Today marks my niece Elise’s fourth birthday. Earlier I contacted my brother Mark to ask him to wish her a happy birthday, and he sent back a video of Elise with her cake. It was great to see, but the truth is it now feels like far, far too long since I last saw Mark, Kat and the children. I always had visions of myself as the type of zany, quirky uncle who would make his niece and nephew laugh, and who they would look forward to seeing. As with everything else. I suppose, the pandemic has forced those plans to be put on hold. Oh well, there’s time yet, so I’ll just wish Elise a wonderful birthday, and hope that she enjoyed her cake.
I just came across something truly heartwarming on Facebook which I think deserves noting. I’m a member of several disability and cp-related Facebook groups. A few days ago on one of them, I saw a post by a young man explaining that he had broken the wheel of his rolator walking frame and couldn’t afford to have it repaired. As such the Man United supporter was stuck at home. I couldn’t do much to help other than suggest he contacted his social worker.
Well, this morning a picture appeared on the same facebook group of the young man with a brand new red walking frame. Someone had apparently seen his facebook post and bought it for him. It really is heartwarming to see that social media has the power to do things like that, especially these days when society seems so fractured. Indeed, if social services did it’s job properly in the first place, such acts of online charity, incredible though they are, wouldn’t be necessary.
All I can say in response to this is, ”Where can I get one of those powerchairs?” The land speed record for an electric wheelchair has been broken by a guy with Motor Neurone Disease: ”Jason Liversidge, who has motor neurone disease, reached nearly 67mph (108km/h) at Elvington Airfield, near York. The father of two, from Rise in East Yorkshire, had been aiming for the record for about three years. The world speed record for an electric all-terrain mobility vehicle was previously 62mph.” I’ll tell you now, 8mph feels fast in a powerchair, so seventy would be scary. Mind you, it would make the trip to Tesco and back a bit quicker.
Say that you’re a production executive at a big media company. Due to the pandemic, audiences are thirsty for new, interesting things, but the media landscape is largely stagnating due to the problems associated with filming new things at the moment. People are getting bored of watching repeats, so what do you do? Easy: just recomission a classic satirical show from the eighties which used puppets to make fun of current political events. That way, no actors need to risk their lives, but not only does it satisfy an audience’s need to poke fun at the current political farce, it also appeals to their sense of nostalgia.
To be honest I was never into Spitting Image; I was too young to appreciate political satire when it first aired in the eighties. My only real contact with it was when my brother Mark played The Chicken Song on his ghetto blaster, but even then I didn’t realise where it came from. Yet it’s return to screens, albeit online ones, this Autumn seems very timely: when you think about it, it’s the perfect show for these crazy times, with politics more farcical and suited for satire than ever, but with no actual actors involved. Of course, it remains to be seen how well the new series goes down – there have been attempts to revive it before – but personally I have high hopes.
Truth be told, I’m not completely sure what to make of this news that the producers of the Simpsons have elected to recast the voice of Homer’s friend Carl so that he’s voiced by a black man. On the one hand, I can certainly see where they’re coming from: of course black characters ought to be portrayed by black actors, just as disabled characters should be played by disabled people. It applies to any minority, and lends a degree of authenticity to a role. On the other hand, does it matter as much when dealing with cartoons? Audiences don’t actually see actors, just hear their voices, so does the same principal apply? In animation, just about anything can be anthropomorphised and given a voice, from mice to trains to toys: it’s up to an actor to step into a role. Given Carl has been voiced by Hank Azaria for thirty-odd years, moreover, won’t audiences notice the change? It’s a toughie.
