Tag Archives: disabled

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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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

Dear Reader’s Digest…

Thank you for a cheering picture after a week of depressing disability-related news stories, from the blind man who was ‘forgotten about’ and left stranded on an Underground platform in Victoria for 70 minutes…
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-16000124)
to the wheelchair user who had his wheelchair nicked for scrap metal…
http://www.itv.com/central-west/
to, worst and most depressing of all, the deaf, elderly, disabled man who was tazed for failing to respond to a police officer’s commands. He died. The police officer has been put on ‘administrative leave’. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2065629/Police-killed-deaf-cyclist-stun-gun-failed-obey-instructions-stop.html

I’m still in shock over that. The original report the police got was for a man who fell off his bike and appeared to be drunk. It wasn’t “Help us! He’s got a knife! He’s just mugged me! I want my wallet back!”. It wasn’t “Oh Jesus Christ, he’s got a bayonet strapped to his bicycle like a jousting pike! Do something!”. It was “Excuse me officer, this elderly man seems to have fallen off his bicycle. I wonder if he’s all right.” How do we go from that, to a situation where, OK he appears to be ignoring you, but he is no direct threat. He’s no threat to the public or to you. He’s riding a bicycle. How on this green earth do you justify zapping him? Even the mayor of the town said he wouldn’t blame the family if they sued. If?

As for the officer concerned, administrative leave? Let’s contrast the situation a little. An ordinary member of the public is told of a man that has fallen off his bicycle, but has got up and continued on his merry way. The member of the public tracks down the man and asks if he’s OK, and if he could stop his bicycle. The man appears to ignore them totally. Unable to handle this slight to their ego, the member of the public takes out a tazer and zaps the man. The man promptly dies. In these circumstances, how long would it be before they were arrested and charged with, at the least, suspicion of second-degree murder while an investigation was conducted? If the autopsy came back and said the man didn’t die as a direct result of being zapped, they might lower the charge to involuntary manslaughter or felony assault or GBH (Grevious Bodily Harm). This police officer has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted. I’ll be following what happens next with great interest.

Too often I bemoan the lack of deaf and sign language awareness in the general population, and as we’ve seen, it can have tragic results.

Sometimes however, this lack of knowledge can be hilarious for those who understand sign language. And for this, I thank you, Reader’s Digest, for cheering me up when I was starting to think the world had it in for the disabled. And to the person who brought it to my attention on facebook, thanks for the laugh. You may wonder I’m talking about, RD. After all, RD isn’t known for its comedy. I refer you to the cover of the Dec 2011 / Jan 2012 issue, where you have Michelle Obama, wife of one of the most powerful leaders on the planet, signing a word. It’s not a ‘family-friendly’ word. You’ve even managed to get her to sign it in a position approximate to where it actually is. What is this word, you ask? Look at it. Look at the picture. Where are her hands? What shape is she making with her fingers? Oh really, RD. Do I have to draw you a picture? Look at it! All right then, in its loosest, most polite translation, it means ‘fanny’ (British meaning). Or, in a less polite, more accurate translation, it means ‘cunt’ or ‘twat’. Yes, that’s right, RD. You have taken a picture of a smiling Michelle Obama signing the word ‘cunt’, and put it on the front cover of an international magazine and on a website for the world to see. I hope the Secret Service are gentle with you.

Mwahahahahaha hahahaaahaha haaaahahaaaaaahahahaaaaahahaha

http://magazinesdownload.com/post/2011/11/18/Readers-Digest-December-2011January-2012-United-States.aspx

Mwaahahahahahahahahahahahaaahahaaahahahaahaha *falls over laughing*

America is so far ahead.

Not in economic terms, but in terms of how deaf people are portrayed in mainstream TV, particularly those who use sign language. In America, signing deaf characters have featured in The West Wing, CSI, Law and Order:SVU and ER, to name but a few. Whilst here in the UK, Shameless has shown that a signing deaf person can be as conflicted, unpredictable, independent or even downright psychotically angry as any hearing counterpart with the character of Danny, very few other British shows have had such strong signing deaf characters. Danny’s leaving scene in Shameless was as stunning for the fact that a deaf person (Shock! Horror!) was shown being so incandescent with rage they actually beat their own father to death (but it seems the guy may have had it coming) as it was for the violence – nothing graphic, but a hell of a lot of beating. Good for you. That’s a deaf person doing it for themselves on national telly, that is.

Finally, being a geek has paid off. The Big Bang Theory has rewarded my years of loyalty with a signing deaf character – and not the kind that’s ever so brave, and deals with the world despite all that is thrown in their way etc, but the kind that got her claws into Raj and took him for everything she could get. Go girl! Most of the jokes were funny, though I did feel uneasy at all the talking to each other while the girl looked on, vaguely puzzled, while the boys got laughs, it just seems that the type of gal who would chew out Penny and Howard with a lot of *somethings* and stomp off in a huff would wanna know what was going on. That aside, she was independent, she was sassy, she was pretty, and in the end she was ruthless, breaking Raj’s heart when it became clear the supply of money had dried up. And she did it in a funny way. And she taught Raj to sign. Was there anything she couldn’t do?

