Thursday, 27 August 2009

Inspired! Fresh Blog, Guest Blog, Fresh Ties!

You know the feeling? You have a few moments break, perhaps at lunchtime or when you get home from work, settling down to watch the news or read the paper – you're maybe hoping for something interesting, relaxing, uplifting even? But it’s one depressing story after another - wars, celebrities off the rails, young people behaving badly, politicians being dishonest, poor parenting, house prices up, house prices down, even criticism because of someone's hair or dress sense… Why is it all such bad news? By the time you have finished your heart is in your boots, you feel unable to make a difference and you’re drained of energy. You know good things happen in the world – it just seems hard to find the evidence.

Well there is some great news out there!

It’s on a website called There's a newspaper too, The Fresh Outlook, and it’s weekly, online and reporting good news from all quarters – individuals, charities, not for profits, businesses – even the government. Here you can read about young people doing good things, communities working together, volunteers having fun and serious issues seen in a positive light. And even the news that isn't so good is constructively reported from all angles, so you can make your own mind up.

The thinking behind FreshTies is that positive and constructive coverage of people and issues gives us a more balanced view of life, helping us to get on more. We believe that by sharing knowledge, we break down social barriers. Non-mainstream issues get regular coverage, too - after all, the less we know, the more myths grow. People will always disagree on issues, which is fine, but through FreshTies we can understand why. Ask yourself - every day, good things happen, so, who made the decision, and when, that all news reported must be bad? The more you think about it, the more you realise that what we read and listen to impacts on our thinking, consciously and subconsciously. Our thinking then informs what we do, our attitudes to other people and how we think about the future. Wouldn’t it be better to feed in constructive content rather than content which is negative or destructive? The FreshTies newspaper is for all people, and everyone can contribute opinions, good news stories, as well as encourage the sharing of knowledge so we gain from each others' experiences.

Linked to the FreshTies newspaper is our ishare, an online place for individuals and businesses to find and respond to non cash requests from their community easily - or make offers of help! For example, AVG, the anti virus company responded to a primary school request to provide staff to read with their children. Examples like these can be good news features in the newspaper, showing the non cash ways to get involved in your community, which means everyone has something to offer.

FreshTies runs not-for-profit, which means that everything we make in profit goes back into community projects, such as media projects to help young disadvantaged individuals gain practical skills and experience as reporters or marketers. This also helps increase the diversity of people in the media, which we all need for fairer, more balanced journalism. FreshTies - online or offline - involves us all in sharing whatever we know or can do, so we can all have a decent life.

Instead of feeling heavy and depressed at the bad things in life, feel encouraged at the positive, and the possibility that with a little help from each other, there is plenty of good news to go round! Why not start afresh with a few simple actions?

sign up to the weekly good news alert

tell other people about the newspaper / or FreshTies in general

join the FreshTies ishare – and make a token donation to grow our work

Thanks, FreshTies, for a touch of feel good factor.  It was needed! (Emma)
Posted @ 12:53:40 on 27 August 2009

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau

Today I do not feel haunted, as I did in my Fresh Ties post (, by what my parents might think, for your support leads me to experience my inheritance as “yn annwyl i mi” (dear to me).

Anyone who knew Dad will tell you “Delme would give you the shirt off his back”. When Julian Dobson tweeted “Muck is like money. Not good
except it spread.”, I was transported to a launderette in Tottenham, newly appointed young nineties research executive, and spending my
weekends watching pants dry. Dad said “Do a service wash”, then explained his take on economics, or as I like to think of it, cash flow.

Over the past 25 years, I've often pondered the what ifs of my family's financial losses. What if my folks had bought the flats on Regent's Park and not Y Bwthyn (the cottage)? What if their bank manager hadn't suggested selling our London home, to take up living in rural West Wales? What if Dad had sung Peron in the original West End production of Evita? What if Mum's grandfather had not been cut off for illegitimate partner and kids? Or Dad's grandmother likewise for an ill advised marriage?

When I first moved to Birmingham in 1991, I lived in Sparkbrook – a three bedroomed terrace on Dearman Road. Within days of giving Mum the
address, I learned that Mary Dearman was in fact my great, great, great, great, greatgrandmother and that neighbouring Lloyd House was her family home, shared with her husband, Sampson Lloyd of, you guessed it, Lloyds Bank. What if...

But my inheritance is not an income of wealth, so much as the capacity to overcome and a passion for welfare. Take the Cadbury's investments in social housing, education and health or the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's work – good Quaker families both, with whom my connection is one Elizabeth Fry, not Turkish, but, delightful in visiting prisons so long ago.

