29 Jul

That time Mummy nearly got arrested

It was a nice sunny day.  We had met with some friends to play at Riversley Park in Nuneaton, a place that I had taken my son to when he was just a toddler, for the first time, and had always had a great time at.  I take my dog with me most places that I go and prior to the 1st July 2017, dogs were allowed in the sandy play area of this park.  I was standing under a tree supervising my son to the edge of the play area.  My beautiful well-behaved dog was on a lead and resting peacefully.  I had just had to intervene in some over zealous play where kids were getting hurt and wanted to stay nearby to stop it happening again.

All of a sudden, an unpleasant young man with some kind of clippy thing on his collars marched up to me and said he was from the council. He told me I was committing a criminal offence being in the park with my dog. I replied I wasn’t aware of this, I’ve been going to the park since my son was very young and people always take their dogs in there. I asked him to show me the sign. He did, but it was a small sign, low down and wrapped around a post near an entrance that I had not used (evidenced by my fitness tracker).  The sign was unclear, and I told him so. I wear varifocal glasses and even if I had used that entrance, the sign was low down and in my fuzzy area of vision.

He was demanding my name and address to issue me with a fine.  I asked what law I had broken and what the fine was, both questions that he did not know the answer to.   I refused to give my name to a stranger and asked to see his ID with his name on it. He refused and eventually showed me it, with his name and the company he worked for covered up. By this time I felt there was something not right so I started videoing him.

I continued to refuse to give my details to a stranger. He claimed to be from Nuneaton and Bedworth Council but was not in a uniform and he would not show me ID. Council employees are obliged to do both.

So he called for a colleague. I explained my situation as a vulnerable adult and continued to refuse to give them my name. The second guy showed me an exercise book from the council which he claimed was his ID and read me what he claimed to be a street caution and told me he would call the police. I said fine, I will give my name to a uniformed officer but not to a stranger with no ID who was going to keep my details very unsafely in a notebook. I waited for half an hour, the police didn’t turn up, it was dinner time and I needed to get my son home so we just left.  The older man followed me back to the car and my son photographed him in the car park as we drove away.

Watch the video. I have edited out members of the public and my son.

The older man claims that most people in the park are probably vulnerable adults – in which case he should not be approaching any of them. Guidelines are that they should not give fines to vulnerable adults.  He openly laughs when I tell him I am a victim of domestic abuse and stalking.

He lied about how they did not carry ID – I had already seen the first mans ID, although key details were concealed. 

Nuneaton and Bedworth council have very clear guidelines to how their staff must treat customers. See the “style of service” section here.

I was so traumatised by this event that I spoke to my safety team the next day.  They were extremely concerned and told me that I absolutely had done the right thing by videoing and refusing to give my personal protected details to a  stranger.  They called the council on my behalf and the council were unaware of the dog exclusion order in the park.  They also stated that the men were NOT employed by the council  as they had claimed and that council employees always wore uniforms and carried ID.  They advised me to call the police.

By this time, given my history, I was extremely distressed.  The police investigated for me and came back to me with a crime number.

These men are employed by a firm called NSL.  They have no more right than you or me to approach people and demand their personal sensitive details.  They have no right to detain anyone and the caution that they read is a scare tactic.  They are low paid jumped up parking attendants trained in intimidation tactics.

You are NOT obliged to give your personal details to anyone.  A quick google search reveals that they are NOT allowed to use the DVLA database to look up your details unless you are littering, dog fouling or flyposting.

My son and I have taken days to recover from this alarming incident and I am posting it here to educate you, and to let people of Nuneaton a) be aware of the new dog exclusion zone and b) about the scare tactics that NSL ON BEHALF OF NUNEATON AND BEDWORTH COUNCIL are employing.

I have friends in Nuneaton, NONE of whom were aware that dogs no longer are allowed in the sandy area.  The friend I met up with goes there daily with her children and says that people bring their pets in there all the time.  The local newspapers have not informed residents of the exclusion.

