Reblog: (Mis)adventures in Life & Sourdough: From Pffffft to Puff Pastry (100% Sourdough Croissants and Pain au Chocolat)

Your daily bread.
Another heartfelt post from The Dough Abides, my friend Kris’ blog.

The Dough Abides

Exactly one year ago, I was preparing to go to court, seeking justice after months of being relentlessly stalked, harassed, threatened, and defamed publicly on social media. I am happy to report that justice was served. Not just once, but twice.

Yet, the triumph over my oppressor wasn’t sweet. I came out of that experience feeling eviscerated and deflated, the wind knocked out of my sails. Pfffffffft. Had my life been a movie, those next few months would best be entitled, “Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Dumpster Fire.” I’d exited the darkest chapter in my life only to enter a new one, this time confronting a far more formidable oppressor: my own insecurities, self doubt, and codependency. Suffice it to say, 2019 was Dante’s Inferno on a loop. And 2020 hasn’t been much better.

Until now.

In the last few weeks, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide…

View original post 1,369 more words

The Cosmic Photo Challenge.

Ok, so this is the “new normal” we’re going to have to get used to, is it?

Well, one thing hasn’t changed and that still means that every Monday on Return of the Internet Nobody, I do a little feature called The Cosmic Photo Challenge and you are all cordially invited to take part.

On Friday I left you a suggestion based on our recent collective incarceration; asking you to capture whatever your personal version is of; The world in lockdown.

I have collected together a few of the shots I took over the last few, surreal weeks, when it has been possible to capture our beautiful town and countryside in a uniquely unpopulated state.

It has also meant that I could take photos from places that are usually far less accessible. These first two were taken from the high River Torridge road bridge, looking both downstream towards Bideford and the mouth of the estuary…

…and inland towards Appledore, with its naval shipyard.

I was lucky enough to catch a good clear evening with no traffic and a full moon high tide, so I could quickly stop the car to jump out and snap these.

But although the weather was equally glorious a few days ago when I took some on Barnstaple square and the more modest (but ancient and far more attractive) “Long Bridge” over the River Taw in town, the tide was resolutely out.

I also had a bit of a play around with a shot of the Albert Memorial clock tower outside the museum and I’m rather pleased with the result of my meticulous fingertip erasing.

As the world returns to some semblance of its bustling self, it’s almost a shame to lose the tranquility and stillness which we humans so casually shatter with our busy lives.

It has been a rare and unusual privilege to witness my home in this more natural, unsullied state and it makes me appreciate it all the more, too.

How does your world look in these strange times?

It couldn’t be easier to take part, just follow these simple steps…

*****

To get involved with the challenge; check out the Cosmic Photo Prompt each Friday, then post a photo (or photos) on your blog the following Monday, with a pingback link to my Monday post.

Tag your posts with #CosPhoChal.

Any and all effects, editing, Photoshop, Instagram, morphing, collages, animation, gifs, or whatever other post production techniques you fancy are permitted, (in fact, they’re actively encouraged!) so get creative and turn your photos into artworks for the Cosmic Photo Challenge.

Not all heroes…

I shared this meme on Facebook recently, (artist unknown) to show support for all nursing and care staff, who are of course the ones on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis and they all do an amazing, superhuman job.

But the UK media has focused (until just the last few days, anyway) on our sainted National Health Service and the impact the virus has had on the lives of its staff and patients.

We, the Great British Public, were even encouraged, (quite rightly, because they are already paying a terrible price for their dedication), to Clap for the NHS on Thursday nights, but what the tabloids and pundits seemed to have forgotten, until the death toll started to rise, were the non-NHS residential care homes, of which there are something like 12,000 in the UK.

My wife and several friends of mine have given their lives and careers to the care of the vulnerable and at risk all over the world and it has always to amazed and angered me that those who we rely on to provide the most essential services in life, are the ones we reward the least for it.

Not that anybody goes into the care industry to become rich, unless you’re an unscrupulous businessman who owns a home, but even then you have to employ staff who…well, care, for the people whose lives they are entrusted with.

Most of these care homes are understaffed and underfunded, aren’t supported by a gigantic infrastructure or supply chain, and are even less equipped to deal with a global pandemic than the state-run hospitals, many of which are already stretched to breaking point. Also, the residents of these homes can and do attend local hospital clinics and emergency departments, making the risk of cross-contamination that much higher.

