19 Mar

The Yin and Yang saga…

Following my previous posts about my HMRC Working Tax Credits situation, I have had a promptish reply to my Mandatory Reconsideration appeal.  From the reply they have clearly done nothing but cast a cusory glance over the information that I sent them.  The have glanced at it, ticked or crossed whatever boxes they have, and stayed with thier original decision.

Since talking about my situation I have learned that I am far from the only person that this is happening to.  Tax Credits seem to be targeting self employed people – I suppose we are nice easy targets for them to knock of the government expenditure bill.  I wonder what happens to the other people.  Myself – it has definitely affected my health adversely, so I could claim ESA, but that would take months and involve degrading assessments where assesors routinely ask claimants questions such as “why haven’t you killed yourself?”.  This has recently been exposed by the media but friends have verified that such questioning is standard.

My alternative would be Jobseekers Allowance, but I work too much to find the time to jump through the hoops required to qualify for thier contract.  I have had experience with DWP staff and the experience is always difficult, stressful and degrading.

What this means for me is that my son and I will be living in poverty for a lot longer.  The law is on my side, but they have failed to undersand the nature of my business or –  I might be so bold as to state – of any business even.  I have to appeal to an independent tribunal who I am relying upon to be a little more educated on the matter.  I have been informed that the tribunal can take between four to eight months to be heard.  That takes us to November.  It’s a good job I have a food bank I can use bi-weekly here.

Part one of the saga is written here, in the Ying and Yang of life and part two here, in I, Daniel Blake.

 

 

07 Mar

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows

by Melanie Joy

love dogs eat pigs wear cows book coverPicture is from Amazon bookshop

I’ve experimented with various “isms” for several decades now and decided to complete this year’s Veganuary.  I’ve been Vegan before, several decades ago and was edging towards that way of life anyway so at the beginning of the year I ditched the last of my food of animal origin and climbed aboard the Vegan ship, sailing to the brave new world of Cruelty-free.

I digress, and will do some more vegan-ish posts in the future no doubt but this vegan lass called @vegangangsta79 somehow came on to my radar and she was singing the praises of this book (the one in the title).  I flippin love Audible because I can listen and paint at the same time, or, walk and listen, it’s an amazing invention even though you have to buy it through the less than ethical Amazon which grates a little on my sensibilities.

So when she mentioned it, it caught my eye and I’ve just finished listening to it.  A lot of the stuff I knew, or kind of knew but it spelled out the meat, fish and dairy industry in graphic detail.  It was pretty disturbing to me in my current shell shocked and depressed state to have such heart-wrenching violent imagery beamed straight into my brain, but I persevered.

It’s an accurate book about the topic, but it is a little subjective.   If you have an inkling of doubt about the meat you eat or the dairy you consume then it’s a good read, if you have a strong stomach.  It’s the holes in much of this Vegan media that I think will put off the more analytical amongst us.  She uses examples of people who have had second thoughts about their consumption of meat after being presented with the realities of animal death and rearing.  I know carnists who have happily reared their own animals, gotten to know them and then went off to hand kill them and eat them.  Most people might feel squeamish about this, but a lot of people won’t.  I think it would benefit from more scientific evidence that animals are sentient beings.  Having been called a conspiracy theorist myself, I analyse everything I read for hints of propaganda and sadly this book is full of it.

The mere mention of “The matrix” will allow some people to relate to the carnist world we live in but it would definitely black-mark this book as conspiracy theorist propaganda, though it may make the book more relatable to others.  I’d love to see a genuine work that presents solid facts that Veganism is better for our animals and the planet, with counter arguments from the meat producers that can be slammed down by good science.  I have yet to find such a work, but the nearest I found was Cowspiracy.

FYI – I brought my son up to be Pescatarian and I was one too until recently.  The factual book that I listened to that immediately horrified me and made me stop eating fish was Unatural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts.  I was shocked and horrified and genuinely embarrassed to be a human after reading that.  It’s factual, written by a fisherman and really opened my eyes – I genuinely did not know about the destruction of the oceans until last year.  Seaspiracy summarises key points of the book very well.

In summary, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows is a harrowing but interesting read but may alert your “conspiracy” neurons.  The way animals are treated is accurately reflected in the book but it’s obvious that the people mentioned in it were cherry picked for their sympathy with the animals.  There are plenty more who simply do not give a flying fuck where their food comes from, as long as it tastes good. But, this is the age of Aquarius man, the world is a-changing.

