Author Archives: frettingwell

Voice of the Vulnerable Voter – A Poem

All I read, all I hear, is “WATCH, VOTE, CHOOSE”

Yet I feel like I’m trapped: situation  ‘lose / lose’.

I’ve watched your debates, consumed farce photo shoots;

I perceive nothing more than dull males in dour suits

Spunking  words of betrayal, corruption, and vice,

And flaunting our fears like emotional dice.

You’ve told who to hate, show me something to love –

I’ve got no power, I’m scared; you’re above.

I’m told to believe what I hear, what I read

then I’m told that those tellers self-serve and may feed

those in power. Backstabbers with blind bigotry:

Stop playing each other. Do something for me.

I’m staring at vagueness, I’m vulnerable, small,

Deciding my vote, but  I’m not sure at all.

Why couldn’t you be honest? Why wouldn’t you be true?

Now I feel like just flushing your shit down the loo.

You’re taking advantage of my feelings not knowing.

I’m relying on Russell, and Zoe, and Owen

for thoughts and opinions; I’ve lost my own, they

Dwindled, confused, as I listened to you drone.

Where’s my voice? Where’s my choice? Need to angrily shout,

But campaigning is draining, my energy’s run out.

The people, impoverished, they’ve lost their thrust –

Those pawns in your game. So who do I trust? I’ve felt

Loss of funding; low morale, the effects. You’ve fucked

Local government and now you expect

That I’ll just believe you, not saying a word!

Well you’ve nearly achieved it – I haven’t felt heard!

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Top 5 Wheelchair Reactions

I went to see Richard Herring on Saturday night; what I really find exciting about him is his absolute transparent and congruent belief in rights for disabled people. He is just so refreshingly real about his response to living with the existence of disability…… and not everybody is as comfortable with disability as he is, as my list of anecdotes shows:

My top 5 uncomfortable wheelchair reactions!!:

(I must just say, EVERYBODY who I’m about to laugh about is very kind & trying to be helpful. I just find what I’m about to tell you quite funny; I’m inspired by Richard Herring to share).

  1. The Loud Wheelchair Alert: I’ll be in a crowd of people, happily mooching along, when somebody notices me and wants everybody to know that they are a good citizen. They will dramatically shout “WHEELCHAIR COMING THROUGH!”. The crowd will then part and elderly people may end up getting crushed in the furore, all so that the shouter will feel confident that other people have recognised their good social deed. I am left having to style it out, following the engineered pathway which leads me in completely the opposite direction to that which I wanted to take in the first place. Frequency of occurrence: 6/10 crowd situations
  2. The Unnecessary Door Hold – People get nervous if they see me approaching in a wheelchair so they quickly leap backwards through the doorway they’ve just used and hold it open. If they are holding it open and their back is against a wall, we enter an impasse situation whereby I have to run over their toes. Or, if they position themselves on the wrong side of the doorway, they then have to perform a ‘bending lean’, creating a human bridge which I must roll under. Now if I were to take the weight of the door with my chair, it would be possible for me to just roll on through without having to enter close proximity with a stranger’s armpit or run over a stranger’s feet. But people become stubborn about wanting to be helpful, even if it does result in metatarsal injury. Frequency of occurrence: 7/10 public door usages
  3. The Pub Comedian – EVERY time I go to a pub (not exaggerating) an old man with a pint will deliver, with self-congratulation at their own wit and originality, the line: “Have you got a license for that!!!”, or “Are you drink driving?!!!!”. Frequency of occurrence: Every. Time.
  4. The Guilt – Sometimes I’ll just be going along, minding my own business, when a stranger who is nowhere near me will say “sorry” to me, as one might if they bump into someone or accidentally nudge them with their handbag. Psychoanalyse as you will. Frequency of occurrence: 9/10 pavement or corridor trips
  5. The Smile – This one’s hard to explain but, we often accidentally make eye contact with strangers and make a judgement call whether to, say, look away immediately, give a friendly smile, or give them the Vs. But I frequently notice that people who quite obviously are so stern that they would never even smile at a baby, will engage eyeball to eyeball with me, notice my wheelchair, and give me a smile so warm and tender that it would bring a tear to the eye of an onlooker. They often even bow slightly. Frequency of occurrence: 9/10 leisure outings

This is a ‘Top 5’ because I could only think of 5 – people are generally alright I think.

