The Undatables: A Failed Journalist’s Opinion

Wednesday 25 January, 2017

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

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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.


Beware the man in the wheelchair with worn out shoes

Thursday 8 May, 2014

I keep seeing that phrase thrown around twitter, and it really winds me up. I’ve seen various versions of it as well, each more offensive than the next. Sometimes it’s aimed at fictional characters on telly, disabled characters played by able-bodied actors, and sometimes it’s aimed at wheelchair users who don’t always depend on a wheelchair. There’s sexist versions, homophobic versions, racist versions. The ignorance in this one ignorant comment is horrific and worrying, quite frankly.

No matter how it’s said or who it’s aimed it, it doesn’t matter, it’s a saying that needs to stop. It’s offensive and it’s incorrect. It comes from the belief that every wheelchair user is always in a wheelchair, and it further perpetuates the belief that if you use a wheelchair and are then seen standing up or walking, you are faking, lying and downright untrustworthy.

Honestly, disability is not that plain and simple. Yeah, able-bodied actors playing disabled characters annoy me, because there are plenty of disabled actors out there, who maybe could add a bit of insight to the role, and they don’t get a look in. Why? I’ve never heard of one decent reason yet. But, the way people point out able-bodied people’s portrayal of disabled characters because they happen to see legs moving, feet tapping, is also wrong.

Not all forms of paralyses mean that a person can’t moved affected limbs completely, it also doesn’t mean that the affected limbs are numb to sensations, and it goes without saying that not all wheelchair users are in a wheelchair because they’re paralysed, and not all wheelchair users are wheelchair dependent. Here’s an interesting fact: Some people use wheelchairs because other parts than their legs don’t work! Their legs might be fine and functional, but it’s their backs that don’t work, they might have a heart condition, they might have chronic fatique syndrome. Even some severe forms of tourettes can affect a person’s mobility so much that they need to depend on a wheelchair.

And, for those of us who consider ourselves wheelchair dependent, it still doesn’t mean we’re in our wheelchairs all day, every day. How do you think some people get into their wheelchairs? Magical bubbles lifting us from our beds into our chairs? I use crutchers, some of my friends side transfer, some use a hoist.

All variety of disabilities and mobility aids have their own ways of wreaking havoc on shoes. Don’t believe me? Have a look at these!

my pair of old grubby trainers
These are my shoes, and they’ve been my shoes since 2009. I couldn’t get a decent photo of the tread underneath, but the worst looking shoe from the top is also the most worn out shoe from underneath.

If you’re not the type to think it’s proof of a lack disability, you’d probably think that that’s the shoe for my good leg, and maybe even that it’s all wrecked from having to put my best foot forward everytime I walk. Ahhh, if only I actually had a best foot to put forward! It’s more like not-as-dead-as-my-other-leg!foot Vs the-actual-dead-leg!foot.

Some people who understand the complexity of mobility issues might even assume that it’s all marked at the side from me crossing one leg over the other, or maybe tapping my leg against my chair or crutchers, or maybe even standing on the sides of my feet.

Well, you or that person would be wrong. Cos the worst shoe actually belongs to the foot of the leg that hardly ever moves. The whole leg is practically a dead weight, it catches on the underside of my footplate when I’m lifting it up onto the footplate, it’s constantly rubbing against the holding bar of the footplate as I merrily go along my day. It’s the foot that lands heavily on the ground, I’ve never lifted my feet properly but my knees are now buckled since my hip operation and I’m sure that has made my weight bearing even worse, from a functional viewpoint, so the underside of my shoe takes a bit of a beating.

I’ve seen shoes of the friends who use hoists, and their shoes end up in much the same state, and usually a lot quicker. I’ve seen the treads of the friends who side transfer, and the tread is always worn down, marked, marred or bobbled on the side of the shoes that hit the footplate bar. Same goes for those who use platform footrests and the metal holders.

Honestly, any comments like that are so… stupid and offensive! I can’t even believe people say it. I’ve had these shoes for 5 years, and yeah they’re the longest lasting pair of shoes I’ve had, but look at the state of them! Look at the left shoe! You can’t see it from this angle, but a small bit of stitching has come undone by the heel, it’s only because I don’t walk that that those shoes are still holding together. I imagine if I started miraculously walking everywhere tomorrow, I wouldn’t get very far before the stitching undoes completely and the heel starts coming apart.