My family could have bequeathed me a fortune, but for one reason or another our line was cut out or off, culminating in that most taboo of debt devised poverties, my personal bankruptcy of 2002. And yet, there is no purpose in crying over spilt milk. I firmly believe that in adversity, we learn our inner most strength. But then, I do come from rather a long line of dreamers:

“Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri” (land of poets and singers, famed for honour)

Yesterday, I had the great fortune to spend time with an old school friend, Sian Phillips, formidable folk fiddler, and a Buddhist. We hugged as I left and somehow talked briefly of a funeral in the chapel opposite (Welsh fetish!). “How can you sing hymns, when you're a Buddhist?” she'd been asked. “I sing out of respect” she cried.  25 years ago, we'd never have guessed what that meant. 

Thank YOU!

Posted @ 12:31:41 on 25 August 2009

Sunday, 23 August 2009

#DueCredit #CreditFree and #enddodgydebtads

This is war!

No more faffing about here, people, I mean to put an end to all the passing off and poverty which prevails in the market for alternative lending and commercial debt counselling (genuine paid services need have nothing to fear).

First, I'd like you to embrace the currency of Due Credit /  (#DueCredit in Tweets) - giving thanks for a good tip or turn which comes at no cost to you.

Second, please share your Credit Free  / (#CreditFree, get the twicture?) tips for products and services which cost little or nothing, and if paid for at all, were paid for in cash!

Third, and most importantly, join Zero-credit's campaign to end dodgy debt ads  / (#enddodgydebtads - a hashtag costs nothing!) so that guidance for living credit and debt free becomes utterly transparent and accessible.

Hope you enjoy the new additions to the website and keep coming back for more!

Posted @ 14:14:53 on 23 August 2009


just a quickie!

New content published today!  Six more pages on the Zero-credit website!  Some alterations to reflect all your helpful feedback - keep it coming!  Working on internal links at the minute - need to publish first in order to set them - please be patient everything should be 100% by Monday :-)

Posted @ 22:41:33 on 22 August 2009

Thursday, 20 August 2009

because you're worth it!

So many people to thank, so little brain space left after a 17 hour stint, editing the site that I cannot list them all now.

All I can say is this...  Zero-credit undoubtedly has a place in our society and although my heart is calling me to start that novel I had planned for the Autumn, back in January, I shall see this through.

I reckon on having new content up over the weekend - from 19 to 25 pages in little over two months! Loads more links, especially to those who have supported me - you know who you are!  And if I don't list you here, rest assured that your name will appear somewhere, with Due Credit!

Blessings all - it truly has been a beautiful day indeed :-)

Posted @ 00:38:39 on 20 August 2009

Friday, 14 August 2009

#[Tr]end the Freak Show

Two documentaries stand out this week, as different as chalk and cheese: "The Trouble with Girls”, BBC2, Monday 10th August and “How the Other Half Live”, Channel 4, Thursday 13th August, both at 9pm. 

Were it not for the latter, this blog might have been very different...Teaching post-16 Drama, I have used my fair share of Brechtian devices to incite audience action, so perhaps my frustration when watching “The Trouble with Girls” was intentional. Yet I felt less inclined towards social intervention than to slapping its makers good and hard. How anyone can film such abject misery, without sharing a lifeline to come out of it, is beyond me.

Last week, Jeremy Swain ( complained that BBC1's “Famous, Rich and Homeless was a triumph of biased and inaccurate documentary-making”. He was rightly incensed that the combination of Dickensian contrast (Great Expectations is my son's GCSE set text) and resolute adherence to inescapable destiny, bordered on what I might teach as Conventions of Tragedy. Eureka, I think, great name for a documentary series: Arena!

However, compare these films to the frank innocence of eleven year old Sam, telling his wealthier counterpart, Rosie, over the balcony wall of an all too familiar custodial estate, that he hated the prejudice for being poor, and the incitement to help the millions of youngsters, trapped by our labels for poverty - underclass, scrounger, chav, fraud – hits hard.

“How the other half live” might have verged on cheesy in its optimism at times, but oh, what a breath of fresh air! I'm tired of the celebrity Colosseum which catapaults our Jades and Jordans to affluent excess, only to scorn their destitution in demise. “'Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.' Francis Bacon, 1625.” Julian Dobson Tweeted the other day ( and at So, when are we going to switch allegiance and cease our complicity in branding and how much you own labels?

I find the hey-day of fly on the wall and reality TV well and truly passed. And if the likes of Murdoch want me to pay for the News, tell them I'm only buying media which facilitiates change!

