The Undatables: A Failed Journalist’s Opinion

Wednesday 25 January, 2017

(I originally wrote this at some point following a bunch of conversations I was part of over twitter and facebook. Much thanks to Good Mate Lynsey for reading my word-vomit and editing it up for me so it was more coherent. I’ve become aware that sometimes my long winded sentences only make sense to me, and not much to other people!)

**

I’m going to talk about the Undateables. Why? Well, it’s come up again in the disabled community and I’ve had these thoughts floating around for a while, and I thought it was time to put all my thoughts about it in one place.

I think it wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear (or read) that I do not like the show. I don’t like the premise and I don’t like the tone. Yes, I have seen one episode of it, and I’ll never watch it again. No, that’s not because I’m as romantic as a rock (I can be romantic, I just never am. Let’s not go down this road. Anyway…)

The reason why I don’t like the show is because it is a beacon for inspiration porn. What is inspiration porn, you might ask? Well, it’s using the existence or circumstance of a disabled person to inspire able bodied people to feel better about themselves. It comes out in many forms and disabled people see, hear and feel it every day. When someone on the bus congratulates a wheelchair user for getting out and about, that’s inspiration porn. When someone shares a picture of a disabled bride walking down the aisle, that’s inspiration porn. When someone shares a picture of a bride in a wheelchair going down the aisle and the words “good for her!” are the caption, that’s inspiration porn. When a big fuss is made of an able bodied person going to the prom with a disabled person, that’s inspiration porn. When a Paralympian athlete is photographed at a training session and there’s a big caption over the photo saying “If this person can do it, you’ve got no excuse!” that is inspiration porn.

Yes, some disabled people indulge in it, but I’d say the majority of us dislike it and want rid of it. It’s only inspiring because these things are seen as exceptional, but when you come to understand disabilities beyond the “disability binary” then you come to realise that most wheelchair users can get up and walk (a bit, relatively speaking. When I get out of my wheelchair, it’s usually to make it easier to put my coat on or to go to the bathroom with crutches). You also realise that a lot of wheelchair users get on the bus to go about their fairly unexceptional day (when there’s not a sodding pram in the wheelchair space!) and a Paralympian athlete is just like any other athlete. They are fitter and stronger than the average joes of the world. Do people point at Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah, Gregg Rutherford or Rebecca Addlington and say “If these athletes can do it, you’ve got no excuse!” ? No. Because first of all, people would probably assume you’re implying that black people and female athletes are somehow less capable in the first place than white male athletes, and also implying that having ginger hair impedes a person’s ability to be good at sports. Second of all, because in this enlightened day and age, you know that these able bodied athletes are at the top of their game, because that’s where their training and hard work got them. Disabled athletes train to be athletes all the same. You’ve got “no excuse” regardless of whether Tanni Grey Thompson is doing a marathon or not. We are not a measuring spoon for how capable able bodied should feel about themselves.

So that’s inspiration porn summarised for you.

And that’s what Undateables wreaks of. That show is presented so that people go “Look at all those disabled people, bless em, they want true love, isn’t that sweet?”.

My other problem with it is this “have your cake and eat it too” notion from the makers of the show. Channel 4 have said this show is to highlight disabled issues, and to normalise disability. They say it’s a show for disabled people to connect with, but if you ask on Twitter, most disabled people will reply saying they’ve felt alienated watching the show by the way the editing process and undertone treat the people who go on it.

Normalising disability actually means treating it as if it’s so unexceptional that you take it as just as normal as seeing able bodied people everywhere. We once thought the Spork was amazing, now it’s an everyday item we eat salad with, and new generations wonder what all the fuss was about back in 2003.

Channel 4 are not going to achieve “normalisation” with a whole show dedicated to only disabled people in a dating show, usually being set up on dates with other disabled people, edited to highlight how bizarre and weird (*cough* undateable *cough*) a person’s disability makes them. There’s a thin line between recognising perseverance through adversity, and pointing at the freak of the circus and saying “Dear God what is that thing!”, and I think this show skates firmly past the line into the latter.

I think if Channel 4 really wanted to achieve normality for disabled people, they’d ditch the show and accept more disabled people on to their other dating shows. I believe there’s a show called First Dates, and that that has, on the odd occasion, featured a disabled person looking for love. Now I’ve not watched that show and I don’t know how they treated that person, but I imagine there was less of turning a disabled person into a freak show and more of drink, food and awkward conversation that the rest of the participants also go through.

