World…meet Jessica


Jessica - First Picture


Today at 4.40pm a tiny little 5lb 13oz person completed our family. Jessica Duncan arrived safely and happily into our lives and all are well.

It’s hard to think back to ten years ago when I didn’t know if I’d ever have kids because of the testicular cancer, but old monoball did it again. First Jake in 2007, Jenna came along three years later and now we are five. I never get over just how lucky I have been to reach this point in my life and have such a fantastic family to call my own.

The person who deserves all the attention is Jill though. It’s not an easy thing to watch the woman you love go through hell during childbirth. There’s not another thing I could equate it to – it leaves you feeling completely useless as a man and you realise just how strong (in every sense) women are. I left the two girls at the hospital tonight with Jessica bundled up against Jill’s chest and for the third time in my life was reminded that I really am the luckiest bastard alive.

For all the battles against myself, my mental health, issues with me trying to get a job – all that disappeared today as I saw my wife and our three kids all cuddling up together. Yes, I will have to go back to the problems and deal with them again, but for one glorious moment it all dissipated and I felt truly happy.

We are a full family of five and there are no words to describe the pride, admiration and love I have for them all. The Five JDs.

JD x 





You’re nobody ’til somebody hires you



Until you find yourself looking for work again you forget that you don’t really exist. By that I mean that unless you have a specific set of skills you are invisible to companies and potential employers.

I’d like to think that I have a lot to offer, but the big problem at the moment is a flooded market. So many people are out of work – or about to be – that employers have their pick of the market. Rather than take people on a train them up in the “company way” that happens during a jobs boom, at the moment they want a carbon copy of their job spec in human form. And at the moment they can pretty much get that.

There’s also the public to private sector snobbery that exists. Many would deny it, but I know from speaking to agencies that it does happen. There is also a blinkering of employers to skills sets you have working in a public job as I did in teaching. As far as they are concerned you are able to teach but fail to see all the pre and post work that goes into the teaching, the IT skills, administration, PR, extra curricular activities, pastoral work with pupils, working on committees, meetings & seminars both in your region and nationally. It’s not just standing up and speaking.

On the flip side there is the impact that the process has on you. “We’ll keep your CV on file…” is like being told by your crush that you are in the “friend zone” and will never graduate from it. Everyday you go on the same websites and see jobs you know you were capable of but you never hear back from them. Out of all the jobs I’ve applied for in the last month or so I can only have had a half-dozen responses thanking me but not giving me even an interview.

Each time you log on you lose a little bit more hope, you look at jobs you wouldn’t have considered a couple of weeks earlier but your self-value and belief has started to collapse. I’m worried that this will trigger a bout of depression that I’ve been trying to fight off for the last wee while. You can see it coming: sleeping longer, not leaving the house very much, feeling of loss and emptiness creeping up on you.

Some have suggested I go back to teaching, but after some of my previous experiences my confidence is shot. While I loved the pupils and many of my colleagues, teaching can have a real impact on your life in terms of time and stress. You have to give yourself over to the job and I honestly don’t know if I could do that again. maybe in a few year’s time I will have enough distance to revisit the role.

There’s no major ambition or target job-wise, I would just like to get working to earn money again to provide for the family. Hopefully someone will take a chance on me soon so I can stop this introspective phase and stave off the inevitable dip in mood.


Is there anybody there?



Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…     Hughes Mearns

It can’t just be me who thinks and lives the way I do – wondering when the doors open in the right order and things start going in my direction. When I was younger I always assumed that life would be fairly straightforward: married with kids, job, house, car, occasional holiday and generally happy. But they don’t talk about it do they – parents or teachers – the reality and difficulty of getting through it.

I’m a very lucky man in many ways, I have a great family and roof over our head. I couldn’t ask for a better other half than Jill – she surprises me daily with her patience and love. Our kids are adorably quirky and with another on the way it’ll be great to see the final member of our clan. But there’s a ghost in our house – not in a supernatural way, more in a “missing something” way.

