Sunday, 30 May 2010

Allotment so far...


Summer Cabbages, Chinese Cabbages and Little Gem Lettuce

Courgette and Purple Sprouting Brocolli



Artichokes, Garlic and Red Onions

Parsnips and Radish

Coriandor, Oregano, Peppermint, Chives, Parsley, Lemon Thyme in tyres with sunflowers behind

Plus fruit galore....

Not bad for a first timer eh?...

#31 Dear Rain

Dear Rain,

Thanks for visiting us all yesterday and some of last night. I lay in bed and listened to you patter patter on my windows and it made me smile. There is just something very comforting hearing you like that at night, and knowing you are giving back to the earth all the water we need. I know people moan about you, but I think you are brilliant. Obviously, I don't want you to be here all the time, as sunny days are wonderful too, but the soil has been so dry over the past few weeks. It was lovely to smell fresh fallen you this morning, and see how you had given all my plants a proper soaking. It seemed as if they had grown inches overnight. Plus, the soil was so easy to dig at the allotment today, it was lush.

So thanks for being here, and thanks for staying away today, and I hope you keep visiting every week perhaps, mainly at night,

A xx

Saturday, 29 May 2010

#30 Dear Ladies on the Bus

Dear Ladies on the Bus,

I want to say, I very rarely go on the bus, but yesterday was a real treat because of you three lovely ladies. On my journey into Manchester, I couldn't help but watch you with your curled white hair, sensible coats and shoes and your most amazing zimmer frames. You were chatter chatter chatter, on your way into town for a bit of shopping in the market maybe and a cup of tea in a nice cafe. And you were proudly comparing your new zimmer frames, which I have to admit, were impressive - a lovely maroon frame on wheels, height adjustable, with racer as well as normal handles to suit either preference. But most exciting of all there was a seat, in case you get tired, which also lifts up so you can put your shopping in the little basket underneath. No wonder you looked so pleased and smiley. I just hope that I'm like you when I reach your age - chatting with my two friends on the way into town for a shop with my gorgeous little zimmer frame. You made my day

A xx

Thursday, 27 May 2010

#29 Dear Paramedics at the accident on Old Birley Street today

#29 Dear Paramedics at the accident on Old Birley Street today,

It was a strange thing to sit in a cafe and have lunch, and then walk out into the sunshine to see a car collide into the side of another and send it crash-tumbling down the road towards me. You must see this kind of thing all the time, a person crawling out of a car and dropping to the ground, hyperventilating, moaning in pain. Or maybe you don't see this because you arrive later when there is a small crowd of people stood around the man, while I try and keep him calm and still, and work out how hurt he is, and other people are on the phone, or asking who saw what, and collecting names and talking to the other driver who knows it is his fault. You are so calm, the way you drive up and walk over with your medical bag, and ask who and what and how, and start to examine, even when the man gets a little aggressive because he's in pain, confused, concussed perhaps. You take it one check at a time, one question at a time, and ask me to hold his head while you examine his spine, fit a collar, speak to the other paramedics just arrived to tell them what injuries there are, and the man says he can't feel his arm and down one side, and the police arrive and the crowd gets bigger, and you still have to do your job while everyone else is worrying and stressing and in shock. Paramedics, I think you are brilliant, all the trauma you have to deal with, the stess, the injuries you must see, and then you are heading off to the hospital and the next job which might not be as bad or might be worse, you don't know until you pull up and get out and take in the scene, the wrecked car, the people who are crying/not crying, walking/not walking, bleeding/not bleeding. We don't realise until you are there and we need you, and it is a big relief when the siren gets closer and louder, and you can take over from the daft woman in the purple cardigan who is trying to be helpful but would be useless if you didn't arrive,

