Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What’s it all about?

I don’t know about anyone else but I suffer from cosmic angst, the feeling that unless I know the reason for living there isn’t much reason in living.  I didn’t know how to put it into words until I met J Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, when he was at the first dedicated Babylon 5 convention here in Birmingham.  He was explaining the thinking behind what he was putting his characters through and said that he posed two questions to them in the wrong order, namely “what do you want?” and “who are you?”.  To have the answer to what you want, Straczynski said, one must first know who you are.  It was at that moment I found what I had been missing in life – I didn’t, and still don’t, know who I am.  I have spent many a long night trying to work out the answer to that annoying question to no avail.
I have very little memory of my childhood and I have no idea why I became a victim of depression at the age of seven.  The only way to find out who I am is to know what made me the person I am today for a person is the product of their memories and experiences.  I don’t know what to do about my lack of memories about my childhood.  I’ve asked my parents but they are as much help as a chocolate pickaxe.  I have no friends from that point in my life; let’s face facts – I haven’t got any friends full stop, not friends who know me well enough to be able to help me anyway.  I certainly don’t want to have hypnotherapy because you never know the kind of things the therapist is doing to your fragile mind or body while you’re under the influence (although that might increase my sexual experience, I suppose).
I need to know who I am.  I need to know what the Hell my existence is all about.  That need is all-consuming in my life, even more necessary to me than all the other things on the Maslow hierarchy of needs.  I need to be complete, to become all that I’m capable of becoming, to be the real me rather than the series of masks I have to wear to fit in to a society that I am increasingly horrified and marginalised by.
Such big questions have no easy solutions and I have sought answers in philosophy, psychology, politics, theology as well as my own attempts at poetry and self-analysis through the writing of a TV series based on my interests and research.  I am still suffering from cosmic angst though as, no matter how much I try, I still have no answers. 
Who am I?  I don’t know.
What do I want?  I don’t know.
Not much progress for 17 years work, is it?
Until next time…

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

I wish he’d make up his mind!

Following my last appointment with the consultant psychiatrist who is in charge of my case, I was left with the impression that I was about to be cut loose from the service I rely on because I was ‘un-helpable’.  He also made it rather clear to me that he seemed to think that I didn’t even suffer from the recurrent depressive disorder I already had the diagnosis of.  However, on Saturday, I received the copy of his report and he now says that I do suffer from recurrent depressive disorder and that there is the ‘possibility of co-morbid personality characteristics perpetuating his constant low mood’.
I quite like his closing statement: “Overall, it was my impression that Myles Cook suffers from a recurrent depressive disorder, the symptoms of which are currently mild in the absence of antidepressants.  There is a likelihood of Myles Cook suffering from a co-morbid personality disorder with further immediate complicating social and financial stressors that makes his prognosis guarded, in particular, if he had a failed attempt with psychotherapy.”
I do have a couple of issues with his report though.  There are a couple of factual errors such as the fact that I lost my cat and that I fell asleep in one session of group psychotherapy.  Firstly, I almost lost my cat due to his ill-health but didn’t actually lose him. Secondly, I fell asleep in more than one session.
The other issue I have with the report is the idea of the depressive symptoms being ‘mild in the absence of antidepressants’.  Well, if going to bed every night not wanting to wake up the next morning and waking up each morning hating the fact that I’m still breathing is ‘mild’ then, perhaps, the word means something different in psychiatric circles.
I just wish he’d make up his mind about where I stand psychologically so, just perhaps, I might actually get some treatment that might help me.
Until next time…

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Another week, another set of stuff to do

