barcode1966

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act

Nepal – The race to rebuild.

a-man-sits-on-rubble-after-the-nepal-earthquake-dataIt’s just over a month since Nepal’s deadliest earthquake in more than 80 years and also there have been numerous aftershocks. The death toll in Nepal has now passed 8,000, it has left hundreds of thousands devastated and homeless and now things could be about to get much worse as the monsoon season is fast approaching.

Bluesky PIE only work with ‘on the ground’ charities who are passionate about making a difference. If you would like to help Nepal but you want to make sure all the money you donate gets to the people who need the help then please help us support the Mountain Trust.

We are trying to help the Mountain Trust in two different ways.

Firstly we are looking to recruit qualified builders (more details below) who are prepared to go to Nepal and spearhead the rebuild activities in some of these mountain villages.

The second way is to raise much-needed funds for tents, water, food, blankets, clothes and medicines. There have been wide spread reports in the news of aid getting stuck in customs due to red tape issues etc.

The Mountain Trust get their supplies over the border in India and have their own transportation to send it directly to the area that need the most help.

Just a couple of days after the initial earthquake the Mountain Trust had already been to India in their battered Land Rover to get essential life saving supplies and were immediately helping 100 families in the most affected areas to survive.

Also, they can make a pound go much further by buying supplies directly in India as the staple prices are much lower than they would if you bought them in the UK and sent them over.

How can you help?

epaselect epa04729942 A picture made available 02 May shows a woman carrying her baby through what is left of Barpak village, epicenter of the devastating earthquake that hit the country on 25 April 2015, Nepal, 01 May 2015. The confirmed official death toll increased to 6,621, with more than 14,000 injured, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake was the deadliest in the country for more than 80 years, destroying an estimated 300,000 houses across northern Nepal.  EPA/DIEGO AZUBEL

Are you a promoter? Can you put on a gig for the Mountain Trust?

If you are a friend of ours who puts on music, dance, comedy or any other kind of gigs, would you be prepared to put on a fund raising gig with all the funds going to the Mountain Trust?

This is a way you can make a real difference to the devastated lives of those people living in the worst affected areas. If you are so super cool to do this, please let us know the details and we can share it with the music community.

We already have a comedy night being put on by the rather wonderful Sean Brightman from we Love Comedy called ‘The next biggest comedy night in Folkestone ever!’on June 21st and you can find the details here.

Bluesky PIE are also putting on a gig in July check it out here

How can you raise funds?

You can simply donate here and every pound counts and all your money will go directly to the charity to help the people on the ground.

Can you do something to be sponsored? A run, walk, fancy dress, cake sale etc? Could you host a supper party or a cupcake bake in your office? Anything that you could do to help raise funds would make a real difference.

Please let us know what you are doing and we can share it. You can build your own Just giving page

Builders wanted

Although the Mountain Trust is buying basic materials to rebuild the basic structures required to shelter families from the elements, there is a severe lack of building skills needed to kick start it.

We are looking to fly over qualified builders to Nepal to work in these areas to coordinate the efforts of a village to start the rebuild of their communities.

The builders will be flown to Nepal and met by the Mountain Trust to be taken to a village to help. Living accommodation for the builders will be basic tents and food will be provided.

Are you a builder who is prepared to volunteer one or two weeks for your time? Do you know a builder who may be prepared to volunteer? Could you share this post on your social media pages to help us spread the word?

Please get in touch directly if you would like to volunteer by emailing louie@leaseholdsolutions.com

Sponsor a builder

It is going to cost around £450 for a return flight for a builder to go to Nepal. Could you or your company sponsor a builder to fly to Nepal?

You can sponsor a single journey £225 or the full return for £450?.

These areas need all the help they can get to start the rebuild programme for their community and have qualified builders organising the efforts will be the vital help they need to save lives.

Why support the Mountain Trust?

These are good guys.

They are currently on the ground buying and distributing aid: tents, water, food, blankets, clothes & medicines in the Gorkha region – near the epicentre.

Their team in Nepal is right now in the middle of helping where it is most needed and they are doing an outstanding job and working tirelessly to help those who have been left with nothing.

They have funded temporary shelter, essentials and food for a over a month and have already begun to distribute basic building materials (cement, steel reinforcement, corrugated iron sheeting etc. to enable families to rebuild their lives before monsoon season.

They have been working in Nepal for decades already helping to educate some of the poorest regions. Check out their super cool project Radio Guru. 

They now need our urgent help to offer assistance to the hundreds of thousands of affected people for food and essentials and to try and rebuild as many houses as we can before the incoming monsoon season.

Bluesky PIE came across the Mountain Trust because one of our lovely friends from Folkestone went to live in Nepal and she asked for our help after the earthquake, She told us she had worked a lot with the Mountain Trust and that were really good people who did a lot of good and we agree. We have already committed to working with them a long time into the future.

Thanks for reading, we hope you can help. Every pound counts.

Filed under: Uncategorized,

The truth about informal lease extensions

bp-carrot-stickThis blog is an in depth examination the real implications of accepting a non-statutory or ‘informal’ lease extension from your freeholder.

I apologize that some of this information is complicated and difficult to follow but please bear with it because your freeholder trades on the fact that you probably won’t be able to understand it, so make sure you prove them wrong!

Informal or non-statutory lease extension are deals offered to you by your freeholder when you wish to extend your lease and they are designed, at first glance, to make it look like you are getting a deal!

Nothing could be further from the truth though. I call these informal offers ‘Trojan horse offers’. They look like a gift but when you look inside the details can be catastrophic.

The ancient city of Troy was under siege by the Greeks, and the siege had become a stalemate. The Greeks built a wooden horse and had some of its soldiers hide inside and pretended to leave. The inhabitants of Troy accepted the horse as a goodbye gift only to find that the soldiers sneaked out at night and let in the Greek army in and the city was lost.

This is a fair analogy of a freeholder’s informal offer, lets see why.

Your legal rights

If you have owned your flat for two or more years then you have a legal right to extend your lease by 90 years and reduce the ground rent to zero.

How to value a lease extension

The law says that you must compensate your freeholder three different ways when you extend your lease (or purchase your freehold)

  1. Ground Rent

This is the amount of ground rent you owe your freeholder in total for the remaining years of your lease, but calculated in today’s money;

  1. Reversion

This is the amount you would have to give your freeholder as a lump sum, so that they could invest for the remaining years of your lease (with an equivalent compound interest rate of, say, 5%), that would be worth the value of your flat – with a long lease – today;

  1. Marriage Value

This only applies if your lease has fallen below 80 years. If you extend your lease, the value of your flat will rise. The rise in value must be calculated and the total ground rent and reversion due subtracted.
Whatever is left is then split 50/50 between you and your freeholder.

In this blog I am going to use real figures from a flat I recently worked on and are going to use these figures as method of seeing the real implications of an informal lease extension.

The details of the informal are also real from a large, immoral, London based freeholder.

Our example is A1 Nice flat in London

  • The value of the flat with a long lease of 99 years £230,000.00
  • Ground rent £75.00 per year doubling every 33 years.
  • Current lease length 75 years.

The valuer recommends the following:

  • Ground rent total £2,143.00
  • Reversion total £5,849.00
  • Marriage value total £1,754.00

Total for lease extension £9,746.00

Add the total fees on top of this of £3,500.00

Total price £13,250

If you extended your lease using your statutory legal right then your lease would be 165 years with zero ground rent. The lease would not need extending for another 85 years and even then it would be very cheap as there is no longer a ground rent element to include in the calculation.

The lease length issues of your flat have been rectified once and for all and there would be no future value in your flat for your freeholder.

