Category Archives: Disability

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I’m fully aware it’s been about two months since I last updated this blog; with one thing and another, I never seemed to get around to writing the next post, which I had intended to be about Handel’s Messiah, as performed by the National Choir and Orchestra of Wales and ‘Music and the Deaf’s Dr Paul Whitaker. It was bloody good. And soon, it shall get the post it deserves.

But sometimes, when something is in a bit of a doldrums, it takes a bit of a catalyst to get things moving / kick one up the arse.

A couple of weeks ago, I had my catalyst. And it still took a couple of weeks – what can I say, I’ve been busy. Recovering from Xmas, redecorating a kitchen and rehearsing for a show will do that to you – speaking of which, check out Sweet Nothings by InteGreat Theatre for the SHOUT festival in Brum on 1st March – should be fun!

This is a true account of the events of 26/1/13, a heavily edited version of which is on its way to Virgin Trains customer relations. Why should I pay to be treated like this? I digress. These things were written in the heat of the moment, in a notebook I habitually carry in case I’m suddenly struck by inspiration. Well on this occasion, I wasn’t so much struck by inspiration as the need to rant. And rant. For four hours, this notebook kept me sane.

(Notes in brackets / italics added post-script for clarification / extra comments)

————————————— Notebook —————————

Believe me; I’ve had trouble with trains. Delays, random platform changes, hostile members of the public, clueless conductors, broken screens, non-disabled people using lifts and disabled gates out of sheer laziness whilst I’m ignored, the stories I could tell you would have you weeping with frustration.

Right now, as I draft this in my notebook, I am weeping with frustration.

I have also vowed never, never to use trains again. They’re overpriced, un-disabled-friendly and frankly bloody unreliable. The hell with this.

(I’ve only broken this vow once, the next day when I had to go to Blackpool for the NDCS. Other than trips to London and possibly Cardiff, I don’t intend to break this vow again.)

It began with a busy weekend. After exhausting kitchen service for a charity fundraiser the Friday evening, I was scheduled to go up to Birmingham on the Saturday, for a workshop and a meeting with InteGreat Theatre, followed by travelling up to Preston for a leaving do and to see long-lost Uni friends, followed by giving a presentation for the NDCS on Sunday morning in Blackpool, followed by a long trip back down to Bristol. I had planned to pack a lot into that weekend, I just didn’t realise how much.

It was a long meeting, so instead of catching the 18.20, I caught the 19.20. Or rather, I didn’t. It was cancelled.

So I went to customer reception. They sympathised and said I could catch the train to Chester, changing at Wolverhampton for a train to Preston that would get me there just before 9 o’clock. Remember: this journey was supposed to take one-and-a-half hours. Only thing was, the Chester train was leaving in a matter of minutes, so a mad dash through a typically confusing Brum New Street concourse found me on the right platform just as it was boarding.

Panting, and with jelly legs (I don’t have to move quickly much, and my idea of ‘quick’ is not the same as others’. When I’m in full pelt with my walking stick, I can achieve a very fast hobble) I managed to get a seat, but I didn’t have much time to rest, as before I knew it, we were in Wolverhampton.

I got off the train, and looked for screens. I found some and read: ‘19.37 PRESTON DELAYED’. By this point it was 19.43 and it didn’t say how long the train was delayed for. So I thought I’d better move it and hobbled off down the platform towards the lifts / stairs as fast as I could. The train was on platform 3 and I was on platform 1.

Two women who’d got off the same train as me had the same idea and hared off down the platform and soon disappeared up the stairs; at my fastest hobble I had no hope of catching them – and they were wearing heels for pity’s sake. Luckily though, the lift was right next to the stairs; rarely are train stations so thoughtful.

The lift wasn’t there. It was at the overbridge. I pressed the button. Nothing. I pressed it frantically. Someone getting on at the top, I guessed, but COME ON.

When the lift finally came down, the only occupant was a young man wearing a fashionable t-shirt and ripped jeans, chatting on a mobile, and aside from a sideways glance at me as he sauntered out of the lift without a care in the world, he barely acknowledged I was there. He didn’t look the slightest bit disabled. He looked like a complete and total time-wasting lazy prick.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to remonstrate with him (or punch him in the face) so I leapt into the lift and pressed the button. The doors didn’t close, and a disembodied voice said something. I pressed the button a lot harder, and in their own sweet time, the lift doors started to close.

I hobbled over the bridge as fast as I could and again banged the button for the lift. It was bit quicker this time, there being no lazy able-bodied time-wasting bastards on the other end, but not quick enough. By the time I got to platform 3, the Preston train was long gone.

A lot of emotions, then. Frustration, mainly.

I went back to platform 1 and the ticket / info desk, where I told my sorry story to the sympathetic man behind the counter. He was patient, printed out an alternative train, two alternative trains and wrote on the printout that I could get more help at customer reception. I was guided there by a security man, and met by an apparently friendly lady behind the desk.

Once again, I told my story, that I has just got off the train from Brum and simply hadn’t been able to move fast enough to catch the next train. During the course of the conversation, I discovered that they had actually been holding the Preston train in case there were passengers like me who needed to catch it due to the cancelled trains. They were holding it for people like me. Or rather, people not like me. No doubt those two women who galloped off ran up, got on, the train manager decided that was it, and fucked off.

When I tearfully lamented that I hadn’t known they were holding it, that the conductor on the Chester train had seen my ticket / disabled railcard / walking stick and had apparently not passed on this information, the lady’s reply was:

“You should have asked for assistance at Birmingham.”

Her exact words.

Quite apart from the foray into victim-blaming, the average train station worker is far too busy to do things like help disabled people without at least 24 hours’ notice, which is what most train companies require if people need help – 24 hours’ notice or more that they’re going to need help, whether they know it or not. I had five minutes’ notice, which I then had to use in order to catch the Chester train. If it had been mentioned to me then that they were holding the train in Wolverhampton, I might have asked them to hold it a little longer. Or they could have used some initiative and called ahead to say a deaf, mobility-challenged passenger was on their way. None of this happened. So how was I to know? How was I to know that I would only have a tiny sliver of time in which to catch the next train, that some lazy wanker would hold up the lift, that the train manager would assume that everyone can run that fast?

