31 October 2004

Brakes on? Brakes off?

"You should talk about disabled lesbian sex, you know, how you do it." Said someone to me yesterday after hearing my stand-up set.

I'm not surprised that someone would think the idea of crippled lezza sex would be hilarious - when non-disabled people can envisage disabled people "doing it", it usually has hilarious connotations. I saw Billy Connolly live on Thursday, and he brought the whole of the Hammersmith Apollo into a hysterical state simply using the sentence "I shagged a dwarf!" He didn't even need to elaborate and build a joke of any kind, just the simple thought of sleeping with someone disabled will make 3719 people howl.

Surely, if this is the case, why bother writing comedy? Surely I can just go on stage and say "I'm not a virgin" and the rumbles of laughter from that one sentence should fill a whole spot. Especially of course as the audience tries to imagine just "how".

But the rest of this evening is not to be spent writing stand-up/sit-down comedy/porn. No. I'm going to return to my sickbed where I've been most of the week and resume coughing. Goodnight.

19 October 2004

Last week I was poorly. Hence the no updates thing. I wasn't on deaths door, but I did feel vaguely flu-ey and like I needed to be taken care of (and for a change I don't mean I needed taking care of in a sexual manner).

Unfortunately, I live alone, am single, and have no friends living close by. All I needed was someone to fetch me soup, and put more blankets over my poorly, cold feet. The only company I got of course was my rodent room-mate, who I thought had been banished, but it appears it was only temporary. He's now found his way into the cupboard beneath my kitchen sink. My kitchen sink is made of metal. On Saturday morning, my rodent roomie woke me up by trying to gnaw his way through it. It was one of the loudest things I have ever heard, and as a result, I'm now developing a slight phobia of my kitchen sink. Or, at least, that's my excuse for not washing up, and I'm sticking to it.

It'd be nice for a change to have a phobia which stopped me from doing something I hate doing anyway. I've now twice had therapy to get me over a phobia. When I was a child, I wouldn't go to bed until my mum had strip searched my room incase there were any spiders in there. Of course, they'd be in hiding until after I'd gone to bed, when they'd come out to show off. Because they're evil little fuckers. In the end my mother decided she'd had enough of this and dragged me kicking and screaming into the therapists office. And kicking and screaming is literally what I did, as she kept holding jars with spiders in in front of my face.

My other phobia was lifts. Yes, you are allowed to laugh, many people have. Of course, being a wheelchair user who couldn't go in a lift at all made my life very difficult. At 16 I decided it was just ridiculous, so I went to see my GP who referred me to the psychotherapy dept at the hospital. I was feeling like a very big girl that day - I also asked if she'd refer me to the hospital so I could get my BCG vaccination - I'd never had it done in school because I was so scared of the needle that I couldn't stop flinching. In the end I had the vaccination done at the chest clinic at Addenbrookes. A friend of mine was a nurse in that clinic at the time. She was rather a large lady - as the needle came in my direction, she just sat on me. Funnily enough, no flinching - but then I couldn't move so that might've had something to do with it. All those requests in one day - and did I did a sweetie for my bravery? Did I fuck...

Of course, with NHS waiting lists being what they are, it was two years before I saw anyone, so in total I spent about 5 years of my life stuck on the ground floor. Last Tuesday I had a reminder of why I was so scared of lifts when I used the one in The Plaza Shopping Centre on Oxford Street. For some reason they'd decided to deck the walls with padded lining (that could make an interesting Christmas carol) making the lift resemble Renfield's cell in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Yes, um, er, phobia of kitchen sink. Did I mention I was ill last week?

Well, I think whatever virus had me convinced on Friday morning that my limbs weighed 7 stone each has had some kind of long-term effect on me, as I've started behaving quite out of character.

I'm terrified of confrontation. When aggressive people start yelling and screaming at me, I just let them abuse me rather than yelling back and letting it turn into a fight. I just can't deal with it. So, imagine my surprise at myself yesterday when I found myself going up to a man in the car park of Brent Cross Shopping Centre and calling him a "cunt".

I admit it. I'd fallen victim to car park rage. The crip car park at Brent Cross is probably the most competitive environment I've ever been in - remember I've swum for my country. I was the first in the car park. I'd positioned myself in a suitable position to start a queue should anyone feel like pulling up behind me. Some elderly twat in a Honda was not playing by those rules. He was having the next car parking space which became available, no matter how many little old ladies he had to rev his engine at. Of course, he managed to block me from getting into the first empty space, negated to acknowledge my horn blowing and stole a space from right in front of my face.

