Benefits and Work

11/30/2007 02:05:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 8 Comments

After I left a detailed comment on his blog, Jackart at a Very British Dude responded with a full post on the subject Benefits, work and incapacity, and as promised here is my response.

I'm actually in agreement with Jackart, we do have a problem with fraud in the benefits system as it stands, although I disagree with him as to the extent for disability related benefits, particularly as using the official statistics from the National Benefit Review conducted into Disability Living Allowance(DLA) in 2004, the actual fraud rate was only 0.5%.

I would also agree with Jackart that we need massive reform of the system, however that's probably where we start to disagree more fundamentally.

Jackart says that disability is in part a state of mind, citing the examples of having met below knee amputees who've run marathons and having played rugby with a man who had one arm and one leg. This unfortunate attitude is something I've experienced myself, typically only from able bodied younger men. Whilst there is a valid point about fear being one of the most disabling conditions of all, Jackart's examples just go to show the lack of understanding of the true nature of disability disaplayed by a great many people. Disability for I'd imagine the majority of people does not mean having the kind of static condition experienced by those who have a traumatic injury resulting in loss of limb or spinal cord injury. Whilst a gross generalisation, overall there is mostly continuity for people with those kind of conditions, their level of disability does not vary wildly from day to day leaving them unable to plan for anything.

I can of course only speak with any kind of authority on how my own condition Ehlers Danlos Syndrome affects me, but if nothing else my experiences have taught me that for many, no matter how strong the state of mind, or how vigorous the fight the complexity of the human body means it will continue to fail regardless of attitude, and will certainly never be capable of being neatly pushed into the kind of boxes governments are so fond of.

As part of the reform of incapacity type benefits Jackart would like to see the definition of 'cannot work' made a very tight one. I disagree, albeit reluctantly, with concerns about fraudsters slipping through, because I know it's impossible to make something as individual as disability fit a tight definition, and that in an overtight definition it will always be the genuine claimants who miss out, the fraudsters, as Clairwil has already pointed out will always be ahead of the game.So, just why is it so difficult for disabled people such as myself to manage to find and sustain paid employment?

As I mentioned in my initial comment, it is impossible to separate out welfare costs from health and social care. Currently many local authorities are so cash strapped they are rationing care, unable to provide support to those who fall outside their own definitions of either ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’. However this doesn’t mean that the person isn’t sick, vulnerable or disabled, there are those in the authorities own definitions of ‘moderate’ or 'low' risk, many of whom are still struggling with basic tasks such as washing, dressing, shopping and getting around. This is having a particular impact on those individuals like myself who were reliant on the government’s much hyped Direct Payment schemes designed to allow disabled people to purchase their own care directly and which could and should be particularly beneficial for those disabled people wanting to work as they allow the individual to employ their own Personal Assistance, but with the rationing of such care leading to widespread cuts it puts another barrier in the way to work.

As I’ve looked at previously there are also major problems with obtaining the correct, or for some, any equipment to help them perform these basic day to day tasks, even more important when care is being cut. One commenter on Jackart’s blog asked how difficult can it really be to wheel someone in to an office, then sit and type for 8 hours. Leaving aside the derogatory and disablist attitudes in the comment it does clearly illustrate the lack of understanding by many of the difficulties disabled people face in every day activities. For a start off, it’s pretty difficult to wheel anywhere if people don’t have suitable wheelchairs, and many don’t with it being standard practice for many NHS trusts not to provide appropriate powered wheelchairs for those who still have some (very limited) mobility, but are unable to self propel themselves in a manual chair. The difficulty for most disabled people however starts much earlier in the day with equipment not being provided by local authorities to assist with such basic tasks as getting out of bed, bathing, washing or dressing, or to help prepare and make food. It’s now typical in many authorities for ‘small’ equipment (ie items individually costing less than a hundred pounds or so) to have to be purchased by the individual, and for the larger items such as bath lifts to be refused on the grounds that it might infringe health and safety for the individual to use them. These of course are really cost cutting measures but it soon becomes obvious that it is neither simple, nor easy to get anywhere, and that for some, being ‘just wheeled’ would be a huge luxury. This blog post has a great explanation of the incredible difficulties faced by many disabled people in travelling to work.

Although we now have legislation supposedly to stop discrimination against disabled people, in the form of Disability Discrimination Act 1995, it is a fairly toothless act, leaving the onus on the individual disabled person to have to take the action, and to prove there has been discrimination.