Please, next time anyone says it, tell them how wrong they are. Or better yet, point their ignorant faces in this direction. If they want to carry on believing wheelchair users have perfect, pristine, unmarked, unworn shoes, they’ll have to keep me and every other wheelchair user in supply of new shoes every few months!

Oh, that’d be too expensive for them? Well, then they’ll just have to learn and accept the diversity of disability then, won’t they?


Blog Against Disableism Day – 2014

Friday 2 May, 2014

Yesterday was Blog Against Disableism Day.

I would have liked to have blogged for it, but unfortunately the days before were busy ones and I’d overdone it, so I spent most of yesterday in bed suffering the after affects. Gone are the days were I can blog, lying back in bed with my laptop on top of me, crushing into my ribs.

Shame really, I wrote some of my favourite blog entries with my laptop crushing into my ribs. (But remember, correlation is not causation!)

Anyway, so that’s why I didn’t blog yesterday, on the day, despite it being a topic I’m very passionate about. This topic is, as they say, very much up my street (dropped kerbs implied). So I’m blogging now. I feel like nothing shows how life in itself is disableist than missing disabled-related events because of a disabled-related problem.

And that’s largely the way disableism is for me, and for a lot of people no doubt. Disableism isn’t just about offensive opinions and words, insults that can ruin your day or discriminatory actions, it’s also passive attitudes and unchallenged perceptions.

I’ll give you an idea of how living with a complex, fluctuating disability is quite swings and roundabouts, in regards to disableism, from my own experience.

When I could walk, before the crutches became permanent accessories for my arms, I stood hunched over, on the worse days I walked oddly, I was the height of a ten year old, and quite frankly, my conversation skills didn’t really match my appearance, and thanks to many flus, acid reflux and a post-nasal drip, I also have a voice deeper than what I should have. I got stared at, a lot. I mean, a lot. I’m not being paranoid, even friends commented on it. Children would just stand and stare at me, some people would be taken aback when I interacted with them, and just in general, I could tell people didn’t know what to make of me. I assume, to them, I was just all around odd.

And then I was permanently on crutches, and I found that whilst adults took to me better, I assume down to them being able to categorise me better, children’s staring increased. Again, that’s not me being paranoid, this was also something a friend at the time noticed and commented on. I didn’t shave my head or get my nose pierced for this reason, but at least when I did do those things, it gave them something a bit more interesting to stare at whilst they were staring.

I remember on one memorable day, I got ID’d because I didn’t passt for eighteen, my disability was questioned, because I was only on crutchers, and then got referred to as a lady. Not even young lady, a child called me a lady.

I just never knew, during that time of my life, what attitude I’d be faced with next.

And then i was in my wheelchair more, walking less and less. It was the strangest thing, even with my shaved hair, in my purple wheelchair, always by myself, always seemingly a bit out of place, I got stared at a lot less. Again, something that friends noticed on my behalf.

The downfall?

Pretty much everything else. Everyone around me just didn’t expect me, now wheelchair bound, to want to carry on as normal, seemed to think I was expecting too much when I expected to be able to carry on as normal. I still took the bus, but god forbid I ask the driver to put the ramp down, god forbid I even expect a ramp in the first place! I tried to shop, and in some ways it was suddenly easier in a wheelchair, but it was also more difficult. I realised I could carry things on my lap, whereas using crutches meant I never had a free hand to carry things with, and I was always too frightened of being mistaken for a shoplifter to put things in my pocket until I got to the til. The one time I asked for assistance, I practically overcame crippling social anxiety to do so, it was for one thing, he picked it up and carried it all the way to the fil for me. It was a beautiful moment.

I did not have the same experience when in my wheelchair. I won’t name the shop, but I went in for a jar of dip. It was on the shelf that was just above my reaching height, and I flagged down a middle-aged man, who did actually work there not just a random stranger, and asked him if he could pass me the jar down. He did so after a sigh, and pointed out, ever so helpfully, that if I need help, I should get a carer.

And that’s the crux of my experiences with disableism. People in general do not understand complex, fluctuating disabilities, or that disability is a spectrum.