Next week looks like it’s going to be a relatively busy one for me considering I’m out of work. 
On Monday I have to give feedback to the Care Quality Commission inspectors about the Assessment Unit in Basildon Hospital and my personal experiences on that ward.  I actually think that I was suggested as someone to interview by someone who wants to piss off SEPT, the mental health provider.  I was told that the person who suggested me thought I’d be able to give a balanced testimony with good and bad points about the ward.  He obviously hasn’t listened to me in the past!
Before that appointment, I have an early morning meeting with the lecturer I helped out with advice on the student presentations at Anglia Ruskin University.  It’s only a quick meeting but might lead to another involvement opportunity with her so fingers crossed.
On Tuesday I have my weekly appointment with the Employment Specialist who is trying to assist me back into the workplace.  She’s always extending our supposedly hour-long sessions but, although it can be annoying at times, the work we get out of the extra time is always worth the inconvenience.  At least she’s helping me follow my employment goals.
On Wednesday I’ve got a Governing Body meeting at Thurrock Adult Community College.  Usually I can just sit there and chime in if I have something to say but, as I’m the Vice Chair of the Standards Committee and the Chair can’t be at the meeting, I’m giving the feedback of the last committee meeting to the full Board of Governors.  I’m shaking in my less than comfortable shoes but I’ll just have to do my duty.
I was actually made Vice Chair of the Standards Committee by default as I always seemed to be the only applicable applicant for the job so I have made it known that I would like to stand down as soon as possible to make way for someone else to have a go, assuming we get another applicable volunteer for the post.  It’s not that I don’t like being Vice Chair; it’s more the fact that I don’t like getting a position by default.
Thursday is my ‘I don’t have anything to do’ day so I suppose I’d better get my latest Your Thurrock blog written up.  It’s my observations on the Independent Advisory Group meeting, hate crime and the elections for the new Police and Crime Commissioners.  I think I’ll also write my end of year blog as well.  I’ve picked the subject already – a review of the last three and a half years of my life and how far I’ve come in that time.  The review will take a while to write but the ‘how far I’ve come’ part can probably be summed up in two words – ‘not far’.
On Friday I’m back in Basildon for an International Day of Disabled People (IDDP) event at which I will be facilitating a group of disabled people who will be relating their experiences to members of Basildon Council’s staff.  The actual date for IDDP is 3 December but 30 November was the only date the organiser could get a venue for.
Anyway, that’s my coming week.  It may not be as busy as some people’s week but it’s packed enough for me.
Until next time…

Friday, 23 November 2012

My Your Thurrock news items

Last night I submitted three news items to Your Thurrock, my local news website.  Only two were posted and one of those had additional bits added by my boss.  Below are the missing item and the original version of one of the posted ones for your information and entertainment.
Stanhope Industrial Estate planning application
The proposal for the use of the land at Stanhope Industrial Estate for open storage went before the Planning Committee last night.

A visit to the site was made on 13 November by council representatives in order to make a more informed judgement on the matter.

As part of the discussion, it was established that the height of storage at Stanhope would be kept to a specified minimum.  Cllr Anderson suggested that consideration should be made as to landscaping the area as there is a clear line of sight between the new Essex Wildlife Visitor Centre and the industrial estate.  Cllr Healy was happy to second the suggestion.

Cllr Hebb was concerned that the report presented to the committee was weighted heavily on the 2004 application and was not persuaded that it would add viability to the area.

It was also suggested by a committee member that, perhaps, purely industrial use for the site might not be appropriate in 2012.

Despite the points raised against the application, however, the proposal was approved with the proviso that landscaping was done to protect the view of the new amenity.

Controversial Corringham market plans thrown out
The controversial matter of the planning application for an open market in Corringham town centre was discussed during last night’s Planning Committee meeting.

In an initial presentation of the situation, it was pointed out that the market could prove to restrict access for emergency vehicles and the disabled, a point denied by the applicants.

Deborah Stuart, a representative for the residents, said that the residents were not against OMG, the applicant, but against the location chosen for the market.  The point was made that the Town Square was a residential focussed area, despite the commercial businesses.  Ms Stuart argued that there would be a need for increased levels of policing and traffic enforcement that would be costly.  “Corringham is not a town in crisis”, remarked Ms Stuart.  She stated the resident’s belief that the market would not help local traders and those whose business revolves around appointments would be adversely affected on market days.

Robert Wong, representative for the applicant, stated that there are 150 businesses in the area but no clothing or footwear shops.  The market was meant to offer a more diverse range of goods than is currently available in Corringham and safeguards were to be put in place to prevent unfair competition between the market and existing traders.  Safeguards were also to be put in place to reduce the noise for the local residents.

Cllr Hipsey was prepared to defer a decision on the issue until the next meeting but was over-ruled in a vote on the grounds that the committee owed the residents a timely solution.  Cllr Speight stated that a decision should be made sooner rather than later.

Cllr Anderson brought the discussion to a grinding halt with his view that the market would dominate the town centre and would fundamentally change the character of Corringham.  He stated that the plans would “seriously affect the vitality and viability” of Corringham which is against council policy designed to improve town centres.

