Monday, 21 August 2017

It's the battle against technology that's the worst...

It's ironic, I'm in Islington Library writing this on one of their public computers.

The irony comes from the fact that I'd actually come here to update my Tweets (I'm days behind but we'll come back to that later) and because their system is so slow (I've managed to post one in 36 minutes although I can normally rattle one out in under 5 minutes), I've given up and reverted to writing this instead.

And this is the bain of 21st Century Living.  Unless you've spent a fortune on keeping all your devices utterly brand new about every 3 months, one of your apps updates, your OS, or simply your battery life diminishing will start having an impact on your real-life.

I needed a telephone to call the DWP, the public payphone is out of order and reaking of urine as most in London are.  There isn't a public pay phone in the Library. I'm not allowed to email the DWP to find out what is going on.

Being homeless, means you invariably don't won't to carry ludicrously expensive IT devices with you. I've had an Apple Mac Pro Laptop Computer stolen from my Bedside when I was in St. Thomas's Hospital, an iPhone stolen from me at the BFI on Southbank and an Asus Tablet swiped from me at Victoria Station when dealing with a crisis with my son.

I'm now sat in a Library, on a device that only gives me an hour usage, and displays the eroding time to side of the screen.  I've got 17 minutes left.

Much of my work is scuppered trying to do everything on the cloud or other people's devices.

For example some of the things I need to do today, are on a friends laptop a few doors away from the Library, but she's using it for her own work now, so I can't access it.  It has all the emails and evidence for a DWP appeal.  They refuse to take things by email, so I have to find computers to compile documents on, sourced from my webmail server, printers to print them out on (and at no cost, as the DWP have stopped all my money) and then find ways of posting them - via recorded mail.  ALL of which has cost, unlike email which is free.

Hubbard & Bell in the Hoxton Hotel where I used to do all these things, removed their computers across their 2 establishments in London a couple of months ago. I discovered a similar set up in Citizen M Hotels, but their appalling customer service means they attack anyone using their facilities without immediate purchases (and we're back to not having money again).

So then you try and access facilities in places like libraries (I'm being informed I have ten minutes left on this device as I type these words) which are ludicrously out of date, incredibly slow and invariably time wastingly useless, like today.

The only upside is I've got to write this.  Rushing against a ticking clock and I've finally got to post a blog.  Something I like to do every month as bare minimum (although preferably weekly) but technology just want permit it.

I need Wifi. I used to mock my home town of Cardiff when I went back there a decade ago and not a single cafe had Wifi.  Even Trafalgar Sqaure has it's own Wifi even the Thames I used to say.  And they did.

But not anymore.

Now everyone and his dog has Wifi so it's all useless. Now they get you to log on and waste time.  Their weak signals competing with each other and so nothing gets done.

A world where we are dependent on tech to live needs more (less than 3 minutes to go now) time an efficiency.

I'm losing the battle on every count... hope I've got enough time to publish this....

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

It never rains, it pours.... even in a Heatwave...

I'm writing this today, because I need a record of what I'm going through in this exact moment.

I haven't slept for more than 3 hours in a night for the past 8 nights.  It's catching up with me.  My sight is blurry, my concentration levels all over the place and my determination drive at an all time low.

I have a very dear,  though very young friend, who has been influenced by the talk of those around her and decided that I've been exploiting her.  It was an odd conclusion to draw.  Odder still, was much of the talk was coming from people who've exploited my hospitality over the years.  Just turning up to parties, taking the free booze and not once ever offering anything in return... you know the type.

So I was extremely saddened, when I realised she was more interested in being right than investigating facts. Recalling events extremely interestingly to fit in with her world view. She recalled making a monetary contribution to a FREE meal which she saw as an example of my exploitation.

The meal of course wasn't FREE to me. I'd paid £180 for dinner for the 4 of us (with the total bill coming to £210 and the difference being split amongst the remaining guests).  Her recall of it being free, came from the fact, that I'd been give credit for a previous poor meal experience at the restaurant on an earlier occasion  But it was still my money.

We'd consistently helped each other out.  She using her credit cards to purchase things that I couldn't not having one. Me letting her off working all the placement hours she was required to do for the completion of her university work placement etc.