In great admiration
A xx

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

#28 Dear Contact Theatre

Dear Contact Theatre,

Thanks for a really good evening, as usual.I felt like staying home to be honest, but I already had tickets and a lovely friend to meet, so I pushed through my lethargy and am SO so glad I did because I loved the play, especially the acapela singing, poetry, and the way soldier boy got very wise in the end. It was a strong emotional ending. I so didn't realise two hours had passed. I also loved the hot chocolate that gave me sugar rushes, the mixed juice that the person behind the bar made for me when I asked for 'some kind of juice', and I understand that the bar staff are too-cool-to-smile, so it was lovely that we managed a half-almost-smile from one of them. And I finally met the man who is at every play I watch, the one who laughs in a deep HUH HUH HUH at inappropriate moments - we have been in the same audience for years, so it was good to put a face to that laugh. And of course, the lovely chatter and hug with V as well. All in all a fab night, especially for a wednesday, thanks ever so...

A xx

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

#27 Dear Imaginary Lover

Dear Imaginary Lover, the one who has lovely dark hair and is always very kind to me, brings me flowers, makes me laugh (and has a brother for my friend Vanessa)

It would have been dead nice to meet you last weekend when the weather was hot. I was feeling a bit fed up, and could have done with bumping into you, say at the supermarket or the allotment (because they were the only places I went). You could have smiled that gorgeous smile of yours and said something witty or funny or complimentary and then suggested icecream or a walk, and I would've said yes actually straight away. I was looking a bit scruffy but you wouldn't have minded, in fact you would have thought it was cute, especially because I was filthy mucky from digging, and a bit over-sunkissed on my shoulders but with a few freckles that you liked. Sigh. We could have chattered, and then grabbed a bite to eat, maybe something a bit spicy, or at one of my favourite little arabic cafes, and then you could have driven me home and run me a bath, rubbed aftersun in my burnt shoulders.

I know you don't exist, but maybe could be should be, you know, if you want to meet then you could find me in the supermarket or at the allotment most weekends, and you could surprise me with some tulips or a tub of Ben and Jerry's or just a smile, and we could hang out for a while, what do you reckon?

A xx

Saturday, 22 May 2010

#26 On not being grateful

Sometimes I don't want to be grateful. Sometimes I want to just moan.

Take today, I have many things to be thankful for, a very kind friend at the allotment who fixed a new pane of glass in my coldframe after I broke it last week. Actually he's always kind to me, he also helped me build a raised bed today, and he lets me sit on his allotment in his meditation hut, makes me laugh and is generally bloody nice to me. Other things, like the lovely qi gong class that I went to last night in the gorgeous community garden at my workplace, and the feeling of peace I got from the sound of a trickling water feature nearby. And all my plants at the lotty are growing beautifully, and there are little things all the time that make me smile.

But today, I want to be ungrateful, I want to moan about being on my own, and all its associated GGGRRgh. I want to moan about feeling lonely sometimes, especially on such a gorgeous day when I could be doing... a million things... with friends or a lover or my family, instead of (like most weekends) pottering about by myself. And I know, I know there are many things to love about having your own space, freedom, independence, and really it's perfect in many ways. And I'm sure at some point I blogged about this before, but GGRHHAAAARGHH, moan moan moan, poor old little maudlin whiney me.

On days like this, everyone appears to be having a lovely time with friends, bbq's everywhere, couples being loved up, kids laughing, plans. And I had a nice day, I had a lovely day, but it's that missing something, that gap, that little bit of loneliness that pick pick picks at me from time to time. A strong digging feeling that is a little difficult to ignore.

So, Yes, I am grateful for a nice piece of cake, and my watering cans, and my favourite cafe, and everything from dear 1 to 25, but grrrrraaaeeeeeghgh, these small things that give me pleasure most of the time can't always do the business. Do you know what I mean?

Anyway, I will go and eat my keylime pie that I treated myself to, watch Lord of the Rings, and do my qi gong and accupressure practice, and read a brilliant short story before bed. And I will love all of it, and be grateful. But it might be a little battle as well, and I might have to work hard to see the positives for a very short time.

