Spring Cleaning Can Make You Money – As long as you had money to start with

Monday 16 April, 2018

There’s a history to Spring Cleaning, that I won’t go into because the history is long and I can only remember a small bit of it that I learnt from watching Ruth Goodman in Tales from the Green Valley, but it’s enshrined in western culture. When Spring eventually comes around, we dust the window ledges, we stack our cupboards a different way and we throw out the old curtains that did not survive yet another winter.

But lately, on the radio and on prime time TV shows for the masses, I’ve noticed there’s a bit of a fad about it this year. This happened a few years ago as well, around about the economic crash of 2008. The radio was full of top tips to make money on your unwanted goods, and the tv had shows about items you just happened to have in the attic being worth an unbelievable amount of money. This year, the fad is back and it seems to be tied to the fact we’re more conscious on the amount of household waste we produce.

In the last week alone I’ve listened to tips on how to get some of your money back from the clothes jamming up your wardrobe – Sell them to those clothing merchants you see on the high street (Cash4Clothes!), sell them back to the high street shops you bought them from (They named a place I’d never heard of, so I assume it’s expensive) or sell them on ebay or Gumtree as a joblot. If you’ve got gadgets you don’t use, sell them too! All this advice was intertwined with stories about some households who just threw things out instead of recycling, and landfills being filled with perfectly good clothes and accessories that could have gone to a good home if given the chance. Even worse, some items that say “this is not recyclable” could be recylable if you seperate the bits that aren’t recylable from the bits that are. You have to be conscious about everything you do. And I agree with that. As a minimalist on the verge of hoarding (I’ll get to that contradiction in a minute), I agree that what can be recycled, whether that means melted down and remade, or passed on to someone who could use it second hand, sent to a charity shop, or given to someone who can make something else entirely out of it- should be recycled. Unneccessary waste is wreaking havoc on our planet.

What I don’t agree with is this patronising tone it’s said in. Because it presents the idea that it’s the solution to clutter, without considering what causes the clutter in the first place, and even worse, without considering that the “make money off your unwanted shit” idea won’t benefit everyone. I’m coming at this from a personal angle. I had some unwanted clothes in my wardrobe. I recently went through my wardrobe and binned anything that couldn’t possibly be used by anyone else, and put what could be used by others in a bag for a charity shop (I have a threshold here, if they’re not fit for me to wear, they’re not fit for a charity shop).

The real problem is, is that my wardrobe is cluttered because I have very little space and I only have the necessities and some items I was given as  a gift. (Minimalist) But I had clothes that had holes in them, fraying at the seams, and the worst ones I threw out and I’ve kept some of the rest so long despite being in such a state because to me, they still serve their purpose and I can’t possibly throw them out (Hoarding tendencies) until they stop serving their purpose.

Some other advice was selling valuable jewellery, and gathering up any collectibles and finding a buyer of them to get the most money for these items. I don’t own any “valuable” jewellery that I’d be willing to part with, because the two items I do have mean a lot to me. I don’t own any collectibles, we’ve never had the space for them and my family have never inherited any from late relatives.

What I have are old clothing, some  20+ years old, some from charity shops, some from Primark, one or two items from New Look, a well worn pair of Jeans from Matalan, and a dress I bought for a wedding that will no doubt become The Wedding Dress (As in, the dress I’ll wear to people’s weddings, not my wedding dress… Although….). Nobody is going to want to buy these things off me when I am done with them. I will not make money from my unwanted goods, because the biggest reason for most of the things that are unwanted, is because I’ve worn them down. I’ve worn them down and worn them out. And that is the case for a lot of poor people, so this solution is being presented TO poor people to make some money off their stuff despite it not being practical advice for a lot of poor people. This solution also assumes that people are cramming items in because of an excess of items and a forgetful disposition, when these days it’s more a case of lack of space within the home.

Don’t get me wrong, if you can make money off spring cleaning, then all the luck to you. But you have to realise that in order for you to be making money off your unwanted, you have to have money in the first place to get them, or to store them somewhere where they’ve gone unused and untouched.

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I don’t like getting the bus any more

Monday 22 January, 2018

First of all, hello, welcome to 2018. I hope it’s treating you better than 2017 did. For me, it isn’t, but that is something I am dealing with.

Today I want to talk about buses. My parents never had a car, and though I tried learning to drive and even passed the theory test (and that blasted Hazard Perception test), I never got as far as a practical test and getting my dream car. Now I have moments of wishing I had a car, but I have no plans of learning to drive again. So, I have a history with buses. My parents got the bus everywhere, they still do, and so I got the bus everywhere, and well I prefer trains but I still get the bus.

Here’s the problem. I don’t like getting buses anymore, and it’s completely related to being in a wheelchair.

Whenever I could go out, up to the point where I needed my wheelchair full time, I just hopped on the bus. Even on crutches, I hopped on the bus. My friend lived on a different bus route, so I hopped on the bus to one bus stop, got the bus to the bus stop nearest hers, popped in to see her Mum where she worked, and then went to my friend’s. It was brilliant. I thought I could go anywhere by bus, I just had to plan the route!

Where I used to live, the nearest bus to me was less than a 10 minute walk. I lived in a sort of set back cul-de-sac, and two roads away was the main road where the bus was on the corner. The worst part was always having to stand and wait for the bus, and then they brought in the worst most painful bus benches ever, but I still loved getting the bus. Even better, shortly before my Gran died, I got my disabled person’s bus pass that allowed me to travel for free, and she lived in a sort of set back cul de sac on the road opposite the bus stop, which happened to be the next bus stop down from my local bus stop. There was never any issue of me hopping on the bus at my bus stop, and getting off the next bus stop so many yards away outside my Gran’s.

Long journeys, where I was going end to end, I could sit there and listen to music and look out the windows. Short journeys, I tended to know at least one other person on the bus and they always ended up talking to me. Even when I started being a wheelchair user full time, in my manual wheelchair, given the bus drivers could be bothered to lower the ramps down, and even a bus turned up with a ramp in the first place, which let me tell you was hit and miss and on more than one occasion I would have to ring a taxi in a panic when the bus that should have had a ramp in fact turned up with a step with a pole in the middle and a bus driver that didn’t care and I needed to be somewhere in the 15 minutes it would have taken the bus to get me there, it was wonderful to hop on the bus, put my music on, and then get off at the other end. I was independent, I felt free.

The big difference is, the bus drivers who did lower the ramp did so as a  matter of course, I told the driver where I was getting off,  I could get in the wheelchair space nice and easily, the space was sideways so I could see where I was going, and then I rang the bell like any other passenger and then the driver would lower the ramp and i would get off. Like any other passenger.

