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August 2010
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October 2010

More on the coalition housing benefit cap

The extent to which the poor are going to not just be disadvantaged but screwed by the new housing benefits cap in London is becoming clear. This is all c/o the excellent Dave Hill on The Guardian website, btw. Today he's reported several findings:

First: The govt's own advisory panel report (pdf link) suggests almost unreadable numbers of people will be evicted from their London homes because of this measure. It's terrible to read. People who for whatever reason live in Westminster will on average have to find an extra £260 per week. Per week! or face eviction. Children uprooted from their schools and friends, desperate search for somewhere that will have them at a rate under the cap... a while back on here I was worried about poverty strapped private landlord ghetto housing. I'd say the likelihood of that is high.

Second: The Guardian comments on a survey of Westminster landlords, 60% of whom suggest that they will not take their rents down as a result. So that doesn't mean that those in say, Lambeth will but there is always, *always* pent up demand in London for housing. There is no need for London landlords to put agree reduced rent.

This measure upsets me so much. The pressure on London housing is immense, and there is no simple quick fix to solve it. this isn't even a band-aid, in fact, it's the polar opposite. It's a pick axe, telling those on benefits that you're not welcome in 'affluent' London. You must be banished to the suburbs, away from the place you grew up, away from the place you lived before you were made redundant in the downturn which you did not cause. you must hide in soul crushing shit housing which will destroy your self esteem and reduce the life chances of your children.

All of those things, instead of building houses. Instead of having incentive schemes to move out of London to other cities (such as they had in Ireland for a while). This is a Thatcherite way of dealing with a problem. A solution, with absolutely no empathy for those fucked up by it. Let's not forget, any one of us living in London could be stuck in this trap if we lost our jobs.

It's the most awful, awful thing. I hate them with all my heart.


A wonderful, low key sort of day

Nora and i were on our own Saturday / Sunday and we couldn't go and visit 'new baby cousin' because children other than immediate siblings aren't allowed to visit the maternity ward. I say, what a disgrace. So, I asked Nora - what would you like to do that doesn't cost the earth?

The answer was to go on the Thames Clipper for a trip down to Greenwich. The clipper is a wonderful addition to the city, that really opens the place up. I love going on it, and it takes a minuscule amount of time to get to it. London Bridge from Streatham, 5 minute walk and a random wait. When we got to Greenwich the tide was out, and there were a few people rooting around in the stones for Victorian crockery bits. We decided to join them, so spent an hour or so scrapping about in the mud, claiming a decent haul of 17th century-odd clay pipes (well, the stems) and many bits of broken crockery, some from old stone jars. There were also a *ridiculous* number of animal bones. And I mean... a lot. What the hell? The only possible thing I could think of is that they were the bones of dead dogs, and not ancient ones either. Another peculiar and unexpected thing was many, and I mean MANY very very old Oyster shells. Not unexpected given a couple of minutes thought but seeing them all down there was a surprise.

We then trundled around Greenwich market for a while, finding an utterly lovely boardgames shop and a multitude of Christmas present options, had some delicious very home made tasting ice cream then began to toddle back home. All of this on a crisp but delightfully sunny day, as the summer was eeking itself out and becoming Autumn.

Today I mailed what I think is the right department of the museum of London, who do have a service which you can book to have people review your mudlarking finds and you never know, we might be able to go and talk to someone about the bits in half term. Nora meanwhile took her safely stored crockery and pipes to school to show her teacher.

It was a nigh on perfect day with my lovely girl.


I 'made' a thing

In the usual run of things, I didn't make it - many people made it. Jawad Ahmed did a great job in design and Thom Heslop managed to make sense of a ragbag of disparate elements, to make what was basically a shambles in to a well ordered and structured suite of tools for Orange customers.

