The uk year of communication

As you may or may not know, 2011 is the UK year of communication. I came across this article earlier, about communication aid users. It features Beth, a young woman whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and a truly outstanding spokesperson for the communication-aid using community. I’m not sure what impact having our own year will have – it is, after all, also the year of feeding tubes, as well as a great many other things apparently – but if it makes people more aware of voca users, then it can only be a good thing. Anyway, go and have a look.

Of leotards and leg-splints

I cannot really tell you how I found it, but yesterday evening I came upon this rather interesting article about the Maryland youth ballet involving children with disabilities in their productions. Let me state from the get-go that I have no objections to this: there’s nothing more natural than little girls wanting to dress up and dance. Yet it does raise a few interesting questions pertinent to the subjects of inclusion and disability.

Ballet is traditionally quite an elitist art form; I’m sure most of us have read about the body fascism that seems endemic in ballet schools. These are places where anorexia seems almost normal, and where any girl even remotely plump is bullied mercilessly. That’s what makes this article so interesting: dance seems almost innately anti-inclusive, but they are applying the principles of inclusion to it. While it’s wonderful, it’s also kind of odd: its sort of oxymoronic, in a way, to open an art form where physical ability is prized over all else up to those with very little physical ability. Of course, you could argue the same of disability sport – kids with disabilities are frequently included in, say, football clubs. But I think it is in this case that the paradox is most pronounced, and thus the most awesome. I know none of these girls will ever dance professionally, just as nobody with cerebral palsy will ever play in the premiership, probably; but it is a symbolic blow against the elitism in society which seems to prize physical ability above all else.I suppose some may argue that this is nothing but a shallow gesture, and ask why these disabled girls should have the chance to dance while other able-bodied girls are turned away, despite being more physically able. After all, one goes to the ballet to watch examples of physical perfection, grace and beauty. Yet I would counter this by pointing out that the nature off all art is, in part, to ask questions of itself and the world, which is exactly what this does. If a person with severe cerebral palsy can dance alongside able-bodied professionals, then surely there is no limit to inclusion.

Luke is 25

I must note that today is also my brother’s twenty-fifth birthday. Happy birthday Luke. I don’t get to see him much these days, and nowhere neaar as much as I’d like. Mind you, I’ve recently been ruminating over the fact that it’s now well over a year since I had any face-to-face contact with my older brrother, Mark. I know it’s a natural part of life, but I am very fond indeed of my brothers, and I think I better do something about seing them. Whille I’m sure we’ll talk on skype soon, I think something like a reunion must soon be arranged.

The great drama

I am probably as alarmed as anyone at what is currently happening in north Africa and the middle east. The entire region seems to be ablaze; even seasoned commentators seem not to know what to make of it. Of course, as for myself, there is not much I can add to the debate or discourse: I know next to nothing of that region, or it’s politics. I can only really register my shock, horror and, if I’m honest, my fascination at what is going on.

For I must admit I do find it fascinating, as I’m sure anyone with even the slightest interest in world politics and history will. In the last few weeks, four or five of the regions dictatorships have fallen. Has there ever been such a spate in the history of the world? People compare it to the events of 1989 and the fall of the soviet union, but it could be even more monumental than that: the entire arab region is going through a huge shift. It’s like the UK, France, Germany and Italy all changing forms of government at once.

I suppose the next question is one nobody can answer: where is it all leading? We in the west hope democracies will be established in these countries. I truly hope freer countries are the result of these upheavals. Yet we cannot be sure that what eventually comes out of this won’t be regimes even more vicious and repressive than those of Gadaffi and Mubarak, which is why I am as worried as I am fascinated. All we can do is watch the news as the great drama plays itself out.


For all my writing and grandstanding about politics and about how these cuts will hurt us all, and about how CaMoron must go, I realise how comfortable and sheltered my life has been. I live a comfortable existence with the woman I love, the equipment I need and a supportive family within reach. While Lyn and I are worried about the impact of these cuts, I know I have the resources behind me in terms of friends and family to weather the storm. If you want to get an idea of the true impact of what the Tories are doing, please go here. Lives are being ruined, families torn apart. It’s heartbreaking, and it must be stopped.

homophobia and xenophobia

I know this is not one of the usual subjects I blog about, but given who my future wife is and my taste in clothes, I see no reason why I shouldn’t comment on such issues. Worryingly, homophobic cards have appeared on the streets of Whitechapel and Shoreditch, declaring it a ”Gay Free Zone”. It’s evidence that there is a homophobic undercurrent stirring up in the east end of London. Perhaps even more worryingly is that the signs reference passages from the Koran.