Posted @ 12:09:12 on 14 August 2009

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The euphoric time loss of holidays...

... and finding bits of paper which have been put in a safe place. I think I wrote this on 2nd August:

Sat in my tent on a cliff top with the Writers' & Artists Yearbook all day, I can safely say that I've had an epiphany. There is immense benefit in being bereft of technology for a while – you have to focus.

First off I should like to thank the UK Poverty Post ( for volunteering an endorsement of this site. I felt like a 50s debutante coming out to acclaim in “The Tatler”, “The Lady” or similar. My excitement could not have been more gamine.

However, I am fast approaching the deadline at which I had planned to be writing fiction. Since January, I have sought employment to finance my efforts, launched and marketed this site and I'm now looking for relevant NFP stakeholders to steer it further into the public domain – much as recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in “Poverty in the media”.

I have a number of proposals which would effect broader contribution than I alone can muster. But lacking in capital, all I can offer is that which I have created and such time as I am willing to donate further.

In its infancy, last summer, I had hoped that Zero-credit might generate an income. As I learned more of the many people who have so little, raising awareness of the potential Zero-credit offers became a mission. I deteremined to be a philanthropist of beyond humble means.

There is no doubt that I seek interest – though none fiscal for this project, at least. I should like readers to ask why I created this resource and that any enthusiasm for it might extent to whatever else I may write. Long live the currency of giving!

Posted @ 12:23:14 on 11 August 2009

Thursday, 6 August 2009

It could be you - the lending lottery

If you've been reading the UK Poverty Post (as I most certainly hope you have: ) recently, then you'll know I popped round to see an old friend the other day. For her sins she collects loan repayments. In point of fact, I have a couple of friends who do this, one working for Provident and the other with a Credit Union – it fits in well with being a Mum and I guess that's why so many doorstep borrowers trust such collections. 

Odd really. Only yesterday, most news programmes ran a feature on John Kiely, the 36 year old loan shark who made the lives of thousands in East Manchester utterly miserable. He got five years, which is laughable when you consider it likely that his debtors were on the receiving end of all manner of assault and abuse, not to mention the fact that his profits may have come from tax payers' money because he is most likely to have preyed on those receiving benefits.

Now you may well sit back and reflect that people on benefits should not be borrowing in the first place – and to some extent I'd be with you, because Zero-credit's aim is to reduce our dependence on consumer borrowing entirely – but when you think of the realities of a washing machine or a car breaking down, a late salary or benefit payment, there are times when each and every one of us believes that we have little choice, especially when there are dependents involved.

Spending time with both of my friends recently has brought home the realisation that even when individuals work in finance, they can still miss out on vital savings, often for basic needs: warmth, shelter, food. For those with reduced means, the isolation is great - there may not be a local CAB, bank or post office, they may not have or understand Internet access and then there's the stigma of friends who have what they do not - who, in our current society, will own up to that? All of a sudden, the doorstep lender becomes very appealing and then, it really ain't what you know, it's who you know...

Posted @ 09:45:19 on 06 August 2009

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The lie of the land

How does a Cardi swim? The punchline is a gesture of reverse breast stroke to denote the collection of wealth. The people of Ceredigion have a reputation for fondness of money, yet their protection of what little they have is no more nor less than many other rural communities.

I've been shocked to find Cardigan decimated by the recession - a soon to be nine hundred year old capital, with empty shops around the Market Hall, charity and factory shops dominating the high street. Competition for the lowest of the low is fierce, when outskirting supermarkets preempt a trip into town. A handful of independents make the most of the seasonal trade, but work is scarce - jobs go to family, old or close friends.

For those who have displaced my contemporaries, times are harder. The investments in which they strove to live have plummeted whilst food and fuel costs soar. Add five or six pence to every litre sold in an urban area and the isolation of exclusivity comes at a cost. The Cambrian Hills are littered with For Sale signs.

Should we decry the farmer or fisherman who connives some exploitation? I'm not so sure. If your child, a firefighter, nurse or postal worker could not afford to live in homes your forebears built, what would you do? When I can count on one hand school friends who still live locally, even I am angry, though content and settled elsewhere. 

Last week's weather was variable. I've seen campers come and go at the first drop of rain and old jokes about Welsh summers abound. For me the calm which comes after the storm gives hope. There is nothing so beautiful as this morning, its sunny breeze our reward for last night's battering.

My experience of this place, which I still call home, is that here you must give to receive. Leave fallow fields to recover and they will bear fruit. The antithesis to buy now pay later, the lie of the land does not change and to wish otherwise is naïve.

Posted @ 09:07:13 on 04 August 2009