My name is John Cook, I am 25 years old, and was born in Custom House, London.
I attended Rosetta Primary School, Woodside Community School, and The Royal Docks Community School, all in Newham. I completed secondary education with 7 GCSEs at grades A-C and 3 D grades. I did my two weeks work experience in the House of Commons Personnel Department.
When I was 16 I ran away from home and moved in with my Dad, Step-Mum, brother and sisters, in North Watford where I lived for a year before moving to a house share in Vicarage Road.
I was bullied constantly for several years at school and do not think anyone should have to go through that. I have distanced myself from my Mum's side of the family because of the way she treated the bullying, dismissed my mental health problems, disallowed me to pay my respects to my great-grandfather, the way she refused to accept to have played a part in any of those and other issues, among other things. I have since resolved issues with the guy from school amicably and congenially, and I also no longer have any issues with my Brother.
Despite attempting courses at West Herts College for 3 years (Cassio and Leggatts campuses) I did not obtain further qualifications due to not completing the courses I was enrolled on nor did I complete an Open University course I enrolled on in 2009. The reasons for this were due to personal problems with the style of teaching in colleges and the OU course covering things I already knew.
I took classical guitar lessons for 5 years at secondary school and commuted after moving to Watford to continue with my guitar lessons for several months. I never took any grade exams for music because the structure of the exams is mainly irrelevant to the reason I play music (expression, relaxation, and enjoyment).
I did, however, take my Grade 1 Classical Guitar exam in 2008 with the sole purpose of building my confidence although the amount of stress caused by being tested on something I knew was extremely easy for me resulted in my not taking any further grade exams. Other than my Grade 1 Guitar (pass with distinction) I have not performed music for others since passing my GCSE Music (Grade A) because playing music is mainly for personal pleasure. I was involved in several concerts at school including being in a band playing guitar and bass guitar, and playing steel-strung guitar in a school production of Oliver.
During my four years working at Sainsbury's Dome Roundabout (North Watford) I worked on several departments and my last role at the store was mainly working on Customer Services.
I left Sainsbury's to move to Burnley (Lancashire) for a year where I worked in Argos and Tesco, spending some of my time there on Job Seekers Allowance and Housing Benefit. I moved back to Watford and spent some time on JSA before working for HSBC CSC in Hemel Hempstead and subsequently moving to Hemel for a year.
I feel like the benefits system has failed me because there is not the option for people like me to work when we are capable and move to benefits when we are not without lengthy waits for a claim to be processed. I left HSBC because of mental health problems and since 2006 have had so much trouble with Hemel and Watford & Bushey Community Health Teams that I have got to the point where I feel no UK Government will actually help people like me get proper diagnoses, nor fix the benefits system so that those of us that are sometimes able to work aren't written off as never being able to work (or being forced back into work by being placed on the wrong benefit because of failures in the health system).
Problems with the health and benefits services caused me to start work with ClientLogic doing BT Broadband technical support before I was dismissed due to mental health problems (depression). Because I was living at the YMCA at the time, going from JSA to full time work for a few weeks back to JSA resulted in me being about £1,000 worse off than had I not returned to work, and I had to manage on virtually no income for almost a year because of how quickly Watford Borough Council decided to recoup an "overpayment".
I have remained on Incapacity Benefit for several years and see no prospect of the benefit system, health system, or mental health services getting me to the point of returning to work any time soon. I have undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome (been waiting over 2 years for just a referral), undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder, undiagnosed Non-24, undiagnosed hyperacousis (Watford General ENT ignored the reason for my referral and only tested my hearing and balance), undiagnosed hypersensitivity to smell and light (impossible to get diagnoses for), and undiagnosed hypothyroidism (lost faith in the health system's ability to refer and diagnose patients).
One of the reasons I first considered standing for the General Election is because of how I have been failed by multiple governments, agencies, authorities, and services. Because of the arduous experience of claiming Disability Living Allowance (and it taking over 6 months for my claim to be processed) I didn't appeal the decision that disregarded everything I wrote on the claim form because some doctor decided a disability he couldn't see didn't affect me - why appeal if I'm going to be ignored yet again?
It is pointless telling people to see if they are getting all the benefits they are entitled to when the current system is completely broken and attempts to reduce fraudulent claims are so badly planned and implemented that they result in people that should have the right to a benefit being told they not only don't qualify but that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them and there is no reason why they shouldn't be in full time employment.
I'd say I'm an average person (although others have said I'm too modest about my own intelligence) and that I invariably see all sides of an argument including my own point of view. That is possibly due to growing up in a multicultural area, being gay and relating prejudices towards other gay people to the prejudices towards other groups of people, and that my opinions on subjects change as I go through the process of re-evaluating my views through critical thinking and compromise. I occasionally evaluate my strong values and beliefs, but without sufficient evidence to convince me to change such views they remain strongly ingrained. I accept others opinions, but if someone is unwilling to even listen to someone else's view on something I find it hard to understand why I even try see something from their point of view.
I'd also say I'm an average person because of how varied my family are. My Nan and Step-Grandmother are both retired teachers, my other Nan did a variety of jobs including being a nurse, hop-picking, and working in a cafe. Most of my step-family were educated in private schools whereas most of the rest of my family were educated in state schools. My Dad was a supermarket manager and now runs his own business, my Step-Mum a child minder (among other jobs), my Step-Sister works in clothing retail, my Granddad and Uncle are former welders, and the rest of my family have held an even wider range of jobs from working in bank branches to working for multinational oil companies.
Because of the number of jobs I've had, places I've lived, and the variety of people I've lived with, I have come into contact with people of all backgrounds and listened to their opinions on a wide range of topics. My use of computers has also brought me into contact with an even more diverse group of people using a wide range of messaging systems ranging from Internet Relay Chat, instant messaging services, web sites, Usenet, bulletin boards, forums, and most recently social networking sites (despite my previous misgivings about privacy).
I consider myself to be both British (nationality) and English (country of residence, sense of humour, regularly complain about the weather), as well as European (because I'm on the continent Europe), Western (because of the western way of life), and my race is human (subspecies classification of homo sapiens sapiens) although if I have to pick a box it'll either be White-English, White-British, or Caucasian since I can't be bothered writing my "race" as White-East-Londoner rather than ticking a box in response to a question that doesn't even have to be answered.