Monday, 29 September 2008

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

An Everyday Encounter with Homes for Haringey...

Oh dear...Homes for Haringey really do need to think about who they employ...

A Housing Manager called to tell me that the pest control people were meant to put the notes through re: spraying the communal areas (we have cockroaches - mmm) but haven't done. I said last time the Housing Manager put the notes through. She said Pest Control are paid to do that.

I asked if she was coming to next week's Residents' Association AGM. She said no. I said I would have appreciated it if she could have responded to my emails about the date for the AGM, even if just to say she could not attend. (Well, I tried to say the above, but she had already launched into her tirade, as follows):

She repeatedly said I treated her like a child, that I was condescending, that I was 'telling' her what to do, telling her how to do her job, that we would never get on, that I was bullying her, that I was aggressive. She threatened to put me on speaker phone - which was odd, as I wasn't actually saying anything - more like sitting in shock! I tried to interject to say that I was not 'telling' her what to do, merely 'asking' for her to respond to emails. But there was no getting a word in edgeways. I noticed that I was shaking and my heart was racing, and as we were not getting anywhere, I said "Goodbye" and hung up the phone.

I then called the switchboard and asked to be put through to the manager's manager (!), to report this outrageous incident. I was put through to a woman and in the background I could hear the Housing Manager still ranting on, saying "She's called to complaint about me!" etc. The woman repeatedly tried (properly?) to put me though to senior manager and 'failed'. She then gave me his direct number. I called this direct number and it went through to the same woman again. I left a message with her asking him to call me.

The fact that she almost hung up without even asking for my phone number - I interjected and gave her the number - made me suspicious about whether the message will be passed on or not.

I was left extremely shaken by this unprovoked, personal attack. Another triumph, Homes for Haringey! Oh, for a telephone with a built-in recording facility - I could start podcasting these incredible exchanges! Watch this space etc etc...

Monday, 22 September 2008

My Dismay at Haringey (again)

I attended the Recycling Scrutiny Review meeting tonight and I wasn't very impressed. There were only 7 of us (don't think I was really welcome - oh well!) and nobody seemed to know much about recycling issues. I have suggested that at the next meeting they get Andy Moore from the Campaign for Real Recycling to attend, as he knows all the problems and the possible solutions. They seemed keen on this idea and I hope to push to make it happen. However, the feeling seemed to be that having this review was probably very much a cosmetic exercise, and that little notice will be taken of their conclusions.

One interesting - and alarming - point that came out of the meeting, and which came as a shock to all Cllrs, was that in the next few months Haringey plan to replace all of the on-street separated recycling tanks with co-mingled - meaning that Haringey will be 100% co-mingled. I was really surprised and disgusted about this, as these separated facilities are the only ones which are in fact 'real recycling' facilities, and are used by people who don't trust the co-mingled facilities - and rightly so! Those separated banks are the only way we in Haringey can ensure that our recycling is properly handled.

We haven't been consulted, and what's more, the woman from recycling who was at this meeting and broke this news said that one of the reasons they were making these bins co-mingled was so that it wouldn't be 'confusing' for residents - so that we'd have co-mingled at home and on the streets too. I find that really patronising - most people, I think, can in fact understand the current set-up...Green glass goes in there, yup....paper in there. I think I get it, wow!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

I was elected!

I found out yesterday that I have been elected as National Campaigns Co-ordinator for the Green Party. This is hugely exciting and also a big responsibility, and one I don't intend to take lightly. I'll be finding my feet for a few weeks yet but then I'm sure this blog will be full of the campaigning adventures this new role will take me on!

I was interviewed by the Sunday Telegraph today about whether fashion and politics do or don't mix. It's for a piece they're doing a couple of weekends from now in their 'Stella' style supplement. I had a really interesting conversation about all the questions surrounding the issue with the journalist doing the piece. Why do female politicians get labelled 'dowdy' if they play it safe in the fashion stakes, and then when they wear something even a little different, why does the entire media focus shift to what the woman chooses to wear, rather than what she has to say?