Even though I currently have not a penny coming in, having to once again pursue the DWP for what is rightfully mine through the courts system, I still manage to pay my way, by acquiring free tickets and lunches to pay back for any lunches and tickets bought for me.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Google Local Guides - When effort doesn't get rewarded....

As many of my friends know I am one of London's biggest fans.

I know every new club, would've tried every new restaurant, and if they've friends or relatives coming to visit, I'm the first port of call for planning their trips.  Getting the teenager into a Fashion Show, the Grandmother back-stage to meet her hero in a West End Theatre etc.

And as such, I've been pursuing for some time to be Tripadvisors top London Reviewer, and I'm currently in the top 1% .

A couple of months ago, it was brought to my attention that Google were offering a trip to San Francisco to meet other Local Google Guides but more importantly for me, the team behind Google Maps.

I only heard about Google Local Guides 10 weeks ago. I'd written one review on Google Maps over 5 years ago, but had made no more contributions to it since. The GLG programme seemingly launched 3 years later.

As such, I only had 6 weeks to go from 2 points to over 500 to reach the required level to enter.

As it was, with my total commitment to the goal, before the deadline for submission, I had managed to add over 1,000 new location photographs, submit 60 proper reviews, not just a couple of lines and a star rating and gone from 2 points to over  600.

It would appear my short time on Google Local Guides must have gone against me on this occasion though.

As I discovered today I wasn't selected, when Google confirmed, that all notifications had gone out on Friday.

In itself, a minor consideration, but the hours of labour (3 - 4 hours everyday for the past 2 months) required to reach the necessary means of entry, meant I have in essence wasted all this time.

One of the reason for the commitment came from the fact that I am, as they say, #UniquelyLondon and could find it difficult to see how anyone else could compete.

No other Londoner can make the claims I can to knowing this city, mainly because nobody has the first and only's I have.

I'm the only Londoners to have had his Video Diary taken into the Museum of London Permanent collection, making me a 21st Century Pepys.

I'm the only Londoner to have had a film shown on the Coca-Cola Billboard in Piccadilly Circus.

And I'm one of a few thousand Londoners to have performed in the Closing Ceremonies of The London 2012 Olympic Games.

But I didn't make it, and I'd be interested to see if anyone from London did.  I noticed quite a few people on Twitter saying they've made it back again, which means they were selected last year and this.

This maybe algorithmic, or simply to knowing what the judges were looking for in the Google submission Video.

Either way it's a great shame and has certainly taken me off track of how I pursue my current goals.

Such a pity.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Where did London's compassion go....

Over the last 37 hours, I've been trapped in my car due to a CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) "Crash" (Relapse).

Only 2 people were aware of this.  My solicitors at the Public Law Project and Robin Mauras-Cartier, Regional Spa Director (Akasha Wellbeing) - The Set Hotels.

Ironically, it was the latter, that was the main instigator of my relapse and being situated only 3 minutes away from where I was located, did nothing whatsoever to assist.

I'd been emailing both from the confines of my car on my Lenovo Tablet using Eat on Golden Square's WiFi being parked outside of it.

If you've been following my blogs and tweets, you'll know I've been living in a car since October 2016 to highlight the problems of the Homeless and the Vulnerable in the city I love, as part of Ken Loach's, I, Daniel Blake campaign.

The one key thing to achieving this, is an ability to store a few clothes somewhere dry and a place to shower and ablute every morning. 

Well, that was, until Wednesday April 5th 2017, Akasha, part of Hotel Cafe Royal on Piccadilly Circus, which is now managed by Mr. Mauras-Cartier, he being the third manager of the venue, since I joined last year.

I've held a Birthday Party at the members club of Hotel Cafe Royal because of my connection to the spa, and as one of London's number 1 Tripadvisor Reviewers, soon to be Google's top London Guide and about to launch one of London's biggest promotional apps in 2018 (Paul Atherton's UniquelyLondon), you'd think the venue would be keen to get the good press and the promotion, that their support would have given them.

But not for Mr. Mauras-Cartier.

The other staff here however, have all been amazing, the yoga & pilates instructors literally life-saving when it's come to my health condition and reception staff all welcoming and understanding, as my twitter feed about them will attest.

The issue, as far as I can tell, has as all been down to an administrative cock-up on the hotels' part, not logging a cash payment for membership on their system last year. 

