The UK welfare state is broken

I recently had to attend an assessment by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in regards my Employment Support Allowance (ESA) which involved a lengthy two hour questioning and then physical examination. Sure, it was with a very decent, kind GP, but not my GP and not anyone who’s spoken to my consultants in Glasgow or back in Bristol however the entire process was designed to relegate people into units where your future ability to provide economic worth to the state is assessed.

Now I want to get back to work and thanks to a mix of improving health and the incompetency of Glasgow City Council that’s probably something that’s going to happen sooner than later. Last week though I saw people who could clearly and obviously barely walk and/or were in such clear pain/discomfort that dragging them through a Kafkaesque procedure only made any conditions they have worse. When you’re ill, seriously ill as opposed to ”oh, I’ve got a bad cold” ill, you’re going to suffer from anxiety.and stress about your own perhaps curtailed or painful existence so the last thing you need is some apathetic DWP employee looking at you as if you’re some sort of stain on their horizon.

The system is broken. Things are going to change in Scotland as the Scottish Government is banning the likes of ATOS and will be attempting to create a more humane system however that’s years away, and for the rest of the UK looking down the barrel of a ruthless Tory government things will only get worse. The system is needlessly cruel because a media reports on people ”scrounging” all the bloody time.

The picture being painted is one of masses of the sick and disabled playing at it to pull in massive riches (as if £146 a fortnight is riches) or defrauding the system but the system is impossible to fathom without having a computer to work out the calculations. And those that do manage to somehow game the system amount to a pitiful 1.8% in 2015. On average the fraud level is around 1% which means the screaming headlines of ”75%” is bullshit, but this constant level of lying has worked. The sick and disabled are seen as ‘faking’ or if you speak to some people you get the line ‘nah, not you, you’re one of the genuine ones” as if there’s massive hordes of people developing debilitating conditions in order to grab money.

I hope the new forthcoming Scottish system helps change things for the better, but it took years to harden things up and it’ll take years to get rid of what are now entrenched opinions. One thing is clear though; vote Tory in June’s general election and things won’t get any better.

Cut For Life

A year ago I had a life-saving operation to remove a tumour and my thyroid. I went into the operation unsure if I’d even emerge from the anaesthetic as I was less than three months out of having a stroke, but the risk was worth it as the bloody amazing surgeons removed the cancer from my neck.

A year later I’m trying to get on with life having relocated from Bristol to Glasgow. Things haven’t been easy but on the physical front my general health is better but circumstances mean returning to work for the while at least just to escape the hellish Kafka-esque bureaucracy which is the UK benefits system and the sucking whirlpool of despair that is Glasgow City Council.

But a year on I have a future. A year ago I was 50:50 in terms of actually having any future beyond the 6/6/16/ Things can only get better…

Clap your hands if you want some more

There’s not much to report on the old health or life front at the minute since the Barrowlands show a few weeks ago. Cancer is still in remission, stroke recovery is going well, though missing one week of physio due to Easter means that I’m sorer than a sore thing that’s been inserted in a sore place. Plans for my Empire in Glasgow are on hold til the old body decides to play the game so I’ll have to put off bringing the Masterplan to fruition until 2018 so some of you can breathe a sigh of relief. That doesn’t preclude me from doing the odd small mart for the rest of 2017 of course but I think playing it sensible is a wiser option than throwing everything in a huge pot in a hurry. Essentially it’s best to leave a roast cooking a bit longer than serve it cold and uncooked.

And oh, Kiefer Sutherland is playing Glastonbury. He won’t be torturing someone on stage for 45 minutes, though I dunno. That probably will be more fun than watching Kieffer Sutherland, but maybe he could shoot someone in the kneecaps for an encore?

So for now it’s relative stability. Get a bit fitter, get some things sorted out,do Glastonbury,  pull shapes and then get on with it all…

So I take my good fortune…

The weekend just gone I had a table at the Glasgow Sci Fi, Cosplay and Comics con at the Barrowlands in Glasgow. I worked out this was the first comics related show I’ve done in Glasgow since the 1994 GLASCAC and the first one I’ve done since 2015, the first one on my own since 1991 and the first one since my stroke and cancer diagnosis. It was also the first time I’ve been in the Barrowlands since seeing The Pogues in December 1987. That’s a lot of firsts for an event which frankly, was shite but provided me with as many positives as negatives.

Firstly this was a last minute decision just over a fortnight ago so it took me two weeks to get my stock together instead of spending a few months doing it so I start in the summer/autumn proper I’ve done the hard work now and thanks to the weekend I’ve learned about the differences in the Glasgow market as opposed to the Bristol/London market. I now know what I need to do, what I need to buy to have stock which nobody else here in Scotland has (at the right price) and what I need to do to diversify so I don’t just grab comics fans.I haven’t found out everything yet but I will sooner than later hopefully.