 

26 Feb

I, Daniel Blake

I, ShoeDoodles

And so the saga continues.  In The Yin and Yang of Life I mused how incredibly bad and painful situations can also bring out amazing light and kindness.  That people who I know and people who I don’t – people who are not even family and have no ties to me – can show such incredible kindness and love has brought me to tears many times.  One minute I can be sobbing in despair on the kitchen floor, the next my eyes are streaming and my heart is full of hope.  That anyone could even care that much about little old flawed me is kind of mind blowing.

A couple of days ago I watched I, Daniel Blake.  You must have heard of the film, it has been much talked about and highly acclaimed.  It’s ironic that the people that the film is about are unable to afford to go to the cinema to watch it (like me).  It’s probably better that way, because it broke my heart right from the first few scenes with it’s very true to life situations and characters.   I should advise – if you haven’t already seen it – that if you have ever been unemployed or sick or have ever been through the welfare system in any way you might choose not to watch it unless you are totally healed and buoyantly happy.

That set my mental health back a few days. I might add that Katie, when she was hungry and went to the food bank and then chose to follow her alternative career path was already at least sixty quid a week better off than me since my tax credits were completely cut.   She would still have been in receipt of her child tax credits – the payments meant to keep your children fed and clothed.

Working and child tax credits are two payments – the working element is paid if you work for 16 or more hours a week and the child ones are received by (as far as I know) by anyone with a child and below a minimum income.  In my case, the working tax credits were cut (apparently I have not earned enough – go figure) and my child tax credits were cut to pay back the alleged “overpayment”.  Katie would have had circa £100 a week still coming in (still not enough for a secure healthy life for three people).  I have less.

Daniel’s situation was one I am trying to avoid. The CAB suggested that I apply for jobseekers allowance or ESA.  I work too much for jobseekers and even before I watched the film I was aware of the hoops that poorly people are expected to jump through for ESA.  My health condition would mean I was eligible but I am not strong enough to fight unqualified assessors and I don’t have enough money for endless phone calls and trips to assessment centres.

I had a letter through on the Thursday, telling me I was allowed hardship payments. There was no mention of how much, or for how long, or with what frequency, or whether or not they are a payment or a loan.  So I checked my bank account and found £65.  I also found out that my broadband and phone direct debit had gone out and it was £10 dearer than expected, so I didn’t dare make another phone call to find out more.

So I’ve been allowed £65 for the past three weeks.  My phone calls to HMRC to find out what was going on cost £10.   I topped up my mobile £5 to make calls when my credit ran out.  I’ve sent two letters to HMRC (the first one didn’t go to the correct office), and three to my local council to beg council tax assistance.  I’ve sent another the the NHS to apply for help with my prescriptions because I realised that if my tax credits had stopped, so would my free prescriptions, opticians and dentist. Six recorded delivery letters at £1.72 makes £10.32.

So out of that £65, I had £39.68 left after the essential spends associated with this termination of my income.  This is without counting my loss of business that I have incurred with the effects that it has had on my mental and physical well-being, which is ongoing.  I also learned from the film that there is no time limit on a “mandatory consideration”, the appeal process that I have started.

You might be wondering why I am airing my dirty laundry in public.  It is embarassing to be this poor. It is heartbreaking to explain to your child that you can no longer afford things they would like to do.   If I can tell my story and help one person, it will be worth it.  What cauuses me great outrage is that HMRC can  get away with making families hungry and cold and yet companies like Vodafone and Goldman Sachs have tax debt written off.  People need to know what is happening!

Thousands of normal working families like me have sent HMRC tax credits timely and accurate information and have found that they suddenly and inexplicably owe thousands of pounds of debt.  We are shown no calculations or reasons for this, we just get a letter one day telling us “tough luck mate, we worked it out wrong and we are taking it back”.

Tax avoiders cos this country billions of pounds and working families have no choice but to be devastated by the miscalculations of the far away civil servants.

I am trying to be positive and am going to do my best to start creating again tomorrow, though I am actually scared of the post at the moment.  I’m hoping postie doesn’t call and I can start the week with a clear head.  I’ve got so much to do, and so much to finish and make and I’m still in limbo.  My cupboards are at least full enough thanks to some amazing local food banks (the three families waiting together just in my group were ALL working families) .  I can only wait now.

UPDATE: I have had a letter now that tells me I am to receive £65 a week until April, after which time we will receive £57 a week.  For two people.  Apparently it is because (I deduced, from reading many websites on the appeals process, because they haven’t told me directly) in the year when I was being stalked and had to change my business and set up a new one, I over estimated my income and as a result of that, they are taking back over £3,000 from me.   How can this even make sense?  It’s like a “small print” clause they do not publicise.  I was careful to share all my information with them in a timely and honest manner and have been punished for it.

