It is starting to rain again. I just popped out for a short drive and I could feel it in the air. While I was at the local branch of Co-Op, though, I noticed the front page of the Daily Mail. I often scan the headlines while I’m there, and the Mail’s headline usually annoys me, but it’s front page today takes the biscuit. It reads: ”Defy the Strike Bullies”. When I first saw it I was astonished.. I had always thought the newspapers were supposed to report the news; the angle at which they approached stories could vary, obviously, but on the whole they are supposed to report the facts. The daily Mail has gone far beyond reporting today – it seems to be giving orders to it’s readers, and by branding the strikers bullies, it looses the last semblance of impartiality and is printing mere opinion. This is not what the press is for, and to me this is a clear breach of ethics. Never have I seen a more biased headline – even Fox news, which is about as fair and balanced as Mein Kampf, draws the line at telling its viewers what to do in such blatant, one-sided terms. This headline disgusts me, the Daily Mail disgusts me, and I now question its right to print. Freedom of the press is one thing, but this isn’t journalism, it’s using a paper to tell people what to think and how to act, and it has no place in any democracy.
I do not like making ad Hominem attacks on my blog; it has brought me a lot of trouble in the past, and strikes me as bad blogging. But this entry I think I’ll make an exception. I want to address some comments I came across today, or, rather, yesterday by now, made by my friend James. He states two things: first, that the strike by teachers ” is at best illogical: at worst, anti-intellectual” and that the private schools – by which I assume he means public schools – wouldn’t strike, because they are
”decent”. When I first read these words, I was aghast, firstly at how anyone in my age range and peer group could be dogmatic enough to defend what this government is doing over a teacher’s right to fair wages and pensions, and secondly at how anyone could be so pompous. James’ sentiments imply that he regards state schools as somehow indecent, and public schools as of superior quality and breeding. The reason why teachers from public schools might not be going on strike tomorrow is because they charge their students, or rather their parents, fees – fees which the vast majority of people cannot afford. This leads one to assume James believes that schools which do not charge fees, and thus the kids who attend them, are not ‘decent’ and somehow lesser than those that do. This may only be a simple statement, but the arrogance behind it sickens me. I doubt it’s author has any compassion for the public sector workers whose jobs are threatened, or the teachers forced to strike from the job they love through fear of losing their pension. All that matters to people who make such statements is not the education of young people but maintaining the Tory worldview is propagated: that the cuts are vital, strikers are selfish and those who have money are superior – or should that be more ‘decent’ than those who do not. Do they not have a right to defend their wellbeing, or should they be forced to accept whatever menial wage they get and be grateful for it, out of a sense of duty? I am sorry this is a bit of an ad Hominem attack on a guy I otherwise respect, by and large, but such views must not go unchallenged. I for one believe that the strikes later today, and the many that will hopefully follow, are vital in telling the government that we do not want their ideologically inspired cuts. People deserve fair wages.
I just stumbled across this and flew into spastic shrieks of joy: the Monty Python team are apparently reuniting to make a film, this time based on the memoirs of Graham Chapman. To be honest, all I would still definitely call myself a fan, I had not thought about python or seen anything pythonic in ages; I was just browsing the BBC website when I saw the link. I also strongly suspected it was now part of history. Nevertheless, the team, apart from Eric Idle, are reuniting to make a film. Whether it will be any good or not remains to be seen, of course, but if there is a chance they still possess the ability to reduce me to uncontrollable fits of giggles, then I can’t wait to see this film.
It is odd how things turn out sometimes, and how one’s words can often be strangely prophetic. In my last entry, I wrote about how London could be seen as a chaotic maelstrom where you never quite knew what was going to happen. Soon after posting that entry, I decided to go for a roll. First I decided to go see chopper, as he and I had things to discuss, but he wasn’t in, so I decided to go over to Greenwich. I’d heard there was a fair on there, and I wanted to check it out.
When I got there, I saw that there was indeed some sort of festival, but to be honest it seemed pretty mundane. I was going through the indoor market, thinking about returning home, when I suddenly saw a familiar face, then another. Hugh and his friends were there. At first I didn’t quite believe it was him, but sure enough it was. We talked a bit, and decided to go see an acrobatic performance together. Now, at this point I should point out that this performance in itself was blog worthy: it was a mix of contortion, balance and rope tricks, but the performers were a mixture of able-bodied and disabled people. There was a guy in a chair, for example, with incredible strength, who could hold two women over his head with one hand; another woman, of limited growth, climbed a rope and did amazing tricks. It was very cool.
