Tag Archives: Government

My review of Everything Everything in concert in Manchester…

Last Friday my wife and I saw Everything Everything in concert at the Apollo theatre in Manchester and they were superb! When we moved back to the UK after living in Canada for a few years, one of the discoveries we made was BBC Radio 6 Music, which is now our station. I love the grumps of Shaun Keaveny in the morning as a contrast to more upbeat breakfast show presenters, I usually have the radio tuned to this station throughout the day, and Craig Charles’ Saturday evening ‘Funk and Soul’ show is superb. If you want somewhere to start, that is where I would suggest and I really hope that you do for it’s an excellent station.

6 Music

Through this station I have discovered many new wonderful acts including Courtney Barnett (who we will be seeing in May), First Aid Kit (who I hope to see later in the year) and Honeyblood (I have no idea when they’ll be on tour, but I hope soon!). I discovered Everything Everything when they released ‘Distant Past’, the excellent lead single from their ‘Get To Heaven’ album and 6 Music gave it significant play.

Get To Heaven

Now, this is certainly not the sort of song I would usually love, being mostly a listener to rock, but I heard it a few times and it really grabbed me. ‘Regret’ and ‘Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread’ came out soon after and I was hooked. Honestly, their music is just so good that I began to look out for it and for their next release. They are put into the indie category but I’m not sure that is what I would call them. I’m actually not sure exactly what category I would put them into, for their music is very funky with lyrics that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. Honestly, Basement Jaxx is another band I would compare them to, though I’ve no idea whether they would agree with that.

When they released the next album, ‘A Fever Dream’, ‘Can’t Stop’ was the lead single and I was immediately hooked. It’s an absolutely perfect little pop song that I was singing for weeks and loving. The album is very good, especially ‘Run the Numbers’, ‘Night of the Long Knives’ and ‘Desire’. Who else but these guys would use the lyric “I’m just a knuckle-dragger with the knuckle-dragger grin’? No-one that I’m aware of.

Fever Dream

So, the gig. The band came out all dressed in blue jackets except the lead singer, Jonathan Higgs, who was sporting an orange one. It made a nice contrast and he really stood out while prancing around the stage and belting out his falsetto voice. And it was one hell of a show! They put on an impressive performance in which I saw what I imagine Queen were like during their prime. Or maybe Muse, not that I’ve seen them live either. The venue was packed, my wife and I were hemmed in with nowhere to go, but I didn’t care. The crowd were bouncing, belting out every word and having a blast, as was I!


Many songs stood-out, especially ‘Desire’, ‘Can’t Stop’ and ‘Cough Cough’. And in the gig, I saw an act on the precipice of becoming huge, a band who doubtless delight at festivals and who I see now moving into the phase of their career when they can fill stadia across the country. I really hope that’s what happens, they deserve it.

The gig ended with ‘Distant Past’, my in to the them, followed by the haunting ‘No Reptiles’, which features the lyric ‘like a fat child in a pushchair’ and as we left the venue and headed back to the station, this was what I was singing while all around us fans were yelling out whichever song had stuck with them. I’ve rarely seen a crowd so obviously engaged and I will looking forward to their next album and awaiting the next chance I get to see them live. Bravo!


‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: https://tinyurl.com/yce6bvtg. Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!



My recent troubles with the DWP when I tried to claim Jobseekers Allowance…

I have not written a blog post in a while due to the time pressures of work, a move across the country and my general disillusionment with the hardship of being a self-published author and how difficult it is to feel like you are making any progress. That is not to say that I have given up, merely that I needed a break and that I would eventually come back feeling refreshed. I shall soon finish the sequel to ‘Only an atheist’, ‘Jesus Returns’, and self-publish it along with, hopefully, a few podcasts appearances. I am also making good progress with a book of short, science-fiction stories (that I am thoroughly enjoying writing!) and shall endeavour to get these published in magazines and via the traditional publishing route. Until I give up and self-publish, most likely!