I found her comment unhelpful on so many levels.

She then went on to say how, if they’d called from Brum to let her know, she could have met me and helped me across. Well, I’m sure she would have – maybe – but again, how was I to know? They didn’t tell me – or I didn’t hear – at Brum that the train was being held, or I bloody well would have asked them to hold it a little longer for my poor little legs.

But they didn’t, so I didn’t, and here was this woman who seemed to be trying to turn it all back on me that it was all my own fault and I should have asked for help. Bitch.

I didn’t know!

I replied that I didn’t know I’d need it and I didn’t usually need assistance, I can get myself on and off trains, I’m just not very quick.

She looked sympathetic but didn’t say much, though she managed to find me a couple of slightly quicker trains, and promised me assistance at Manchester.

At this point, the full, terrible truth dawned on me. I wasn’t being offered two separate alternative trains. These were the alternative trains. I was going to have to go to Manchester Piccadilly and catch another train, and I was going to arrive in Preston at least an hour and a half later than I’d intended.

It doesn’t help that my phone has chosen today to die. I can receive text messages but not send them. I suspect GiffGaff. I had assumed my deal would roll over automatically, after all, that’s what I clicked. Apparently not, and O2 have cut me off. That’s what I think happened, but I don’t know until I go online to check (it was exactly what happened, thanks GiffGaff!). In the meantime, how do I let my friends know, who are expecting to see me at 9, that I won’t be in Preston til at least half 10? This is like being back in the dark ages, or pre-21st century… If I start getting worried messages, I’ll have to approach another passenger and ask to borrow their phone, but hopefully my tearful appearance will inspire sympathy.

Yes, tearful. After I’d thanked the lady for the new printout (my, wasn’t I brought up well) and made my way to platform 2, using the curséd lifts which were now of course moving in a timely manner, and found somewhere to sit, I burst into tears.

Congratulations, National rail, Virgin trains and life in general, after many stressful, delayed, cancelled and generally incompetently run train journeys, you finally broke me. Well done.

I’m now writing this as I head to Manchester. It remains to be seen whether I’ll catch the first connection there. If I miss it, I’ll be arriving in Preston gone 11.

And to make everything better, four rowdy men got on at Macclesfield and as I write, they’re singing loudly and stamping their feet, causing my hearing-aids (which cut out automatically over a certain decibel volume) to switch off intermittently and the vibrations from the stamping causing my seat to shake to the rhythm, because that’s just what I needed right now.

At what point do you stop crying and start laughing?

For the time being, I’ve switched off my hearing-aids and I’ve dried my tears, and I’m down to the occasional resentful sniffle.

In fact, now I’ve calmed down a little, I realise there’s no point in plotting dark revenge.

I don’t yet know why the 19.20 was cancelled, but I’m sure there was a reason. It didn’t occur to the people in customer reception at Brum to call ahead and let Wolverhampton know a deaf half-cripple was about to attempt to change trains, and it didn’t occur to them to let me know the train was being held. The same failed to occur to the train conductor on the Chester train, despite having my disabled railcard and Preston ticket literally waved under his nose. The women who ran off probably had no idea that I wanted the same train, if they noticed me at all. The lazy dickhead was just a lazy dickhead. The train manager of the Preston train has no idea I exist (though maybe they will when my letter arrives at customer relations), and it clearly never occurred to them that slow people might want their train too. The lady in customer reception at Wolves (probably) didn’t mean to be a bitch. The men laughing and singing loudly and banging tables in the middle of the carriage have probably barely noticed the small woman huddled in the far corner, curled up with her hood up and scribbling away in a notebook.

In essence, I am lucid enough to know that most likely, no one person has deliberately set out to fuck me over this evening.

It’s a series of unfortunate events, exacerbated by my deafness and my inability to sprint like Usain Bolt, and my feet hate me for trying.

————————Manchester Piccadilly ————————-

Well, the train that I was on, which was meant to arrive at Manchester at 21.39, arrived at 21.43. What a surprise. And the assistance that the customer reception lady in Wolves promised me at Manchester entirely failed to materialise. Again, oh, quelle surprise. Plus, the train she’d marked for me to catch at 21.46 (hah) was at platform 14. For those unfamiliar with Manchester Piccadilly, platforms 13 and 14 are half a mile from the station proper, and serviced by two moving walkways which – of course – were switched off (double hah). I didn’t even try to cover that distance in 3 mins. As we’ve by now established, I don’t run very fucking fast.

Getting to the ‘lounge’ for platforms 13 and 14, I found my next train was Barrow in Furness, 22.16. As I had twenty mins, I approached a friendly-looking group of coppers and train station security and begged the use of a mobile to text my friend, and my dear Mum who had texted to ask if I was in Preston yet (triple hah!). The nice station security man let me use his, even though I wasn’t crying any more. It was also a blast from the past to use a phone that had 3 letters to a key… but old skills came back, like riding a bike, and I managed a couple of brief texts. Cheers, man. Much appreciated.

I headed down to platform 14 to await the Barrow train. I had time to reflect that if I had just taken my car and braved the Brum traffic system, I would be in Preston, somewhere warm and halfway to drunk by now. But I wasn’t, because I had thought that trains would be simpler and easier.

QUADRAPLE HAH.

And as I was standing there, in the bitter wind and rain and cold, 22.16 came and went. Then when a train arrived at 22.20, the destination said Chester. Chester? I looked up at the screens and where mere moments ago it had said Barrow, they now said Chester. Judging by the looks of confusion and puzzlement around me, the hearing crowd was just as bemused. We must have looked like a bunch of people who have just watched a magician make a car disappear – except they’d made a whole train disappear.

Now that was impressive. There were a few minutes of aimless milling around, as the bereft herd waited for new information. Eventually it came, naturally in the form of an incomprehensible tannoy announcement. I chose a target carefully (no beard, check; looks friendly, check; etc.) and found out the Barrow train was now coming in on platform 13. All well and good, I shuffled over there.

