Tuesday 21 November 2017

The Seven, Or So, Ages of Man | a 'story'

I am more than 2/3rds of the way through a November writing challenge: write a short story every day of the month. I few of my pieces have an overtly political focus including this one I wrote yesterday. It's about austerity and other injustices. 

The Seven, Or So, Ages of Man

On the morning Robert (Bobby) Adam Wilkes is born the mid-Manchester hospital where he is delivered is feeling the strain. With winter on the way there has already been a rise in admissions, with the growth in need likely to increase even further in the coming weeks.  In addition, as it’s early on Saturday morning, the hospital has not yet recovered from the Friday night rush. To add even more to the pressure – with more and more healthcare professionals leaving the NHS plus a serious problem in recruitment, including of midwives – the maternity unit (in line with other departments across the hospital) is understaffed.  Despite all of this the staff pass none of the strain they are feeling onto Bobby’s parents and by breakfast time the proud new dad is ringing round to let family and friends know that ‘mother and baby are doing well.’

Robbie Jones can’t think of anything worse to do on a Saturday than visit a new baby in hospital. But mum has promised that they can get a taxi to the pitch after they have coochy-cooed (why do adults do that?) his new cousin who is named after great grandpa just like him. So he shouldn’t be late for the match. Well he hopes not. Everyone thought that the school league wouldn’t happen this year but the dads and mums from schools across the city all chipped in to buy kit and pay for the hire of the coaches needed to travel to away-matches. Robbie saw his mum give some money to Ms Kelly the other day. He thinks that was for art stuff. He doesn’t like art much but his brother does.

The hospital pick up is Robeel Baqri’s last fare before he can get some much needed sleep. The Friday overnight shift is a good one because he has only one lecture that day and can get a bit of kip beforehand. He has an essay to write this weekend and so could have done with not working but he doesn’t want to end his degree with any more debt than what he will owe for his student fees. He wasn’t on the rota the night of the attack at Manchester Arena but like most of his cabbie colleagues he got in his car and ferried young concert goers and others around the city and beyond for several hours. His weariness, coupled with the sorrow he felt, nearly reduced him to tears, when on his way home a group of lads, not much younger than him, shouted: ‘Why don’t you go back where you come from? We don’t want you here.’ Right then Robeel would have given anything to be ‘back home’ in Bradford giving his little sister a cuddle. Walking on with his head down he flinched when an older man touched his shoulder. ‘Sorry mate, sorry, just wanted to say, take no notice of that lot. Ignorant, absolutely ignorant.’

Running a little late after stopping for a chat with his mate Robeel, who he met the morning after May’s horrific terror attack, Robert John Phillips (R. J. for as long as he can remember) hurries into school to change into his shirt and boots. He loves his primary school teaching job, including all the extra-curricular activities and is enjoying all the preparation for the Winter Festival as much as the Kidz League refereeing.  He knows he is one of the lucky ones, having secured the position before graduation. R. J. is anxious for the future though, for even on his, and his police-officer partner’s, comparatively good wages, he cannot imagine how they will ever save enough for a down-payment on a home of their own.  Not surprising the seven year public sector pay gap and its impact is a regular, if not popular, topic of conversation in the staffroom.

After cheering on the twins at their Saturday morning match Rob Grannum drops them home and travels straight on to work. His two jobs – fulltime on the building site and three evenings a week in a local pub – plus the hours that Louise does at the supermarket means that this year they will be able to afford a few Christmas presents for Jenny and Paul. This is a huge relief after last year when his zero hours contract for a rival construction company was often close to just that: zero hours. Counting his blessings Rob thinks back to the conversation he had last night with the Scottish guy he’d not seen in the pub before. Life is so shit for so many people right now.
Rabbie Campbell is worried. Yesterday was his last day at the factory and he has very little left in the bank. He’s heard others say that everyone is only ever one pay-check away from homelessness but naively never thought it could happen to him. Good at his job he’d risen to floor manager but this could not protect him from the ‘Brexit effect’ already impacting on some industries. He went online last night to put in his application for Universal Credit and was shocked to discover it can take up to six weeks for first payment to be received. With this in mind he probably shouldn’t have gone to the pub but the drink dulled his fears for a little while and he’s slept quite a bit of one day away. Opening his post Rabbie comes across a flyer from one of the city’s homeless shelters asking for a donation, the irony of which is not lost on him.