Anyway, that is not the topic of this blog post, which is how Goddamn awful and unfit for purpose the DWP is. I’m sure a great many people would agree with that perspective, having had dealings with them, but I am currently banging my head against the wall that is our social security net and getting nowhere fast. Many years ago I was very unwell for a long time and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) helped me through this period. That was until I was sent to Atos for a physical assessment and, sure enough, deemed fit for work (which I definitely was not). I was then shunted onto Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) until I was able to get myself well enough to return to my studies, at least part-time, before finishing up my PhD in Neuroscience, as had always been my intention.


Above, Iain Duncan Smith, the previous gremlin in charge of destroying our social security net.

Now we move forward to present day. My wife and I recently moved across the country due to her job relocating and we had little choice but to move too. As a result I had to leave my job and I am now actively looking for work, with some success, in another field. I hope and expect to be reemployed soon. In the meantime I began a claim of Jobseekers Allowance to get me through the intervening period. My stamps have been paid for the past few years and, as a result I am entitled to JSA, or at least I thought I was. I put in my claim and waited for the payments which never came. Instead the awful brown letters from the DWP (that somehow seemed to be filled with dread) did appear to tell me that I would be getting nothing. Not a penny.


A conversation with someone on the helpline informed me that the reason I was not getting JSA was that the years that my current claim were assessed on were earlier than I thought and, as I had been living in Canada during one of those years, I had not paid enough stamps. Fair enough. However, the assessment years then changed when we reached the first Sunday of January 2018 and I am now eligible having paid my stamps for the appropriate years. Except the DWP will not reassess your claim even if you ask them to. They will not explain why that is the case. The only option is to close your claim and then restart it to force them to reassess the claim. All done and dusted, right? It should all be sorted now, yes? No.


Above, Esther McVey, the current minister in charge of the DWP.


As I made a first claim back in November, which I did not know would not allow me JSA, and I have now reclaimed I am being told the two claims are ‘linked’, DWP magic words for ‘we simply don’t want to pay you what you have earned’. Now, I have two choices. Either close my current claim and wait TWELVE weeks (and a day!) to restart my claim, forfeiting the NI contributions that I would get during this time and possibly jeopardise my state pension (I was a student for many years and lived in Canada for five more so I am genuinely worried I won’t have 35 years NI paid by the time I reach retirement) or I can keep getting my NI paid but NEVER get any JSA. That is despite my stamps now being paid for the relevant years.


There is clearly no justification for the position I find myself in, the DWP merely tells me this is the way things are and there is little point trying to fix it as JSA will be phased out soon and replaced with the joy that is Universal Credit. And we all know how well that is going. They have no interest in helping me and don’t care that they are not paying me what I have earned. The people I have spoken to on the phone have been very nice and helpful, explaining why I have fallen over every obstacle placed in my path that I could not see until I had fallen over them, and I bear them no ill will. But the godawful system that has been twisted by this Tory government (and by the Blair government too, they are not blameless in this situation) and now needs to be reconstructed so that it is fit for purpose when it so clearly is not at the moment.


I am lucky, however. I do not need the miserly amount of money that would come from the JSA to survive. Between my wife’s salary and our savings we will get by and I should be returning to work in a relatively decent job soon. I hope. I also would have liked to swear profusely during the conversations with the DWP and in this blog post but I did not do that. That is less effective than simply telling the story of how they have treated me and the way in which the system acts to deny the payment of money earned. So now I am able to get nothing despite having contributed for years. But then that is the point, isn’t it. This Tory government does not want us to access the social security network that is supposed to be there to protect us. Frances Ryan wrote about this recently in the Guardian (https://tinyurl.com/ycjc7pj9) and she makes the point very eloquently.


I am also acutely aware that I am far from the worst affected. I recently watched I, Daniel Blake with my wife (and I am in no way trying to compare my story with this one) but I read the news and I know that many out there have things much worse than I. It is apparent, and has been for some time, that we need this Tory government out and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to gain power (as a Labour party member, of course I would say that, but I do feel it is true). We need a shift away from the harmful neo-liberal policies of the last few decades and a return to social democracy where the system is set up to support those who need it and who contribute to it. Not just for those who have paid into the system, like myself, but for those who need the help, for those who are homeless through no fault of their own (blame the insane London property market) and for those struggling to feed and house themselves and their kids despite working a full-time job.