But new information seemed to be filtering through the herd; it seemed the train was in fact coming in on platform 13a. We were on platform 13b. The other end of said platform. Marvellous. I followed the herd, slowly, falling behind as usual. We got there, and sure enough, the screen said Barrow. But after a few minutes of waiting, we all saw a train pull into 13a, lights on in the distance. A few brave souls went to check but it said ‘not in service’. I positioned myself between a and b anyway, as by now I was in a high state of paranoia.

It paid off. The trains’ destination screen changed and became Barrow. I went from being the crip at the back of the herd to being the crip at the front of it. Is this the point at which I start laughing?

Mwahahahahahahaaa.

I just made it, even though I swear I could feel them all catching up to me, and got overtaken once or twice. I am now seated on a warm train, unlike those who suddenly found themselves demoted to the back, and the next stop is Preston. I don’t think I will ever have been so happy to see it in my life.

It’s now 23.11. I left Brum at 19.25. Three hours and 45 mins and we’ve not arrived yet. Over two hours late.

From now on, all long inter-UK journeys shall be undertaken by car. Except to London. I’ve only driven in London once, and never again.

But all other journeys; car. Why should I pay for this?

————————— Post-Script ——————————

Arriving in Preston was joyous. I even walked to the nightclub where my friends were with a spring in my step. But when I got there, the bouncer stopped me. “Mumble mumble mumble” he said, pointing at my legs. “Huh?” I said. “Mumble mumble too casual” he said. I couldn’t believe it. After all that, I was being thwarted at the last hurdle because something I was wearing was too casual?

My main priority at that point was to let my friends know that I was alive and well and not dead in a ditch somewhere near Manchester, so I explained my phone was dead and PLEASE could I borrow one and text my friends? They looked uncertain but one said he’d take me in to find them then we had to come back out. Fine, whatever, fine.

Once in, friends were quickly located, as was the woman of honour (congratulations on the job, Claire Pink! Best of luck for the move!) and our warm greetings may have moved the bouncer a little, but also maybe when I explained to them I was going to be sent back out, I openly pointed accusingly at him, leading him to get some funny looks. He spoke into a radio and suddenly, a man in a suit turned up.

He proceeded to try to explain what the problem was.

“Mumble mumble mumble” *thumping dance music* “mumble mumble mumble”

“What?”

“Mumble mumble mumble” *thumping dance music*

“Is it the bag? The bag is cos I’ve just come from Bristol!”

“No no mumble mumble mumble” *thumping dance music*

“Er, can you text it? Text?” *wave hands vaguely to indicate tapping on a phone*

Thankfully, he obeyed and while he typed, I tried again to guess what the problem was with the bouncer, who was still hanging around.

“Is it the shoes? The shoes?”

“Mumble mumble mumble” he said, while pointing down. I thought he meant the shoes.

At that point, something in me snapped.

“What do you mean?! I’ve had two operations on my feet! These ARE my only shoes!!!”

And bless me, the bouncer, who was a good foot and a half taller and twice my size, actually backed away a little.

“No no no mumble mumble mumble” he said defensively, again pointing down.

“Well, what then?!”

By this time, the manager had finished typing, and rescued the bouncer by showing me the message.

My trousers. Apparently, cargo trousers, even nice ones with a microscopic check design (not denim) are too casual for this nightclub on Saturdays. Well, excuse me.

I took a calming breath and thought.

I typed back that I had some navy blue jeans that looked nice in my bag, would they be OK?

The manager almost seemed relieved. Yes, he typed, that would be just fine.

Was there somewhere I could change?

‘Yes, come with me’, he typed, and even added ‘sorry for the inconvenience’

There you go. Patience in a moment of anger (shouting at the bouncer notwithstanding, normally I’m very nice to bouncers, honest) and problem solved. I was allowed to change and go catch up with everyone, and they weren’t forced to publicly throw a disabled woman out on the street.

It was really great to see everyone! Lots of chatting, and even made some new friends. It really was fantastic to trade news with old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years.

In the end, it turned out to be a pretty good night, but no thanks to Virgin bloody trains.

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I’s in a book!

“Whose Flame Is It Anyway?” Anthology
A celebration in words and pictures

 

 

Not my book, sadly, but an anthology by Disability Arts Cymru, with poetry, prose, art and pictures of various productions. I’ve been lucky enough to have two English poems accepted for the book, and I’m told there’s a very fetching pic of me in my ‘Queen of the Birds’ Eryr Euraid regalia 🙂

Here’s the official blurb: ‘Through “Whose Flame is it Anyway?” Disability Arts Cymru has uncovered a wealth of talent amongst young disabled people in Wales. For four years, our young poets, painters, performers and musicians have never ceased to amaze & inspire. This anthology is a celebration of their skill and passion.’

Good eh? I’ve been invited to the book launch, where I’ll be performing sign language poems, but sadly, the event is RSVP only. Sorry, folks! The poems – which I still need to compose… – will reflect the English poems I have in the book – ‘When the Dead Are Cured’ and ‘Lament of a Bilingual Poet’. If you wanna read them, you’ll have to buy the book! Speaking of which, you can order here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Whose-Flame-Anyway-Macsen-McKay/dp/1907476091

Just to whet your appetite, here are the first three lines of ‘When the Dead are Cured’, affectionately known as the ‘Zombies Haiku’.

Zombies surround me:
Bodies, faces, say nothing.
Only their mouths move.

Ooh, I wonder who / what I could possibly be talking about?