Friday, 21 May 2010

#25 Dear Lemon and Pistachio Cake

Dear Lemon and Pistachio Cake,

I didn't expect you to be so delicious. I would never put those two flavours together. But yum, you are one of the nicest cakes I've ever tasted, and such a treat, as I bought you yesterday from kim by the sea, and then forgot about you, and found you in a little tin tray in my bag this afternoon just when my energy was ebbing. Cake heaven. Especially as the lovely man with the gap between his teeth gave me an extra sliver of you, as well as my main slice. You were the loveliness of my day,

thank you

A xx

Thursday, 20 May 2010

#24 Dear Kim by the Sea

Dear Kim by the Sea

I think you might be my favourite cafe. It's been a little while since I visited, but I can't tell you how nice it was to wander in today to meet my friend, and sit at a lovely gingham clothed-table deciding what to drink. I could list many things about you that I love, the seagulls hanging from the ceiling, the crazy plants, the eclectic posters on the walls, the picture of the Birley Tree, the upstairs balcony which reminds me of a gentleman's drawing room, the friendly staff, the lovely menu chalked onto the wall, the plastic lunchbox, the mismatch of chairs and settees, the fairy lights, the velvet curtain by the door, the homemade chips. Sigh. You are oh so lovely, and I really like you very much. And I especially like the man who served me today with the gap between his teeth and his lovely afro. Double sigh. Thanks Kim by the Sea, you have given me years of pleasure...

A xx

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

#23 Dear Darling Cat Sissy

Dear Darling Cat Sissy,

I'm not sure why you piddled on the bookcase just now. I think perhaps it might have been because I was out for such a long time today and I didn't give you enough attention when I came in. Whatever the reason, I feel sure you were trying to tell me something. It was the way you miaowed loudly until I came into the dining room, and then you positioned yourself on the litter tray, looked right into my eyes while you pee'd straight onto the bottom of the book case and onto the floor. I'm sorry babe, whatever it was. I feel sure I probably deserved it, as you never pee out of place, and I promise I will never do it again,

Big kiss
A xx

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

#22 Dear Right Side of My Head

Dear Right Side of my Head,

I want to say, it is such a relief that you are no longer painful tingly and strange. It is always an unpleasant twenty four hours when you do that, and I don't know why it's always you, as opposed to the Left Side. Why is that? Anyway, it has passed and we feel normal again, and I'm grateful that you didn't keep hurting forever, which is sometimes my worry when these migraines happen. I guess together we sorted it, and I hope you will stay lovely and pain-free for weeks and weeks now, cos really I like you just as you are,

Stay healthy
A xx

me blink blink blinking and nervously reading a poem

If you want to see a vid of me reading a poem and introducing myself as a writer, Literature North West made this very short film.

It is all very weird to me, seeing self on video with all my little behavioural quirks and nervousness, and my voice that sounds different outside myself than it does inside myself.


#21 Dear Watering Cans

Dear Watering Cans

One of the nicest times of my day is when I turn the tap on to fill you up, or dip you into the waterbutt, and then carry you, one in each hand, water spilling into my feet a little so that I can water all my seedlings and flowers and veggies. I'm not sure how many times I have to fill you up so that I can water all my plants. I know I could use a hose instead and it would probably be quicker, but I love returning again and again to fill you up, and then sprinkling water exactly where it is needed. It is such a lovely part of the day, and I like it that it gives me so much pleasure,

thanks, lovely collection of watering cans,

A x

Sunday, 16 May 2010

#20 Dear Lady in the Christy Hospital T-Shirt walking past Porcelanosa today

Dear Lady in the Christy Hospital T-Shirt walking past Porcelanosa today,

I don't know you. I was driving past you this afternoon. You had just finished running the Great Manchester Run. You were on your own in your running clothes, hair tied back, bottle of water in your hand. It was as if you were the only person in the world right then. The sun was on your face, and there was a sense of peace and happiness about you, as if you were smiling from deep within. I guess it was the afterglow of the exertion, and the feeling you were left with after running with all those other people, knowing you had achieved something good - for you, and for all the patients who will benefit from the money you raised. I loved that I noticed you, caught in a lovely private moment. It really made my day and you didn't even realise.