I, being me, wanted to go the whole hog down the branding route, and have a black site, with all images black backgrounded and the design structure accommodating enough to give things (on section front pages at least) a fluid, almost hand-built feel - as if it wasn't being generated from a CMS in to a formal blocked out piece of real estate. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) I did not win the day but at least my insistence that black is good had some influence. the thing I like about black is that it gives what we traditionally call "white space" much more visibility. Actual 'white' space we tend to discount and ignore, unless the design is very clever at creating that floating sense of calm that you want from backgrounds. With black, one is forced in to recognising backgrounds immediately, and conversely, the text of course becomes super-important, and you want it to be as minimal as possible. I've always tried to do slides on black or at least, not white for exactly those reasons.

Anyway, I started it in May, and it is, as I said to someone earlier today, the size of a small town. It gives us room to grow our tools suite without breaking the structure - given that as part of it we have allowed single concepts to sit alongside aggregate ones dependent on the importance of the tool.

I'm pleased with it.  My next thing is a lovely project with Orange's Corporate Responsibility team, helming the product management of an iPhone app suite thing for volunteering, which should be a lot of fun. Going to iPhone first then Android, hopefully in a swifter time frame than originally thought.

I don't often talk about work, do I? There you are, I have now.

There are things that have come out a bit funny in the CMS, and a relatively new way we've worked out to make some small areas of text work better, so for the next few days I'm going to be post-launch tweaking. Feel free to suggest anything bar major changes in navigation ;)


I'll become the tree

James said something the other night which is all part of him reaching more understanding of what happens, why it happens, and what will happen... in terms of death.

-Mummy?

Yes my lovely?

-When I die, will I lie next to you in the ground?

(Heart crumbles in to pieces, internal jaw is peeled off the floor of my brain and I search for the right answer, desperately).

The answer is to talk about when I die, they'll put me in the ground and plant a tree on top of me, so the tree will suck me up and I'll become the tree. The tree will be me and you can sit under me, and come and visit. You could even use me to make furniture out of, and sit down on me! A long, long time later you can, of course you can be next to me.

-And I'll be on one side, and Nora on the other, and Daddy on the top?

My lovely boy, of course. But it won't happen for a long, long time.

Heh. Maybe.

It's the first time he's mentioned death for ages though. For a while, he would bring it up alot, trying to get around Grandad John not being around, why Nora remembers him but he doesn't, and why he died. It was fine for him to ask those questions, and I never minded answering but it was a little bit wearing after a while. I think now he's sort of got his head around it a bit more, albeit in a somewhat extreme fashion.


Doing the 50km bike ride

I dood it. That's the first thing. The second thing: it didn't half kill me. That's very interesting and positive. In order to get to the start, I had to cycle about 12 miles to richmond, which was somewhat of a bind. It worried me a little, given that it's longer than my usual cycle to work, before I'd even started.

Kicking off at about 10.20 I cycled for most of the time in that "barely putting any pressure at all on the pedals" type way - a little like treading water. My commuter irritation at slowness in front did get the better of me sometimes and I did overtake people but always only going at a certain level.

The weather was deceptive - it felt cool on the bike, because there was a bit of a breeze but slowing down, I realised that it was warm and humid. Everyone was sweating, but the breeze made it look less obvious. The weather forecast had been for 23 degrees so I'd brought 2 water bottles with me filled with half water / half apple juice and Good God that was a good idea. I drank through 3/4's of the whole lot by the end, and yet later when I went to the loo, I barely passed a thing. All of that water had just burned away.

there were various stopping points for refreshments and at every one I saw many people stopping off, but I didn't feel like it so carried on. On the way to Richmond I'd stopped off at Sainsburys to buy the apple juice for my drink bottles, a handful of bananas and a breakfast bar which I ate as a booster just before the ride started, so at a certain point - I think basically noon, I stopped briefly and ate a banana. I drank obviously on the go. The route was mostly lovely - either by the river or through a gorgeous forest - on the road. So excellent, cycling through beautiful overhanging tree corridors. It was surprising how the cyclists pulled apart, meaning that for many stretches I was cycling on my own. I realised fairly early on that in fact, not cycling in a team meant I had no worries about sticking together, or indeed, feeling that I should stop off at any point.

