30 August 2004

On Saturday afternoon, a friend (also a wheelchair user) and I were trying to hail a taxi on Charing Cross Road. We were there for probably about 10 minutes before we finally got one. In that whole time, only two people came up and asked if we needed any help to cross the road.

Oh London, it's good to be home.

The aforementioned friend is the only person I went to school with that I'm still in touch with (I do actually hear from two people I went to school with, but the other I didn't "keep" in touch with... we ran into each other at a GLAD conference last year. The pedant in me needed to make that clear). He has a far better memory than me.

A few weeks ago we were chatting on the phone and he pointed out that when he first started at my school he came up to me and said "Are you free?"

To which I apparently replied with something to the effect of "Honey, I'm always available..."

Fairly typical comment of me at 13, really.

As my life is speeding by, and my teens have blurred into my twenties, have I changed at all?

Well, a few weeks ago, a youth worker friend of mine was flicking through her... youth... work... magazine. She came across an article accompanied by a photo of me, which she kindly scanned in and Emailed to me. The article was nothing to do with me, but the photo was from when I did some modelling for the Disability Rights Commission. In the photo I'm sitting next to a placard, proudly bearing the statement:

"Open 4 All"

I'll take that as a "no" then.

There is a spectacular irony in the fact that I've been paid to work as a model. I am quite possibly the least attractive person on the planet. My face has cropped up in several places, and I've even been stopped in the street by a man with a newspaper stand who recognised me from seeing my picture in Disability Now. That was a surreal experience.

Does this degree of exceedingly minor celebrity help me be more successful with the ladies? Does it fuck. Perhaps that's a poor choice of word of course, as fucking is an activity I'd like to be engaging in... but sadly haven't for far too long. So maybe it was the right choice of word, I don't know. Perhaps I should let thoughts make their way through my head, rather than just carrying on typing out what's going through my brain at the second I'm thinking it?

But, what comes next? As my life passes me by, and I become a thirtysomething still living alone in a bedsit doing admin to earn a living, will I of resorted to leaving my number in phone boxes around the capital? And more to the point, how many random strangers will offer to help me to do so?

26 August 2004

Today someone ran into the side of my poor car.

I've always owned cars which seem to give off some "hit me" vibe. When I was at university, I would often go back to my car to find another dent which hadn't been there when I'd parked.

This incident was slightly different though. When I say "someone ran into the side of my car..." I literally mean that. An overexcited Primrose Hill jogger failed to stop when he came to the end of the pavement.

He then had the audacity to slap my car... as if by being on the road, I was somehow in the wrong for being in his path.

It was one of the more surreal moments of my life. And not an unscary one if I'm honest, even though he was jogging faster than I was driving.

After slapping my car for being in his way he carried on jogging in a straight line regardless of any moving vehicles. I somehow suspect that it won't be long before the Darwin Award comes knocking.

It's been a week for odd things that you wouldn't think would happen. Last night a friend and I found a cubicle in some ladies toilets in a pub, with two toilets in the same cubicle. When I say "my friend and I found" I don't mean we went in there together... she is just a friend... and that's not my kind of thing. But who would? It was a chainy pub, not some underground perve club. To add more bizarreness to it all of course, the floor in the toilet vibrated.

What is becoming of Wetherspoons?

22 August 2004

Do they not have wheelchairs in Edinburgh?

I have abrasions on my right breast.

I bet you're wondering how those sentences are connected, aren't you?

I've been subjected to all manner of stares etc, over the last week. One guy was so desperate to not have to walk along the street anywhere near me that he took an almighty jump to the left (or maybe it was nothing to do with me and he was just warming up to go and see The Rocky Horror Picture Show later on). Irony upon irony of course he suddenly found himself face-to-face with a woman on an electric scooter. Cripples on all sides, the bloke looked like he was having a panic attack.

I have of course seen plenty of wheelchair users about over the last week. But given that all of them have been gravitating around fringe venues, I can only assume that they are all tourists like me, or performers.