A x

Saturday, 15 May 2010

#19 Dear Self who cheated on her dear task yesterday

Dear Self who cheated on her dear task yesterday

I know how tired you were yesterday, and so understand why you only wrote a very short letter on your blog yesterday. It was only about ten words, but you know what... you can write as much or as little as you want and that's fine by me. It was an exhausting week what with your head cold and period and the election, which was a surprisingly exhausting in itself. But you kept going, worked a full week at work and did everything you needed to do, as well as looking after yourself. Plus coming off your anti-depressants is a big deal and there have been a few little withdrawl symptoms, so NO WONDER you were tired missus. Have a lovely weekend, take it easy, relax, dig, eat lovely food and just don't worry about anything. Cheating a bit on the task yesterday was just what you needed to do, you can't do everything! You are brilliant in your own peculiar way,

Keep being kind to yourself
A xx

Friday, 14 May 2010

#18 Dear Friday

Dear Friday,

I am so bloody glad to see you.

A x

Thursday, 13 May 2010

#17 Dear French Bean Seedlings (Part 2)

Dear French Bean Seedlings,

I am so sorry. I didn't realize that last night would be so cold. It's mid-May. I imagined that you would grow and flourish outdoors and wind your lovely way up the cane wigwam, waving your little leaves in the sun. But, it wasn't to be, and I'm sorry that as a novice gardener I was naive in thinking that you would be safe from the frost. I was a bit gutted when I found you wilted and limp and lying on the ground never to be revived, and I have learnt a hard hard lesson.

So, my lovely little French Beans. RIP

A x

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

#16 Dear French Bean Seedlings

Dear French Bean Seedlings,

It was really lovely to nip down to the allotment for a bit after work. I knew everything in the coldframe would need a water, but it was such a surprise to see that everything had grown so much in only a couple of days. Wow, you were the loveliest looking French Bean Seedlings I'd ever seen, and I grew you myself! Yay! So, there I was in my work clothes, knees down in the dirt, so I could plant you out. Ten beautiful plants in a little circle with some 8 ft canes for you to grow up. It really made me smile getting my hands mucky so I could plant you, and sprinkle you with water. All I can say is grow grow grow... I can't wait to see how you do,

love A xx

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

#15 Dear Gordon Brown

Dear Gordon Brown

It is a sad day for me today, hearing you resign as prime minister and as leader of the Labour Party. You are a true statesman. I feel a little devestated at the turn of events, and want to thank you for being a politician I have admired, and a person who has worked with integrity to make our country a better and more stable place, through some very tough times. You have also reminded me, in recent months, that politics are not only for politicians, but for all of us, and these are exciting times, that again people are feeling inspired and passionate about politics. I have always been political with a small p, in my small world trying to personally campaign and change lives in an individual way, but you have made me want to be more active, and I see campaigning and protesting times ahead. I hope to see you continue your work in a less prominent role, still inspiring us, and still working hard with the party to make the next election a stronger one, so we can get rid of the Tories again.

Yours respectfully


Monday, 10 May 2010

#14 Dear Citalopram

Dear Citalopram,

So friend, it's been three years and five months since we first met. I've been taking you every day since then, and now in a few days I will be taking you for the last time. I want to say thanks, even though the side effects in the first month were a bit weird, we got through it, and I'm very grateful that you inhibited the reuptake of my serotonin for so long. I really needed it. And even though I will always be grateful, I'm hoping I can manage on my own now. It's a bit nerve-wracking I have to admit, I mean, after all this time, and with things as bad as they were. But I'm hopeful too. Thanks for being there every morning, you were brilliant, I cannot stress that enough

A x

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Manchester's Creative Tourist

I very much like new website Creative Tourist, all about the artscene in Manchester, everything from photography to exhibitions, bookshops, architecture in the city, interviews with artists, podcasts, guides to the city. It seems to be a fairly well-written set of articles and features, all about creative things, possibly more visual arts than anything else, didn't spot anything theatrical for instance or literary, but lots about the cool parts of town (i.e. the northern quarter), and what's going on in the visual arts world, plus a little bit more.

