Dear DVLA, where is my driving licence?

After weeks of trying to access its dysfunctional website, I took my driving licence to the Post Office where an employee took my photo, my payment and also my licence, which she snipped into pieces and discarded. It had not expired yet but was about to.

That was in late May, about ten days before the DVLA retroactively extended the validity of all licences as of 1 February 2020. With SEVEN MONTHS!

It later amended this information and added that it was implementing this automatic extension because of the EU. The UK left the EU at the beginning of the year.

In July, I was still without licence and I enquired at the Post Office. I was told that the DVLA was handling March applications at the time and that it would take a very long time for my licence to arrive. I figured that it would take about four months, then.

There is no way to contact the DVLA, which stubbornly refused to acknowledge any difficulties for months.

(At least now, its voice mail acknowledges that they’re having issues and that there is nothing they can do for us. We must wait patiently.)

At some point, I was able to access a part of the DVLA site that informed me that my licence was renewed in early June. WTF?

I continued to wait, as it is clear that the DVLA is in deep shit, but some weeks later, I sent a letter by special delivery asking the DVLA to let me know whether or not the licence had been dispatched as so many items are getting lost from our postal mail and deliveries these days.

I haven’t had a response to that either. So what shall I do? Report my licence as stolen or lost? To avoid being told later that I should have reported its disappearance sooner?

Ten years ago, I exchanged my Dutch licence – acquired in 1984 – for a UK one as I’d been living in the UK too long to still be allowed to have a Dutch licence.

I wonder if there is some kind of international law that I can apply to this as the DVLA is withholding an important form of ID for me that was initially issued in the Netherlands. I have been without it for four months.

I happen to have met the guy who runs the DVSA – not the DVLA – and he is one of my LinkedIn connections. He has a chunk of oceanography in his past.

But the DVSA apparently has similar issues as the DVLA.

It appears that he knows it, too, as his LinkedIn profile summary at some point made him sound so much like the manager of a hedge fund or manufacturing plant that I concluded that I must have remembered his professional context wrong. Then I ran into an article in The Guardian that mentioned him.

He’s leaving the DVSA. Smart choice. I think he is a very capable guy. And he can’t do a thing about my driving licence.

I am lucky. Lots of people have actually been forced to send original documents such as passports and marriage licences to the DVLA and being without them and their driving licence for too many months has led to issues such as being unable to get the visa for a planned trip, being unable to start the new job and problems with the Home Office.

 

Are EU citizens in the UK the only officially undocumented legal migrants in the world now?

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/26/eu-citizens-uk-brexit-settled-status-jobs-banking-healthcare

The entire thing, the application, the status and the many empty promises made and reneged on, it means zilch.

We’re still vermin.

Previously, at least one person was blocked from boarding a flight for the same reason as why the people in the above article in The Guardian ran into hurdles.

Now look into this first (PDF, opens in new window): https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/249250/Factsheet_11_-_Driving_Licences.pdf

Then read this post: https://angelinasouren.com/2020/09/26/dear-dvla-where-is-my-driving-licence/

I contacted Cygnet Healthcare this morning

This is what I wrote:

“Hello,

Yesterday, I ran into the following article about Yew Trees hospital in Essex and I learned that you used to operate another hospital that had similar challenges.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/24/essex-hospital-where-staff-abused-patients-was-warned-by-cqc

I wonder if I could help you address such issues, for example, by visiting your facilities and talking with staff about what happened to me after I moved from Amsterdam to England.

To my utter bafflement, I became bullied in England. I suspect that this may have had something to do with some people around me assuming that I was learning-disabled in some way and on disability benefits because they didn’t see me go to work every day and noticed that I was living on my own (which also seems to carry a stigma here).

I am – or was – a geologist and marine biogeochemist working from home. Remember the attack with flour etc on Janice Morris who was sitting on a bench? That photo went viral; I heard about it from the US, where I have also lived for a while. Well, something like that happened to me too, for example, except that I got stones, sand and water thrown at me and two stones hit my head.

Please forward and discuss my offer. Let me know what you think of it.”

I am also in the middle of editing a new video.

