lament for a wheelchair

While I have my newer chair back, for which I am now very, very grateful, I’m sorry to have to report that my older chair had to be scrapped. It was a purple Quickie F55 which I called the Defiant, after a small agile ship on Star Trek, and I must admit I was rather attached to it. She was my first chair: before I was about thirteen or fourteen, when we went out I had to be pushed everywhere in my manual wheelchair. One Saturday, however, my parents and I were walking down chester Road in Macclesfield when we passed a mobility shop, and I suddenly had an idea. I convinced them to take me in, and, to cut a long story short, a few weeks later I had my first powerchair.* To be honest it was a very logical step, as I was getting older and would soon need more independence.

At first, though, I treated it as little more than a toy: we kept her in the garage, and I just used her to ridde around the housing estate. But my excursions gradually got longer: soon I was able to go into the town centre on my own for the first time ever. My favourite trip, however, was up Giantswood lane, to the north of Congleton. This is a long country lane heading towards the tiny village of Swettenham. It is a good distance, but not too long for a cripple taking his first steps into a brave new world. I still remember that lane with great affection, winding through fields and over streams, passing ancient cottages with barely a car in sight. It took me about an hour to get to Swettenham on Defiant, and it was in the ancient Swettenham arms that, one day, I ordered my very first beer.

I also have fond memories of using defiant at university. At first I didn’t dare use my electric wheelchair on campus, but, of course, it soon became the obvious option. I have written here before about how uni was very much my awakening – in large part that was down to the fact I had Defiant. In the secure environment of campus and the safety of Alsager village, I began to find out what I was capable of, and thus a timid home-loving boy became…well, me. It was on defiant that I made my first trip into crewe, and it was on defiant that I one day decided to go looking for my friend Richard. I have many memories involving that chair, some good, some not so good, but just as my communication aid freed me by allowing me to communicate with others, my first electric wheelchair freed me by allowing me to move around.

In a way, then, that chair helped shape me. Of course, I have it’s replacement, the Bat’leth, and it will soon be time to look for a replacement for that too. Yet defiant was always the sturdier, more reliable chair – the one I was less nervous of breaking down; I suppose you could say I have a soft spot for it. It was getting old and decrepit, and I had probably crashed it one too many times, but I will miss her. She was the chair upon which I truly found myself, what I was capable of: on her it was as if, for the first time, I felt if I needed to go somewhere all I had to do was get on my chair and go. What the enterprise was to Kirk and the Stargazer was to Picard, what the DB5 was to Bond, what Endeavour was to Cook, Defiant was to me. May she rest in peace.

*Incidentally, there is, or was, a dancewear shop on the same road, so that’s also how I got my first leotard. That, however, is another story.

After the storm

This amazing picture was apparently taken this morning in manhattan. After the storm, peace returns to the battered city.

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my chair is back!

I have my chair back! After about three months of being chairless, dad dropped my fixed electric wheelchair off here this morning, no mean feat as it meant an eight hour round trip on his part. I didn’t think I missed it: I stayed in more, of course, but that’s no hardship as I have a wonderful girlfriend, the internet, plenty of books to read and films to watch. The last three months haven’t been that bad, especially given Lyn and I have been so busy. However, I just took my chair for a short test drive, and the moment I hit the pavement, the wind in my face, I realised how much I had missed the freedom my chair gives me. The simple freedom to follow ones nose, to meander around the area seeing what there is to see. That’s what I missed.

Of course, I also missed it on days when I could have really used it, such as the day of the Paralympic closing ceremony. On the other hand, having it then would probably have meant I would have decided to go wandering off around the Olympic village, which may not have been useful for Lyn. In other words, in a way there were advantages to being chairless. I certainly have relished staying home with Lyn more, which is why I resolved to use my chair a bit less, even now I have it back. I will use it when I need to, of course, such as when Lyn and I go out, but I don’t need to go out on so many of my solitary walks, and there could be times when it is easier for me to go in my manual chair. I think that is one of the lessons of the last few months, or rather, that’s what I thought before I went out on my test drive. The moment I cleared our threshold, this started to play in my head, and I thought ”Fuck I’ve missed this!”

Skyfall

Have you noticed that the guys who make the bond films always talk about making it more relevant or realistic, or clam to be ‘updating bond’ or some such crap? Well, I think that they have finally succeeded this time. I went to see Skyfall last night: I was rather apprehensive at first, but a short while in I realised I was watching a real film, by which I mean a film with believable, fleshed-out characters and a good, solid realistic plot. It was still Bond, but bond taken seriously. Even the baddie has a grievance you could believe in; as Mark Kermode pointed out in his review, you can even see he has a point. As I wrote here, I really think Daniel Craig is bond as Fleming intended; what I saw last night certainly cemented his standing as one of the best Bonds ever. His acting was superb: stripped of some of the cartoonish aspects of some of his predecessors, what we have here is a real man, damaged, angry, and even vulnerable. The same goes for Dame Judy Dench: M gets much more to do in this film, and she obviously relishes it.

I want to say a lot more: I want to write about the part that made me cry (gravestone) the part that filled me with glee (car) the joke that made me chuckle (health and safety) and the part I agree with Dr. Kermode about, but I better not. I don’t want to spoil it for others. I will just say it is a great film, and a great addition to the bond franchise. As a cinephile, however, I must also note that there is an incredible shot in this film – possibly one of the greatest tracking shots I have ever seen – in which two people move independently through a crowded room while the camera keeps them both in focus. It truly was a masterful bit of film-making, quite artistic, and completely unexpected in films like this. Again, this is bond being taken seriously, and it’s great.