Clapping for the NHS is all very nice, I’m sure, but how about we expand that to cover ALL care staff?

Social carers work just as hard as doctors and nurses, but they aren’t all getting free stuff in coffee shops, they aren’t being called heroes by the press and they aren’t being allowed into supermarkets with the elderly and vulnerable like NHS staff, despite being just as at risk of passing the virus on to patients.

Oh, and here’s an idea; after all this is over, as well as paying off the debts of student doctors and nurses, how about rescinding all future visa fees for the tax paying, legally resident immigrant workers who are such a vital part of our NHS and social care industry?

Free citizenship for all.

Or maybe as a reward for their service and unthinking selfl-sacrifice, we should continue to make them jump through inhumane and unjustifiable bureaucratic hoops, how about that?

All these conditionality resident, yet uncomplaining and dedicated foreigners, the ones with different skin tones; the ones with strange accents, unusual customs and clothes, the ones who are keeping our country safe and our loved ones alive, why not continue to charge them all obscene amounts of money just to live here and then charge them EVEN MORE, simply to use a health service they work so hard to support?

They leave their families behind every day, not knowing if they’ll be coming home that night, to make sure you can come home to yours for the rest of your life.

Don’t you think anyone who does that should have the right to call the country for which they do it, “home”?

How about we all do the right thing by the people who are quite literally putting their lives on the line for us every day?

Thank you all for your service.
Peace
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#COVID19 #socialcare #NHS

Testing, testing…1, 2, 3, testing…t, t, t, t, testing.

I seem to be having a few little problems with pingbacks and notifications, which a couple of readers have mentioned and I have also noticed something similar on K’lee’s blog recently.

So this is a test post to help the WordPress Happiness Engineers to track and capture any gremlins who are lurking in the system.

But since I have you here, you might as well get something out of it, so here’s one of my strange remixes for you to listen to and/or download.

It’s a bona-fide ’80s pop classic which I’m sure a lot of you will recognise, spliced rather neatly together with a band who were one of their major influences and one of my all time favourites. So click the link below or the image above and enjoy, completely gratis and free of charge, my latest understated masterpiece…

*****WEST END MODEL*****

Any feedback about that or any notification problems will be, as ever, gratefully received.

K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge.

Today’s edition of K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge is a bitter-sweet affair, dealing as is does with the theme of; Rebirth and remembrance.

K’lee set the prompt and when I saw what it was, it occurred to me that there were two things on my mind this Easter weekend; how fortunate I was to have such glorious weather to enjoy the beautiful Devon countryside with Audrey and; how much I miss my friend, Chris, who passed away almost exactly four years ago.

So I decided to go for some more shots of nature coming back to life, along with a few re-photographed, old 35mm photos of Chris from our misspent youth. (If you’ve not read it before, please check out the link above and join me in remembering a very special friend)

See what delights K’lee has to show you HERE.

And now you can share your own contributions, it’s easy when you know how…

*****

To get involved with the challenge, post a photo to your blog on Monday, add a pingback to this post (or to K’lee’s) and don’t forget to tag your post #CosPhoChal.

Alternatively, add a link to your blog in the comments of either mine or K’lee’s post and we’ll come and check out your entry.

Any and all effects, editing, Photoshop, Instagram, morphing, collages or whatever other post production techniques you fancy are permitted, (in fact, they’re actively encouraged!) so get creative and turn your photos into artworks for the Cosmic Photo Challenge.

#CosPhoChal

Seasonal musings.

Here’s something I posted on Facebook yesterday, which I thought I’d share with you, along with a photographic seasonal greeting.

Audrey, Rhonda and I would like to wish you and yours the very hippiest and most preposterous new year…oh, wait, I mean…

…you know what, that’ll do.

I’d like to wish all the people I disagree with a very Merry Christmas.

To be honest, there aren’t too many people who I agree with on EVERYTHING, I’m way too much of an argumentative bastard for that, but there are some friends with whom I disagree on a more fundamental level than why I’m right that Genesis are shit, or why it’s bloody obvious NOBODY should put anchovies on pizza.

It’s often the case that friendships, alliances and relationships are impacted by differences of opinion on religion, politics, sex, social issues, sports, gender identity/equality and just about anything else we’re capable of being offended about; but the last couple of years or so have tested those bonds of friendship to breaking point and in some cases those relationships haven’t survived.