Keeping disabled people to a speciality show is segregating us from mainstream programming, it is that simple. People will categorise it as a special needs show, and they’ll either not watch it because they don’t want to watch disabled people, or they do watch it because they want to get teary-eyed and warm-hearted over it. It is plain to see who these shows are made for, and it is for the able bodied community. It is a narrative of disabled people skewed so people can lap it up and weep over. And you might ask yourself what the difference is when people do that for the Undateables and when people do that for First Dates. The answer is tone.

Which brings me on to my third point. The show makers keep defending that the name of the show, the “Undateables”, is irony. It’s a nod to the culture that says disabled people aren’t dateable by showing that is an untrue stereotype. As in, they’re not undateable, because they’re on the show to go on date! (YAY~) Skimming over that, I just don’t see them destroying this stereotype via the content of the show. It’s obvious that the subtle irony is lost on most people who watch it.

Look on Twitter, look on Facebook. Read the reactions. It’s The Feels coming from a place of ~Feels~. Because, again, if dating and disability were normalised, I don’t think we’d see as much of a maternalistic reaction as we do now. How do I know that? Because First Dates doesn’t get those same reactions.

And worse is the mockery. There’s a meme that goes around on Facebook and Twitter where people announce that they’ve got through the selection process to appear on The Undateables, with the joke being that of course they’re not “retarded” to go on “that show”. There’s people who live tweet and make horrible comments and jokes about the participants, about the way they look and how they act. There’s people who call other people names of memorable participants. And it doesn’t matter what defence they use, they follow the same formula, and don’t let pathetic reasons tell you otherwise. They’re not calling someone Tourettes Adam* because of a facial feature or personality trait that they admired in the participant who had tourettes, they are using tourettes as an insult towards these other people.

Americans love this defence, it’s called the “But it means something different here and they’re not even disabled”. It doesn’t matter what you say your intentions are, if you are making fun of someone by using an aspect of disability (such as retard, spaz, mong), then you are making fun of disabled people. You are saying that this aspect of disability is bad, it’s something to mock. And the same goes for when people on twitter call their mates “Tourettes Adam*”. They aren’t making fun of JUST their mate, they are making fun of someone with Tourettes.

And for the record, Retard, Cretin, Spaz, Mong, and other such words, were born from use against disabled people. It doesn’t matter if your chair is fire retardant and that that meaning is something different in that context, no one is telling you not to call your couch fire retardant. We are telling you that using the word retard (or the other words) in a context where you are making fun of someone for an aspect you would find in a disabled person, who is less able than you in some way, or not as smart as you academically, then it goes right back to the disability slur. Yes, even if it’s because your friend got a D in their Maths GCSE when you got an A. There is no defence in using these words.

So, back to The Undateables. With all those reasons combined, Channel 4 are not kidding me, nor many other disabled people.

It’s up to you if you keep watching, but I hope after you read this you question why you watch it. I hope you compare it to other dating shows and see the differences that we can see, and think about how each show makes you feel. If you know there’s a difference in how you feel watching it, then you know there’s a difference in how and why they make it.

And I hope you come around to our way of thinking and realise that the show, and the way it makes you feel, is hurting disabled people. It is not helping us, it is definitely not normalising dating and disability, and with that in mind I hope that you eventually stop watching it.

This has been AFJ.

Please come back soon!

*- Tourettes Adam does not exist, as far as I’m aware, however I have seen a similar nickname be thrown around on twitter and I did not feel right about using it.


Who Says No To Mentos? Sensible people, that’s who

Wednesday 30 November, 2016

I’ve been meaning to write about adverts for a while now, but I’ve struggled to pull a post together in a coherent manner. I can’t stand most adverts and some of them just make me want to rant and go off on one, and I can’t see that being a worthwhile read, so you can understand my problem.

Until now. Now a new advert has come out and this post all fell in place.

It’s about an advert for Mentos: the lovely sweeties that are not quite fruity softmints that actually had a mass recall about 10 years ago now because of import related reasons. They taste lovely and they are great to put into bottles of coke.

It starts with text on the screen saying “When did we forget how to connect with each other?” and follows up with children directing adults in conversations. It’s meant to be cute! It’s meant to remind us how easy it was to connect with strangers when we were all children!

You know, when we were all ignorant of how terrible people of the world could be.