Both were sparked by this:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/24/essex-hospital-where-staff-abused-patients-was-warned-by-cqc

This is the video I made:

How is workplace bullying affecting your business?

(image from the NY Post)

Do you know?

I am aware of two cases in England in which employees were set on fire at work and Landrover / Jaguar has just experienced a landmark case of constructive dismissal to do with workplace bullying.

In the UK, the incidence of workplace bullying is around 30% (2015, Trades Union Congress), with 71% of disabled women reporting some form of abuse and 91% of workers stating that bullying in the workplace wasn’t being dealt with appropriately.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (HR professionals) found a percentage of 15 for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 yet added that more than half did not report bullying.

  • Most bullying at work in the UK appears to take place in London and the southeast.
  • Most bullying is carried out by someone higher in the hierarchy.

In a study by Kew Law (employment law), 71% of the employees at 131 companies in the UK stated that they had either been bullied or witnessed bullying.

Workplace bullying is very costly. Are you sticking your head in the sand over it, conveniently closing your eyes? Well then, with most staff still working from home, NOW may be the perfect time to wake up and address it. Workplace bullying. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.

 

Another case of “not workplace bullying”?

Landrover / Jaguar:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/17/gender-fluid-engineer-wins-landmark-uk-discrimination-case

Constructive dismissal. Thank you, Judge Hughes.

All people who suffer from workplace bullying, certainly if it concerns the extreme kind of workplace bullying that George Cheese and Harry Hayward suffered from, should document what is happening, then leave and sue their employers. 

Mr Hayward was set on fire at his place of work. Although it was an accident, it was an accident waiting to happen.

Mr Cheese was locked into a trunk (boot), punched, verbally abused and deliberately set on fire. The abuse of Mr Cheese continued after his death. His colleagues / manager(s) continued to scapegoat him when they said that what had been done to Mr Cheese was not bullying but horseplay and the coroner who ruled in George Cheese’s case was a coward.

I wrote about both cases in my latest book.

Horseplay is like sex. It requires consenting partners. 

Without consent, it is rape or bullying. Period.

Setting someone on fire is not horseplay. It’s sadism. Cruelty.

https://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/ (=employment law specialists and tips)

Information for employers:
https://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/employers.html

 

A suit that I used to have

This is an image that I associate with me, or rather with my pre-England me and perhaps even with my pre-US me.

I even used to have a suit like that too and I bought it before I moved to the US. Very fancy. I bought it at De Bijenkorf in Amsterdam. 100% cotton. By a German fashion brand that no longer exists.

This image is almost the exact opposite of how women are seen and supposed to behave in England… It is good to be reminded of that on a daily basis so I just selected it as my screen photo.

Me and the world’s most openly misogynistic nation do not get along and I doubt that we ever will. And I am probably living in its most misogynistic city.

In any case, it is a nasty, sadistic form of slavery that I am living in. (Characteristic for the local culture, according to Portsmouth City Council, in private. In public, they desperately sell the city as rose-coloured and vanilla-flavoured.) I genuinely wish that I could kill the people who are doing this to me, who are continuing to keep me in slavery.

So that I could be free again, smile again, LIVE again. Not to mention “make a living again, support myself financially again”.

So that I could do and be all the many things that women are not allowed to be and do in Portsmouth, England (according to Portsmouth City Council). 

 

DVLA update

Regarding this post: https://angelinasouren.com/2020/06/30/dvla-chaos/.
I sent a letter by special delivery, haven’t heard back.

I just rang them again and now at least their automated voice system says that because of social distancing, they are experiencing delays and that they cannot give any updates on when we will receive our documents.

It just so happens that I met Gareth Llewellyn and that he’s one of my LinkedIn connections, but he runs the DVSA, not the DVLA (and he is leaving).

By the way, the delay is about four months, according to a Royal Mail staff member I spoke with in July.

The break-ins continue

The anonymous break-ins that have plagued my life since I moved into my current flat at the beginning of 2011 continue.

There was one on 19 July, which included vandalism, business sabotage and theft.

There was another one today. (I suspect that it happened when I went to the post office. It appears to have been aimed at making me feel unsafe in my own bed as I found out about it late at night.)