Another bay became available about a minute later (I'd only been queueing for about 20. That's fine. I wasn't in a hurry to shop anyway). So I got out of my car and put my wheelchair together. He was still sitting in his car, and he had his window rolled down. I'd never done anything like it before, but wheeling up to his car, stopping at his window and swearing at him was incredibly theraputic.

Isn't that odd? But my out of character behaviour continued...

I hate Christmas. I've never had a happy one. I'm always ill, there was that year when both my parents were in hospital over Christmas and New Year (though pity for the poor child in that situation got me my first CD player), my Nana died just before Christmas a few years ago - it's just always a nightmare. I want stripey sweets that make noises like sheep.

I'm also a horrifically disorganised person. Most people get their Crimbo pressies from me in January. Or even February if I decide that January sales are too traumatic for my low tolerance with Bargain Hunters (it's the colour of David Dickinson, he reminds me of my A'level theatre studies teacher). But, yesterday I started buying my Christmas presents. WE'RE IN FUCKING OCTOBER! What is wrong with me? This is not right. This virus must've caused some kind of brain damage.

Deck the lifts with padded lining
Tra la la la la, la la la la.
It's been a bad week if you're sensitive to offensive language. I've heard words and phrases used on the telly at tea-time while I was trying to watch my nice, inoffensive, Home & Away that almost had me bringing my tea back up.

Has the watershed been lifted? Are you now allowed to say "pissshitwankbollockscuntfucktwat" before 9pm? No. But regular readers should know that those words don't bother me anyway, and are in fact a regular part of my vocabulary.

So what happened? Well... Christopher Reeve, the world's most famous cripple, passed away. This of course gave newsreaders nationwide a chance to flex their offensive language muscles, and they took great advantage of the opportunity. During the news before Home & Away I was subjected to the phrase "wheelchair bound" and in the five hourly news bulletin straight afterwards they really outdid themselves bringing "confined to a wheelchair" into play.

As if his departure wasn't enough for one week, Inside I'm Dancing hit cinema screens nationwide on Friday. If you've failed to hear the controversy surrounding this film you must've been living under a rock. Or repeatedly clicking "refresh" on my blog page hoping I'd write something, which of course I failed to do for 9 days.

If you haven't heard all about it and feel the need to do some background reading, here are some worthwhile articles:

A blog entry by Emma Kennedy
An article from bbc.co.uk/ouch
An article from BBC News Online

Of course, whenever disability becomes noteworthy, there'll always be someone like those pricks responsible for the news on five that think terms derogatory to disabled people are acceptable. In relation to Inside I'm Dancing, the big offender has to be The Evening Standard with their review. The headline "Wheelchair rebels at large" could've been meant as an ironic take on how the world views disabled people wanting to lives their own lives as being "difficult" - but having read on, I doubt that was the case. Not a paragraph goes by without the words "brave", "sufferer", "carer", etc. being liberally used.

Oh, if only I had the power to edit that list of words that shouldn't be broadcast/published. You'd be hearing "cunt" on the Six O'Clock news, but never again would you be subjected to the sound of the word "brave". Oh yes.

I saw the film this evening. I have to confess that I've never been a fan of the "do as I say, not as I do" attitude. Or at least not since my learning support assistant in primary school would repeatedly tell me I should be nice to everyone all the time, whilst she was stabbing me in the back with her fingernails and bollocking me for having crap handwriting. "Do as I say, not as I do" basically sums up the film.

"Give disabled people rights. Let them live independently. Look - they even experience lust. What, give them a role in a film about them? Are you mad? They're only fucking cripples!"

I have to confess, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the story. Shame about the acting. Neither of the main characters had me believing they might actually be disabled. Especially James McAvoy, who was supposed to be playing someone with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, yet visibly every muscle in his body was operating at full strength and clenched tightly. It just reminded me of bullies and their piss-poor impairment mimicking in the playground, accompanied by shouts of "handicapped spastic baby!"

The film was sold out, and it was quite distressing to notice the prejudice of the entire audience. For instance I was the only person in the room to laugh at Carrigmore's subtitle "A special place for special people". The one truly funny joke in the film. Yet bring on the suggestion that a crip likes looking at pictures of naked women - that's a hilarious notion! The simple act of driving an electric chair as fast as it will go and stopping suddenly was even enough to make this audience howl. If that's a hilarious act, howcome my childhood was so bloody miserable? Surely my Turbo should've kept me amused until puberty... And then there was that scene where the woman in the pub cringes at the thought of having to kiss a "spaz" - I thought the woman sitting next to me in the cinema might piss herself.

