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Monday, 23 July 2012

Straight from the heart...Sometimes, it just gets you!

I was innocently not wearing my glasses…didn’t see the gates of Holy Cross were shut and there were a load of 12/13/14 year old type kids hanging around. I had my earphones in and they’re at that arsey age where it’s all “lol there’s a girl in a wheelchair” (Yep, this is coming from lil’ miss “i don’t have a chip on my shoulder”, but honestly the early teenage years were a nightmare it’s just because everyone’s embarrassed about themselves and each other so a wheelchair makes it even more embarrassing!) Anyway…so I looked like a tit anyway, looking at a gate and then turning around the way I’d come and I saw them staring and sniggering. I swallowed my “whatever it is” and carried on then all of a sudden this little twat on a bike came whizzing behind me screeching trying to made me jump. Because I had my earphones in, at first I didn’t think he’d meant to do it purposely to make me jump, but he turned around laughing thinking he had done. He came riding back straight at me, I was out of breath to have a go, I was pissed off and if I’d have said anything it wouldn’t have got anywhere. So I just gave him a dirty look that he was surprised at. Why? He was about 12 and I could knock him off his bike, punch his lights out and make him cry with the things I could say to him. I don’t get it sometimes. I went to Albany, and I can remember at first, well my first memory of entering the school hall was just like that scene of Harry Potter, but everyone was whispering “It’s that girl, the girl in a wheelchair.” Thing was, when I started High school, no one knew me. No one knew me there before my accident and no one had known me after. I was a completely new, different person both to them and myself and I spent about 2 years struggling and trying to figure how I could ever even attempt to be me. Well, I got there eventually and people accepted me for my mad, loud, annoying personality and wheelchair that they all forgot about once I could accept it. That’s what confuses me in these instances, I still get insecure around people, especially young teenagers who clearly are innocent and just don’t know how to react to someone who’s not attempting to be within the borders of one extreme to the other that teenagers live in. They’d only not react in this way, if people like me were classed as “normal” but no one’s normal…you just have to be you. And that’s one thing that is so hard about being a young teenager, you struggle to “be you” because you don’t necessarily know who “you” are and you’re not sure how everyone else will react…
So that’s why they reacted to me?
I’m not sure I accept the whole able v. disabled thing.
My friends know that.
I think society has passed that stage, and people (which probably is a majority of people) who still see disabled people like me as misfortunate/funny/weird/pathetic only think that due to lack of openness, honesty and education.
So how can I stop this “sniggering?” Well I can’t do it single handedly, and I’m not going to start a march down the bypass…the only way “we” or “you” or whoever, able bodied or wonky with wheels can actually make people aware and think is by going out into the world and being you. Now, i know it’s bloody hard at times. There’s so many obstacles for everyone and there’s things that need improving. As a person with a spinal cord injury, in order to be independent I need the tools, I need the chair, the ramps, the accessible “low down” things…But I can only get it by going out into the world and asking for it and being me, not by hiding away, sitting in doors and shouting about it. I know how sometimes, that’s all you want to do, but it doesn’t work for anyone. I can vividly remember being about 10 (before I was injured) on my bike, leaning on the handlbars and staring into space, feeling alone and lost watching my Mum and Dad doing the garden and my Mum said to me “Don’t sit around, no one will help you and you won’t help yourself sitting in a corner”. Now, I’m not trying to sound like a Tory, and to prove it I’m gonna write hear and shout in a metaphorical way about how people need the financial support and what is happening to DLA is disgusting and without it, people like me won’t be able to live the independent lives we lead because it’s a tool. Sadly, money is a tool that we all need to buy bricks and build a life with. But we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, without just getting out there and being ourselves, whoever we are, wherever we’re from.
One day, that annoying little arse on a bike will see me again, might even be tomorrow, but no, one day he’ll see me and might just see me as another human being exercising…If I decided not to push that route again, because of it his prejudice and insecurity has won.
So…I know where I’ll be tomorrow night!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Time and the shit that sticks to it.