It all comes down to the notion that if a woman is deemed attractive, she can't possibly be taken seriously, or be considered all that intelligent. It's incredible that those beliefs still exist, but exist they do. Evidence, if it were needed, that we still live in a sexist, narrow-minded society, no matter how much we think we've moved on over the past few decades.

I told the journalist that I thought that without the art of self-decoration, life would be very dull. At the same time, the tyranny of looking good - the message that women have drilled into them that they must look perfect, slim, young and beautiful the entire time (even when pregnant - yes, they're making sexy pregnancy underwear now) - is a dangerous one, leading of course to all sorts of extreme behaviour.

By the way, has everyone else being enjoying the cosmetic surgery ads on the tube recently? There they are, alongside ads for car insurance and chick lit, like having a boob job is just a normal part of life.

Oh dear, this blog has started to get a bit ranty tonight - I started with elections and ended with boob jobs. And there I must leave it.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Green Party Conference

I've been at the Green Party Conference for the last two and a half days, meeting loads of people and running an Alliance Against Urban 4x4s stall. We've been asking people to sign letters to three key MEPs who soon have a crucial vote about CO2 targets for the car industry.

I've also been selling Alliance t-shirts and our infamous fake parking tickets, to be issued to shiny urban 4x4s!

It's been such an exciting conference what with electing our first ever leader, Caroline Lucas. Her acceptance speech was extremely inspiring, and has made me even more determined to be part of the effort to get the first Green MPs elected.

Yesterday I stood for the position of Campaigns Co-ordinator on the Green Party Executive. I gave a short speech in front of conference and the results of the ballot will be announced tomorrow.

All in all, an exciting if exhausting weekend!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Langworthy's make-over

A few weeks ago I visited Salford, where I was at university from 1996 to 1999. During my second year I lived on the infamous Langworthy estate in Salford, which is commonly known as 'Beirut'. Or at least it was.

In my day, the streets were full of kids throwing eggs and lit fireworks at anyone who looked a bit different from them, i.e. me. I fondly recall being called a "Fucking mature student" (strange as I was not a mature student), told I looked like a "fucking lion" due to my green fluffy coat (green lions, anyone?) and told, in no uncertain terms, to pay my taxes. (The tax issue was a particular bone of contention).

There was, as I recall, a particularly fierce dog who used to try to attack us as we weilded our way through the dog-poo smeared, littered and grafittied streets on our way to the university campus. It was no surprise when said dog featured on the local news after being put down - it had ripped a little girl's face.

It was a depressing place to live, to say the least, but I had heard that changes were taking place in Langworthy, and I was keen to see them for myself. Whole streets of once delapidated terraces, many of which were boarded up and badly vandalised, had simply disappeared. In their place was just an area of grass, split in two by the old cobblestone alley way and surrounded by a low fence. This arrangement reminded me of a graveyard plot.

Street names have disappeared along with the houses, and I supposed with their disappearance goes over a hundred years of history.

What has become of the houses that remain standing is even more incredible. Builders have kept the facades, with their original features, but knocked down everything else and rebuilt the houses as smart terraces with parking where the alleyway used to be and a garden on top of that i.e. on the level of the first floor. They have done an excellent job as far as I could tell but many of these houses, I was told, remain empty, with people unable to afford to buy them.

I wonder where all the people have gone who used to live here? That community I knew so well - and feared so much! - during my year of living there. The place was like a ghost town.

As I walked through the streets towards my old house - 115 Seedley Park Road - I felt like Scarlett O'Hara in 'Gone With the Wind' when she runs over the field after the war has ended, desperate to see whether her beloved family home, Tara, is still standing. She discovered it was, and I found the same of my old abode too. It looks a lot smarter than it did in my day - thank goodness - and I can only hope it is no longer cockroach infested and with condemned gas fires.

Ah, happy days...