Five Years Old!

Sunday 22 November, 2015

Happy Birthday To This Here Blog
Happy Birthday To This Here Blog
Happy Birthday To I Once Was a Twenty-Something Journalism Student!
Happy Birthday To This Here Blooooog

AFJ5

This Here Blog is now five years old, and boy have we gone through the ringer! We’ve had stops and starts, we’ve had poorly written blogs and entries that were written three years ago. I’ve had increasing health problems, and you’ve never been here before. I once had a desk, now I don’t.

But somehow, here we are, at five years. Please, do applause.

In those five years we’ve had asexuality posts, access fail posts, music reviews, film reviews, book reviews. I’ve whined, I’ve moaned, I’ve ranted, I’ve lamented, I’ve praised, I’ve prided and I’ve lost where I was going. I lost a few friends, and I gained a niche. And god knows how many times I’ve repeated myself.

But no matter what failed, no matter what ailed, despite the fact that I’m still not using a desk, here I am. Here is AFJ, The Once Twenty-Something Journalism Student.

When I started this blog, I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that I still had that thing that made me want to be a journalist. Basically I had a drive that made me want share my opinions and point out the bleeding obvious, in a way that made people say “Well, I don’t agree with her, but she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.”

And from the ashes of my film review blog, from the dregs of my Fun and Friend website, from the little annoying floating rib that hurts on humid nights, came this here blog.

And this is where I am, and this is where I’ll stay.

I will not be moved.

Thank you for being along for the ride. Even if I only have one reader and this is the first post you’ve read. Stay a while, have some imaginary cake!


An Open Letter To The Majority of Shops

Saturday 14 November, 2015

Dear Almost Every Shop,

I am a twenty-something year old adult. I’ve been in charge of my own money since I was ten, I’ve understood the value of money since I was even younger. I would really like it if I was afforded the respect I deserve in being allowed to handle my own money

I understand that shops are just designed the way they are, and that a majority of people see no fault with it, so nobody feels like they need to change that. After all, why go through all that fuss and spend so much money on some sort of radical redesign? Here’s why: Because many people are stopped from going shopping at all because of badly designed shops.

It’s not all about the stepped entrance, although, yeah, that’s the biggest hurdle. I can’t really complain about the design of a shop or the placement of the till if I can’t even get in the place. But people think that just because there is step-free access to shops, that that makes them perfectly accessible. It doesn’t.

There’s aisle space to consider, there’s manoeuvrability to consider, and then the last hurdle is the tills.

Card shops are the worst, without a single doubt. The till and till person is about three foot above the floor, there’s display items and shelving sticking out on the customer’s side of it. I can neither hand my items and money over facing forwards to  the cashier, like everyone else expects to be able to, nor can I even get close enough sideways along to hand them over that way. So I have to hand it to my support worker, my support worker hands them over to the till person, this usually invites the idea that I am non compos mentis, and conversations happen, quite literally, over my head.

But things don’t have to be so awkwardly designed, nor offensive. If a bit of thought went in to these things, the following offence would never have happened.

Sometime a go, I was in Home Bargains (or as we say in Scouseland, Home AND Bargains). I’m sat 90 degrees to the cashier, because apparently people in wheelchairs don’t deserve to be able to interact with people face to face, the till is to my left, which is the worse of my two sides, and I smile and nod and say something something like “Hiya”, because the till worker has smiled and nodded to me first. It’s how we, quite literally in some cases, roll in Liverpool.

I pay my money before the plexiglass, with my right arm, because it’s easier and the person is nearer to me to reach over to pay. The cashier puts the money in the till, starts to hand me my change, and then in a sudden twist of fate, turns around and hands my change to my support worker, who had been packing up my items, and thanks her.

I was too surprised and confused to say anything, but I gave her a look. A confused look, which I then directed to my support worker, and back to the till worker. She says nothing to me, smiles at me… and I said something like “Well okay then…” and moved up and around and got my change off my support worker, threw it in my purse, threw my purse in my bag and left the shop.

I don’t know if that was prejudice at work or a brain fart, and I know I should have said something, but it’s clear that this situation wouldn’t have happened at all if tills were easer to navigate. Or if it did, I certainly would have been able to tell the reasoning behind it. Can’t exactly feign the possibility it’s easier to hand my money over to someone who is not me if the other person is further away than I am.