It seems I have broken the tradition of going to see every new bond film with Charlie. With a cinema just down the road, I just couldn’t resist temptation, especially after listening to Kermode’s review yesterday morning. Oh well, I suppose that just means I’ll have to arrange to watch it again with her (and indeed Lyn, who decided to stay home yesterday). What a pity!

Dead can dance

Last night was a hoot. It was our first proper night out in a while, and it was a special one. Together with Dominic and John, Lyn and I went to see a group called Dead Can Dance at the Royal Albert Hall. I had, I must admit, never heard of them before: they play slow, melodic music, using all kinds of musical influences from all over the world. It took me two or three songs to get into it, but after that I was engrossed. Toward the end they played a song I recognised, I think from a TV ad; I don’t know it’s name but it was rather reminiscent of Karl Jenkins’ Adeamus. It was utterly mesmerising – I loved it.

All in all, then, a great night out. They even did three or four encores. Once again, we got home tired and happy. I think that will teach me not to be so gloomy – in London, it seems, there is always the possibility of being whisked off on an adventure. I love it!

of the sudden restoration of life’s vibrancy

It is amazing how quickly and suddenly one’s mood can change. I started today feeling quite grumpy, for some reason. Lyn had a woman coming to see her at eleven – I can’t go into details, but we were both rather apprehensive about it. And when I turned on the news I was greeted with this story of the despicable abuse of adults with learning difficulties. In short, it looked like we were in for a rainy, miserable, humdrum Friday: the afternoon at my computer, a ready meal for dinner, maybe a beer or two this evening, Q.I then bed.

When the woman came, then, I opened the door with hostility. However, I need not have: the meeting went well, lasting only fifteen minutes, and leaving Lyn far less worried. She then suggested we go to the cafe for lunch, and I thought that was a great idea. However, before we went, our PA Dominik had an even better one.

Dom had been planning to go to a concert this evening. Mitchel was going to come at four to take over his shift. However, dom is the type of personal assistant who likes to take us places. The problem was, when he last checked, all the tickets had been sold. Just before we set out for lunch, then, he said he would check one last time. Of course, he would have been well within his rights to say ‘sorry guys’ and leave us in the capable hands of Mitch. Yet kindness beyond kindness, luck beyond luck, a few phone calls later and we had a night out on our hands! My mood instantly flipped from one of gloom to one of excited joy. Life seemed to regain it’s vibrancy in a fraction of a second.

I’ll let you know how this episode finishes tomorrow. It will soon be time for us to get ready to head out. I think a Friday night out is just what Lyn and I both need. Now, the question is, what to wear?

Octopussy

After watching a Culture show special on James bond last night, I decided to rewatch octopussy today. As I wrote here, when I systematically went through the Bond franchise, I didn’t like roger Moore at all – he seemed too unlike the other bonds. However, many critics seem to like him, so I thought I would give him the benefit of the doubt. To my surprise, I found it much better this time: I was able to follow the plot much more easily, and I found Moore far more believable, deeper, if sill a tad cartoonish. I think my mistake was watching the franchise in such quick succession; it clouded my judgement. After all, this franchise spans fifty years, so they cannot be all alike. Bond films come in vintages, so expecting moore to be like, say, Connery is like disliking a cote du rhone because it doesn’t taste like a Zimphandel, when all you have had recently is Zimphandel and think that is what wine should taste like! Thus I think I need to rewatch the Roger Moore Bond films, perhaps a little more slowly this time, and without the preconceived ideas of what constitutes James Bond I got from the other films. After all, he made seven of them, so he can’t be that bad. Mind you, I might skip Moonraker – I suspect that film will be crap no matter how many times I watch it.

watching Michael Palin with Lyn

From time to time, it occurs to me that, if you put aside all the political bullshit, things really area awesome. The last couple of months, when I think about it, have been among the greatest in my life. My girlfriend Lyn has brought me a type of freedom and happiness I never thought I would enjoy; living with her, in this homely little bungalow of ours, makes me feel complete. I have someone to share my life with – even better, I get to share hers! Lyn is an amazing person, and seeing her on stage in her performances this summer, not last at the paralympics, was incredible.

I am also getting to indulge all of my obsessions too. It is quite remarkable, really. I noted the imminence of the bond and hobbit films the other day, but, best of all, yesterday I got to finally share my oldest passion with Lyn. I don’t know why, but I have always loved the travel shows of Michael Palin. I remember watching Shows like Full Circle with my parents on sunday nights, in my pyjamas after a bath. For me, there is a homely quality to them, as if Palin shows us a world which is exotic and colorful, yet also safe and friendly. There is something in his voice and style I find incredibly comforting, yet also possessed of the promise of adventure. His shows make me want to travel, and I cannot watch his shows without thinking of all the family holidays we went on – to america, to germany, to Australia.

Palin’s programs are special to me – very special. Watching the first episode of his new series about Brazil with Lyn earlier felt like a part of my childhood had finally been reconciled with the here and now, or that Lyn had finally been introduced to one of my best friends. Of course, I didn’t explain this to lyn at the time, and she probably just thought it was just another tv show, but, in a way I cannot quite express in words, watching Michael Palin with Lyn made me very happy indeed. As the credits rolled, an incredible feeling of warmth and security came over me: the feeling I felt on those sunday nights as a child combined now with a love for my girlfriend and the joy life with her has brought me.

Disability Horizons

Just a website to flag up today: Disability Horizons was founded by its co-editors, Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley who both have a physical impairment called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. As usual I stumbled onto it when I was looking for something totally unrelated, but it’s mixture of disability culture and travel took my fancy. Moreover, it seems to be written by people around my age, and I can easily see myself getting involved with it, perhaps as a writer. Check it out here