Monday, 27 March 2017

Stop Crying Ironside

If you're not a rugby league fan you may not know that I have a couple of weekly columns on an inedpendent Saints supporters website called One previews the week's game while the other is a much more in-depth and hopefully entertaining analysis of the game once it's finished. It's reasonably popular, but as we'll see not everyone who reads Redvee has me on their Christmas card list.

Along with my work and that of one or two others the main feature of the site is its fans forum. A message board, in old new money. Here fans can gather to offer their opinions on everything from Jack Owens' spacial awareness to the standard of the pies in the kiosk and all points in between. It can get a bit tasty when the debates heat up and like all forums it is home to its fair share of wind-up merchants but largely it features sensible, intellectual debate on the absolute state of St Helens Rugby League Football Club and the sport in general.

It's surprising then to note that one night last week I became the victim of what I would describe as the Diet Coke of hate crimes. Somehow discussion had turned to the rights and wrongs of former Saints back rower Andre Savelio parking his car in a disabled bay at Tesco late at night. Irrespective of the fact that this has nothing to do with rugby league the argument rumbled on. One bright spark told someone to 'get a life' for condemning Savelio's alleged parking habits, claiming that the use of disabled bays by clearly non-disabled professional rugby league players is fine after dark because there is 'nobody around'.

I shouldn't have, but I couldn't resist chiming in;

"Aye," I said;

"Cos disabled people don't go out at night."

My irony had been noted but not appreciated by one user. Notably, it was not the same user who had tried to argue the case for illegal, inconsiderate parking earlier, proving that ignorance is widespread from the safety of the keyboard. The response was withering and surprising despite also managing to be puerile and laughable. It read;

"Stop crying Ironside. We all know you're disabled."

If awkward silences existed on website forums there would have been one right there. Then slowly the condemnation from the sensible majority started to appear as several other users pointed out in no uncertain terms that this sort of abuse has no place on a rugby league forum. I received private messages from several other users condemning the comparison between me and a ropey 70s television detective. And that's an important point to make. Though it gets a bad press from certain unbalanced, disenfranchised snowflakes, the Redvee forum is a welcoming place where anyone who has an opinion on Saints or rugby league is encouraged to offer it. If people disagree they'll say so, but the slanging matches and insults are still rare and remarkable enough to inspire blogs like this one when they occur. You don't really need a thick skin to post on Redvee. You just need to be able to tolerate having someone disagree with you.

And so to the abuse itself. What's the word for it? The phobia? We have homophobia, transpbobia, xenophobia, but what phobia describes hatred of the disabled. We're so marginalised we haven't even got a phobia dedicated to us. And Ironside? Really? Has this person not changed the channel on their television since 1978? I can barely remember Ironside but regardless I stopped getting upset about this sort of thing in around 1984. At that time the youth of the day were driving past me on Elephant Lane shouting 'spastic' out of car windows. I'm still not sure who those boys were referring to but what I can say is that of all the things about disability that do bother me name-calling straight out of Grange Fucking Hill is way down the list.

I have often thought about whether it is appropriate for me as the main contributor to Redvee to continue to post so often on the forum. As if keeping my opinions for my columns would afford me more gravitas and elevate me above the din. But bugger that. I'm not special. I enjoy being part of that online community just as much as I enjoy writing and the slightly loftier perch that comes with it. Contributing to the forum reminds me and the others that I'm really just another fan who just happens to have the ability to articulate my opinions in a more structured and professional manner and with the aid of the Big Book Of Glib Remarks. If the aim of the Ironside remark was to put me off posting and writing my columns it has had the opposite effect.

Which won't please everyone.....

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A Short Memoir Of Feeling Better

Two days ago I had one of my now legendary down days. I couldn't see the positive in anything and I had to sit, basically chained to my desk, and contemplate all of this negativity and a level of pointlessness that would have Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman spontaneously combusting. It was the purest, most wretched agony. But if I'm quick to always tell you about that either on my social media accounts or on these pages, then I think it is only fair that I throw you a quick few words on how things don't always have to be that way. You know, in the interests of balance and all that.

It is rather strange that today I feel better than I can remember feeling in a long time. On your average working day I mean. I am usually a whole lot chirpier at weekends, or if Emma and I are away somewhere during the week or if I'm out boozing with friends from home or work. Today though, today is just an ordinary day when all of the same things that whirred around and around in my head and made me miserable on Tuesday are exactly as they were then. And yet I feel fine, better than fine maybe. Although maybe we shouldn't push it.

This started last night. I said something passably funny on Facebook. All of which may not seem significant, but I could not have come up with it on Tuesday. You can't crack weak but undeniably funny gags about disability when it's a down day. You can't be all you can be or any of that positivity fascist bullshit. It's all you can do to get through the day, which I did and by the end I even found myself in a fair enough mental state to enjoy the utterly glorious pancakes that Emma made. There's another religious festival I've stolen from the God Botherers while I continue to chortle at them for their faith in their all-powerful imaginary friend.

By the way if you are interested the joke was about International Wheelchair Day which, believe it or not is A Thing. Every year on March 1, like St David's day. It's when wheelchair users 'celebrate the positive impact that their wheelchair has on their daily lives'. So I made a joke about celebrating the positive impact that a kick in the bollocks has on your daily life on International Kick In The Bollocks Day. Trust me, it was funny. There were people laughing in baths and everything. I get what are trying to do with this but if you asked the average wheelchair user whether said wheelchair has a positive impact on their lives or whether they feel like they just get on with life in spite of it then I think you would get a pretty mixed response. Tellingly, not many wheelchair users found it funny so maybe I touched a nerve with some. I can only speak for myself and I can't see how my wheelchair has positively impacted my life in any way since I was about 14. Everything I have done, which isn't much since I'm a depressed frustrated writer working in a low-level admin job, has been done despite my disability not because of it. You could argue that I wouldn't have had wheelchair basketball without my disability (although that is not strictly true now that able bodied people are perfectly free to get involved providing they can get their hands on a wheelchair) but the flip side of that of course is that I would have had football and rugby league and....oh I don't know, climbing trees and stealing birds eggs like a pre-pubescent shitbag does. Or used to before X-Box Live.

Anyway, just because I feel better I don't want you to think that I'm crowing about having conquered depression. I'm fairly certain that it will come back and bite me on the arse again soon but for now I'm just going to try and enjoy the break that it is giving me. Besides, everyone's depression is different. What works for me may not work for others and so forth and there are very varying degrees of it all of which have various effects on the individual sufferer. I think my own depression is merely the absence of delusion. I know that there are certain things about life that are utterly, irretrievably shite but if I can convince myself that it doesn't really matter and that I can be happy anyway then I'll feel like I do today. Considerably better. But if I can't, if I remember all of that negative stuff and dwell on it and let it consume me then I get days like Tuesday and the others I have written about here, some of which was powerful enough to upset some people. Funny that, you don't realise when you are mashing away at your keyboard that what you are writing might make someone else feel sad or anything. That's another thing about depression though. When it's got you it's all about you and there are very few boundaries in terms of what you think you can or cannot say out loud or write on these pages. Depression effects the filter.

So there we go. Short but sweet this one and I'm sure you will agree a pleasant diversion from the kind of incessant moaning about disability issues that normally goes on in Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard. I hope you enjoyed it in any case because who knows? Tomorrow I could be face down on my desk refusing to speak to anyone who tries to convince me that I should be happy that it's Friday. And even if I'm not depressed tomorrow I still have the bittersweet chore of watching Saints at home to Wakefield to look forward to in the evening. Have you seen Saints play recently? If you are prone to depression you perhaps shouldn't bother.....