There’s one guy going up to a woman who is sitting down, asking if he can sit down and tell her a story. There’s a woman asking another woman if she wants to go with her to her house, and it ends with one guy asking another guy for cuddle, and that same guy asking two other people if they want a mento.

The problem is, in this world of children communicating with a child’s mind with the view that adults work like children, it sort of works. In real life, these things are big No No Klaxons. These are the exact things we should be telling children “If someone says this to you, you shout as loud as you can and go to the nearest familiar face.”

This does not work out of the world of children.

In real life, women already have men sitting down when and where they are not wanted and asking if they can “tell them a story”, with the belief that they won’t be told no. If women are asked as politely as “Chris” asks his target and are turned down, the scene can change from nice stranger to Nice Guy (TM) who demands to know what is so wrong with him that he’s not allowed to sit down and be nice to someone and engage them in a Nice conversation.

In the case of the two women, where one thinks the other is hitting on her, it is no wonder considering what we can expect from people in this society today.

And the third one involves one man asking another man if he can have a cuddle. Are you kidding me!? Are we only meant to be weary of this question of it’s asked by someone wearing a trench coat!? If someone came up to me and said “can I have a cuddle” and they weren’t Tom Fletcher from McFly, I would tell them where to go and what they can do with that cuddle.

And lastly, if a random man came over to me and offered me a sweet, I have enough reasons in today’s society and social climate to be weary of such a question to just flat out turn it down and move away. I don’t know where that sweet has been, I don’t know if there is an ulterior motive at play or a catch if i except. Call me paranoid, but if women can’t even allow men to open doors without there being repercussions afterwards, and the potential blame put on them should something happen in a bad turn of events, then  nobody should be shown accepting anything from others they don’t know in this sort of context, whether it’s food or contact or otherwise.

And the very fact that this advert includes children, I can’t believe nobody has thought this through! The defence is that these adverts are on late at night when there’s less chance of children seeing them, but I don’t believe these measures truly work.

Who says no to mentos? Hopefully everyone, if it’s from someone you don’t know or can’t trust.

In other advert-related rants: For similar reasons, I really dislike the Avon advert where women get a mystery package through the post. Let’s think this through. Treating this advert in earnest, this mystery package is supposedly full of make up items but the models don’t know where it’s come from, and they don’t know what the items contain.And yet, throwing caution to the wind where the products might be filled with dangerous chemicals due to the items possibly being fakes, possibly having an allergic reaction to the new mystery products they don’t know the origins of, and forgetting the anthrax scare we had about 20 years ago (and if I’m old enough to remember it, so are the people on the advert!), they cake their faces in the stuff. And only afterwards is it revealed these are Avon products.

Again, I can’t think of any woman who would just open a mysterious box that was posted through the door if they haven’t ordered anything, and I certainly don’t know anyone who would be as careless to actually use make up that they can’t put a name and ingredients list to.

A few years ago there was that spree of “Should have gone to Specsavers” adverts which really got my goat. Specifically, the one set on a rollercoaster.

In the scene, we have two pensionrs, apparently walking down a pier and then sitting down to have a rest and eat some food. Except they’ve sat down on a rollercoaster, they still have their bags with them, they have sandwiches in their hands, and then the chest strap comes down before the rollercoaster speeds off.

I had so many problems with this advert that I couldn’t believe such glaring oversights would be ignored to save face.

First of all, you can’t just accidentally wander on to a rollercoaster! It doesn’t matter how blind you are because you don’t have glasses on or the right prescription, there’s sounds, there’s people, there’s staff members. The design of a fair ground just doesn’t allow for it.

Secondly, they’re holding their bags and their sandwiches when the chest guard comes down. I know rollercoasters and engineers have had some well deserved negative press lately, but I don’t know anyone who has ever sat on a ride without someone going down the row of seats to make sure everyone is strapped in safely and correctly and ready to go. If by some freak happenstances that led to two pensioners sitting on a rollercoaster in the belief it was a park bench, staff would see them with their sandwches and their bags, see them trapped uncomfortably by the chest guard, and (knowing of the staff that I do and not the poor quality staff who have led to terrible tragedies) sort the situation out before it went further.

And then perhaps the biggest insult to my intellect was the pensioners going from trapped by the chest guards to holding them in a safe fashion like you are meant to. How could that happen!? In real life, it certainly wouldn’t have.

It wasn’t your sandwich, mate, it was poor story boarding!