At that point in my life, I did not need a carer. I needed people to do their jobs and a jar of dolmio salsa dip. Disabled people are only seen as a burden, people you’re made to go out of your way for, because we’ve not been given the opportunity to be independent.

Now I do need more help, and I have a support worker. My condition is worse, and sadly I find people’s attitudes towards disabled people worse. If I could go back to the days were being stared at were my most upsetting experiences, I would in a second.

But that’s not reality, and reality is getting worse. The disabled are fighting a war we’ve been set up to lose. We’re meant to have jobs, but we’re not expected to want to use public transport to get to them. DLA is switching to PIP, a lesser benefit that is insufficient and it’s taking motability down with it, and Access to Work has been cut. Lately I’ve been in arguments that have started because an able-bodied person has refused to give me access to the wheelchair accessible facilities I require, because it puts them out, my well-being be damned. They wouldn’t even have such facilities to appropriate if it wasn’t for disabled people demanding equality.

DSA is changing, at risk of going completely. So disabled people are meant to have jobs to pay their way, but without the education and qualifications to qualify for them? There’s the attitude with ablebodied people that if they don’t go to university, at least they can try for manual labour type work or retail. The chances of a severely disabled person being able to for that type of job are low, and if they could, the chances that they’d be hired are also low.

Negative comments, insults, threatening behaviour, ignorance, refusal to act in a helpful manner, online harassment, I’ve experienced them all. But there’s something deeper and darker at work. If you’re well enough to play along with the system like I once was, you feel like you’re fine, that it’s not that bad for you, but it is. Because you have to play along with the system. When you stop being able to, you realise how broken our society really is. And the foundations are in the disableist attitudes.

We can’t correct people’s derogatory comments until we have the support and understanding from the government to flourish. The systematic break down of a disabled person’s life needs to end, not the disabled person’s life.

And one more thing, can we knock the term “differently abled” on it’s head, please? I can’t think of a more patronising term for disabled that makes me queasy, and I’ve heard a few! It completely erases the existence of disability, and it’s as harmful as the phrase “the only disability is a bad attitude.” No, disability is disability, bad attitude or not.

I’ve learnt to adapt because I’ve needed to, and it wasn’t easy. I life my life very differently to what I used to, and it’s not easy. I can no longer go for long walks, it hasn’t given me the ability to fly, blow up things, or see ghosts. I’m not a member of the X-Men, i’m disabled.

All the term “Differently Abled” says to me is that it’s more important to put a positive spin on disability than it is to understand the complexities of disability.

I am disabled, and I’m proud at working around my obstacles, but if i do things differently, it’s because I’m just that good adapting. But I, and many other disabled people, adapt out of necessity because the greater society fails to adapt to us. Most buildings are still built with stairs, lifts are still mostly an afterthought.

Calling disabled people Differently Abled isn’t just insulting to many disabled people, it’s also insulting to able bodied people.


The Love Affair Is Over

Friday 7 March, 2014

As you may know, I have been quite the fangirl of LoveFilm over the years. I’ve been a member since 2010, when The So Called Good Friend suggested I become a member, after my operation left me bed-bound, quite bored and with very little to do. It was marvellous! (The lovefilm subscription, not being bed-bound and bored) I could watch almost anything and everything, I was easily getting my money’s worth from them, and despite a few hiccups here and there, they have given me excellent service!

And then redesigned their listing system, and I wasn’t very keen on that… which was fine, because they listened to people’s comments and they fixed what people didn’t like. The redesign ended up combining what people really wanted from the way the old site was with the redesign LoveFilm were quite adamant to force on to us.

And then just a couple of months after that, they merged with Amazon. Or Amazon bought them out. I’m not sure which one it actually is, but basically, Amazon got involved. It had it’s good points and it’s bad points, actually. It seemed to allow for a better range of television shows, it widened the range of things you could watch online and it allowed LoveFilm members access to Amazon Pilots. Those were all good points…

The bad points, though, well, first of all, to stay “true to providing a service fit for it’s name”, it chucked the games rental. Which was a real kick in the teeth to me, I’d just switched to the all inclusive package to include games! Not to mention I was planning and having to rewrite a third How To entry, because the little changes on top of my infrequent use of Lovefilm at the time meant that I felt the information I had wasn’t good enough to justify a whole new entry, as well as being too much of a rehash of what I’d already written on my previous entries.