With a second Scottish independence referendum now looking more and more likely, and support for a united Ireland growing, both due to Brexit, today we begin to wonder how long it will be before Kent declares itself independent from the UK. Quite unbelievably, the Outists are now saying that there will now need to be a border around Kent in order to control customs to and from the EU. Can things get any sillier? If that happens, I reckon it won’t be long before Kent starts it’s own independence movement. After all, in the so-called dark ages, Kent was it’s own kingdom; things are now so insane that, if this border is established, it won’t take much for some kind of Kentish independence movement to start to appear. If Brexit goes as catastrophically as any sensible person thinks it will, it could well motivate Kent even further to leave the UK and rejoin the EU on it’s own, benefitting from the trade through it’s ports as well as the Channel Tunnel. How amusing would that be? And the crazy thing is, it might not be that far fetched.
Yesterday NASA announced plans to send people back to the moon for the first time since the seventies. Ordinarily, I’d be bouncing up and down with excitement at such news: I’m all for anything that advances humanity’s exploration of space. These days though, I can’t help suspecting that this is less about science and more about geopolitics. With China having announced it’s own plans to send people to the lunar surface, America seems desperate to retain – or reclaim – what it seems to feel as it’s inherent position as the world’s leading spacefaring nation. The position the US once had, or thought it had, as the most advanced nation on earth is slipping. It assumed the cosmos was theirs alone for the taking – we can see that in it’s plans to mine the moon, as if it automatically belonged to America. The fact that other nations are catching up and possibly overtaking America is why it now seems desperate to repeat it’s great triumphs of fifty years ago. Thus while I’m all for the exploration of the final frontier, I can’t help feeling this has more to do with a once great nation trying to restore its prominence.
Saint Aigur Blue Cheese and Jam (preferably my mum’s home made strawberry jam) spread in equal measure on toast may sound a bit weird, but as I learned this morning, it’s absolutely delicious. I’ve seen serkan making it for himself a couple of times, and today curiosity got the better of me. He says it’s his own invention. What at first glance might seem like a very strange combination actually goes together really well, the sweetness of the jam offsetting the musky bitterness of the cheese. I dare you to try it.
Compared with London, Congleton is a small, dull place; so why am I craving once again strolling around it in my powerchair? I have now lived in the capitol for over ten years, and I still love it for it’s energy and vibrancy. I love the feeling of being in a world city, one of humanity’s major cultural hubs. Yet recently I’ve been thinking about the small Cheshire town where I grew up. I’ve been back there a few times since I moved to london, of course, visiting my parents; yet I didn’t take my powerchair with me, so I couldn’t wander around the town as I once did.
I think that’s what I’m missing. It’s not that there’s much to see, especially compared to the metropolis: there’s just something about following the roads, lanes and paths I have known since infancy which I find myself craving. I used to go out for hours in my powerchair, to the town centre or through the park, where I still remember being pushed on the swings as a child. Either that or up the lanes between the fields towards Swettenham, trundling along listening to the birds. These days I can go to Eltham or Woolwich or Greenwich, or anywhere in this vast urban expanse; yet there’s something about trundling about that quiet northern town surrounded by countryside which I’m starting to crave. Something about those streets which I once knew so well, which I have so many memories of, but which I last went down a lifetime ago.
I’m obviously just feeling nostalgic. Many people are, these days: this year has been so relentlessly depressing that we all want to return to happier times. All the same, I hope that, soon enough, perhaps next spring, I’ll find myself heading in my chair down Rood Hill or through Congleton Town Centre, trying to spot anything or anyone I recognise. I will probably be feeling rather snooty and superior about now being a Londoner, but beneath that there will be a great deal of affection. I may have changed a great deal over the last decade as I have grown used to the cut and thrust, the speed and noise of life in a great metropolis; but I will always be from that small town up in Cheshire, surrounded by fields.
The details are fairly complex so I better not try to summarise them here, but I want to flag this quite important Disability News Service article up. As I touched upon a few days ago, the new Coronavirus Act looks like it is going to have a lot of worrying consequences for people with disabilities. While as the article says, it is up to individual county councils whether to trigger the particular ‘easements’ which would threaten peoples’ right to social care, people are now nonetheless very, very worried about now suddenly having their support taken away.