Which is very sad and can only go further to separate us into little bubbles of one-sided information and prejudice, a self-perpetuating cycle of distrust and suspicion which only makes any future reconciliation that much more difficult.

This is doubly true in a world where a total stranger from the other side of the country might pick a fight with you on the internet for no reason other than you put a cross in a slightly different place on a piece of paper…or they may just be an asshole, of course.

So although I am eternally grateful for the old, lasting friendships which have coloured my view of humanity since childhood, I’m increasingly appreciative of those of you who I may have only known a relatively short time and who stick with me, despite (or because of) our differing views and opinions.
Because it is only with that balance and continual questioning of the “accepted facts” in our own personal universe, that can help us process any opposing worldview and move toward a more peaceful understanding of each other.

So thanks again to those of you who go the extra mile to remain my friend, I wouldn’t be without any of you.

Have a great Christmas and may 2019 be awesome in all the ways that make you happy in your world, just as long as it isn’t at the expense of someone else in theirs.

Peace.
X

The best day.

This arrived this evening, following an unexpected phone call from our solicitor.

{Copied from my Facebook post earlier this evening, I’m too…everything…to type a separate post}

There are no words to express how overjoyed we are to have received this e-mail.

I am just as unable to articulate how grateful I am to all of you wonderful people; who supported us, donated to the GoFundMe campaign, helped keep us sane and shared our outrage at the blatant profiteering by the UKBA and Home Office during this unbelievably stressful and grueling couple of months.

Thank you, you have all been amazing, we appreciate it more than you will ever know.

Now we embark on a new, TEN YEAR route to family permanence, with renewals of these visas coming every two and a half years until Rhonda and Audrey have spent a full decade legally residing in the UK, before we can apply for Indefinite Leave To Remain and finally break free of the bureaucratic nightmare that is the British immigration system.

*****

A side note:

Anyone who is still under the mistaken impression that “immigrants just turn up and get given a free house, a job and all the benefits they can scrounge” should take the time to find out the circumstances which prompted their arrival in our country and what sort of soul-destroying journey they had to make to get here.

Having been married to “an immigrant” for the past three and a half years, I can tell you that I have heard more misinformed bollocks and ignorant bigotry from people who should know better than I have in the rest of my life, so if you feel the urge to expound on variations on that theme, please do so a long way away from me and my (very relieved) family.

Thanks again to all of you who offered messages of support, it means a great deal to us all.

Peace.
X

So, it has come to this.

Oh, the irony

Here, by way of an update, is the terrible story of the last week, along with some background…..

A couple of months ago, due to a minor administrative mistake, Rhonda and Audrey’s resident visa applications were rejected as invalid, despite our repeated attempts to clarify what the problem was.

A great many wonderful people generously donated money to help us meet the extortionate costs of making the application, for which we are eternally grateful and most of that fee was refunded when the application was turned down.

We have since been communicating with the UKBA and the Home Office via our MP, who offered to help and who had requested that they review our case for an appeal. He told us last weekend that a letter had been written to us on Friday and would arrive this week.

The letter arrived on Wednesday: “right of appeal denied”.

It informed us in no uncertain terms, that they would not consider our case for appeal, as we had failed to register our biometrics on time, (due to them neglecting to point out that we could have done so at any time, on the MULTIPLE OCCASIONS I spoke to them about our identity documents) but we could reapply whenever we liked.

They also pointed out that any new application would likely be turned down, as my wife and daughter have overstayed their visa deadline (whilst waiting for the Home Office to get back to us) and were now considered illegal immigrants.

AND, this Monday, Rhonda’s boss, who knew her visa expired in April and had still happily been employing her since, (while she continued to make all her tax and NI contributions, I might add) announced that he could no longer have her working there and told her to leave until our appeal reference number arrived.

All of this, just two days before our right to appeal was denied.

This effectively cuts our family income in half overnight.

So yesterday we spoke to a lawyer, who didn’t bother to sugar coat the bad news.

To drive the point home that we really are in rather deep shit, he led with this terrifying announcement;

*The UKBA could turn up any time and take my family away to a transit centre, prior to deportation*

Now he had my attention, in fact I think my heart briefly stopped.

Our only options are as follows:

1) They return to the States immediately to a life of destitution and poverty, with the tenuous possibility that I could join them at some distant point in the future somehow.