Now, the freedom buses gave me just 10 years ago, feel like too much hassle for everyone involved Bus drivers have this attitude now – I don’t know if they mean to, but they do, like it’s a very big effort for them to put the ramp out. I can’t see it going down very well if i said my destination was the next bus stop 2 minutes away, like my Gran’s was. The wheelchair space is very difficult to get in to. There’s a bar in the way which means I have to overshoot the space and then reverse into it, the problem is they don’t give enough room to overshoot it, people have to stand up out of their seats to get just a few extra inches, and it’s a very tight fit to reverse and turn into the space. All because of that bar. And then I’m stuck going backwards. I hate going backwards, I can’t see where I’m going. There’s a chance the windows will be obstructed with advert vinyls. I can’t listen to music because these days I follow routes on my map app on my phone and I have to check between the phone and what I can see outside. It’s virtually impossible to go somewhere I’ve never been before in case, like the other day, my app stalls and leaves me clueless as to when the bus stop I need is coming up.

Also, it’s just very unnerving facing everyone else. Especially if something goes wrong with the bus they think is you’re fault – like an electrical failure after the driver’s lowered the bus to let you on – and double especially when you ring that bell. I refuse to ring the bell now. I get my carer to press the one nearest her and then she stands up and sort of blocks people from getting off so I can very obviously turn out of the space and the bus driver will be able to see I’m clearly wanting to get off at the stop he’s just pulled up to.

The bell, which just used to make the same “ding!” noise the other bells did, has had a few changes over the years. First it was a lower toned buzz noise. I didn’t mind that. It signalled it was the wheelchair user who wanted to get off, but it also didn’t alarm the other passengers when they heard a noise they weren’t used to. Then it sort of trilled, which I quite liked the noise of. Some passengers would look up in alarm but see it’s no big deal, it’s just I want to get off the bus. Now it’s an alarm. I mean it actually sounds like a school fire alarm. People look up in panic, and people don’t realise nothing is wrong, it’s just the noise the button makes at the wheelchair space when they want to get off. I’ve seen the stares of people who wonder what the hell I’m playing at, pressing an alarm. I’ve heard someone say “Is that normal? Is she okay?” to their seat neighbour when I’ve pressed that button. People look at me like I’m on fire, and look annoyed at the fact that I’m actually not. I don’t want to bring more attention to myself that I’ve already had from facing everyone’s direction, but I also always want to say “It’s okay! I’m not on fire, it’s just the noise the button nearest me makes! Please write to the bus company so that they change the noise back to the trilling noise, we all liked that one!”.

The ramps used to be shallower as well, or the buses used to be able to kneel more. Now the ramps are very steep, and there’s no traction. I don’t dare get the bus by myself even if i did know where I was going, because i need someone to hold on to my handles as I go down the ramp so that I don’t fall and tip. I get shrugged shoulders when I point out it’s very steep, pointed silences if I ask if they’ve knelt the bus, casual laughs as if it’s perfectly fine to almost fall off the side of the ramp because I’m coming off the bus onto the steep ramp at an angle and can’t straighten out in time, and jokes made at my expense making out that I can’t drive my wheelchair, when really, it’s because my wheelchair is susceptible to skidding, which it wouldn’t if I could meet the ramp head on and the ramp wasn’t that steep. And also, if there was better traction.

And then there’s the time it takes trying to convince parents that they need to vacate the wheelchair space so that the wheelchair user who has a legal right to that space could get on. Which is doubly annoying when there’s two spaces, one buggy and one wheelchair space, but the parent decided to park their buggy in the wheelchair space first anyway. It all used to be so quick and easy, and only the worst drivers refused to let a wheelchair user on, the most untrained drivers who refused to let a wheelchair user on. Now, it’s all of them who treat wheelchair users as if we take too much time to bother with, it’s everyone who would rather leave a wheelchair user out in the cold than do what their own parents did and fold the buggy before getting on in the first place.

It is every single part of getting the bus that has been made harder for wheelchair users, and if it wasn’t for the fact that sometimes, as in quite frequently, it’s the best mode of transport that can get me somewhere, I wouldn’t be using them at all.

And the sad thing is, if wheelchair users were involved in the design of buses, and trains, I doubt these problems would even exist. But we’re not, and things are not retroactively adapted when we point out a problem which really should be obvious at the design stage. When I was in University the first time, just as ramps were becoming slowly the norm, the one bus I could get on, it had a ramp but my wheelchair couldn’t fit down the aisle of the bus to get to the wheelchair space. I had one of the smallest adult wheelchairs you could get, and it was from the NHS so I had little choice in model. Most adult wheelchairs were 2 inches wider than the one I had, but the company’s response to my complaints didn’t change anything.

That was years ago, so I assume that situation improved eventually, but like here, I doubt it improved for long. I don’t know why the world is like this, I don’t know why people are like this, but it’s exhausting to deal with it and fight against it every single day.


We need to talk about television 

Tuesday 4 July, 2017

As you know, I am an entertainment consumer buff. If I’m not watching films, I’m watching TV, if I’m not watching TV, I’m playing games, reading books or listening to audiobooks. I go through cycles and phases but I am always consuming media of some sort. When my health craps out, when I have the flu, when I’m brain tired but not body tired, I watch television. I don’t want to sound like a hipster, but I was marathonning tv shows before it became ~cool~, before the Netflix generation inherited the earth.

Here’s the problem, television keeps dissappointing me. It might just be me and maybe I have high standards, but there’s not many television shows made in the last 10, even 20, years that I have watched from start to finish, without either losing interest half way through or suffering through mediocre plotlines and self contained episodes until I can’t suffer anymore.

I could give you a whole list of the shows that have lost me or dissappointed me in my entire life time, but, in all honesty I just tried and I derailed and ranted and remembered how dissappointed in House I was and that spurred a very long entry on it’s own, and then had to go for a lie down.

So I’m going to just mention the last few series I had high hopes for, and try to keep it to the point.

But saying that, shall we get it out the way first? House. You know how I feel about this show and it’s downfall. It was the best thing on television… for all of 2 and a half years. It was everything I wanted from a show, I didn’t even realise it was what I wanted from a show. Murder mystery in a medical setting, because the disease is the murderer. House, like Holmes, has to work out the intricate web of lies and livestyles to figure out why the victim is the target, and who is trying to murder his patient. Sometimes he went wrong, and killed them faster, but usually, the man and his ducklings came through and saved the day. What more could you ask for!?

