(Out Of) The Wilderness

Today was the first day in months when I actually did something – by which I mean something other than muck about on my computer or trundle around at random in my powerchair – and it feels very good indeed. A week or two ago, Sue Elsegood from the Greenwich Association of Disabled People (GAD) invited me to a meeting in Greenwich Park. The park management was redesigning an area of the park, and had asked for feedback on the plans from disabled people. Not knowing quite what to expect yet eager to make a contribution to my local community however I can, I set off to the arranged meeting point this afternoon feeling quite optimistic.

I felt the event went well: I met up with Sue and another lady, Anne, on time, and we were met by a very nice lady from Royal Parks. She walked us through the plans, which were for a wide-ranging redesign of an area if the park I had never been into. Called The Wilderness, they included designs for a new wildlife centre and Learning Centre. I tried to contribute where I could, pointing out access issues I noticed, but in all I found it quite a happy, social event. Apart from the fact that they would need to cut down a few elderly trees, I think the plans met with our approval. Most of all, I think it just felt good to be actually doing something after so many months of idleness.

After the meeting, I went for a socially distanced coffee with Sue, her PA and her mum outside the park cafe. I think that was my first proper, face-to-face conversation with someone other than Serkan in months; to be socialising once more felt incredible. You may not have heard of Sue Elsegood, but she is nothing less than a legend. She was among the group of disabled people who fought for and won accessible public transport in London, at one point by famously blocking Westminster Bridge. As she talked to me about it over our coffee, I suddenly realised that only reason I could get onto a bus to get to the park in the first place was due to what the woman in front of me and her friends had done. I owed her so much, and told her so.

Sue being Sue of course, she said that I didn’t owe her anything. Nonetheless I was then struck by the thought of making a film documenting those events. I suggested it to Sue, who liked the idea. At that, though, it was time to wend my way home, relishing the spring air, the blossom of the trees, and the promise of things to come.

How far up theirselves can anyone go?

If you ever wonder just how far up their own arse anyone can go, just read this. “Donald Trump has launched a new website celebrating his time as US president that includes a very selective retelling of the history of his time in office…The centrepiece of the site is an 885-word history of the Trump presidency, listing the achievements of what it describes as “the most extraordinary political movement in history”.” I can’t decide whether it’s more comic or tragic to see a man so deluded, whose image of himself is so divorced from reality, that he is willing to go to such lengths to preserve his narratives. Trump obviously thinks that if he shouts loudly enough, the bullshit he spews will be accepted as the truth. It’s a sign of a profoundly disturbed mind. What is even more worrying, though, is that some people still believe what Trump says, against all the evidence that he is nothing but a lying, egotistical conman. Less businessman, more bullshit-merchant.

Exposition Le Chat

I just came across some photos on my aunt’s Facebook page of an interesting looking exhibition on the Champs Elysees in Paris. The pictures were of sculptures, purportedly of cats, but looking to me more like strange, anthropomorphised hippos. It made me miss the french capital more than ever, of course, but what caught my eye was the fact that the statues were titled not just in french but in English too: that is, beneath each statue was a plaque bearing it’s title both in French and English. Does that not strike you as odd? I’ve been to quite a few exhibitions here in london, and everything has always been in English. If they started naming things in french, there would probably be some sort of nationalist outcry. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing – it’s good to see our French neighbours being so inclusive – but why is English becoming so predominant? It seems it’s even taking over the French capital, which must frankly be galling to any french person even remotely proud of their history and culture. Just imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. And why are they using English rather than any other European language, given we aren’t even members of the EU any more?

Baffling

I will always be baffled by how can’t some people realise that, if they are able enough to earn a decent amount of money, it’s only fair that part of their earnings should go towards helping people less able than they are. And why can’t they acknowledge that surely the most efficient way to render such aid is through the state? Or do they realise both, but are simply to selfish to admit it? Hoarding money while knowingly letting others starve is not economic prudence but simply greed: a mark of spoiled children who were never taught the value of sharing. We seem to have such a spoiled brat currently running the country; a man too blinded by his ego, his vision of himself as worldly yet likeable statesman, to realise most people see him as the fraudulent, lying charlatan he is. A man so despicable, so spoiled, he thinks he has a right to use public money to fund his affairs. What baffles me is how we could allow such blatantly, manifestly unfit people call theirselves our leaders, even after all the hardship and suffering they have put the country through.

A Lovely Honour for Leonard Nimoy.

It seems Boston now has to be added to my list of cities I want to visit. According to this TrekMovie article, “Today, March 26, 2021, would have been the late Leonard Nimoy’s 90th birthday. And to honor [sic] the legendary Star Trek actor the City of Boston declared today Leonard Nimoy Day. And the Boston Museum of Science just announced they are partnering with the Nimoy family to develop a memorial honoring [sic] him and his famed Vulcan Salute.” I must say that strikes me as a very cool tribute, especially given Nimoy, and Star Trek as a whole, has done so much over six decades to encourage a fascination in science and exploration in so many people. After all, it was Star Trek which first made my brother Mark interested in physics, and now he has a PhD in it, although I’m still waiting for him to invent a warp drive for my powerchair.