And then… Amazon itself. Amazon does not deal with it’s customers very well. It doesn’t even deal with it’s employees well. Before I gave up using Amazon altogether, the quality of the products I was buying went from reliable and unquestionable to junk items at a Carboot Sale. And I say that as a massive fan of Carboot Sales. I found I was able to buy less and less straight from Amazon, especially for a price that didn’t leave you bankrupt, and had a lot of problems with even the highly rated third party vendors. Complaining to the relevant email addresses never really got me anywhere, and then I learnt about how awful the working conditions were. So I stopped using Amazon.

So, when LoveFilm changed to “Lovefilm – An Amazon Company”, I was sceptical about it’s future, both as a good company and something I’d be happy to carry on with using. There are too many times where companies merge, or where one gets swallowed by another, and it changes the business for the worse. So many times when this happens, original customers of the original company are left disgruntled and left out in the cold. With that in mind, I prepared for the inevitable.

By which I mean, I got a trusty notebook and I made a list of all of my lists. Once a week, I’d cross out the titles that I’d watched, I’d add to relevant lists when titles became available from out of the reserved, and added any titles I’d added in a spree to the lists on the site. I am nothing if not prepared and fastidious when it comes to my DVD renting.

Which is why the instant the switch over happened, I wasn’t happy. And I wasn’t alone in not being happy. The switch over was not smooth, the switch over was not quick, and from what I can gather from social network and other LoveFilm fanatics aboot the place, the switch over was not wanted at all. At the fastest turn around, people can get through up to nine discs in a week, six or seven is more realistic. And they were paying less than £14 for it. There were graded packets which were aimed at the more leisurely viewer and people who were streaming only. The switch over changed these packages completely. People were expected to pay about the same price for one less disc a go. Now one disc for a bit less doesn’t sound that bad, but let’s go to the average fastest turn around, that’s three less discs a week, that can be nine less discs a month. That’s about the same price for nine less discs!

And not just that. LoveFilm used to have a Pay Per View system, but it wasn’t working for them, so they removed it in their redesign. Every item to stream on their site was viewable for every member on a streaming package. Only their package limitations limited them. With the change over to Amazon, an unlimited streaming package literally just means you could watch as many things as you want with no time or broadband usage limit. Most items to stream on the new Amazon Instant Video service, which is what the LoveFilm instant package has become, are PPV. And they’re not cheap!

I’ll be the first in line to say that LoveFilm didn’t have the best films available to stream, their dvd stock was much, much bigger, but this so called unlimited package takes the cake! If you’re spending £7 for an unlimited service, you then shouldn’t have to spend over £100 to watch every episode of a series, or £3.99 for a film, on top of what you’ve already paid.

Most of the confusion of the switch over, probably the main reason many people were left very unhappy by the switch over, was that the LoveFilm package was split into two components. The postal delivery service is called LoveFilm By Post; Self explanatory but actually hard to find, no sensible navigation and actually no extra information at all. Once your account moved over successfully, you could see your lists in their entirety, but no easily located place to see what discs are being sent out to you or how to add titles to your lists, which is a pretty important part of the dvd rental service.

The streaming service is now called Amazon Instant Video Prime. Which has nothing to do with an Amazon Prime Account, which is it’s own component to Lovefilm Streaming. All available information about streaming for the first four days post switch over said, “All films available to Prime users”. People were left very confused. People, including myself, couldn’t figure out whether Amazon had forced a Prime account on to them or whether there was a problem with the site.

And then users were figuring it out for themselves, because the phone lines weren’t being very helpful and their twitter account had gone on radio silence, apart from the tweets advertising how good their new services were. It wasn’t that switched over users were given Amazon Prime accounts with the expectation to pay £70 every year for it, nor was it that the website was broken.

Amazon Prime, as in the Amazon VIP purchasing service was separate, but it gave all Prime members truly unlimited access, at no extra cost, to the video streaming service. Well, “no extra cost” as in apart from the annual Prime fee, which was about £49 but increased to £70. The video streaming service switched over from LoveFilm, was just “coincidentally” named Prime. As a coincidence. And not in any way a deliberate attempt to confuse people, at all.