P.S. The blog is probably going to be slow for a while, am knee-deep (or I should be) in my MA dissertation. The working title is “Demonising genes: this way the future?” and my argument is that blaming everything on genes; pathologising and normalising them based on factors we don’t yet fully understand (take the debate on epigenetics for example) and concerted efforts to eradicate increasing numbers of genes and random mutations are misguided. Especially as technology that can help people with disabilities integrate into society has also moved on: we need to have faith in human ability to adapt. In the future, accidents will still happen, genes will slip through the net, some people will still have ‘disabilities’ compared to the rest of ‘normal’ society, society will still need to adapt to those who fall outside of their ‘normal range’. Basically I’m arguing that people with (non-life-threatening) disabilities deserve a chance at life too! To clarify, I’m arguing for a spectrum of ‘fatal — non-fatal’ and ‘difference — disease / disability’ as opposed to ‘disabled — normal’ or ‘abnormal — normal’. Deafness, for example, would be an example of a non-fatal disability that doesn’t deserve to legislated against *ahem, HFEA Clause 14, ahem* whereas life-threatening diseases such as Tay-Sachs, where a sufferer will live a very short life (rarely living past the age of four) should absolutely be tested for and guarded against. It’s a dissertation that takes in arguments about value of life, aspects of medical law, genetic ethics or genethics, social commentary and disability rights. And it’s due in at the end of August. Forgive me for not updating regularly for a while 🙂

The Birds!

Well, well, well. It’s been a bit of a hiatus on the blog, but I do have some good excuses. For example, from 23rd April to 10th May I was in rehearsals for a play called The Birds. There, that’s a good excuse isn’t it? I mentioned it on here once or twice, but on 11th and 12th May we did it. We really did it. We put on an absolutely bonkers show with feathers, sequins and dance routines and got the audience on their feet every time!

I loved my costume. I can honestly say that, before this, the last time I wore a dress was 12 years ago. It was my mothers’… actually let’s not worry about which birthday it was, only know that it was a special birthday request from my mother. That’s what it usually takes to get me into a dress.

So imagine my trepidation when it was revealed I was not only going to be wearing a dress, it was going to be a flowing, ruffled tasteful ivory creation. Hmm. But, designed by Steve Denton and made by Bryony Tofton, it was fantastic! Because what went over it was a brilliant waistcoat made of sequins and feathers. And a crown.

Because I’m Eryr Euraid, baby, Queen of the Birds! For those who don’t speak Welsh, Eryr Euraid means ‘Golden Eagle’ and you’d better damn well do as I say, or it’s the mountain goat treatment for you. Look at those poor lickle goats.

And yes, I did watch this to help me get in character, as I was supposed to be the permanently angry / annoyed / regal Eryr Euraid and I was having trouble channelling this. Apparently I’m ‘too nice’ and ‘looked like you’re enjoying yourself too much’. For the record, that was meant to be an evil smile. These aren’t bad things to have said about one, I suppose, but not when you’re threatening to rip two of the other characters into tiny, little pieces.

This was my first real play, and I loved it. I loved being part of it and the camaraderie of the cast. It was also bloody hard work. I’m not just talking about the long days / weeks doing things over and over again in slightly different ways, or the fact that I can recall “peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers peter piper picked?”, “there’s a chip shop in space that sells space ship shaped chips” and “I’m not a pheasant plucker…”

The rest of the cast were hearing. Imagine it, three long weeks spending every waking moment with hearing people. I had interpreters for the rehearsals but I was staying in a hotel with the other non-local cast. No terps for the communal evening meals in various restaurants. The only thing that saved my sanity was the fact that all of them can fingerspell and sign a little bit, and the ones who for various reasons can’t, were willing to repeat things almost to infinity. Thank goodness for that.

But even so, after three weeks solid of near-constant lip-reading, I was starting to crack up. I was starting to remember why I’d rejected the hearing world when I realised there was an alternative. It’s because the hearing world is noisy. Noisy, noisy, noisy. And they rely so much on the noise. Chatter, chatter, chatter. Every damn day.

Towards the end, as I was starting to lose my grip on reality, I couldn’t help reflecting that I really was in the company of birds. Imagine it. You’re sat at a table in a forest, alone. All around you, in the branches, every bird in the forest is singing or chattering at the top of their voice, and waitresses are banging and scraping things. It’s a cacophony of endless, meaningless noise, drowning your hearing-aids. And occasionally, one of those birds will fly up to you, tell what they’re all chattering about, a couple more might fly up and for a while you’re included in the conversation. But in order to understand these birds, you have to focus on their beaks with 100% concentration. If you lose concentration, which is entirely possible after a long day, or the conversation wanders away from you, the birds fly away again. And you end up reading the news on your phone. Which I did a lot, because frankly I didn’t have the energy to lip-read constantly after a week of rehearsals, never mind three. I even started writing a poem on this theme – the being surrounded by birds, I mean, not the news on my phone.

Let me make clear that I love the cast. They’re a bunch of amazing, cool, talented people, and they can and do fingerspell and make the effort to sign and / or patiently repeat things. Some even learned new signs from me, and tried their very best to remember them. The only thing I could have wished for is perhaps more awareness of how little I actually understand of what’s being said around me, which if there’s no terp and I’m tired, is very little indeed. The rule of thumb is – if you’re not looking directly at me within a distance of about 6 feet, I haven’t understood what you’ve said. So all that chattering to each other, amongst each other; my lip-reading skills are decent, but they’re not THAT good.

Sanity issues aside, I did have a great time. It was a brilliant ride, and I’d love to do it again. It did no harm to my ego that in my first scene of the play, every Bird character had to bow and scrape to me. Who am I kidding? I loved that! Everyone should have a chance to be Queen for a day – and I did it for three weeks! Bow to me, peasants!

Overall, we adapted to each other very well, and we also came up with visual cues for me throughout the play. Case in point, my first scene, I had to come on while another Bird was singing beautifully. The two human characters were supposed to clap, thus attracting the attention of the chorus, at which point we’d chase them around before beating them up. Problem – we anticipated that the audience might clap too, and they did, every time. Kudos to you, Nightingale! Solution: Nightingale (who also answers to Andria) would smile and nod politely through the audience applause, then when the humans clapped, she would bow towards them. At which point I would notice them, and give the signal to attack. That’s because I’m the Queen, baby, did I mention? Don’t cross the Euraid!