And finally, I pretty much hate every perfume advert out on the market.
Why are scantily clad women writihing on silk and satin sheets holding perfume bottles?! What have those elements of the advert got to do with perfume? These adverts are clearly for the male gaze and they tell me nothing about the product.

It’s not so much “Sex Sells” because if sex really sold, women wouldn’t have to put up with adverts for products aimed at them, aimed at men. It’s that the sexualisation of women sells… to men, and tells women that they need to be like those women on screen… for reasons I don’t understand…

Do you know what would make sense for perfume adverts? Exploring what scent can mean in the greater sense. Scent can be a great memory reminder. Imagine, instead of women draped in figure-implying sheets, glowering at the camera, we have happy smiling women spraying perfume into the air to ground a memory into their mind, and then at the end of the advert, them spraying perfume into the air and the memory being recalled.

That would be lovely. That’s what I want out of perfume adverts.

But I suppose until women are in charge of broadcasting and asexuals in charge of advertising, the television will continue to concentrate on the male gaze, people (mostly women) will continue to be sexualised, and adverts will be made which do not share themselves well to real life circumstances.


6 Years And Counting

Tuesday 22 November, 2016

I know it’s not much of a celebration. Frequency of posting is way down in comparison to last year, and for the last two years, this here blog has been more inactive than active.

But, I am still here! And this is 6th year of being here. So for that alone I am happy, and I hope you are too.

Watch this space, we’ll make it to the 10th year together, and with any luck, we’ll also ring in 100 entries in that time too.

-AFJ-


2016 So Far – An AFJ Summary

Saturday 22 October, 2016

Hello Everyone who may or may not be reading this. It has been a while, yet again. I still don’t have a desk so I still can’t type in comfort, and so for a few months there, the priority of typing went to my essays, which I had to write to pass my first year of university. It was very difficult, let me tell you.

So, by the time I had any time to spare, so much had happened that I didn’t even know where to start. On top of my own personal ups and downs which slowed me down, this country went through so much in so little time that we could make a whole new version of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire based on the last 6 months alone. By the time I was able to get down my thoughts and feelings about an event of whatever sort, people had already moved on and somebody else had written my thoughts and feelings in a much better way than what I would have done.

So what exactly has happened through the year so far and why couldn’t I have written about it at the time? Well, if you read on, you’ll find out.

First of all, Ian Duncan Smith Resigned. Huzzah!

Apparently all he ever wanted to do was to help disabled and poor people into work. And the proof is clearly in the pudding with their Concentration Camp motto (Work sets you free!), the sanctions leaving people without money to attend the job centre or job interviews, sanctioning people for going to job interviews on the same day as a job centre appointment (despite people informing the job centre and being given the AOK by the person on the phone). God forbid you had a heart attack on the same day as a job centre appointment or a work capability assessment.

I said Good Riddance to IDS, but knew that whoever replaced him would be the same, or worse.  (Different Monkey, same old zoo).  And whilst I was saying good riddance to him, I was also dedicating as much time as I could to writing an essay on Benin Bronzes. I found that was the hardest essay I had to do, made harder by my limited time I could type for. And made even harder one night when there was an intruder in the back garden. Then I came down with the flu.

 

Then, shortly after IDS left, the Tories proposed to cut ESA by £30 to bring the Work Related Activity Group’s payments in line with Job Seekers Allowance. Here’s the problem with that, and I do believe I’m preaching to the choir when I say this but just incase there’s someone form outside of the echo chamber here: People in the Work Related Activity Group are people who are still unfit for work or only able to do minimal work. This idea that cutting a safety net in order to entice people into work does not work, and it’s really not going to work for people who can’t work in the first place. It is like putting knives on the inside of a maze that blind people have been made to walk through as a guidance technique. It’s no actual use and only hurts people. It’s unnecessary and cruel.

The problem when you’re disabled and sick is that you might have to call in sick at the last minute, have many days off for being sick or hospital appointment, or hospital stays; Or once in work, leave early or not work much for multiple days on the run. I’m not saying disabled people can’t work, because clearly many of us can, but I am saying some of us can’t no matter what accommodations are made, and some of us can only with accommodations, and employers aren’t willing to accommodate and colleagues can and do become hostile. And this has been proved time and time again by employers who employ less qualified people than the more qualified applicant who just happens to be disabled, and when they force someone out of their job by constructive dismissal. It is experienced by teachers who are told they’re being unprofessional by sitting down to teach and are not given classrooms that are wheelchair accessible; administrators who are refused accessible set ups and find the quality of their workload suffers as a result, and find complaints about their work get continually logged against them.

