Could I Trundle In Tokyo?

This morning in the shower I was struck by an interesting question which I think is worth exploring: could I trundle around Tokyo as I trundle around London? To answer that, I need to first explain what I mean by ‘trundle’. Here in London, I often go out in my powerchair, usually in the afternoon, on fairly long, leisurely walks. I basically follow my nose. If I have somewhere specific I want or need to go, of course I’ll head there, but if not I try to explore the city, following roads and paths I haven’t been down before.

I can do this because London is fairly open and accessible, or at least the borough of Greenwich is: it’s low-rise and not very dense, with wide, well maintained streets and lots of green, pleasant parks. I find I can go around in my chair fairly easily. I can’t help but wonder, though, could I do the same in Tokyo? If I was living there rather than London, could I have the same leisurely, exploratory trundles? What are the paths and pavements like, and how accessible is it? Judging from the images coming from the olympics, Tokyo is a far denser, more compact city than London: what does that mean for accessibility? Would I be able to get around? Would I find as many parks and open spaces as I do here in London? I do not know, but I’d be fascinated to go there to find out.

Re-Linking my Archive

I’m still pretty thrilled to have my archive back, especially as I can now direct everyone back to entries like this, this and this. The only problem is, the newly-returned entries don’t have the original links, so when I wrote an entry directing everyone to an article or video I wanted them to see, the link has been lost. I’ve started to go back and reinsert the links where I can, but with over 4,000 entries, that’s a big task, and in a lot of cases I’ve forgotten where the link went. It’s a bit of a pity, but on the whole I’m glad to have all those entries online again.

Worrying Weather

This time last week we were all wearing shorts and complaining about the extreme heat. This afternoon I was caught in a sudden torrential downpour the like of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It’s becoming more and more obvious that something is happening to our weather systems, and I think we should all be very concerned indeed.

A Case Against Inclusion?

Earlier I had an idea for a piece of writing which I think I need to leave to brew a bit, but which I think it’s worth jotting down here. I grew up in a special school. Of course, a lot has been said for the case for inclusion: educating all children together, regardless of ability, has massive social and educational benefits. I’m not questioning that; yet it occurs to me that, had I not gone to the school I did, had I not been educated alongside my disabled classmates, would I be the person I am today? To put that another way, if I had been mainstreamed and kept separate from other disabled children, would I be as open to other people with disabilities as I am now? Would I still have had so many disabled friends, or would I have tended to shun other disabled people? Indeed, would I ever have gone out with Lyn, had I not had the experiences I acquired through school? I’m not sure I would have, so perhaps the case could be made that special school, academically flawed though it may have been, made me who I am. I cherish my friendships with my school mates, and especially with Lyn; I feel extremely fortunate to have known them all. In a way you could say that going to a special school forged my identity, my worldview, as a disabled man. Where, however, does that put the case for inclusion?

I think these questions are worth exploring at some length.

Flood? What Flood?

Today was one of those days when curiosity got the better of me. You may have heard on last nights news that the Stratford Shopping Centre was flooded yesterday. The thing is, there are two shopping centre in Stratford: the older, smaller Stratford Centre, and the Westfield centre, one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe. (Reference for northerners: it’s like having the Trafford Centre and the Potteries Centre in Stoke just across the road from each other.) The thing was, it wasn’t clear from the news report which had been flooded, and, being rather fond of Stratford, I wanted to find out.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: I could just have googled it. Yet I suspect that would have just been ambiguous. Far better (and more fun) to hop onto the tube and head the three stops up the Jubilee Line to see for myself.

That, then, is exactly what I did. It took less than forty minutes to get there. First I headed for Westfield, only to find it functioning normally, and as insanely busy as ever. Then, after a quick shop for the sausages I knew I needed for dinner tonight, I went in search of the Stratford Shopping Centre. Despite the two being so close, it took me a while to navigate the streets of Stratford, now highly developed save for the occasional old, derelict pub, left standing as if to remind you what that area of London used to be like not that long ago. There is an easy, direct route between the two, but I chose not to take it, preferring to explore instead. Yet, when I got there, I found the Stratford Centre perfectly fine too, with no sign of any flood. There were a few signs of damage, but the clean up must have been really fast. I was impressed: I’d expected at least one mall to be closed.