And the director, Cheryl Martin, had the really cool idea to have the Birds as my chorus. This meant that as I signed my lines, the Birds had to say them, in harmony, hence my ‘chorus’. We even made a tape of the chorus doing their creepiest, meanest voices for the lines so that when it was played during the play, it would seem as if the voices of the chorus were coming from everywhere. I thought it was a great way to integrate my signs into the play, and illustrate Eryr’s authority, and I loved the idea of being followed around by a group of loyal servants whose only jobs were to bow to my every whim and voice everything I signed in creepy, birdy voices. I wonder if I could get my interpreters to do that…

Furthermore, every performance was BSL terped by Erika James, and had captions on screens all around the stage. I’m not sure what else we could have done to make this play accessible. And yet, how many deaf people came? Very few indeed. I won’t lie, I was disappointed. It’s at this point I’d like to thank Rosie and Ellie for coming all the way from London and Birmingham respectively to see the play – thank you! And thanks for the drinks, which really I should have been buying for you after you’d made that effort, and I’m glad you enjoyed the play! As for the one who said “oh, but if I’d known you were going to be wearing a dress…” what does that have to do with anything? I’M IN A PLAY YOU PEASANT! I digress.

We had amazing people working on the play, too, for example Ange Thompson who, as stage manager, was called upon to track down such things as a big fluffy penguin toy, a scroll, and some hearing-aid batteries (mea culpa). She was also in charge of my cues – and this was another brilliant thing – there were little boxes with two lights at eye level at each of the stage entrances, the green light meant get ready and red meant go. This was how I knew when it was time for me to regally enter the stage, and Ange, as well as looking after the captions, operating the chorus voices and various cues, was also in charge of cuing me. And she did it very well, bringing a new meaning to multi-tasking!

There are so many people who were involved in this, I’m afraid to start naming them all in case I leave any out! But I think you all did a great job, and this was a great opportunity and experience, and I’m really glad I was able to be a part of it. I love you guys.

Long Live The Birds!

Sunday sermon – redefining or equalising marriage?

So the ConDems are doing one thing I agree with. One thing.

They’re seriously considering legalising same-sex marriage. I support this. Why shouldn’t two people who love each other, are of legal age and genetically unrelated get married? Why not? Beyond those bars (legality / age / maintaining genetic diversity) does it really matter? Why does anyone care? Surely there are bigger things to worry about? Like how this country is going to hell in a handbasket; a handbasket being carried by the ConDems, but I digress.

Various church and public figures have denounced the idea of legalising same-sex marriage. Most recently at the time of writing, Catholic Cardinal Keith O’Brien has described the government’s plans as ‘madness’. Normally, I would agree, but again I digress.

The quotes I find most interesting in the article are:

“Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.”

Didn’t they say the same thing about divorce? Last I heard, nearly 50% or so of marriages end in divorce…

“Other dangers exist. If marriage can be redefined so that it no longer means a man and a woman but two men or two women, why stop there? Why not allow three men or a woman and two men to constitute a marriage, if they pledge their fidelity to one another?”

And didn’t the Church of England via Henry VIII introduce the concept of divorce in the first place? Talk about redefining marriage! And as for redefining marriage as a heterosexual, monogamous union, see below.

“The cardinal has added his voice to those of leading figures in the Coalition for Marriage, a group of bishops, politicians and lawyers opposed to the changes. The group’s supporters include Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury. He urges people to respond to the government’s consultation on the proposals by signing a petition in support of traditional marriage.”

Traditional marriage? When they talk about traditional marriage, which tradition do they mean?

The distinctly non-feminist tradition?

Ephesians 5:23-24
New International Version (NIV)
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Exodus 21:22
New International Version (NIV)
22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband* demands and the court allows.

(*My emphasis)

Or the tradition where children – usually daughters – would be given away to be someone’s wife?

Genesis 29:20-23
New International Version (NIV)
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” 22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her.

Judges 1:12-13
New International Version (NIV)
12 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.

Or the tradition where a childless widow could be ‘given’ to a man’s brother/s?

Matthew 22:24-35
New International Version (NIV)
24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

That’s right. After the poor woman has been passed on like chattel around seven brothers and finally dies, Jesus doesn’t condemn this. He just says there will be no marriage at the resurrection, which now I think about it, kind of challenges the ‘forever’ aspect of marriage as well.

Or the tradition where men could have more than one wife, or even a harem?

How many wives did King David have again?

1 Chronicles 3
New International Version (NIV)
1 These were the sons of David born to him in Hebron:
The firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel:
the second, Daniel the son of Abigail of Carmel;
2 the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;
the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;
3 the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;
and the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah.
4 These six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months.
David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, 5 and these were the children born to him there:
Shammua,[a] Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four were by Bathsheba[b] daughter of Ammiel. 6 There were also Ibhar, Elishua,[c] Eliphelet, 7 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 8 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet—nine in all. 9 All these were the sons of David, besides his sons by his concubines. And Tamar was their sister.

By my count, that’s seven wives, plus concubines. Busy man.

Or the tradition where a rape victim is compelled to marry her attacker?

Deuteronomy 22:28-29
New International Version (NIV)
28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[b] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Wow. Just… wow.

Or the tradition where enemy soldiers can marry female prisoners of war?

Deuteronomy 21:10-14
New International Version (NIV)
10 When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

That’s great. Capture her, marry her, and if you don’t like her, put her out on the street. That’s romantic stuff. Mills & Boon, eat your heart out.

But really, taking pot-shots at the definition of ‘traditional marriage’ isn’t my main point here. Indeed, it can be said that you can find quotes in the Bible to condemn or support most things. There are certainly passages in the Bible that are less misogynistic.

No, my main point is equality. D/deaf and disabled people are a minority. LGBT people are a minority. Now imagine being disabled / D/deaf and LGBT at the same time. That’s an even smaller minority, even more isolation, and even more opportunities for discrimination. Until disabled / D/deaf people are treated as fully equal and LGBT people are treated as fully equal, those of us who are in the middle of that particular Venn diagram are never going to feel as if society fully accepts us for who we are.

These church leaders and public figures are right about one thing – marriage is a union between two people who love each other, want to spend their lives together, and want to express that in a universally recognised way. But saying that it’s exclusive to one man and one woman and supporting that argument by saying that it’s always been that way is clearly a fallacy.