At 29 miles, about 1pm, I stopped and had another banana. I think that was possibly a mistake. My legs felt utterly dreadful getting back on but there again, had I not, would I have felt so good cycling the last stretch? I had a ton of energy left, and I'd sped up gradually through the ride, as I passed more and more riders - beginning to realise how fit I really was. There was a bitch of a couple of hills around the 9 & 8 mile mark then suddenly, beautifully a delightful present from the people organising the route - a massive downhill slope, taking me almost all the way in to Old Windsor, then another. And this is where I really realised how much energy I had left - and felt slightly annoyed with myself, thinking I could have done the ride differently, and been a hell of alot quicker. The huge hills coming in to Windsor meant I was about 15 minutes quicker than I thought, so I looked in vain for the kids, etc at the finish line. Delightfully, there were people there cheering everyone who came through. Nice.I finished at 13.10. Three hours ten minutes.

Then Chip. Oh. Salty, delicious chips. That first chip like manna from heaven. And there they were. David finding me first, reasoning that if he'd just finished a long ride, he'd either want a beer or chips! The kids smiling, me showing them my medal.

So how would I do it differently? I think doing the first section at a mild pace is still a good idea - you're in London, the roads are a bit faffy. But, it's possible I think to put a bit of a pace on at 15 miles and pick it up properly. I'm thinking that if I really 'listened' to my legs, and felt what power was available, as opposed to plodding on lightly to conserve energy I could get the ride down to probably 2 hours 40, if not 2 hrs 30. Particularly if I actually managed to do some proper training.

...and if I had a proper road bike... swoon.

After effects? Part of the reason to do the Richmond/Windsor was because Tod lives in Windsor - hallelujah! A hot bath during which I massaged my muscles as much as possible. I did feel progressively more and more like a 90 year old for the rest of the day, and have overslept 2 days running while my body recovers but there I was, back on the bike Monday morning to go to work feeling... okay. Not dreadful. Surprisingly reasonable. Which leads me again to the conclusion that, damn - I'm a hell of a lot fitter than I think.

But as well as the surprising nature of that revelation, how about - blimey, the thought of me, joining in something like that - crazy! Joining in a 50k bike ride and realising that it wasn't too bad!

Astonishing.

Next stop 100k?


Give me (approx £10 of) your money

Please!

Tomorrow morning I am cycling 50km for the British Heart Foundation. That equates to 38 miles - plus a further 9 miles to get from my house to Richmond Park. So in fact it's more like about 63km. Which I'm hoping will go without a hitch, which may be a little bit optimistic given that I've barely been able to go on the bike in the last fortnight for illness and looking after the kids reasons.

However! I'm sure I'll be able to do it. Might be a bit wobbly afterwards. It's a charity run from Richmond to Windsor, where thank the lord harry there'll be a Mother with a shower, as well as two small monkeys and their Dad to cheer me on. It's for the British Heart Foundation, who, touch wood, I have never had the urgent need to call upon and with any luck I will not have to. Certainly, cycling 63km may well help with the old heart health.

Cycling has saved me from myself. I eat too much (but I like good food, you see, that's the thing) and I sit at a desk all day. In 2008 I was struggling to maintain the front that I was a size 20 (UK sizing), despite my inability to get in to most of the clothes. I can't say I'm a size 12 now, but whilst I do still have chunky legs, that's more down to muscle, these days.

So help validate my meagre existence, internet visitor, by visiting my fundraising page and chip in a few quid to the BHF at the same time. And that includes you, mysterious "What should I have in my house" blog post visitors!

And thanks. I've been looking forward to doing this ride for two years. I'm crossing my fingers I won't have a puncture within 5 minutes of starting.

Yes, I will give some dosh to Cait to celebrate having strong legs and beating being a miserable depressed person by the means of pedalling

No, I won't. How dare you assume that a long cycle ride justifies fleecing your blog visitors.