In my own situation, which is probably far from unique, prior to my diagnosis of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, after I graduated I spent years working a variety of part time jobs, most of which were individually too poorly paid to even make national insurance contributions (one reason I’m not entitled to Incapacity Benefit now). I wanted to avoid the stigma of being on benefits, leaving part time work my only option partly as I wasn’t fit to work full time and partly to fit with the random and frequent nature of NHS appointments both surgical and rehabilitative. Despite applying for more jobs than I care to remember it was evident to prospective employers that there was a major problem with my health, whether or not I declared I had a disability. Out of the hundreds of jobs I did apply for I only ever obtained two interviews, one for a highly competitive graduate scheme, which during the feedback I was told by my interviewer that I’d given the best interview he’d seen that year and had been recommended for a place, but unfortunately not been successful. He urged me to reapply the following year when I had more of an idea what the situation was with my health, and whether I would need further surgery as he felt sure I would then be successful. Although I was well aware I’d been discriminated against, without a diagnosis at the time I didn’t feel able to do anything about it, and still doubt there is anything I could have done.

Eventually I was successful in getting a poorly paid, low level administrative job. I was overjoyed as it was a way in to the workplace, and unlike now I wasn’t in a situation where, living alone I have to be the sole provider. Unfortunately there were problems from the start, Access to Work did my workplace assessment almost 6 weeks after I’d started work, meaning the old folding table and someone’s discarded chair I’d been using as a temporary measure actually ended up being for months. During the assessment I was told that as they couldn’t get a chair and desk appropriate for my size I would just have to manage on the one they could order, but unfortunately by the time I became so unwell I had to leave my job some 7 months after I’d started, we were still waiting for some of the equipment Access to Work had ordered for me to turn up. As the author of this blog is now finding out this kind of delay with Access to Work is all to common.

I worked in a very isolated area leading to problems with Health and Safety from the outset. A serious dislocation whilst I was in the office alone (as was typical) led to a lengthy period of ‘medical suspension’ whilst we waited desperately for my desk and chair to be supplied by Access to Work, as on that particular occasion I’d only managed to phone for help following a period of unconsciousness alone on the office floor. My employers became understandably increasingly nervous about the risks of having me there, but were unable to find an alternative office and with the failings of Access to Work, my lack of diagnosis and problems with NHS waiting lists eventually I had become so unwell I had no choice but to leave. The most infuriating part being that 12 months later when work and I had hoped I would be well enough to go back, although I had managed to get diagnosed and start myself along the lifelong path of learning how to manage my condition, I still had not received a single one of the recommendations my specialist had insisted upon as urgent, thus pushing the burden back on to the benefits system.

That was all a few years ago now, and it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve been in a position to think more seriously about wanting to work. My GP laughs whenever I mention it to him, he thinks I should concentrate my energies on more important things, but I refuse to accept that at my age I have to spend the rest of my life on benefits because the system is so inflexible.

A few quick sums earlier showed me that I would have to earn a minimum of £700 a month just to pay rent and utilities, not including things like food, petrol, or even council tax, as to work out what that would actually be after deductions for any council tax benefit is nigh on impossible. However accepting that even working 16 hours a week would be an enormous struggle for me, and that unless I could work primarily from home, probably impossible, 16 hours a week on minimum wage of £5.52 works out to £88.32 per week, before any tax or NI deductions, £353.28 every 4 weeks (benefits calculations all being done on daily and therefore weekly rather than monthly basis) Using this rather nifty website I was able to see that at that wage I should be able to get it topped up by tax credits of approximately £77 a week (though there’s no guarantee that’s accurate, and it would certainly change to a lower amount after 12 months) which would still only leave me with around £661 every 4 weeks, give or take a few pence. I would still be entitled to some housing benefit, but it would be reduced, to an amount I wouldn’t find out until I could give specific income details to the benefits agency to do a ‘better off’ calculation, as it seems to be impossible to take the more sensible approach and find out how much someone needs to earn to meet their basic living costs.

None of this of course factors in the likelihood of Disability Living Allowance being removed for starting work, something that isn’t supposed to happen as its non means tested and intended to be for the additional costs of disability, but in practice is all too common, even when claimants are working jobs entirely in keeping with the nature of their care and mobility needs as declared to the DWP. If I were to manage to find any sort of work I could do I would be financially reliant on continuing to receive DLA, not least to provide for the additional expenses associated with having a disability.