Well, consistency would have been good for a start. Then longevity. And a little less of the producer’s own fantasy wish fullfilment. I think it should have finished at the end of series 3, when something shifted the focus away from Patient of the Week and Clinic Patient of the Week, on to character drama. Yes, okay, we could have had a bit more about Wilson’s brother in the first series, but there is a middle ground between the strict procedural that left us wanting it was in the first series and the soap it turned during series 3.

I said I wasn’t going to go on about it, and I won’t. But I just really wanted to get that out. I loved House, then House changed, I feel not for the better, and then it dragged us through 5 more series until it ended.

Shortly after that was Alphas. I know, it was generally disliked by the masses. It was like X-Men, it was stereotypical, it had problematic casting by casting a british non-disabled guy to play an American 20-something autistic guy. But… for the first series it was quite good! It had me hook, line and sinker. I do love me some mutant powers and hey, X Men 3 was a botch-job, I had to get my Mutants Saving The Day fix somewhere. And then series 2 happened, and one character’s own personal problems and a love triangle drove one half of the plot, and the other half of the plot came from a personal vendetta characer arc that dragged on for far too long. It just lost what made it enjoyable in the first series. It did not surprise me that it didn’t get renewed for a 3rd series, though I am annoyed they messed with the airing of the second in the UK off the back of that decision. It also could have improved for series 3, with the feedback of what failed in series 2.

I was briefly into Rizzoli and Isles. I seem to be a sucker for any show that is even remotely Holmes and Waston-esque. Here we have Jane Rizzoli, a streetwise hard boiled egg of a Police Detective with her friend and colleague, Dr Maura Isles, an intelligent but socially-blind Cheif medical examiner, working together to solve Murders of the Week. It works very well, and should have remained a strong series despite set backs and personal tragedies, but the writing team behind the scenes changed hands and took the show in a different direction. Apparently, in response to the fan reaction supporting the idea of Jane and Maura becoming an item, they promptly wrote in male love interests for both characters to prevent anyone from doubting the two main character’s sexualities or romantic interests is anything but straight. Nothing is confirmed but the implications have been noted by better notekeepers than myself.

The introduction of the love interests wasn’t as much of a problem for me as obvious signs that the new writers had no idea or care for what came before their involvement. Jane had a dog called Jo Friday, the dog dissappeard off-screen, and eventually we got the bizarre explanation that Jo Friday wasn’t Jane’s to begin with and has been returned to her real owners, which the Mum keeps in touch with. Thank God that explanation was scrambled together, otherwise we might have thought they’d killed off Jane’s beloved pet dog in an arson attack on her flat. The same arson attack that led to her moving in with Maura, which fuelled the relationship rumours the writers became concerned about.

Maura had a tortoise. I don’t know what happened to the Tortoise.  Then we have Jane’s brother Frankie, which is short for Francesco. But you wouldn’t know it from the once-proud Italian-American mother suddenly calling her Italian-American son “Frances”, which just would not have happened in the earlier series. And all  sorts of other little details that were retconned or ignored or over-shadowed in favour of lazy writing, which was clearly starting to affect the actor’s ability to act.

One day I just stopped putting myself through it. Much like what I did with Person of Interest. Talking of…

Person of Interest was a flash in the pan in my eyes, but that might be due to the binge watching. I came to this party very late in the game. It was already on hiatus in America, and it was on Hiatus, from what I can gather, because it lost thousand of viewers over the course of series 4 and something was aired during a mid-season break that got higher ratings so the cast were waiting both to see if the first half of series 5 would be aired, and if it was, whether they would be in the second half. Added to that, the writer’s had admitted to losing interest in the show and did not want to complete it.

Going from series 3 to eventually seeing most of series 4, I can see why it lost viewers. This show, which started off brilliant and almost flawless, and with characters you can believe to be real people, changed into something else. It was a procedural with heart. Finch was the leader, a bruised and broken genius who lost his best friend before the start of the show. He follows the intel a highly intelligent machine gave him, and gave orders to his second in command, John. Along the way, after a lot of pain and anguish, they make trusted acquaintences with two new york coppers, Joss Carter and Lionel Fusco. For the first 2 series, Finch’s greatest enemy is a megalomanic sociopath with computer skills to rival him, she goes by the name of Root and she kidnaps him and terrorises him. John’s ability to take down the enemy for Finch and save people because that’s what good poeple do, Finch’s determination to save people because nobody else can, along with the goodness of Joss Carter and Fusco’s redeption of wanting to do good for Selfless reasons drove the series.

The series all fell apart when the writers dissolved the friendship between Reese and Finsh almost over night during series 3. I don’t like to talk about queer baiting because I still don’t really understand the phrase, but all the work put in to Finch’s past, the relationship parallels between a normal couple of Finch and Reese’s friendship, not to mention the looks between them that don’t seem within the normal paramaters of Friendship, it really feels like a plot bomb that was dropped was the end result of queer baiting and everything was retconned rom there. Then they turned Root from a very scary Baddie, to a redeemed saviour who had all the answers. Suddenly she was better at programming than Finch, a better shot than Reese, and it didn’t matter that she was practically sexually harassing late-joiner Shaw, she was what Shaw was somehow missing after years of working for the ISA. What the Machine was at the start was always going to change, but there’s very little reasoning as to why it had to involve Root being the Machine’s mouth piece over the more logical choice of Reese. Her redemption makes no sense either. It wasn’t like Fusco’s, slow, well written, with acknowledgement of his earlier wrong doings. Root’s is “Well she’s good now because that’s what The Machine wants, let’s forget she spent 2 whole days terrorising Finch, that’s all in the past now~!”

I stalled during watching series 4. I’ve now got 2 episodes of series 4 to watch before I can start series 5 and I just don’t really want to. The procedural element went, there was a lost plotline to do with a third party team getting revenge, and that didn’t really go anywhere, and it does seem to be the “Look at how brilliant Root is at everything” show. That’s not what I signed up for when I started watching the show.

The most recent dissappointment was The Flash. I really liked the first series. I’d been meaning to watch everything Super-hero related everything anyway, I was just waiting for the time to become available as well as the DVDs, then a friend lent me her boxset of The Flash. I watched all of the first series in 2 and a half days. I thought it was Brilliant, and it wonderfully filled in the holes that Person of Interest was leaving me with. It ended on a cliffhanger and I was dying to find out what happened next.