So, there were unhappy faces all around, really! And that’s just online! I had to call up to cancel my account, and after being on hold for thirty minutes, the person I spoke to falsely claimed that my cancellation wouldn’t go through in time before my next payment, which was the next day, so I’d have a full month paid for, wouldn’t I like that full month to get used to this new service?

I said no. She said I had to call back once my discs had been stated as returned anyway, in order to cancel, and there was nothing she could do to help me further, with apologies. I cancelled the postal part online myself, and the next day had to ring up to cancel the streaming part because I couldn’t find that part online.

It’s been a week since I cancelled and I have not been charged at all for the new month that would have started had I not cancelled when I did. Just by luck, my discs had arrived the morning after I’d tried to cancel. Which was why I was trying to cancel, actually. I didn’t want more discs to be sent out and the whole process stalled even further.

So lies on top of a poor quality of customer service and misinformation. I will let the waiting times ranted about on twitter speak for themselves. The first morning of the switch over, people were in queues or up to half an hour. It settled down to 10 minutes by that evening. The next day, people were tweeting about queues for up to half an hour again, twenty minutes throughout most of the way and then five to ten minutes by that evening. Ten minutes at most for the third morning, spiking up to twenty minutes for a good portion of the afternoon and evening, and back down to ten minutes by that evening.

I’ve asked around, quite a few people said the original queue time for LoveFilm was between five and ten minutes, as started by the recorded voice on the phone.

Tweets started being flooded by some sort of review cross-posting in connection to Amazon Prime, so it was hard to keep track past the fourth day, but most tweets were questions, rants of confusion and statement of intent to quit LoveFilm. Even now, most tweets about the change over are not positive ones. Yes, I bet people who have the money to spend in one big amount are quite happy with their new Amazon Prime services, but those of us who have been with LoveFilm for years have been trampled over. You get a fair amount less than what you did with the original LoveFilm, and if you want exactly what you had with LoveFilm, you have to pay a lot more in one go for it.

LoveFilm was on of the few remaining services around that really treated their DVD rental customers and streaming customers equally. Which was why I was quite happy to stream whenever I was able to, which was rarely, as well as still work my way through the DVDs. And now, I do say this with a bit of apprehension, it’s been ruined. Because I wouldn’t be surprised if six months from now, LoveFilm by post gets phased out completely.

Why do I think that? Because whilst customers who focused on wanting a streaming service were confused with what was what, LoveFilm by post was just neglected completely, despite all lists being screwed up and merged. A lot of people who had a problem sorting the LoveFilm by Post stuff out were merely told to wait until it got sorted and look around the streaming instead. As well as being expected to be fine with paying about the same for less, with no guarantee of a next day delivery service. Alright, LoveFilm couldn’t guarantee that either, it was subject to the postal service. But when the post ran smoothly, it was almost always a next day delivery service. With LoveFilm by Post, delivery for DVDs was second to any Prime customers renting DVDs. And they’d get the priority, and anyone else was subject to the remaining space/time left over after the priority of Prime went through.

And almost every other service is just stream only. So why not this one, too? It’d be foolish to think they value their customers after they’ve proved repeatedly how much they don’t.

SO for all of that, I have left LoveFilm. I am sad about this, but good riddance to Amazon Rubbish. I hear most people who have left LoveFilm have moved to Netflix. People who can’t stream are looking into CinemaParadiso.co.uk, which does have a similar package system to LoveFilm, but the prices are much higher. It’d be £22 a month for four DVDs a go, and still no games. Could be worth it if you have a fast turn around, but that’s a monthly sum just a bit steep for me. I can’t justify that for myself, so for now I’m getting what I can, when I can, from my local Library. Which serves me well in DVD rentals, as well as supporting my local Library, and sticking it to hungry businesses trampling on the little man.

If you’re looking for somewhere to go after LoveFilm’s transmogrification into Amazon, and are a bit lost; As well as the ones I’ve already mentioned, there’s also blinkbox, which is streaming only, and Blockbuster is making a comeback.

And for anyone worried or wondering about my LoveFilm Classic Film Quest, worry not! That’s what the Library will come in use for. Well, for as long as the Library remains open, anyway.

Please, if you have any comments, suggestions and whatnots, feel free to reply!