For those like myself, disabled at a relatively very young age, currently the choice is stark and leaves me feeling deeply let down by the system. I can either sit and rot on benefits, bored, isolated, not able to access the kind of support I need; work full time, which for me sadly is not an option; or attempt to work part time whilst navigating the maze of tax credits, council tax benefits, housing benefits. Like many disabled people the future does indeed look increasingly frightening when all we can see are services being cut or removed, and the government announcing the numbers they intend to remove from Incapacity Benefits without a hint of realistic opportunity.



11/29/2007 01:08:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 6 Comments

It became more and more obvious throughout Tuesday that despite the extra steroids and diuretics she'd had in the morning at the practice, this time she wasn't going to perk back up to her usual self, and that the stress of the car journey had been unbearable for her. I phoned and left a message for my vet asking him to come out that day. I'd asked neighbour to come round earlier and help me to get her out her litter tray, and put her on the sofa where although she wasn't able to get up again, I lay with her through the afternoon and stroked her as she purred peacefully for hours.

The vet arrived not long after 7 and briefly explained he would give her two injections, one to make her sleepy and not care about anything, and then after 5 minutes o
r so a second to finish life. He asked what I wanted to do afterwards, as in did I want to keep her body, or did I want an individual cremation, but not having any garden to bury her in I asked him just to take her away. As Vet and I have known each other for many years, initially both working in the same place there wasn't a huge amount to explain, and I was very grateful for the peaceful hours I'd been able to have that afternoon to get my head around what had to be done and say goodbye.

Ziggy had come round before the Vet and came back afterwards to sit with me for a while. He arranged to work from home yesterday so I wouldn't be on my own, and arrived around midday. His being here made a real difference. Kitty #2 is like a lost soul, wandering round looking for her mum, eating very little and acting even more strangely than she usually does. We knew there was a real problem when she didn't whore herself all over Ziggy yesterday for ages until she bit him (she's got a real man obsession that cat!)


Letting Go

11/27/2007 01:34:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 5 Comments

My beloved cat is ill. The kind of ill that means trips back and forth to the vet and difficult decisions. She's an old lady now, with all the kinds of problems that old ladies tend to have, in her case a long struggle with asthma has meant treatment with steroids over the past few years to keep her breathing under control, although she never did get the hang of her opposable thumbs you see.
As I write this, tears running down my face she's lying down, but inside her litter tray, and although our vet instructed me to phone him first thing tomorrow morning to see how she'd been through the night, in my heart of hearts I know the time has come, if not today, tomorrow.

She wasn't even my cat originally, she was brought as a 6 week old kitten for my younger sister, but in that way that cats do, she chose to own me, and we've been inseperable since I was 16. A tiny little bundle of fur, the runt of her litter, and too young really to be parted from her mother I carried her round in my pocket to keep her warm and safe as I studied for my GCSE's, then less than a year later delivered all her four kittens by hand, alive and well despite one being a dry birth. That was the kitten we kept who also decided to own me.

She was by my side as I sat my A levels, then later my finals, there through every broken heart, every happy occasion, as I grew more unwell and struggled to come to terms with my body and world collapsing around me without explanation she was a constant presence, comforting and warm, always appearing if I was sad, seeming somehow to know.

In her youth she was a true cat, dominating the neighbourhood, hunting and bringing 'gifts' home to us, sometimes still live birds, one memorable occasion a rat almost as big as herself, and regularly seeing off foxes in protracted noisy battles in the middle of the road.

In later years as I became more physically vulnerable she took on a new role, and became as protective as any dog, sitting on the side of the bath growling at any carer she mistrusted, with uncanny instincts for getting it right, even going so far as to bite one she took particular dislike to. She was quite right to attack that woman, she always went out of her way to physically hurt me if she could, and it was the cat in the bathroom with me, yowling her warnings when that same carer left me on the bathroom floor after a fall, too busy chatting on her mobile to take any notice of what was going on.

The winter I was so ill I didn't really know who I was the cats probably helped save my life. They, but especially this one rarely left my side, always somehow knowing to lie next to my most painful joints, purring, the vibrations acting as a form of pain relief, but more importantly their body heat giving me desperately needed warmth.

Now she's dying and I feel it as acutely as any human. All I can do for her now is to try and make the right decision about when to let her go peacefully.


Brown Envelopes

11/22/2007 11:32:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 9 Comments

In a scene loaded with all the best dramatic irony the brown envelope landed on the doormat this morning.