One day I may well get married. I might meet a deaf BSL user, or a hearing person who’s either willing to learn basic BSL or doesn’t mind that I disappear into the deaf community once in a while. Someone who isn’t scared off by my deafness / walking stick / operation scars / obsession with science fiction. Of course, it goes without saying that they must like cats. If they can cook as well, well then that’s fantastic. And if I can find that special someone who loves me for me and wants to marry me, aids, stick, cats, scars, warts and all, why does it matter whether that person is a man or a woman?

Why?

Petition for Equal Marriage
Bible quotations from BibleGateway.com

I’m a fashionista! (And didn’t know it!)

The last week or so I’ve been a bit preoccupied, but enjoying the popularity of my last post, I had been a bit worried that revealing my inner, sarcastic voice might be too much, but it seems that far from it, I should let it out more often. Perhaps on a day-release basis.

Today, I’m thinking about Rod Liddle. Heard of him? As I type, he’s trending on twitter, and thus probably enjoying his own brand of popularity. He wrote a piece in The Sun that ostensibly attacks those who fraudulently claim benefits. I agree in principle – with the idea that those who fraudulently claim benefits should be put in the stocks. Where Rod and I differ, is his definition of a “not too serious disability”, the idea that there “is a lot of money to be made from being disabled” (excuse me while I cough up my coffee with helpless laughter), that being disabled is somehow fashionable (oh, so that’s why disability hate crime has gone up by 75%. It’s because people are jealous, and nothing to do with inflammatory articles like this), and that 80% of people on ‘incapacity’ are considered fit to work (erm, DLA fraud rate 0.5%, versus barely-qualified tick-boxing bureaucrats using a discredited assessment system? I know who I believe).

As a claimant of DLA, I invited Mr Liddle to spend a day in my shoes, or if he doesn’t like them, my mother’s shoes. My mother is one of those who “gets to park wherever she wants” thanks to a blue badge, and yes she does have motability car (which, by the way, is not free). Here follows a transcript of events during our day together. Enjoy.

*BUZZZZ BUZZZZZ BUZZZZ BUZZZZZ BUZZZZ lights flash*
“Arrrggh! It’s an earthquake!”
Actually, no, it’s my alarm clock. The buzzing is a vibrator – no, not that kind – under my pillow and the light is my clock. Just press the button to turn it off.
“Erm, thanks. What do I do now?”
Why don’t you try getting out of bed? That’s where I usually start.
“Ow!”
And do be careful not to walk on your big toes.
“Excuse me?”
Well, a kink in my feet causes you to walk on the insides of your feet, distributing your body weight through your bunions and your big toes. But you see, if you keep doing that, it gets painful, as you noticed. Just make sure you focus on walking on the outside of your feet at all times OK? It’ll also help with the minor kinks in your legs if you walk that way. Just don’t forget yourself.
“All the time? What kinks?”
Well, currently the suspicion is on Hypermobility Syndrome, if so, it would explain a lot, like why my knees can dislocate, why I have raging Iliotibial Band Syndrome, and why I can do this *touches arms with thumbs on same hands while twisting arms around*
“Argh!”
Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, that’s usually just a party trick.

*Later that day*
“Ow, my knee! My feet! My leg!”
Well, you decided you wanted to go shopping. If you’d told me you were planning on doing a lot of walking, I would have given you the knee brace and the walking stick. You’ve got to plan, my friend.

*Pop*
“Argh! What was that?”
You weren’t paying attention when you went down the stairs were you? If you misjudge the depth of a step, there’s a chance your knee will half-collapse, just to spite you. You’ve been warned.

“Hey! Why is that person looking at me like I’m a piece of dirt? What did I do?”
Erm, let me see…. ah yes, seems they asked you politely to excuse them, but you didn’t hear them, and so of course because the world revolves around them, they’ve assumed you’re ignoring them and pushed past you with a dirty look.
“What? But my earmoulds are blue for gods’ sake! Don’t they LOOK?”
Welcome to my life.

What’s going on?”
What?
“I’m supposed to catch this train, but everyone’s walking off. What do I do?”
Quick, follow them! And see if you can pick out someone who might be easy to lip-read and ask them what the tannoy said.
“What tannoy? How do I know they’re easy to lip-read?”
Did you hear that sort of quiet white noise that sounded vaguely like Sauron gargling with a lawnmower? That’s the tannoy. You can’t, but things to avoid are beards and moustaches. After that it’s pot luck. Good luck!

*Screech*
“What the hell was that?”
Probably feedback from the hearing-aids. Or tinnitus. Or you’re going mad. Don’t worry too much about it.

“What’s this person saying? They keep moving their head around.”
Tell them you need to lip-read and ask them to keep their head still.
“I did, but they’re still doing it.”
Ask them again, and be a bit more firm.
“I don’t want to make a fuss.”
Sometimes you have to. Now ask them again.
“I did, now they’re treating me like it’s my fault.”
Sigh. You’ve got one of the arseholes. OK, there’s two ways you can go about this. Either give up the conversation as a bad job and wander off, which will be interpreted as rude, or try and educate them, possibly ending in a row, which will be interpreted as rude. Which do you want to do?
Is there anything I can do that won’t be interpreted as rude?”
Not if you don’t understand what they’re saying, no. You’re kind of trapped, really. Rather than put myself through the stress, I prefer to leave it. Unless they have information you need, in which case you’re definitely trapped. Try getting them to write it down.
“I did, but now they’re treating me like I’m completely stupid.”
Hmm. Wait until they’ve finished giving you the info you need, then repeat after me… ready? ‘I am an MA student, and it’s not my fault you don’t know how to communicate with deaf people. May I suggest a deaf and disability awareness course? And incidentally, fuck you.’ Now, run! Hobble, damn it. OK, you had to make a quick exit, but don’t you feel better?