A place of long faded glory

Today probably wasn’t the best day to go exploring, but a couple of days ago I began thinking about the Crystal Palace again. Basically, I’d come across something on Facebook about next years Festival of Brexit, which got me thinking about the Great Exhibition: I wondered whether the Tories could be daft enough to try to invoke one with the other by doing something in Crystal Palace park. Wanting a trip out anyway, I decided to go take a look – it’s only a single half-hour bus ride from the end of my road. What I found, though, didn’t fill me with enthusiasm: I had more or less the same reaction that I had the last time I visited the place in 2018. While there were one or two new buildings such as a cafe (open for take-away only, so I couldn’t have a coffee) the place was still crumbling; the paths were a nightmare to roll along. I trundled past the Crystal Palace Bowl, an open-air music stage where famously Bob Marley played his last ever UK concert, now derelict and so badly in need of repair that local people refer to it as The Rusty Laptop. The park had the aura of a place of long faded glory, especially in the rain. Whatever plans there were to regenerate it seem to have come to nothing, or at least very little. It seems that not every part of London gets the same treatment when it comes to regeneration.

Don’t let the Tories try to steal the credit

Everyone seems to be getting so excited that the coronavirus rollout is going so well and the infection rate is now so low, things may at last soon return to something vaguely resembling normality. Yet I must now point out, cases are increasing in Europe at a worrying rate. That means that we are not out of the woods yet: it wouldn’t take much for a new variant to pop  over the channel and we’d be back to square one. The pandemic won’t be over until it’s over everywhere. Yet surely that demonstrates the importance of working together with our neighbours rather than cutting ourselves off. Had we still been members of the EU, perhaps we could have better coordinated a continent-wide response, rather than bickering like children over vaccine supplies. It is only due to Brexit that the Astrazenica mess ever happened, not that the Tories would ever admit it: they benefit politically from the division such scandals cause, and actively try to stir up animosity towards Europe.

That is, when they aren’t trying to credit greed and capitalism for the success of the vaccination process, when it was in fact the altruism, kindness and sense of community which underpin organisations like the NHS which we have to thank. As a Tory, Johnson ideologically opposes the NHS, preferring profit-based systems where the richer you are, the better healthcare you have access to; he’ll never admit a socially-based system has saved the country. Contrary to the moronic claims of the scumbag now in Downing Street, capitalism gets in the way and hinders the process, when in fact we all need to work together. This year has demonstrated that beyond doubt. The Tories might try to take the credit, but it is despite, not because of, their perverse world views that we are at this point; and had it been soley up to them, things could have been far worse.

The Tories are thus ideologically opposed to both the NHS and EU, but it is only thanks to the bloody hard work of National Health Service staff that we are doing so well; and if we were still members of the European Union there would be much less risk of a resurgence. Why then, in the name of all that is good in the world, do we let these fools run the country?

The Star Trek TNG Episode I had Never Seen

I just came across something very, very interesting indeed. Huge Star Trek fan that I am, when I was growing up I used to watch The Next Generation again and again. It was on BBC 2 every Wednesday for years, repeated ad nauseam. I had always assumed I’d seen every episode of every season. However, I was messing around on Youtube earlier when I happened upon this video about the ten Star Trek episodes which pissed people off the most. In the number nine slot was an episode of TNG called The High Ground, which according to the video had the crew of the Enterprise visit a planet upon which a group of terrorists was conducting a campaign for independence. The episode was rather controversial in that it explored the terrorists’ motives, showing their side of the story. It was so controversial, in fact, that the episode had never been aired on either the BBC or RTE, particularly given that it was first released in the early nineties at the time of the troubles in Ireland. (The episode even refers to the troubles directly).

My curiosity, predictably, was too strong: Googling the episode’s season and episode number (Season 3 Episode 12) I headed straight for Netflix. What I found myself watching was a complex, nuanced and ambiguous piece of television. While it did not take the terrorist’s side, nor did it totally condemn them; both sides were shown to be at fault and capable of brutality. Perhaps most controversially of all, it went so far as to say terrorism could sometimes achieve it’s goals, for example even referring to it leading to Irish Unification in 2024. I could certainly see why the episode could be considered so politically sensitive and why the Beeb may have been so reluctant to screen it, especially when it was produced. At the same time, I thought it was a great, thought-provoking episode which reminded me why TNG was so ground-breaking; I’m really glad to have finally seen it.

Some things in life are bad…

Today, we are told by the media, marks the miserable anniversary of the beginning of a miserable year. I know I should probably say something to commemorate it, but what could any writer write about anything so hideous? Instead, I think I’ll just direct everyone here once again, and ask you all to turn your volume up and join in.