That, then, answered my question, and I decided to head home. It may have been a bit of a pointless exercise, but having got to see a bit of Stratford other than the Westfield Centre and Olympic park, I think that area is ripe for exploration. And at least I got my sausages.

Jab Day No. 2

I just had my second COVID vaccination. There isn’t much to report really. As I did the first time, I asked Serkan to come with me, just for efficiency: he can give my details much more quickly than I can through my Ipad. Hence it was just a case of rolling up, checking in with the school boys at the door (seriously, they were chatting about expecting their A-Level results), putting on a mask, rolling through the door and up to the right lady, and getting vaccinated. It only took twenty minutes or so, but I’m pleased to have done my bit to get the pandemic over.

Tokyo Opening Ceremony

I suppose I have a bit of a tradition on my website now of reviewing olympic opening ceremonies, and having just watched the Tokyo opening ceremony, part of me wants to say something about it; but what can I say? I think most of all, I am left with a sense of curiosity at what could have been. It was obviously a very paired down ceremony due to the pandemic, and much of it’s content focussed on the pandemic and it’s effects. Don’t get me wrong, there were parts which genuinely amazed me, such as the drones which lit up to form a globe, and I felt the speeches about global unity and cooperation really resonated. Yet, as many others are noting, it was much more low key than your usual olympic opening ceremony. You have to wonder what the Japanese could have shown us, had they had the chance: what spectaculars did they originally have in mind? Just imagine that the pandemic bomb had exploded in 2012, and this had happened to London. So much preparation, excitement and build-up, all to come to nothing and get replaced with a respectful, far more sombre ceremony performed to an empty stadium. In 2012, Danny Boyle used London’s opening ceremony to show the world a wonderful, vibrant collage of British culture. What could we have seen of Japanese culture, apart from the glimpses we got? I suspect they would have taken the world’s breath away given the chance, but Japan’s moment in the spotlight was dimmed by a virus. You really have to feel sorry for them.

Developing Questions

I know I’ve blogged about this before, albeit not for a while, but I’m still curious to know whether other towns and cities in the UK are seeing the same level of redevelopment London now is. I was just down in Greenwich for my daily wander, and you should see the amount of building going on: swanky, modern buildings and complexes of buildings are going up everywhere. Not far from my house is Kidbrooke, which in the last few years has been completely transformed into a very well-to-do, gentrified area of blocks of flats, plazas and parks. What I’m now wondering is, is this just happening in London or is it the same case across the country. I haven’t been out of the capital for a while: what are the places I used to know, like Crewe, Stoke or Macclesfield like these days? Are they developing at the same rate London is, or is all the money being ploughed into the capital while the rest of the country gets left behind?

Late Night Kindness

At about half past nine last night, I was just settling down to watch some TV: Ken Burns’ Hemingway was on, Serkan had gone home, and I was starting to look forward to bed. A few minutes before I had heard the familiar ‘ping’ of someone sending me a message over Facebook, but I’d chosen to ignore it until after the program. Suddenly, though, my doorbell rang – something very unusual at that time of night. I got up to answer it, and saw my neighbour Bilal in his wheelchair carrying a large tray of food. He said ‘Hi’ and asked if I wanted some.

I was slightly confused – I had had my dinner, and hadn’t asked for any help. I invited him in, still in two minds about quite what to do: this was obviously a generous gesture, but accepting that generosity would mean telling him how to set up my Neater Eater. Yet I needn’t have worried, as, following my instructions, he soon had me ready to eat, dishing out some delicious-looking chicken and cheese macaroni onto my dish. And then the obvious hit me: it was Eid, and my neighbours were probably celebrating. In that moment I wished I knew the appropriate expression of thanks.

Needless to say, the food was lovely. After I had finished it, I thanked my neighbour, Shazil, over Facebook, noticing that she had, of course, messaged me about an hour before to ask if I wanted any. It felt great to know I have neighbours like that, and now live in a lovely little community where everyone looks after everyone else.