It was interesting to read Matthew Hull's feature about his top five bookshops in Manchester... I forget there are so many bookshops around the city, and it was good to see that he had chosen small independents, with some interesting choices, all YES's, and one I have never heard of, but will be visiting soon. Perhaps not the five I would have chosen, that's the joy of bookshops, we all have our favourites. I was pleased to see The Art of Tea in his top five... Well, they were all good choices actually. But I might have felt compelled to extend the list beyond five so I could include:

Oxfam Books in Chorlton always something brilliant about buying a cheap second hand book, and knowing you're donating money to charity at the same time. I have bought many a good fiction book in here, there is a pretty good poetry section and all kinds of wonderful non-fiction to be browsed, (have bought some gorgeous books on gardening, including Derek Jarman's Garden for a bargain £3)

Barnardo's books and music in Withington,

another good little charity bookshop.

Chorlton Bookshop

(handily situated a couple of doors from the best waffle cafe I've ever found), I once went in here, and said 'right, I have a whole weekend to indulge in books, I want to read books I've never heard of before, what do you recommend?' And the two girls working in the shop got very excited about being invited to push their favourite books onto me.

Of course, the Cornerhouse Bookshop

which sells mostly books about film, cinema, scripts, but also a whole wad of arts magazines, and probably the best selection of poetry and lit mags in Manchester. And of course, you can have a drink, a browse round the art gallery and a film all in the same place.

Anyway, Creative Tourist seems like a good site, have bookmarked it for future reference, cos it's good to know what's going on.

#13 Dear Mr Adam Marek

Dear Mr Adam Marek

I've been wanting to read your book for such a long time, so much so that I inadvertently bought two copies (one which I have now given to a friend who I know will LOVE your short stories). I have been reading them one at a time. Sometimes, I feel with short stories there is a tendency to rush through the collection, reading one story after another, and then before I know it the book has ended and wish I'd taken my time. So, I have been disciplined and read your stories a few days apart, allowing each one to linger in my mind, and I have to admit, they certainly have lingered. (The last one, about the zombie cafe has left me with a strange taste in my mouth, and I'm sure tonight I am going to dream about Meaty and Reid hacking bodies apart to feed the undead.)

Anyway, I am SO pleased I took my time, because your collection is brilliant assortment. I particularly liked Ipods for Cats, the one about the boy who has a thorn in his toe that turns out to be cutlery, and Testicular Cancer Vs The Behemoth. But I have to say my favourite was Cuckoo, I think because it was gently unexpected. I thought it was about a dodgy bloke, but then it turned out to tender and beautiful, in a way that occurs sometimes when we let ourselves follow instincts instead of reason, and it captured a mixture of magic and sadness that really clung to me for ages.

Anyway, I could natter on for ages, but really I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for writing these stories, and making them unusually weird in a very ordinary yet magical kind of way,


Saturday, 8 May 2010

#12 Dear Snot

Dear Snot

You are not really my friend, but it seems you have moved into my nasal passages and set up home there, without really asking for my permission. I know, I know, you are there to help me, protect my lungs from badness, and it seems I have a virus so you are working very hard to make me better. But really? Everything is blocked and inflamed and even when I blow a bit of you out, it's not really helping, everything still hurts... anyway, I'm hoping that you will clear out soon so I can get back to normal, and in the meantime, thanks go out to olbas oil, paracetemol and the giant veg curry that I hope will all help you on your way,