Your statutory lease extension from your freeholder’s point of view.

Your freeholder is more than likely a ‘professional’ freeholder (which is a euphemism for immoral, cheating, money grabbing bastards). money_quote

They bought the freehold of your building to make as much money as they possibly can from each flat.

They make money the following ways:

  • From immoral licensing fees hidden in the terms of your lease.
  • By ripping you off by claiming a ‘finders fee’ they get back from your building insurance, which you have no choice but to pay them for.
  • By syphoning off service charge fees.
  • From the ground rent you pay to them each year.
  • The money you have to pay them for a lease extension.

You extending your lease is the big pay day for them and if they can fool you into accepting an informal lease extension it will turn into tens of thousands of pounds for them. If, however, you extend your lease by an additional 90 years and reduce the ground rent to zero, this basically wipes out all the future profit they will receive from your flat.

They really do not want you to do this.

They want you to accept their ‘Trojan’ lease extension deal.

What does an informal lease extension look like?

I would like to state, emphatically, for the record that you do NOT have a legal right for an informal lease extension. Please bear this in mind, we will return to this many time in the rest of this examination.

There is another way you can extend your lease and that is by contacting your freeholder directly (or many times they will contact you) as soon as they are aware you want to extend your lease.

Below is an informal lease extension offer from the freeholder for this flat.

Dear Mr and Mrs Naive

We are happy to offer to extend your lease back up to 99 years for the inclusive price  of £10,200 and our total legal and valuation fees will be an additional £1,000 pus VAT.

The ground rent will be £250 a year doubling every 10 years.

We will are not looking to amend your lease in any way, we will only modernise the terms of your lease. We are able to complete this process in two months.

This offer is valid for thirty days from the date on this letter.

What this offer looks like at first glance

Wow, it appears that the freeholder is a nice guy after all! The total price he is offering is £10,200 plus fees of £1,200 (Total £11,400) saving you £1,850 pounds to extend your lease back up to 99 years.

Ground rent is just £5 per week and they only want to modernise the terms of your lease.

They will complete this whole thing in three months (instead of a year if you extend using your statutory rights) This is brilliant, “Where do I sign?”

That’s why I call these offer Trojan offers, because the devil is in the detail.

Let’s examine this offer more closely.

The term of the lease extension

The freeholder generally offers to extend your lease back up to 99 years and this seems like more than enough for most flat owners.

There is a very real reason freeholders only offer an extension back up to 99 years and that is because in 17 years or so, someone is going to have to extend the lease of the flat again.

greedy-man-300x199That means the freeholder gets paid a second (and third and fourth) time to extend the lease, something that would not happen if the lease had been extended by the statutory route.

As we will show later in this blog, the details of the informal offer they have offered here means that whoever is unfortunate enough to own this flat when the lease needs extending again in 17 years, is going to have to pay an absolute fortune for the privilege.

Beware of another trick the freeholder does regarding the term of the lease, they may offer you a 125 year lease extension which seems like it could be a much better deal for the flat owner.

They omit to mention that the 125 year extension starts from when the lease was originally granted NOT your 74 year lease extended up to 125 years!

If you are unhappy with this, you have no legal recourse to argue with your freeholder. You do not have a legal right for an informal lease extension it is a take it or leave it deal.

The future implications of ground rent

£250 a year doubling every 10 years does not sound like a lot of money, but it is.

A ground rent schedule like this is considered an onerous ground rent schedule, which could easily affect the future salability and value of the flat. This is because the freeholder is going to make money two different ways from this increased ground rent.

Firstly, the ground rent he will get extra before someone extends the lease on the flat again. If the ground rent is £250 per year, then the freeholder will make £2,500 extra that he would not have if the flat owner had used their statutory rights for the next ten years and then it doubles, then doubles again and again.

That’s not the big money for the freeholder though. The big money comes from the fact that someone is going to have to extend the lease on the flat again, only now, instead of the ground rent being £70 a year like it is now. The ground rent is now £1,000 a year!

So how much will the freeholder make over the next 24 years because they tricked the flat owner into the informal offer?

  • Cost of the lease extension = £10,400
  • Legal fees = £1,200
  • 10 years @ £250 ground rent = £2,500
  • 10 years @£500 ground rent = £5,000
  • 6 years @£1,000 ground rent = £6,000
  • Cost of the lease extension = £76,500
  • Plus legal fees @ £2,000 =£2,000

Total received by your freeholder over 24 years = £103,600

Compare this to the £13,250 you would have spent to extend your lease for an additional 90 years with zero ground rent forever more.

The initial saving of £1,850 your freeholder waved under your nose has turned into £90,000 profit for him, not a bad business being a freeholder is it?

Just to be very clear, when a freeholder increases the ground rent he makes money two different ways, the actual ground rent he collects each year and the future value of a lease extension with an onerous ground rent clause.

A future freehold purchase

Another ploy by predatory freeholders is to offer informal lease extensions to flat owners when they know they are going to sell the freehold of the building. They offer an informal and you pay them £10,200. A year later they offer to sell you the freehold of your building. How do you calculate your share of the freehold purchase?

You have to calculate the ground rent and reversion elements we talked about at the start of this blog but your ground rent is now huge and doubling every 10 years. You will end up paying more than £10,200 to purchase your share of the freehold!

Note: If you had extended using your statutory rights your there is zero ground rent, no marriage value as your lease is 165 years, so the only calculation is reversion but this is over 165 years. It would cost you about £250 to buy your share of the freehold!

There are also much worse offers you will need to watch out for with the ground rent. Here are some I see every day.

Onerous GR clauses

RPI

Freeholders will often ask for £250 a year rent, doubling every 10 years linked to RPI. RPI stand for the Retail Prices Index, which is used to measure inflation. Obviously no one knows what inflation will be in the future but one thing that is sure is that it will cost you dearly.

Not only will your ground rent double in ten years, someone will calculate what has happened to RPI over the last ten years and add it to your doubled ground rent!

Capital Value of flat

Freeholders will often ask for £250 a year rent, doubling every 10 years linked to 0.025% of the capital value of your flat.

After ten years not only will your ground rent double, your ground rent will then be linked to the actual value of your property!

Capital Value of the estate

Some of the estates in London have ground rent doubling every 10 years linked to 0.025% of the capital value of the estate, not just your flat!

Doubling every five years

We see more and more freeholders trying to fool people into signing informals where the ground rent doubles every five years.

This is just ridiculously onerous! Taking any of these deals could leave you owing a flat that no one wants to buy (except, of course, your freeholder who will be happy to buy it for a knock down price).

I worked out what effect this would have on a flat with a 999-year lease we worked on recently in Islington. The ground rent was £250 a year doubling every 25 years.

We worked out for the last 25 years of the lease the ground rent would be £165,000,000,000.00 per year! It is not just the future implications of the ground rent that you need to look out for if you are considering taking an informal (although that should be enough!).

Let’s look at the other areas we need to be aware of.

The terms of your lease

If you extend your lease using your statutory legal right, you are protected by law and your freeholder cannot alter the existing terms of your lease.

If you take up your freeholders offer of an informal lease extension you are not protected and your freeholder can make any changes he wishes.

‘Wait!’ you may cry ‘In the offer letter from the freeholder they state that they will not alter any terms of my lease, they will just modernise them!’

It does say that in the freeholders offer but in reality, what does the word ‘modernise’ mean?

I can tell you categorically that the word ‘modernise’ means whatever terms can be changed to benefit your freeholder. I see this every single day in my office.

It may be worth pointing out at this point that the saving your freeholder is offering you in this informal deal come from the fact that you will have no legal representation through this process.

