Stratford – a place in flux

This afternoon, just on the spur of the moment – Lyn beng otherwise occupied – I decided to go up to Stratford, to take a look at how the Olympic Park was evolving. I had been planning a trip up there for a while: it isn’t far, just two stops on the tube, and you know how interested I am in what happened there last year. In my head that place is the site of something remarkable.

Off I went, then, just after lunch. I’ve been there before, of course, but I was interested to see how the place had changed in the six months since the paralympic closing ceremony. Truth be told, I’m not sure what I expected to see: I knew that the place would be largely a building site, and it would probably be better to wait until the park reopens fully, but hey, I’m a curious little cripple. Besides, certain birthdays are approaching I need to start thinking about, and a tour of the Westfield shopping centre could help with that.

Now that I’ve returned, though, I don’t find there is much to report. Sure enough, the place is a building site: you can’t get into the park, so I just whizzed round the shopping centre for a bit. Even in there, though, half the shops were shut, it being Sunday, so just returned home after a while. Mind you, I did see a couple of shops I’d like to return to when they are open: I’ll probably wait a few months for that though.

I got the sense that that area is now in a state of flux or transition. Stratford’s time in the spotlight, for which it was (re)designed, is over: cruising around it’s streets this afternoon, I got the impression I so often get in London, of the old butting up to the new. There, victorian and Edwardian terraces, remnants of an old east London, Butt up to modern buildings built especially for last year. Now, though, it’s even more curious as the event those new buildings were built for is now passed, so they too have become part of history: they are passed their heyday just as the terraces are. I suppose in a way they are a synecdoche for London itself, full of history, constantly pressing forward into the future. And is stratford is part of this city which could stand for the whole, so London could stand for the world itself.

Wow! Amazing how prosaic I get after a Sunday afternoon drive.

The protest you probably haven’t heard about.

I am currently nice and warm. As a matter of fact, I’m currently in quite a fun little black dress, but that’s beside the point: I shouldn’t be here, in the warmth of home, but out in the cold of central London protesting agains the bedroom tax. This obscenely unfair tax – and it IS a tax regardless of what CaMoron might like to pretend it is – will hurt millions of the poorest people in society. The impoverished and most vulnerable are bearing the brunt of Tory ideological cuts. As I type, thousands of people are out on the streets of the nation protesting against it.

The strange thing is, it’s not being reported in the news. We have had the bbc news channel on for most of the day, and haven”t heard a jot. I only know about it through facebook: I saw a poster about it on there last night, by which time it was too late to make plans. I hope it is going well, and gets noticed. As stated here,

[quote=”Welfare news service”]Several hundred people gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday to protest against the government’s welfare cuts and the controversial ”bedroom tax”.

Simultaneous protests were held in towns and cities across the UK ahead of the cuts scheduled to come into force in April. In Glasgow, around 2,500 people, including trade unionists and people from disabled groups, marched from Glasgow Green to George Square in the city centre.[/quote] Yet we don’t hear a peep about it in the mainstream media. How very odd…

Worried about Cyprus

I think I have mentioned on here before that part of my family lives in cyprus: my maternal grandparents came here after the war, met and set up a family. Many of my relations still live on the island, so I’m very worried about the current state of affairs there. While my parents assure me that, as far as they know, my aunts and uncles are okay, the fact that I feel I barely understand the economics does not help. I know the cypriot government has taken to taking directly from people’s bank accounts – Dad just explained to me that, given the size of the cypriot economy they had no choice, there isn’t anywhere else to take the money from. Nevertheless this seems a dire step indeed. I just hope my family and friends are okay, that they can weather this storm, and that things on that beautiful island do not get much worse.

IDS heckled

I just came across this quite cool piece of footage from bbc scotland. As reported here, ”Iain Duncan Smith’s appearance as keynote speaker at a conference supporting welfare reform organised by welfare pimps Capita in Edinburgh ended up a farce of Carry On proportions when activists smuggled themselves into the conference hall and disrupted his speech, with Willie Black, a veteran social rights campaigner telling IDS ‘We dinna want you, we dinna need you & we got more panda’s than you’.” Good on the protesters, I say! These unelected liars need to be shown the pain they are causing: they deserve noting but derision, contempt and ridicule. What angers me, however, is hearing IDS lie about not actually cutting benefits – he may not technically be reducing them, but benefits are indeed falling in real terms. People are suffering due to his policies – policies he has chosen to enact – so to hear the arsehole trying to defend himself, trying to make out he is working in the national interest instead of that of the rich, is galling. I hope the unelected goit gets the heckling he deserves.

Cripples go clubbing!

You know, we cripples know how to rock, especially here in London. Last night, Lyn and I went to an event called Club Attitude, an anual event run br disability organisation attitude is everything. It took a while to get there, and we stopped for a curry on the way, but once we had reached the venue in Shoreditch, I wondered why we had never been there before. It was not unlike a normal nightclub, complete with bar and band, but people with disabilities were everywhere. I instantly thought ”This place rules – I must come here again.” The whole place was fully accessible, geared to accomodate the needs of people with various disabilities: a bar well stocked with straws, part of it lowered to accomodate wheelchair users; there was even a sign language interpreter on stage – the sight of someone trying frantically to interpret grunge metal into BSL totally ruled!

