This is the first entry of my blog’s new wordpress home. To be honest, it feels weird: after fifteen years of being master of my own domain, I now need to get used to a new blog style and format. In a way it feels like I’m starting all over again, which can be seen as both good and bad.
Quite a bit has happened in the last three or four weeks, and I’ve missed the ability to blog; my site acted as an essential vent for my feelings. In particular, I received the devastating news of the passing of my old school friend Lee D. I got it last Saturday via my Ipad while I was protesting up in parliament square. Truth be told I’m quite devastated about it: he was one off my oldest friends, whom I grew up with. Emotions have been raw all week, and I’ve found myself longing for the ability to express myself as I have for the past fifteen years.
At least I now have my blog back, albeit in a different form. It’s quite a change, and a lot to get used to, but please expect my ill-informed ramblings to resume here.
This is Matt’s new blog. This is a holding entry until Matt makes an entry of his own. Archived entries from the original blog will be added during the summer. Please bear with us until then!
Zooming around Charlton as usual, a couple of days ago I noticed security fences had been put up around the old Summerhouse near Charlton House. The Seventeenth-century building has stood abandoned and dilapidated since long before I moved down here. It was apparently designed by Inigo Jones, but I must have passed the old ruin a hundred times without giving it a second thought. Yet the sight of guys in high-viz jackets clearing it out has for some reason pricked my interest, and I’ve started to go that way just to see how they are getting on. As when I saw geophysicists in Charlton Park, it gets me wondering, what secrets could that tiny old hut yield? what history might be uncovered in a building abandoned for so long?
I’ve always liked Rudyard Kipling, but rarely could he have seemed so prophetic or apt…
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Just to keep the ”funny spastic” theme, started by Lee Ridley yesterday going, I think I’ll just direct you all here. Lyn pointed Spack In The Box out to me yesterday, and he made us both laugh. He too is one to keep an eye on, although I suspect we’re about to see a proliferation of comedians with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities coming onto the scene, spring-boarding off Ridley’s BGT win. I do not, however, mean that negatively in any way – the more the merrier! It may turn out that the vehicle of comedy may make it easier for others to relate to what we, as people with disabilities, have to tell them.
Not that I usually pay any attention to Britain’s Got Talent, but I must say how happy I am with the incredible news that Lost Voice Guy, Lee Ridley, won the show last night. I got wind of it last night just as I was going to bed. From what I’ve seen of him, Ridley is a great guy with a good sense of humour. He opened
Communication Works two years ago. In a way he does what I try to do through writing in his stand-up act: he shows people the world from his point of view in a self-knowing, ironic way. Lee’s strength is that he is unafraid to make fun of himself, taking up prejudices and assumptions people may have about people like ‘us’ and throwing them back at them.
The only problem I have with that is, when they are presented as comedy as Ridley does, they become just an act – something light-hearted and throw away. In order to examine the position of people with disabilities in the real world, you have to go deep: that’s why I have kept plugging away at my blog for the last fifteen years. What Ridley does is all well and good, but to a certain extent, he merely plays the crip-card – ”look at me, I’m the funny spazz” – without presenting anything new or original. Yes, there’s irony in what he says, but how deep is his knowledge and analysis really? Frankly, the jokes he makes are the same ones my Communication-aid using mates and I have told for twenty year; Ridley just presents them to a fresh audience. To become the self-knowing soothsayer Ridley seems to want to present himself as requires much, much more. And, as Lyn pointed out when I reported this news to her on my way to bed last night, you have to wonder whether he didn’t simply win through pity.
I don’t want to seem too critical or curmudgeonly – this is indeed great news and a huge step forward for VOCA users – but it would seem the cultural critic in me cannot be silenced.
I’ve never been much of a football fan, preferring cricket, but I casually keep my eye on three or four teams: Macclesfield town, being the closest half decent side to Congleton, my home town. Then there’s Charlton Athletic, who play just down the hill from me and Lyn. I support Manchester United, because – well, you know they are the best. And I support Liverpool, simply because they were Andy Fox’s favourite team. I am, however, considering starting to follow a fifth football team.
I was up in the olympic park this afternoon. I go to Stratford fairly regularly to shop in the giant Westfield there, but today I wanted to give the olympic park a proper explore. It really is developing nicely into a beautiful addition to the list of London’s great parks. The river Lee flows gracefully between large gardens planted with flowers; paths wind smoothly between lawns, leading you from the orbit tower to the aqua park to the velodrome. To think that, under twenty years ago, that was all just wasteland is astonishing. The Olympic stadium itself now looks great, decked out in it’s new West Ham colours but looking forward to all kinds of sporting and musical events. Looking at it, thinking about what happened there in 2012 as well as all the awesomeness yet to come, there and then I made a decision: from now on, I’ll support West Ham too. I cant’t name any of their players and have no idea how they’re doing; but then, I don’t know anything about any other football team I nominally support either, so why not?!
Back at school, I remember coming across the notion that intellectualism should be shunned, and that paying attention in class and trying to learn was only something geeks and outsiders did. Such notions, of course, ran directly counter to everything my parents were telling me at the time: they were always trying to get me to read and work more, not less. So I was sort of pulled in opposite directions.
When I went to college and then university, my work ethic solidified (somewhat). I retrospectively put my classmates’ attitude down to the fact that, having Muscular dystrophy and other life-limiting conditions, they weren’t really motivated as much as other people are – why toil and struggle if you know you aren’t going to live past twenty-five? Yet, since then, I have often come across the same, shun-all-teachers attitude in other people who did not have that excuse. In fact it seems quite commonplace, and I find myself wondering if it was this attitude which lead to the Brexit vote.
It is an attitude which shuns authority and learning, and where experts are just geeks who don’t know anything about ”the real world”. Why would anyone with such a worldview bother to listen to anyone who said leaving the EU would be cataclysmic? In fact, if they are anything like my classmates, they would do the exact opposite of what the experts say, just to spite them. Of course, you can put this down to class, social disenfranchisement, economic disenfranchisement, or whatever you like, but I’m really beginning to think that this shun-all-teachers attitude had an effect on the referendum two years ago.
Lyn and I just got back from a lovely long walk, and I have to say we found a view even more spectacular than the one I mentioned here a year ago. It was up shooters Hill, but on the other side of the road, about here. I was up that way on Wednesday evening for a film festival meeting, and kept catching glimpses of a view right across the city. They took my breath, and I made a mental note to take L up there as soon as I could. I’m glad I did. Streetview doesn’t really do it justice, but you have to be able to see at least twenty miles up there, right across the city, especially on a day like today. (Smeg knows what a view like that does to house prices up there.)