Friday, October 27, 2006

Naked Truth

I now have a frock for this black tie do on Saturday (now past - I was to knackered to finish this draft in time...). I only went in one shop too. 'Smug' monthly*.

This shop has very helpful assistants that usually intimidate me (it's a bit posher than I'm used to), so I spend my time in there browsing whilst at the same time trying to avoid the assistants, with a sort of stealth fleeing behind rails of clothes every time one moves too close. A good thing about them having hard floors is that I can glide out of the way quite quickly. I hate people zooming in on me if it's because I'm in a wheelchair, with that automatic assumption (some of them have) that I can't choose a dress on my own. Because choosing a dress is nothing to do with needing to use a wheelchair. Is it?

But yesterday I was so godamn tired I didn't flee. Within twenty seconds someone was asking me if I needed any help. "Yes please," I said. "I need a dress for a black tie occasion. I don't mind if it's strappy but I'll need something like a bolero or wrap that goes with it to cover a tattoo. Please just show me what you've got that I might be able to get away with?"

She smoothly steered me over to the long dresses, which was like being in a kind of lush forest of silk and lace. Long dresses on racks tower above you in a chair and the world feels quite imposing and alien. I did my best 'Lou and Andy' and said "I want that one. And I want that one..." and so on. There were some upstairs too, so with this lady trailing lace and satin dresses, we went up in the lift. I was really grateful because all she talked about was dresses - what they had in, what went with what, and so on. But I was still on guard for the conversation to stray into those awkward 'what's-your-disability?' areas at any time. To her credit, it didn't and she left me in the hands the upstairs assistant who offered me the bridal changing room (i.e. big enough for me, the chair and a bit of falling over room) to try on dresses collected thus far. I was so bloody tired I was determined to buy something from this shop rather than push myself round the shopping centre only to struggle with dressing acrobatics in ever smaller changing rooms that flash my arse through the curtain because it won't close properly over a wheelchair wheel.

The dress I liked best looked dreadful on. I do wish Trinny and Susannah would do wheelchair users on their fashion makeover programmes - I kind of have a grasp of what some of the rules might be, but I usually dress for comfort or getting my hands dirty - and now, the artful camouflage of dog hairs. Black tie is not usually on my social calendar. With this sort of thing, memories of other 'do's' come flooding back, especially the one with the vicar.

I was also trying to buy something that would be suitable for various smart occasions, not just a glamorous evening do, in case another doesn't come along for a long time. But all I was left with was a black, floor length halterneck with velvet ties and a lace/satin overlay. This had to be the one, or I was doomed to drag myself across the shopping centre - and it was. If I'm ever in a blockbusting film it might get another airing on the red carpet. It was lush. Too posh really, but I decided it was also roomy enough to allow me to eat more malteasers, hence the chances of it being used once in a while weren't too bad. Mission accomplished. Time to climb out of it, pay and leave.

Just as I was at my most vunerable, naked, eyeing my stomach and regretting not doing all my core stabilisation exercises, a little voice floated over the top of the curtain.

"I might have to be in a wheelchair one day" it said. "I've got rhematoid arthritis."

I sucked in my stomach. And said,

"That's nice. You'll like being in a wheelchair once you get used to it."

And paid.

And went home to bed.

*It's a phrase Mr F and I use to designate just how smug we are feeling based on the imaginary 'Smug' magazine. So 'Smug' quarterly isn't very smug compared to say, 'Smug' weekly, which is really quite smug, but not quite as smug as 'Smug Annual', which being a yearly roundup of all the best of Smug, is very very smug indeed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I have to go and buy a frock today. For a black tie do. I'm not a black tie do sort of person. And I hurt. And it's raining. And I've been putting it off because I'm too tired for this sort of thing.


Not least because I know fate will direct me to any number of excellent things that I will not be able to purchase because I only have money for a frock.

But really I am hankering after getting a silly coloured hat.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Really Beyond Boundaries?

I've just watched the last episode of Beyond Boundaries, the series following a bunch of disabled people trekking accross Africa to reach the Skeleton Coast.