They are telling you to not to have a lawyer protecting your interest through this process and they are then presenting this fact to you as if they are saving you money! Genius isn’t it?

The truth is though, there is no point in having a solicitor represent you in an informal as you do not have a legal right for it. It is a ‘take it or leave it’ offer so even if you find something you are unhappy about, there is no legal mechanism for you to remove it.

So what are the terms of the lease the freeholder is keen to change?

Put simply, anything that makes them more money and protects their position as your freeholder.

Licenses

They will insert additional licenses that mean you have to pay them to alter your flat, sell it, rent it out, renew the rental contract each year with your tenant, get cable TV, turn over to your left side in bed at night etc.

I spoke at a block of flats a couple of years ago at some flats close to West Ham tube station. One chap in the audience thought I was exaggerating the issues of informal lease extensions and he went direct to his freeholder for a flat he rented out.

He phoned me a few months later to say that his freeholder had instead added a clause in his lease, which said that he would have to pay the freeholder 10% of the rental income he receives each month, forever more. The chap wanted to know what he could do about this clause as he had signed it a couple of months before and were now chasing him for the money!

Some of the clauses of the lease the change could also have serious implications for the security of your flat and increase the freeholder trying to get forfeiture of your flat (which they love).

They may insert a clause in your lease, which says that if you ever take them to court, for whatever reason (even if your freeholder was caught committing service charge fraud) that the freeholder’s full legal fees can be reclaimed from you by way of the service charge.

If you sign the new lease, with these terms it is now your reality and you can’t alter it.

Be very, very careful regarding the terms of a lease and remember that even if you find bad ones your freeholder has tried to insert, there is absolutely nothing you can do to remove them.

Timescales

The other area to keep an eye on is timescales. You do not have a legal right for an informal lease extension and your freeholder can withdraw this offer whenever he wants, with no legal recourse at all.

Why would they do this?

There are many reasons a freeholder would withdraw an offer, but it’s always so they get more money from you. For example, if you were selling your flat and you have a buyer lined up and it all hinged on this lease extension, your freeholder may withdraw their offer claiming there was a mistake on the valuation and they now want £1,800 more.

Chances are you will just pay it!

Freeholders often do this when your flat lease length is about to go below the pivotal 80-year mark. The freeholder offers what appear to be good informal offers.

feudalism-e1397973878227They drag out the negotiations to the point when you do not have enough time to extend your lease through the legal process and then they withdraw their offer.

Your flat has now gone below 80 years and your freeholder’s investment has risen by thousands of pounds per flat. There is nothing you can do about it either.

I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard freeholder’s solicitors bragging about doing this to flat owners.

If you extend your lease using your statutory rights there are strict timescales that your freeholder must abide by.

Caveat emptor

I am shocked by how many professionals recommend that their clients accept informal lease extension without pointing out any of the above.

The big excuse used by all the professionals who recommend that their clients accept informal offers is ‘Why are you worried about the details, let the person who buys your flat worry. You save £1,800 that all you should care about. Caveat emptor!’

If a solicitor or valuer quotes you to extend their lease they have a year long battle with a knowing freeholder before they get their money. Obviously, if an informal lease extension offer is accepted they get their money very quickly with little work which is why few professionals point out all the problems I have in this blog.

Also, maybe five years ago this argument of ‘let someone else worry about the details’  may have been true, but it’s not a fair argument anymore.

More and more flat owners and solicitors are looking at the details of informal lease extensions and onerous terms inserted in the lease.

We see so many flat sales fall through now because someone has understood the implications of the informal lease extension offered.

Banks and building societies are also understanding the implications of onerous informal deals and the future effects these have on the value of flats.

In the big mortgage shake up of April 2014, the Council of Mortgage lenders brought in more stringent tests for people wishing to get a mortgage. This also included looking at the details of a flat sale.

In fact, the Halifax building society has already stated that they will take not grant a mortgage on any flat where the ground rent doubles every ten years. What about future legislation changes which could highlight these informals even more thus raising customer awareness to it?

Maybe the people buying your flat won’t understand the future implications of what you have signed up to in your informal deal with the freeholder, but is it really worth taking the chance to save a few hundred pounds in the short term?

How would it affect your future plans if you were stuck with a flat that you couldn’t sell?

Conclusion Why shouldn’t you accept an informal lease extension from your freeholder?

  • It will commit the flat to an additional £100,000 needless spend over the next couple of decades.
  • It means that this flat will have to spend a disproportionate amount to extend the lease in the future.
  • It would also cost a fortune for this flat to take part in a future freehold acquisition.
  • You will undoubtedly sign up your flat to lots of unsavory new lease terms.
  • You could massively damage the future resale value of your flat.
  • You could end up with a flat no one will buy.

The ‘Trojan horse offer’ of an informal lease extension really does contain lots of nasty details inside.

Details that can have very long term repercussions for this flat and whoever is unfortunate enough to own it. Most freeholders are professional freeholders and by and large they are not your friend. They own the freehold of your flat for one reason only and that it to make as much money as they possibly can.

You have no reason to ever trust them and I implore you to never trust them.

“Beware of freeholders, even those bearing gifts”

©Barcode1966 – 2015

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World citizen – I won’t be disappointed

What happened here?
The butterfly has lost its wings
The air’s too thick to breathe
And there’s something in the drinking water.

The sun comes up
The sun comes up and you’re alone
Your sense of purpose come undone
The traffic tails back to the maze on 101

And the news from the sky
Is looking better for today
In every single way
But not for you

