We are walking through a busy Camden High road, too wrapped up in each other to notice the people funneling around the chugger so it is we find ourselves face to face with the garroulous scottish one.
"You ever heard of Battersea Dogs Home?"
"Are you english?"
I am english. Its just sometimes that when people ask me direct yes no questions i alternate my answers. Its fun to see how long it takes people to cotton on that i'm playing with them. never thought i'd get the chance to do it with a chugger but it might be usefull to bear it mind in future.
"Then i'm sorry but i can't ask you for money"
"I can only take account details from people resident here?"
Better stop this now before he gets to playing the yes no game with me. But what a great discovery.
Weeks latter I'm in a pub watching the football and relating this tale to one of the bar staff. he is well impressed but finds it a little dubious. Money is money. His australian assistant confirms this. It has happened to her too. Suddenly we are engaged with the thought of developing two armies of anti-chuggers. The yes no army that plays them along and sees how far they can go and the phoney foreign accent army who wish to spend less time with them.
Can we recruit you?
Follow the link to Sick to get good earthy you tube exposure to Katherrine Arianello - a video that she feels is on the edge, a video that she feels some discomfort with, a video that gives a message that may be misunderstood by some. A mighty risk.
'I am sick. I am disabled'. on the one hand we operate in a culture that seeks to minimise the impact of out impairments on ourselves. On the other we collectively celebrate our difference without necessarilly understanding what that difference is.
Katherine highlights aspects of her own diversity here. This might appal some. Though why it would is beyond me.
For me the joy here is in spite of being Sick there is a deep well of humour that is best seen by her wheels spinning around in a hospital corridor whilst the text calls for fun and dancing.
At last; the time and space to do my last piece on Yoko's To The Light exhibition. I've been 3 or 4 times now. All pieces but this one was based on the first visit when i could not face down a moster called FEAR in spite of the instruction on the back wall 'Be grand', despite of the fact that I know a secret that would have helped.
In this room Yoko has constructed a maze made out of perspex. I know what awaits me in the metaphorical centre - myself. But that's not what i'm afraid of. I sit on a small white stool or table and watch other people smiling as they go around, listening to the loud thud when they bump into the barriers they cannot see. I sit and wait. Will I go in - can I? No i can't. What am I afraid of? Humiliation at being seen unable to find my way around. No. I've told you I know a secret. The secret of how to find my way around a maze and how to get out again. A young Australian told me the secret and it works. I think my fear is more about being seen at all. I've always had that. I used to wear a hat with a brim that I would pull over my eyes thinking if I can't see anyone then no one can see me. It worked. It mean't I could go to the town centre. It was completely stupid of course because it mean't everyone would see me but it did not impinge on my belief.
I wouldn't mind invisibility. I think, if i didn't talk about it, write about it, I could be a really successful invisible artist. Something as changed within me. Back in the 80's I couldn't put my name to anything. I thought I was the best writer in the world then and my name was Anon. I'd written some great fables as you will well know. Poems too. They all carried my name then.... Anon. Now, i'm Richard Downes and I write for DAO and sometimes I really fret about what i'm going to say and how it will be received. I trust my words. I don't trust how people will read them. This curse of being visible, of having to be heard.... i've cracked some of it but, there is no way i'm going into that maze.
On my last visit I made it. Jean was with me. She was on her first visit. She had no fear about going into the maze. She went in first. I purposely went another way knowing that i was safe with the secret. She looked back and saw me walking away and turned to follow me. I had to turn back and go past her. I could basically run with the secret and Jean would struggle to catch me. This was fun. We were laughing. We got to the centre which is not a centre. Its off to the side; fact fans. I sent Jean in to find herself first. She seemed a little apprehensive about me letting her past. She didn't find herself because of it. I had to take her back in. She found herself. I found myself. My isn't that wonderful. No it isn't but its OK.
We came out. I had to pass a stranger. That was a little harder. There's not a lot of space in here. Tight bends. Not accessible. If you pass someone you have to at least acknowledge them. Say hello or smile. But it was OK. I was still having fun and now I know another secret. Turning on the fun beats fear all the time.
Thanks Yoko for the fun and the inspiration that gave me seven pieces from one exhibition. I really liked almost all of it.
Following on from the perceived protests by Team GB at the opening of the paras and the actual protests at the Closing of ATOS Ceremony by DPAC and UK Uncut it seems relevant to demand the truth.
Was there a protest or not? Could it be that Team GB were the only team that could not cope with wearing lanyards in the wind? Was there a sudden pandemic of collective amnesia within the ranks? Are we the only nation on earth that doesn't know how to dress properly?
It certainly appears that Team GB Officials want and expect us to believe that proud achievers, who are committed to the uniform of the patriot want us to believe the pathetic excuses being peddled out. Does this undermine the team? Does this explain our slow start in climbing the medals table (we were fifth when i wrote this - way below expectations). Are team administrators largely non disabled? Is there a glass ceiling that frustrates our team?
If there was a protest does this even point to immaturity within the olympic/paralympic movement in insisting on contracts that prevents the expression of political opinion and a lack of freedom both within speech and movement. Are the authorities impairing rights through the design of organisational barriers. If so isn't this an attack on the very hope that we are encouraged to believe in, that attitudes towards disability will change. Do the authorities patronise us to the extent that they keep us in the position of children who it is ok to see but not to hear?
In the aftermath of this it comes as no surprise that an official spokesperson for an apparent democratic government (one not voted for) says; "It's disappointing that a small number of organisations are protesting against sponsorship of the paralympic games". The word 'small' indicating the lack of importance attached to disabled people's opinions. And does it come as any surprise that the arch pragmatist that is Lord Coe should turn yet another covered eye to a perceived problem by stating; "I am pleased they (ATOS) are here. They are helping us".
Indeed in a strange twist of fate the only respectors of protest are ATOS who quite rightly say; "we fully respect people's right to peacefully protest and we understand this" (the legalised impoverishment of a large minority group), "is a highly emotive issue".
I therefore unilaterally demand that we free our athletes by seeking to unearth the truth. Toachieve this I call on the royal/celebrity perogative and call on friends of the athletes to talk to the press.