Despite being bounced between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, the pleas were ignored by the Tories yet again and in their own interests alone pushed the proposal through. MPs, who get paid almost £75,000 per anum, and their living expenses paid for, and feel they can’t afford £15 lunches on their salary or even 55p for a cup of horlicks have decided that disabled people, who face extra costs in life ad have no other income, should live off £73 a week.

And what was I doing whilst this was happening? I was catching up on the two and a bit weeks of Uni work that I fell behind on due to coming down with the flu. It was back to back, three lots of chapters and an essay to do for an extended deadline, and then straight onto the chapter I fell behind on, when used that week to write the essay. It was exhausting and painful, and I was slowed down yet again by a strained back that does not like me typing for very long.

“Oh but this entry is long” you might say. Well, I’ve been working on this entry since before september!

May is a bit of a blur of essay writing and ranting about Me Before You. In the days leading up to my final essay of the academic year, the world was psyched about a film many in the disabled community found insulting and offensive. The general public did not understand and did not care. People said that a film deserved to be watched in it’s own right and for people to decide for themselves whether it was disableist or not. The biggest problem with this line of thinking is that, oddly enough, people who aren’t part of a miority demographic usually fail to see the micro-aggressions set up against that demographic. This film, based on the book of the same name, essentially was about a man who was paralysed and didn’t think he had anything to live for, because life is so miserable in a wheelchair. His parents managed everything about his care, and hired him a PA, who he initially didn’t want because of the aforementioned feelings of having nothing to live for. Then he fell in love with his PA and still felt like he had nothing to live for so (Spoiler alert), so he gets an appointment with Dignitas and goes and kills himself. It was both flawed and offensive, to both disabled people and those who provide care. The main character wasn’t even played by a wheelchair user!

And may I just say, a point I didn’t see many people make: Someone who is paralysed from the neck down would absolutely have a head rest. It’s not just a support for those who can’t control their heads, it’s a safety measure to protect the tendons in the neck. Any impact to a person sitting down can throw your neck back, and with no headrest, and little control in the back to lessen the movement, the tendons can overstretch and become permanently damaged. Can you imagine driving a car without a headrest? No.

For the record, my essay was about the history of the modern holiday and I finished it with 10 days to go to the deadline. I then woke up on the day of the deadline and remembered the title was not underlined, so I had to fix that up quickly and re-send it.

In June, the Wheelchair Vs Pram debate went to the supreme court. We are still eagerly awaiting the outcome. Anything other than Wheelchair users having priority will be an insult to disabled people. I shouldn’t have to explain why, but I will:

Everybody should have equal access to public transport. Many disabled people put their lives on the line 30 years ago to get us that access to public transport, and though what we were eventually given is Still not we can call equality, it is something. One space per bus and train. Giving wheelchair users priority for that space over prams ensures that wheelchair users have equal access to get on the bus. The idea that it is first come first serve is an insult to those campaigners who fought against the establishment to get those spaces, whom without their fight we would not have those spaces for pram users to mis-use in the first place. It also makes no sense. Without ensuring wheelchair users can get that space, wheelchair users are prevented from travelling, therefore that is not equal access to travel.

We have one space between many of us, and regularly we are up against each other for that one space. Why on earth should prams, which didn’t even need a space until a wheelchair space was built into the designs, get priority? Our parents and their parents managed just fine without, with lifting folded prams on to the bus, with walking to and from places, why can’t this generation?  More importantly, if buggies need more space, why on earth aren’t parents doing the campaigning for them? Why must disabled users always have their accommodations become general use to the detriment of their lives?

Then we had the farce that was and still continues to be Brexit. We all know how that turned out. Whilst I was awaiting for the results of my final essay of the academic year, we had one of the most important decisions to make as a country. This country, which couldn’t even be trusted to name a research vessel sensibly, was instilled with the future of the United Kingdom.

People bought into the lies and those of us who faught to remain in the UK were called scare-mongerers, naysayers and bleeding hearted lefties. It apparently wasn’t about race, except people have admitted they thought they were voting to “get the immigrants out”. It was about this country being over populated, it was about the NHS buckling under the pressure of health tourists. Well, what happened to the £350million the Leave campaign promised to pay to the NHS? Oh, apparently they didn’t make that promise, it was a figment of all our imaginations.