Madonna’s Fall Shook Me Up

Why can’t I stop thinking about Madonna’s fall? Why do I keep watching it over and over? Why did it make me trembly and tearful?

Last night the echoing bump of her microphone reminded methat she is precarious. It made me sad about life….. It raised many existential questions, reminded me that none of us are inextinguishable; we all drop, we are all alone. Although she was surrounded by dancers as she flailed with her legs in the air, she looked solitary. It pained me to see her so vulnerable, so unexpectedly. The Brits are supposed to be a couple of hours where we can escape and forget our own troubles. And yet Madonna’s thud invaded my living room with a sharp reminder of all the times I’ve felt exposed myself.

Why was I so protective towards her, ranting “don’t say it’s because of her age, don’t say it’s because of her age”? When I say that her fall reminded me of the feeling I get when I see my own parents poorly or injured, that’s not to say I am colluding with any sexist or ageist jokes about Madonna. I’m using my parents as an example to illustrate why I feel that Madonna’s fall struck me quite so strongly. Just like my parents, I perceive Madonna as a steady constant. I need to perceive them that way, it’s what keeps me going. It is frightening to realise that even the strong will be weak. I didn’t want the media to acknowledge that my hero is growing older (not that  her age had anything to do with her fall) because change probably terrifies me, and so does the all too swift passage of time.

But the story isn’t over. She got up, she carried on. What an absolute champion professional. I found her performance all the more inspiring because of her fall (although I wish it hadn’t happened). I hope you’re not embarrassed Madonna, I hope you’re not ashamed. I hope you’re not hurt – you showed us your humanity and you’ve kept me going for now.

My, Partridge

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I’m excited about the new series of The Trip, but I already feel stressed about it. Because I’m convinced that I am a bigger Steve Coogan fan than anybody else. And, actually, most Steve Coogan fans who I meet seem to think they are his greatest fan. I stand aside while others exchange Partridge quotes, coolly smiling and nodding in order to communicate that ‘yes, it’s all very funny, but I understand it more than you’.

And how finely life imitates art imitating life as I often cringe at those lesser fans who misquote him: “stop getting Partridge wrong!!”, I think. I’m desperate, I mean it. Understand him in all his glory but please, in my presence, do not watch a short clip and then say “oooooh I can’t watch it, it’s too painful” as dear Alan alienates himself further from ‘the general public’. By saying this you are alienating yourselves (from me).

I know I’m referring to Partridge and Coogan interchangeably, as if they are one, and I suspect that Coogan wouldn’t mind. I’ve heard him say that there is a part of Partridge within him, how can there not be? Partridge has been around for a long time now and you can see, as the character has aged and developed, how Coogan is able to deliver a Partridge line which shows us not only what Alan is saying but what he thinks he ought to be saying, and who Alan is trying to be. I think that is talent. How often have we attempted, in life, to try to be something we’re not; to feel jealous and bitter towards the very people we aspire to? That’s Alan and sometimes, I admit it, that’s me.

But back to The Trip, where Coogan presents not just a facet of himself (as in Partridge) but himself as himself. He’s not parodying himself or saying “look! I can laugh at myself…… Such a nice guy”. He actually presents as a bit of an idiot. Jealous of his friend, needy, growing *ahem* less young. But I bloody love him even more. The man who recognises his weaknesses…… who studies them… bares his very humanity – good and pathetic – for public exploration, that’s a genuine man.

I was talking to friends after series 1 had been shown – “I would marry Steve Coogan”, I said. “But I’ve read that he actually is like that in real life, I’ve read he’s a bit of a git ”, someone replied. “I know, I’m sure he is…. he’s honest, and The Trip is one of the most real pieces of art I’ve ever had the honour of watching” I said, rising to my feet, deciding to head to a local Q&A I heard he was doing with the intention of luring him to my bungalow and showing him my Coogan shrine. I’m joking. Mostly. I’m not a stalker, just a Steve Coogan fan who takes great pride in understanding and appreciating his work. I’m sure there are many competitive and bitter fans like me out there. And he deserves them.

And he got a second series!!!!!! Can’t wait to watch it.

 

 

Neighbours – My Good Friend

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It recently happened. And I’m devastated to say it. I uttered those words which I never thought would escape my lips, words which I heard and despaired of as my older peers slowly broke away whilst I vowed to always stay devoted. And it took me by surprise, it caught me off guard, when I turned on the telly at 5.35 one weekday, looked at the screen and said “I don’t know who any of these characters are”. And then it hit me. This is what it feels like to disengage with Neighbours.