20 Feb

The Yin and Yang of life

Recently I have studied a little about the Tao Te Ching, just out of interest, and then had the most perfect example of Tajitu (yin/yang) happen in my own life, as if to prove the wisdom of the ancient Taoist text.

When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.

Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other.

I’m not sure if this post is about Tajitu, or the evil of the English government, or the goodness of people.  I will let you decide.

It’s fairly well known in the UK that our current government has been successful in it’s campaign in conjunction with the mainstream media to demonise the poor and divide society so that it can dismantle the welfare state that Harry Leslie Smith and his generation of people fought and died for.  The current Conservative government  promised to not cut Working Tax Credits but in reality have done so by freezing the amounts that working families receive so that they fall in relation to inflation.  In  2014 rules were introduced to rule out people who were claiming that their hobbies were a business and then receiving Working Tax credits.  The criteria in brief was that the business must be HMRC registered and carried out with the aim of making a profit.

ShoeDoodles started in 2015.  Previously to this date, I worked as a blogger and web designer and had a limited company but a stalker tracked me down using this information and forced me to close the business.  I had painted a few pairs of shoes for friends to say thank you for help and support and somebody suggested I set up an Etsy shop, because my work was good.  So I did, and to my surprise I got some orders, and some more orders and here I am today, with many happy customers, all over the world and my painting is better than ever.

The income is variable and I have not found a way to predict when the next sale is coming through.  I use Etsy, Facebook, BigCartel, Twitter and Instagram and have only recently started blogging again after the horrific on and offline stalking campaign which resulted in the stalker being put into prison, but that hasn’t stopped him.  I am still being watched, and it is still traumatic.

I was, up until four weeks ago – and like pretty much every working parent I know in the UK – receiving  Tax credits to top up my low income.  Then they stopped.  No letter, no reason.  One week I had money to pay bills with and feed my son, the next week, with no warning, it was gone.  After a morning on the telephone I discovered that I had been overpaid and they had stopped my entire regular income to pay themselves back.  No figures were given to me, no criteria, no in-depth explanation about where I had gone wrong and what I had done to deserve this brutal removal of my financial lifeline.

As a survivor of domestic abuse  I was further abused for six years via the family courts, and during this time, also stalked, constantly online and offline too, with numerous breaches of non molestation and restraining orders.  I have PTSD and chronic anxiety from this that had just started to vanish after a year of relative peace and self care.  The savage and incomprehensible removal of my Tax Credits immediately triggered my PTSD, reminded me of when I lost my job and went hungry while I was pregnant, and I am still down that difficult hole right now.

Just as I thought I had managed to begin to make a secure and stable life for my son at last, the government swept it away from under my feet with no comprehensible explanation.  I can only guess – because nobody can tell me – that ShoeDoodles has been misrepresented as a hobby in the minds of one or two civil servants who have little business knowledge and the power to destroy lives at the click of a button.

My creative spark was wiped out immediately as I fought to convince a stranger that my intentions were not to mess around with shoes as a hobby but to build a sustainable business that my son and I could run together for the rest of our lives.  I certainly would not put this much effort into a hobby!  In the past, web design was my hobby.  I went to university and ended up doing an MSc in Computing because f this “hobby”.  I have taught e-commerce and BTec Business.  I am still learning now, I have t be because the online world is constantly evolving.  I have now done all that I can do, and I can only sit here and  wait until someone who doesn’t know me or care about me and my amazing son makes the decision to keep us in poverty or restore us some dignity.

But I’m not looking for sympathy, not for me.  I’m a warrior and a survivor and I am using this tale to urge you to help others.  My story is very common – I found out this almost immediate.  Families have been left without money, immediately and with little recourse by civil servants following orders from the cruel British government.  The rise in food bank use tells our stories pretty well and I was lucky to be eligible for a voucher this week and received a very generous gift from them that will keep us from starving for way more than the three days it was intended.

Thank you Trussell Trust and to everyone who donates too.  The British media have done a great job also of demonising food bank users as drug addicts or people who cannot manage their money properly but I can assure you that this is not true.  Nobody I saw looked addicted and I know – and you do too now – that when you live on the breadline,  one click of a key in an office far away can destroy you, one emergency can destroy you.

They are only following orders….In Mein Kampf, Hitler stated “This art is the sick production of crazy people. Pity the people who are no longer able to control this sickness”.  Is my art and online business model misunderstood?  Is England a fascist state? I would like you to consider and question this, and the artificially created divisions that are apparent in the UK in 2017.

