Running Man…

‘Strip, hang your clothes on the hook, remember the number on the hook and give it to the orderly,don’t worry about your valuables, no one in here wants them.’
#Running Man (Stephen King)

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Since 2008, a severe economic crisis (EC) has characterized the European Union (E.U.). The countries most severely impacted were those countries whose banking systems have been most exposed to the economic crisis; i.e., Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. However, there is growing evidence that the effects are seen well beyond these countries impacting a broad set of social, economic and health domains. It is within this context that the 2010 EMCDDA Annual Report noted that economic slowdown has produced “fears that this may be accompanied by an increase in problematic forms of drug use”.

~ European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction

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It took me two months to secure a Universal Credit payment but that’s probably not unusual (I haven’t spoken to anybody else so I wouldn’t know). I do know that it took far longer to get a payment of Universal Credit from the DWP than would have been the case had I been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.

As if that were not bad enough there appears to be a two tier system operating whereby, if you opt to go self-employed you are enrolled onto the jobseeker allowance/employment support benefits system and are dealt with far more expediently.The two tier system doesn’t feel so unjust if like me you were living at home with a pensioner at the time you claimed. If you have a family to feed and then find yourself having to wait months and months for a housing cost and living costs payment,that’s another story.

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The point it seems is to differentiate between the deserving and undeserving poor. The deserving poor will see the wisdom of becoming self-employed (only to be eventually taxed into destitution by a very determined Conservative government, determined that is to evade holding wealthy taxpayers to account). The undeserving will accept the fallacy that there are plenty of well paying full-time jobs out there if they are prepared to work, and resign themselves to all the hoops & punishments the government foists on them to ‘motivate them to embrace the work ethic’.

That seems to be the idea, but the idea ignores what happens to a nation when a collapsed economy fails to reboot and then gets walloped by a government referendum result that has gone totally pear shaped as Brexit has.

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What happens to parents under pressure to pay off those credit cards (they could once barely afford), keep up those utility bill payments, make the mortgage and desperately hunt down any & every viable job opportunity.

What happens to young men & women just out of local academy schools and stuck in neighbourhoods out in places (parts of South London), where no effort has really been made to build the kind of infrastructure, that would draw businesses and so create jobs.What happens isn’t just a surge in hate crimes, there will also be a resultant surge in alcohol and drug abuse.

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The industrial collapse of the 1980s, the 1990s economic recession and the 2008 recession have all caused surges in drug sales, drug use and drug abuse and not just amongst adults.Walk into any supermarket and the same can be said of alcohol, saunter along the aisles selling cheaper booze and from the way it’s packaged it’s hard to tell whether or not these are children’s drinks stuck in the wrong supermarket aisle.

Booze sells well during periods of economic stagnation and uncertainty and so does drugs. Look at the 2016 increases in violent and sex crime, the increase in antisocial behaviour and you’ll start to wonder if there’s a link to increases in drug and alcohol abuse.

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Where there’s a market you will find as many sellers as buyers. Such has been the case in Glasgow, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Liverpool.

In the past ‘tough on crime & tough on the causes of crime’ mean’t that the police were funded extensively by the government and allowed to get on with tackling Britain’s drug cartels and the resulting social disorder.

Nowadays? Police numbers are down 16,000, neighbourhood policing numbers are down 6,000, the number of police detectives is short by 17,000 & policing budgets have suffered cuts and are due to suffer £160m more in budget cuts.

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So let us be clear what we are talking about when we talk a surge in drug & alcohol abuse and the attendant problems, as well as future depleted police numbers and the looming £160m worth of budget cuts to policing, which will lead to further reductions in the numbers of police officers Britain has on the ground.

An armed police officer attends the scene of a knife attack in Russell Square in London

We are talking a future increase in unimpeded serious organised crime, we’re talking deaths and physical injuries (police & civilian) that might have been avoided.We’re talking a surge in the numbers of honest, cold sober law abiding parents that didn’t choose this (the drug dealers/gang members life) and yet find themselves with a dead (and innocent child on their hands), or with a kid they will have to decide to support through a court case, and then visit for the next ten years in prison.

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We’re talking academy schools having to deal with stressed staff increasingly taking days off sick may and also having to fork out money for school security (drug dealers have been known to murder their rivals in the most inappropriate places). Vast council estates (oh yes England & in particular Central London has them) that may suddenly become totally off-limits to the police, and the increasing use of ‘private security armies’ for those who are affluent enough to be able to afford them. We’re talking a return to the extensive utilisation of ‘snouts’ criminals within local communities, as the funding of extensive intelligence gathering, perfected by our police service, is hived off and then privatized by this government.

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We’re also talking a drop in church numbers, would I care to attend an evangelical church that is passionate about everything except the increasing impact of gang & drugs crime on my children? I don’t think so.

 

Quotes On Corruption (21)

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An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle?