After this performance it was time to head home, but before we parted, Hugh mentioned he had a gig in Deptford the next day – yesterday – and invited me along. I thought it would be something Lyn would be into too, so I mentioned it to her when I got home. We went, of course, and I’m now very pleased we did. Hugh plays an interesting type of electronic music, where he samples sounds on stage and builds up rhythms from them. He also has a very impressive singer who he performs with. Hugh’s type of music is, of course, right up Lyn’s street. She has recently started experimenting with sampling herself, so I think she was rather enthralled. It was an amazing performance, and I must say I found both performers incredible. I also think getting Hugh and Lyn collaborating on something is now a priority, although I suspect they might now organise such a thing theirselves.
After the show, we went to a nearby pub. Jodie, Hugh’s girlfriend and an old university friend of mine, was there, as was Tom, Hugh’s film-making friend with whom I really want to talk sometime. It turned out to be a great day, with Hugh talking to Lyn about music and computer stuff. I was really pleased how things had turned out; perhaps I should go to Greenwich more often.
Walter Benjamin was right when he called a city a maelstrom. I’ve been living in London a year and a half, and I still can’t decide what I think of her. First off, I still can’t get my head around how huge this place is: I try to go exploring as often as I can, yet I know I’ve seen only a tiny proportion of the capital. Onto this concrete and tarmac labyrinth is mapped a vast array off human systems – people going to work, trains driving through the tube, beer being delivered to the pubs – which somehow all come together to make this city work. I was thinking about this recently, and it occurs to me that it would be impossible to document all the billions of activities which allow this city to function. Put that way, London is essentially chaos: a three dimensional concrete organism inhabited by a vast array of different people from all over the globe, each with their own story to tell. I think it is this chaotic nature which I find fascinating. Of course, it can also be frightening at times it is unpredictable, and often very violent; it can also be alienating and cold. But something within it’s vastness and diversity intrigues me: there are a billion things going on at once in this microcosm, and trying to document some of them, if just in my own mind, draws me into the metropolis.
Lyn has reposted her video about being robbed onto Youtube, after taking it down in order not to jeopardise the police investigation. This seems to have proven fruitless, so in an effort to catch the scum who took our stuff, please watch this and send us any infomation you might have.
My entry yesterday was quite long, so I’ll think I’ll just post something brief today. I just played this song: I think it’s an adaptation of a track by Hugh Jones, a good friend of mine working under the name Crewdson. It seems that someone has put words to one of his pieces. I’m not entirely sure he was aware of it, whether it was a proper collaboration or someone just stole Hugh’s work, but the result is quite interesting and worth a listen. Either way, I think Hugh is definitely becoming a musician to look out for. Mind you, I’m still trying to organise a collaboration between him and Lyn.
Yesterday was a very cool day indeed. It was long, hectic, and towards the end a little stressful, but on the whole very cool. It started pleasantly enough, with my shower and shave: Lyn and I had plans, and I wanted to look presentable. Darryl was still in the country, and on Friday we mutually decided to meet again before he went back to Australia. This time, we thought it might be nice to meet up in the centre of the city, so I suggested the south bank. When Dominic our PA came yesterday morning, however, he told us about a gig in the north of London he thought we might like. Given that we were intending to meet Dazz in the afternoon, and Dom said the gig started at about ten in the evening, there was no reason why we couldn’t do both; it would just make for quite a hectic day.
I suppose my first mistake of the day was arranging a time with darryl and not checking whether it was okay with Lyn. I’m not a fan of hanging about, so I agreed to meet Dazz at two. When I told this to Lyn, however, she told me that she wouldn’t be ready, and that four would be better. By then, though, it was too late, but no matter: I’d just go on my own, and she would catch up with us later. I’m now pretty confident using the tube, and thought I could easily get to the rendezvous point at the London eye on my own, so off I went. Lyn advised me to get off at London bridge and then roll from there. This I did, but when I came out of the station I immediately lost my bearings, and, thinking I was the other side of the river for some reason, sped off in the wrong direction. When I eventually found the right way to go, having gone back and forth past the Golden Hind three or four times, I realised London Bridge station was a fair distance from where I was supposed to be, and that it would have been easier to get off at Westminster then simply cross the river. As I rolled up to the eye, about an hour late and with a little less battery than I would have liked, I made a mental note to reprimand Lyn the next time I saw her.
Darryl himself was easy enough to find. I drew my chair up next to him and said hi. He was admiring the view, I think, David his PA close by. I explained that Lyn would be joining us a little later on, and we went to get a coffee. We started chatting, mostly about the cricket; it’s funny how we’ve only met, physically, two or three times, but we’ve been chatting online for years, and share quite a few interests and experiences, so we get on like old friends. As I wrote the other day, I really do admire darryl; he and David both seem very good blokes. Mind you, as we were sitting drinking coffee, I suddenly realised that I was surrounded by Australians, as the couple sitting at the table behind me were also from Australia. Needless to say, this made for some lively debate, me being the only ‘pom’ there.
