Ten years

Ten years ago today Sarah and I got up worried and early to begin one of the longest days of our lives. We travelled to the Royal Hospital here in Liverpool, to the Rapid Diagnosis Clinic, to find out what we found out.

And ten years later part of me finds it hard to travel back to what Sarah has written here. But most of me is immensely relieved, and grateful, that she is alive to write it. And that the years have in no way dimmed her fire and passion for our National Health Service, or her determination to keep it safe from officious predators, as you’ll see when you read on.


22nd February 2007

This is me on the 22nd of February 2007. It is the day after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, age 43.

So today, the 21st of February 2017, marks ten years from that diagnosis. There is no whoop of delight, no fist pumps here. No, this is not a celebration. It is a mere observation of a fact, a fact that I am still here to observe. And of all the questions I asked that day ten years ago during the hours in the hospital, the main question, the one I remember the most, was when I said, ‘Will I die?’

But thanks to modern medicine and surgery, some great doctors and surgeons, a hefty dose of luck and some of my own tenacity, I did not die of breast cancer. At least, I haven’t so far. Continue reading “Ten years”

“I am spray painting my truth on your outside walls”


This late into the autumn of my life I should not have to be writing and working on the human right to a decent home. But I am. Or the responsibility of the organisations of the state not to be the enemies of our own people, but they are.

I am Daniel Blake. And I am Cathy Come Home. I am spray painting my truth on your outside walls. And here it is. Continue reading ““I am spray painting my truth on your outside walls””

Is Cathy never coming home?

002In 2014, 13th November was to be #HousingDay. 24 hours on Twitter of stories from the world of Social Housing. I thought it couldn’t do any harm and might even do some good. It had been Twitter that morning, after all, that had led me to two savagely upsetting articles about life in the housing world.

First Aditya Chackrabortty’s story of the millionaire Tory MP forcing tenants on the New Era estate on the edge of the City of London to ‘seek alternative accommodation’ so that their £600 a month rents can be jacked up to four times that. The ‘alternative accommodation’ being most likely several years in a homeless shelter followed, if they’re lucky, by a move to somewhere well out of London. All to add to the personal wealth of someone whose existing riches are well and lavishly documented in Aditya’s brilliant but heart wrenching article.

Followed shortly after in that morning’s Twitter feed by something just as distressing. Polly Toynbee’s article from within such a homeless shelter, in the prosaically but factually named ‘England’s Lane’. It reads like a dystopian and Dickensian tale from a land we might have imagined was long gone, but is right here right now. It reads like Ken Loach and Jeremy Sandford’s classic sixties tale of ‘Cathy Come Home’. Except it’s happening now and it once again sounds as if Cathy never will come home.

Stacey Thomas and her family in England's Lane Hostel. From The Guardian article.
Stacey Thomas and her family in England’s Lane Hostel. From The Guardian article.

Please read both of these. And if they don’t break your heart? Then there’s something wrong with your heart. Continue reading “Is Cathy never coming home?”