Filed under: Uncategorized,

The launch of Folkestone’s Big Sleep Out 2014

BSO logoWe are please to announce the launch of our second Big Sleep Out in aid of Folkestone’s Winter Shelter will take place on Saturday 13 September 2014. Click here to read my account of what it was like last year. We have moved it forward this year to miss rain this year….we hope : ) We are asking local people to ditch your duvet and be sponsored to experience a night sleeping out to raise vital funds to help Folkestone’s vulnerable this winter. You need to make you own home for the night from cardboard boxes (there are prizes for the best designed temporary homes) and spend the night outside with your family and friends. Obviously by taking part in this event you will be helping to raise much needed funds for the Winter Shelter who are pretty much the fourth emergency service in Folkestone. You will get much more out of this experience though than just raising money. Firstly, there was areal sense of achievement from the participants last year.Untitled It is a true, life-changing experience, which gives you a proud feeling of accomplishment as well experiencing a true shift in your perspective on life. It really does help you to put your life in context and help you appreciate what you have got and maybe not to take things for granted too much. The most striking change came from the young people and teenagers who took part last year. This experience really did change them and stopped them from taking things that are provided for them for granted. For those of us with kids it is worth taking part in this for that reason alone. So, build your home for the night from cardboard boxes and come along. We will be providing a hot supper, live acoustic music and poetry and games for the kids. Last years event was fabulous and we raised £8,000 for the winter shelter, the target for this event is to raise £15000! The Big Sleep Out is open to all ages, though those under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The winter shelter will be providing nearly 1100 bed spaces, as well as hot meals, drinks and other much needed assistance from December to February. Click here to get the registration forms and for the full details. http://wintershelter.org.uk/big-sleep-out-2014/ Click here to see our Facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/326903170808910/  Read some quotes from the people who took part last year as well as the fabulous poem that was composed on the night. Jack Mousley “A new experience, good fun and it changed my opinion of what life is like for other people” Sarah Mousley Sleepout-2013-10-26_36“The experience really opened my eyes to living outdoors and made me appreciate all the comforts we take for granted. I am in awe of anyone who survives life on the street. I found even one night a struggle and that was in the knowledge that I had a comfortable bed to go home to!” Ollie Warren, 16, a pupil of Harvey Grammar School: “I see people in the street sleeping rough and never truly appreciated how hard they have it. Sleeping out for just one night has helped me experience what they have to go through and by raising some money, means we can try and make a difference.” Lynne Beaumont “Whereas we were going home to have a bath and turn on a washing machine, homeless people do not have such luxuries. Where to get warm? Where to dry your clothes? Where to dry your sleeping bag? Who will let you in to a cafe looking like this? Despite the hardship of that night, and for us, it was only a night, and not the reality of life on the streets, I have registered for this years big sleep out on the 13th september 2014. Homeless people are some of the most vulnerable in our town, the town we call home, and we all need to do our bit to make life safer and less frightening for those concerned”. Jim (26) (volunteered at the Winter Shelter last year) “I believe it right to care for and help those who society has literally left outside, with no means to help themselves. It is heartbreaking that some guests of the shelter literally scared to be inside, having become totally acclimatized to life on the streets.” Sarah Academy FMSleepout-2013-10-26_13 “It’s easy to forget that people in 2014 are without a home, but it’s not important to know why. What is important to know, which hit home on that stormy night, is that the work of organizations like the Winter Shelter in Folkestone are vital, because they do make a difference. Even when all I can offer is a friendly smile. I will be there this year to support them. See you there?” HOMELESS H is for homeless people who are just as important as we are O is for opportunities to raise money for those who can’t even pay for a chocolate bar M is for the meals homeless people can’t afford E is for the empty feeling of living in cardboard L is for the loneliness homeless people feel E is for empty stomachs that are in need of a meal S is for dealing with day after day strife S is for the constant struggle to improve one’s life The Big Sleep Out is for a brilliant cause Let’s hope we can put up with each other’s snores Composed at the Big Sleep Out – Nov 2013 by Daniel Lloyd (15), Jack Lloyd (11), Lauren Bailey (11), Freya Bailey (8) A big thank you to the wonderful Sharon for her poetry.

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Farage v Clegg – the importance of non-verbal communication

The polls show that Farage comprehensively won this week’s debate with Clegg; the ICM exit poll for the Guardian shows Farage winning by 69%. How is it possible to quantify who won on the night though? What follows is an analysis of communication skills, NVC and body language used by both and the reason Farage won.

There is an old adage used by the sales industry ‘people buy people’, in other words, regardless of what you are peddling you will only be successful if the punter ‘buys’ you.

The debate on the federalization of Europe by Farage v Clegg this week became only the sub text to the real issue debated, who did we like the best?

The clothes they wore

Nigel-Farage-and-Nick-Clegg-live-debate-3342045Farage wore a pin stripe suit, which was not overly flattering and a blue striped tie which didn’t look particularly flash, in fact he looked like middle management at an office supply company. Clegg was dressed in a much nicer dark blue suit with an expensive looking gold tie. Clegg was the best dressed by a long way and looked like a successful banker (spell check please).

Unfortunately for Clegg, Farage took the stance of a straight talking ‘man of the people’ and he painted Clegg as a ‘career politician’ who was in it politics to look after the financial interests of his rich mates. The way they were both dressed backed up the stance of Farage and the flash gold tie around Clegg’s neck may as well have been a noose.

Opening statements

Both speakers had 60 seconds to make an opening statement. The thrust of Farage’s statement was ‘people don’t want to be in the EU and we never voted for it’. Clegg’s argument stated that ‘many global issues like climate change, terrorism or catching international criminals, cannot be dealt with by countries in isolation. We need global cooperation’.

This was the only point in the night when Clegg was ahead. In retrospect, he should have collapsed to the floor feigning a heart attack after his opening statement (Ambulance for Clegg!), as he would have still had some credibility in the exit polls at this point.

Body language

Clegg needs some real help here; his body language is just dreadful! farage-clegg_2692190bHis stock hand gesture is Clegg, clenching his right fist with his thumb pressed over the top of his finger, which he then thumps up and down constantly (not unlike Clinton’s in his infamous ‘I did not have shexual relations with that woman’ lie).

Made with this frequency, it becomes purely pedantic. It is a bludgeoning ‘agree with me!’ gesture, which does not convey any personal conviction from him at all.

His other two default gestures were a flat open hand (like a karate chop), which he used, again, in a chopping motion not unlike his clenched fist. He also used the two hand, open palmed ‘stop’ gesture frequently.

None of these gestures are enduring or particularly persuasive, especially when used in conjunction with an ‘air of imploring urgency’ as favored by Clegg.

Clegg’s ‘body language package’ has clearly had professional help over the years but that has turned him into a body language robot, devoid of any real human emotion.  Every single gesture seemed controlled and had been worked on for effect, which made it look like even he didn’t really believe in what he was saying.

Farage’s body language isn’t naturally good either; it is quick, jerky and staccato. It should make him seem very untrustworthy (and he is to me) but he does come across as a human being and he uses it to very good effect.

His gestures were more expansive and varied, he used large sweeping gestures when it was needed and then changed to more controlled ones to match his content. He directed all his gestures openly and toward his target recipient, whether it was of the audience in the studio or Clegg.

This portrayed a confidence and honesty, which was sadly lacking from Clegg. Farage addressed Clegg directly 17 times; Clegg only addressed Farage directly three times, which screamed lack of confidence (taking regular sips of water didn’t help you look confident either Nick!)

Farage’s best gift though is to alter his body language to emphasize his point. He consistently punctuated his points by allowing his body language to become more excitable as his voice rose. His body language was sometimes allowed to run riot and became almost frantic as his voice rose to make a point he believed in.

This, right here, is the very holy grail of persuasion.

If you want to convince your audience to buy you and your message, you must be (or appear to be) congruent. This is what Farage did to excellent effect and it is for this very reason the opinion polls unanimously declared Farage to be the winner of something as subjective as a debate.

Non-verbal communication

So much of the message we try to convey is done through body language and non-verbal communication. It is here that Clegg lost the battle.

Clegg’s focus seemed to be constantly fixed on someone in the middle distance and he avoided direct eye contact with Farage or the audience (except for the ridiculous times he made a big deal of getting the audience members name and talking to them directly. Why Nick? This debate is much bigger than Donna from Doncaster).

I counted three different occasions where Clegg’s micro expressions seemed to contradict what he was saying. On the occasions he was saying that ‘this current situation is working well for us blah blah’ he head was slightly shaking from side to side indicating he did not actually believe what he was saying.

The pitch, pace and power used by Farage as he delivered his words was also employed to a much greater effect. He spoke slower and paused much more than Clegg, which indicates he was in control and was more confident than Clegg too.

There were a couple of occasions that Clegg lost composure on the night, which became two big nails in his coffin. One was when Farage held up the flyer of Clegg calling for a referendum on Europe (ergo, you have no personal convictions Clegg) and the “no one believes your lies anymore Nick’ taunt (ergo, you’re a fucking liar Nick).

Clegg did not fight back and instead looked uncomfortable and panicky as he somehow managed to shuffle on the spot.

Body language tells and non-verbal communications shows can never be looked at in isolation. For example, if you touch your nose once, you are not necessarily telling lies, you might just have an itchy nose.

Looking at the total non-verbal communication of both men on the night, Farage looked the most honest, confortable and congruent by a long way.

Strategy

4e668__73987459_clegg_farage_poll_624Whoever advised Clegg on his strategy for the night needs to be sacked or possibly shot.

The tactics deployed by Clegg were to personally attack Farage as often as he could. Clegg and his team severely underestimated how distrusted the political leaders are in this country.