Especially given the novelty alue I seem to hold. I've seen countless people fail to cross the road this week because they've been so busy watching how it is that I do it, that they've forgotten that the green man means that they can go.

Of course, some people will walk out into the street despite being so distracted by the lady in the wheelchair. This brings me onto Accident I Nearly Caused Number 1. Quite simply, a couple were so busy staring at me whilst they crossed the road, that they failed to noticed the two cyclists coming at them until they were only centimetres apart.

Accident I Nearly Caused Number Two: I was pushing up The Pleasance. As anyone familiar with Edinburgh will know, it's a pretty steep hill. A child of about 2 and a half, possibly three at a strech was walking up the road in front of me, his gandparents dragging him along, one by each wrist. He apparently had the neck of an owl, and had rotated to watch me pushing up the hill. He was literally staring like he'd *never* seen a wheelchair before. How does a child get to that old and have never met someone disabled? Oh, that's right, I forgot about all the segregation and discrimination that goes on. All the "special" children from his area are probably forced into their own special playgroup, and not allowed to play with the normal kids. Eventually of course, he came to a kerb. He wasn't watching where he was going, I was far more of a novelty. He didn't land flat on his face (or on the back of his head in his case, the owl-child) as his grandparents were still clutching him by both wrists. In my "I've been awake for three days" state I found myself slightly evilly thinking that it was a shame he was being propped up - he could've learned so many valuable lessons.

But, of course, the accident finally did occur this evening. A local woman was so busy staring at me that she failed to notice the step she was about to trip over. She landed on me, fingernails out. Hence the abrasions on my right breast.

It's OK. I can live without my right breast. That's the less important one. I'm "Lisa 'Left Boob'". Though, I do have that plaster of paris model of my left boob somewhere which I could use for extra support until the injuries heal, had it been the left she'd gotten of course.

18 August 2004

"I'm fine!"

"I'm fine. No, really. I can manage, it's OK."

Seems to of been the cry of my holiday so far.

Fair enough, Edinburgh is far from flat... but the I lived in Cambridge for 7 years, so I think mole hills should have a road sign denoting their gradient.

I'm rediscovering muscles that haven't been used since... I came to Edinburgh for the fringe this time last year.

It's quite reassuring that people in Edinburgh are so willing to be helpful. Unfortunately when 4 people say "do you need a hand?" within the space of 5 yards, you do start to get a little terse. Especially when three of them don't quite seem to understand the meaning of the word "no" until you've gripped your wheels with all you might so you ain't going nowhere (the screaming "GET OFF ME!" also seems to work fairly well) which isn't what you need when trying to push up hills so steep that you thought they only existed in your nightmares... kind of robs you of any momentum you might of had going.

Why do these offers of help only come along when I'm fine? Why do supermarkets only put feta cheese on the top shelf? And why does no-one ever say "Do you need a hand?" when I'm attempting to mount a chiller cabinet in Sainsbury's just to reach the damn stuff?

I would like to apologise to the unusually polite woman who asked me if I needed any help while I was on my way back to the youth hostel this evening. I'm sure she's not going to read this... but, at least I've made my peace with myself. Unfortunately, what you probably wouldn't of understood was that you were the fourth person to ask me if I needed any help on that flat stretch of road today, which was why I was incredibly terse to you. Secondly, that stretch of road is cobbled. I was quite enjoying the sensation. Thirdly, that stretch of road was cobbled. You'd of got my front wheels caught in a gap between some, had me out of my wheelchair and onto my chin within seconds, as your pushing would've 99% certainly been less attentive than mine. I really don't think a fun ride in an ambulance would add anything to my holiday. Fourthly and finally, yes, I'd paused. That wasn't because I needed help, but because I wasn't using the pavement, I was sitting on the road, and I could see the headlights of a car, about to come around the corner. No-one wants a Lisy shaped dent in their bonnet, and again, back to point three - I really don't want to stay in Edinburgh beyond Sunday, especially not on the orthopaedic ward of the local hospital.