I've got the receipt buried in my storage unit somewhere, but rather than giving me the time to retrieve it, Mr. Mauras-Cartier did the unthinkable and cleared my lockers leaving my possessions at reception.

As something similar mistakenly happened a few months ago, on a locker safety check, he knew exactly the impact on my health and my circumstances that would have. It put me in a spin for over a week with a crash the last time, which I had written to him about at the time and he'd also seen my Living In a Car campaign video a few weeks ago.

Suffering with CFS means memory and concentration are severely affected, so spacial awareness is key to knowing where things are.

Any disruption to things a CFS sufferer has left in a space is akin to anyone else having burglars in their home ransacking their stuff to an extent not to allow them to discern what's been taken or what's not, but at the same time leaving them devastated emotionally and physically exhausted.

I've only now managed to surface from the car and am still very uneasy on my feet (my stick previously held in my locker is at Akasha's reception with my other possession) and have yet to collect.

It's hard to understand why someone I barely know, would be so vindictive, unhelpful and intentionally hurtful.

My attendance at the Spa has no implicit cost whatsoever, it's fundamentally there for Hotel guests, though there are a few members there too, so it certainly couldn't be a money issue. So I flounder to see what the motivation of his actions were.

I've made friends with some of the other Akasha members and ironically, one I'm supporting on a pro-bono basis in my film making capacity with a health campaign his organisation is running.

So, I'm left in the unenviable position of either having to be out of pocket and finding somewhere else within budget for my campaign (£30 per day) or quitting the campaign entirely.

I've usually always found London incredibly supportive with my CFS.  Harvey Nichols organised a food delivery for me one year because I couldn't get there for my annual Christmas Eve tradition (a service they do not offer), local cafe's have delivered to my door (who don't deliver) and concierges regularly checked on me at The Whitehouse Apartments on Southbank, a thing which was done out of compassion not a job obligation.

So this has come as a devastating and severe blow to my campaign, my health and my love of London. 

I just hope it's a one off and not a trend we are seeing across London, because as a City we've always been at the cutting edge of compassion we founded the worlds 1st Registered Charity (The Foundling Hospital 1739), set up The Samaritans, The Salvation Army & The YMCA and our rich philanthropist have protected the weak on the streets from Barnardo's to Peabody.

I too am going to continue supporting those I've always done like Graeme Croton at the Aspie Project.

And hopefully I can find a more compassionate and considerate venue in the city I love, so I can continue my quest to help others.

I'll keep you informed!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Did I miss the opportunity of a lifetime by being polite....

On Saturday 18th February 2017 I had gone to rest in my spa, Akasha in Hotel Cafe Royal.

I'd secured my lounger by the pool, "German Style" (leaving a towel over the top of it and my flip-flops at the base) and gone into the sauna for 20 minutes.

On returning, a guest had secured the one next to it, seemingly unaware that I was returning.

To not seem intrusive I asked if he knew whose flip-flops were whom's that were on the floor as they were both close together.

His answer, was inconsequential, but his voice stopped me in my tracks.

I'd recognise Andrew Garfield's voice anywhere.

I felt there was a moment of panic on both our faces. Mine clearly showing the fact that I'd just recognised him, his panicking, I suspect that having done so, I'd talk to him.

And that idea did rush around my head for some time. Should I say hello?

You see I'd given an actress who went to Drama school with him, Karina Cornell, her first ever TV Role in my docudrama Silent Voices (she adorned the cover of that titles DVD release) and I recall the moment she screamed seeing Andrew's face on a billboard as we drove past it as friends a couple of years later (Lions for Lambs 2007).

A supporting nod from him could change my whole #LivingInACar campaign overnight.

This is how our world works now, celebrity endorsement is everything.

But I sat and cogitated and recalled every time I'd seen a star interviewed who'd said the line "People don't respect our privacy".

This was my club, but Andrew had clearly come in to get away from it all so I simply let him be.

It's been a tough year to date.  The BBC Storyville documentary we'd hoped to have all sorted by now is still in a half-way house situation.  Distributors are still dragging their heels. Storyville is looking at it as a possible acquisition rather than a commission - which makes things inordinately harder.

Promises of assistance for a whole variety of projects were not being met across the board.

And to top it all my energy levels are crashing.  Always a worrying sign of a CFS relapse, that I'm thinking cannot be far away (ironically discovering the following Monday that The Sun Newspaper had cited me as a Celebrity Sufferer of the disease along with Martine McCutcheon and Michael Crawford back in November 2016).