The proposal was rejected in its current form by majority vote.

As always it was really nice to have been given the chance to add to my journalistic portfolio and to see that all important ‘by line’.
Until next time…

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A semi-eventful life

Well, this week is turning out to be a semi-eventful one.  On Monday I was one of two ‘experts by experience’ advising a lecturer on a social work course on a day’s worth of student presentations.  We were there to give feedback to the students and to help the lecturer decide whether the students had covered all the points they had to cover regarding the legislative and ethical issues based on a case study as well as the conflicts between personal and professional values, between all the legislative requirements that the case study required as well as the differences between powers and duties.  It was fascinating to see the circles into which the prospective social workers are forced and the constant battle between doing what’s right for the service user and doing what’s in their best interests.
The groups all had rather creative ways of presenting the information they had to get across from acted out scenarios to quiz shows and I have to say that they all did a fantastic job.  They were only first year students so there was a certain amount of nervousness as should be expected, however, the whole day was entertaining and informative and I’m hoping that the service user perspective feedback we gave was of value to both the students and the lecturer.  The whole thing did, however, highlight the need for certain additions to the course such as presentation skills training; this was another of the functions of having ‘experts by experience’ at the presentations – to provide feedback on how the course was being taught from our observations of the presentations.  Apart from the need for presentation skills to be embedded as a basic skill, my colleague and I found that the course seems to be taught very well so we had no complaints.
I had a ‘phone call earlier today from my ‘boss’ at Your Thurrock asking if I could cover a Planning meeting at the council offices tomorrow night that I have, of course, grabbed with both hands on the proviso that I’m free to be there.  I’m also awaiting a call about a court case I was supposed to be going to with the ‘boss’ at some time during the day tomorrow as well.  It’s a case I can’t really go into here as 1) it is still going through the courts and 2) I don’t have all the facts to hand anyway.
I have to say that it’s nice to be asked to cover more news-related things for Your Thurrock as it makes me feel a hell of a lot better about myself seeing the odd ‘by line’ associated with my name.  As I have said in the past, I feel as though I have been validated as a budding journalist even if it never translates into a proper job.  I do have to say though that, if a proper job came up, I’d jump at the chance especially if my blog became part of that paid job too.
My week is not a full-on explosion of activity but it is a semi-eventful one with just enough activity to keep my mind occupied and little enough to not stress me out too much as I look towards getting back into the job market.  It may be that my life isn’t as pointless as first I thought.
Until next time…

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Considering the future

I am really putting a lot of thought into my future right now.  Should I stop writing my blogs?  Should I stop trying to change the world for the better?  Should I just be as selfish as most human beings are and just do stuff for myself?
I am considering these questions and more because, no matter what I do, I seem to make enemies for myself, damage my employment chances and hardly anyone listens to me anyway.  I am fed up of wasting my breath and my writing ability on a world and a society that really does not care.  I spent almost three years helping mental health service users and carers have their voice heard at the commissioning level only to have the mental health commissioners drop those of us who wanted to continue the good work we had done through a new organisation.  After that time and all the training that we had received in that period, we have been dumped with no real ‘thank you’ or even the tiniest bit of funding to help us set up on our own.
I have no illusions that, in my attempts to make life better for mental health service users and carers or to make organisations run properly, I have made a lot of enemies with my forthright attitude and the fact that I speak my mind.  This means that, in my local area, I have been black-balled by people who are not as conscientious or precise as me and some avenues have been closed off to me.  I have even been threatened with physical violence and suffered verbal assaults from such people.
I have been called upon to do the odd assignment for Your Thurrock, a local news website, but I am no nearer actually getting a job that will help me improve my life.  I am not even sure how many people read my blogs and news items on Your Thurrock.  I suppose it is a way of building up a portfolio of journalistic work but will it lead to a job in that field?  Who knows?
I could look at getting a journalism qualification but, as a mature student and only on benefits with no personal savings, how could I afford the course and its associated costs?  Then, would any employer take on someone with only another 20 years of working life left?  Would they not be looking for a fresh-faced youth with 40-odd years left before retirement?
I am about to lose my access to mental health services and I am under attack by my own Government for no other reason than I have a mental health problem and am out of work because of it.  I go to bed every night hoping I will die during the night and wake up every morning horrified that I am still alive.  I hate being the way I am and knowing that nothing I do to improve my life has had that desired effect.
I am sick and tired of being used, abused and picked on whilst I am trying to do the best I can for myself and the community I live in.  I have a lot of thinking to do as to whether it really is worth me even bothering to stay involved with the rest of the human race.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Another assignment for Your Thurrock