Feeling the cold just a little Bob Bolitho puts his collection tin down in order to rub his hands together. Having recently retired he is keen to do his bit for society. If he’s honest he’s not sure how he feels about charity donating. Given that the UK has the 5th or 6th – the politicians can’t seem to make their minds up - richest economy in the world shouldn’t the state be providing for those in need? His friends know not to get him started on this topic nor the issue of tax avoidance and evasion.  But having paid his dues throughout his working life Bob feels justified in his anger at this, and the threatened closure of his local library, and the reported rise in people both attempting and completing suicide, and the rising number of people living on the streets, and so on and more etc. etc., blah di blah di bloody blah. This is why he’s doing what he’s doing today. It makes him feel just a little bit better.

Having given a small handful of change to the chap collecting for homeless folk Robert Kowalski enters the bank to deposit a portion of his pension. When his beautiful wife Margita died last year he’d expected the pain of her loss but not the penury from the cost of her burial. Of course they’d seen the adverts on telly for funeral plans but had preferred to save as they’d always done. He’s pretty sure that the pay-out from any one of the celebrity promoted plans wouldn’t have covered the bill anyway given that -  he knows now but didn’t then - funeral costs have risen every year for well over a decade and in just one year between 2015 and 2016 increased ten times more than the cost of living. Not wanting to burden his children with a similar financial responsibility Robert – he’s always corrected anyone who has tried to shorten his name – has, for the last few months, been putting by a little extra each week.

Bert Edwards picks the already read but carefully refolded copy of the Manchester Evening News up from the hall mat. Mr Kowalski – they’ve been neighbours for years but remain on family name terms – always drops his through his letter box towards the end of the afternoon. Increasingly Bert’s not sure he really wants to read the paper as it seems that every day there is more bad news. Today, the local items on cuts to public services, on cases of crime motivated by hate and the list of items required by the city based food-banks upset him a lot. On the day on which he becomes a great grandpa for the fourth time he should be celebrating Bobby’s arrival not fretting about his future and the world in which he will grow up in. Putting the paper aside Bert picks up the paperwork he was previously reading. It looks like the only way he can cover the costs of the care home he’s considering is to put the house on the market. . . . 

Today's effort isn't as explicitly political but .... My prompt for this one was Anti-Bullying Week (13th-17th November) and you may recognise the title from the late Jo Cox MP's maiden speech. Here's the link if you'd like to read More in Common

Monday 13 November 2017

Loneliness - Austerity - Kindness (some connections) | and a story (Kind Hearts and Brunettes)

In September I wrote a short story about random acts of kindness. Follow this link for the tale and for some detail on the TwentyFour Stories project; a significant act of kindness indeed.  https://www.abctales.com/story/gletherby/random-acts

For World Kindness Day (13thNovember) I decided to develop the story of one of the characters in my original tale a little further. Also, in my mind, as I was writing were various articles I have read suggesting that loneliness in the UK is becoming an epidemic. In 2012 Patrick Butler wrote of the link between austerity, isolation and loneliness: 

We suspected austerity was going to be bad, but we didn't know how bad. Now, as services are withdrawn and benefit changes come into force, we are beginning to find out…. Researchers interviewed more than 70 vulnerable people living in the borough [of Camden], focusing on three groups: disabled residents and carers; young people; and families on low incomes….

A disturbing theme to emerge was the prevalence of fear and uncertainty. Words such as "isolation," and "loneliness" recur, especially in relation to families with children aged under five, and disabled people "trapped" at home by cuts. The threat of being uprooted from the borough (which has the fourth highest private sector housing rents in the UK) by housing benefit caps provoked terror. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/jul/17/despair-loneliness-austerity-britain

Here then the argument is that austerity can lead to loneliness (along with other material, social and emotional inequalities). More recently others have written about this with reference to the lack of and impact on essential services.  Here is a quote from an anonymously authored piece on the importance of libraries (many of which are currently under threat of closure):  

… libraries are so much more than books. They have ebooks, audio books, academic journals, online resources, online driving tests, genealogy research. They play host to art classes, carpet bowls, tea dances, cafes, dementia support sessions. They provide a space for carers to meet, and people to be part of a community when they may otherwise be socially isolated. I’ve lost count of the number of customers who have told me, “You are the only person I have spoken to all day”. https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2016/feb/06/library-visitors-austerity-job-applications-loneliness

And here some quotes from an article on the significance of loneliness both to our health and wellbeing and to the current pressure that the NHS is under:

The estimated 1.1 million Britons to be lonely are 50% more likely to die prematurely than people with a good social network….