For as long as I have the mobility to, I want to be able to handle my money. I don’t see what’s unreasonable about that. I find it unreasonable that shops continue to force disabled people to twist their bodies around, painfully, in order to obtain the verges of the same service as able-bodied people recieve.

This might surprise everyone, but the only place I’ve shopped in which has deemed me human enough for face to face interaction, is Primark, with their wheelchair accessible Fast Track counters. Everywhere else does wheelchair accessible counters wrong. I still have to be sideways, and in places like post offices and banks, the wheelchair accessible counter comes with a lower counter on the customer side, but the person the other side is still a foot higher in the air than I am, with a card machine higher than I can reach, and the speaker hole a foot above my head.

But Primark, for all it’s ethical problems, actually does this one thing right. It does wheelchair accessible changing rooms wrong, but the tills? Can’t praise them enough. When there’s a member of staff on them, that is. There is a flaw in the system, and I’ve waited at the accessible till only to be asked to come to one further down the queue.

I’ve been thinking of putting a sign up above my headrest but apparently “If you expect me to twist around, I’m going to expect you to to do the splits” is both unreasonable and too long for a sign. There’d be some logistical problems, especially in the smaller shops.

I guess i’ll have to settle for risking injury to myself and then suing the shop’s arses off for compensation, to teach them that way.

Edited on the 18th of November, 2015:

I hardly ever update a post once it’s up, but a similar incident happened today at the till as the one I mentioned above.

Again, I was waiting before the plexiglass at the till. My mum was at the far end of the till packing my items in a bag for me, and the till guy turns to my Mum and tells her the total. Understandable, It’s not like I’ve announced that I’m the one actually paying for the items, he doesn’t know they’re mine.

We have a phrase up here in Liverpool, it’s “here’ya”. As in “here you go”, pronounced “ee’yar”. The polite use of it is “Oh, here’ya!”, with a friendly smile. And that’s exactly what I did, with my money in my hand. He ignores me, and stays looking at my mum, who nods at me. He looks at me, then at my hand with the money in it, and turns back to my mum…

I only got out an “Erm, well-” when my mum then said to him, “No, she’s paying. It’s her money!” and makes a joke. But, this guy had heard me, saw me with my money… and ignored me!?

What did he think, i was just a randomer trying to pay for someone else’s items, like a good friendly little wheelchair user who doesn’t know how the procurement of groceries work!? I mean this does feel like a heavy dose of pre-determined “Aw bless, she’s being friendly”. I can’t see why else this person would ignore me and my money, and then need reassurement from my MUM that yes, these ARE my items and I am paying for them. He saw us approach the till at the same time and talk to each other.

Next time maybe I’ll go around with a sign on my headrest that says “It’s okay, my Mummy has given me permission to pay for my items”.

For crying out loud!


I’m almost definitely not too young to be a fan of The Proclaimers

Friday 6 November, 2015

Many moons ago, back when this blog was in it’s infancy, back when I really didn’t know what I was doing, back when I had a desk, I wrote a blog asking “Am I Too Young To Be A Fan Of The Proclaimers?”.

I wrote how, over the space of ten years, hearing one little song when I was younger turned into a “I Must Hear Every One Of Their Songs” things. I mentioned how, in the days of Yahoo Videos, they introduced, or re-introduced me, to more songs by The Proclaimers, other than 500 Miles and Letter From America that I already knew.

I said that I would love to see these guys live, that it would be a dream come true. And I thanked Charlie and Craig for existing. It was a blog that came from lamenting over the fact that, once again, I was late to the Good Music Ball and could hardly find Proclaimers fans, let alone ones under the age of 40. I’d had that with the Beatles, then it was New Order, and then it was The Proclaimers.