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Normally I’d write five hundred words or so on the human condition but pictures speak louder than words. The things that are missed when you’re homeless and a woman? Toiletries, the ability to smell nice and feminine and not half washed. Some days you’ll have an uninterrupted place to wash, like if you find a place in a shelter, but on other days it’s a case of finding a vacant and empty toilet washroom, and even if it’s empty when you enter, it doesn’t stay that way.

Hanging clothes in a wardrobe, pure luxury once you acquire a home (if you have), it’s nice not to have to choose between wearing a wax printed cotton dress (which crumples) or lycra dresses and leggings. Security, women on the street outside of London look like crap for a reason, it’s safer having matted hair and a dirty face around homeless guys who are frustrated in every way it is possible to be frustrated.

The joy of having a home to walk into on a freezing cold night or on a night when it’s pouring with rain (as it was just the other day) indescribable.

The stats on homelessness in London? There have been increases in rough sleeping above the national average with an increase of 16%. There has been a year upon year increase in people sleeping rough for the past six years. 

After Westminster, the highest incidences of rough sleeping were recorded in Brighton and Hove (144), Cornwall (99), Manchester (78), Luton (76), Bristol (74), Croydon (68), Redbridge (60), Bedford (59) and Birmingham (55).

Just 6,856 affordable homes were built in 2014-15, with Richmond building just five, says GLA months before the mayoral election. 

The total number of homes that have been taken out of council control under the government’s ‘right to buy’ policy (which means that if you are homeless local councils can’t ride to the rescue with government built housing?) well over a million homes, only 6-7,000 of which have been replaced, hence the housing crisis in London.

Enjoy the photographic gallery….It says it all.

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Nine towers of deteriorating housing lines Wolvercote Road in Greenwich it has been proposed they be demolished but if they are where will these residents live? London has no affordable housing to replace this!

 

The First Casualty Is Innocence

 

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Walk past Sainsburys, the yellow building (a new build of private flats), and the grey building that looks like an airport terminal but isn’t (remember the airport terminal from the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’?), and you’re in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Head ten minutes in the opposite direction and you’re in the Borough of Bexley. But then I discover that Lesnes Abbey Nature Reserve (ten minutes in the other direction) is actually in Abbeywood.

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Thamesfield could be the preserve of Bexley Borough, this is what all the residential rubbish bins have printed on their sides, but if that is the case, why is there a Royal Borough of Greenwich Library down the road?

Trying to figure out why nobody seems to outright own the nine towers of Wolverton Rd (in Thamesfield) is as frustrating as trying to make ends meet on Universal Credit. I am a single person, this is a good thing, with £40.00 I can food shop for the whole month eat and still wind up looking like a high fashion clothes horse (size 18 shrinking to a size 12). The smaller I get the cheaper my clothes become, wonderful!

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As for Universal Credit housing costs, who knew that as a single person I am actually entitled to a far higher amount for housing costs than would be the case if I was part of a couple?

But I have to wonder? Nutritious food is a necessary for concentration and creative thinking, particularly when you’re young. So how on earth did we wind up with impoverished, half-starved youngsters living (with their families) in council housing, creative enough to acquire safe houses and machine guns to guard their drug dealing? Even with that degree of creativeness how on earth did they acquire the money needed to gain possession of safe houses and guns? Even with the safe houses and the guns, how on earth did they acquire such significant amounts of drugs?

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Did you know that on one estate (recently) police had to patrol the area with firearms after a spate of shootings, and that on another a police operation netted 1/10 living on the estate who were involved in drugs & gang culture?

Did you know that England has it’s own stash of millionaire drug dealers? No? And this despite all the intensive and extensive investment made by three separate Labour Governments to combat the problem of drugs and the cartels.

The more I think about all these things the more confused I get (and hungry).

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I have discovered that eating Japanese influenced food means I get more energy for my pound, for example a half a small pack of Korean noodles steeped in tomato sauce from a can of sardines, plus a sardine and a half and some beans is very nutritious and energy giving. In fact a half small pack of noodles prepared in this way can provide me with three cheap meals, wonderful! Each time I shop for food  I feel a surge of jubilation, I am a cost effective shopper, it’s just that I keep on losing all this weight. Ah well, must dash! Today I visit the dentist for the first time in two years!

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Even The Black Bird..

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This morning I was surprised to see a black bird swoop into and out of a circuit box affixed to an apartment on the Thamesfield Estate, this was the Thames Mere section of the estate which has now been emptied and is in the process of being demolished. It reminded me that God’s creation will pretty much make a home anyplace it views to be warm, safe and secure.

Concrete boxes piled one on top of another, constructed with an economy sized balcony but no front or back garden. Plush looking housing estates with communal gardens which do not permit the playing of basketball or football. No matter the inconveniences built in by a government rubber stamping projects on the basis of ‘any housing is good housing’, people will take the properties they’re offered on the basis of safety and security first and artistic beauty later.