I expect there to be another one on 13 September.

If you want to know more about how something like this comes about (otherisation), read my latest book, “Is cruelty cool?”:

 

Continue reading

What happened on 21 May

I got a message out of the blue from someone in Florida that day. It appeared to be a response to an e-mail from me, but I had not written to him and I had not tried to call him either. Last year, he let me know that he no longer has a landline. In a later e-mail, at the start of this year, however, he wrote something that indicated that he does still have a landline. Strange. I don’t think I have his mobile number. Nobody rang me, according to my mobile. (I have no land line, haven’t had one for several years.)

Yesterday, I finally decided to mention it (in an e-mail, granted, but I am currently unable to call him and Zoom/Skype calls often don’t work out with this person; he usually ends up wanting to connect when I am not at my desk). Apparently, his landline had indicated, back in May, that I had called him but left no message. Again, I didn’t call him.

Apparently, he then called me. Again, my phone did not receive any calls.

Also, at the end of last year, one of his e-mails said that he no longer had a landline, but a few months later, he referred to his landline. Has now confirmed that he still has a landline. Okay, let’s assume that his e-mail last year only said that he was contemplating ditching his landline and that I’ve simply remembered it wrong. Still does not explain the call he claims he received and the call he claims he made.

I am not entirely sure what the nature of the issue is in this case.

I also received direct messages on Twitter since the start of March from someone claiming to be a friend of this person. The account no longer exists and on LinkedIn, that person mentions a different Twitter handle as a way of contacting her. The account that contacted me on Twitter at the time had the look and feel of her LinkedIn account and I had been told by e-mail that she was going to contact me.

What I found odd at the time was that when I asked her about her work, she gave me an excuse for not answering and said she would get back to me. (The reason why she contacted me was supposedly for professional reasons! Well, if I don’t know what someone does…)

Excuses for not answering questions about one’s professional activities and excuses for not wanting to make an appointment for a video call are often good indicators for an account being fake.

Here is the second contact attempt made from that Twitter account.

Very weird, certainly in view of the fact that she had previously “disappeared”. This is not a person I’ve ever met or talked with. She did not reply when I responded to this. 

And then there is the issue of me not being able to reach certain sites in the Netherlands from time to time (such as pension-related) and possibly the issue of my missing driving licence, not to mention the rest.

However, I certainly can’t rule out that the real issue is the person in Florida, with regard to that side of the strange things that continue to happen in my life. He’s done a few really weird things over the years off and on, granted. And after all, his Facebook account is also in the name of his friend. Okay, let’s assume that, for clarity’s sake. Okay, this does have the right feel to it. It’s also the application of Occam’s razor with regard to this. So I am dealing with more than one issue, one local and one Florida-based. Okay. Knowing that really helps.

(He may have gotten stuck a bit, to do with very specific high-level professional training he received in the past. That alone might explain it. It happens sometimes, when you are in that kind of profession. If not, then it is who he is.)

Now I still need to solve the rest. (Unless he’s flown over in the past and is paying local people to complicate my life, lol, which is a little too far-fetched, I think that the rest really is genuinely locally driven stuff, “as usual” for the locals.)

 

Amazon and the new book: Not working out…?

Here is a raw file for the interior of the paperback: pdf. It’s for Amazon, which for some reason refuses to update the cover and is now actively selling the book with a textually flawed cover (the back cover, in terms of layout and one weird typo) that I uploaded last week to see if the design would work out. They okayed it. They’re selling it with an interior file that is not up-to-date either.

If Amazon keeps refusing to update the cover and the interior file, I will pull the book, of course. 

Strange. Only a few days ago, I had to shut down my PayPal business account because of security breaches there.

Also, Amazon’s KDP account on Twitter then started pestering my timeline with ads but refused to respond. 

 

Obesity. Why Boris Johnson has got it wrong.

A brief off-the-cuff analysis

Boris Johnson on obesity

What CNN said

“Boris Johnson’s latest strategy to fight coronavirus aims to make Britain healthier”.

“Johnson’s government launched its Better Health strategy in an effort to combat the country’s high obesity levels amid the pandemic.”