Yesterday I went on another assignment for Your Thurrock to film the prize-giving celebration at The Grays School.  I was packed off with an HD camcorder and the minimal brief of getting footage of the kids getting their certificates and/or trophies.
I went with high hopes, a feeling of being trusted enough to do the job in the first place and the determination to do a good job.  Funny things - hopes and determination; I certainly got plenty of footage but whether any of the footage is useable is another matter.  I hoped I would do a good job and was determined in that respect but I am not sure that the resultant footage is particularly good.  A combination of nerves and an apparent muscle weakness in my right arm when confronted with holding even a small weight have led to slightly, and in some cases, very wobbly pictures.
I handed off my footage and camera to the boss this afternoon whilst painting the bleakest picture I could of my performance, not to blacken my attempt but simply to make sure that the expectation bar was set pretty low.  There was one good point though; my boss received an e-mail with the press release from The Grays School which stated that the Thurrock Gazette did not even turn up last night.  So, at least I turned up and made sure that Your Thurrock has something to post on their site rather than just the official press release.  I will have to take some satisfaction in that.
This whole experience has convinced me that I am never going to be a cameraman unless the object of the footage is to emulate the movie Cloverfield.  I think I will stick to what I am best at – spewing poison and bile and handling a keyboard.
Until next time…

Conservative party conspiracy to sabotage climate change progress - Greenpeace UK

Conservative party conspiracy to sabotage climate change progress - Greenpeace UK

Monday, 12 November 2012

Silly season blues 2012

Oh, how I hate Christmas and its gradual build-up from the beginning of November to the fateful day.  The desire to put oneself into debt and stress oneself out puzzles me somewhat, so much so that I finally decided to stop celebrating the event back in 2010.  Oh you grouch, you may say but I have actually felt better in myself through not celebrating Christmas.  That said, I still buy family members presents because it would be wrong of me to force my decision upon them who, for some reason, still wish to celebrate.  Of course, my decision really only helps my family as I am still trying to find the money to buy presents for them whilst gaining nothing for myself so I really shot myself in the foot but I still feel better in myself.
So, why am I so blue over this Christmas?  The answer is simple – I have not got the money to start buying presents for my family so they are going to suffer this year.  The on-going situation of escalating bills and day-to-day living costs has seriously affected my ability to purchase the gifts I would like to buy my family.  I do not expect presents at Christmas anymore so I can live without them but my family are different.  I am not saying that they are only into Christmas for the presents but they have more fun at Christmas tearing into wrapping paper.  Their eyes light up (well, one of them has lit up eyes) and they seem happy for a short while in a world that is so full of darkness and misery the rest of the year.
When I decided not to be a hypocrite anymore and stopped celebrating Christmas, I thought that I would still be able to help the rest of my family have a good time but now I realise that, starting this year, I may not be able to maintain the illusion for them.  I am a miserable old fart (I have that on authoritative opinion from my consultant psychiatrist) and this is yet another blow to my chances of grabbing a little bit of happiness by being able to help others be happy at this festive time.  My desperation to find some way of getting some money together is just going to make me feel worse as I fail to do so.  Christmas has not meant anything to me for a long time but, until this year, it has at least not been another way for me to fail my family.  This year, Christmas is going to be just another reason to hate myself and the hateful thing is that it is not even my fault.  I can try all I like to find employment but the likelihood is that I will not be able to get a job fast enough to earn enough money quickly enough to buy my family presents and, unlike previous years, my benefit money does not stretch far enough to be able to compensate.
I really fucking hate Christmas!
Until next time…

Saturday, 10 November 2012

My second news item for Your Thurrock

On the off-chance that my second news item is not posted on Your Thurrock's site, here it is below as I submitted it.

The agenda for last night’s Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting was dominated by the changes to Council Tax and its related benefit caused by the Coalition Government’s localism agenda.

The first subject covered on this subject was the issue of Council Tax exemptions and discretionary discounts that will come into effect as of 1 April 2013.