My favourite sight in Edinburgh so far has to of been the casino with a sign outside saying "Chinese customers welcome" - isn't that great social consciousness... showing concern that this time next year, Gamblers Anonymous might not have socially reflective ethnic monitoring statistics?

16 August 2004


A lot of people remark that Edinburgh always smells of hops/generally alcoholic. I tend to think that Edinburgh always smells of toasted brown bread, but maybe that's just me and my innocence/slightly skewed sense of smell.

Yes, I'm in a city which many people remark as being one of the most beautiful cities in the world. When I look out across Edinburgh, I generally just see cobblestones. I may not be one for appreciating amazing architecture, but a cheap sexual thrill will always bring a smile to my face.

Again, I've found myself in a city where by comparison I start thinking that London's cold, unfriendliness where no-one looks at anyone in the eye is actually rather pleasant. On Saturday night, I was on my way to see a show at the Assembly Rooms and while I was waiting to cross the road, a coach load of tourists passed me. You could almost imagine that the tour guide up the front had announced "And in front of us, you will see a tall... gothicy... um, building. And if you look out the left hand side of the bus, you will see a lady in a wheelchair waiting to cross the road!" as every single person turned to stare at me as they passed. The coach was part of a fleet, as two further coaches also passed by, again, with every passenger turning to have a quick gawp. You can almost imagine mobile phones going off along the second and third buses as their mates on the first bus phoned to say "Look out to the left quick... a cripple!"

I'm staying in a youth hostel which, for the other 11 months of the year when there's no major festival going on is a university hall of residence. This means that rather than having to share a bedroom with 7 strangers, I actually get a room all to myself (depressingly it's about twice the size of the bedsit I live in). I get to share a kitchen and bathroom with the other three inhabitants of the "apartment". I'm worried that at some point, someone's got the purpose of those two rooms mixed up, as the stench of wee in the kitchen is unbelieveable.

In the bathroom, someone has left a can of deodorant by the sink. It's the Spanish version of "Sure", and despite all the logo's, fonts, and other brand tradmarks being identical, it's not called "Sure". It's called "Rexona". Interesting bit of trivia. The thing I found most interesting about my "something to read on the toilet" Spanish lesson was that Spanish for "anti-perspirant" is "anti-transpirante". At least know I know what'll be an effective weapon should I ever end up in a fight with the invisible man.

12 August 2004

Last night I got to live part of the dream.

I wheeled over a red carpet.

Sadly, I've not been sneaking off and making groundbreaking, fascinating, hilarious, insightful movies. But you can still half smile when you cross the red carpet of someone else's movie.

Was the experience as exciting and glamourous as one would imagine? No. Actually. The best adjective to describe the evening is probably "sweaty."

You see, I'd misread and thought that the "event" was at the Curzon Soho. But, my friend who I was meeting called and said "I think it's at the Curzon Mayfair." - she went to investigate while I was still somewhere around Baker Street, being the punctually challenged little thing that I am. She called me back a few minutes later having seen the sign outside the Curzon Soho "No, you were right, it is here."

Phew. Though I could possibly of done with it being in Mayfair, I may of been all of about two minutes less late.

I arrive, 5 minutes before the "event" is due to start.

"AfterLife is showing at the Curzon Mayfair." said Mr Box Office Man.


I may of missed going circuit training (OK, that's a confession for another post. It's really not so bad now my muscles are getting a bit more used to being... used) and my friend may of missed kick boxing, but we certainly got our exercise on the, well, less than gentle jog from the one cinema to the other. Hmmm. Sweaty. How glamourous.

Fortunately things were running even later than me, and we didn't even miss Donal McIntyre's introduction to the film. Hows that for... um.... something...???

The film is about the relationship between brother (Kenny, non-disabled, journalist, determined) and sister (Roberta, artist, has Downs Syndrome, sarcastic) and how it develops when their mother (May, terminally ill, Roberta's full time assistant, dangerously over-protective) is dying.