I said I was surprised by how much enjoyed the film - remember my expectations going into the auditorium were incredibly low. Needless to say I wasn't surprised with the scene in which the supermarket-shelf-stacker-turned-PA is giving Michael an impromptu speech therapy session in the kitchen. Because, of course, all disabled people could be normal if they just tried a bit harder. I nearly vomited into my empty popcorn bucket. Nor was I surprised by the outcome of the "who'll get the girl?" subplot.

Still, at least no-one threw spare change at me as I was leaving the cinema. Nor commended me on going out by myself. And, unlike when I left the cinema after Unbreakable, no-one looked like they wanted to kill me either. All of which I suppose are silver linings.

09 October 2004

This morning I had the most amazing experience, completely by accident. And, no, I don't mean I ran into Sharleen Spiteri in Sainsbury's. That happened on Thursday evening, and I'm still slightly shocked that the goddess herself shops in my local superstore. I'm perhaps even more shocked that I just stared in a slightly creepy way as she paid and left, rather than throwing my shopping on the floor, sprinting over to her and flinging myself at her feet. I didn't know I had quite so much self-restraint.

No, this morning I got my revenge on my cycling twat of a neighbour, in such a suitable manner that it could only have happened 100% by chance.

I was on my way to have a shower this morning, as one does first thing. When of course, I had to try and squeeze my way past an inconsiderately parked bike trying to not rip off the towel which was covering my person on a protruding pedal therefore winding up standing naked in a communal corridor... as one does when one has a shared bathroom and an inconsiderate neighbour.

I got quite annoyed when I did end up colliding with the bike, though fortunately, it was only my elbow and not my towel that got hooked on the handlebars. What happened next made me chuckle for about half an hour...

The bike rolled down the steps leading to the bathroom and Mr Inconsiderate's door, pausing with the rear wheel resting on the edge of the bottom step, giving the bike the momentum to just be waiting for a bit more room to roll forward. While the front wheel lodged itself just in the join between the door frame and the door opening.

Basically, I'd gotten the bike primed into a position so that as soon as he opened his door, it would roll straight into him. I'm far too crap at physics to set up the bike in such a position, and it could only happen by accident. But how smug did I feel knowing that justice had been done. Well, almost... I still think I should've shoved that rodent corpse under his door too.

I seem to be surrounded by inconsiderate people. There's not just people in my building that don't understand reasonable social behaviour. The people that live next door to my "house" (which has been turned into six bedsits) also don't seem to be too neighbourly. They have a proper house, all to themselves (in London! That's just not fair!) and seem to be somewhat obsessed with D-I-Y [insert your own masturbation joke here]. While a few months ago I may have hypothesised about what I might do if I had a hammer... my neighbours do seem to hammer in the morning and hammer in the evening. Sadly, they don't hammer all over this land, but tend to focus their hammering attention on the other side of the wall which runs directly behind my bed [suggest that it might be a headboard banging against the wall here].

The noise is so regular now that I can only imagine what the other side of the wall must look like. Needless to say, I'm waiting to hear the wall itself boom "WE WILL TEAR YOUR SOUL APART!"

The other morning I was laying in bed, half asleep, and I could hear that sound of metal being sawed coming from their house that makes you clench your teeth, buttocks and anything else clenchable. Now, remember that I don't only have inconsiderate neighbours, but I live next to a train track too. The sound of screeching metal, combined with not being fully conscious had me convinced that I was about to be joined in bed by the 08:34 to St Pancras.

I suppose at least it would've been some company for a change...

06 October 2004

Last night I found myself in a ludicrously inaccessible cocktail bar, just down the road from my house. I was playing tour guide and trying to convince a couple of friends of mine that West Hampstead would be a really sensible place to move to. I'd never noticed that outside this bar was a big sign saying "4 to 8pm - 2for1 on beer and all cocktails". Which is very lax as it's not like me to fail to notice somewhere offering up cheap booze. Maybe I'd just noticed the three scarily steep steeps at the door and failed to notice their promotional material (just think how much extra business they could drum up if they only put in a ramp?)