According to the report delivered to the committee by Martin Hone, Director of Finance and Corporate Governance, Thurrock Council are considering changes to the exemption status of three main classes – Class A (vacant dwellings undergoing major repair works or structural alterations), Class C (vacant dwellings i.e. empty and substantially unfurnished) and Class L (an unoccupied dwelling which has been taken into possession by a mortgage lender).  These exemption classes are of grave importance for Thurrock as the borough has more homes left unoccupied for a period of over two years compared with other authorities consulted.  With this in mind, Mr Hone remarked that the proposals were less about income generation and more about getting properties back into use for tenants, a definite need for the borough.

The current exemption for Class A properties is a discount of 100% for up to 12 months whilst Class C exemption is currently a discount of 100% for up to 6 months.  The Class L exemption discount is currently undergoing a rethink at national Government level and is also in the middle of a consultation with affected parties.  The single person’s discount of 25% was not up for discussion as that was being set nationally and not included in the localism agenda.

During the debate on the various proposals, Cllr Martin Healy remarked that the current levels of exemption discounts are “unduly generous” and that the new discounts should provide an incentive for quicker occupation of empty properties although he was against the idea of getting rid of exemption discounts entirely.

Cllr Wendy Curtis posed the question of properties left empty due to being previously owned by people who died intestate to which Mr Hone replied that there were legal issues that would have to be looked into by the council’s Legal Department as to how these could be acquired.

Cllr Barry Johnson, Vice Chair of the committee, was of the personal opinion that all exemptions should be removed although also suggested that, perhaps, Classes A and C could be combined into a single exemption class and that the new class be given a duration of 30 days.  Mr Hone commented that the council currently use a national template for exemption classes but that, as of April 2013, these could be changed as part of the localism agenda plans.

Cllr Richard Speight, Chair of the committee, agreed with the points raised by both Cllrs Healy and Johnson.  He also added that he was in favour of adopting either a 100% discount for three months or 25% discount for three months on Class C exemptions with a reduction in discounts for Class A exemptions.

Cllr Charlie Key showed concern that changes to the Council Tax exemptions could mean higher rents for tenants as property owners seek to recoup their extra expenditure in extra Council Tax payments.  Mr Hone admitted that this might well be a problem.  Cllr Speight remarked that he did not want the changes to add further financial burden to the rent payers of Thurrock.

Cllr Johnson was in favour of changing the duration for Class C discounts to 30 days but suggested that Class A needed the term ‘major repair works’ properly defined before any decision could be made on discounts and duration.  He also asked for clarification on whether a Class A exemption could be followed up with a Class C on a property to which Mr Hone replied that that was not possible.

Cllr Key urged the committee that the decisions made on this subject should be made with regard to making sure that the most vulnerable tenants are not adversely affected.

The discussion on exemptions was brought to a close with the following decisions – Class C exemption discounts should be 100% for three months, a decision passed by majority vote, and that there is a recommendation of seeking legal advice on the definition of the term ‘major repair works’ before a decision is made regarding Class A exemptions.

The idea of adding a premium to Council Tax bills for long-term empty properties was briefly discussed although Cllr Johnson was not happy with that idea.

The next subject under discussion was the changes to Council Tax Benefit, soon to become known as Council Tax Support.  Mr Hone presented some general information on the changes, commenting that the amount available for Council Tax Support would be reduced although pensioner households would remain unaffected by the changes.  Mr Hone also remarked that the first £25 of earnings within working age households would be disregarded in the calculation for determining eligibility for Council Tax Support and Child Allowances and child maintenance payments would not be included in the income for households.

It was put to the committee that the deadline for the proposed changes to Council Tax Benefit need to be made is 31 December 2012 or national Government would impose a default scheme upon Thurrock Council.  The default scheme would mean 10% less money from central Government, equating to a shortfall of approximately £1.3 million that would have to be found through taking money from other services in Thurrock.

Cllr Speight told the committee that the recommendation from the Task and Finish Group was that the maximum amount of Council Tax Support that should be made available to claimants would be 75% of the resident’s Council Tax bill, meaning that claimants will have to pay 25% of their total bill.