If you follow that link you'll find plenty to read and some interesting conversations about it on the messageboards. I'm not intending to write about it in depth here as there's plenty of interesting threads that go further there than I could, but one thing did strike me about the last episode.

The group are going through the sand dunes and begin to disagree with their guide, Ken. One the last day, Ken steps down and leaves it to them to naviagate after having been overruled the day before. Comments about Tim being a self-appointed leader, not an elected one, were beside the point here as far as I was concerned because no-one seemed to ask for Ken to return and as far as the footage shows (a well appointed ha! will escape any cynical reader here) Ken appears to hang back and let them get on with it. And he seemed happy (ha! again, etc) to do so in the main.

And get on with it they do. In typical crip fashion, they do it a bit differently than he would have done. Maybe that was down to expertise - or the point made the day before that for many the going was much easier in some places. Maybe that was an essential priority for the group that Ken couldn't ever have really comprehended. And maybe they cocked it right up and were lucky to get to the coast, but I couldn't help thinking this little revolution went further than anything else to gel them as a team, rather than staying under a leader who was, for all his good points, not 'part' of the group, who did not - who could not - share in their insights.

For me, that was a significant boundary broken. Not just for the crips but for the guide too. No more direction from you Ken, they seemed to be saying. We'll take it from here, mate, cheers all the same. There's aspects of this terrain we need to deal with in our own way.

Wahey! Now we're cooking with gas, Beyond Boundaries!

Because if you're disabled, how many people stand back and let you get on with it? How many times do you tell someone to get lost and get on with it in your own way despite their misgivings?

Not many people? Not nearly enough of the time?

Now thats a real boundary gone beyond if ya ask me. It's the power play between those who are the 'cans' and whose who are percieved as the 'can'ts'.

If they want to evolve the series for next time as far as I'm concerned, they'll need to get the next lot more actively involved in making the decisions - not following a leader. At least working alongside one. Why not? Why not train people to navigate next time, for example?

Don't think I'm being recklessly anti-AB here. That's not the point. The point is you can take people with whatever disabilities and put them in front of all sorts of dangers, but if they've got a guide, a bloke with a gun, a doctor, a helicopter on standby in case someone gets a pressure sore (soz Heidi, but..), whatever, then they've got a safety net which is essentially a group of people who aren't disabled to bail them out. In a greater sense thats the part of the series that seems old-fashioned and stale to me as a disabled audience member, when it's telling us it's all risky and groundbreaking. Woohoo. What's that saying again about art reflecting society?

Obviously we don't to pay our licence fee to see the BBC feed crips to hyenas or die of heatstroke but I'd have thought more control now a group have been seen to take it, would be an attractive bar for the production team to reach next time.

I know sometimes being independent means knowing when to ask for help - so by all means don't chuck out the safety net, but I feel there's a degree of boundary that goes beyond deserts and rapid waters that warrants further exploration, hell, exploitation, here.

Top Ten Unexpected Benefits of a Connective Tissue Disorder

Thought I'd start the week on a positive note. Or something. So.

Top Ten Unexpected Benefits of a Connective Tissue Disorder

1. Never needing help to apply fake tan to that bit between your shoulders

2. Really having baby soft skin

3. Feeling superior at yoga classes even though you only started them last week

4. A real chance of being able to run away and join the circus

5. Earning money by doing contortionist tricks on TV 'home video' shows

6. Silencing doctors who say, 'You can't do that' by saying 'Oh yeah? Watch this...'

7. Telling people it really is your parent's fault

8. Unfair advantages in Hide-and-Seek, namely the ability to squeeze into the smallest spaces

9. The game of 'Twister' holds no fears for you

10. Reducing dislocated joints in front of an audience cements your 'hard-as nails' reputation

I can't decide whether or not to post it on the support group messageboard... tis a rather serious place... don't wanna get banned or nuffink...

Monday, October 09, 2006

The 'OUCH!' Podcast Must Be Saved!

Do you listen to the Ouch! podcast?

No? Why not?
Yes? Have you signed the petition to keep it yet?

read the petition and vote now!

As you may have guessed, I'm a fan.