Bully number two told me that the information is available “on the website”.  It is not.  The website provide a PDF form which must be downloaded to find out that the exclusion order was put in place from the 1st July 2017.  I would not have been able to find this out if a) I didn’t have the internet at home, b) be computer literate and c) know how  to open PDF files.  Many people do not have this privilege.

Do you check the website of the park you visit prior to every visit? No, I didn’t think so. The front page of the council’s website says NOTHING about it, nor any parks information.

Are you happy that un-uniformed men WITH NO ID are patrolling a children’s play area? Is this not a child protection issue?

If you are outraged by this incident, please share this.  You can contact Nuneaton and Bedworth Council here, or on twitter or on facebook.

I am calling on Nuneaton and Bedworth Council to:

  • To install clear and noticeable signs in areas where dogs are newly excluded.
  • The private companies employed to give the fines out need to be uniformed and carry ID, which they are willing to show.
  • That personal data is collected and stored in a secure encrypted manner. Data protection does not protect victims of domestic violence, where personal details are known to the perpetrators.
  • That employees of Nuneaton and Bedworth Council and anyone contracted to work for them  are mandated to treat members of the public in the style of service that is promised to us within the document “Customer service and complaints policy” here.
  • That a first warning be given before any fines are levied.

 

 

25 Jun

On being vegan

People ALWAYS say (amongst other things)”but don’t you miss [xyz animal based product]”.  I have to admit that prior to the full swing to Veganism, I was worried that I would miss cheese, and a nice portion of fish and chips.  Ice cream, cream, I thought that I’d miss them too but as I age I find that my body is less tolerant anyway to fatty foods, particularly dairy based, so no, i do not miss eating pure artery-clogging animal fat.  My health and the planet are way more important.

I first went  vegan twenty-plus years ago and back then it *was* hard – all nut cutlets and expensive specialised health food shops.  Now, you can buy vegan ice cream for about two pound fifty in Aldi and cheap fruit, nuts and seeds there and in Lidl.  Frys and Linda Macartney do amazing reasonably priced stir  fry strips which go far as long as you are modest with the servings and combine them with ample veg.

But then there’s the cheese thing. That was a major thing to give up for me – after all what is more comforting than a nice cheesy baked potato or some macaroni cheese? For lush melty cheese-alike and for a slice in sandwich or melted in a toastie pocket I got for Violife. It’s more expensive than dairy cheese but any cheese is not great for the health so it’s a reminder to eat less of it..

For a home made recipe that is great with everything from nachos to macaroni cheese, I use this recipe, from Veggie on a Penny.  Nobody can believe it’s mostly made from carrots and potatoes! The bonus of vegan cheese is that it lasts a lot longer than dairy cheese in the fridge.

But a nice chippy tea is hard to beat right? The Avant-garde vegan made my tastebuds beam with happiness (if that is even possible…probably not!) with his vegan fish and chips recipe. The fish is made from tofu and noori and is every bit – if not more – melt in the mouth than battered cod. With the added bonus of not destroying the oceans and hurting sentient beings.

Being vegan is not hard these days. Eating out is not withing my meagre budget so is not an issue but I am told that restaurants and chain pubs offer an ok selection these days.

So, what are you waiting for? Give up animal products for your health, the animals and the planet.  Make this next month Veganuly and take an exciting leap into new cuisine.

 

23 Apr

DresdecO – apparel meets art

If you’ve not already heard of the outstanding indie brand DresdecO you really need to go and have a look. I adore the Lady DresdecO lines, in particular the Couture Shoe Illustration lines.

So it was an honour to collaborate with this great illustrator and innovator and find that his tag line where Apparel meets Art was a perfect fit with my own customised wearable art.

ShoeDoodles only wears what she can be active in, her life and art compliment and reflect each other.  DresdecO promotes movement and the fusion of art and life.

Find DresdecO on facebook, instagram & twitter.

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.

 

 

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.

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?