Saturday, 2 March 2013

When Penny met Ed

Trevor ...........Trevor is the long-suffering husband Who has stood by me over the years as I have rushed headlong into one crazy scheme after another!
He has allowed me to bring homeless people into our own home, been talked into giving them a job on the building when he had his own gang of workers, Spent his own time and money building offices for me and co-workers in the homeless project that I worked for,And all this with an occasional shrug of his shoulders and a raising of the eyebrows.
So it would have come as no surprise to him when I agreed to have a meeting with Ed Balls (shadow chancellor) on Thursday.

This came about thanks to my twitter friendship with two Labour councillors, Ian who was plucky enough to have his head shaved for SAMs mission raising funds for the neo natal unit at our local hospital.
I have to tell you here that people say beware of twitter friendships as people are not always as they seem but Ian is as warm, friendly and 'real' in person as he is on twitter.
And Jon who I have met before and I respect as a genuine caring person.
Still No reaction from Trevor when it turned out that meeting was to be in our house, and just a slight flickering of the eyebrows when it became apparent the meeting was to be filmed for the television and reported on the radio and in the local paper.

Over the years Trevor has got used to the idea that he's quiet shy Unassuming wife turns into a kind of righteous Warrior when fighting injustice particularly Injustice against vulnerable groups And apart from The odd glare that I get from him occasionally if he believes I am perhaps going too far He remains in the background and he's quiet support allows me to get on with the battle in hand.

This is the way it has been for the last couple of years whilst I have been affected by and fought against the changes in a welfare system that is causing fear and despair among sick– disabled and Vulnerable people.
It is whilst trying to raise the plight of sick/disabled people and slowly sinking Into despair I became aware of and started supporting wowpetition, this is a well thought out, well advertised and well supported petition thought of and run by a group of determined supportive caring people and I was and am proud to be involved in it in my own little way.

Thursday morning with the afternoon's meeting imminent I had a slight panic as I turned to Trevor and asked 'how do I get myself into these things?'
He shook his head and shrugged he's shoulders (blimey must be bad both reactions at the same time) and replied 'I don't know, you just do'
I had been getting myself slowly wound up since Wednesday morning......
let me explain
I live on the ground floor of a three storey block of flats and half way through Wednesday morning hammering started coming from above, it turned out it was from the top flat and I watched in horror as this foamy stuff fell from above and secured its sticky self to my kitchen window! Then the drilling started and I was starting to dread the scene the following day if this continued.
Can you imagine sitting having a serious conversation with Ed with the cameras rolling and then the noise starting from above?
Whilst I got myself more and more fretful Trevor spoke to the workmen and they told him they were finishing that evening and would be back Thursday morning purely to clean up the mess on and outside our windows etc. Huge sigh of relief.

Thursday.....Lyndsay my youngest daughter came around to clean the place for me, it is always reasonably clean anyway but I was treating the afternoons visit like having royalty visiting and I am a bit obsessive with having a clean tidy home so Thursday that was bordering on manic!
Trevor was dispatched to the supermarket to buy biscuits
'Get a selection' he was told
'Maybe one of those packs that has a good selection in it'
Simple enough?
Phone call from Tesco
Trevor ' there's a family circle box of biscuits here they are £7.50 , or Tesco value at £1.75'
Me ' don't even think about it, do you seriously think I am going to be offering them Tesco value biscuits?'
As it happened the family circle were on sale at half price so not so bad after all but really, did he have to ask?
And as a by word I will tell you he also bought 2 packs of Tesco value tea cakes and what do you think Ed went for?

So things were moved, cleaned, polished, Lyndsay had been talked into staying by me and raided my wardrobe for a 'suitable' top, for once it was lucky that I can't dress/undress myself as I certainly would have changed a dozen times by now but knew from the look on Trevor's face not to even go down that route.

4.15 Suzie ( parliamentary candidate for Harlow) Carl (labour regional office) he had come Wednesday to fill us in on what what happen, lovely calming friendly man and Phil (labour man and for today official photographer) walked in and out and back in and out again, apart from Phil who accepted Trevor's offer of a cuppa and decided to have it in peace before everyone else descended on us.
It seems the media were all waiting outside the flats for Ed Balls to turn up, wonder what my neighbours thought was going on and how many curtains where twitching.

It was at this point that if I could walk I would probably have done a runner and glancing at Lyndsay I think she may well have come with me.
And then all hell broke loose.......Ed Balls and entourage of ladies and men and press and more press and .......Trevor reckons several people just off the street all walked into my living room.

Lots of people said hello, I had no hope of remembering their names or who they were but they were all polite and kind so it was fine.
Ed and I sat next to each other, he smiled and we just chatted naturally.
I did notice the camera being set up opposite us but strange as it may sound when we were talking I mostly was able to forget it was there.
Ed listened carefully and asked if he wanted points clarified, he made it very easy for me to talk about the bedroom tax and it's affect on me and also my feelings regarding the whole welfare fiasco. He genuinely seemed to care and be as outraged as us at what is going on.
I have to state here that I definitely categorically deny that the meer cat that was sitting on the back of the sofa just behind Eds right shoulder throughout the interview was not placed there to add humour to the proceedings, he always sits there and was genuinely over looked by us all :-)

Ed then did a quick Interview with BBC about the bedroom tax and what we had talked about, everyone else left the room but they agreed I could stay, it was apparently whilst they were in the kitchen with a Trevor who up to now had avoided them all that he entertained them with stories of his childhood.

I then did the radio interview while Ed did a piece outside for another matter, people were coming in and going out and I just smiled a lot at them as I had no chance of remembering who was who.
Ed came back and we chatted without cameras etc for a while, he is a nice genuine man and although I do realise this was political for him he certainly made me feel like he was interested in what I had to say and happy to be there talking to us.
Ed was off then to another meeting in Watford and then to yet another, it was doubtful he would be home much before midnight but he seemed almost reluctant to have to rush off and had to be prompted several times, I don't kid myself it was my company that held him back more the pull of the tea cakes.
And so as swiftly as they had all swept in they all swept back out leaving us feeling a bit as if we had been run over by a truck.
The afternoon was manic, fun, exciting, a little stressful and well worth the effort to get our message heard, go
We had several photos taken, a couple on my own camera so I have a picture to accompany my memories of the afternoon that Penny met Eddie.


feline9 said...

Exciting times, hope he did listen and maybe takes some action!

Fame at last!!!

Jane said...

Isn't it lovely when someone who we only see on television turns out to be a really nice man. Refreshing that he let you talk. Can't wait to see Look East tomorrow to see what points have been highlighted.
Once in a lifetime opportunity I reckon and I have no doubt that you have made a real difference for all of us on benefits.
Well done you xxx

Dominic Ross said...

It's great to see that although, yes for him this was political, he genuinely seemed concerned and interested in your case. I hope it wasn't just good political acting and he acts on it.
I have now doubt that you have done something big here, Penny, and I am happy to call you a friend.

@sezlr said...

I can't believe I missed this Penny. Congratulations on meeting with Ed Balls and hopefully helping him to understand some of the realities of the Tory ideologically-led cuts on real people.

Sara xx