“Oh, what a day. Why do my legs ache so much?”
Because you don’t walk right, even with the knee brace and the stick. Your muscles are always being pulled ever so slightly wrongly, not so much that they’ll do anything dramatic, occasional knee pop notwithstanding, but enough that they don’t like it and complain at the end of the day. I’ve found only two effective remedies; steaming hot baths and painkillers. Mind you, I’m probably not that disabled by your standards. I can still walk, after all.
“Whatever. It’s good enough for DLA, right? Where do I get it? What’s this?”
This is the paperwork. A half-inch thick form, and don’t forget to include submissions from all your consultants and doctors for every condition you cite, of course you’ll have to track them all down first, and they might charge you. but it’s worth it for the DLA right?
“I guess so…”
Well, here is how much DLA I get, and here a recent BSL interpreter invoice. Does anything strike you about them?
“Um…?”
This one is per week, and this one is per hour. You’ll notice it’s roughly the same amount. One month’s DLA is about six hours of BSL interpreting, or 16 taxis, since public transport here is crap and I’m hardly going to walk to the train station. Let me know if you can figure out a profit margin. You’ll notice I’m actually losing money, hence why DLA was brought out in the first place. It’s because being disabled is actually bloody expensive. Are you getting it yet?
“Well, bugger me.”
There is someone here who gets more DLA than me though, perhaps you’d like to give her shoes a try before you go to bed?
“All right, then.”
Allow me to present my mother. I’m sure she’d love to let you borrow her shoes for a bit, oh, she’s already gone. Seems she’s enjoying her new-found freedom and decided to visit Westonbirt Arboretum, just for the hell of it.
“Huh?”
I know, wild, huh? Anyway, here you go…

*A bit later*
“Wheezes… gasps… wheezes”
Oh, did I not mention? She has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Come on, it’s another step to get upstairs. You can make it.
“Wheezes”

“Oh, I’m so tired. Those stairs are so far.”
Well, this is what you have to do to get higher rate mobility. You want a car don’t you?
“I suppose so. Can I go to bed now?”
Certainly, just put this mask on first.
“What the hell is this?”
It’s an oxygen / breathing mask. She also has Sleep Apnoea, so if you don’t wear this, you’ll stop breathing. Come on, it’s easy to set the straps. I’ll show you how to switch on the machine…

Oh, what’s that? You’ve had enough of pretending to be disabled? You’d rather be able-bodied? But I thought it was so fashionable! Come on, you said a month, you haven’t even made it one day!

[DISCLAIMER: The above events did not happen. Maybe I’m being unfair to Mr Liddle, maybe he’d last longer than one day. But not as unfair as he’s been in his bloody article.]

Links:
Liddle’s article – http://politicalscrapbook.net/2012/01/rod-liddle-disabled-the-sun/

Diary of a Benefit Srounger’s great response – http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/2012/01/sacrifice-more-hang-cheats-out-to-dry.html

Shit hearing people say…

Inspired by what seems to be the meme of the moment, “shit (people) say to (other people)”, which seems to have begun with “shit girls say”, followed by “shit white girls say… to black girls”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylPUzxpIBe0, which in turn inspired this deaf guy to come up with his own version: http://www.ehwhathuh.com/2012/01/crap-hearing-people-say-to-deaf-hoh.html, I’ve come up with my own list of “shit that hearing people say”.

The following is shit that has genuinely been said to me. I’ve included my own mental comments in response to these statements / questions, my actual response at the time was often far more patient and polite. But sometimes, it would be nice to ignore the conventions of polite society… (A disclaimer: not all hearing people are this stupid. In fact, some of them are lovely.)

“Oh, are deaf people allowed to drive?” (multiple)
Yes. When you ban music, radio, mobiles, people from talking and any and all auditory distractions in cars, you can take my driving licence. In fact, not even then. It’s mine, I passed my test first time, I have a clean record and ten years’ worth of no-claims bonuses, so naff off.

“I find how hearing impaired people can communicate really fascinating.”
This makes me twitch on several levels, but the main one is: often I’m doing my best to communicate with you because you’re doing F-all to communicate with me. If you’re going to patronise me, I’m not going to bother.

“Aha! How did you know what I was saying?”
Because I know the topic of the conversation, and you’re predictable. Just because I correctly guessed what you said when I wasn’t looking at you doesn’t mean I’ve been faking my deafness for the last 25 years. But saying this as if you’ve just caught me with my hand in the cookie jar just makes me want to hurt you.

“You have a selective hearing loss!”
Do I? I must inform my audiologist of this, as according to their scientific tests, my hearing loss is pretty even, though there is a dip in the low-pitched range. I had no idea I had voluntary control over my level of hearing, I must submit myself to a medical study immediately.

“I bet you’re not really deaf.”
You’ll lose that bet. How about putting £10,000 on it?

“You don’t look deaf.”
What do you want me to do about it? What do deaf people look like anyway?

“You speak so well, I didn’t think you needed an interpreter.” (!!!!)
Wait, what? Did you even ask me? Just because I’m a skilled lipreader and mimic, you’ve decided to punish me for what hearing people have always wanted me to do; speak well. Fact: production is not the same as reception. Communication is a two way street. Now get me an interpreter or there’s going to be a mushroom cloud.

“Hey, do you know this sign…” *Y* *don’t* *you* *F* *off* while slapping hands together randomly in an order that all deaf people recognise because they’ve been asked this a lot of times, usually by people with a mental age of 5*
Honestly, officer, my hand just slipped. And my foot. Do you think they’ll be able to re-set thier nose? Wait, why are you arresting me?

“You don’t sound deaf.”
Not all deaf people are the same, and some go deaf after they started learning to speak. Some do well with hearing-aids, some don’t. Some become good mimics, imitating lip shapes and making sounds until corrected by hearing people around them. It’s no coincidence that I still haven’t mastered several ‘soft’ sounds that aren’t on the lips, and that I say some words in a ‘strange’ way as I said them in a particular way for so long before I was corrected that it’s become habit. OK? Have I justified myself enough?

“It doesn’t matter.”
Oh, my lord. You DID NOT just say that to me. You did not just repeat something a mere three times before giving up and saying it doesn’t matter. If it didn’t matter why say it to me in the first place? Now that’s going to bug me. And thanks, for the boost to my self-esteem that you can’t be bothered and you’d rather give up trying with me altogether. Do you have ANY IDEA how many times and how many people have said that to me, to deaf people, the world over? Effectively, what you’re saying is “it doesn’t matter if YOU haven’t understood.”

