Back soon

Working through a few stories atm so back soon.

Still available for contact here or on twitter, tho am giving social media a break here and there as the Tory leadership contest is pushing me to the edge. May they all drown in a sewer.

Take action against energy companies! I will. Southern Electric is ripping me off

On 25 November, Fuel Poverty Action will take action in parliament against energy companies and welfare cuts.

One of the reasons that I am going is that I have been in personal dispute with Southern Electric for about a year. They take a lot of money from me and I do not like it.

In the last year, Southern Electric has:

– Sent me a letter saying that I might owe them £2000. They said that this might be a mistake without checking whether it was a mistake before they sent the letter. They decided it was indeed a mistake after I said “two grand? I think not.”

– Installed something called a Day-Night metre so that I could be charged at the “correct” rate – ie nearly £30 more each month.

– Said I can’t leave for another company until I pay off a so-called debt (I believe the technical name for this is “ransom.”) My account was in credit and then it wasn’t. I literally don’t understand where their totals come from.

– Said that they’d invite me to customer focus forums and then said they wouldn’t (they’ve now said I’ll have to apply). I’m supposed to be getting a face to face meeting. No news on that yet. A year has passed since I asked if I could attend a forum.

– Said that they were proud of their sponsorship of an arena at Wembley when I asked why they were sponsoring arenas. I wondered what the hell they were doing sponsoring arenas while customers were paying hand over fist to keep their homes warm. They said that they can’t disclose how much all that costs because that information is “commercially sensitive.” I bet it is.

You can imagine how thrilling I’ve found all of this. I could go on and I think I will.

From Fuel Poverty Action:

“On Wednesday 25 November, we will find out how many thousands of people died last winter because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes. Join Fuel Poverty Action and Lambeth Pensioners Action Group (LAMPAG) to take action in parliament to show support for those who have died. Come inside to WARM UP, and speak out to MPs, demanding an end to the unacceptable death and misery caused by fuel poverty.”

Read the rest here and find out how to take action.

Wonder how proud of the SSE arena Southern Electric will be when fuel poverty death figures are released. Let’s ask them next week.

New immigrant to Europe? No worries at all if you’re the right kind of white.

Immigration and racism? I think so:

Let’s start this one with a story.

A few years ago, I visited Athens for about a week with another journalist, Abi Ramanan. Austerity had smacked the Greek infrastructure to rubble even then. We went to Greece to ask people how that felt. They said it didn’t feel too good.

While we were there, we interviewed three young guys – they were all in their 20s – who’d recently made the move to Europe. They were new-ish arrivals. We talked for a while about the reasons they’d made the trip to Greece. They gave the answers that you’d expect from young people on the move in any part of the world: they hoped to further their studies, learn new languages and to find good jobs (you can read transcripts from those conversations here).

“Everybody wants to be the best, to have a good life,” one of the young men said. “I’m here to learn, to know something, to get knowledge.”

“I came here for education. I was studying economics. I wanted to learn Greek and English. I wanted to finish my schooling,” said another.

This part of the conversation struck quite a chord with me. I’m an Antipodean by birth. We leave for other countries and for new starts all the time. You might even say that for some of us, leaving home is a sort of lifelong rite of passage. We never reach the end of it, or grow out of it, or manage to decide whether Here or There is best. The final decision is usually made for you when the money runs out. When we’re Home, we save up our money so that we can get Away, and on the double. When we’re Away, we dream about Home and then very quickly about getting Away again. If I understand anything, it is that desire to move and to keep moving. I left New Zealand for Europe and the UK myself for the second time over a decade ago for the same sorts of reasons that the three young men in Greece talked about – to see Europe, to learn and to push on and out in a part of the world that I’d always found enticing. I have an Irish passport (my mother’s family was/is Irish) and so have the right to live and work in Europe, but if I hadn’t, I would probably have tried to find sponsorship to stay. I grew up in the Antipodes. We leave for other countries all the time.

What we don’t do, though – the white Antipodean family and friends I know, at least – is find ourselves on the receiving end of the dreadful crap that the three guys I met in Greece had flung at them from the moment that they decided to move to Europe. The three men had come from Togo and Nigeria. They’d been violently attacked and abused in Greece. This was 2012, too, if you don’t mind. So much for civilised advance.

For a start, these guys had been ripped off. They had paid shifty agents a large amount of money (€3000 one of the men said) for transport and “help” to make the trip to Greece from Togo and Nigeria. These deals were supposed to include visas for studying and for part-time work. The visas never materialised and the agents disappeared. That left the men stranded in a city that was patrolled by an aggressive police force and the Golden Dawn. Things turned very nasty very fast.

“The police attack us every day,” said Koffi, 25. He’d been subject to a violent assault only a few days earlier. The police had thrown a gas bottle at his head. A large lump on one side of his forehead marked the place where the bottle had hit. “We don’t have [the chance] to work to get money. We don’t have [the chance] to get out to learn the language. They don’t like to see the black [sic]. Why?”

“They don’t like foreigners,” Saheed Aylula, 22, told us. “If I’m on the bus, I cannot get people to sit down with me. If there is two seats there, I cannot get people to sit next to me. You can go to any restaurant or any cafe here and you cannot see blacks working there.” He also told us that a friend of his had been attacked by someone with a machete. “They [the perpetrators] were wearing black. They macheted the guy around nine or 10pm. So, that’s the reason why I don’t feel like walking around at night.” Continue reading