Time and the shit that sticks to it.
When I was little, first day of primary school the teacher; Mrs Angus made us all stand in a line and said “Right, if you want to be a teacher when you grow up, stand over to this side. If you want to be an artist when you grow up, stand over there.”
I didn’t know.
So I stood in the middle.
Grow up?
Is that what I’d come here to do?
I didn’t know. I didn’t get it.
I still don’t.
 I’m still stood in the middle.
It’s like, from the very day we’re born, we get told we’re doing this weird “growing up,” “growing old,” “dying” thing, making ourselves obsessed with our own and everyone else’s age, maturity or lack of it. We spend our childhoods wanting to be older, our teenage years trying to be, our adult years...well, that can vary. And we constantly pick ourselves apart from other humans because they’re “too old” or “look about 12!” or don’t fit into the 4 year threshold that makes befriending someone acceptable.
Why should a stupid number that gets pinned to our chest and changes every year, define who we are?
It’s not permanent! It’s not a tattoo; it doesn’t need removing with a laser!
Ok, it’s something we can’t change and we can’t run away from, but it’s not who we are.
It’s not that thought, it’s not that idea, it’s not that dream or burning desire within your heart and mind that you will carry with you for your own eternity, or the one you decide not too.
But that’s the thing.
It’s not you.
It’s just a tiny part of the universe attaching itself to you, giving you the means to cling on to this wonky bit of time you find yourself falling into.
It just proves how little you and everyone else who’s alive right now really is. These little moments we hold onto and represent mean nothing, and yet because of this they mean all the more.
It not how much time you appear to beg, steal or borrow. That doesn’t matter. It’s how you choose to spend, indulge into and share something that you just can’t control.
So don’t care how old you, or anyone else is. It doesn’t mean anything.
What matters are the messed up, mixed up desires that turn into ideas that turn into words and actions that make you, your life and anyone who appears in it, true.
It’s nothing to do with “growing up”, what even is “that” anyway?
Na, It’s just an indication of what you’ve got and the time you have.
But it’s not the shit that sticks to it.
That’s up to you.
So what are you going to do with it?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Snowdon - We did it!

Becky getting cozy with the crisps!
The weather in Chorley was dire on Friday. I was receiving numerous texts and tweets off people half wishing me luck, half hoping the weather would improve. It didn't.
We packed everything in the car and it was way too full...there wasn't enough room for any erm..."extra refreshments" and Becky was being smothered by two multipacks of crisps and a wheel!

My many wheels then travelled to Snowdon in three parts. My "everyday" chair was in my car, the front wheel of my Mountain chair went in Sandra's car from St Helens and the two main wheels and body went in Matthew's car. For some reason the grey, pessimistic clouds decided to combine with my car rage as we found ourselves stuck in traffic between Widness, Runcorn and over the Welsh border...

It's a good job the inside of my car wasn't being recorded...

After an entire set of Jessie J's "Domino" had been played to try and perk our spirits up and cool my road rage, we finally got moving and had a very "British" moment in Wales, cheering and listening to Andy Murray get through to the Men's final at Wimbledon. Grinning, driving past a "Milk bar" and "Snowdonia Antiques" I said, we'll never forget this guys!
From then on, I knew things would get better.

We weren't the last to get there, allowed my team to finally meet each other, set up a soggy camp and cooked fajitas!

You know you're somewhere with Back Up when you get woken up at 6am by Bazza shouting "MORNING!! GET UP!" to the entire camp site.

I failed to find the accessible showers, so straight away I was feeling very conscious of my fringe...the fact that I was being filmed by Matt O'Donoghue for ITV's Granada reports made me slightly anxious! But now the footage is out and half my extended family, friends and their pets tried contacting me via facebook, twitter and my phone while I was hiding with Becky in Frankie and Benny's, I've realised that we really did do pretty well going up...

ITV Granada Reports report of our Snowdon Assent!

Notice i used the word "assent."
Matt was really tired and took the train down which I think for filming purposes he must now regret it as coming down was fantastic!

For some strange reason my team
decided to test the strength of our
ropes by skipping, while i was
stranded with no front wheels at my
I was most anxious about the dissent as I've always been able to and good at climbing up things...but not so confident or good at getting down again. Also, coming down would mean having to balance and keep myself from falling out over the handle bars...a fear I've always had, like most kids, since I learnt to ride a bike...but with no working stomach muscles, it would be even more challenging!

It was.
I fell out twice near the top but i wasn't scared...more excited and determined to get better at this technique that bizarrely felt like mountain biking.
And I got better.
And I got more confident.
A lot more confident!
The team work just flowed and I know from every day rolling that the key to landing down a kirb, or in this case boulder, is to get down equally. I also got very daring and used to the idea of "driving into the problem" with my rather large front wheel going for all the rocks while my two big wheels either side rolled passed them.
We picked up a lot of speed and I estimate we came down in around 2 hours!
I loved it.
I honestly feel that our greatest achievement was not just reaching the top, but the entire climb both  up and down; adapting, encouraging and laughing all the way with all our little individual goals we reached, some we may not have even realised yet, is what we truly achieved.
This sort of thing is fun to me, so I don't like to write any soppy crap.
That's why I'm proud of my team mates, most especially those who really broke out of their comfort zone and did this because, well you can't say no to me!
 A celebratory drink at the pub and onto the hog roast and beers. Had a laugh with friends old and new and went to bed happy and content knowing that we did it, after  alot of hard work raising money and planning, we did Snowdon!
 My amazing team! (friends first though!)

Finally though...who exactly is this onlooker trying to get on TV?
(ignore my face!)