So, bring on the next election, say I. Bring on the end of this Tory government and bring on Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. Because, whatever the Tory press tell us, it’s can’t be worse than this bunch of muppets!


Update: It’s always nice when things work as they are supposed to and, much to my surprise, things have now worked out. Following the DWP denying my legitimate claim, and my letter to the my local MP, they have now reassessed and decided to pay the JSA that I am owed. I suspect that, without the intervention of my local (Tory) MP, David Rutley, this would not have happened and I am grateful for his help. Of course, that won’t stop me voting Labour in the next election but I am glad that they system has worked as intended and that he was willing to help me. Cheers!


‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!


Reaching ‘peak stuff’ and how it has changed my view and what I want…

So, the feeling has been building for a while but I think my wife and I have finally reached ‘peak stuff’, that is the notion that we now have enough material possessions in our lives and that we no longer wish to keep gathering more. This makes us very bad citizens in the current age when you are encouraged to buy more and to consume more and to not think about the environmental cost of all this and instead to think about the benefits to the economy. It also causes issues at Christmas with all the gift giving and receiving.


But the reality is that we really do have enough stuff. We live in a small apartment and, unless something dramatic changes (which it actually might be, if some newspaper reports are right), we won’t be buying a house anytime soon. Therefore we can only buy and keep the stuff that we can fit into said apartment. We have moved several times in the past decade (another increasing trend among my generation and the next), including to and from Canada and this required us to shed the vast majority of our stuff (and to buy new, which was quite fun), the rest was stored to await our return. But even those things, those possessions that we decided were worth keeping, are now looking like unnecessary junk in our lives and we are considering losing more and more of what remains.


In addition to this, I have sold off the majority of collectibles that I owned from many years spent building a substantial Transformers and Star Wars Black figures collection. Losing that feeling of needing to own stuff means that these figures would inevitably be heading out the door, and selling them actually paid for our car. I have also stopped buying graphic novels, which has been a passion of mine for a long time (though I still buy beautiful hardcovers of series I love, my last remaining weakness). I had gradually been moving to digital for my book and graphic novel needs anyway so replacing them with electronic versions when they have been available for a good price is a good move. Most of my physical books are borrowed from the library, breaking the link between owning and reading, and subscriptions to online streaming services have ended the need to buy physical copies of movies. All that we have left are mostly mementos of our lives and our travels and I am realising more and more that we need little else.


So then the question changes from what do I need to buy and own to what else do I want? I want an electric car (something else that seems right on the cusp of becoming mainstream) for I do not want to keep contributing to our humongous carbon dioxide output. I want less plastic to pass through my hands simply because I have a need to eat (why does a cucumber now come wrapped in this?). I want to eat well (our Riverford Farms weekly veg box helps with that http://tinyurl.com/j58aep6). I want the world to stop consuming fossil fuels when alternatives are finally reaching the mainstream (higher plastic use is clearly a by-product of oil consumption when we have significant quantities of oil derivatives to use) and I want renewable energy to become the norm, as I was told as a kid that it would be. My wife and I recently switched our energy supplier to Green Star (website: https://www.mygreenstarenergy.com/) who source their energy from renewables and that felt like a step in the right direction and a very good thing indeed. I also want everything that I discard to be recycled, though the rates of doing so are still dismal.


Finally, I want a political system in my country that works, one that meets the needs of the people and not of the elites and the Corporations who fund them. I want a truly representative Parliament, one that listens to us when they express ourselves and our concerns and then acts to help. I want enough houses to be built in the UK so that those who choose to buy are able to do so. I want a properly regulated financial system that doesn’t always seem like it’s about to bring about financial apocalypse (http://tinyurl.com/zgjg8ll). I want a powerful and well funded environmental agency that will police the actions of those who seek to destroy it, which we currently do not have (http://tinyurl.com/hszoort). And I want a forward looking political system that actually addresses the changes that are coming in the near future, like driver-less cars and ever more insecure working conditions.


It sounds like I want a lot, huh, but I really don’t think that I do, and I also think that many of you out there would agree with this point of view. Let me know if you do, eh. Cheers!



My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!