As one of the friends I was with last night I've known to fight with other people about which one gets to help me, therefore show off who's the butchest; we decided to check out the cheap cocktails (I know ethically I shouldn't support inaccessible business. But I also shouldn't pay full price for cocktails when there's an alternative, right?). She definitely picked the nicest with her choice of West Hampstead Iced Tea.

Quite surprisingly I managed to survive the descent down the steep staircase with an appalling handrail to get to the toilet - and I didn't even wind up in an ambulance! Despite the fact that their external advertising failed to catch my eye, they seem to do most of their promotion internally anyway - most specifically, blown up exerpts from Time Out stuck on the back of the bog doors. Why? You're already in the bar... what's the fucking point of preaching to the converted?

From there we went for dinner. We ate in a restaurant I've mentioned in my blog before - the yummy Italian restaurant in West Hampstead with the The Best Toilet Graffitti In The World... Ever! I'd talked about the graffitti so much that my friends couldn't wait to go to the toilet to have a read. (I know, my life is very dull. I don't have much interesting to say.) I was the first one to go - and horror of horrors! They'd put a new toilet door on since the last time I went in there! It would appear that some establishment's don't share the same view on toilet door advertising as (s)wanky cocktail bars. Which is a shame as the toilet door in the restaurant served as something of a feedback book with comments like "The best pizza and pasta in London"

Another odd form of advertising I've noticed this week is actually quite alarming. You see, the entrance to my house is quite slippery, especially as at the moment there's the autumnal decomposition of leaves going on right outside me front door. If the shiny tiles and slippery leaves weren't enough of a recipe for a 999 call, there has been for the last few days a moist flyer laying on the step, in a prime position to be slipped over on. And what is the flyer advertising? 'Northwest Physiotherapy'. Perhaps if business is so slow that they need to recruit so proactively, I'll give them a miss.

Another advertising based observation I've made in the last few days is that health food shops really don't seem to tap in to the word of mouth format to the extent that they could. After all, people always seem to want to talk about vitamin supplements. Or at least they do as soon as they realise that the person they're talking to has an impairment that affects their bones.

"But can't you just take calcium tablets?"

"What for? I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta. Calcium would do me no good whatsoever."

"OK, well, isn't Vitamin C involved in making collagen? Can't you take loads of that?"

"It's not that my body produces too little collagen, my body just doesn't make it properly."

"Well can't you get collagen injections then?"

"Only if I want to look like Leslie Ash. And I don't think I need that, do you? After all, the slightly creepy guy that rammed a bit of metal through my bottom lip felt the need to point out (while he had my lip squished in a clamp) that 'oh, your lips are so beautiful... so big and soft'."

The latest one I've been told I should take is Glucosamine. Apparently it lubes up your joints. Like I need that, seeing as how all my joints that haven't been smashed are already hyperlax.

And then another issue on that is, how am I supposed to explain the Glucosamine to my completely shattered, no longer functional left ankle joint?

I'll now leave you with that mental image of me talking to my own foot.

04 October 2004

The things I've learnt this weekend:

1) The manager of my local Sainsbury's is possibly reading my blog, as feta cheese has come down three feet in height (psst. It should be 50p cheaper).

2) Nando's hate vegetarians. Or maybe they just decided I was fat, which was why all my meat eating friends got a full plate of food, while I got a plate of the same size - with one burger on it, and three quarters of a plate just supporting air.

3) I don't chew my food sufficiently.

4) As a result of number 3, I should not drunkenly throw up in my kitchen sink - because the chunks won't go down the plug hole.

5) Noticing poo on the floor of a bus really adds something to a journey, especially when you're already feeling slightly nauseous due to excessive alcohol consumption. The flip side of the coin though is noticing poo on the floor of the bus can be quite a relief, especially after the incident the other day... until the noticing point I had been paranoid that the smell may have been coming from my wheels.

6) I'm surprisingly fond of Vanilla Ice, even if I'm not sure I'd want to share a farmhouse with him.

7) I can still remember all the words to Ice Ice Baby.

8) Going to the zoo on a rainy day is a big mistake. You get wet. Though, the amount of money it costs to get in, I understand why the catchphrase says that rainy days are what you need to save your money for. But in future what little money I have will be spent on doing something beneath a roof.

9) I had been so impressed with my lighting up wheels on my wheelchair - until yesterday someone pointed out they were probably invented by a sadistic bastard who thought "Hmmm, you know what those people with mobility impairments need? Upper body exercise. Lets put lights in the front wheels that light up in more colours the faster they push!"