As for the Barrowlands show it was a poorly advertised event which rather than bringing in the projected thousands, brought in (and I’ll be nice here) around 500 tops. Most of them were cosplayers who on the whole, don’t spend money on comics, and indeed, from the complaints of fellow stall holders, don’t spend money on anything. Still, come Saturday morning I was set up in the iconic Barrowlands (which looks more or less as it did when I was last in it in 1987) ready for the hordes to flow in!

Here’s the version with added roll and square sausage being digested.

So, the doors opened and trickle of punters came in. Now I’d brought a load of recent stuff, DC Rebirth, Marvel, variants, Walking Dead and any Harley Quinn I could get my hands on. On top of that I’d brought a load of cheapish Silver and Bronze Age which I thought would barely shift. Oh how wrong I was as the first customer bought so much Silver Age that he nearly paid for the table costs. ”Happy days’ I thought as if this was the start then this would be a cracker. Sadly it was a blip. Yeah, a few decent deals happened but the Barrowlands is a club/venue. It is dark. We were in a dark corner and the organisers had failed to lay on additional lighting.Effectively customers were reduced to blind men trying to find a snowball in a snowstorm.

Sunday saw the same problem even though many traders had pointed it out so some harsh words by myself finally saw some light on the Sunday which helped.but when there were so few customers there it was essentially a tactic of Corbyn-like proportions.

Around 25 years ago while I was working at the not-even-remotely iconic Comics and C.D’s in Bristol we did a show on a bank holiday Monday in Milton Keynes. It is by far the benchmark of ‘worst events ever’. We still managed to walk out of that in profit because all the traders walked rather than pay for their tables. This wasn’t that bad but the thought of demanding table money back crossed the minds of several traders this weekend judging by the looks of some very ashen-faced folk on Sunday afternoon.

Still, it was fun. This time last year I was wondering if I’d still be alive in a month’s time. Now I’m looking at display units, premises and taking someone on as a permanent helper/driver. I’ve done some networking, refined some ideas and hell, I’m even venturing to Edinburgh at the weekend to do some investigating. From thinking of what coffins I’d look good in to whether I’ve got enough Harley Quinn comics in less than a year…

Would I do another show by the same organisers in the Barrowlands? No chance. I now need to sit down with a list of shows in Central Scotland, work out what I would like to (and can) do, then take it from there. It was a dip in the water. Next time I’ll go up to the knees and see if I can rely on more than good fortune to hake it all worthwhile…

Back to the future

Over the last month I’ve been doing physio to make myself stronger to help with the cancer recuperation and stroke recovery and it’s working a treat. I am however, bored shitless having been signed off from doing work which means days of unrelenting boredom and ennui. To pass the time I’ve been building up stock to start selling comics at conventions and marts starting from the summer so July would have been my first solo outing as a deal in oh, around 20 years. Well, bollocks to waiting. I’m back next month.

I’ve played with comics retailing for a few decades, but there’s a hole in Glasgow’s market and I intend to slip in and fill it. And yes, there is a bigger goal behind this, but considering a year ago I was wondering whether I’d be around in a year’s time I can’t really be arsed wasting yet more time.

So if you want stuff like this…

Stay tuned for further details once everything is 100% confirmed…

Time to think about the future.

As Jack Nicholson once said, ‘think about the future’.

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After a year of recovering from a stroke and now being in remission from cancer I’m faced with not quite a Year Zero reboot, but more or less a soft reboot of my life and that’s actually a wonderfully empowering thing. So I’m undergoing physio to get better after the stroke and the slipped disc though I’m in some agony after last week’s session after seeing some older chap in his 80’s smash the cross-trainer. Refusing to let my competitive streak stay quiet I decided to try to smash his time which has broken me but this is all good as it helps make me better for the future.

And what do I do in the future? A month ago I wasn’t sure. I was looking at a number of things but over the last month things have coalesced into a few things. I’m still signed off work and expect to be so until probably Easter and then I’ll be fit and able to work, at least for a while as I’ve decided to get myself back into comics. Specifically retail. There’s a large hole in the market here in Glasgow and I intend to fill it. Mainly the issue is the comic shops in Glasgow are  not really comic shops but instead are selling merchandise (toys, lots and lots of toys), don’t prioritise comics (and I don’t just mean superhero comics but the wide range of comics) or are just rank-smelling dens of shite. There was an idea I was juggling around for a shop in Bristol (where there’s also an open goal in terms of a good comic shop) a few years ago but that was rudely stopped when family problems got in the way. That idea (and business plan) can be tweaked for Glasgow.

This means I’m looking to build up stock to supplement my own collection and although I may well take a job just to pass the time until I get the full plan underway (being signed off sick and doing nothing all day is tediously boring) I’ll look to do the marts and conventions soonish once I’ve built up enough of a stock. There’s a few things to sort out before then and of course, I need to be declared fit and able to work which as said I don’t expect this side of Easter, which to be fair is quite impressive considering my near death experiences in the last year or so.

Which means there is a future. A year ago I didn’t think I’d get past the summer. Now I’m planning for what I hope will be for the next decade and longer. It’s been amazingly quick in terms of recovery, but perhaps less of the cross-trainer in the weeks to come…