Friday, 29 January 2016

An Actual Fire Hazard

I've just read a story about a woman using a wheelchair who was asked to leave her local cinema during a screening of In The Heart Of The Sea. The headline, in The Metro, claims that she was asked to leave for being a 'fire hazard'. As the title of this blog suggests I know a thing or two about this. I also know the difference between being labelled a fire hazard because you use a wheelchair and.....well....,being labelled a fire hazard for causing a fire hazard.

Before we get to the reason why I say that let me first assure you that nobody needs to throw me out of a Chris Hemsworth movie. I'm leaving of my own accord lest I be subjected to two hours of the same smug facial expression. Second, and perhaps a tad more on point, I'd love to know what turgid hackery led the writer to describe the woman as a 'disabled athlete' in the very first paragraph. The story goes on to explain that she's a professional boccia player. All well and good, but so what? In what way is that relevant to the perceived injustice? Had she been a pen pushing underling like myself would the story have carried less weight? The great legacy of London 2012 appears to be that disabled people are acceptable only if they've competed in top level sport, and even then not if they've shot their partner dead through the bathroom door. If you're not an athlete then your last chance to gain respect as a disabled person is to get yourself a gig cracking shit jokes on Adam Hills' sofa. Or else be Adam Hills.

Back at the ranch, this particular woman's complaint develops a flaw when you read further into the piece. She was asked to leave the cinema not because she was using a wheelchair but because she was sat in the aisle and declined to move. Anyone would be thrown out of a cinema if they sat in the aisle and refused to move, wheelchair user or not. A disability isn't a free pass to ignore safety regulations that apply to everyone. It doesn't gain you access to that which would otherwise be unreasonable. If I can't turn up at Jennifer Lawrence's house and expect her to cede to my demands because I've got a blue badge, then why would I be able to sit in a cinema aisle rather than my accessible seat?

The woman's complaint should actually be twofold. First of all that the access on offer was inadequate. She'd moved to the aisle because her front row seat was too close to the screen and looking up was causing her neck pain. There should have been adequate accessible seating further back to eradicate this. The irony of a minority group so often pushed to the back finding themselves pushed to the front against their will is probably not lost on the woman. That there was not alternative seating available is a bloody outrage and so she has my complete empathy there. Secondly, the piece claims that the woman's 'assistant' was pulled out of the theatre and informed that the pair must leave. You're probably ahead of me in wondering why the cinema staff did not speak to the woman herself. Could a compromise not have been reached that way? That would involve actual one-to-one interaction with the disabled however, and despite London 2012 we're obviously not quite ready for that yet.

That's all for now. You can go back to clicking 'like' under that photograph of a Paralympians dinner.....

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Electronic Begging

This is a cry for help. I hate to have to do this, and if you know me then you'll know I wouldn't unless I was absolutely desperate. Or maybe if I was taking the absolute piss.

In a despairing bid to raise money to travel to Cloud Cuckoo Land for an operation to have my spine fixed I've taken to crowdfunding. For those not familiar with putrid internet jargon that basically means I'm setting up my own web page where people can donate money to help me reach my goal. I want to straighten my spine so I can walk. So I can be more like James Bond than Richard III. The aim is to be six foot two by a week next Thursday. Nobody will mock or patronise me then.

It's taken me 40 years to realise it but I'm no longer prepared to put up with my disability so I need you to fund the imaginary solution. I've tried going down the less expensive route of getting people to change their attitudes towards me but frankly miracle surgery still seems a more realistic option. Only yesterday I was subjected to young children circling me in a cafe while staring at me as if I were a newborn elephant at Chester Zoo. It's not just children, and it's not an isolated incident. People who can barely walk unaided themselves try to push me up hills when I'm out and about. On one occasion I was reading the menu from the queue at McDonald's when a complete stranger approached me and tried to give me some money to buy a hamburger. As if disability and homelessness were indistinguishable. To be fair to the old git I hadn't shaved that day.