While the writer, director, etc, were all present and gave their speeches, in addition to representatives of various disability organisations, there were only two members of the cast in attendance; Paula Sage (Roberta) and Shirley Henderson (Kenny's girlfriend Ruby). When they were called to the stage, Paula Sage went to the microphone to speak, and could barely even see over the podium, never mind get close enough to the mic to be heard.

That's disability equality for you.

One of the speakers was from "Disability Equality in Education" - perhaps "Disability Equality in Public Speaking," is the next step for them.

I think that's possibly the best access faux pas since the BBC gave Tanni Grey-Thompson one of the sports personality of the year awards but forgot to get a ramp so she could get on the stage to collect it.

Of course, the dream for me is still alive. Not only do I want the Empire to have to red carpet their "accessible entrance" (sounds like something you might find written on a T-shirt in Essex with an arrow pointing down) down the piss-stinking back alley. I now want to get on the stage and talk too. Yes.

We can all dream, can't we? Or maybe not in my case, as the shortage of shut-eye I'm getting is still preventing me from doing so. Maybe I should sabbotage my own wind-screen wipers or something?

08 August 2004

I bet you all thought that once I'd gotten my phoneline installed in my cupboard that I'd start to write regularly, didn't you?

OK, maybe not - considering I always had my own line when I lived in Golders Green and still rarely wrote.

But it's all exciting - I'm internet enabled! From the comfort of my very own room. Hurrah for Telewest finally telling me that they're not coming round so I could get a BT line. And my band will be broadened in a couple of weeks. There'll be nothing stopping me. Except for my own laziness, which I always find to be a barrier.

I'm again not sleeping properly, so during the day I can't usually keep my eyes open long enough to try and write. And at night I'm being good and disciplined and not turning my computer on. Instead I'm spending my nights watching the same episode of The Smoking Room repeated every night for a week on BBC Three. That and old episodes of Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned on ITV2. See - I also bought a Freeview box too.

I think I may have found a cure for my insomnia though - all I need to do is move into my local Peugeot dealership, and all my problems will be sorted. You don't think they mind me sleeping on the comfy blue sofas they've got, do you? It's not like I've never done it before...

I don't quite know what it is about the place that acts like a sedative, maybe it's the New Car Smell? If it is, all I need to do is find friends as generous during the festive season as Chandler and Joey, then I can make my room smell like a shiny 206 and my sleeping's sorted.

Three times I've had to make use of their waiting facilities while they've serviced/MOTed/repaired my car, and every time I've found keeping my eyes open to be impossible. The first twice I did actually fall asleep. It's quite a good job I have no shame about sleeping in public places.

On Thursday morning while I was waiting for them to fix my defective screen washer - the second I went through the door I could feel my eyelids getting heavy. I decided I was going to be good. I wasn't going to lay across the seats and start snoring. No! I was going to be "cool" (could partly have something to do with the pretty lady with the funky hair working there). I was going to sit and read my book. Yes. Reading.

"I will read. My eyes will stay open. I am not going to fall asleep here...

"OK, I'm not going to read. I can't focus on the page. I'll just look at the shiny cars around the room. Yes. Pretty, shiny colours. My eyes will stay open..."

While my brain was having a fight with my eyelids about their insistance to close, I could sense someone staring at me. It was the pretty lady with the funky hair giving me evils!

Why? I wasn't even snoring!

She kept perodically glaring at me until my keys were returned to me. Like she knew about my secret plans to sneak in with my duvet just as they were locking up every night.

This morning I got a letter from them reminding me that the metallic blue Peugeot 206 of mine that they MOTed last year was due for it's new MOT. They should know I don't have that car anymore - seeing as it was that garage from which I got my new car an all.

Still, reckon I could pass my new car off as my old one so I've got an excuse to go and sit in their wating room for a couple of hours kip?