The pound is now at it’s lowest it’s been in a very long time, people who were not born in the UK are all facing mass deportation, including the many nurses and doctors who keep the NHS functioning despite it’s chronic underfunding. And the NHS won’t be getting any money at all, despite really needing it. “Back to British Values” seems to be about taking us back to the Victorian era, with a  nice stop off to the third reich on the way.

We all know what happened after that. David Cameron Resigned. Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Theresa May all entered the race to become the next Prime Minister. Then Michael Gove dropped out so it was down Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. Then Andrea Leadsom made some silly remark about this country needing a mother, and because Theresa May isn’t a mother (a very sensitive issue) she couldn’t possibly understand what this country needs, and a backlash followed, and she subsequently  dropped out. Apparently not because of the comments, the timing there is just purely coincidental.

Now, I never thought Theresa May was the best person to be Prime Minister, but it has all to do with her beliefs and voting policies and nothing to do on whether she is a mother or not. I may dislike the woman, but a remark like that is just not needed or wanted. Leadership skills does not depend on motherhood.

All the same, anyone else would have been better than Theresa May, who’s voting history was worrying for the disabled, unemployed, women, children in school, teachers, people who emigrated to the UK, people born in the UK to non-British born parents, asylum seekers, and people who work for the NHS. And now she actually is Prime Minsiter, all my worries are coming true.

Whilst all that was happening in the interests of the General Public, I got some great news! My hard work and backpain paid off. I passed my first year. I also did more interview days, which were hit and miss. Mostly miss as many unsuitable people applied and people with good CVs did not turn up to their interviews.

Then we had the farce of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader the grassroot voters all voted for, having to go through another leadership election because the PLP did not want him in charge. Call me cynical, but maybe that’s because they were all Blairites and Tory Lite and a man who does believe in pandering to well paying friends frightens them. The man is not perfect by any means, but he has been one of very few labour MPs who has consistently fought for disabled people’s rights when we hardly rate a commiserating shrug from others.

He was up against Owen Smith, clearly a blairite in left clothing, who believes in austerity and the work capability assessment. Then Angela Eagle joined the race, after crying on television saying the labour party needed unifying. She cried about how awful it was to work under Corbyn because he didn’t listen to anyone… and then, she announced she was running against Corbyn, surprise surprise. Except her campaign start date was actually dated 3 days before she announced it, and a day before she cried live on air saying she was leaving because she couldn’t work under those conditions. Suspicious timing? What suspicious timing!?

She then said her life was put in danger when a brick was thrown through her office window. It was then revealed that the broken window had been there a while, and it wasn’t even Angela Eagle’s office, it was the window on the stair case shared by many offices. Then she resigned, so it was just back to being between Jeremy “Fair society for all” Corbyn and Owen “Abstained on the welfare cuts vote” Smith.

Whilst all that happened, I had one good interview day and had to choose between two very good applicants. Looking back, clearly I chose the wrong one, as the person I hired did not turn up to their first call, I couldn’t get through to them over the phone, they did nothing to contact me, and they didn’t even get in touch when I sent them a dismissal letter.

In summary of my months off from uni, I was sick a few times and bored quite frequently. I watched a lot less films than I planned to, but I did manage to read some books. My hospital appointments all came in thick and fast as multiple clinics all wanted to see me, and see me again after test and scan results went through. Days following hospital appointments were spent in bed. Twice I was at the same hospital two times in one week, and I almost had it happen again recently but I had to cancel due to being sick with the flu again. (What, you don’t get the flu twice in one year?!) My plan to get drafts off my plate and onto here fell through, as no PA meant no trips to the library to work in a more comfortable setting. Some extra physical mobility problems meant I was prevented from going further with trying to work at a desk at home.

I am now back to Uni and dreading the first essay of the academic year. The good news is, common sense prevailed and despite the purge of Corbyn voters, won with 60% of the vote.

Honest to a god I don’t believe in, I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next.

And that’s now you up to date. If you read all of this, then you, my friend, deserve a cookie.

Thank you very much for reading. If you feel there was anything I missed out, please let me know!

AFJ


In Memorium

Sunday 16 October, 2016

You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.
1985 – 2005


100 Entries

Friday 16 September, 2016

This time last week, a momentous occasion occurred! With my last blog “9/9/2016 – The Anniversary of The Start Of The New Beginning“, I finally hit 100 entries!