2) We pay the solicitors £1500 to put our case to the highest appeal court in the land as a judicial review, admit our stupid admin error and plead family life, human rights, etc, which would also mean paying the newly inflated fees, about another £3500, when the application is submitted by the solicitors, hopefully sometime next week.

Even then, the visa would only be granted on a discretionary basis and there is as good a chance as any that they will reject it.

If you have to leave the country as the result of a “rejected” (as opposed to “invalid”) visa application, there is no refund and no return to the UK for ten years.

Fortunately, it’s payday, so we paid the lawyers my last month’s wages this morning and have a phone consultation booked for Monday at 11.00.

Assuming we don’t get a knock on the door before that.

Any crossed fingers, tribal offerings, lucky rabbit’s feet, or general good vibes would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Peace.
X

From start to Finnish: The Woolhouse International Rescue service.

Those of you who follow my particular brand of online nonsense will already be aware that I am a huge Twin Peaksfan. You may also remember that this obsession with David Lynch’s extraordinary TV odyssey, led to me being involved in the comedic fellowship of The Woolhouse Boys, a Facebook group set up to celebrate an obscure side-character and his garish knitwear.

{If you are now scratching your head and thinking I’ve lost it completely, GO HEREto find out more}

As I have previously indicated, this merry band of like-minded, friendly geeks and nerds are only too happy to lend a helping hand to other members in times of need, which is one of the reasons I love The Woolhouse so much.

Well at the weekend, I was able to offer a little woolly thinking to a couple of fellow Lynch-obsessives from snowy Finland, who have been making Twin Peaks-inspired short films for some time.

Merja and Tarja sent me a link to their latest project and I suggested a small tweak to the music, saying I’d be happy to help if they needed it.

Long story, short; I offered to mix the soundtrack for them and, since they were happy with the result, I thought it only fair that I shared it with you here.

There are already several other short films on their YouTube channel, so if you like atmospheric, enigmatic audio visual treats, why not pop over and subscribe, especially if you’re a Twin Peaks fan.

Here is the short clip to which I added a small pinch of sonic polishing, so please enjoy DARK DREAM.

That was the week that was…dreadful.

There have been a lot of stories in the news recently about the Windrush generation and the appalling way in which the British government has treated those brave families, who left their homes to help build a better life for themselves and to enrich our society.

The scandal that followed; an attempt to cover up the way our immigration system has failed so many people so catastrophically, is shocking, but sadly not a surprise, especially for those of us who have to deal with it on a regular basis.

Over two months ago, Rhonda and I resumed the brain-melting, soul-destroying process of applying for the renewal of her and Audrey’s resident visas, a very particular form of torture which is becoming more inhumane and unnecessarily incomprehensible each time.

Our original application was posted to the UKBA on March 5th, but not before we discovered an additional charge which wasn’t mentioned until we printed off the forms…

…so we went to their website and retrieved the two personal IHS numbers required for Rhonda and Audrey to access the National Health Service (despite the fact we have been married for three years, during which time Rhonda has paid full tax and national insurance contributions) only to find they cost £500 EACH!

Another thousand pounds we don’t have, on top of the two and a half grand I had only just managed to finance with a bank loan. And we could only complete the form by applying for the numbers and paying for them online, immediately leaving us a grand short for the actual visa application.

Needless to say, that was a very fraught afternoon.

After several heated phone calls and much stressed-out swearing, I posted a ranting status update on Facebook, concerning the injustice of the system in general and the blatant extortion by the UKBA and Home Office specifically, which yielded a suggestion by my cousin to start a GoFundMe campaign.

I know crowdfunding is popular these days, but the idea of begging friends, family and strangers alike for money has never been a pleasant one, no matter what the reason, but desperate times require desperate measures, so I set one up.

With utter astonishment and eternal gratitude, we watched donations come pouring in from around the world; from family and friends old and new, to total strangers and friends-of-friends, we eventually raised just over £900 of the ambitious £2000 goal I’d set, just about covering the extra fees and returning us to square one.

Fortunately, the bureaucrats hadn’t got around to taking payment, using the card details I had supplied with our application, so I was able to top up my account with the donations and then we just waited for news.

Until, that is, a couple of days later, when I got a call from my bank.

I reproduce here for you, one of my Facebook posts from that day, which for those of you with delicate sensibilities, does contain some rather robust language…

***Visa update***

Ok, all you lovely people have overwhelmed us with your generosity and we have finally sent off the application (including my bank card details, so they can take payment when they process the forms) leaving us to wait for their decision, hoping they get round to it soon.