Series 2 did not have the same effect. It started off well enough but somewhere along the line, I think maybe with the Wells we grew to love to hate (and love again if you’re into that sort of thing) going, the dynamics of the show changed. It didn’t quite make the new mark, and the ending annoyed me. This show is superhero procedural with an over-shadowing arc with a Big Bad, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, and as the procedural element was being drowned out by personal drama as the character dynamic shifted and changed, the over-shadowing arc dragged on rather than shone. And then Barry pulled a Barry and left us all wondering why we wasted 23 hours of our lives watching series 2, specifically the Ross and Rachel plot line of Barry and Iris. And then series 3 happened. I won’t get too far into series 3, I think spoiler warnings can sometimes extend to a whole year! But I think it started off weak, everything was a mess canonically and it didn’t make for good watching… besides Julian. That was a nice little gem on an otherwise pile of bricks. I know the fandom loved the Musical episode. I was impressed by the singing, I wasn’t impressed with the execution or arbitrary plot developments leading up to it so that they could have it in the first place.

“Once More With Feeling” it was not.

And the big bad of the series? Called it. Though not the reasonings behind it, because I couldn’t have guesed that mess in a millon years. To me, that part of canon made very little sense whatsoever.

What has happened to this show!? I can only hope, without sounding like i’m mis-quoting D:Ream, things will get better. Before the last episode, I thought if the ending crapped out, I wouldn’t be watching series 4. I’ve heard that Arrow fell in a similar way and redeemed itself during series 4 and came back stronger, so I’m willing to give the 4th series a go. But it has until the 3rd episode to pull me in as much as the first series did, an if it doesn’t, I’m out.

It seems to me that most of these series start with a very strong recipe. They know what they want out of the show, so they know what to put in the show, and then suddenly what they planned ran it’s course. So they throw in personal drama, they change the dynamic, they hope it’ll make their characters grow but put hardly any of the groundwork to make it work like it did in the first series. They guess their audience and half the time they guess wrong.

I’m show hopping right now. I’ve found watchable shows to watch, such as The Blacklist, but nothing that has grabbed in the way that House/Alphas/POI/Rizzoli and Isles/Sports Night/The West Wing/Sherlock/Breakout Kings/Law and Order: Criminal Intent did before their inevitable downfalls.

And that’s what I think about Television now, and televsion shows. It’s only so long until the new shows of today have their inevitable downfalls, so is there really any point in investing time into watching them?

I want to end this on a special mention of the series of long, film length episodes: Hornblower. That show, though it changed over the years, and one of my favourite characters got killed off, never dissappointed me. Upset me, yes, but not dissappointed.


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 Pal 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.


Interview Etiquette: The Care Edition

Wednesday 17 February, 2016

I’m one of the many disenfranchised disabled people who’ve been left with no option but to employ a personal assistant/support worker directly through direct payments, because the care companies are not good enough or sticking to the high quality of care, including consistency, that they promise to their “clients”. The company I left the first one for was such a shambolic affair that I would suggest they change their name from “Your Life, Your Way”, to “Your Life, Every Way But Your Way, And Good Luck Hearing Back From Us Within A Week Even When It’s Urgent”. I would even organise a whip around to help pay for the name change costs.

It’s not easy going fully independent. There is paperwork, there is tax, there is insurance. There is the ever looming fact that it’s all on you if something goes wrong (Holy responsibilities, batman!), and if you’re not a confrontational person, you might find yourself wanting to dig a hole under your bed and hiding there if an issue does come up. But I was left with no choice, and I find myself, for the second time in less than 6 months, on a search for someone to employ.

I understand how the job centre works. I know because at a point in history I was subjected to Remploy’s practices, and currently have relatives under the power of Ian Duncan Smith’s misery-inducing regime. Advisers tell you to apply for all jobs, every job, or you will be sanctioned, so help you God. They tell you to ignore the stipulation for driver’s licences, levels of experience wanted, specified genders wanted, qualifications required, and sometimes they demand you apply for places you know can’t cater for your disability, all under the threat of Sanctions for non-compliance. I do understand all of that, and the job centre have to understand that it’s affecting employers as well, but alas, they don’t care in any direction.

But I do. And I, an honest understanding person, want people to be more honest and up front with independent, private household employers looking for Personal Assistant/Support Workers/Carers. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say it’s better for us to know right from the off rather than go through the motions of believing you want the job just as much as we want applicants. I’ve now had two lots of experience trying to find someone. The first time, I can’t remember how many people applied overall in the end, but on the first day of interviews, nobody turned up. Myself, my mum (of ill health herself) and my friend were in a little office for a good portion of the day, waiting for all the people who had confirmed their interview slots to turn up, and none of them turned up. The second interview day, out of 6 people who had confirmed, only 3 people turned up. I was lucky that amongst those 3, there was one great applicant worth hiring. But, over all, I was disappointed with the process on many levels. This second time, I had 9 people apply and confirm for interviews spread over two days, and only one person turned up.

So, I’m going to give people a list of What To Do/What Not To Do when you’re looking at adverts for a care job, based on experience I had with Applicants.

1) Either turn up or cancel. Don’t just not turn up, it’s rude. It waste’s people’s time and it kills any chance for a last minute offering to another person who might take the interview slot.

2) If you know you no longer want the job, even within 24 hours of the interview, let the employer know so that, again, they can try and offer the slot to someone else.

3) If you don’t actually want the job, because you’ve been made to apply for it, say so.

One applicant confirmed their slot but then needed a different time. It wasn’t possible on that first day, but I said I’d get back to them about the second interview day when I knew the time and date for it. I emailed them with the new details, and I heard nothing back. Just to double check, I gave them a call a few days later and asked if they were still interested in the job. They said they were. I said that I’d emailed them with another interview offer but heard nothing back. They said that they’d been so busy, they hadn’t had time to check their emails. I understood, because that’s happened to me too. They said yes to the time of the interview, they thanked me for calling them and letting them know about another slot, and they looked forward to meeting me.

They didn’t turn up.

4) Read the advert carefully. Also, consider what’s in the advert as well as what might be between the lines. Ask yourself if all elements are something you would be able to do. Think of the real demands of care, it’s not all shopping trips and making cups of tea.

Universal Jobmatch has a personal details safeguarding system where someone will ring you up to change the wording of your advert if you’ve put too many personal details or you’ve used exclusionary terms in your advert – They have restrictions on specifications, due to equality laws. I am not allowed to discriminate on any basis whatsoever. There are exemptions – i’m allowed to specify female carer – but there’s not many other exemptions allowed.

Sometimes the full role, the full expectations, even the times the job takes place aren’t allowed to be included, because of vulnerable adult safeguarding. And with UJ, I don’t think there’s a system that allows you to ask for more details. You, as a Jobseeker just apply and hope for an interview. Maybe you could use the email or the phone call from the potential employer to ask for more details, before an interview is confirmed and you find out there that the job is not something you can do, for whatever reason.