“I’ll tell you later”… “oh, I forgot.”
*Frustrated growl*

“Why don’t you just get a cochlear implant?”
I see no reason why I should discuss my medical details with you, suffice to say that whatever some idiot newspapers might say, cochlear implants are not suitable for all deaf people, in the same way that glasses are not suitable for all partially-sighted people. Sometimes glasses won’t work. Sometimes cochlear implants won’t work. Capisce?

“Are you listening?”
No, I’m lip-reading. Dick.

“Can you read their lips and tell me what they’re saying?” *pointing to someone fifty feet away*
Surprisingly enough, no. Nor can I see through clothes, or be repelled by Kryptonite. I have enough trouble with people ten feet away.

“You’re deaf? Oh, sorry” *as if I’ve just said that my entire family has died, including the cats*
*Sniffling* It’s OK… It’s just such a tragedy. Whatever did I DO to deserve this misfortune? *cries and wails*
No, not really.

Is that a bluetooth device? Where can I get one like that?”
Easy. Stand next to a cannon. Send the audiologist my regards.

“Oh, hello.” *turn to computer and mumble unintelligibly. Look up* “well?” (Receptionists in audiology departments should be trained out of doing this with electroshock therapy)
Well, what?

“If you’re deaf, how did you learn to speak like that?”
*Deep sigh* Lip-reading, imitation, random noises, correction. Can we move on?

“Are those earphones? Can you turn your music down, please?”
No, they’re not, and I think you’ll find the music’s coming from the pub over there. Why don’t you go over to the big guy with all the tattoos and ask him to turn it down? Here, I’ll video it on my phone and put it on YouTube.

“What about when you have children? Aren’t you worried they might be deaf?”
That’s the last thing I’m worried about. I’m more worried about any deaf children I might have running into ignorance like I’ve put up with. I want what most people want; a better world for our children, whoever they grow up to be.

“Why are you ignoring me?”
This isn’t even worthy of a response. I’ll email you my audiogram in an attachment. Or it might be a virus. Say hello to the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH!

*To my interpreter* “How do you do that?”
Erm, excuse me, I’m over here, and I think you’ll find the interpreter is on my time. Thank you.

I should emphasise that the comments in italics are just responses in my head, often that I’ve come up with later, after the incident, and that I’m usually as polite and patient as I can be, as I take the view that answering questions honestly is one of the best ways to dispel ignorance. It’s just that sometimes the questions are just so… well… stupid.

And again, most hearing people I’ve met are lovely. Really.

Telling Our Stories

Tomorrow, I’m due to perform my BSL poetry at Bristol’s M Shed as part of Resistance: Telling Our Stories, an event that has been organised as a (slightly belated) nod to Disability History Month, with the backdrop of Resistance: Which Way The Future?, a media installation directed by Liz Crow of Roaring Girl Productions which is on at the M shed from 5th January to 5th February 2012. More info can be found here:
http://www.journomania.net/culture/38-art-and-culture/517-disability-arts-at-bristols-m-shed-for-uk-disability-history-month-.html
http://www.roaring-girl.com/productions/resistance-on-tour/

I was looking forward to this anyway, but with the twitterstorm that blew up over the #spartacusreport (which I gleefully added my little raindrops to) last monday, the triple defeat of the government in the House of Lords over the Welfare Reform Bill, which Lord Fraud, excuse me, Freud, then attempted to roll back as soon as the Labour peers had left* and the governments’ response which basically seemed to be that they were going to keep pressing ahead with the WRB, despite all protests, it seems to me that the themes of Resistance are just as relevant as ever.

*Mason Dixon gives a colourful and Hollywood-worthy version of events: http://masondixonautistic.blogspot.com/2012/01/us-and-them.html

Resistance looks at the Nazi eugenics program, Aktion T4, during which hundreds of thousands of disabled people… well, disappeared. They just went away in grey vans and didn’t come back. And apparently, not very many people questioned it at the time. It probably didn’t help that Nazi Germany was trying pull itself out of a recession, and the propagandists had done their best to tell everyone how much these ‘useless eaters’ were costing the state, via posters like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EnthanasiePropaganda.jpg
The translation is: “60,000RM. This is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime.”

When some Minister or newspaper bangs on about benefit scroungers / how much the welfare state is costing / benefit fraud, while the coalition sits idly by while the HMRC aids and abets what have to be crimes against the treasury, I think of that poster.

And it’s working. Disability hate crime on the up, people living in terror of Work Capability Assessments, people with mental health issues having to be talked down by kind voices after receiving a particularly nasty letter from the DWP. Well fucking done.

A little fact-checking.
1) DWP own figures put fraud at less than 0.5%.
2) Of the “5.2 billion lost to error and fraud”, only 1.2 billion of that was fraud.
3) The coalition has said they want to cut payment of DLA by 20%.
4) They also say they want to ‘protect the most vulnerable’.
5) Unclaimed benefit in 08/09 was 17.7billion (12.7billion means tested, 5 billion tax credits).

Compare and contrast 3) and 4) with 1), 2) and 5). Conclusion: there are far less benefit scroungers out there than the coalition would have you believe. Am I wrong? Feel free to google it and check. In fact, I want you to google it and check. Challenge me. Challenge the coalition. Just please don’t ignore the Welfare Reform Bill.

And if, after reading the Spartacus Report, you think we should all take a deep breath and be allowed to look at the WRB proposals properly, go over to ‘Pat’s Petition’ and sign the petition to stop and review the cuts to benefits and services.

Spartacus Report/ Responsible Reform:
https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx/Responsible%20Reform%20for%20screen%20readers.doc?cid=cba86408918caa9e
Pat’s Petition:
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

For my part, I hope lots of people will come and check out the Telling Our Stories event, there’s lots of happy stuff as well as serious stuff, and it promises to be at the very least an interesting day out! Plus, there’s my poetry 🙂 For those who can’t make it, the media installation will be on until 5th February.

Which Way The Future?, indeed.