Trying To Get Vaccinated

It has been a long, frustrating afternoon. A couple of days ago I noticed a new COVID vaccination centre had opened not far from here, so today I thought I would go and see if I could get vaccinated. It has been a dismal few months, and like everyone else I’d like to see the threat of this virus lifted. Since I’m in close physical contact with people like Personal Assistants and shop assistants so regularly, and given that I can’t wear a mask, I thought there was a good argument to be made that I should get vaccinated earlier than people my age would ordinarily be.

At about midday, then, I trundled down the path to see what could be done. There, outside the small centre, I spoke to a friendly lady who, seeming to understand my predicament, explained that they would need to see my NHS number before they could help. With that I sped back home (via the off license – well, it is Friday after all). Luckily Serkan was still here when I got back, so he helped me find a letter with my NHS number. I put it in my bumbag together with proof of my new address and passport, just in case, and made my way back to the vaccination centre.

This time, though, things weren’t quite so positive: as friendly as the staff there were, once they saw my NHS number, they found I couldn’t book a vaccination. The program they used just took people’s ages into account, so as much as I tried to explain why I needed the jab, there was nothing they could do. The best they could do was give me a phone number to get someone to ring. At that I began to get frustrated: I am now reaching the stage where I would give almost anything to cuddle mum or dad, have a beer with Charlie, Chris or Steve, or be rolled down a hill in a plastic bag by my brothers (don’t ask), but I can’t due to this damn virus. I’m stuck, trundling around my local area in my powerchair, waiting for the day that things return to normal; hoping that neither me, Serkan or anyone else catches anything in the meantime. And on the one occasion I decide to be proactive and take the initiative, I get fobbed off with a phone number.

Well, at least I tried.

Spot The Difference

That the charlatan Johnson has the audacity to try to associate himself with Captain Sir Tom, eg using his picture on the 10 Downing Street Facebook Page, really, really takes the piss. One was a kind-hearted, noble old man; the other is a lying, egotistical embarrassment to human civilisation.

May be an image of 2 people and text that says 'Spot the difference The man on the left raised £33 million for the NHS The man on the right raised £22 billion for his rich friends made with mematic'

Lyn’s Song

A few months ago during the first lockdown I asked my friend Charlotte to help me make a song. Lyn, as ever, was on my mind, and I thought rather than write anything in prose, what better tribute can I pay her than one in the art form which she loved? Charlie very kindly obliged: I wrote some lyrics and she skilfully fit them to music, and a few email exchanges later (together with C’s brother Hugh’s help on the accordion) we had quite a beautiful piece of music. The problem was, we agreed that it wasn’t quite finished: it needed something like an electric guitar solo to round it off. Since neither of us knew any electric guitarists, we sort of left it there; the project was forgotten about, and the file was left to collect electronic dust on my computer.

A couple of days ago though, I was thinking about Lyn and how I have yet to pay her a decent tribute. The news was about how Captain Moore was in hospital, with everyone paying tribute to him. I suddenly thought about Lyn’s Song, and how it had never received the airing it deserved. At that, I decided to put things right, creating a simple video montage to go with the track and uploading it. It can be seen here. The video is far from perfect, but the music is what matters. I miss Lyn, and always will, and this seems like a great way to remember her.

A tribute the NHS deserves more than ever

I think now more than ever, we need reminding of this. With coronavirus rates surging and the pandemic as worrying as it ever has been, we need to cherish the National Health Service more than ever before. We are lucky to have it, and it’s probably the only thing which redeems the UK as a nation at the moment. I think it’s worth recalling that, back in 2012 with the eyes of the world on London, Danny Boyle chose to pay tribute to the NHS; it’s now clearer than ever how much it deserved that place in the Olympic Opening Ceremony. It’s inclusion there meant the NHS was rightly recognised as something we should all be proud of. We surely must express our thanks to an institution which guarantees us all free healthcare, no matter who we are or how much we earn. I also think it’s worth remembering that, according to this clip, the Tories wanted to cut that part of the ceremony, a desire which should damn them now more than ever.