I’m talking about two experiences I had, and I’m trying not to get too specific, in order to save any potential hurt feelings. But basically, one experience was that I had at least two people misunderstood the advert, or misread the advert. My advert spoke about helping me, an individual disabled young adult, but both of these people assumed they’d be working as part of a team and caring for the elderly.

The other experience is that, although I’m not allowed to discriminate, people with their own mobility problems also applied and it was clear they didn’t realise how physically demanding a job it can be. I don’t need lifting and handling, but there is walking on their part, manual wheelchair pushing, steep slopes, a lot of standing up, and probably other micro-necessities that I can’t think of right now, that you really only notice when you can’t do them. I’m talking from experience of being on the other side. It’s one thing to ask someone to pass you something, it’s another thing to reach up, grip an item, hold and carry the item, pass it over… and then do that all again in reverse when they’ve read the ingredients on the back and realised they’re allergic to it.

For the most part, the lack of disabled people in work places, in various industries, lifestyles, is a lack of effort by the employers. But physically assisting a fellow physically disabled person is not one of those jobs that can really be catered for, and that is something I learnt years ago in my more mobile days, from assisting my friends less physically mobile than myself, to the detriment of my own health. It takes compromise for that to work, for both people to be happy, and quite frankly, to me it’s a compromise enough employing people to depend on. I had just had a PA from YLYW who had her own disability, and though we muddled on, it made planning things difficult. Can we get to this train station in time to get to this place or home in time? Will she be able to carry this today? If the weather’s bad, where will we go, because she can’t push manual wheelchairs up steep slopes and my electric wheelchair doesn’t do bad weather?

Selfish as it may sound, when you only have a guaranteed four hours a week to leave the house, you want to make the most of them, and you need to be sure the person with you is 100% up to the job. I’m not able to offer trial shifts, I have to go with my feelings during the interview.

6) Ask yourself if a permanent, long term care job is something you really want to go for when you know you’ll be leaving in less than a year.

This is a job with a three month probation period to work out kinks in the system and talk through any prospective problems that may pop up. It’s a job where you get to know each other, you get used to each other, and though you might not be friends (Mostly not recommended, though on one occasion it has worked out wonderfully, and not to get too sappy here, but she has kept my spirits up during this whole debacle), you will become a significant part of your employer’s life. You might leave your job at the doorway, but an employer in this capacity is a disabled person who will depend on your consistency, care, empathy and professionalism. Availability is a commodity worth it’s weight in gold, yet we all know the pay is pennies thanks to the government.

It’s understandable that you have better plans for the future, but your employer might need to depend on people for the rest of their life, and people coming in and out of their life every 6 months can be upsetting and unsettling. This isn’t a holiday job. If you’re after a temporary job, go for a temporary job or an agency job, because god knows nobody expects consistency with agencies. If not for nothing else, think of how big a pain in the arse it is to go through finding a new PA, and dealing with the lack of care package facilitated in the interim, every 6 months when their employee leaves cos the better job they had lined up, because of uni, because of whatever comes up.

7) Follow what the advert asks of you. If the advert asks for CV, apply with a CV. You’re not going to impress anyone with a request for an interview if you’ve ignored what the advert asks of you. Especially when it’s a job where you’ll be doing a lot of what the employer asks of you. You’ve basically failed test number 1.

I’ve had a few applicants say that they don’t know how to send a CV. And whilst that’s something I can believe, because not everyone is computer literate, there is an “Upload file” button right above the message block with the extra information of “Use this to send your CV”. If you really can’t upload your CV for whatever reason, you need to offer an alternative. Copy and paste it into the body of the message, or link to another site which does host your CV.

Just evading the request won’t get you anywhere with anyone who is trying to protect themselves from bad applicants, you’ve made yourself look questionable and you’ve caused yourself to blacklisted.

People wonder how so much negligence happens in care homes and care companies, and it’s because people aren’t properly vetted. Private, independent employers like me can’t do much, but faith in a CV and follow up references are one way. I think some people scoff at my over-professional tone and my fastidious nature when I go into Employer mode, but I’m not just going to give the job to someone who sends me a message in text talk promising me they’ve got the experience. Where’s the proof? It’s my health and safety in your hands, here. Give me something I can work with.

8) Ask questions and be honest. One bad piece of advice I was given before the first round of interviews was to tell the applicants what I wanted from them, under the misguided belief that if the applicant doesn’t feel up to the job, they will say so there and then and maybe end the interview early. It didn’t work, they all smiled and nodded. I could tell they just told me what I wanted to hear, what they thought would get them the job.

Think this through. You’ve just been told that hours could change, with advance notice but still, calls could be cancelled at short notice, and that you will have to call in sick if you have so much as a cold and risk losing your pay. You’ve also just been told that part of your job will be to play bodyguard when an angry parent with a buggy wants to fight to the death for the wheelchair space, but understandably your potential employer won’t let up and sit by the doors because it’s a Wheelchair space. At what point do you want to have the conversation where you say you don’t think this job’s for you after all? In the interview where it dawns on you, or, say, afterwards when they hire you? After your first week? First month? After your pay is less than it should be because you had to call in sick to save your employer from catching it and suffering from it worse?

Private, independent employers looking for PAs aren’t going to go back to the jobcentre and complain about you. Not if you actually turn up. We’re too busy trying to seift through the unsuitable applicants that we’d much rather complain about (Female applicants only means Female Applicants Only, Local area means anything north of Southport is a ridiculous distance for you to be travelling) and deal with finding new applicants when the people we had hopes for didn’t turn up. Also, I think we’re all far too decent and understanding for it. We’re suffering under the same heartless bunch of scumbags. As you’re being forced to adhere to a heartless regime, we’re having our benefits and carepackages skimmed to the minimum and waiting to be forced under the same regime ourselves.

My last piece of advice is possibly the absolute most important one. You might like to write this one down so you remember it forever.

9) Do not get your potential employer’s phone number mixed up with your ex’s, and subsequently, absolutely do not leave threatening messages on their answering machines believing you’re leaving them for your ex. Best to just not leave threatening messages to anyone at all, really.

Admittedly I can’t prove it was them because they blocked their number, but I’m a big believer in Occam’s Razor, and I’ve got great voice recognition skills.


AFJ Reviews Secret Cinema Presents…. Back to the Future

Wednesday 12 August, 2015

Sometimes, there are good places to be in a wheelchair, and then there are bad places to be in a wheelchair.