On the night Clegg made 23 personal attacks against Farage compared to Farage making just five against Clegg (some were just out and out bizarre too, at one point he asked Farage if he ‘denied the moon landings, thought Obama wasn‘t American and thought Elvis was still alive? What the actual fuck? This was pure car crash politics)

Clegg used ridiculous hyperbole again and again in these personal attacks, which Farage simply dismissed with disdainful guffaws.

It was childish, immature but much more damaging than that, it made Clegg look like a career politician, the very thing Farage was accusing him of being!

Clegg’s performance was pantomime politics at it’s very worse, it displayed all the things ‘the man in the street’ hates about politicians, saying nothing whilst talking, avoiding answering questions, immature personal insults, duplicity and slippery semantics.

Clegg’s insistence on personally attacking Farage made it seem like he didn’t have enough pro EU arguments to fill the debate (“yeh Farage? We may be losing autonomy to a federal Europe but you smell of poo!”) Yet his opening statement contained compelling arguments, which he should have expanded on, his advised strategy was 100% wrong.

Meanwhile, Farage answered all of the questions. He didn’t try to dodge them or answer questions that hadn’t been asked. He tried to be different from our Machiavellian politicians and it seemed to have worked for him.

The quoting and denial of the statistics used on the night was frustrating to those that watched. Whenever one quoted a statistic, it was immediately denied and scoffed by the other. Clegg though seemed to be the most detached from reality and logic.

For example, Clegg said half of the 1.5m Euro immigrants have gone back home, he then said he “Wanted to reinstate exit checks for counting people out of the UK when they leave’.

So how could he say half had gone home, if there was nobody counting them? (By his own admission), it is this kind of slip that can destroy all credibility. It is a totally subjective thing to judge who won or lost a debate but every single poll shows that Farage won this one.

Personally, I oppose everything Farage stands for. I would prefer to nail my own bollocks to a tree than vote Tory but I would vote Tory, before I voted UKIP.

However, Farage has done himself some huge good in these debates and Clegg has done himself some huge damage.

How do we judge who won or lost then? Obviously by looking at what was said by them both but that is only a small part of it. How it was said, how the body language and non-verbal shows backed up what they said or not played a huge part. We are all body language experts and we use these skills to judge those who wish to influence us.

Farage looked like he believed in what he was saying, Clegg didn’t. People buy people, people bought Farage.

 

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The truth about leasehold – An unjust and immoral system- Pt. 1

Did you know that when you buy a flat in England (or Wales) you never actually own any of the bricks and mortar of your flat; you just rent a space in the building? Your building, the land it sits on, the air rights above and the ground rights below are owned by a faceless freeholder (unless your flat has a share of freehold already).

When you buy a flat, you just rent a space in the freeholder’s building by way of a lease and that lease has a number of years left to run. Once the years left on your lease fall below 80 you will have to pay a considerable amount of money (and a considerable chunk of legal fees) to your freeholder to be granted an extension of your lease.

fued-systemIf you don’t extend your lease and the years on it fall to zero, you will no longer own your flat (even if you had bought it outright and didn’t have a penny mortgage on it) and your freeholder will take possession of it, kick you (or whoever inherited your flat) on the street, sell the flat and keep all the money. You will get nothing.

The freeholder decides what work needs to be done each year on your building, how much to spend and who will do the work but YOU will pay for it. If you are unhappy with the standard of work being done you can’t complain to the contractors because they don’t work for you, they work for the freeholder. There is a very good chance the freeholder is getting a backhander for this work or he owns the company doing the work.

YOU have to pay whatever the freeholder says is the cost of insuring your building. This will be a poor quality building insurance and your freeholder will probably get a 70% ‘finders fee’ from the insurance company. This is legal.

You have to pay a ‘license fee’ to your freeholder for anything you want to do to your flat of between £50 to £1,000. Like painting or replacing your windows, getting Sky TV, renting your flat out or turning over in bed.

In fact, to drive home further how the law sees your legal rights if you buy a flat under this feudal system, in the lease of your flat you are not called the flat owner, you are called ‘the tenant’ and your freeholder is called ‘the landlord’.

How does this ridiculously unjust and outdated property owning system still exist today? Where does it come from?This system is a feudal system with its roots in the 11th century and it still benefits lots of multi-millionaires and ‘royal’ families to this very day.

In fact, this feudal system can be traced right back to the Norman conquest of 1066. The new king, William II, had already popped a cap in poor Harold’s ass (or eye actually) and decided that he and his new royal family now owned all the land in England, Scotland and Wales outright and why not? You have to say that was a profitable days work for William!

William then hung around for another 36 years (finally being killed by an anonymous arrow on a hunting party, karma’s a bitch eh?) Once he had died, the royal family from then on decided that, instead of changing this clearly unjust decree, they quite liked owning all the land in the kingdom and our feudal system was born and carries on today.

This feudal land owning system became a constant battle between royalty and noble land owners for centuries to come (which became the driving force for all legislative land law reforms in this country) the subsequent changes however, made little difference to leasehold reform which deals with flat ownership.

When the industrial revolution was born there was a sudden driving need to build flats to accommodate the populous that were now flocking to cities to find work. As the Crown and the other strands of the royal family had already been gifted all the land (for free, thank you very much), they stood to make hundreds of millions for this property boom and that’s exactly what they did.

The Crown, The Church of England, The Grosvenor Estate, Cadogan Estate, the Portman Estate and the Howard de Walden Estate et al, all made more money than they could ever spend building castles, buying swans or just blowing it on syphilitic courtesans.

Then came the rush of non-royal freeholders who realized how much money there is to be legally made from the misery of the flat owners they feed off. The Regis Group, Freshwater/Daegan, Peverel, Proxima, The Wellcome Trust, The Matteys Group, Sinclair Gardens etc etc. Many of them immoral, lying cheats who’s sole aim in life is to wring as much money as they possibly can from those hard working people who have the misfortune of buying flats in buildings owned by these crooks.

Today and 5.1 million flats are still trapped in this unfair ridiculous feudal system. Owning freeholds is one of the most profitable investments you can ever make (as long as you don’t own any morals at the same time that is). They make money from flat owners lots of ways, for example:

The ground rent they collect (and strive to increase the cost of each year).
Rip off fees extending your lease (they can rip you off, royally)
Rip off inflated prices for building works.
Rip off service charges you have no choice but to pay.
Rip off building insurance they don’t have to declare.
Rip off management fees from managing agents they have a hand in.
Rip off licensing fees for just about anything.

Although parliament has changed legislation over the past 30 years or so to give flat owners more legal rights, make no mistake, this system still massively favours the freeholder. The law now says that if you are unhappy with anything your freeholder does you can make him appear before the First tier Tribunal (FtT) to answer for himself.

This seems like a decent and fair thing to be able to do. The problem comes when you realize the costs involved in doing this. Chances are, your freeholder will be a multi-millionaire and chances are, you’re not. He will have a solicitor, valuer and probably a barrister representing him on the day at the FtT hearing. If you go into court without representation, you will be eaten alive! Therefore the cost of you having your own representation when you go to FtT will be several thousands per day. Chances are your freeholder will be able to claim all his legal costs as a tax-deductible expense; chances are you won’t be able to.

Do you think that this is fair? I think not. Even if you were to win your claim against your freeholder, he could carry out the very same misdemeanor the very next day and you would have to start the whole process of taking him to FtT all over again.

The inequities of the leasehold system are much deeper and more engrained than I have outlined here but I will be expanding on this in later blogs. Suffice to say right now though, it is a system that should not exist.