What Johnson said

On 11 August, he posted a video of himself on Twitter.

“I was too fat.” 

“I’ve always wanted to lose weight for ages and ages”

“And like […] many people, I struggle with my weight.”

“If you can get your weight down a bit […] and protect your health, you’ll also be protecting the NHS”.

“We want […] to understand the difficulties that people face (with their weight).”

Why Johnson said that

COVID-19 attacks people who are in less than optimal health more fiercely. This includes obesity, but obesity is more complicated than carrying excess baggage. It is also about existing health disparities in society, disparities that became exacerbated by the first wave. That means that it is about poverty and air pollution, about racial discrimination and marginalisation, too, so it is about the whopping level of inequality Johnson’s country suffers from. 

With the second wave of COVID-19 likely ahead of us and many people having gained weight during the lockdown, Johnson is keen on raising his finger and tell the subjects what they must do to protect the NHS, the NHS about which so many people are worried that he will sell it off to the highest corporate bidder with no concern for the people who work there and the people who receive care there.

Food availability forgotten

Abundance

People like Boris Johnson live in abundance. They can order any kind of food in and they will get it, avocados and all. The rest of us, well, we aren’t all so lucky.

The lockdown

The stockpiling caught many people by surprise. Has Johnson seen the disappointment and quiet desperation on the faces of the people who wanted a tin of tuna or two or some sardines and found that they were all gone? So was all the salmon in the coolers.

Has he any idea how many people were eating lots of rice and tortilla chips and pasta and cheap cookies during the first weeks of the lockdown because they had no choice? They can’t build up food supplies at home. They had to cope.

Food deserts and poverty

There are areas in which predominantly poor people live. They have fewer options for food-shopping and the food in such food deserts tends to be more expensive. Because people have no choice, the supermarkets know that they’ll buy it anyway.

Has Johnson any idea how many people consume lots of rice and pasta and bread and cheap cookies and instant potato mash all the time because they have to?

It is often said that poor people do not have pots and pans or poor people don’t know how to cook. Poor people can have all the pots and pans in the world and may be former chefs but it will not help them if they do not have access to good food.

They get tins from food banks, too. Tinned sugared peaches, tinned sugared rice puddings and custard, instant noodles, cheap rice, tinned tomatoes, baked white beans in tomato sauce, tinned sausages or spam (or tuna), tinned spaghetti, orange juice, some cookies or chocolates. No leeks, no cheese, no salmon, no broccoli, no mackerel and no apples or grapes. No nuts. No avocados or pizzas or lasagnes or sushi or quesadillas. No vitamin and mineral supplements to make up for any deficiencies.

Corporate greed forgotten

The need for proteins

We all need a certain amount of protein in our daily food. This is not a weakness of poor people, but it is human biology. How much protein you need depends on your age and on whether you are for example pregnant.

Rich versus poor

Rich people’s diets can be a little too rich in proteins. It is a different story for poor people. Good protein sources tend to be more expensive foods.

The protein leverage hypothesis

It says that humans will keep eating, eating and eating to reach that minimum percentage of protein that they must have in their food. This theory was developed by David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson at the Charles Perkins Centre of the University of Sydney, Australia.

Corporate greed

If the human leverage hypothesis holds up — and as it makes sense, it likely does – this human requirement for sufficient protein and the urge to keep eating to obtain it creates great opportunities for greedy food manufacturers.

But Johnson did not mention the food industry. He wags his finger at the people and tells them that they are hurting the NHS. His government’s proposals to curb the food industry only appear to concern advertising and may well remain mere proposals.

UK government failing its people

When does Johnson start pointing the finger at the people who cause poverty and malnutrition instead? Obesity is often essentially a form of malnutrition and as Philip Alston has said, poverty is a political choice. Philip Alston was the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty who found the UK government unresponsive and in denial in 2019 when he told it what it was doing to millions and millions of Brits. The UK government shut its ears for Alston’s words and diverted its eyes.