Last year, for my birthday, me and my friend decided we’d do something Big. And so, we went to London for Secret Cinema’s Back to the Future event. When I first looked into access, I wasn’t actually all that convinced or thrilled. I had no official response from the official organisers for at least four days after my initial contact, and in the meantime my friend contacted them and was told that staff would double check, but by law they had to provide equal access to the event so they were 99.9% positive that they were fully accessible and would even have wheelchair accessible toilets available alongside normal ones (or a phrase to that affect).

I looked into reviews of Secret Cinema and got the feeling they were quite hit and miss on the access front, and disability awareness front, and catering for those affected with food allergies and intolerances front. One review said that the event itself was accessible, but interaction with staff led to disappointment overall and the event goers leaving early. I then got a reply by someone not-so official over facebook and was told that, whilst by law they were required to provide wheelchair access, due to the nature of the event they couldn’t ensure full wheelchair access, and some aspects of participation might not be as accessible, but the whole event took place on level (outside) ground and there would be disabled facilities on site.

Sceptical, but optimistic, I battled through two days of their ticket selling site DDOSing itself to buy the tickets. Then I booked the hotel, then the trains, and eventually bought the costume. It’s not that easy to buy 1950s costumewear when you’re my height, with my unequal proportions, and when you’re in a wheelchair with those things combined, so in the end I got a 1950s-style blouse and a vintage 1950s skirt, and red lipstick and nail varnish to complete the ensemble. Looking back, I think I’d have looked more the part in a zoot suite, but that’s looking back with 20/20 hindsight, and without my glasses everything is quite blurry. Anyway.

Two days After I bought the tickets, I received a message over facebook giving us more information than any other ticket purchasers had been told, so that I could plan accordingly regarding access. It was also repeated that, the grounds being used were open and flat, and that the majority of the event would be accessible, there just might be some issues with the participations. And there would be disabled toilets.

Over the course of the months, dribs and drabs of thematic information was given to people. The nature of Secret Cinema is that everything is secret up until you arrive at the location, unless it’s a Secret Cinema Presents event which is somehow slightly different and provides more information gearing up to the day. So we knew that it was Back to the Future based, we secretly knew where it was abouts, and both me and my friend were given themed identities (IDs!) and suggestions for costumes. One thing that was a hot topic for the event goers, though, was that we would not be allowed our phones on us during the event, nor would we be allowed to have cameras with us. They said that this was because they wanted the night to have as much authenticity to it as possible, but also they didn’t want spoilers reaching the outside world and anyone breaching copyright, or people spoiling other people’s night of fun, if they were taking pictures whilst other people were trying to watch the film or join in on the events.

I often find that when there’s more than one reason for something, there’s actually no real reason for it but don’t want to give anyone any room to argue with logic.

There was also some tensions on facebook that the only information given out to us actually was all “In-game”, so to speak, and it didn’t make much sense. At some point, though, it was suggested on Facebook by their spokespeople that there would be a minibus put on to run people with mobility problems from the meeting point to the doors of the event. I wasn’t too bothered, me and my electric wheelchair were good to go, but if it had the legally required wheelchair space with the legally required safety straps, and a lift was offered, I’d have taken it to save battery.

As time went on, organisers seemed more happier to share jokes and references to how secret this event was meant to be, than give any helpful information that the modern day journey planners actually needed. (Best hotel to stay at? How late does the tube run? Do we need to go in costume or can we change there? What if we need our phones on us incase of a family emergency?) And then, after some people still not being sure what to expect, the first day came… and the event was cancelled.

Due to some planning mishaps (Word around the net was that the organisers failed to get health and safety inspections done in time, which meant they didn’t have permission for all of us ticket holders to attend the event and there was no crowd control plans put into place; And then photographs emerged of organisers and volunteers spending that first night painting in zebra crossings, test driving the cars, and still putting the finishing touches on the scenery.) they announced at the 11th hour and 59th minute, by email to a bunch of people who were told to leave their phone at home, that the event had been cancelled. People arrived at the meeting point with no knowledge of any of this, to be told by organisers and volunteers waiting for them at the meeting point, that the event had been cancelled. People had spent a lot of money to attend this event, the tickets weren’t cheap and people had flown in by plane from far and wide to get there. They had booked hotel rooms. For two whole days, the organisers hadn’t even announced there would be refunds for the price of the ticket, they just suggested that people could re-book at no extra costs for days at the end of the month. As many people pointed out, time taken off from work and plane tickets didn’t work like that. I still don’t know if refunds were given or any compensation offered.

Following that, the first weeks of screenings were cancelled and it wasn’t given the go ahead until a week later on the 1st of August, 2014. That was the day me and my friend had tickets for. I was due to be part of one of my childhood favourite films: Back to the Future. I could hear the theme tune from the second I woke up that day!

Was I worried it would end in disaster for us like it had many other people? Yes! But I tried not to let it bother me as I travelled down to London.
I’ll skip through the boring parts and carry on from when we arrived at the meeting place.Once off the overhead railway, we were greeted by actors dressed in 1950s clothing, ushering and pointing us in the right direction. We were late, butwe hadn’t missed a damn thing. Because, despite scare mongering announcements that any latecomers might not be allowed in until an appropriate time, if at all, we were amongst many people who turned up “Late” and we were led into a long-arsed queue that tailed very far back that didn’t move for half an hour. Early goers were already in, but most people weren’t.

(OH! I’d like to take this moment to do a Special thank you to fellow event goers, one even from Liverpool, who lifted me and my wheelchair up onto the train when assistance failed to show up with a ramp, and another special thank you to the scottish men who assisted in lifting me back out again! You all made the night possible in my eyes.)

One part we were directed through involved a set of stairs by the Olympic Park (in the Olympic park? My sense of direction has never been the best, and a whole year has gone by since then). We’d bumped into some people waiting for the lift, one half of the couple was on crutchers, and whilst everyone else was just jollywell going up the steps and across to where we needed to go, we were just looking at them with confusion. Stairs? No alternate route set out? Between the four of us, we came to the conclusion that that might have been the point that the minibus was meant to meet those with mobility problems, but the half of the couple without crutches went up the steps and asked one of the direction agents (It’s a lot easier to say than ‘One of the people dressed up giving directions’) about it and he said he didn’t know about any mini bus. He also said that we needed to go around the long way.

Wonderful. The whole event takes place in a flat area, but there was no mention of either needing to take the stairs or having to walk the long way around. Whenever walking was mentioned, it was always with the vague “short walk” or “Five minute walk”, with no regard to the concept that disabled people or mobility impaired people might just walk a bit slower and might have walking limits. I’m just glad I was in an electric wheelchair and wasn’t still depending on crutchers, like the be-crutched friend we’d just met, her hands were sore by the time we got to the queue. I wouldn’t have been able to do all the walking we’d had to do so far, and then the standing in the queue on top, with all the walking around we would have had to do have done in the place. Once again, it’s proof that people really don’t think things through when they talk about disabled access and provisions.