Unlike the previous two letters from the DWP both advising me of 'urgent' changes to phone numbers, both of which caused me to dislocate my fingers trying to open them, I know is different because it is so bulky. It's an IB50 Incapacity for work form. I haven't had to fill out anything like this since the DWP sent me a letter several years ago telling me I no longer needed to send in sick notes from my GP.

I have until the week before Christmas to return it, although I of course won't find out the decision until weeks in to the New Year. I feel a bit sick, and very scared. I'm not even sure it's been sent to me correctly yet. Quite apart from being genuinely entitled to all the benefits I receive, I would give anything to be able to support myself financially by working and not to have to rely on this humiliating, degrading and terrifying system. It angers me to think of all the money this and every other government waste on so called 'welfare reforms' none of which provide any realistic opportunities to help disabled people into work.

Oh, and just in case you'd not already guessed, none of the questions on this form have altered. Those about whether you can walk more than 400m or climb a flight of stairs are still there, and there is certainly no mention of desks or mice, but then you didn't really think there would be, did you? This really is all about frightening genuine claimants into saying the wrong thing and cutting benefit rates that way.


Hunting Season

11/21/2007 04:13:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 4 Comments

I listened in horror to Radio1 on Monday as they and the rest of the BBC news media spewed forth all manner of vitriol against Incapacity Benefit claimants, who according to them are apparently all off work scrounging from your hard earned taxes for a variety of well deserved reasons such as acne, obesity or just being a bit tired. It's always nice to be publicly hated, especially when such a thing as journalistic integrity seems a thing of the past.

Clairwil has written an excellent post on the subject, so I suggest you all go there and read that before reading any further here. Go on, off you go. Then come back here and read the rest.

Right, as you all know now, to claim for Incapacity Benefit you need to be signed as unfit for work by your GP, and then, in something called the Personal Capability Assessment attain a certain amount of points to qualify, 15 for physical health problems, 10 for mental health. The All work test I'm linking you to is several years out of date, but hasn't changed that much. For interest I decided to score myself on the test again, and deliberately put myself into lower categories for many of the questions, such as this one, bending and kneeling, where of course being absurdly bendy, I can both bend and kneel, but also being absurdly unstable around the joints, can't do it, or get up again without dislocating, in my case often multiple joints. Despite my deliberate underestimating of how badly I'm affected and therefore lower points score, I still managed to end up with 99 points. Unfortunately I don't think that means I get 6.6 people's worth of Incapacity Benefit.

Activity Descriptor Points Select
6.Bending and kneeling. (a) Cannot bend to touch his knees and straighten up again. 15

(b) Cannot either, bend or kneel, or bend and kneel, as if to pick up a piece of paper from the floor and straighten up again. 15

(c) Sometimes cannot either, bend or kneel, or bend and kneel, as if to pick up a piece of paper from the floor and straighten up again. 3

(d) No problem with bending or kneeling. 0

Actually, as I've mentioned before I don't receive Incapacity Benefit, and so don't even count as one of the official statistics, like many people I instead receive Income Support. However, ignoring that and the large numbers of people like me who are not counted as part of the official statistics for Incapacity Benefit, now is a very frightening time to be genuinely sick or disabled in the UK.

As Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary announced on Monday, the old style PCA test will be replaced by a new work capability assessment along with the new Employment and Support Allowance. All of this of course was previously announced as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2007. According to Mr Hain the new test will concentrate more upon what sick and disabled people can do rather than what they cannot do, apparently abandoning tests such as being able to walk more than 400m or climb 12 steps without the aid of a bannister instead looking at issues like manual dexterity, speech, vision and hearing, as well as ability to cope under pressure and interact with other people. (source BBC news online)

Now, call me a huge cynic if you will, but that's pretty much exactly what the current PCA test looks at, with the exception of the first two questions they appear to be removing. We all know the benefits system is a contradiction in terms long overdue for reform, but really, what use is it declaring someone as fit for work if their mobility is so poor they can't actually get out of their home to to get work or move around a workplace even, and shucks, it's not like anyone's naive enough to think the government will suddenly start providing everyone who needs them with appropriate power chairs, are they?

Unless of course all this is purely to make it appear to the general public that the government is addressing the issue of welfare reform, whilst they terrify the vast majority of genuinely sick and disabled claimants, already living under difficult enough circumstances, many of whom would welcome anything that meant a realistic opportunity to work, unlike the government's much hyped New Deal for Disabled People's scheme, which as I've written about before seems nothing more than a money making exercise for those able to set themselves up as job brokers. It would, for once be nice to hear some realistic suggestions from at least once of the three main political parties, two of which are led by men with disabled children of their own. However, money and power make comfortable cushions from reality and until such time the disability charities get out of bed with the government, and politicians, regardless of allegiance wake up and realise that to effect true welfare reform they need to consult those living within the system, the disabled and chronically unwell, those able to provide some realistic solutions to the situation, I fear no licence will be needed to take aim at the most vulnerable.