Since writing that blog, one small detail came about that I’m going to expand on: I said in that blog that I knew 500 Miles (I’m going to be) by the time I was 12. Here’s a fun little fact my Mum shared with me sometime after I wrote that blog: I was about six when I first became obsessed with that song. A film called Benny and Joon was released in 1993 and that song was in the soundtrack – Probably the biggest song in the soundtrack, and for a lot of Americans, the first time they’d heard of The Proclaimers. And because it became a hit, cable music channels started playing the “soundtrack” version of the music video. And I loved it! And later, after we lost cable and got it back again, it was on the Magic Music Video channel all the time as well. I could probably name all of the music videos they showed, actually, they seemed to have a small playlist, and an even smaller one at Christmas.

Anyway. What am I really getting at? I’ll tell you what I’m getting at.

A couple of weeks ago, The Proclaimers were in Liverpool. As soon as tickets were announced earlier this year, I got tickets. And I prayed to the gods of music* that I wouldn’t be struck down ill and prevented from seeing another band I’d die happy for seeing, yet again*. It must have worked, or the maybe it was the flu jab, because I actually got to see The Proclaimers.

And they were amazing! I mean, they were just so good! It was, in all senses of the phrase, a dream come true.

On the topic of the age thing, from my view from the wheelchair seats, all I could see were middle aged people, and some young children who’d come with their parents. Whenever they sung their songs from the 80s, the whole place went wild, so I got the impression these were people who were fans from when those songs were originally released. But you know what? Just because I was younger didn’t make me a lesser fan than anyone else. Not that anyone said anything, and not that I was really concerned about it, but my heart flew when they sung their original songs too.

And hey, talking economically, the wheelchair seats are, well, amongst what you might consider the more expensive seats and might possibly be out of the price range of people my age (I have no idea what the prices of non-wheelchair seats are!), so for all I know, people my age where a bit further up, further back… For all I know. (What do I know? I know nothing. Sorry)

Back to Charlie and Craig Reid and their band of merry men. I have four favourite songs, and they sung all four. Letter From America, Let’s Get Married, Then I Met You and The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues. I also consider two songs such classics that it doesn’t matter if they’re anyone’s favourites or not, they’re too good, too well written, too well composed to not like them on any level. They are of course Cap In Hand and Sunshine on Leith. I of course like I’m Gonna Be and I’m On My Way also, but they’re also so big and so well known, it goes without saying.

I thought the night was going to end without Joyful Kilmarnock Blues. I’ve found, from noseying around the internet, it’s not one of the big fan favourites. It’s one of the obscure ones. So it’s no exaggeration when I say I almost propelled out of my seat from excitement when the song started. Was it? Could it be…? Holy Moly, it was!

It’s my second favourite song, and it was amazing to see and hear it performed live.

They were on key the whole night. And I’m not just saying that. These are intelligent men, here. I’ve heard a few bands try and recreate their younger years and fail miserably, and I’ve been honest about it to the point of offending people. The Proclaimers, though, they lowered the notes they knew they couldn’t reach, and the ones they did aim for, they hit the mark beautifully. Maybe they paced themselves. Maybe they lowered some notes in a bid to not exhaust their vocal chords, for the times that going higher was very much needed. Maybe they just fancied singing it differently for a different effect – There’s a hell of a lot of difference between the sound a recording can give you, to the acoustics in a live venue being heard by thousands of people.

They changed the pace of Can in Hand, and that was the only thing that only unsettled me a bit. I’m not saying it was bad, it’s just… well, a thing with me. Unsettling. An effect I couldn’t quite get to grips with. It’s a thing. Never mind.

But everything else was just perfect. It was such a good night.

And do you know what? I finally know Who is who! HALLELUJAH! Charlie talked about Sean (The song) being written, and how he and Craig wrote it together. By process of elimination, if the one in front of the drums is Craig, then the one in front of the mic was Charlie. I’ve cracked and now I can die a happy woman (Though hopefully not for a long time).

As far as access is concerned, I went in a bigger lift this time (That will probably make sense after I post another review, which is coming soon), but the view remained perfect. I couldn’t ask for more. Well, I could, but I highly doubt the Philharmonic will ever sell twixes, and asking the band to stand right in front of the wheelchair seats and address a whole song to me would just be unreasonable…. right? I’d have more luck on the twixes!)

Next Proclaimers related post will be the review of Sunshine On Leith, which has been almost finished for over a year now. Did I mention the desk problem?