So, I hope, by giving him his peace, I'll get paid back in Karma rather than him being presented as an opportunity that I've simply passed on.

Only time will tell.....

Saturday, 31 December 2016

So that's the end of 2016.

It's been an amazing year, filled with incredibly highs and lows.

I've barely had time to post to my blog, being so occupied writing TripAdvisor reviews, having my first ever Guardian Newspaper article published, ensuring my @LondonersLondon twitter account is up to date, wasted a month on a music video that a friend was desperate for assistance with, but that never got finished.

So that's it, goodbye 2016, but here are some of the amazing highlights of my year

January 2016
Son and I make history, as our Video Diary (Our London Lives) is the first ever to be entered into the permanent collection of Museum of London. Making me the 21st Century Samuel Pepys or Samuel Johnson and extremely happy - Immortal Londoner at last!

February 2016
I take a leading role in the excellent immersive theatre experience You Me Bum Bum Train and play against Madonna, Gemma Arterton, Prince Harry and Cara Delevigne to name just a few.

March 2016
Revive the glamour of a former London by celebrating my 48th Birthday Party in the grandeur of Hotel Cafe Royal Members bar, with Burlesque, Musical performers from iconic 70's stars to Pop Idol Winners and even a Portrait Artist in residence.

April 2016
Staying at Daily Mail Editors, Paul Dacre's Lodge in the Scottish Highlands just as his EU Funding for the place is discovered by the Media.
May 2016
Living the good life on the London Marina

June 2016
Win Natalie Gauci's song writing contest with TEDX London

July 2016
A special 17th Birthday for and with my Son on the roof of the world

August 2016
Perform in the 50th Notting Hill Carnival

September 2016
Reconnect with my Godson after 20 years

October 2016
First trip abroad in years

November 2016
The I, Daniel Blake Campaign

December 2016
BBC Storyville commission & an Amazing Christmas

Hope you've had an equally fulfilling year and next year brings you all your dreams.


Monday, 27 June 2016

A letter to the Millenials who dislike BREXIT

Dear Millenial,

I was never prouder to be British than last Friday as the EU Referendum results were read out.

We the people had gone out in the pouring rain, voted our conscience and by a very small majority made the unprecedented decision to leave the EU.

As the former Director of the CBI, Lord Digby Jones said:

For once in my lifetime, we had a true democratic election.
Everyone could vote and every vote counted.

But the vitriol on those who chose to exit the Governing Body of the EU received over the weekend and today, have shamed me to my very core.  

Not least because nearly all of it, is spewing from those on the Left of politics. 

Odd that the people who would normally be pro-democracy, desperate to be seen as caring, reasoned and just, should be so anti the outcome of a democratic vote.

And that's the reason I'm writing to you as a 19 - 35 something's who are complaining about the LEAVE decision, because your generation has been cheated, not by this vote, but by an education that would have assisted you in understanding it.

The reason that many of my generation voted (I fall into the Category of Generation X by the way), isn't as you'd read in the papers or on Social Media because we are anti-europe, in fact far, far from it.

It's because we watched how an idea that we as the British Public had voted on, has slowly been eroded with no democratic involvement whatsoever into a corruption of something that we didn't ask for or desired.

Prior to the EEC/EU we were inter-railing across all of Europe with no visa issues at all (1972), the birth of the Ex-Pat had been comfortably established in Spain, Gibaltra & the South of France (since the 18th century) and that Dark Navy British Passport was literally an entry through any border control in the World.

The EEC was an idea to unite separate countries in Europe into a single block when it came to trade.  It was never about governance. And for Trade it made perfect sense.

You see we remember the Winter of Discontent in 1978/9, when Leicester Square was covered with 6 feet of rubbish, dead bodies lay decaying on the ground, the country only worked a 3 day week and was plunged into darkness with rolling electricity black outs.

It was the reason we'd voted in a referendum to stay in the EEC 4 years earlier in 1975, Britain was indeed the "Sick Man of Europe".

But as time passed we improved, but the EEC (Not the EU at this stage) brought with it many woes

We remember the waste of food the EEC Butter Mountains, Wine Lakes & Food Burns produced, so that other less inefficient European countries could seem more competitive in 1986 (which were repeated again under the EU in 2009).