So let us have no more of this humiliating intolerance. Please give what you can at my GoFuckYourself page and help eliminate disability and therefore discrimination. For me anyway. Sod everyone else. Yes, I know there are more desperate, more deserving people than me, and maybe if you had any extra money lying around which you could spare you'd choose to donate it to a charity which helps starving children or helps fight cancer. All worthy causes, but no match for my own sense of entitlement or my persecution complex I'm sure you'll agree. And at least I'm doing my begging electronically. If everyone follows my lead then our cities could be cleansed of the eyesore of people sleeping in cardboard boxes in an instant. Overnight, if you will. There's nothing more unsightly and for me it's quite dangerous. I remember being in San Diego once where the streets were lined with homeless people. I was waiting for Emma outside a 7-11 and I had to duck inside before the public started throwing coins at me. It can smart a bit if you get hit in the wrong place by a quarter. Electronic begging is the future.

Please log on now at www.GoFuckYourselfOrford and donate NO MONEY now because I have a job and miracles don't exist........

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Train Pain.......Again

I've been drinking too much over the festive period to find the time to relay this true story to you. Yet now, as my impending return to work looms on the horizon like a great big looming arsehole preparing to crap all over me, let me take you back to the events of Wednesday December 23 2015, the last day at work before the Christmas break.

We had finished work around 1.15. This was a massive bonus in light of the brain-mashing tedium of what had gone on the previous year. Then we'd had to listen to the business as usual mantra for what seemed like decades until finally we were released, literally staggering home with boredom after an unsuccessful round of Spot The Student. Of course there weren't any because students give up on attending university weeks before the staff take their break. So this year common sense had prevailed and by 1.20 the first round of drinks had been ordered at the pub next door.

We didn't stay long, just a couple of hours. It's nice to have one or two with colleagues on the last day but at the same time everyone was ready to officially start the Christmas break. That means going home to their families and not spending the rest of the day with people who, lovely as I'm sure we all are, are nevertheless inevitably associated with the sinister evil that is work. You might get on really well with your dentist. You might even fancy his assistant. You still don't want route canal treatment.

I remember how cold it was on the push from the pub to Lime Street Station. This December has been unseasonably mild, but as we all know that's of little consolation to me because I don't have a coat. I have tried to find one but I'm the wrong shape. Everything is either too small around my Bud-gut or too long in the sleeves. My mum said I should just buy one and she'll hem the sleeves, a kind offer which I have not yet accepted on account of no longer being eight years old. The uphill slopes between the pub and the station helped to warm me up in any case.

I arrived at the station at around 3.40. The train to Thatto Heath was scheduled to leave at 4.00. I asked the man on the gate for assistance and he nodded and mumbled something into the radio. At this point you probably know what's coming, don't you? Twenty minutes should be more than enough time to arrange for someone to walk around to the platform to help me access the portable ramp. It hasn't taken much longer than that for me to write this story. I could, it being the festive season and all, have popped into the Head Of Steam for a pint and still had time to catch the train. There's two bars in the station but the inaccesibility of the other one has caused me to banish its name from my memory. It's dead to me.

In the event I decided to just wait on the platform as I have done a million times before. I had my MP3 player with me so I was content to just wait it out, keeping an eye on the digital clock on the platform. It wasn't until about 3.58 that I began to feel a queasy mixture of alarm and deja-vu. As the clock ticked and no assistance was forthcoming I found myself remembering the last time this happened. A quick look through the archives of Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard proves that I missed a train home from Lime Street due to a lack of accessibility and assistance in 2010. Twice in the space of two weeks actually. Getting back on the Motability Scheme and back behind the wheel of a car means that I don't have to put up with this shit very often. But on this occasion I'd been drinking, and even if I hadn't there was still the fact that Emma had the car in Plymouth visiting her brother and his family.

What baffles most is that still, five years on from the last time they just didn't bother to offer assistance, we are still living in a country where trains are not accessible to wheelchair users without having to rely on assistance from temperemental station staff. It's positively primitive, and yet more evidence that while the we all feel so pleased with ourselves about how we now treat disabled equally and with the appropriate level of respect, we're actually telling ourselves a pile of horse shit. Access costs too much, clearly, and pounds and pence have always taken precedence over the need for genuine integration under successive governments.