You ponder whether this is all you are going to be – not to denigrate anything in my life, but I just feel there’s a version of me in a parallel universe who is achieving things I’m not or can’t. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is but you have a sense that there is an unfinished sentence but you don’t have the capacity or vocabulary to complete.

Is it just me? Is it me from when I was a kid with wild dreams and ambitions in life and now I’m discovering that vanilla really is the flavour we live with and beige the background? “Mid life crisis” I hear you cry – not really, I have no interest in sports cars or trading in the missus for a younger model. There is a man who “isn’t there” but I’m struggling to pin him down.

If I knew what was missing I could perhaps do something about it, until then there will just be a space that I can’t explain. Perhaps as I get older and the kids are growing up I wonder what I will leave behind; what will be left of “me” in the future. I don’t have dreams of world domination but it can’t just be surviving can it? That’s what I feel I’m doing at times – counting out one minute into the next hour into the next day.

Clockwatching, not living.

Yes, a job would help and less periods of depression would certainly be a boost my system but I want to be more than just a job or wage. Maybe living with the bipolar disorder is giving me a duality that yearns for the manic me to appear and take the depressed me on an exciting trip or adventure. Am I missing the madness wishing I could bottle up the highs to help cope with the lows?

I could try to be more introspective to work it out but I get the feeling if I were any more self-reflective I might fall through the looking glass.


Missing the Libs Dems yet?




So how is it a week later? How influential are those SNP bods against the Evil Tories? Who cares who leads the Lib Dems or Labour? Why is Farage still around? None of these questions or less will be answered in this blog.

You forget don’t you, just how evil and right wing the Tories are. They talk about giving power back but many of the new cabinet want to restrict freedoms rather than hand them out. I’m old enough to remember the tail end of Thatcher and all the Major years and the miserable darkness that they brought across UK politics. And within a couple of hours of winning that majority we started to see the really nasty bastards start to crawl out from under the woodwork: Redwood (above) was the first to slither on to the screen and remind us what we’d been missing.

Then there’s the new cabinet. Many, like me, have been following the appointments and shaking their heads in disbelief at just how far to the right Cameron is pulling with some of his selections.

Starting with my favourite cabinet c*nt Michael Gove. Here’s a man who ruined Education and was removed before he did anymore damage has now been made Justice Secretary. This is a man who has, on many occasions, made the point that we should have never abolished hanging. He shares this view with Priti Patel who is Secretary for Employment. She has issues too as she has voted down taxing banker’s bonuses to aid job creation as well as a stimulus package to give long term unemployed jobs.

Then there’s Justin Tomlinson the new Disabilities Minister who voted against maintaining the benefits for disabled allowance and cancer patient benefits. He voted for the “bedroom tax” which hurt the disabled more than any group. He will now be in charge of funds to get the disabled into work. Ben Gummer the Health minister is “personally and principally opposed to abortion” – how can a man with these blinkered beliefs be put in such a position?

Also there’s seven of the cabinet who voted against gay marriage, including the new Equalities minister Caroline Dinenage. But she says it won’t be a problem. John Whittingdale – our new Culture Secretary – dislikes the BBC, the way it is funded and likened the licence fee that provides a brilliant service as “worse than a poll tax” Speaking of which one of the men who advised Thatcher on that very tax is now Parliament under secretary of State for Scotland. You couldn’t make this shit up!

Rory Stewart is the Under Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and believes in selling off public forestry and badger culling – both have been proved to be damaging for the environment. And then there’s Boris. No actual job but there in the mix so when he steps down as Mayor of London he’ll be ready to take over from Dave after the Euro Referendum.

The biggest concern of all is the attack on the Human Rights Act (HRA) of 1998 and the want to replace it with a British Bill of Rights. The claim you will hear from hose on the right is that it is taking back our power from Europe to make our own decisions. The truth we already have that power. What the HRA gives us is the ability to appeal decisions made by the two Houses of Westminster and the Supreme Court. Without those checks and balances in place we would be stuck with only a UK solution to all issues. All the laws of our country are still there and the European Human Rights and the UN Charter of Human Rights are there as advice only until higher level appeals are required.