Freeholders, who contributed nothing to the buying of the land, the building of the flats nor the purchase of those flats, should have no right whatsoever to end up owning the buildings and the land they sit on. No rights to it at all. It is only our stupid legal system based on a feudal system and backed by our inbred ‘royalty’ that make it exist at all.

There are only five other countries in the whole world, which have this, ridiculous, unfair leasehold system based on land owning as a right for the elite and they are all ex-colonies of the UK. The rest of the world operates some form of the fairer common hold system of flat ownership.

If you ‘own’ a flat and are unhappy with the ways things are, what can you do about it? Well, freeholders operate in the shadows and get away with ripping off flat owners at will because no one talks about it or kicks up a fuss. They rely on your apathy for their immorality.

One way to stop this is name and shame the crooks, go onto blogs and website and have your say (I guarantee there is a website about your freeholder somewhere on the web, declaring them to be the spawn of Satan) where you can join voices with their other victims. Write to newspapers and let them know. Arrange meetings with your fellow neighbours and group together for legal action against your freeholder or their equally evil managing agents, thus spreading the cost.

Secondly, take a leaf from our American cousins. Obviously, as the USA425px-Anti-Rent_Poster was our biggest colony, they too were heading for this same leasehold system that we continue to suffer under. Except they were saved by a churlish group of New Yorkers, who in the mid 1800s kicked off anti-rent riots and a subsequent powerful political movement which was against elitist feudal freeholders and their powers which were being misused.

This anti-rent movement, which was originally a localized movement against a particular family, spread to anywhere where other major freeholders owned significant holdings. By 1845 a new, bipartisan consensus emerged that this wholly unjust leasehold system was hostile to American liberties and it was abolished for all eternity.

I’m not encouraging middle England to start riots in London (although I would pay to watch it) The thing to learn from the anti-rent movement was how cleverly they used politics to achieve their aim. There is a lesson we can learn in the UK today.

If you say there are 5.1 million leasehold flats today and an average of two people live in a flat and they all decide to vote for the political party that support flat owners right’s, that’s seven million votes up for grabs!

Cameron won the last election with 10.7 million votes cast for the moron. Imagine what a big voice seven million voters have (there was about a 2 million vote spread between each party) Powerful stuff. Especially when you consider that most of the major reforms that that have been made to the leasehold system over the last 30 years, have come from a drive for votes from the political parties (including Labour’s ‘The end to a feudal system’ damp squib)

So, write to your MP, parliament, newspapers and Jeremy Kyle (I just threw that last one in to see if you were still paying attention). Make as much noise as you can, make it an issue that must be noticed.

As it stands the rich, royal and immoral of this country makes hundreds of millions of pounds from this elitist feudal system every year, money they have absolutely no right to have. Money that is stolen from hard working flat owners. Money that is immorally squeezed from a thousand year old feudal system designed to benefit the royal and noble at the expense of the poor.

If you own a flat and are trapped in this system, no one is coming to help you. No government is going to change this system thus alienating their wealthy supporters and paymasters. If you want to change it, you will have to do it for yourself because you can bet your mortgage (and your flat) on the fact that it’s not going to change any time soon.

©Barcode1966 – 2015

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Random facts from a fucked up world 3

tumblr_mesfowxolR1rpr19io1_500Every minute 18 people die of starvation in the world.

5 year old children in California make more eye contact with Dora the Explorer than their own mothers

There are 1500 newspapers, 1100 magazines, 9000 radio stations, 1500 TV stations, 2400 publishers, owned by only 3 corporations.

During the Great Famine, 1 million Irish people starved to death while English merchants burned food to keep prices from falling

In the 1970s, Nestle sent sales women dressed as nurses and doctors into African villages to convince mothers to forego breastfeeding.

In the 1980’s The CIA supported the Taliban in their heroin smuggling efforts.

There has not been a war on American soil since the Civil War 1861, yet the U.S. spends $1 trillion every year on military expenditures.

The U.S. provides Israel with at least $8.2 million per day in military aid and $0 in military aid to the Palestinians.

Nike’s Indonesia workers make $2.46 even though the average worker produces $3800 worth of shoes per day.

The U.S. provided Saddam with his chemical and biological weapons, in 2003, Standing-inlinethey attacked him because he had them.

When the stock market crashed in 2008, Goldman Sachs made $20.8 billion in profits coming directly out of people’s retirement funds.

The September 11th attacks, killed 8 American children, the retaliatory military campaigns have killed 2 million Iraqi and Afghani children.

Google reads your email and bombards you with ads based on your private communications.

The top 10 weapon manufacturers in the world have made a profit of $2.8 trillion from the ‘war’ on terror.

In Nigeria, Chevron has hired private military personnel to open fire on peaceful protestors who oppose oil extraction in the Niger Delta.

Monsanto has a revenue of over $10.5 billion per year, yet it is currently suing farmers in poor countries who make less than $500 per year.

It is estimated that Philip Morris cigarettes have single handedly killed more than 25 million human beings in the last two decades.

Gandhi never received a Nobel Peace Prize, Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize while his soldiers were ‘accidently’ killing Iraqi children.

Credit card debt is one of the leading causes of suicide in the Western world, killing approximately 22,000 people each year.

In August 2010, a mother in Indonesia burned herself and her two little children because of a Rp 20.000 debt, (about £2.50)

The Bin Laden family has owned stocks in the defense company Lockheed Martin; stocks which have tripled since the dawn of the war on terror.

Peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed by a Caterpiller D-9 bulldozer while attempting to block the destruction a family’s home in Gaza

Israel has broke 65 U.N resolutions with no consequences , Iraq broke two and got invaded, bombed and destroyed.

The British monarchy is historically responsible for more than 45 million global deaths, yet it continues to be celebrated by the media.

15 million children are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS while Pfizer continues to refuse allowing anyone to make cheaper generic AIDS drugs.

Militaries around the world insist on using the term ‘collateral damage’ to cover up the ugly reality of ‘dead children and babies’.

Before his political debut, George W Bush invested money for the affluent Bin Laden family and lost it all.

The IMF and World Bank are pushing water privatization by requiring that countries open up their water supply to private investment.

clip_image003_thumb1Every year 3.5 million men from developed nations go on so called Sex tours of Asia, where they sexually abuse underage girls and boys.

Thousands of buildings were destroyed by the U.S. invasion, yet one of the first buildings rebuilt in Iraq was a Pizza Hut.

There are more Egyptian artifacts in the British Museum than all of Egypt put together.

Rupert Murdoch owns 175 newspapers, in 2003, all 175 ‘independent’ editors wrote articles supporting the invasion of Iraq.

To this day, no one in the U.S. government has apologized to Iraqis for wrongly accusing them of possessing WMDs.

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Winter Shelter Day – Saturday 21st December 2013

homeless womanThe weather has already turned wet and cold this winter; can you imagine what it is like being homeless and trying to survive on the streets?

Even worse, can you imagine what it must be like to be homeless at Christmas? Most of us will be preparing to spend the day with our families, exchanging gifts and eating sumptuous food. Homeless people will be alone, outside in the cold, trying to find ways to get warm.

How you can help

We are organizing ‘Folkestone Winter Shelter Day’ for Saturday 21st December as a community wide event to help raise money for the winter shelter who have had their funding cut again.

We are asking everyone to organise a fund raising event, big or small, in aid of the Folkestone winter shelter.

By getting together as a community for Christmas, we can ensure that the winter Shelter is able to take care of those who will be trying to survive on the streets of Folkestone this winter.