Don't stay too long
A x

Friday, 7 May 2010

#11 Dear Tissues with Balsam

Dear Tissues with Balsam

You have been a comfort for me today. I have used an uncountable number. In fact last time I sneezed I think I might have lost my brain, it shot out so fast, I couldn't stop it. You have not eased my sniffing, blowing and sneezing, but what you have done is stop my nose from becoming sore and chafed because you are so soft and lovely against my skin. I hope I have enough of you to last until this cold ends, and also the odd tear that might slip out if Nick Clegg gives the LibDem votes to the Tories. But heck much as I hate The Tories, even I can't blame them for this head cold.

Keep soothing my nose lovely Tissues

A x

Thursday, 6 May 2010

#10 Dear Polling Station

Dear Polling Station,

I was a little worried when I saw your address on my Polling Card, that you are on Blue Moon Way seemed like an omen, and I hope there is nothing blue about this day. However, this morning on my way to you, I walked past the construction workers building the new health centre and new houses for families in the area, and the building where you are based today is the new school that opened less than a month ago. I saw all the signs of regeneration in my area, the new back yards, the alley gates, the new lamp posts, the flower baskets. I remembered the spate of burglaries in my area where the police arrested all the people involved, and the ambulance that took my neighbour to hospital, and the fact that the Labour government loaned me a £23,000 deposit so I could afford to buy my house in their scheme to help first time buyers get on the property ladder and support the economy. Dear Polling Station, you were busy with people making their votes and I put my X in the box and felt thankful for my politics, thankful that I can see the positives from the past 13 years,

I hope other people visiting you today, are reminded of similar things as they arrive to vote,

A xx

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

#9 Dear Lovely Long Scarf

Dear Lovely Long Scarf,

It might be May now, but oh I needed you to keep me warm today. All that sneezing and sniffing, and the damp dreary drizzly Manchester day trying to make me feel miserable. You kept it all at bay, lovely woolly scarf that I can wind round my neck at least three times. I wore you all day even in the office, and I'm still wearing you now, and might even wear you in bed tonight. You are one of my three most favourite scarves. Thanks for being there just when I needed you,

A x

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

#8 Dear Nandos' Mango and Lime Seasoning

Dear Nandos' Mango and Lime Seasoning,

I've never chosen you before because you always sounded a little unusual. But I quite fancied you tonight, and wow are you delicious! I wish I had 1/2 chicken instead of the mere 1/4 because you were the right combination of fruity sweet and tangy sour. It made our evening at Nando's even nicer than it would have been if I'd stuck with lemon and herb. We all tried you apart from my dad who always goes for hot or very hot. You were a lovely accompaniment to a well overdue meal with my family. I seem to have missed too many treats with them recently, as our days off work are opposite eachother and it's hard to find the time when we are all so busy, but it's lovely that we did it today, and you were the perfect marinade for the evening, I'll be trying you again,

A xx

Monday, 3 May 2010

#7 Dear Liver and Gall Bladder

Dear Liver and Gall bladder,

I don't think I have ever thought about you before today, and yet you are a part of my body. It wasn't until the Accupressure lady was pressing certain parts of my body that really hurt and she told me that these were all related to either one or the other of you. In fact, Gall Bladder, I'm not entirely sure I know what you do (other than help my liver). It was an interesting realisation, especially as it may be that my migraines are related to both of you. I am now aware I need to look after you both, and it's all thanks to the lady who did my accupressure and chinese medicine treatment. I have some exercises to work on and diet changes to make, and then I hope when I go to see her in two weeks those bits of me won't hurt perhaps quite so much when she presses them. Anyway, it was nice that she brought you to my attention,