It's cold outside!

11/20/2007 02:12:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 4 Comments

Winter Fuel payment is for those over 60 who receive a State Pension.

It is not available to those in receipt of even the highest levels of Disability Living Allowance, many of whom have to heat their homes all year round.

No matter how cold our furry barometers tell us our homes may be!


DLA insanity

11/13/2007 10:15:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 14 Comments

Like Louise Bolotin, the author of this rare insight into the insanity of the DLA system, I am also completely dependant on the financial security that Disability Living Allowance provides me. Unlike her however, I live alone, and depend entirely on benefits to survive, having no-one else to step in and support me so although my DLA has time left to run on it's current award, I'm permanently aware in the back of my mind that it could randomly be removed from me on the 'whim' of a decision maker, regardless of the level of my disability.

This for me is of particular relevance at the moment having strived so hard for so long to gain control over my condition and therefore improve my life. Should I inform the DWP that I have managed to 'improve' and therefore risk my entire award, which if I were to lose it would without doubt lead to a drop in benefits so drastic I would be left unable to meet basic utility bills and rent, let alone consider luxuries such as food, or should I say nothing as actually these improvements, although considerable for me, are by anyone else's standards minor and still leave me substantially disabled and genuinely entitled to the awards I've been given, if not the higher awards my GP pushed for me to be given at the time but the DWP in their typical nonsensical logic refused as they insisted the bodily functions I needed help with during the day did not exist at night.

This week saw my annual landlord safety check done by British Gas, where they come out and check all the gas appliances in the house. Whilst checking the gas hob the engineer asked if it always turned on in a particular manner, and asked to see me turn one of the rings on. I managed to do so after a couple of attempts, but only when prompted by him did I notice that as I'd turned it on, the only way I could do so had meant I'd had my fingers in the gas flames and left them there until he pointed it out.

For all the 'improvements' I think I've made, I don't think it's worth risking losing everything, including potentially my life, by informing the DWP of 'improvements' that are only improvements so they can remove benefits from the most vulnerable.


Remembrance Sunday

11/11/2007 07:16:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 4 Comments

After everyone else had gone, once again we sat and talked. Of past lives and histories, childhoods lost and things to come. Bosnia. The shadow it casts over your life. The months and months after you came back, deeply depressed, unable to function, the gradual rebuilding, again and again.

Eventually, in the small hours as I try to persuade you of the strength, the bravery it has taken for you to overcome trauma after trauma throughout your adult life I finally ask if you think any of these things could have happened to you if not for Bosnia. Surprised, you say to me 'but, of course not, it was always because of Bosnia'.

At 11am today I watched the ceremony at the Cenotaph in silence and my thoughts were with you and every other.



11/05/2007 08:41:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 6 Comments

It may only have been a week since my last post, but it's certainly been an eventful one. In chronological order;

The trip to see Big. It was lovely to see him, and after a bit of a struggle on my own unable to call for assistance as it didn't exist in the airport car park at 4.30am, things actually ran really smoothly on that front. I did think as I was left sat alone in a wheelchair next to the aeroplane on the tarmac as the man assisting me wandered off to find someone to work the lift to the plane that maybe they thought disabled people were incapable of committing crimes, or of being any kind of threat, but that would be really stupid, wouldn't it?
At the other end I could not have been more impressed with the way the assistance and services were organised, it put everything in this country to shame and just showed how good things could potentially be

Overall, things were as I expected, and had discussed with a couple of friends before I went, the make or break situation, well, for me anyway, having previously tried to end things and move on, and a part of me needed to go and see him for things to end. I don't know what he thinks, or feels, I doubt with him I ever will, which is one of the reasons it had to end for me, but unlike previous times I finally feel a readiness to move on, whatever hold he has had over me for the past three years having come to its own conclusion. I'll always care about him, always be fond of him, suspect we'll always be friends, but as we discussed whilst I was there, neither of us are the people we were when we met, and I feel like I'm about to start a new stage of my life, something I'm strangely excited about.