I huffed back through the gate after watching the 4.00 to Thatto Heath roll away. I sarcastically thanked the staff for their excellent service and continued on my way. One of them caught up to mem tapped me on the shoulder and said something to me, though I don't know what. I'd lost interest at that stage, so much so that I didn't even bother to take my ear-plugs out. Music was a far better option than whatever bullshit excuse for dehumanising me he was going to offer. In the end I got a taxi from just outside the station, still too fuming to turn off the music and engage in yuletide small talk with the driver. I suppose I should just be grateful not to hear him say that he didn't 'do wheelchairs'.

Even if it did cost me £35........

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016 - My Year - My Arse

The first Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard of 2016 should probably be one of reflection, and of looking forward. I certainly hope to see some improvement in this tat and, who knows?, I may even get around to putting some of this stuff to good use by adapting it for that work of fiction everyone is always telling me to write. Well.....three people.

Through the wretched post-booze blurgh-iness of this New Year's Day I have already taken some steps towards the further promotion of my work. Ok one step. And not a particularly big step. I don't expect to be on Chatty Man promoting my book in 2016. However, I do expect to feature regularly in something called Disability Blogger Link-Up. This is part of the website at which allows writers who either have disabilities or write on disability issues (often both) to post their work and thus get further exposure and spread the word on everything from inspiration porn to that awkward moment when you get asked 'what's wrong with you?' by a completely rude, nosey bastard stranger. So far I have only posted the old stuff from Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard that I think is most relevant, but I hope to be a lot less lazy about this in 2016. Take a look anyway, and if you're feeling bold you might even want to contribute which I believe you can until Sunday. If 48 hours isn't long enough for your muse (and let's face it he's probably wired from last night) then there'll be another opportunity on January 15. Last time over 80 pieces were posted, only one of which was mine.

I feel compelled to share with you an anecdote from the New Year's Eve celebrations. With Emma's mum and dad staying with us the plan was to get into Liverpool mid-afternoon and then meet Emma after work for a few drinks before getting the train back to Thatto Heath and visiting one of its delightful watering holes. Work, I know...I moan about my job and will no doubt continue to do so until it is inevitably ripped from my grasp in the name of 'progress' but at least being based at a university (you know the one, does a lot of good work for charity?) means that I don't have to work at all over the Christmas and New Year period. I just hope that Jeremy Hunt never gets the education gig otherwise I'll probably end up eating my Christmas dinner at my desk.

I'd left the house a few minutes after Roland and Susan owing to the need for an inconvenient pit-stop. I was sure I'd catch them up. I toyed with the idea of taking a shortcut and meeting them at the station since it was absolutely lashing down with rain. If I'd done that I might not have found them for a good few hours, because as I passed by the entry near to the chippy I heard Susan shouting me to stop. I found this very strange. It wasn't the weather for stopping, and certainly not in an entry by the chippy. On closer inspection they had stopped to help a man who had fallen down and bashed his head. He was lying on the ground, his head covered in blood and his pants covered in piss. Which was all rather sad really. The first reaction of most people, including me if I'm honest, is that he'd just started his celebrations at an hour that is traditional for alcoholics and fell down drunk. Which he may have. A man falling down drunk in an entry in Thatto Heath is about as unusual as being loved by anyone or having fun with anyone (ask your granddad) so some cynicism here is understandable. But he later told Susan that he had dementia.

A passing council worker had called for an ambulance and when the paramedic arrived the man told her that he had blacked out. He did not mention the dementia as far as I know, although we left him in her capable hands once she had assessed him and told him that the blackout meant that he would have to go to the hospital. He was not keen on this idea as we moved on, leaving him to his protests. Whatever the circumstances I just hope he was ok in the end. He may have had to spend New Year's Eve in the hospital which if nothing else puts sitting in a freezing cold Wetherspoons in Liverpool before engaging in bang average karaoke in the Springfield into some sort of perspective.

And so the first entry in Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard for 2016 is a fairly alarming, melancholy affair, which to be fair is totally in keeping with the normal demeanour of its author. I don't suppose anybody comes here looking for messages of hope and tales of triumph. Perhaps that's why nobody comes here.

2016 resolutions;
Turn Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard into something useful
Keep job
Finish seasons 3-4 of Scandal and 3-7 of The West Wing
Buy coat
Provoke wrath of fellow Saints fans with Redvee columns and forum posts
Make no 2016 resolutions

Happy New Year!!