And I loved the way that Penny’s claim that “Disabled people are nice. Everyone knows that.” was challenged for the generic fallacy it was; not that we aren’t nice, but aren’t we allowed to have bad days and be grumpy like everyone else? Assuming disabled people are nice all the time is like saying we’re not allowed to be as moody and unpredictable as ‘normal’ people. Just ask the train station guard I had a brief word with yesterday when I discovered that both the assigned disabled access gates (the ticket operated things that let you access the platforms) were letting people out, but not in. There was tutting, and there was a “what’s the big idea?” and a muttered, half-hearted “thanks” as I was finally allowed to hobble through. I doubt he’ll be voting me for the ‘genteel spice’ award anytime soon.

The Big Bang Theory – well written, hilarious, and good kudos for a strong signing deaf character and for challenging preconceptions. Clearly, the natural next step is to show a deaf or disabled scientist /  geek. We’re out there, you know.

What a week.

Where to start? The obvious, I suppose, is the gangs of disaffected youths running around smashing the place up. It would be pithy and probably very uninformed of me to observe that when super-rich people get away with apparently anything and then, in order to pay for these people’s cock-ups, the government slashes funding to vital services and charities and police, there may be some ill-feeling. Even so, burning things and smashing things up indiscriminately achieves little (apart from a free 42″ TV, a natty new pair of trainers, and ooh, maybe 40 iPhones and wall-to-wall media coverage) and does way more harm than good. If they’d just gone for ATOS centres and JobCentres instead of blameless people… For the benefit of the tape, I am not in any way recommending criminal behaviour with that remark.

For my part, I wonder how the elderly, disabled and deaf are doing – elderly and disabled people who rely on carers not being afraid to come out, who rely on others to bring shopping / do basic tasks, and deaf people who can’t hear the windows breaking or roar of fire engines coming up the street. All I know is, I’m glad I no longer live anywhere near a city centre, I’ve had good restful nights of sleep out here in the sticks, far removed from any trouble, and safe in the knowledge that my father owns an air pistol and I know where it is. However, many others, disabled or otherwise, aren’t so lucky.

I hope all this madness settles down soon, because for all that it gets a lot of attention and Cameron must surely have to rethink his Big Society / cutting police / cutting community projects / all his stupid ideas, the people who will suffer most in all of this will be those who are the most vulnerable. That’s the way it usually goes, hence “vulnerable”.

In other news, HSBC have responded formally to my complaint. £15. They’ve credited my account with £15. That’s how much all that stress and aggravation was worth to them. £15. And they don’t know it yet, but they actually gave me even more ammunition in the letter. £15. £15. Fifteen bloody pounds. Why not just smack me in the face with a gauntlet and throw it on the floor? Senior Service Quality Team at HSBC, you’ll be hearing from me again soon. £15! Someone’s going to regret that. £15. £15…

Deafabulous!

Oh, dear. Been a few days. My excuse: preparing for, getting through and recovering from Deafab, the UK’s biggest deaf gay pride event, held in Bristol for the last three years, and always great fun. It’s got so big in fact, that deaf gay people flew in from all corners of the globe, from Dublin to Corsica to Moscow, from America to Australia to take a look – how amazing is that? I met the Australian in the pub garden at the Sunday Roast that hails the winding down of the weekend, wrapped up warm against the 19 C sunshine and complaining about the cold. Apparently, in the part of Oz that he hails from, average daytime temp is 38 C and he was absolutely freezing. Bless.

Friday evening was the welcome and performance, and we had the nightclub to ourselves until 10 o’clock, not bad going. I was stationed at the door on shagtag duty – by that I mean I was in charge of sticking labels with numbers on people – whilst my good friend was checking passes. Not the most glam job perhaps, but it gave me ample opportunity to greet people I hadn’t seen in ages as they came in the door, even if only for a few seconds. I managed to stick about 50 labels on people, but don’t know if anyone actually hooked up – they were too busy catching up, having a good chat, and of course, drinking. And dancing. Lady Gaga, anyone?

Saturday was the school trip to the zoo, and the weather was mercifully good, a bit sunshiney and blowy as opposed to the storm-like conditions that had been threatened. Sadly, I didn’t go, although I could have borrowed a complimentary wheelchair from the zoo to go around, I wasn’t sure I could make it. I would have given it a go though, I haven’t been to a zoo in ages but my father, with spectacular timing, chose last week to flirt with genuine illness for the first time in years. I haven’t seen him look that wretched since he broke his collarbone and dislocated his shoulder – but that’s another story. Once I was satisfied my parents would survive a few hours without me (sometimes I do genuinely wonder) I went for the post-zoo BBQ, which became cocktails at the Retreat, which became catching up at the Palace in school-theme fancy dress (I think I cut a dashing figure in my prefect jacket and tie 🙂 ), which became boogie-ing at Flamingos. I had a great time, and from the look of it, so did everyone else, I caught up with lots of faces, and unfortunately, lost track of a few in the confusion but so it goes – hopefully there’s always next time! Walking back to the hotel with my chips and curry sauce in dawn light was somehow incredibly satisfying.

Got up a few hours later for the winding down at the Sunday Roast, a popular nosh-up and opportunity to say farewells and hung out til the afternoon. Great food, great company. We should do this every year. Oh wait – we do 🙂 And long may it continue!

The only downside – I’ve caught yet another cold. Not for the first time I wish I had a tougher immune system, but then again I was in close proximity to over 150 people from all over the place with lots of interesting new viruses – perhaps I should be grateful it’s only taken me two days to bounce back. Hmm. And anyway, Deafab may be a plague breeding ground, but it’s a fantastic event, one that I’m proud to be part of, and that I hope I can help more with next year!

Long live Deafab!