 “Social isolation and loneliness are akin to a chronic long-term condition in terms of the impact they have on our patients’ health and wellbeing,” ....

“GPs see patients, many of whom are widowed, who have multiple health problems like diabetes, hypertension and depression, but often their main problem isn’t medical, [it’s that] they’re lonely.” ….

“Loneliness can sometime be the face of more serious underlying issues and should not be disregarded as a minor problem. GPs should be alert to any underlying mental health problems such as depression,” said Caroline Abraham, Age UK’s charity director. GPs should do more to direct lonely people to services that can support them, she added.

NHS England agreed with the RCGP chief that GPs spending time with lonely people was a good use of their time.

“Older people can sometimes decide to soldier on through illness, which can then lead to more serious health problems,” a spokesman said. . . .

But Stokes-Lampard added that GPs needed to have less pressurised schedules so that they had enough “time to care” for socially isolated patients.

Other research by the Campaign to End Loneliness found that 52% of lonely people miss being together with someone, 51% miss laughing with someone and 46% miss not having a hug.   https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/12/loneliness-as-bad-for-health-as-long-term-illness-says-gps-chief

In my story my aim is to highlight how loneliness is an everyday experience for many and to reflect on how small kindnesses can make a difference. My intention is NOT to suggest that such acts should replace political change. For as we increasingly know austerity isn't working: 


The story begins thus: 

Kind Hearts and Brunettes

Since Lou’s death, twelve long years ago, Mick has lived alone. Each other’s first love they hadn't spent a night apart for more than four decades when she died. He feels her loss keenly; still. The children keep in touch but the contact is somewhat sporadic. They all three live far away with their respective families and Mick sees them only on high days and holidays and not always then. They’re busy after all. Even when they do meet up it’s rare that the whole clan, which includes seven grandchildren, all get together. Mick wouldn’t admit it to any of his loved ones, or indeed anyone else, but he is lonely a lot of the time. On occasion he weeps a little and has thought about telling his doctor about this out of character behaviour. But not wanting to waste her time he keeps it to himself. . . . 

If you would like to read more - it's not very long - please go to: https://www.abctales.com/story/gletherby/kind-hearts-and-brunettes

Saturday 11 November 2017

Homes, Homelessness, Poppies and Patriotism

This month I’m participating in a writing challenge – a short story a day for the whole of the month. I’ve posted one on this blog previously. No Room at the Infirmary http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/no-room-at-infirmary-and-other-stories.html

Here are a couple more (linked stories) with a political focus.

I wrote Remember, Remember …. on the 5th

Remember, remember when it was only kids, proudly displaying a man made of paper, dressed in dad’s old clothes, that people gave money to on the streets. That was before an increased awareness of stranger danger; the favouring of the North America fancy dress accompanied candy-fest over bonfires and apple bobbing; and a more nuanced understanding of the gunpowder treason and plot.

I was one such child.

My sister was lauded by all as ‘the artistic one’ so it was she who was responsible for the PENNY FOR THE GUY sign, decorated with colourful drawings of firecrackers, Catherine wheels and fountains. Susan also had the job of painting Guy’s face. But, I could stuff as well as the next boy and I made sure that no newspapers were thrown out for weeks before. Complete with our effigy we’d walk into town, via the seafront, every afternoon once school was over and early on Saturday morning, for two weeks prior to bonfire night. We generally did pretty well and we always had enough to buy sparklers and some toffee to supplement the box of fireworks and the potatoes to bake our parents brought to the party.

Remember, remember the war that, many argue, won a prime minister and her government a further term or two in power. But less of the consequences of that and more of long-term personal impacts of conflict. Once abandoned HMS Sheffield continued to burn for six days until it sank. Twenty crew members were lost and more than that number suffered serious physical injuries. Others, lots of others, from that battle, from all the battles during the conflict, were left with wounds not visible to the naked eye. Post-traumatic stress disorder; just one of the legacies of military activity for more men and women than we like to admit.