I’m sure this is not new to some people, and I expect to get comments asking why I’m writing about this as if it is a novelty, but I’d never been to such an event before. Lyn, however, had played there before we met each other. Of course, I’ve been to clubs – love ’em! – but none run by, for and about disabled people. I was taken by the idea, and what an awesome expression of crip culture it was: it did not seem like one of those patronising events run by norms intended to let the poor little cripples have fun, but simply a normal club run with disabled people in mind.

A short while into the evening I got chatting to one of the organisers: I was eager to ask when the next even was. Much to my great disappointment, he told me that they can only put it on once a year due to funding – were they to have more such events, they would have to charge a great deal more for tickets. I saw his point: the venue alone wouldn’t be cheap. Yet such events strike me as great opportunities to chill out, network with fellow crips and show the world that ‘we’ can party just as hard as anyone else. Surely after the Paralympics there must be something one can do – we crips need more parties!

And now we see but through the glass darkly.

I am very concerned indeed about a recent change in the Uk’s political discourse. Yesterday we saw CaMoron stand up and deliver a speech concerning capping immigration. Implicit in his diatribe was the presumption that to worry about immigration is to have a legitimate concern, and that such concerns have their basis in something other than xenophobia. Politicians from across the spectrum are talking as if it is or might be rational to oppose immigration: there seems to have been a tidal shift in the discourse, so that now such talk is no longer the province of the far right.

But that is where such talk still belongs. All other arguments aside, the moment we start to talk about immigration negatively, we play straight into the hands of the far right. From the way CaMoron was talking yesterday, it seemed that the closet racists of UKIP had won the argument: ‘mainstream’ politicians are now dancing to their sickening tune, mindlessly parroting the lie that it is not racist to worry about immigration. It is! The desire to cap immigration is the desire to stop ‘other’ people coming from other places and claiming what we have. It boils down to a simplistic us an them discourse, no matter how much they try to hide it under arguments about whether we have space or resources in this country . It is all about rejecting people who are different and trying to keep what we have for ourselves, never mind the fact that we get from immigrants more than they take.

I find it sickening, and worry about where it will end. The second we start to talk about immigration negatively, we take the first step down a dark path, one where our discourse is dominated by simplistic binaries, one where it is acceptable to view anyone who looks different or speaks with an unusual accent with suspicion. That must not happen — the political discourse must not be hijacked by xenophobes. We cannot allow the idea that it is okay to worry about immigration to become mainstream and acceptable, for it woud change the discourse, diverting it to a place we had long since escaped. Yes, there is no denying resources are limited, but the far right are using that fact to gain a foothold, to present themselves as something other than the lunatic xenophobes they are. And once people in mainstream parties start dancing to their tune, people forget the dangers that come with such attitudes, and the paradigm shifts back to a place it has not been to in decades: first it becomes acceptable to worry about immigration, then it becomes acceptable to suspect immigrants. Then people start to shun anyone not speaking with a british accent: you’ll start noticing the odd incident in, say, a shop, where an english woman is allowed to step in front of a foreigner in a queue, and nobody will say anything. Then such things will become more commonplace, until blatant discrimination becomes standard. Landlords will be allowed to refuse to let out rooms to black people; by then, nobody will see it as racist, just a natural response. Eastern europeans will no longer be served in pubs – after all, the standard mainstream attitude will by then that they shouldn’t even be here. Not long after that, other minorities will become resented: people will start tut-tutting about having to have ramps everywhere: we crips will find ourselves increasingly shunned, and discrimination will be rationalised through saying we are an economic burden. Pretty soon people will start earnestly arguing for our widespread institutionalization, couched in terminology which pretends to care for our well-being, but is actually about taking us from mainstream society. And we all know what horrors await us behing the walls of care homes.

I know this might sound far-fetched or reactionary – no doubt some might accuse me of melodrama, and not for the first time. Yet history tells us that as soon as we allow the right-wing discourse to take hold, as soon as it becomes acceptable to question things as immigration, such things sooner or later follow. Thus we cannot allow the discourse to change; we cannot allow suspicion to become the norm. We cannot let questioning the motives of everyone with an unusual accent to become acceptable. History tells us what always follows as soon as we start down that path. That”s why we must take back the discourse; thats why we must say ‘No! It is not okay to worry about immigration!” Immigrants need our help, not our hatred or suspicion. As soon as it becomes normal to eye anyone foreign with resentment, we have lost our way, and risk repeating the follies of the past, and what I have so darkly predicted here will be made real. Thus this change in discourse must be stopped, for now we see but through a glass darkly.