The Winter Shelter provides a warm safe place to sleep for the homeless people of Folkestone. They give them a hot meal, somewhere to shower and wash their clothes and try to get them back housed. A couple of weeks ago a homeless person was attacked and tragically died in Folkestone and three years ago someone died on the streets of Folkestone as they tried to keep warm so it’s not exaggerating to say that the work they do is life saving.

If you get involved in this, we can 100% guarantee that you won’t be visited by three ghosts this Christmas eve : )

How it works

Please pick and organise an event (see the 50 fund-raising ideas below) and let us know what you will be doing, by commenting on the Facebook event or by emailing info@wintershelter.org.uk. It doesn’t have to take part on the 21st, it can take place any time.

We will post all events on our supporters of the winter shelter Facebook page. You can pay your funds raised through our just giving page here http://www.justgiving.com/Folkestone-Churches-Winter-Shelter.

Thank you for your help and support.

Here are 50 ideas on what you could do.

1-Hold your own clothes swish, charge £5 and then bring 5 items and go away with five new items of clothing, just in time for the Christmas parties.

2- Aerobics-athon, to stay fit and healthy, organise an aerobics-athon.

3-Go digital – Sell your unwanted items or things you have grown out of on eBay.

4-Art exhibition, instead of selling your art, charge your friends and family to look at it!

5-Battle of the bands, challenge musicians to a battle of the bands and put on a concert to raise money.

6-Bike ride, pedal for poverty! Why not organise a bike ride and turn it into a sponsored event?

7-Organise a fashion show, invite the wider community to see your fabulous designs.

8-Organise a poetry recital and invite your friends and family. Why not hold a themed poetry event, or use poems from your favourite poet?

9-Family fun day, get the whole family on board and arrange a fun day full of the activities mentioned throughout.

10-Organise a murder mystery night.

11-Beat the goalie, challenge your friends to a beat the goalie competition. Pay to play.

12-Coffee morning, organise a coffee morning – You could combine it with a ‘bring and buy’ sale.

13-Karaoke, impress (or not) your friends with your singing ability – try out your favourite tunes. Pay per tune.

14-Photo competitions, if you’re a budding photographer, hold a competition for interesting snaps. All entrants to pay a fee.

15-Sell your Facebook status for the day

16 -Cake sales are a great way to raise money and awareness too, sell them at work or home.

17-Auction, organise your own fundraising auction. Why not auction off your talents for the day?

18-Five a side football, challenge your mates or your teachers to a football tournament. Each team pays to play.

19-X-Factor Competition, celebrate all your talents by putting on a show.

20-Bad Hair day, fed up of being nagged about your untidy hair? Organise a Bad Hair day to raise us money.

21-Arts and crafts fair, put your creative talents into action and sell your works of art at a craft fair.

22-Put on a silent disco and charge for a boogie

23-Fancy dress football; turn a regular game of football into something rather special with colourful costumes. Pay per game.

24-Knitting competition. How long is that scarf? Challenge your friends to a knit-off. You could sell or auction your work of art too.

25-Fun run, dust off your running shoes, add a green tutu and run for fun. Get a team together and create your own theme for when you run. Get sponsored too.

26-Putting on a pantomime? Why not take a collection for us as people leave?

27-Reduce, reuse and recycle – the perfect opportunity to hold a jumble sale.

28-Dress down day; ditch the uniform or the suit and dress to impress.

29-Face painting competition, put your artistic talents to good use and paint people’s faces.

30-Set yourself the challenge of reciting your poem from memory. £1 per line – the longer the poem the more you raise.

31-Organise a classic eighties film marathon and charge for entry

32-Give it up! Get sponsored to go without something. Give us speaking for a day, computer games for a week, chocolate for a month. Donate us the money you save or raise.

33-Disco, put on those dancing shoes and disco the night away. Remember to charge an entry fee.

34-Go crazy with the fashion ideas and create a zany masterpiece to wear for the day. Prizes for the most outrageous and colourful costumes.

35-Hold a quiz night with people paying to enter.

36-Plant sale for those with green fingers, sell your produce in a plant sale.

37-Games: scrabble, chess, trivial pursuits etc. For all those who love the challenge of a board game – why not have a marathon board game tournament? Either pay to play or get sponsored.

38- Bingo, devise your own calls for the numbers. Charge a fee per game.

39-Dance all day in a sponsored dance-athon.

40-Get sponsored to ditch the little luxuries like your mobile, or laptop for a week.

41-Film night, create your own cinema and hold a film night for family and friends. Sell popcorn and drinks and charge an entry fee.

42-Ask a friend to choose what you wear for the day, for a donation

43-Joke-athonHave your friends in stitches with a joke-athon. How long can you keep your friends laughing? If the jokes are really bad, make them pay a fee to leave.

44-Tie yourself to someone else for a whole day

45-Bring and buy sale, sell donated goods on a stall. Cakes, books, homemade jam; bric-a-brac and fairtrade goods are firm favourites.

46-Odd job Day, charge a fee for all those odd jobs around the house that need doing.

47-Car wash, charge your teachers, friends and family to wash their cars.

48-Pay to join in a flash mob in your local town

49-Host your own, thriller dance workshop and ask people to pay to join in. Put it on as a flash mob in the town.

50-Dress as a superhero for the day.

Good luck.

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Homeless for one night

homelessA couple of days ago, Saturday 26th October, we organized a “Big sleep out’ to raise money for the Folkestone Winter Shelter Charity.

The WS provide a warm safe place to sleep for the homeless people of Folkestone. They give them a hot meal, somewhere to shower and wash their clothes and try to get them back housed. Three years ago someone actually died on the streets of Folkestone as they tried to keep warm so it’s not exaggerating to say that the work they do is life saving.

Every single year the funding they receive gets smaller and smaller. That’s why we (Blueskypie) have been involved, helping to raise funds, for the last three years.

The BSO was staged at St Mary’s School Folkestone. We had over 50 people who paid £10 to register and then looked to get people to sponsor them to sleep out. There were no tents allowed, you had to make your home with the cardboard boxes and plastic we provided.

Everyone started to arrive at 6 pm and had a lot of fun and laughter trying to build their temporary shelter for the night. Within a couple of hours we had built a cardboard shantytown in the school’s grounds.

Our youngest person who slept out was Freya who was just 8 years old. Once her family had made their cardboard home, she settled down to happily decorate the front of the boxes with colorful pictures and taped on glow sticks. She went on to win first prize for the best built house for the night.

I oldest person to sleep out was Kitty, who was 85. She was just amazing and so determined she put me to shame!

We had four lovely musicians who turned up to provide the music, some poetry and story telling and we provided a hot supper for everyone too. This was a sanitized version of being homeless and pretty far from the real thing. We had security all night patrolling the grounds to make sure every one was safe.

To be honest I have been involved in fund raising for the homeless for a number of years and I have read huge amounts about it. I thought I had a pretty good handle on being homeless, when I spoke to people about it; I spoke as if I KNEW what it was like on live on the streets.

That was until I experienced this much-sanitized version being homeless for one night, that is.

This event has been in planning for eight months and I arrived at the school at 4pm to start setting up. I was running around for hours making sure every thing was in place, the musicians were catered for and organized etc.

It was at about 11 pm, as the weather looked decidedly bleak, it hit me for the first time that I needed to make a home for the night. By now, most people were settled down and asleep. The wind was blowing an absolute gale (it was the night before the storm that never happened). People’s cardboard houses kept getting blown across the playing field and they would have to jump up from their sleeping bags to retrieve them.

The temperature dropped and I noticed that the minutes started to homeless kidsgo passed like hours. It was uncomfortable and increasingly cold and time just dragged and dragged. I drifted off to sleep and woke with a start hoping it was 6am but it was only 11:55.

