Archive for May, 2008

I’ve found this UK government statistics site very interesting.

If you put your postcode into the ‘summary’ section on the right of the page, it gives you a snapshot of where your neighbourhood falls out of 32,482 in the country. The factors considered include health, crime, education, housing etc.

Our church is located in an area which is in the bottom 2000 neighbourhoods and falls on the first line away from the right (red) hand side of the nifty swingometer.

How about your postcode?

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Mimi is a smiling mum I know from the school gate and is looking to move house. They want to buy somewhere for the first time. They’ve just had a second child so their two bedroomed house is too small. But mainly they want to move because of the neighbours.

‘Are they noisy then?’ I asked, thinking of ‘normal’ reasons for the neighbours to be difficult.

‘It’s the drugs.’ she replied. ‘And it’s so dirty, I won’t even go down the shared passageway between the houses.’ She scrunched up her face in disgust.

Private landlords mean that you can’t just call up the council to remove your neighbours. You have to move yourself in the end.

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Home from school today, my kids were after a snack and were uninterested in healthy bananas.

The Queen suddenly mentioned that she’d like cauliflower dip. This is a remembered recipe from my childhood, when my mum used it to get my sister and I to consume veggies.

The Queen asked if she could also have ‘some of those green balls’ to dip in it too. This is a mother’s triumph – a child asking for sprouts!

Sadly (!) we were out of sprouts so they just dipped the cauli:

Click on the pictures to get more details, or see below for the summary.

Curry dip – the summary

4-5 tbspns creme fraiche

1-2 tbspns mayonnaise

1 tspn curry powder

Place ingredients in bowl. Stir.

Enough to dip a whole cauliflower, broken into florets. Can also be used to dip breadsticks, sprouts, carrots etc, but the pepperiness of a cauliflower goes really well.

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I was telling someone recently about how churches often have reservations about accepting lottery money.

‘Lottery money (for the winners) is money you’ve not earned.’ I said. ‘So the concept of the lottery gives people the message that you don’t have to work to become rich.’

‘it’s like celebrities.’ she replied. ‘You don’t have to do anything worthwhile to be famous. Look at Jade Goody – she’s made loads of money and people don’t even like her. We’ve all been fooled by the idea of money or fame for nothing.’

I wonder how many folk in our parish have absorbed these messages and then been tempted to play the welfare system. The welfare system can be manipulated to give you a house and income (though small) for free.

I’m not sure the Department for Work and Pensions are able to supply coverage in Hello! though.

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At the toddler group yesterday I was having a nice chat with Mrs Discoman about her new house. She’s still in lots of chaos but so happy to have a spacious new home. Sitting with us was another mum, who has six kids, aged 2 to 16. She mentioned that she’d applied for one of the lovely new houses that Mrs D has moved into, but hadn’t been successful.

‘How big is your house now?’ I asked.

‘You don’t want to know.’ A period of silence.

‘Go on, tell me.’

‘You don’t want to know.’ I can see some internal seething, a biting of the tongue.

We chat a little more about local housing. Mumofsix has been on various waiting lists for housing for eight years. She thinks there is ‘discrimination’, although she doesn’t say what sort.

‘I’m in a two bedroomed house.’

‘Seven of you with two bedrooms?’ I have to check that this is really her situation. Surely people stopped living like that once Queen Victoria had died.

‘I sleep in the front room.’ she tells me.

I tell her that she’s amazing. Mrs Discoman and I begin talking about something else: we don’t want to rub any more salt in her wounds.

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My parents are having some decorating done. My mum found the guy to do the work, who came with excellent references from some friends of hers. He comes in at her convenience and has done a room at a time. He calls if he’s going to be late or isn’t going to be there. She is in control and he wants to please her so that she gives him more work and recommends him to her friends.

In Wolverhampton there is a scheme going on called ‘Decent Homes’ and the council are refurbishing their houses. It’s great – folk are getting new central heating, new kitchens and bathrooms, new doors and rewiring. It’s making the houses loads better and the council tenants don’t have to pay.

However, the council obviously have to do this as economically as possible, so there are big teams of workers tackling multiple houses at the same time. This means that the plasterers, electricians and plumbers are kept busy all the time.

So if you are having the work done to your house, you have no control. The workmen come and go at their convenience, not yours. If they need to do something two doors down they go there instead. They don’t phone you to let you know if they’re not coming after all. You’ve not hired them and so can’t fire them if they are a bit unreliable.

And because you’ve not appointed the workmen yourself, you’re less likely to trust them in the house on their own. You may even want to be in the house all the time that they’re there. And since they’re not just decorating a single room but doing a lot of major work, this means that you could spend about six weeks in the house whilst the work gets done.

This is a snapshot of how people in the inner city can lack power over their own lives. It’s also one of the things that can make running a bible study for mums who are Wolverhampton council tenants a little unpredictable.

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Cakes for teenagers

After an evening with our 11-14s I need to make a note to myself:

Teenagers don’t like cakes with raisins, currants or any other dried fruit, unless covered with 90% chocolate. So no more fairy cakes with currants (the ones my dad likes).

Teenagers also don’t like cake they’re not familiar with, so even if you tell them it’s like chocolate brownie only with lemon flavour and no chocolate, they won’t even try it. But it might be the lack of chocolate rather than the lemon.

Best to stick to chocolate (also flapjack and oatie biscuits they said).

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It’s the area

So what is it like where I live?

My friend Mrs Discoman has just moved to a brand new housing association property in our parish and I was telling our lollipop man, Mr Goldtooth, about it as we waited to cross the big road on the way to school this morning. He said that the housing association had approached him to see if he’d like one of next batch of houses they are building right next to the school.

‘So what did you say?’ I asked.

‘Oh, no way am I taking one.’ he grinned, his gold tooth glinting in the bright May sunshine.

‘Why not? Mrs Discoman’s house is really lovely.’

‘It’s the area.’

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I was at a school reunion a couple of years ago. The typical conversation went like this:

‘Yaas, we’ve just moved to Bayswater, how about you?’

‘We’re living in a small village in Worcestershire. Where do you live VW?’

‘We’re in Wolverhampton’

Eyebrows head upwards, jaws drop and I feel I have to justify myself.

Out of that environment I am so happy to be here: in a place where people are real and I’m not goaded into competitive parenting by all the afterschool activities and academic achievements of my children’s peers.

I can work out what I really want for my family. One of the fantastic things about being in the inner city is that there’s no pressure from alpha mums. I feel I can concentrate on what’s important without feeling guilty about not signing my kids up to all the classes going.

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