It has always been with me, always been a part of me. I grew up in something of a ‘shared custody arrangement’; throughout my childhood and adolescence part of me was always living on Ramsay Street. It joined me to my big brother and sister and closest friends. As they grew up and left home I clung to you, Neighbours. As a sensitive teenager, struggling to negotiate my approaching adulthood, you were my one constant. We’ve had good times and bad times; I mourned the death of Helen Daniels like I would my own grandmother. I took that duck hunter’s bullet which assassinated Kerry. I had my tea every night after school in The Waterhole. And, oh! The sheer joy of taking the day off school poorly and getting to watch the same episode twice in one day!!

I must tell you, Neighbours, that at times my expectations of life were inaccurate, thanks to your guidance. I believed that every human with whom I would ever need to interact would conveniently live on my road, be it my physician, my lawyer, my teacher, my school principal, or my mother’s lover. I believed that if I needed to go to hospital, I would always be in the same bed in the same room. I believed that, when organising a social engagement with a friend, it would be sufficient to say “see you in the coffee shop”, without stipulating a time or day or, indeed, which coffee shop. I believed it would be normal for a member of my family, at any given moment, to enter the room occupying what appears to be a completely new human body – take the numerous actress changes of Lucy Robinson as a prime example. I knew that if I entered ‘the bush’ I was likely to experience great danger or tragedy, although I was unsure of exactly what said ‘bush’ was. I also believed that the residents on my road and their pets (dear old Bouncer) would always be willing to join me in a light-hearted game of cricket without any due caution for the hazards of traffic.

Yes Neighbours, you gave me these beliefs and yet I forgive you. I forgive you because you gave us the music of Craig McLaughlin “Heeeeeey Mo –Na”. Of Stefan Dennis “Don’t it make you feel goooood”. Of Natalie Imbruglia “bla bla bla torn”. Of the twins who played Caroline and Christina (can’t remember how their song went ). And….. of course…… Kylie and Jason. Yes, Scott and Charlene, you are my Wills and Kate. I still cry at your wedding whenever I watch my friend Debbie’s “Neighbours Defining Moments” DVD. (Although, FYI Kylie, we did send you a fanzine which we made in 1989 and continue to await your response with eager anticipation).

Yes, I started young. I’m old-school Neighbours and I admit I find myself becoming impatient with those who I refer to as “nouveau Neighbours”…… I continue to view Karl and Susan as fairly new characters and anybody who can’t remember Des and Daphne can ‘rack off’. Yes, Neighbours, you have shaped my vocabulary somewhat; pash; spunk; mongrel – these are all standardised dialect to me.

Good Neighbours, you have become my good friend. You were my companion growing up but in the past few years, I’ve neglected you. I have not been able to give you the time and commitment that you deserve. I think it’s time to let you go and become an adult (aged 29, it’s probably slightly overdue). It’s time to hand you over to some new kids. So now, please will you gather in the cul-de-sac as I climb into the ‘ute’ and drive off into the distance whilst you wave me a fond farewell? I’ll stick my head out and shout “I’ll never forget you!!” Then the closing theme tune will play over a photo montage of your departing character’s best bits; 2 little girls sitting cross legged in front of the tv as Paul Robinson drives his pregnant wife to hospital in an ice-cream van; 2 sisters and a brother round the kitchen table as Madge searches for Harold on a beach; a happy family doing the Locomotion on Christmas Day.

Goodbye Neighbours, and thank you for everything.

For instant relief, simply reframe & imagine

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Two of my favourite articles this week were written by Victoria Coren Mitchell and Joan Smith (links below); the key ideas which stuck with me from each piece respectively were those of ‘reframing’ and an ‘imaginary past’.

All of the bigoted ideas and arguments, put forth by people such as Seldon (head of a school) or Putin (head of Russia) seem to come from a place of fear and a denial of inevitable societal change.

If you must hold bigoted views, at least be honest about how social progression is making you feel uncomfortably vulnerable and insecure / frightened. Stop reframing reality and your own opinions to create an imaginary past which you can then use as a benchmark by which to accuse everybody else of moral deviance. As it is, you seem incongruently disingenuous, at best.

Now please read these!:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/26/education-fees-state-schools-evil-idea

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-do-homosexuals-worry-you-so-much-mr-putin-9069424.html