I was and I am one such man.

My mental scars influenced by life from then on; my choice to leave the service, my inability to hold down a job, my increasing awkwardness in both intimate and acquaintance relationships. I felt such guilt you see. Guilt for my survival. Guilt for the opportunities which ironically I was ultimately unable to make the best of. Finding joy in nothing and in nobody I retreated from the individuals and the things I once loved. Even now when I experience a little pleasure from the kindness of strangers, an occasional hot meal, an overheard snatch of once beloved music I push it away; unworthy as I feel that I am.

Remember, remember when you next pass by a homeless person on the streets or in the park that you too, or someone you cherish, might be one experience, one crisis, one pay packet away from a life with no security and little comfort. Remember too that an estimated one in ten rough sleepers are thought to be from a service background.

I am one such statistic.

Poppy is today’s story

It’s my birthday today.

I’m eight years old.

My name is Poppy Rogers.

I was born at twenty past nine in the morning on November the 11th. Mum said if I’d waited a little longer we’d have scored a hat-trick. I think that’s a funny thing to say.  

Last year I had a party but this year I am going to a restaurant for a pizza instead. My friend Beth is coming with me. Mum is taking us but not coming in. I’m going to text her on my new mobile phone when we have finished our pudding. She says she’s going to go for a walk in the park to see the ducks. It’s raining so she’ll probably wear her old mac. Nan bought the phone for me as my birthday present and it’s got a whole five pounds worth of credit on it. I got some new shoes and a book from mum. I’m excited about going out. This place is too small for a party anyway. Mum and I live on our own in one room in a big house. I’ve never met my dad. We have a sink, a kettle and a microwave so we can make ourselves hot stuff to eat. My favourite is tomato cuppa-soup with bread. The other day we had tinned rice pudding which was nice too. Mum said that there was a whole box full at the food-bank. She hasn’t been eating much lately. I think she must be on a diet. We have to share a bathroom with three other lots of people which neither of us likes much. The boys in the room next door wee on the seat. We moved here just after Easter when the rent on our flat went up. Nan used to take care of me after school on the days that mum was at work but we live further away from her now. Mrs Barsar from the room across the corridor sometimes makes my tea. Mum says we are part of the hidden homeless. But we have a home, even if it’s not a very nice one, and everyone knows we live here so that doesn’t make any sense. Tomorrow we will probably go to church with nan to say a prayer for grandad. I’ve not met him either but mum says it’s not because he doesn’t want to see me but that’s he’s poorly and finds it difficult to be with people, even us. Nan doesn’t see him either and he is her husband. We don’t even know where he is. Grandad was in a war a lot of years ago and his ship was attacked. We learned about another war in school this week and wrote some poems about it. Mr Potts asked me to read mine out first. He said it was ‘fitting’ but I’m not sure what he meant by that. We made poppies out of red tissue paper, black wool and a safety pin. I wore mine all evening and asked mum why she didn’t have one. I was worried because when we walked home Beth’s mum said that everybody who loves our country and is patrotic – I think that was the word – wears one. Mum just snorted though and said that of course she loves the country and proves it when she pays her taxes, unlike some people. I don’t know what taxes have to do with anything.

Grown-ups are really weird. 

Thursday 2 November 2017

Plenty of Tricks BUT a Paucity of Treats | #noconfidence

"The Tories need to sort themselves out, because when we get into government we'll need an effective opposition". 
John McDonnell 20th June 2017

In recent blogs I've been writing both about popular culture  - e.g. Doctor Who, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Girl on the Train and so on - see: http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/sex-gender-and-all-rest-hidden.html and http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/sex-gender-and-all-rest-hidden_30.html) and the relationship between creativity and politics see:
html http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/ppolitical-creativities-3-working-with.html
I continue this here with some reference specifically relevant to the 31st October 2017. 

One of my (not so) guilty pleasures is zombie and vampire literature, TV and film, particularly when there is an element of the comic involved. I’ve watched both the film Shaun of the Dead and the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer  a number of times. I also devoured (if you’ll pardon the pun) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Jane Slayer (zombies, vampires and werewolves in this one) enjoying the gentle fun poking of two of my favourite books. Some definitions: 

ZOMBIE - (in popular fiction) a person or reanimated corpse that has been turned into a creature capable of movement but not of rational thought, which feeds on human flesh and brains. A person who is or appears lifeless, apathetic, or completely unresponsive to their surroundings.   