In this period of deep dark despair though, rays of sunshine  have broken through the heavy cloying, irritating smog that has filled my body and brain.  My son’s Godmother was the first stroke of luck , offering cash to help her out with some work, so we ate for another week. Vicky, Jo, Paul and my Dad, all helped make sure my direct debits didn’t bounce this month.  Linda sent me a ton of oat milk and other vegan goodies, and I don;t even know her! Aurora, Divita and Patsy all offered invaluable support and advice and pointed me towards places to go so that I can feed myself and my son.  Elaine listened and bought us a meal and took my mind off things that first impossible weekend.  Lowenna offered me space in The Pretty Pigsty.  Mum, who bakes us home fresh bread every week and gives us food treats. I am humbled by the help and generosity of all these people, some of whom are mainly “internet friends” and people who I know are struggling badly themselves.  One, is a complete stranger, only recently off the streets himself.

I’ve also become an ambassador for an amazing food sharing app that connects you with local people – I’ve met some lovely people already and had the good fortune to try home made pickles and home grown squash! It’s amazing!  If you haven’t already, download Olio and help to share food “waste”.

Maybe, I concluded, you have to have experienced true darkness yourself before you can find the light in your heart to help others without judgement or hidden agenda.  Or maybe you are just born with it.  I am blessed to have the ultimate in human kindness in my son (aka Funny Funky Doodles – he can design you a bag or some shoes as well).  At age seven, he emptied his purse and made me take all of his coins.  He told me “I don’t need classes Mum, all I need is love”.  With an angel like this in my life, the light will always be present.

His words are so perfect, I made them into a backpack bag (34*43cm).  This natural cotton bag is an unique one-off item and costs £30 including free waterproofing and UK postage.




all i need is love bag

01 Feb

Love dogs?

Love is in the air, and what better way to how it than to commission a pair of trainers featuring your faithful, loyal, incredible four legged loves?  This pair of Chuck II Converse were to celebrate the love for two dogs close to the owner’s heart, one still here and the other sadly passed.

Why not send me some of your beloved pet’s ashes so that I can mix them up with the paint?  Then I will paint them onto your shoes and they will still be with you whenever you walk.

28 Jan

Vegan shoes

Armed with new knowledge about the detrimental effect of animal agriculture and fishing on our dying planet (plus, I kind of love the animals, all of them and don’t want to be complicit in pain and torture), I decided to join in Veganuary.

Already using vegan paints and brushes, I thought it’d be helpful to find some Vegan shoes to recommend to people.

I wrote to Vans, but they didn’t reply.

Converse sent me a reply:

Dear ShoeDoodles,

Thank you for sending your email to us here at the U.K Converse online store.

At this current time, Converse does not manufacture any Vegan products due to the lack of demand for this particular product. Now this is something that Converse is looking into, and what I can tell you is that Converse is looking into designing an animal free product, although I have no information as to when this will happen.
 Thank you for your understanding, and on behalf of Converse.com, I wish you a fantastic day.

If our team can be of any further assistance, please send an email to HELPME.EUROPE@CONVERSE.COM or call us on +442035142048 (standard rates, prices from mobile may vary). You can reach us from Monday to Friday between 8am – 8pm and Saturdays between 10am – 6pm. See you soon on Converse.com.

Best regards,

Ingo
Customer Service
Converse.com


All is not lost though, because I did find Ethletic, who are an inspirational fairtrade company who produce “good shoes with good karma” and are pretty darned nice people all round.

Toms also do a pretty big Vegan selection as well as giving away one pair of shoes for each one bought for them.

Do you know of any more Vegan footwear brands that would be good for me to paint? I’d love to hear about them, so I can add them to this list.

25 Jan

Hello world

Hi everyone!

Welcome to ShoeDoodles’  new blog.  A customer, over Christmas, asked about me, who I am, a little about my life and so it occurred to me that a way to answer questions such as this might be to begin a brand new shiny blog and then you can read it and find out about the intricacies of the ShoeDoodles household, our interests, life, and anything else that might crop up along the way.

So here we are, at the beginning of 2017, and at this moment in time I am:

  • a whole life unschooling mother
  • an artist
  • a vegan
  • an animal lover
  • a believer in a fair and equal society

I love my work and beleive I have finally found my calling in life.  The happiness I feel from my customers makes my heart shine like sunshine.  My son is amazing and inspires, supports and lifts me every day and everything I do is to make his life as happy as humanly possible.  Our pets (one dog, one snake and two gerbils) are all rescued animals and make our home even more full of love.

So, readers, what else do you need to know?

 

 

13 Jan

Welcome

Welcome to to the home of ShoeDoodles.

Please bear with us while we create the perfect website.  In the meantime, you can contact us at http://www.facebook.com/shoedoodles.