Moving on to the event itself, once we were inside. A miracle of miracles!

    BttF5 (2)

The setting for the Hill Valley Square was amazing. It was like a dream come true. You know that music video by The Offspring, “Why Don’t You Get A Job”, where they parade across the Hill Valley Square? I, ridiculously, had the greatest urge to rally up some people to do that. I know, it doesn’t make sense when I could have acted out any scene in BttF instead!

I digress. Everyone there looked amazing. My friend looked absolutely gorgeous in her vintage style dress. She pulled out ALL of the stops. I don’t think I pulled off the 1950s well at all.

As for the event itself, I’d say “Mixed reviews”. Whilst I think they did rather well in nailing the design of the square, I really found many faults with the idea that this was an accessible event. There were huts dressed up to look like houses, and I couldn’t get in to see them, and I couldn’t see much from the doorway. There was an open house design that was meant to be The Doc’s garage, and whilst everyone was going in and having a look around, picking up and playing with props, I could barely lean over to get close to the things right at the front.

The IDs we were given were so we could have a go at role playing whilst we were there. I didn’t bother, mostly because it was a hassle to get the ID cards out and interact with a bunch of people who seemed to always group in a way that blocked paths and views, but also because the places were these ID games were based, were based in these pop up shops that also had no access. I mean, sure, I might have been able to flag down the actors inside the shops to have a go at playing the part of my ID, but… everyone else blocked the doorways and inside was crowded. I couldn’t compete with that.
Whilst walking around, we kept being offered, by the actors, to take part in the parade. Each ID card made you part of a group, and people of those groups could meet up with one of the leading actors and learn a part for the parade. There was a “High School Drama Teacher” who was going to put on an acting bit for the parade, the shop keeper my ID worked for was doing a part of the parade. There was the farmer and the mayor, etc. We could have gone along to any of these groups and become a part of the parade! But we didn’t bother for two reasons:- We didn’t want to risk missing anything going on around the school area and on the square, but also, I wasn’t in the mood to play Compromising Cripple. That is, pretending to be perfectly fine with only half joining in due to limitations being put on me (steps to get into these places, would there even be dance moves I could do, could I have even held one of the heavy props,would I have been given a line just out of pity?), and having half of the experience. I just wasn’t in the mood to be the odd one out.
I really want to assure everyone that I did have a very good night. I had a go at a goober brownie and I loved that! Although I did start feeling the cold by the end of the it and feeling a bit ill as a result, but the event in and of itself was fun! It was an experience. It could have been a better experience, but it was amazing to see. The way they spliced the actors acting in front of the film AS the film played on in the background was brilliant! The cars were brilliant. Seeing the Biff Vs Marty McFly chase across the square before the film even started was great! Dancing in the school hall was great!
There was just a few moments that weren’t great. And the next bit is one of them, and it’ll stay with me forever. I apologise in advance for the subject this surrounds.

Shortly after the film started, I needed to pee. Not to brag or anything, but I do have good “capacity”, but I also have a bit of nerve damage in my back. Sometimes certain factors will mean that first signs of needing to pee will be when I’m at “maximum capacity”, so to speak. I could have waited another twenty minutes to see which one it was, but I was worried that I’d miss better things later on, if nearer the end of the film was the point when I hit maximum capacity and could not wait any longer. So I headed off to find the toilets. It was an executive decision. I got lost at first, but got pointed in the right direction of the toilets.
There were rows and rows of normal portaloos. There was a men’s section, then there was a woman’s section. I couldn’t see a disabled section. I asked one guy, he pointed me back in the direction of the women’s toilets, and when I repeated that I was looking for the disabled toilets, he said “Oh, I don’t know then.” Thank you, oh helpful member of staff! Luckily one of the actors (A Libyan!) overheard me asking and he pointed me in the right direction. There were two disabled toilets. Two. And looking from the outside, I wasn’t convinced that anyone in a wheelchair was actually going to be able to use them. So I went to open the door, and it wouldn’t budge. The door said vacant, unlike the one next to it, nobody said “Oh someone’s in here, please wait a second” so I gave it another pull, and nothing. I went back to the actor, and I think I asked if they were the only accessible toilets around, and he said yes. So I went back and tried a third time. Still nothing. On the fourth time, I used my right hand to open the door, and used my left hand to wiggle a bit that was sticking out, and that’s what made it finally work.
And I opened the door… and the smell that hit me was awful. It smelt… oh, bad. If I could have put a name to it, it would have to be that stale smell of a pub mixed with sewer milk. And, for a disabled toilet, it was anything but accessible. The toilet was directly in front of the door, on the left. There was no turning room, there was no lever arm to pull down, although even if there had have been, it wouldn’t have been any use because my wheelchair was in the way. I twisted myself to see what the situation was in this very smelly room, and I couldn’t close and lock the door once I was in. I’d have taken a photo or a video, but hey, no phone! And then I looked down at the toilet. Big mistake. Very big mistake. There was just something in there and it was brown and liquidly, and all I could think of at the time was “I hope that’s beer spew”. The toilet roll was also just down by the side of the toilet, I couldn’t see where the hand towells were because they also weren’t in the designated dispenser, and it was also missing a hygiene bin for medical accessories. Not that I need it, but some people might have!

I gave up and I backed straight out of there. And nearly ran a young girl over for her troubles. She, although walking, required the disabled toilets. And I said to her, and her mum standing next to her “If there’s any way you can use the women’s, I’d recommend it. It is BAD in there. I didn’t even bother”. And the Mum said she thought I’d gone in and came back out again very quickly. They must have followed the actor’s directions at the same time I was following them.

Me and the mum got talking. She asked me how I was finding it, and I explained everything I’ve explained here. Over all, it’s pretty good and I’m impressed, but I am disappointed that the little things, all the extra touches, were made inaccessible to me. And she explained that she had a daughter with a severe disability and she would have liked to have taken her to an event like this, but the unpredictability of the concept made it unfeasible, and with the lack of actual facilities and provisions for disabled people, she was glad she didn’t even risk it. She also explained that the daughter who was braving the toilets had a bag that needed sorting out, and that’s what they use the disabled toilets for. The space, the facilities to assist with balancing, and the extra hygiene bins they put in there. I said there was just nothing like that in there, and I was actually quite angry at the organisers for selling the event as accessible when two thirds of the event hadn’t been. It’s alright saying they will provide “accessible toilets”, but when they’re not fit for purpose, they might not as well be there. I can say with an educated guess, that they just got the cheapest things on offer and didn’t care enough to put thought into it.
The young girl came out and agreed with me that it Was pretty disgusting. And it’s only just occurred to me now that during that whole conversation, and we must have been talking for 15 minutes, nobody came out of the other toilet. It’s also just occurred to me that maybe someone jimmied the door on the toilets so that nobody could use them, because they were in such dire conditions. It’s my belief, that due the poor and offensive inadequate space of the toilet and little numbers of disabled people there that night, the disabled toilets had been designated as the spewing receptacles. Because why throw up in one of the many other toilets when you can throw up in the disabled one?