Witness the plethora of security guards driving and patrolling around projects which have yet to be completed and you’ll know this to be the case and it’s a fallacy. Cubitt Square in Kings Cross, has been built right across the road from an estate fronted by apartments with barred wrought iron anti-burglary gates protecting their porches. There has been an issue with burglary orientated crime in this area for some time.

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When Thamesfield was first built in the 1970s it was considered to be a safe and secure place and it still is pretty much. Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was filmed in part on this location because it was considered (at the time) to be aesthetically beautiful, a symbol of things to come.

True, Thamesmere (in Thamesfield) and Corralina Walk have now been emptied and will be rebuilt, because of associations with drug dealing and drug addiction, but then under 40% of resident adults are in full-time employment, 11.7% work part-time and 30% have been classified as being economically inactive. Let us also not forget that Brexit looms on the horizon, things have been hard and if these negotiations go as many have predicted, things are destined to get even harder for those already struggling in places like Thamesmere, Greenwich.

Where Exactly Is Thamesfield?

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Lesnes Abbey Park, Abbeywood, Thamesfield, Greenwich

On Sunday I needed to figure out how to travel from Thamesfield in Greenwich to Bexley Heath Jobcentre on foot, so I did a dry run and it nearly killed me. At 6:40am on a Monday morning I steeled myself for a second walk into Bexley Heath (via Erith) and that went much better. I timed both walks, the first took me about four hours each way, the second attempt reduced my journey by two hours. I ‘Googled’ the distance this morning, Google Search maintains that the journey from Abbeywood to Bexley Heath should only take one hour and six minutes, I did try Googling the distance from Thamesfield to Bexley Heath Job Centre, but Google appears not to know where Thamesfield (in Greenwich) is.

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Thamesfield Estate, Greenwich, in the 1970s

For some reason unemployed people residing on the council estate of Thamesfield (North Thamesfield, South Thamesfield etc…It has it’s own bus route), frequently find themselves sent to the Bexley Heath Jobcentre when in fact their nearest jobcentre is in Woolwich. All well and good if you have the money but Thamesfield is in a borough which has the fifth highest unemployment rate in London. It’s a place where young couples have consciously made the choice whether to feed the children or feed themselves. A place where no one has to try to get fashionably thin or fit either. On my journey back out to Bexley on Monday morning, I espied a pallid looking young woman with unfashionably rock hard muscular calves, she clearly walked a great deal.

Walk through Abbey Wood to Low Road and you will encounter the one and only Sikh Temple where the local community traditionally provide a communal meal after worship. Walk further still and you will encounter several working mens’ clubs (still functioning), a little further and you will encounter Battle Road and then Pembroke Road passing into Fraser Road which leads you past the near defunct town of Erith, and up towards Bexley Heath. Bexley Heath is a wonder and a puzzle, with it’s beautiful, pristine churches, carefully cultivated front gardens, comfy middle class homes, and a whole brace of bargain basement stores and charity shops selling second hand clothes at severely reduced prices.

It doesn’t bristle with anger in quite the way that Northumberland Heath (just down the concrete road) does. But then I struggle to wonder why, because it’s patently obvious that the poverty infecting and affecting other parts of Greenwich has also made its mark here.

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Zac Goldsmith visiting Northumberland Heath during his mayoral campaign

Having finally arrived at the jobcentre, lost my temper with an admin manager and been tossed out into the cold, I re-entered once more, meekly, (if you know me you’ll know how hard that was!). There are over 44 desks on the Universal Credit floor and I find myself seated at desk 42 right alongside another equally irritated claimant (a young man spoiling for a punch-up with a security guard, whilst seated in front of a claims’ advisor).

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The William Morris Clock Tower in Bexley Heath

Three days ago (in place of having a meal since I’m short on cash at the moment) I read an article about the murder of Ben Fasina, one of the murder defendants (22 years old) claimed he earned £3,200.00 a month dealing drugs. Today I read another article in the Evening Standard based on Lambeth’s Councils prior research, stating that drug dealers were earning on average £19,000 a year dealing drugs (twice the minimum wage). 

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Evening Standard Headline: Who earns the most? A Goldman Sachs Banker or a Drug Dealer?

Universal Credit so I am told is no longer an entitlement, paid for when you are working, but an optional right, predicated on your own aggressively demonstrated enthusiasm to work, no matter if the work is temporary (leading to you claiming benefits three to six months later) or casual and therefore unreliable. To remain deservingly poor you must nowadays forgo your dignity and your pride and be prepared to jump through as many hoops as the government chooses on a whim, to create. This is all well and good for patient, longsuffering and much older folk who have lived through more than one set of tough times, and raised children in them and through them, but in South London? With the young? This approach just isn’t working.

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