What fiction can frame such a reality?

I’m quite fond of allegories or retellings. When you think about it, some of the best films are retellings of older, classical stories: The Crucible, for instance, is about the Salem witch trials, but can be read as an allegory for American politics during the McCarthy era. Jaws is a retelling of Moby Dick. The Lion King is essentially a retelling of Hamlet. West Side Story is a retelling of Romeo And Juliet. There was a program about West Side Story on tv last night, which made me muse about how adapting a story can add something to the original, and also how reframing real events can shed new light on them. That got me thinking, could something similar be done with Trump? He is, after all, almost cinematic or theatrical – even Shakespearian – in his pomposity. If so, what existing narrative could be reused?

The first thing which came to mind was Macbeth. There we see a man whose vaulting ambition drives him to commit greater and greater evils. Yet Macbeth doesn’t quite fit: Macbeth was spurred on by his wife, whereas Trump is driven by his own self-importance; and, as I was just reminded on Facebook, Macbeth starts the play as a good guy, whereas Trump has always been evil.

Another candidate could be Richard III, about a hunchback whose ambition drives him to murder his brother to become king, although I’d be wary of it’s ablest overtones. Yet you can see what I’m getting at, I think: I wonder if there is a classical narrative which could be adapted to describe this pompous, self-important embarrassment to human civilisation, whose deluded opinion of himself goes so deep that he denies reality itself. Is there such a narrative, or is Trump so depraved that not even our greatest writers would dare to create a character that hideous?

The Dig

Following my parents’ recommendation during the family Skype meeting this morning, I just watched The Dig on Netflix. I’m fairly into history and archaeology, and what Mum and Dad said about it sounded interesting. To be honest though, I can’t say I was that taken by it. The discovery of a Middle Age burial ship is of course fascinating, but archeological digs, however historically important, aren’t the first thing which come to mind when trying to think of subjects for feature films. Naturally the director, Simon Stone, does his best to dramatise things, but as Mark Kermode says in his review, there’s quite a bit that just feels tagged on to jazz the film up. While there are some terrific performances in this film, especially from Ralph Fiennes, as well as some great photography, it was the type of film which had me checking the time, wondering when it was going to end. Too much of this film felt superfluous and unnecessary. Having said that, I now intend to go and read about the Sutton Hoo burial which the film was based on. I suppose the problem is, while archeology can be fascinating, it isn’t particularly cinematic.

A glimpse into American division

It may be a week or so old, but if you want to glimpse into just how divided American society has become, I think this is worth watching. If it’s anything to go by, this Channel Four news film reveals a fractured, warped society rife with conspiracy theorists and reactionaries, all too eager to hurl white hot hatred at anyone who disagrees with them. I don’t really know how widespread this issue is in America, but if the kind of political animosity on display here is as endemic as I’m beginning to fear, I think we should be very concerned indeed.

Is stuff being built elsewhere?

I obviously haven’t been able to go out and explore the city as much as I’d ordinarily like, so to keep track of what is going on, I simply go onto Youtube. There, I find videos like this about the revitalisation of the Nine Elms area. Despite the pandemic and the deepest recession in decades, there is obviously still a hell of a lot of money going into building and infrastructure across London – and that’s before we even get into things like Crossrail. I have to ask though: is this being mirrored elsewhere? It feels like years since I went outside London to another uk city. How are places like Manchester, Liverpool or Stoke doing? Are we seeing swanky new buildings being constructed there too? And if we aren’t, could this imbalance in investment be leading to the increasing resentment of London and the South I’ve been picking up on social media?