Here’s where it sort of gets interesting, though, as there is a theory going around that these cards were actually placed there by the English defence League. Although I watch my fair share of science fiction, I must say I find that rather far fetched. It’s too convenient: rather than admitting that homophobia can arise in all sections of society, they would rather maintain that one particular group of far-right morons is stirring up fear of Islam by calling it homophobic. On the other hand, part of me wouldn’t put it past the EDL to do such a thing, then deny it using that very argument.

The truth is, we don’t know who is putting these signs up. It could very well be hard-line Islamists, or it could be the EDL. Either way, both homophobia and xenophobia must be combated.

strangers on a bus

We needed to get some odds and ends from the shops yesterday afternoon, so we decided to go over to Lewisham. On the way there, quite an unusual thing happened, which I think is worth recording. Lyn and I were both on the bus, having found a nice friendly bus driver who let us both on at the same time. We were sitting there quietly when a man sitting nearby began to take an interest in my lightwriter. This is nothing unusual in itself – people stare at my equipment all the time – but this man was different. It was not until he leaned over and started to gesture to his wife that I realised he was mute. He was interested in my lightwriter because it was something he could possibly use.

We got to talking: I showed him my lightwriter, and Lyn showed him her Ipad. He said he had an Ipad, but, interestingly, he got out a large magnetic stylus thing – the type children use to draw on – in order to write messages on. This struck me as a very low-tech form of communication, and I wondered if the couple had had any input from the relevant authorities about more high-tech equipment. It seemed somehow improvised; like something you might buy if you didn’t know there was specialised equipment.

Both parties got off at the shops, and went our separate ways. I thought about giving the gentleman my blog address so we could tell him more, but we didn’t get chance. While I’m sure he’ll be okay, the feeling of astonishment I got from him as he looked at my lightwriter, which, after all, is a pretty dated bit of equipment by now, gave me the scary impression that this couple had been abandoned by the council and left to find their own way to communicate.

evidence that the tory’s deficit is bull

If anyone is still under any illusion that the ‘huge structural deficit’ this country apparently has is anything other than a Tory lie; if anyone thinks the cuts they are imposing are necessary, and not part of the Tory scheme too rip up the state and cut tax for the rich; and if anyone thinks George Osbourne is anything other than a lying, dissembling twat, then I would direct you here. This clip clearly demonstrates that, far from being absolutely necessary, these cuts are provoked by Tory philosophy and will hit the poorest the hardest. While we’re on the subject, I noticed something interesting this week: one of the reasons the Tories cite for opposing the Alternative vote method is that, had it been in use last year, Gordon brown could still be in power. What does that say about the Tory mentality? They don’t give a rats ass about the will of the people, as long as they get to rule. Surely such people have no place in government and should be removed from power as soon as possible.

the biggest football upset of all time?

Regular readers of my blog will know that I usually disdain football, favouring gentler, more noble sports like cricket. Yet for certain matches and tournaments I have made exceptions, and have become as worked up as the rest of the country over the silly ball-kicking game. I think today will be such an occasion. As we all know, today Manchester united, one of the biggest clubs in the history of sport, play Crawley, a place I only know exists because my friend Emma comes from there. Being a northerner, I usually support Manchester when they play big teams. Yet I am a romantic, so today I want the smaller team to win. It would be awesome if Crawley pulled it off, wouldn’t it? In a way it would demonstrate, once and for all, that no matter how much money you have you can still be beaten by those with passion. It’d help cut a few egos down to size too.

I’ll therefore probably take myself round to the pub later, position myself near the screen, and hope against hope for the biggest upset of all time. Of course, my realistic side says it’ll be something like five nill to Manchester, but we can all dream, can’t we?

volunteering is wonderful, but it won’t put food on the table.

Surely anyone but a complete fool can see CaMoron’s ‘big society’ for the bullshit it is. He somehow expects the voluntary sector to magically step in and undo the damage caused by his cuts. Call me a pessimist, but that won’t work: volunteering is wonderful, but it won’t put food on the table. Things need doing – roads need sweeping, cripples need feeding – but it is unfair to expect people to do such things for free. What will happen, I strongly suspect, is that, as the state is reduced, it will be the private rather than the voluntary sector which will step in. CaMoron knows this, and all his talk of big society and encouraging altruism is a shallow front for the Tory desire to open things up to the free market.