Live and let die and the man with the golden Gun

I just rewatched The Man With The Golden Gun, which, given that I recently gave Live and Let Die a second viewing, I think just about wraps up the reappraisal of Roger Moore’s Bond that I embarked upon two or three months ago. I know there are three more, but I think For Your Eyes Only and A view to a Kill can wait, and I don’t think I can be arsed with Moonraker. What I wanted to establish is whether I’d been too hasty in dismissing Moore’s bond in my initial marathon viewing; I suspected that my Judgement had been clouded by having recently tasted the other Bond Vintages. I now think there is an element of truth in that – Moore played the character quite differently to those who went before or came after him. However, I now see him as less camp than I thought he was: as I wrote here, Moore initially struck me as a cartoon version of bond, but in the Man with The Golden Gun, I saw a reassuring bondish brutality. Mind you, I must say that the plot stil struck me as incomprehensible this afternoon: I used to think the problem was with me, that I had missed plot points, but having paid proper attention, I think it was just badly written. Frankly, it struck me that the writers may have just made it up as they went along.

That is not to say that I thought it a bad film – there have certainly been worse. There are a few good stunts in this film, and I love the character of JW Pepper, who appears in both Live And Let Die and Golden Gun. This film also resolves my personal debate over whether 007 would use a taxi: when he arrived at buckingham palace in a black cab to do his Olympic assignment, I wondered ether it was in keeping with the character. But sure enough in Golden Gun he hails a taxi twice, so that’s okay then. I ove the character Nik Nak, an indeed the nefarious Scaramanga, played to perfection by the great Christopher Lee.

Nevertheless, I still think Moore is my least favorite bond, simply because, from a purist’s point of view, he is the least like Flemming’s character. Bond is supposed to be a cold, hard, callous man, not the camp figure in a safari suit Moore played him as. And yet, for all that, I like Moore’s bond -he is the fun bond, the bond of my childhood. For that, I suppose, I’ll forever have a soft spot for him.

Lost voice girl

I don’t think I’d be much of a disabled blogger if I didn’t send you here, where you can watch a charity gig by Lost Voice Girl. As you may know, Lost voice Guy is a VOCA-using stand-up comedian currently rising through the ranks. Here, we see a performance from his alter-ego, Lost Voice Girl, apparently done in aid of comic relief (although I daresay that dress and wig do suit him).

I think I am a fan. It is all too easy to dismiss such performers as mere gimmicks, getting laughs through pity. Yet Lost Voice Guy has a definite talent – he wittily exploits his communication aid for comic value, playing with things like pronunciation and perception. He makes fun of it, gently illustrating both the advantages and disadvantages of being a VOCA user. I think that is precisely what we in the voca-using community need: he functions as a type of ambassador for ‘us’, humanising voca use, showing voca-users to be jut the normal people they are while allowing people to laugh at the funny side of things. A voca-using comedian really is a great step forward; it needed to be done, and Lost Voice guy does it so well. I hope we meet one day, and maybe collaborate.

UKIP must be nipped in the bud

Once again I have just had the misfortune of watching Nigel Farage speak, and once again I felt the urge to come to the computer to denounce the imbecile. This man represents the biggest threat to peace and stability we face – he is part of the second rise of fascism across Europe. What I find so insulting is his claim to be proEuropean inasmuch as he wants Europe to return to a diverse divided collection of nation-states. Surely he doesn’t think we’re all stupid enough to fall for that. The european union isn’t about the merging of cultures: it is an effort we never again see a return to the status quo of Europe in the thirties. But then, I suppose Farage would love to see a return to an era when people thought in such limited terms, when xenophobia was the norm, and the welfare state didn’t exist. He is essentially a fascist railing against immigration and windfarms. The irony is, he thinks himself to be some kind of anti-fascist standing up to a european monster, defending the interests of ordinary people. What bull: the only interests Farage defends are his own and the capitalist bigots who follow him.

Given that the economy relies on immigration, and that windfarms are an absolutely necessary part of the fight against global warming, isn’t it time that people saw Farage for what he is? he is a madman,, a throwback to an era long past; he an his deluded followers have nothing to contribute to the political discourse but hatred and stupidity. They would have us all seeing the wold in such petty one-dimensional terms. Surely it is time to nip this folly in the bud – time to dispand UKIP before Farage does any real damage. We cannot allow this dissembling xenophobe to carry on peddling his folly a wisdom.

Feeling like a child among adults

I am currently sat in a church in north London. Lyn brought me along to a Paraorchestra rehearsal: she was here yesterday for their first rehearsal of a new season, but I had other commitments. Today, however, I got to come with her, and I feel like a child among adults. I have suddenly found myself in a room full of supremely intelligent, talented individuals; each one of them capable of creating the most Devine sound. I feel as if I have sneaked into somewhere I should not be, as if I have not earned the right to be sat here, or as if my mortall ears are not fit to hear this. In short I feel inordinately privalaged to be sat here, among what must be one of the foremost disability arts groups.

Oh, how I love life, and where it continues to take me.