VAMPIRE - (in European folklore) a corpse supposed to leave its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with long pointed canine teeth. A person who preys ruthlessly on others.

New Statesman 23-29th June 2017
Since the general election in June there have been many references to the 'zombie PM' and the 'zombie government' with the insistence by many that both are in office but without any power. I could cite a number of arguments in support of this view; not least, in terms of the need for support from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), backtracking, U-turns, the adoption of Labour lite policies and practices, the lack of forward movement on Brexit .... I'll write more on some of these another time, for now my focus is on Opposition Day Debates (and votes), and related issues: 

Opposition Day Debates are symbolic, chosen by the opposition, and not binding in government. The Conservatives, who are currently not turning up to vote following these debates, accuse the opposition of political game-playing, and yet the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, in turn has accused the government of making a mockery of parliamentary procedure: 

“If you choose not to take part and vote you can’t say, ‘well, we didn’t lose’ . . . . This institution is bigger than any one party and is bigger than any government.”

Following one such debate and vote on the 18th October  - 299 – 0 - to ‘pause and fix’ the roll out of Universal Credit many  – politicians, journalists and others – have called out the government’s cowardice in their refusal to vote adding that this also demonstrates the the government's lack of confidence in its own policies and reforms and also highlights their dismissiveness towards the people the welfare reform is supposed to help: 

Those who need benefits will continue to be plunged suddenly into pennilessness beyond their control, evicted or refused a home, unable to access the financial help they need, have their children go hungry, rely on food banks, face barriers when trying to work part-time and care for children, be forced into debt, and vulnerable to domestic abuse.  

Add to this the evidence that austerity as a political approach does not work: 

Despite years of painful austerity, the UK’s level of public spending is today no lower as a share of national income than it was after 11 years of a Labour government in 2008, according to a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.  

The major report from the UK’s leading economic think tank shows that deep cuts have left the NHS, schools and prisons in a “fragile state”, and have merely returned public spending to pre-financial crisis levels.

The document presents a challenge to claims that Conservative-driven austerity saved the public finances following years of Labour overspending....

The body sets out areas where continuing austerity is having its greatest impact on services, citing “clear signs of strain” in the NHS. It adds: “Both the four-hour A&E target and the 18-week waiting period target are being missed nationally. “The indicators paint a worrying picture for prisons, which, unlike the NHS, have seen large real-terms cuts (over 20 per cent) since 2009-10...."

The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “The IFS have today confirmed seven years of Tory austerity policies have failed to drive up investment and productivity, with serious potential consequences for the public finances.Tory economic failure means wages and salaries are lower today than when they came to power, and still falling, whilst their mishandling of Brexit is now also adding to the uncertainty around future borrowing plans."

And that those hit hardest by austerity are those who are already disadvantaged. For example:  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/19/austerity-women-men-low-income / 
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/28/toxic-concoction-women-colour-pay-highest-price-austerity / 

So, as Frances Ryan recently writes: 

Up to half a million disabled people … and their families will be financially worse off under universal credit, according to disability charities, through the removal of the disability premiums, as well as cuts to child disability payments, which could affect 100,000 children at an annual loss of £1,000. Ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and it states that the support given by SDP is now provided through personal independence payments, (Pip) and social care from local councils, and that “transitional protection” will be available when disabled people are moved from ESA on to universal credit in 2019. But press further, and it turns out that cash-strapped local authorities have no obligation to provide support….

A controversial mandatory “health and work conversation” (HWC) in which they must provide information to a work coach about what jobs they can undertake, or have their benefits sanctioned. This will mean people who are often too ill to get out of bed forced into a jobcentre meeting.... https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/31/universal-credit-pushing-disabled-people-into-poverty

AND, AND the fact that:

Legal aid cuts have triggered a staggering 99.5 per cent collapse in the number of people receiving state help in benefits cases, the Government has admitted.

Just 440 claimants were given assistance in the last financial year – down from 83,000 in 2012-13, before almost £1bn was swiped from the legal aid budget.

With all this in mind it's not surprising that many of us have #noconfidence in the government. See twitter on the previous two Thursdays with #noconfidence trending between 9pm - 11pm in competition with #bbcqt (BBC Question Time) and especially @EL4JC for some wonderful short videos. It's happening again tonight if you'd like to join in. 