Pollution effects and other health disparities

Air pollution

COVID-19 also disproportionately affects people who live in areas with high levels of air pollution. That — living with pollution — also tends to go hand in hand with poverty. Has Boris Johnson ever said a word about that so far? Not to my knowledge.

Discrimination

Health disparities that seem to affect people of certain ethnicities and with tinted skins more are, to a large degree, the effect of their discrimination and marginalisation.

Discrimination causes stress. Prolonged negative stress can affect health, including lowering one’s immune response. The chronic stress of racism can lead to chronic inflammation.

Discrimination, marginalisation and poverty also affect access to health care. Did you know that physicians are less likely to refer black people for testing, for example?

You do not need to have hate or even dislike in a society before groups of people become disadvantaged and marginalised. All you need is to have separate groups of people and a power imbalance from the beginning.

The groups that hold most of the power will prosper more and more while the people in the other groups have the low-paying, front-facing jobs in which they are at the highest risk for diseases like COVID-19. They are the ones whose bosses tell them to come to work even when they are ill. They live in the areas with the highest pollution, the dusty and mouldy homes with sometimes a lot of noise disrupting their sleep, the food deserts with the expensive supermarkets. They are also the ones who face the longest waiting lists to get medical care.

And they are the ones whose landlords may change the locks on their doors because of the high-risk jobs they have and the fear that they may bring COVID-19 home with them.

Investing in women and learning to listen

Who prepares food and who shops?

Often, it is still the woman in the household. It’s also women who hold the lowest-paying jobs. Investing in women and in eradicating gender inequality — in addition to working to eradicate racial and other inequalities — therefore should also help diminish health disparities.

Cooperation needed

The fact alone that Britain expected to have to stockpile foods and medications in view of Brexit is a strong indication that the UK government needs to learn how to cooperate better with others as well as organise itself better. That requires listening to people, also to those with dissident opinions, instead of conveniently dismissing them as an excuse to carry on business as usual.

To sum it up

Boris Johnson appears to be unaware of the social determinants of health and the health disparities that existed before COVID-19 came along. Whether people are poor, disabled, elderly, migrants or non-whites affects the chance that they are in optimal health and obesity can be part of that. The extra weight of people like Boris Johnson is a different story.

Further reading

Bouie, Jamelle. 2020. Why Coronavirus Is Killing African-Americans More Than Others. Higher rates of infection and death among minorities demonstrate the racial character of inequality in America. New York Times.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-racism-african-americans.html

Kumar S, Quinn SC, Kim KH, Daniel LH, Freimuth VS. 2012. The impact of workplace policies and other social factors on self-reported influenza-like illness incidence during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Am J Public Health 2012;102(1):134-140. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3490553/

Quinn SC, Kumar S, Freimuth VS, Musa D, Casteneda-Angarita N, Kidwell K. 2011. Racial disparities in exposure, susceptibility, and access to health care in the US H1N1 influenza pandemic. Am J Public Health. 2011;101(2):285-293. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.188029. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21164098/

Villarosa, Linda. 2020. ‘A terrible price’: The deadly racial disparities of Covid-19 in America. New York Times Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/magazine/racial-disparities-covid-19.html

There is also ample literature on the health effects of pollution, the association between poverty and health as well as between poverty and pollution and on the lack of attention for the good health of older adults. That race is a social construct and that racial disparities generally have more to do with discrimination and marginalisation than with genetics both appear much less well known. In itself, it tells the story of all disadvantaged groups of people, including for example the elderly, the poor and the disabled in the UK. The health disparities of these groups should not be seen as separate, just like pay differences for men and women and gender roles also have to be addressed if we want to make the world a healthier place for everyone.

You can watch the video by Boris Johnson here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtwFoTzVdZs

Is the DVLA in chaos?

After I did some more googling after I posted the information below (beyond the more tag), I suddenly found this!

“To make it easier for drivers who need to update their photocard licence with a new photograph at the end of the 10 years validity, photocard driving licences that expire between 1 February 2020 and 31 August 2020 will be automatically extended for a period of 7 months from the date of expiry.”

How come DVLA on Twitter was not aware of this?

How come this information did not show up before or during the online renewal procedure?