After almost being ran over by The Libyans on my way back (My new claim to fame!) I carried on my night enjoying the film, but with the worry that my situation might hit 11 and I’d have to risk public indecency by sneaking a piddle behind the fake shrubberies. I didn’t! But cold did set in and I got pains down my right leg (left leg is too dead to know when it’s too cold).

Like I said, I did enjoy the night. It was amazing! And we did manage to get some pictures, because they were selling over-priced cheaply made disposable cameras on site! It’s a shame that many people’s broke, including my friend’s, meaning they wasted £8 on them for nothing, and maybe more if they still got it developed. And those that were developed were of very poor quality. But mine did work, and quite a few turned out as best as they could! I didn’t want to use it for the toilets, for understandable reasons, but I got the photo I’ve posted above and some other ones.

I would probably go again if they did Back to the Future 2. Because that is my favourite film of the trilogy. But I would contact them before hand and lay down exactly what it means to be accessible, and sue their backsides off if it was the same situation all over again.

I think, besides watching the film and watching the actor’s in front of the film act parts of it out, the highlight of the night was dancing. The first time I met my friend, 10 years before almost down to the month, we went on an “Induction To 6th Form” trip together, which was at a university and it had a disco at the end of the night, and we danced together in our little group from the second the dancing started, until the night ended. And it reminded me of that.

I think the worst bit of the night, besides all of the access issues, was when the Doc was meant to zipline down from the clock tower, the zipline failed. So we had one Doc visibly left stranded on the clock tower with the spot light still on him, whilst a second Doc emerged from the darkness and spoke the lines along with the film.

For anyone wondering what happened with the pee situation (and who knew 10 years ago that ten years into the future I’d be talking about peeing online for all the world to read?! My sixteen year old self is dying of embarrassment, which sounds to me like a plot for BttF4), It hit 11 when Biff was pulling George McFly out of the car, but I made it to the hotel (IBIS) with my dignity and bladder intact. Which is where, to my dismay and to add awkwardness to mild hypothermia, we discovered the supposed wheelchair accessible bathroom had a sliding door that didn’t shut properly. You’d shut it, it would slowly slide open again and reveal about 4 inches of the bathroom. So much for dignity…

It was also a poor attempt at being wheelchair accessible. Like the Portaloo, once I was in the bathroom, I struggled to close the door after myself. It took a lot of bodily twisting. With the lack of space in there, there would have been no way of being assisted if I’d have needed assisting, and no way of showering independently if I’d have wanted to take a shower. The shelf for the shower was far too high, I can’t remember where the controls for the shower were but I remember thinking there was a problem with them, the towel rack was outside of the shower, out of reach of where the stool would go, the shower stool was a collapsible one resting up against the wall, the toilet was about 5 steps away from the shower, the shower had a lip, and oh yeah, the shower was on the side of the bathroom that the open sliding door revealed.

Me and my friend are close, but we’re not married.

For the Secret Cinema Event, I’ll give it a 6.5. I really want to give it a seven, but that disabled portaloo has scarred me for life.


A Failed Journalist’s Anniversary Review of Wimbledon

Thursday 30 July, 2015

For this entry, I’d really recommend you go to this post here and read that first, for this to post to make sense.

But because I believe in the freedom of choice, I’ll also give you a summary.

Four years ago, to the day, I wrote an entry about Paul Bettany. It was the post that started the Paul Bettany back cataloguing (film watching with intent, basically). In the post, I explained how I had a friend in school who fancied him, and she’d talk about a film called Wimbledon and really wanted me to watch it, because she thought the main actor in it (Bettany) was gorgeous, but I was never interested in watching it, because it was a romcom, and I’m not one for romcoms. I also mentioned how I love(d) a film called Gangster No. 1, and recommended my friend watch it, but she wasn’t into bloody, gorey gangster films, so she never did, despite my description of the main character being Really, Really blonde and she seemed to like that look. I never knew the name of the main actor in it, and neither me or my friend realised we were recommending films to each other starring the same man.

I know. Hilarious, right?

Well. Just the other weekend, I had a film marathon. It’s a long story how I ended up with such a hodge podge of films that I wouldn’t ordinarily watch, but amongst them was the film Wimbledon. I’ve had this collection of DVDs in my possession for about five months, but I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch them.

And because of emotional sentimentality, a penchant for nostalgic blues, and the sheer fact that it’s a romcom, I wasn’t all that keen to watch Wimbledon anyway. I felt as though, even if I did find out I enjoyed the film, it’ll always be tinged with the sadness of the yesteryear. (I know. Pathetic, right?)

But it was there, and I was watching the others, so I took the plunge.

And I almost hate myself for this, but I actually… sort of… liked it??? I mean, it wasn’t that bad. I watched better films during the movie marathon (Stardust) and I’d watched worse during the movie marathon (Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence) and this fell just above the line between “good” and “uninteresting”.

It’s down to Paul Bettany. All Hail the Acting God that is Paul Bettany! It’s his dry delivery and tone of voice that makes it worth watching, I think. I didn’t really think much of the romance, i’m getting fed up of the leading male roles being played by men that are 10+ years older than the leading female roles, and normally I can’t stand watching anything to do with Tennis. When the real Wimbledon’s on, I will go to great lengths to avoid it as much as possible.

But I was kept interested by the dialogue and Paul Bettany’s delivery of it, in this film.

If I could have changed anything about this film, besides the age gap between the actors and the fact that it’s another A B C Heterosexual Romance RomCom, it would be that I would have wanted Peter Colt (Bettany’s character) to lose. You know, throw some reality to these things. He is old for a tennis player, which is highlighted in the film, he was struggling to keep ahead for most of his matches up to that point, and he hurt his back. That’s a big career destroyer for a lot of athletes. At some point, these films should be telling people you can’t have everything you want in life.

So, in conclusion, I’ll give the film a 5/10.
Next Paul Bettany Catalogue review will be Blood.