At 12:30am I took over from our security man and spent the rest of the night patrolling the grounds. People were constantly shifting about trying to get comfortable and feeling the cold rise up from the ground.

Just after 1 am it started to rain a little bit, on and off in short bursts. I would slowly walk around, pushed and pulled by the biting wind. I checked the gates, strolled round all the sleeping figures and looked at my watch again to find just five minutes had passed. The night stretched on and on.

It’s in these quiet moments when the reality of having to live like this hits home. Imagine if you had to do this every night? Imagine what it would be like to have to sleep rough for any length of time? How can they do it? Half a night in and I could feel my good humour ebbing away.

I know if your reading this it probably sounds melodramatic, but the thing that kept me going was that I knew, that in the morning I would be able to go home, have a hot shower, put on clean dry clothes and jump into my lovely comfy bed, I had just bought a new duvet and pillows and I couldn’t wait.

Then I thought, if I were actually homeless I wouldn’t have that thought to keep me going though. Homeless people don’t just have to endure for a few hours as a one off. This is their reality!

How do they cope with it? What do they think about to keep themselves going? What device do they use to get them through the night? Can you imagine some of the thoughts that would go through their heads, as they had to live through this spirit crushing experience night after night? Even in this shadow of a real homeless experience, suddenly I did have a small glimpse of what it must be like.

The night dragged on for what seemed like 12 hours and it was 3 am. Then, very suddenly, the light drizzle suddenly changed to torrential rain! The rain was bouncing off the ground and being blown by the driving wind. Within 5 minutes the ground had half an inch of water and the rain was coming down even more.

At first people pulled up their plastic sheets and waited for the rain to pass. The rain though bucketed down for the next three hours, without a break. By 3:30 the ground became a shallow lake and the cardboard boxes of our shantytown started to disintegrate. First everyone’s sleeping bags were wet and then all their clothes, shoes and socks. We were all soaked to the skin and still the rain fell.

We sheltered under a hard standing at the school but as the wind blew we shivered. We had to send Charlie from the WS to go and persuade Kitty, our oldest member, to come under the hard shelter, as we were worried about the amount of water around (she might drown!). She came kicking and screaming though as she wanted to stay out.

As we stood there shivering all we could think off was getting home, showered and into a warm bed. Spending this one night outside had become an endurance test.

If we were homeless though, soaked to the skin and freezing cold at 6 am in Folkestone on a Sunday morning, what could we have done to get warm? Where would we have gone? How would we have got dry? What would we have done all day with no money and no food? How could we contemplate sitting around in our soaked freezing clothes?

40% of homeless people have some form of mental issues, would this experience make those problems better or worse? 46% of homeless people have drug or alcohol issues, would this one night make you want those escapist crutches more or less?

We had just one night as a taste. None of us who stayed out, experienced the prejudice that homeless people receive every day. The cutting words, the abuse hurled at them or people walking past them pretending that they weren’t there. How would that make you feel if you had experienced sleeping out?

None of us had random violence dished out to us by drunken people as they passed. Most homeless people have to hide away at night for fear of being kicked unconscious by drunks on their way home. One young man in Canterbury had his sleeping bag set on fire ‘for a laugh’ as he slept earlier this year. Do you think if that happened to you, it would make you feel better or worse about the world?

As we trudged home, all these thoughts filled our heads. All after one, sanitized, experienced of being homeless for just one night.

Homelessness should not exist in the 21st century in such an affluent country as ours. The fact that it does condemns our society. We strive for more, more possessions, better cars and holidays, more more more.

It is said that millions of us are just two big arguments and a sacking away from being homeless. It is also frighteningly easy to fall through the cracks of the system and end up on the streets. If that happened to you, would you hope that there was someone there to help you? I do.

We could, you and I, make sure that there was no more homelessness in our town. We could get more involved in our community. If everyone who lived in Folkestone donated just £1, the winter shelter could open now and run through the whole winter. We could put pressure on our local councils by writing to them, on mass, to urge them to do more to support the homeless. . We could put pressure on local big businesses to make them support people like the Winter Shelter.

Start now by clicking on the link below to donate something, however small. Buy a homeless person a sandwich or a hot warming drink if you can. If you can’t do any of those things, just smile and say hello as you pass.

Those little things make all the difference in the world.

http://www.justgiving.com/Folkestone-Churches-Winter-Shelter

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Manning – Hero or traitor?

994163_640996602595251_286149286_nSo Bradley Manning gets sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking US military ‘secrets’. Is he a hero or is he a traitor?

Let’s be clear about the ‘secrets’ Manning revealed. They were documented evidence of US wrongdoing in it’s ‘righteous’ war against Muslim countries who have a lot of oil the US would really like to have, thank you very much.

He didn’t leak secrets informing radicals how to launch a successful attack against the US. He didn’t leak plans of US military bases to Al-Qaeda. He didn’t let extremist hit men know that if they wanted to assassinate Obama, that he keeps a spare set of keys to his house under the blue flower pot on his porch.

His ‘whistle blowing’ was focused on exposing the disparity between what the government spoon feeds us daily about the heroic exploits of our righteous military in their ‘war on terror’ and the reality of the crimes perpetuated by that military against a mostly civilian and a mostly innocent population.

His motive was to see the truth for ourselves. There are no heroes in the video clip released by Manning showing US soldiers killing a father and his two young children as he took them to school. These servicemen were in no way heroic as they laughed and joked about the murder they had just committed against an innocent family. Powerful stuff.

To say these leaks embarrassed the US is an understatement. It had the potential to unravel the web of lies we have been told about the need to be at war in the first place and the role-played in these in countries by our ‘heroes’ in the armed forces.

The compliance and apathy of the populous is absolutely essential for our governments to be able wage war with impunity, wherever they see fit and for whatever nefarious motives they manufacture.

They don’t want us demonstrating in the streets demanding the removal of our armed forces from these occupied countries because of what we have seen. They don’t want us forcing them out of their powerful positions. They don’t want us derailing their empirical machinations for world domination.

They do, however, demand our inertia and passivity in world events. Manning’s whistle blowing had to potential to wake up the whole nation to what was really going on, which meant the state had to react and react quickly.

A character assassination on Manning by the state was quickly rolled out. The corpulent jowls of generals wobbled with anger as they denounced his actions on daytime TV. His ‘troubled’ past and his homosexuality were used as a weapon to discredit his motives. Redneck America called for the death sentence. Obama himself condemned his as guilty, even before his trial had started, by stating that he had ‘broken the law’.

But what was Manning’s crime in reality? He saw the true cost of whatmanningmm invading these countries actually was. He saw how many regular civilians, just like you and me, were murdered for no credible reason at all.

He saw the lies told to us to keep us inert. He saw the immoral and illegal activities carried out in our name and he wanted to show us the truth. He wanted to change the world,  and for it he has been crucified.

He chose not to follow his orders to keep secret the things he saw; he chose to tell the truth. America has punished him severely for that and may never forgive him.

It is interesting that Nazis responsible for the murder of millions of innocent Jewish people, were decried and mocked at the Nuremberg trials, by US prosecutors, when they claimed that they were ‘just obeying orders’.

The US prosecutors told these Nazis, that they should have ‘ignored their orders to meet a higher moral and ethical imperative’.

That’s what Manning did, he told the truth about the crimes being committed by the US government, correctly reasoning that his moral duty was to let the world know and not keep these crimes secret. For that, he is now the criminal and he has been persecuted for it.

Make no mistake, Bradley Manning is a true hero and I only hope that many others will have the courage to be heroic like he was.

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