I Would Rather Speak For Myself

You may recall that, back in October, I mentioned a youtube channel by two sisters, one of whom had fairly severe Cerebral Palsy. On the face of it, the videos they made were quite unproblematic, documenting their lives, drawing viewers’ attentions to issues they found salient. Yet, forgive my grumpiness, the more of their material I came across – both on youtube and Facebook – the more problematic I found it; the more of a nasty taste it left in my mouth. It wasn’t the content of the channel which was the problem, as much as how it was delivered and indeed the very premise of the channel.

Cheethams with Dreams purports to be about two sisters in Manchester (I think) living their lives. Yet the more of their videos I watch, the more it looks to me like the slightly older, able bodied sister, Becky, is speaking for her younger sibling, Hannnah. Of course, hannah is shown using her communication aid quite a bit, but she is always cued to say pre-written sentences by becky, as if she is only allowed to speak when told to. It is clearly Becky who sets up and structures the content of the films, so that it feels like she is the one who is showing us what a marvellous sister she has, rather than allowing hannah to speak for herself or present herself to us of her own volition. Becky is presented as the one caring for and supporting her sister, for example speaking to Hannah from behind the camera as she eats her lunch with a Neater Eater, asking patronising questions, just as a parent would speak to a toddler while making a home video for their grandparents. It is as if Becky is using Hannah as an object of fascination to show the rest of the world, or presenting her as her poor crippled sister who she has to care for and support.

As you can probably tell I quite like blogging: I enjoy rambling on about whatever takes my fancy, letting the world know what is on my mind. My weblog, of course, was set up for me by my brother Luke, who is far better at such things than I am. While Luke may help me maintain my blog though, only I have any say about its content; only I write my blog entries. This blog is therefore mine and mine alone. If luke (or Mark) did have input, the nature of this blog would be totally different: it wouldn’t just be the ill-informed ramblings of a cripple, but would probably include my brothers’ perspective on what I write and what I’m up to. It would perhaps feel like they were speaking for me, or facilitating what I have to say.

Thank zark they just let me get on with it – they’re both too busy these days anyway. Yet the point I am trying to make is that, as a guy with cerebral palsy, it is important to me that my voice is my own; I don’t want anyone else to talk for me. That’s why the Cheethams with Dreams strike me as so problematic. Watching them, it is obvious hannah cheetham is perfectly intelligent; probably just as intelligent and I am, and heading to university. Yet the way her sister dominates their videos makes it feel, to me at least, like she is being spoken for, or worse, used as a means of attracting attention. In quite a few of their videos for instance, all hannah does is sit there and squeal a bit while her sister delivers the all dialogue, to my mind infantilising her quite appallingly. If Luke tried to make such a video with me, I would tell him to shove it up his arse and head for the nearest pub.

Yet we see this sort of thing quite a lot. Last night there was a program on the Beeb about Katie Price and her severely autistic son Harvey which was just as troubling. The way in which the former model constantly foregrounded herself over her son made it feel to me like she was simply using her son to get attention and reenergise her dying career. The documentary was ostensibly about Price looking for a place for her son in a post-16 special needs education college. Yet that is obviously a problem faced by many, many parents across the country, so the question arises: if the BBC wanted to air a program highlighting the problems faced by parents of young people with severe autism in their late teens, why did they do one just focussing on this former Page 3 girl?

Moreover, the way in which price treated her son was sickening. I know that he has a developmental age of around seven, but his mother was treating him like an infant, constantly referring to herself in the third person. Autistic or not, the guy deserved more respect. More to the point, price seemed determined to make sure the focus of the program was on her rather than her son, for example explaining to the camera how the unfolding events were making her feel. It was clear that she wanted the program to be about her, not her son; and that Harvey was just a useful tool with which she could gain the audience’s sympathy.

It would have been far more interesting, in my opinion, to have let Harvey Price speak for himself, insofar as he can. What must it be like to have a supermodel for a mum? Was he comfortable getting all that press attention? Wouldn’t he rather be treated a bit more like an adult? But, like Hannah Cheetham, someone else has taken it upon themselves to talk for him, using the fact he is disabled to get attention, but in doing so denying him his own voice..