I got back on the thursday evening, so I was totally knackered and in no mood to drag myself to Toes Hallowe'en party on the friday night. I got a few messages from him throughout the day telling me he'd accept no excuses, and even telling me to get back to bed in the afternoon to make sure I made it! After all that I forced myself to get ready, going for the fetish part of the theme, purely because it meant making no more effort than wearing the contents of my underwear drawer. Leah and her boyfriend had come round to get ready at mine, so we could all be several hours late arriving, meaning things were in full swing when we got there. The 6'5 grim reaper was sat in the kitchen whilst Toes pranced round in his dress and corset by the decks with a guy in jeans and a t shirt. I noticed the tall, dark haired guy as soon as I arrived, but I'm ashamed to admit I thought he was gay, mainly because he was so good looking, but partly forgiveable I suppose at a party full of people where both sex and sexuality are very blurred.

I soon joined the smokers in the garden, wanting to catch up with the grim reaper, but before long fascinated by the conversation of the (all male) group. They were all a dither, having only just realised that the tall, ravishingly pretty girl they'd all been eyeing up wasn't actually a girl. I was more amused than I should have been at this as after a few initial shocked remarks, all but one bloke came rapidly to the conclusion that 'she' should see it as a compliment and moved on from the subject. Or they attempted to. The bloke who was gutted to the point he had tears in his eyes, kept going on and on about his psychological distress, that he actually might not have found out until the last moment was, so overweight, unattractive, and devoid of all personal and social skills that there was no way this attractive girl would ever notice him, and yet he was convinced he'd been in with a serious chance. Bizarre. However, whilst this was going on I had sussed out pretty quick that the seriously good looking guy wasn't gay, or a woman, or any of the other possibilities there that evening, he was it seemed 'just' a friend of a friend of Toes, who just so happened to be devastatingly good looking, Irish, funny, charming, and maybe flirting with me a little bit. I kind of hoped he was anyway, he was sharing my spliff while we were chatting away, back inside for a while, then back outside carrying on chatting when we were watching the fireworks set off by very drunken people in breach of any and every safety rule ever thought of whilst after one or two we ended up cowering in the kitchen, then, as these things happen, at these kind of parties anyway, he went a bit white and had to go to bed. Sigh. I was a bit mortified that I'd killed not just the most attractive man there, but the most good looking man any of us girls had seen for ages. ( I think we're a bit starved of attractive men round here!)

The party invitation had been for the whole weekend, although that's not usually taken up by the likes of me, so its not unusual for people to randomly get in to, or out of bed at any given point, in fact the very first one of Toes parties I went to, the whole evening was spent in his bed, with about 20 other people. No, not that kind of party. Dirty minded lot. Little Miss Red Riding Hood had turned up, just in time for the fireworks, she's a girl Toes knows, and really fancies from work, and she and I spent hours chatting in that way you do when you don't know each other but bond at a party, about men, shoes, clothes, men, sex, men, and men some more. We were talking about some guy she's crazy about at work, and so when Toes asked me today if I thought she might like him, I felt really awkward as she's totally in to this other guy. Eventually we somehow ended up in Toes bedroom, the gorgeous guy crashed out in the other bedroom and several people crashed out in Toes bed while a load of people carried on dancing downstairs.

The girly bonding conversation carried on with Toes and another mate listening and occasionally contributing, but every time I got up to go to the loo I went into the other room to check on the sexy Irishman, partly out of a vague sense of concern and responsibility, and partly just because he was so damn sexy. Mind, he managed to come alive every time I checked on him and chat to me for a few minutes, trying to get me to stay in there with him.

By around 4am although a few hard core dancers were still going there were about 5 people sleeping in Toes room and I'd crashed in the other room, which has no door and is lacking all its walls with the sexy Irishman. We were talking and giggling for a while in the single bed, before kissing, while other people wandered in and out hoping to crash out in the bed, or Toes come to check I wasn't being ravished against my will.

Hours later, after it had got light, we ended up back at my house, at first to sleep, but gradually it became one of those magical weekends where you only get out of bed to get each other clean so you can get each other dirty again. I drove him back to the old friend he was supposed to be spending the weekend with on sunday lunchtime both of us with silly grins on our faces.

He's so good looking that Fruitrock actually cheered earlier when she saw me, and even better he doesn't even seem to know it. Unfortunately he lives between 2.5 to 3.5 hours drive away from me, which puts a bit of a dampner on the whole situation, but we both said we'd like to see each other again, and have been texting since, with him being sure to tell me he won't be able to get my email for a few days as he's in work, which I hope is a good sign. We'll see. Life has already started to feel very different.