Monday, 2 July 2012

Debating Matters competition: Just a tiny bit of what I learnt this weekend

I always end with a bang.
But I don’t necessarily set off the right firework.
I’m on the train coming back from London, slowly rolling/train-tracking through Northampton. There’s two kids eying up Jenny’s ipad, Andy is engrossed by The Sims and I, for the first time since (without too much exaggeration) this time last year, have technically “nothing to do”.
So I’ve decided to write, free from the distraction of the social media, as there’s no free wi-fi.
I’ve spent my weekend in London at the Wellcome Trust, taking part in The institute of Ideas’ “Debating Matters” competition.
I’ve certainly discovered a lot about myself.
(Other than the fact that anger, free bars and Laura May should not mix!)
Nothing scares me, and I mean that. But certain things that should scare me, anger me and I’ve experienced that this weekend.
No one has intended to make me feel this way but what I saw, experienced and realised, did.
Left leaning in my political values and activism, yet real, I have often shrugged my shoulders to comments and opinions, though acknowledging that they’re true, about how there is a section of elite people totally in their own bubble of knowledge that are privileged and born into wealth. These people are perceived to be “naturally better” than me.
I know that everyone I know will say “ye, but we know and you know they aren’t.”
But they think they are.
And without openly stating it, those “that matter” in wider society think it too.
To be honest, I should delete that final paragraph...It’s not that they even “think” they are, it’s as though it’s naturally built into them to talk, act, dress and laugh a certain way that immediately alienates a lot of people.
And it’s naturally built into “us” to call them snobs and only associate ourselves with them “to get places” and in turn alienate ourselves from them. This weekend, I’ve really had to challenge them literally, in debate.
And I failed to do so.
My passion was there and so was my knowledge. But they way in which I conveyed it and the level as to which I thought the debate was going to take place, wasn’t. The people I was against, along with judges think and act on a totally different level to me. They always have done.
Nothing I’m saying here is ground breaking, I knew this all along, but I only ever really felt it for the first time, properly yesterday.

I acknowledge I’m the most intellectual person in the world, but I don’t necessarily think that’s because I don’t have the ability to be. I think it’s because I’ve grown up in a house where my family have talked, worked and concentrated on real life and didn’t discuss deep, high level intellectual philosophy at the tea table. Instead, they’ve taught me how to argue and reason about the world around me. I’m not calling my parents thick either, what my Mum can’t do with her creative imagination is no one’s business and her talent has been wasted through these exact words on the very day she left school;
“I suppose you better get a job then.”
My Dad too, he’s an engineer by trade. Though he’s rubbish at fixing wheelchairs, he can create, build and has had a successful career managing something...(He doesn’t do that now, and when I was a kid I just had the line, “My Dad is a bit of  a boss at Leyland Trucks in the Stores Department”.)
My parents are real and they’ve brought me up to “be real” and a bit clever too. I’ve never been forced to think or do anything. My passion and interest in politics emerged through being intrigued at the age of 3 by the men sat on green benches on the tele, and Mum, Dad and Nanna having to stand in a funny booth that day the man with big glasses lost his job...

Everything else I love, do and want to be is because of me and my parents encouraging me to be me.
Maybe some of the people I experienced at the weekend’s parents’ had the same idea and view but there’s something fundamentally different about them that makes them think and act on a different level. It’s very impressive and scary to witness and these people are the people who have power. Their ideas and ability to argue them are fundamentally important and matter in this world and have made us all who we are...but.

And here’s the but.

I feel a bit like the “middle-woman” I can see and feel the edges of both “types” of mind.
I love people, all people; rich, poor, young, old, clever, dumb and I can see and now feel the separation.
I also don’t belong to “either-type”.
I understand and feel the need to work and control mundane, everyday situations and how they matter to us all and make us, “us”. I can also understand and acknowledge the challenging and fundamentally high level discussions about philosophy, history and science that matter to us all and make us, “us”.
But the top seems to forget, though tries to convince itself that it means something to the I dunno, “lower realm”, while the lower seem to know and accept that “them posh lot just don’t get reality.”
Well I’m sat here in the middle, screaming!
Because neither “lot” are prepared to challenge or work with each other and then the barrier, the social class barrier of snobbery and wealth builds up.
The way I am and the way I learn is through applying everything to reality and I now know, from this weekend that I need to find a way of getting my own brain, which I think is capable, of tapping into this high level of intellectual discussion. This is so that I can challenge and work against or with people who think on this level and use it to improve the “real world”, a skill that people who are born into this “high world” might not have.

Take this as a bitter rant because I lost a debate if you will.
But if you’re willing to engage and think like I am, I think you’ll see that though the institute of ideas may not like it, this weekend I was thrown into the deep end of a world I have now twice failed to attempt to become a part of. Though, now I know why. It’s not their fault, it’s not my fault; it’s the way of the world and it’s just given me another tool in my box that will enable me to change it, even if it’s only in a tiny way.