Under the introduction there is a banner with the words one hundred entries on it in two tones shade of grey. The words are surrounded by multi-coloured balloons with a golden seal of approval in the background shining through the words. There is an embossed effect on the words with cloth effect adding texture to the background

It only took me two years to get to 50 and this time it took twice as long to get another 50. It’s very sad for me to see my rate of blogging drop so much. I blame both the Tories and the fact that I still don’t have a desk.

But, regardless, I finally made it and if you’ve been reading all this time, I congratulate you. If you haven’t, please feel free not to go back and read my old entries. Baby!AFJ Entries are as bad as baby pictures. You wouldn’t want me to go to your house and look through your baby pictures , would you? No? Good, so we have an accord, as they say. (If you said yes, you’re wierd).

Here’s hoping I reach the next 100 sooner. I’m already that bit closer, this post makes it a total 101 entries so far.

Thank you very much for reading. Stay around and celebrate, have some virtual cake, put on your own music and have a dance. It’s an all night disco, my friends. This blog never closes!

Yours Failingly,

-AFJ-


9/9/2016 – The Anniversary of The Start Of The New Beginning

Friday 9 September, 2016

Hello to the void! I don’t know if I still have any readers about this place but if you are indeed reading this, then I am indeed addressing you.

It’s cliché of me to say, but any perceptions of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I actually have a half written entry on what’s been happening over the past 8 months that have prevented me from updating on the more regular basis that I was hoping for. And that will still come, but, it’s ironically also been prevented from being written updated by the same factors that have been preventing me from updating.

But anyway!

Today marks a year since my first self-hired Personal Assistant left and I couldn’t let the day go by without acknowledgement. Since I lost this PA (who I hired through a half care agency, half recruitment agency), my endeavour to hire my own PA, with myself completely at the helm, has been nothing short of a nightmare. And to be honest, the events immediately after my PA put her notice in was not all smooth sailing either. From the second I decided to have control who my Personal Assistant would be, it’s been one bad experience after another.

When my PA put her notice in and subsequently left rather suddenly – she actually put her notice in with intent to work her two weeks but because of bad health had to finish her notice on sick leave – my time frame to get a new PA went from two weeks to 0 days. She texted me first thing on the Wednesday morning, but the office didn’t even ring to tell me until 3 in the afternoon, 3 hours before I was due to have a shower call. They were meant to call me back to discuss it further, and they didn’t call me back. In fact I rung them back at half 4, done with waiting, only to be told “We finish at five, and it’s half four now….”. I was told I would have to wait until the next morning.

There was just no urgency of the matter, no sense of duty of care to help me hire someone to replace the person they suggested I hire due to her being on the books already, with very little hours. I was subsequently passed from pillar to post, I did not speak to the same person twice. I spoke to one person, they tried to offer me spare cover of whoever was available with no guarantee of consistency. I emphatically turned that offer down, I was told they would have to speak to their manager and call me back. They did actually call me back but only to offer me cover again. It was like I’d entered the twilight zone.

Then, they, unbeknownst to me, moved offices on the Tuesday. I was meant to be rung back on the Monday, and I wasn’t, so when I rung them on Tuesday morning and was met with a dead phone line, you can imagine what I was imagining! I was up the disability creek without a PA to paddle. When I eventually did get through to someone, I was told the person I’d spoken to previously had left her position (second time I’d heard that), and someone else would be put in charge of the situation, but I wouldn’t hear back from them until the end of the week at the earliest, because they were moving offices.

If I got one thing from all of these phone calls, it was that it was just an unfortunate circumstance that I would be left without care, but they were just really busy over there with their moving offices and changing job positions.

I think what happened after that really sums up my experience with Your Life, Your Way best though. After my final phone call with someone on the morning of 15th of September, 2015, I wrote a very thorough complaint letter to the managing director of the company and told them I’d decided, following that phone call, that I no longer wanted their so called services.

I was called up two days later by a member of staff trying to set me up with cover. My complaint had not only not been shared to other members of staff, it hadn’t even been read yet.

10 days after I sent my complaint, the managing director of the company emailed me back, first to apologise for my poor experience with the company, but then ended her email by stating I’d contacted her office since my email asking her to get in contact with me because I wanted to interview people, not just have cover sent to my house.

Does that message sound familiar?

After that, I decided to go at it fully on my own. I’ve talked about this before. I put up adverts, I booked a room to interview people in, I arranged interviews, people confirmed, and then came the day. I went ready and prepared, I had my best friend and my mum with me. They were going to be the Karen Brady and Nick Hewer to my Alan Sugar.

