and politically illiterate dolt. Don’t even bither (sic) (snigger)

And I was linked by a friend to an infamous internet forum that is the technological equivalent of the underneath of the bridge that the Billy Goats Gruff liked to clip clop over. I was being torn to pieces as leftie scum and there was a link to my book. Mystery solved.

So I had an idea. As I don’t really do the p word thing I thought that rather than a flaming war of words I do something good. Let’s show the trolls that they make no difference, go to Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tiger-Nicola-Sheehan-ebook/dp/B00D5EYHAM), buy my book and I’ll donate my next two weeks profits to charity.

I did wonder if I could find the ‘Eastern European Builders Who Want Your Jobs LGBT Division’ to really make their troll blood boil, but instead have decided on a charity that is very dear to me, the Albert Kennedy Trust who help displaced LGBT teenagers to find help and support.

So please, buy into my ‘left wing propaganda’, let’s show the trolls and make a bit of money for an awesome charity.

http://www.akt.org.uk/

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Taking the Support Out of Employment and Support Allowance

We will say to people that if you can work, and if you want to work, we will do everything we can to help you. We will give you the training, we will give you the support, we will give you the advice to get you going and get you back at work.
David Cameron.

 

Bold and encouraging words there from our Prime Minister. Words that reassure you that systems are in place to support you if you have found yourself out of work. Words that tell you that the government’s main objective is getting the unemployed employed, getting the people living on welfare off benefits and into the workplace. Excellent. Bravo. Well said Mr Cameron.

But wait. I want to work. I’ve found a way that means I can work and yet this very morning I have walked away from a voluntary meeting at my local Job Centre Plus being told that there is nothing they can do to support me into work.

So here’s my situation. I’m a single mother. I have been since just after my son’s first birthday. When my son was three I decided that I’d had enough of trying to survive on Income Support and, much to the shock of the JCP adviser, I decided to go back to work. I had a nursing degree and had worked as a Ward Sister in a Marie Curie Hospice before the birth of my son. I got a job as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Palliative Care, I was doing what I loved, looking after patients in the NHS as they approached the end of their lives. As much as I loved my job I started to become unwell; I was having panic attacks, crippling insomnia and levels of anxiety that interfered with my ability to do my job. After a period of sick leave I was given no choice but to resign and try and concentrate on getting well. I was then back on Income Support.

My diagnosis jumped around, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and I was eventually diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder. I have been under the care of the mental health team for over two years, according to the Disabilities Act I can class myself as disabled.

The British people think that if someone is disabled, then they should get all the care and support that we can offer.
George Osborne.

When my son turned 5, in February 2013, I came off Income Support and applied for Employment and Support Allowance. The way that ESA is set up you are supposed to be at the pre-assessment level for 13 weeks and then placed in either a support group or a work group depending on your assessed work capability.

35 weeks after I started claiming ESA I was due to have an Atos assessment. I was having an especially mad few months, daily panic attacks and symptoms that frankly I’d rather not talk about here and therefore I contacted them asking for it to be rearranged. 25 weeks later and I never have received another appointment.

Recently, even though I am still under psychiatric care and I know I am not well enough to cope with the pressure of employment I have been thinking about ways the I can be self employed and therefore come off ESA. I booked my appointment to discuss what support I could get and that is what took place today.

The short answer is none. Zip. Zilch. There is a scheme called the New Enterprise Allowance, it is made for people like me. It supports you in setting up as self employed, takes you off ESA/JSA and then gives you a payment of £60 for 13 weeks and £30 for 13 weeks as you get yourself on your feet. It would be the ideal support for me as I built up my copywriting client base. Except I don’t qualify. To qualify you have to be ‘fully on ESA’, ideally in the work group. In order to be in the work group then you need to have been assessed as capable to start looking for work. The Job Centre couldn’t tell me when I might get another assessment date through. The Job Centre insisted that the government no longer using Atos was not having an effect on the time it would take to be assessed. Apparently me saying that I feel able to start doing some work, and that I want to work is not enough. So I have no choice. I can’t start working for myself, or at least if I do I have to do it with no support, no financial cushion for the first few weeks.

The system is broken. The system isn’t built to get those who want to work into work. It is built to demoralise and humiliate people. To ensnare them into a benefit trap so that they can be sneered at by the rest of the country. Excellent. Bravo. Well done Mr Cameron.

Dear JK Rowling…

Oh JK Rowling how did you keep going? I was thinking about this earlier as I printed out my freshly edited manuscript to feel the judgement of my red pen one more time. I thought about the cost of the ink and the paper and wondered what it is that makes me trust that I’m not wasting my time (or the paper or the ink).

I’m a single mother, just as you were. And, just as you were, I am bloody skint. I like writing. I’ve been told I’m quite good at it but I also have my little stack of rejection slips that whisper in my ear that I might not be.

I try to channel Sylvia Plath, use the whole ‘I love my rejection slips, they tell me that I try’ thing as my mantra but then I stop and think that ultimately Sylvia may not be a great role model.

So I look to you Joanne, how did you keep going? How did you have faith that all of the hours of writing and editing would be worth it or did you just have faith in Harry? As I read my manuscript with pen in hand one more time I try to have faith in Grimalkin Grumblepuss, *I* like her. *I* want to go on her adventures. I just need to believe that anyone else will want to.

So Ms Rowling if you have any tips to help me keep the faith please do send them my way. Please help me keep my faith that my effort is not merely a waste of paper and ink. I’d be eternally grateful.

My Son, The Agent…

After spending the afternoon editing my children’s book (Grimalkin Grumblepuss and The Case Of The Vampire Dentures-the blockbuster read for 2015!) my six year old son asked me to read some to him. I read him the first chapter and he listened, rapt. As I finished he was quiet for a few minutes before having a eureka moment: 

I know how you can make it better…

put a front cover, and a back cover on and then fix all of the pages together.

Kids can then read it themselves. They’ll love that.

Who needs a literary agent, eh?!