Also there is a reason it exists – it started as a process at the end of WWII to protect populations of all countries. Each took on a version to allow them to self govern and set laws but have a “right of reply” if you like. To those who cry about extremists and the inability to remove them are also incorrect as we have laws in place to either send these people back to their own countries if safe to do so, or charge them under existing UK laws. Most of the arguments against HRA are humbuggery of the highest order and a power grab by Gove and the Tories. Here’s an interesting piece from the Guardian on this matter:

So the next time anyone moans about the current system and the Tories you can remind them that the country lost faith in the Lib Dems and Labour that led us here. Clegg, Alexander, Cable, Davie, Laws, Baker and Featherstone might not have been perfect and yes mistakes were made, but I’m still confused why they were punished and the Tories were rewarded for this. Were it not for them we would havehad a much worse situation. SOme of the things they stopped are now going to be reintroduced including the nasty Snoopers Charter from Theresa May and the Home Office.

Are we really saying that for the better of this country a couple of bad decisions and broken promises were worth holding grudges over to give us Abortionists, Capital Punishers, Anti LGBTQI, Poll tax introducers, NHS sellers, BBC bashers, Disabled Rights & Benefit Cutters, Bedroom Tax creators, TTIP supporters, Green Belt sellers and Human Rights trampling f*ckwombles is the price worth paying?

Didn’t think so.


Be careful what you wish for…



So it’s done again until 2020…or 2017 probably after the EU referendum. As a liberal-minded unionist lefty it’s not a great result for me either way today: SNP up here wanting to separate the union and the Tories down there ready to screw everyone even more in the next five years. It’s the first election I’ve voted in that has left me with little to be pleased about.


The historic win has to be recognised and as long as we have the first past the post system. But there are a few things to remember here, the SNP are the opposition party in Scotland to Labour and finally they won – it’s been a long time coming. Also it’s not a vote for another independence referendum, although that will come, but it does shake up the system which is maybe not a bad thing. However Nicola Sturgeon has to be careful what she asks for – recently she’s moved from wanting “full fiscal autonomy” to “fiscal responsibility”. While it might seem like semantics the two are very different.

“Autonomy” means we are left to run our own money – raise it and spend it with no Barnett formula, whereas “Responsibility” gives Sturgeon a safety net. Why would she need it? Well with current oil prices and no grant from Westminster we’d be anything from eight to ten billion pounds short in our budget. Where the SNP have to be careful is if they ask for it, it’s in the interests of the Tories to give it to them just to see it fail and get rid of the SNP possibly for a generation. While some may like to see the SNP in real trouble, it would mean the poorest in Scotland would suffer most.


Where do you start? Well I’d start at the point where Ed Miliband got elected as leader of the party. No one outside the unions wanted him – the public was expecting his brother to get the job and he would have had a much better chance than Ed yesterday. The reason? The lurch to the left. A return to the tribalism that kept the party out of power for eighteen years through the eighties and nineties.

Labour under Blair – regardless what you think of him – were a party that a majority could get behind. While it had an eye on working for everyone, it could also work with business and the banks. As much as we hate the banks we have to accept that we live in a capitalist model and until we – as a country – change that centre left is the best position for the Labour party. Weak leadership, no presence on the world stage, ideas with no substance and a man who let’s be honest we’re pretty glad will be gone. There’s no space for “pity politics” when they are in charge of our money and lives.

What next? Well for me Andy Burnham has always come across really well. Honest as Ed was but with more substance – and he’s not part of the political elite so he’d do well with the “working family” Labour claims to stand for.

Lib Dems

I have a soft spot for the Lib Dems, despite allowing tuition fees and the bedroom tax, they will be remembered for making the last five years almost bearable. If you don’t believe me write yourself a note saying “Remember the Lib Dems?”, stick it on your fridge and in about a year’s time you will be wishing someone was in the cabinet holding the Tories back from more cuts to the poorest in society, tax cuts for the richest and biggest businesses, and a lack of moral backbone of any kind.