We sat, talking, for an hour or so, before it was time to go and try to find Lyn. She, too, was rather late, I think as a result of the rain and the fact she may have made the same mistake I did. When she got to us, most of the attractions were closing: I came pretty close to proposing that we find the nearest pub, but I knew that I had quite a long night ahead of us. We ended up sitting, talking and watching the rain on the balcony of the southbank centre. I couldn’t help remarking how pretty the capital looks in the rain: there’s something about London in a steady downpour which just looks right.
The time came, rather too quickly, for Darryl and David to go back to their hotel. As for us, it was time to eat. Time was pressing on, and I reckoned that if w were going to have a chance of getting to the gig in north London, we needed to get a move on. One should, however, always make time for dinner, and we ate in the Italian restaurant in the Southbank centre. The meal was as enjoyable as it was welcome – especially my tiramisu – but it was then that things became a little bit more stressful.
We had been trying to decide the best way to get to our destination near Notting Hill over dinner. There did not seem to be any direct, accessible tube route. We ended up taking quite a convoluted route involving trains and busses. At this point I must say how disappointed as a wheelchair user I am that many, perhaps most, tube stations still aren’t accessible. There are some which claim to be, but when you come to get on the train, the gap between the platform and carriage is so vast that it’s almost impossible for me to board. And, unlike the national railway system, there are no ramps available. It was lucky I was in my old electric wheelchair: as my father sagely explained a few days ago, we bought my new chair at a time when I needed something to go around university campuses in. as a result, unlike my old chair, it’s not intended for long journeys, getting on and off busses and trains. My old one, I realised yesterday, is a bit of an old war horse. In fact, despite going several miles yesterday, it barely lost half it’s battery power.
We eventually got to our destination, a house in what seemed to be a very smart suburb or north-west London, at almost half eleven. I must say that I was rather cranky, wondering where the smeg we were and how we were going to get home at that time of night. We could, however, hear some fantastic tango music coming from within. We went in, only to see a set of stairs. Swearing under my breath, quietly relieved that it was not me who had instigated this debacle, I got out of my chair and climbed up, Lyn being pulled up by Dominic in her manual chair. We got there just as the band was playing their last song. I must say that what I heard sounded excellent, and I was disappointed that we had not had chance to hear more.
Well, what could we then do but start to head home? The pubs were closed by then, and, let me tell you, I could have murdered a beer. We started to look for possible routes, and, irony of ironies, we found a bus running direct to Westminster. Had we known about that bus earlier that night, we would have made the gig easily! I think it was at that point, as we waited for the 53 bus from Westminster to Charlton, that things started to seem quite funny: looking back, it had been a hell of a day, full of mistakes, adventures, and, most of all, great fun.
According to Chopper I need a haircut, and he offered to take my for one yesterday afternoon, but, given that Lyn wants me to let my hair grow, and that haircuts are practically my least favourite activity, I got out of it. However, Chopper said they also do very good shaves at the barbers in the village, which made me curious: is it possible for me, a guy with problems holding his head still, to have a traditional, barber-shop save?
So, images of blood gushing everywhere running through my head, off we went to the barbers. I guess the first surprise was that they agreed to do it in the first place. Chopper and I were welcomed in, and I rolled up to the mirror; then the fun began. I think yesterday afternoon saw the scariest few minutes of my life, especially when I saw the cut throat razor they were using. I concentrated as hard as I could on keeping my head still, but, of course, with cerebral palsy the more you try to keep still the more you move. I knew one false move could see that razor going through my artery, although it was expertly wielded by the shop manager. Pretty soon, we decided that the best thing was for chopper to hold my head still, but even then I was still bloody scared.
However, the results, I must say, were worth it. After the dangerous bit was over, they put aftershave on, and then a baking hot towel, like you sometimes see in things like Michael Palin programmes. I felt like a million pounds – I felt, in a way, like a man; the type of man who drinks martinis, and can tell the diference between a Vesper and a Gibson. My face felt smoother than ever, and still does this morning. Discussing it in the pub afterwards, I told chopper I think I’d definitely do it again: I never thought I could have a shave like that, but now I know I can, I’m definitely converted. I can’t help but wonder, though, whether that was the first time any guy with my kind of CP has had such a shave.
I suppose I should say something about the recent comments of Tory MP Phillip Davies that people with disabilities should be made to work for mellow the minimum wage. To be honest, I’m not surprised to hear such things coming from a Tory, as they seem to regard us as second class citizens. It’s hard enough for most of us to get work – we have to work far harder than most to do so, and if we do ever find jobs we lose our benefits so we’re then pretty much screwed if the job falls through. I suppose Davies’ point would be that paying us less would give employers an incentive to take us on, and I must admit that has a certain logic to it, but the messages that would send out in terms of disability rights and equality would be cataclysmic. What we need is good, well-funded access to work schemes, where people with disabilities have the support they need to be able to show their skills, but I really can’t see that happening any time soon. what we do not need is some damn Tory MP going around saying we can be paid a pittance and should be grateful for it.