Anyway, I was sitting here, waiting for Rhonda to get home from work last night, when I got a text from the bank;

“Halifax has noticed your Halifax Debit card ending **** was used on 14-03-2018 20:32:31, at ARGOS LTD for £44.99. This payment has not been debited from your account. Please confirm if this transaction was made by you by replying Yes or No. Replying with Yes will NOT cause the payment to leave your account.”

Oh, Fuck!

I rang them immediately and, long story short, they told me there had now been three tries at taking money and they would have to cancel my card, otherwise they couldn’t be responsible for blocking any further fraudulent attempts on my account.

The card that is about to be used to pay for the visas!

Oh, double-FUCK!

So, today I rang the Home Office enquiries line (there is, of course, no way to get in touch with the actual visa application department, that would be too easy) and they basically told me that they couldn’t tell me anything definite, but there are two likely options;

1 – They could contact us and request an alternate payment method (I should have a new card by Monday) after which the application will continue as before.

2 – We may have to reapply from scratch, meaning we’ll need to pay for TWO MORE FUCKING IHS NUMBERS. (they “should” refund the first ones, since we didn’t use them)

All this, AFTER Rhonda and Audrey’s current visas have expired.

So there you have it; the nightmare continues.

All of which brings us up to the last week or so.

Things really couldn’t go any more wrong, that would just be ridiculous…right?

Yeah, right.

Because next come the biometrics; all that personal data which must be reaffirmed each time a visa is renewed.

Here are the bullet points of that fiasco:

– We need our identity documents to apply for the biometrics in person.

– But the UKBA still have them, so I wrote (and rang, and emailed and filled in online forms) to have the documents returned to us.

– The UKBA send us a letter telling us we must apply for our biometrics in ten days or our application will be rejected.

– I ring to explain in great and patient detail (and email and fill in online forms) to “escalate” our request; during which time NOT ONE PERSON says anything about not requiring identification for biometric registration.

– We finally get a package of documents back from the Home Office, minus Rhonda and Audrey’s passports, but including a letter which calmly tells us that, because we haven’t registered our biometrics in time, they now consider our application invalid and that my wife and daughter are now “liable for removal”. That’s the polite term for deportation, in case you’re in any doubt.

– I ring and have a markedly less patient but equally detailed conversation with an immigration robot drone and am informed that we; must make an appeal to the Home Office by post, or apply again, although they are incapable or unwilling to tell us which would be the correct procedure.

– They will refund the price of the visas (less a £50 “administration fee) but apparently not the £1000 IHS charge.

– Rhonda has written to our local MP who has promised to help if he can, as well as sending an appeal letter to the Home Office, asking if we can simply reapply for the visas and biometrics and that they excuse us our unintentional (but perfectly understandable) clerical error.

So now all we can do is wait, anxiously and with no way to tell if we’re going to get a knock at the door, signaling that my family is about to be torn apart.

On top of all that, Rhonda and Audrey were supposed to be in America right now, to welcome their new grandson/nephew into the world, a trip which is currently impossible even if we could afford it (and the government hadn’t retained their passports) because with their immigration status in limbo, they’d never be allowed to return.

And, to really put the rotten cherry on top of the poisoned cake; last week’s bank holiday was ruined by the need to call the police again on the world’s most obnoxious neighbours, who once more seemed intent on very noisily killing each other.

Despite the fact that half the neighborhood was standing outside spectating, or that several other residents had already reported the violent screaming and crashing noises coming from the upstairs windows of our building, neither the police nor their absentee landlord seem prepared to do anything. He even had the fucking cheek to tell our landlady that, “I’m not throwing them out, they’re good tenants, they always pay their rent.”

Leaving us with three options; put up with it, move out, or I let Rhonda have the baseball bat she’s been asking for and then take Audrey for a long walk while her mum dispenses some rough justice.

Option three doesn’t seem a very sensible idea at the moment, given our politically precarious position, so I hope my upcoming summit with the Environmental Health people gives us an alternative avenue to explore.

Which, I hope, goes some way to explaining why I have neglected some of my blogging duties in the last couple of months.

I am hoping that the possibility of long summer days in the garden, away from most of life’s distractions, will allow me more time to blog, promote the newly republished edition of The Wrong Stuff and get back into the swing of all things authorial.

But life does have a habit of getting in the way, so you’ll have to bear with me.

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