Cheers for being there,
A x

Sunday, 2 May 2010

#6 Dear Digging Party

Dear Digging Crew,

Thanks SO much for helping me out today, can't believe how hard you worked to dig out all those docks, dandelions and mare's tails. You saved me a ton of work over the next few weeks by giving up your Sunday to dig for me, I owe you bags of courgettes when they grow, and pumpkins too, or whatever you like, you've been brilliant, and it was lovely to see you and eat bbq and drink tea in the hut. Hope your muscles don't ache too much, and that you have a lovely bank holiday weekend, my wonderful digging crew,

A x

Saturday, 1 May 2010

#5 Dear friends who kept kissing me as I was trying to leave last night

Dear friends who kept kissing me as I was trying to leave last night,

I had such a fab night, it was such fun dancing and chatting, and gosh how hot it was, and the music was brilliant, and a lovely crowd, I've not laughed that much in ages, and when we were leaving, it made me laugh so much how drunk you were, and all the kisses kept coming one after the other as we all said goodnight, and then 'just one more kiss' and another, even as I was driving out of the car park you stopped me and leaned in the window to give more kisses to me and T, it was very very funny, and I laughed so much my cheeks hurt, it's good when that happens, so thanks, let's do it again soon,

A xx

A social worker's perspective on the election

So, I know some people are sick of the election, but we vote on Thursday. The opinion polls are showing David Cameron and the Conservative Party in the lead, and I feel the need to be frank about the whole thing.

I work as a social worker. My friends and aquaintances are mainly social workers, teachers, solicitors, care workers, youth workers, people that work with people every day, people that know through their clients about issues like housing, unemployment, poverty, the health service, prison service, etc. They are also people who mainly come from ordinary backgrounds, not the affluent, but people whose parents were good working people struggling through 14 years of Conservative rule in the late 70s and 80s, people affected by redundancy, closures of industries, etc. I want to cut through the crap and challenge a few things I have heard in the election run up...

1. Unemployment - yes there is a huge % of people unemployed right now. 2.5 million, I heard. Way more than there was before, so it doesn't look good for the Labour government. But recession leads to unemployment, and the recessions is not the government's fault, it's a GLOBAL problem. It would have happened with any party, and actually Labour have managed to avoid a DEPRESSION, which we want to be thankful for.

2. 'Coming down harder on the unemployed' - that's what David Cameron has said. Well, I've worked for past eight years with people who are on the dole, and I'm telling you, the Labour Government HAVE come down hard on the unemployed, you couldn't get any harder without forcing people onto the streets. There is already a very strict back to work programme. The money people get on the dole is SHIT, try living on £50 a week to pay all your bills, food, travel etc, it is not easy when energy prices are high (again, a GLOBAL problem, not Labour's fault) and if you're poor the fuel companies insist on fitting meters which leak money, and cut off your gas/electric if you run out... (a result of privatisation that occurred in the 80's by a Tory government). If you do not apply for jobs actively every week and prove this your money is stopped, if you get a job you have to take it, if you don't get interviews the job centre will send you on interviews, and if you miss appointments or mess up in anyway your money is stopped. If you have been on the dole for a certain amount of time you have to go on a course otherwise your money stops, and the course is about applying for hundreds of jobs so you probably can get one. You cannot come down any harder on the unemployed when there are NO jobs.

3. Also, worth noting, I remember the 80's when the Tories were in power and there were millions of people out of work. They are not going to pull anything out of the bag, other than schemes that HIDE the statistics. Their proposal is to introduce National Service (it's called something else but that's what it is).

4. During a Labour Government I have seen the following things come in... repeal of homophobic 'Section 28', equality to the age of consent, Civil partnerships for gay and lesbians. Major changes in law and policy and attitude towards people who deserve equality. This has made a MASSIVE difference to people's lives. It is vital. And would NEVER have happened with a Tory Government.