Mr Hone said that if Thurrock accepted the transitional grant from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the council could keep Council Tax at its present rate and offer Council Tax Support of up to 80% but that the transitional grant was only for one year and could end up costing the council more money in the long run.  The recommendation has been made to reject the transitional grant from the DCLG, as have most authorities in the country.

By offering a maximum of 75% in Council Tax Support, however, does imply there will be an increase of 2% in the Council Tax in the next year according to the report.  This is unconfirmed at present and may change closer to the time for setting such figures.

To help vulnerable individuals in Thurrock for whom this will be the first time they will have received a Council Tax bill, the council is trying to push the idea of monthly payments so that such residents are not forced into debt.  A recommendation was also put to the committee that the council should re-visit the Fair Debt Policy to ensure vulnerable people are fairly treated.  Mr Hone commented that all cases where there is an issue will be examined.

To further help vulnerable residents, a Hardship Fund of approximately £250,000 will be set up and that the money will be ring-fenced.  The fund will be reviewed on an annual basis and that the level of available funds would be based on need as far as possible.

Cllr Johnson asked why Thurrock is rejecting the DCLG transitional grant when our partners in Barking and Dagenham are accepting it.  Mr Hone pointed out that Thurrock has a higher record of collecting Council Tax from its residents (99.2% currently) than the London borough and that they have a higher amount of needy households, requiring a more generous Council Tax Support.

The recommendations of the committee are to be given to Cabinet next week and then on to the full council meeting on 28 November.  The plans put in place will not be able to be changed for 12 months so Thurrock Council is under pressure to get things right.  Cllr Speight summed up the Council Tax changes discussion by saying that both Labour and the Conservatives are concerned over the changes that need to be made and the short amount of time that central Government have given authorities to implement them.  Cllr Speight remarked that, unfortunately, Thurrock was having to make the best of a bad situation.

Shadow of a doubt and other matters

Well, the news item that I submitted to Your Thurrock has still not been posted.  There could be a number of reasons for this – the volume of work the boss has to edit, the possibility that what I wrote was either crap or did not capture what the boss wanted.  There are probably other reasons too but, whatever the reason, I am left feeling as though I am being ignored.  This is not the boss’s fault, simply my own depression talking to me through the constant chattering of my personal demons who tell me that I am not worth listening to, that my writing is crap and that I should give up now before I really embarrass myself.  It is the not knowing that raises these thoughts, these shadows of doubts, in my abilities and my self-worth takes a battering.  I should not let these thoughts get to me but I cannot help it.  Perhaps I am worthless as a writer.  Perhaps I should just give up.  Perhaps I should stop writing this blog too.  I do have readers here on this blog but not really enough to make it worthwhile continuing to write it.  Perhaps.
I am not looking for thousands of readers, just a hundred would be nice.  I struggle sometimes to reach double figures on some of my entries so would anyone really miss me if I stopped writing?
Now onto other matters…
My internet connection is down on my mobile ‘phone so I am at the mercy of the public library system at the moment.  I spent over an hour on the ‘phone to the mobile ‘phone technical support line and got very little help so I am losing days of the 30 day internet pass I purchased with nothing to show for it.
I am angry and more than a little annoyed that the people at T-Mobile seemed to think it funny to slam the ‘phone down on me about three times whilst they were paying the bill for the call so I had to keep calling them back on my ‘phone at about 25p per minute.  I would change networks if it were not for the fact that the handset I have got is a T-Mobile brand ‘phone.  I am sick and tired of all the problems I have been having with T-Mobile and will certainly be considering changing networks should I ever have the money to buy a new ‘phone.
*  *  *  *  *
I realise that my blog has turned into nothing more than a boring round of moaning and misery but it is hard to put any humour into my entries when circumstances are dictating that there is nothing to write about except mundane, miserable matters.  I shall try to come up with something better in future.
Until next time (if, indeed, there is a next time)…

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Another weird turn of events

Yesterday, I was asked by my boss at Your Thurrock to cover another committee meeting for the site.  I was surprised at the request and have done my best to cover the issue I was meant to report on, that of the changes to Council Tax and its related benefit, in full.

This is my second shot at a proper journalistic 'by line' so I hope it gets posted on the site.  It is further validation of my skill as a writer and as a budding proper journalist.  Bit of a joke there - how can I possibly be considered a budding anything at the age of 41? :)

This isn't much of a blog entry really, I just wanted to tell someone.