Nobody turned up.

The next set of interviews I organised, 3 out of 5 people turned up. I gave someone the latest slot I could give them because they asked for a later slot due to prior engagements, and they didn’t turn up. Following that, I had someone leave verbal abuse on my phone to someone called John. They never left their number but I recognised their voice from an applicant who never turned up.

Out of the three people who did turn up, though, I hired one person. I thought she was just perfect for the job, and I think for the first 6 weeks she was. And then something changed. I don’t know what brought it on exactly, but the first incident was her turning up late with no real explanation. Then it was a last minute cancellation where it was like a chain of knock on effects, her mum got called into work so couldn’t look after my PA’s son, so my PA requested to change days. These things happen but as someone with no priorities, I always feel like I can’t say no without sounding unreasonable. But the fact of the matter is, I choose these times and calls because they are the best time and days for me. And then I’d say the death knell was her getting another job for more money, which I understand was necessary for her, but it killed off any availability for me. I was then hurt in an accident which meant I had to rearrange calls, which was difficult because of the aforementioned lack of availability. Further late arrivals, and just had something changed in her attitude whilst she was here. I knew I had to speak to her, and her probation period was ending so the next call I had, I was going to sit her down and talk to her.

Before I even got to really play the role of the boss, she said, amicably and quite friendly, that she would have to put in her notice in, because her other job could offer her more hours, and she wouldn’t have the travel costs and it would just generally work out better. It’s understandable, and I suppose it saved me the job of having to ask her if this was a job she really wanted to keep.

The thing that sort of annoyed me on that, though, is that in the interviews I always ask how the applicants intend to travel to mine. I point out, if they take public transport, that Sundays have different time tables that might mean they can’t work Sundays after all. And around that 6 week mark, my PA started getting taxis home from my house because there was no bus home. The way it worked out she was spending her Sunday hourly wage on her taxi fair, and I look back and wonder if she resented me for it, for maybe not offering to pay for her fair for her.

Since then I have set up four more interview days in the interview room, usually arranging to interview 5 or 6 people a day, and many people have been unsuitable or just not turned up. It’s like I said last time, people were applying without reading the advert. I heard more than once that they thought they were applying for a full time job, and I just don’t know how because the advert specified, at that point, 6 hours a week, with the hours broken down into time and days of the calls.

I found two people I was happy with, and it was a hard choice between them. I have sadly regretted my wrong choice ever since. I went for listed experience over everything else, and I selected someone for a second interview – I was doing this slowly this time and not the rushed pace the social suggested. They came to my house and we chatted. I felt like we got on like a house on fire, so I  told her to think about it for a week, and to get in touch if they had more questions. A week later they came to my house to sign the employment contract. I had to print off so many things for the social to confirm I’d hired someone. I gave her a start date.

She didn’t turn up. I texted, I called, and nothing. I can’t tell you how excited i was to finally get a shower after 6 months. I was left disappointed, and confused. What had gone wrong!?

I eventually shook it off and decided to shake things up a bit, due to lack of all around availability, and I did phone interviews. It was a bit different. I couldn’t get a real picture of some of the people I interviewed and could only go on answers alone. But I found two people yet again I was happy with. I was planning to have further interviews, this time face to face at my house, much like with the last potential PA, to go through further details of the job and see if it was something they really wanted.

I called up one and arranged the details. I called up the other and…. Nothing.

Day of the second interview came for the applicant…. And they didn’t turn up either. To say I was disheartened would be putting it lightly.

It’s been 8 and a half months since my last PA left and seeing as I depend on my mum, who is disabled herself, this situation passed miserable and unbearable four months ago. Except for twice, I have only left the house with friends or for medical appointments, and those two times were quick short trips where I struggled to manage independently, but had to go out because I could not stand being indoors whilst it was gorgeous and sunny outside anymore.

There is no care agency – apart from the care agency I ditched for being unreliable, and I refuse to go back to them – in my area who will take a young disabled person unless they have either a mental health problem, a learning disability or a neurological condition. And I have none of those things. I have some sort of physical bone disorder that is something like osteoarthritis. I have to hire someone, and there’s some more applicants lined up to interview, but I am fed up going through it all – spending time and energy separating the wheat from the chaff, only to be disappointed at the end of the process.

It’s been a year since the last choice blew up in my face, how much longer will this reign of bad luck last?