Nick Clegg was not a monster but happened to fall foul of the “Black Widow” coalition – they were devoured by their mates after they screwed them. Should he have teamed up with the Tories? Well I don’t see how they could refuse in all honesty – a chance to implement their ideas and policies was too good a chance to miss. And they did deliver on raising the tax threshold by £5000 meaning most part-time workers or those on minimum wage didn’t pay any tax. I hope they bounce back stronger for the experience.


Can fuck off


It’s going to hurt. No two ways about it. For the next five years the belt-tightening will leave most of us with a permanent ingrained mark round our middles. Twelve billion pounds of cuts and a national debt that increased by half a trillion means no one will escape. And if track records are anything to go by we know that the worst off will face the biggest struggle. Foodbanks increased by a factor of more than ten in the last five years and around 900,000 people used them last year. Further cuts to benefits regardless of need, the removal of the Disability living allowance and reduced Child Benefit won’t bother the 1% super rich – but will impact on you and I.

Then there’s the biggest danger – Europe. This is the key to where we will be by 2020. Here are the two options:

1. Cameron negotiates a new deal and wins a referendum, decides to retire as Prime Minister and Boris steps up to the plate without the electorate getting a say.


2. Cameron negotiates a deal, but loses the referendum. This then will spark a second referendum in Scotland for Independence as we are Europhiles north of the border. With the prospect of fish, farming and oil being impacted it’s easy to see the Yes side winning.

And my fear is the latter is more likely.

Over the next five years I honestly think we could see a massive constitutional nightmare all because Cameron lurched right to call UKIP’s bluff. Redwood, Mitchell and other Eurosceptic Tories have already been on TV making warning noises.

While I will always respect the democratic process – and the shoddy first past the post system that left the Greens, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems ridiculously under represented according to share of vote – I do think that with polar opposites either side of the border, we could be looking at Cameron being the last PM of the UK, and being the man who broke it.


Apologies for the silence



Lots going on in the house and head at the moment and I didn’t realise it had been so long since the last blog – but as my mum taught me if you can’t say anything nice…

Not completely true but going on another rant about the election tomorrow won’t be good reading for anyone. I just hope hat we get a 70%+ turnout so even if we don’t get a majority government it will represent the people of he UK.

I get annoyed with the posturing and lies that fly around and there have been so few moments of reality from our politicians that you do feel removed from the process. If I’m honest I think that Nick Clegg has again come across best out of the main party leaders. While many will never forgive him for the tuition fees and supporting the bedroom tax, I still think as a party they have a lot to offer. Remember if it weren’t for them you personal tax allowance would be nearly half what it is now.

Then there’s the anticipation of the new little Duncan. We’re into countdown mode as due date is only a couple of weeks away. Can’t wait to meet the baby but would really like to have sorted out some work so I can properly look after the family. Every day at the moment is a depressing trawl through the job websites and the odd application, and the regular thanks but no thanks to boot.

Jenna still wants a boy and Jake wants a girl so one of them will be disappointed – either way I’m happy as long as they are healthy and happy. Going to be strange to share the house with another body having been a four for so long. Will it change the dynamic and will the kids take to their new sibling? Can only hope so.

Mental health has been okay of late and feeling okay – neither up nor down really. Just the job situation that brings me down a bit, but that’s just a natural mood swing that anyone would have. My only concern is that the longer the wait goes on for a job the more chance I have of slipping into a proper bout of depression.

Overall I’m in limbo with everything – it’s a waiting game for all aspects of life just now. I’m just glad I’ve got the band to keep me going at the moment. Going and belting out a few tunes is always a great way to release the stress and worries and the diary is healthy for the summer. There is a lot to be said about music as a release or therapy and I certainly benefit from it in my life.

So fingers crossed I will be back to blogging properly soon with good news on all fronts – would be great to feel settled once again.