To end, a day or two late, and with apologies to a famous Halloween family: 

They're sneaky and they're cruel.
It's clear to any fool.
They'd have us all eat gruel.
The Tory Gov-Er-Ment.

[snap twice]
[snap twice]
[snap twice]

It's clear there's no direction,
And next to no reflection.
So bring on an election,
To end this misery.

Or as Frankie Boyle recently said: 

"We have one of the most ghoulish cabinets in recent history, packed with figures who can go out on Halloween as themselves."

No Room at the Infirmary (and other stories) | A writing challenge for November

This month I've decided to take part in (my own version of) Namicrowrimo (National Micro Writing Month). Although definitions vary micro fiction is usually defined as a story in 300 words or fewer. I’ve given myself a 750 word maximum so maybe Flashwrimo is more appropriate here. I’m not sure what all the topics will be (friends have helpfully given me lots of suggestions) and whilst they won’t all be connected I’ve decided to try and link each story to the one previously in some way. In today's story the connection to Kilkenny’s Fried Chicken Shop (the focus of yesterday’s story) is fleeting. One of the suggestions given to me was to write a story about the Secretary of State for Health. Hence what follows: 

No Room at the Infirmary

I come to, slowly. I’m groggy and I hurt all over. The harsh lighting hurts my eyes. The combined smells of antiseptic, industrial strength cleaning fluid and piss convince me that the setting is a medical one. The bed’s a giveaway also. The mattress is harder than my own, the sheets a little coarser and the pillow, if you can call it that, is thin and lumpy. Then there’s the noise; perhaps after all it was the noise, and not the blaze from the strip-lights (my bedroom at home is kept as dark as possible) that woke me. It’s not really that loud but it’s constant. There are footsteps; what sounds like a trolley, or possibly a wheelchair, with a squeaky wheel; some low-level conversation; a little snoring and others crying softly or calling out, their voices as croaky as mine is when, I too, attempt to get some attention.

My mouth is dry, and I realise now, a little bloody. Some water would help. But before anyone hears my demand I’m gone again. Dragged back to unconsciousness rather than lulled to sleep by the low level institutional cacophony. The next time I wake I feel pain. My whole body aches, my right leg is on fire, and the pressure on my chest reminds me of when, as kids, my brother, three years my senior, would sit on me in order to ‘persuade’ me of his way of thinking. I still can’t open my eyes. My head, like my body, is full of unwanted sensation. Reminiscent for the discomfort I felt earlier, I shout for help, or rather try to, but nobody hears, nobody comes. I welcome the darkness this time; the agony easing as I tumble into the void.  

My next flirt with consciousness is sweet. Cool, kind hands tend to my body and gently lift my head to administer nectar; just a few sips of water but the best drink I’ve ever tasted. Before I can ask what happened to me she’s gone. Others need her more. Darkness comes again. The cycle of partial wakefulness and comatose-type sleep, accompanied by - what seems each time I wake - increased noise and greater bustle, continues. I’m stuck in my own personal ‘groundhog day’. In the conscious moments, through snippets of memory and, on a couple of occasions, discussion between medical personnel and those who visit me - the chest crushing brother and my mate Ted – I begin to piece together what happened. A fight apparently, outside Kilkenny’s Fried Chicken Shop. An altercation from which I came off worst.

Eventually the pain subsides a little. I stay awake for longer periods and I’m able, at last, to open my sticky eyelids. I am, as I already knew, in the casualty department of the local hospital. This feels like a result given that last month when I tried to get to see a doctor here I was sent home to ring NHS111 instead.  Although I’ve been on a trolley in the corridor next to A&E since the paramedics brought me in I am assured that things will get better soon. Tomorrow, following necessary surgery on my shattered leg (the ribs will heal themselves eventually), with luck there’ll be space for me on the ward. They’ll likely need the bed by the end of the week though an official looking guy with a clipboard told me. He’s coming back later with the Airbnb papers for me to sign.

I have also published this story on ABCtales - an online writing group I belong to. Yesterday's story is there too and although it's a different type of tale it includes reference to poor working conditions, job insecurity, low wages and austerity more generally. Here's the link if you'd like to read it: https://www.abctales.com/story/gletherby/kilkenny-fried-killing