And how come the post office was not aware of this either? My license got snipped with scissors and discarded and I was told that as of the next day, I would be breaking the law if I drove.

(For many people, their driving licence is their main ID.)

How come that apparently this information is not that easy to find on the web? (Failure to submit to the search engines at the time? But then, it is not that easy to find on the DVLA website either.

Was the information announced retroactively, such as on 4 June, perhaps? https://www.gov.uk/guidance/dvla-coronavirus-covid-19-update#history)

(By the way, it also explains why I didn’t get the renewal reminder. Sorry anonymous.)

Continue reading

Need a face mask for in public transport?

If you need a simple face cover for use in public transport or because you are looking after someone who is medically vulnerable to COVID-19, and aren’t able to make your own fabric mask, you could get one of these washable face masks with replaceable filter from Vistaprint.

They are not manufactured to any medical standard. The designs are a bit dull; this white one with the drawn hearts on it may be the nicest, but there is also for example a light blue one with smilies and a dark blue one with dinosaurs. They cost £17 and a pack of 10 filters cost £6 and delivery is free (checked on 8 May 2020). No, I don’t get a commission. https://www.vistaprint.co.uk/masks/

Calling my attackers from Woolston (2007)

Britain is often a true haven of intolerance, yet it sees itself as the opposite, just like it touts itself as a human rights champion to the rest of the world but does little – if anything – to uphold them within Britain. Many law professors agree on that.

Human rights are not some silly wishy-washy concept for the soft-hearted. They are laid down in laws. That means that if you violate someone else’s human rights, it can land you in court. You too have the right to make a living, have a family, engage in hobbies, celebrate Christmas, go to school, own things that you bought, go for a jog in the sunshine and so on. This is all part of your human rights.

What follows is also a human rights story, a story of the violation of my right to work and to sit on a bench in the sunshine. Continue reading

Excellent COVID-19 resource for decisionmakers at various levels

I started attending various webinars some time ago, like lots of people, and like lots of people, I also got a little webinar fatigue at times.

A great series continues to be organised by the National Academy of Medicine and the American Public Health Association in the US, looking into many topics such as the science of the virus, finding vaccines, health inequalities and so on.

Today’s session, on mitigating direct and indirect impacts in the coming months, was excellent for decisionmakers at all levels – also in the UK! – because it addressed a lot of practical aspects and many angles of the pandemic.

It mentioned the need to provide free wifi, talked about telehealth (telemedicine) and developments expected to take a decade suddenly being realised in a mere three weeks, about the complications food deserts pose, about the politicizing of the pandemic, about how to cope with emergencies such as hurricanes and related evacuations, how to remedy the impact the pandemic is having on non-Covid-related healthcare (such as people with heart attacks not seeking help out of fear of catching the virus), the healthcare clinics getting into financial difficulties as a result (as, I think, we saw earlier with those two doctors in California who owned a small chain of facilities and saw their turnover drop so dramatically that they resorted to unorthodox action), the challenge and need to communicate well and perhaps have ambassadors explain the purpose and reasoning behind social distancing, the massive impact social distancing has on the infection rate and the risk of people that people will no longer observe distancing when lockdowns are relaxed and developing a false sense of safety, and so on and so forth.

Here is a link for a model (simulator) that people can play with to explore the effects of lifting lockdowns: https://budgetmodel.wharton.upenn.edu/

The video recording of the webinar will be online soon, at covid19conversations.org:
https://covid19conversations.org/webinars/summer.

The slides have already been uploaded, but not all presenters used slides and the Q&A of course is not online yet either. I’ll post the unedited transcript below.

Continue reading

Message for Joanne Snowdon (cc to Gerald Vernon-Jackson) – Civic Offices Portsmouth

Dear Joanne,

On the basis of correspondence received from your offices about midway during the present lock-down, which has meanwhile been extended, I must conclude it appears that I may be experiencing a repeat of what happened two years ago at around the same time. (An announcement of full cancellation followed by an announcement of increase.)

Because of the lock-down, I can’t stop by and there is little or nothing else I can do with regards to this other than post this message here.

Can you check and keep an eye on this, please? Thanks. I appreciate it.

Stay well.