5. Surestart, one of the major changes that Labour has made to this country. You may not know, but it started as a pilot in certain areas of the country, more deprived areas, and has now rolled out to every single area of the country. Surestart is BRILLIANT. It offers services to families of children under 5, one of the most vulnerable groups. They provide parenting support, support to encourage development of children - including health (access to midwifes, speech therapists, dentists), education (classes for parents and children), family support for families who are struggling, support for families where children are at risk, play opportunities, I could write a very long list. They are accessible, educative, and tackle some of the major social problems, and they are LOCAL, in people's communities. I have seen that support people who are struggling to look after their children, so they learn the skills to meet their children's needs. I have seen them support families in poverty, with poor health, mental health, who are new to this country, single parents. There is not another service like it, it is WONDERFUL... I can't stress how good it is. But the Conservatives don't value it, and it could be one of the cuts they are talking about.

6. If you want to talk about WAR, then yes, very bad decisions, very bad wars. But, I don't believe it would have been any different under a Conservative government. They were pro-war at the time too. It's all very well to criticise with hindsight. And the Tories took us to the FALKLANDS one of the most senseless, dirty wars. I remember as a kid listening to a friend of my parents tell them (in tears) about the things he had seen over there. And for what? Both parties have taken us into wars that are wrong.

7. The Tories: Cutting Inheritance Tax for people inheriting OVER £300,000. What is this about... Protecting the rich. It's senseless. It puts money in the pockets of people who don't need it, and money away from people who do.

8. Tax Credits. Brilliant. I know many people who rely on tax credits so they can work and support their families. It puts money back in the pocket of people who need it. But, not under a Tory or Liberal government. It means that single parents who are on benefits can have more than £50 a week to support their family. It means that single parents who want to go back to work are better off than claiming benefits. It means that people who have MORE money pay more taxes, and people who are struggling get a helping hand.

9. Let's be clear the Tories are not about the poor, they never have been, they never will be. Poverty is a real issue in this country anyway, I dread to think how it might get worse... and that only puts pressure on health services, education, social services, the police... think about it, it's not rocket scientist. These people are not 'BAD' people, they need support.

10. I worry about what's going to happen to minimum wage. If you don't know what it is, google it, it's not a lot of money. We need to protect it.

11. Tories WILL cut public services. Yes, they might stick to their promise of not cutting in the NHS, police, education. But there are other public services around. I fear for my job. I do a very proactive job with families where there is a risk of harm or has been harm to the children. It is SO positive at breaking cycles, empowering families, giving them skills and support. But, the Tories do not value my work as ESSENTIAL. They will cut public services in other ways, they will not cut waiting lists, they will not support people with long term health problems, they will take a HARD LINE on crime without addressing the reasons that many people commit crime (poverty, social deprivation, abuse in childhood). Yes there are nasty people in our society, but many are just desperate and need support.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea...

It scares me that David Cameron's party is very Thatcherite. She was a strong leader, if you want to call her that, but strong leaders are not necessarily good for the country. A lot of the problems we are still dealing with now as a country are a result of Thatcher decisions. If you can't remember the Thatcher years, then let me tell you...

closing mines, closing industries, riots, national strikes, poll tax, queues out of the job centre door (over 3 million unemployed), redundancies, mass privatisation of national companies (BP, BA, BT, British GAS, Rover, British Steel, National Grid, I could go on...), the Falklands, free markets, selling public housing, reduction of public spending on education and social services,moral absolutism, decline in Britich industries due to privatisation (shipbuilding for example), increase in share-dealing... deregulation of finance including removing certain restrictions on the London Stock Market...!, allowing the US to bomb Libya form our airbases, reduce power of the trade unions...

I could go on. (and have done)

I'm not sure what Liberal Democrats could offer, many people want change, which is fair enough, but Liberal vote is a Tory vote in some areas, and I just hope people see beyond the billboards, read up on what the parties are offering and see beyond the glossy brochures and promises, find out about who is leading in their area, and VOTE TACTICALLY, don't think that Liberal Democrats are going to sweep this election, they're not. And actually get out and use their vote, spoiling your ballot paper is not an act of protest is idiocy and a wasted vote, and apathy is not helpful.

Enough, normal service will resume soon...