We remember the EEC Fishing Quotas and the devastation that had on our Fishing Industry and the families who'd worked them for centuries (resulting in the Scottish Klondikers in 1994)

We remember Margaret Thatcher's attack on the EEC (December 1979) and her wins of the now oft talked about Rebates, powers and opt outs.

Boy, do we remember the terror of Black Wednesday and the loss of £3Bn tax-payers money not Trade like today (a cool £1bn being pocketed by George Sorros) in a single day in 1992 as Britain tried and failed to standardise under the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) to be allowed into the European Currency Unit (ECU precursor to the Euro).

And we remember the underhand way then Prime Minister, John Major, passed the Maastrich Treaty (This was the birth of the European Union ) against the wishes of many in parliament and who almost got away with excluding the Social Chapter for the entire UK (which the much lauded EU Workers rights is based on, if Major had got his way that wouldn't have applied to the UK anyway) and gave away many of the UK rights previously won - induing our right to have a Referendum on important EU changes.

The EU is not Europe, it is Europe's governing body.

And it was the Lisbon Treaty that was the last straw for most of the people I know who voted Brexit. This removed 40 of our 43 Vetoes.  We in the UK had no say in this whatsoever.  Ireland did it's best to block it, but having voted to reject, were asked to have another go 16 months later having got concessions for themselves, ironically, al around Soverignty (but not for the UK), it got passed.

This Treaty, is the one the majority of you, as Millenials, should remember.

And that is why, we, as educated Generation X's wanted our democracy back.  
Sure people in the UK would have obviously voted because they wanted immigration down or that imaginary £350m paid into the NHS but the majority of people I know, love Europe, we're Londoners, our entire existence is based on immigration, our city speaks over 250 different languages and has the most cultural diverse range of people of any city in the world (and don't forget whilst Remain won in London 40% of us that's 1.5 Million people here in London Voted to LEAVE).

There's a lot wrong with the UK democracy (I'm an advocate for Proportional Representation and way more so after this vote) as Churchill said:

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

But if our politicians are on our soil (and not Brusell's), we, like the SuffragettesJarrow and Poll Tax Marchers before us can make real change.

No more silenced by the arrogance of the like's of Tony Blair when the people marched against the Iraq War, because the British Voting Public have just shaken the core out of every establishment in the World that thought we were complacent, apathetic and fearful of change.

But I did begin by saying you've been cheated of an education and I should support that.

You see you should have been given a good schooling teaching you how to think - you weren't you were taught how to pass tests

You should have been given an excellent Higher Education teaching you how to challenge - you weren't you were sold University Degrees that were employment based and tied into a lifetime of debt.

You should have been given an internet that shared information between great thinkers - You weren't you were sold Selfies on Instagram & Katie Hopkins on Twitter.

And some of those issues must be laid at your door as well as your parents.
You see many of you were students

When Tony Blair introduced School League Tables  - You didn't take to the streets
When Tony Blair introduced Student Fees for Universities - You didn't refuse to go 
And When Tony Blair introduced the Digital Economy Bill - you didn't revolt from the Web. 

Your's was the first student generation in British History not to be tearing the walls down for Justice and I think that in part was due to Tony Blairs Iraq War march, where a Million people marched on Downing Street and were simply ignored.

Had you been given the education you so rightly deserved,

You would have been able to see through the propaganda and lies on both sides of the debate choosing instead the likes of

You would have known to ignore the media and the rhetoric about the EU and done the research for yourself (and not just from the internet).

You would have challenged the echo chamber of Social Media, that makes it so easy to assert opinion as fact with no or little evidence

You would have voted when you had the chance & campaigned accordingly beforehand (if you hadn't already done so).

And then you would have accepted the result as being democratic whether in your favour or not, as you'd have known by then, that is how democracy works.

But you're free thinking individuals now and so can search the facts for yourselves (check the links contained in this letter, ask your MEP's, go to your local Library and trawl Hansards).

I urge you to do so, I think in doing, you'll discover that leaving the EU in fact can create a stronger community in ALL of the European Countries on our continent, not just some.

And maybe, just maybe, you may realise, my generation were not voting for a forgotten past of Empire but the potential of the advent of an exciting, unified and prosperous future in Europe for all.

I do hope so, I certainly was.