The Day I (Finally) Met A Really Nice Man

Every so often I decide to do something crazy. Before you start wondering if you should read any further I feel I should point out that – in this case – my definition of “crazy” is something which other Humans would probably try to talk me out of because of possible risks to my safety.

Yesterday was one such occasion. Although I had done something similar last year under slightly different circumstances I still wondered how it was going to play out. (At least this time I was going to be speaking in my first language. It also turned out that – if it had turned into my worst nightmare situation – I could not have been in a better place. Let’s just say the place was packed with both Emergency Service vehicles and their personnel. I even saw a Liferaft or dinghy.)

My reason for going to the “Emergency Services Show” at the NEC was a kind of “fact-finding” mission. Or rather – find out if someone was as kind in person (face to face) as they were on the other forms of communication we had shared.

There is one downside to not being able to drive (actually – there are several). You need to rely on public transport to travel long distances and this can be very expensive as well as time consuming.

Luckily I live approximately 50 miles away from the NEC – and I had found a way to get between Leicester and Birmingham by bus (meaning I could use my Disabled bus pass to get there for free).

So – off to the NEC I went.

I must admit to wondering if I was actually doing the right thing even up to the point when I set foot inside the Show. After all, I was not on my “home turf” (it really makes a difference if your surroundings make you feel safe when you decide to surprise someone – the last time I did that I was in a strange area of Rotterdam but I felt as safe as houses).

I trust my instincts when it comes to people – whether I meet them face to face or via Social Media. My instincts had told me the man I was trying to find yesterday was a good person. OK – so I did have another big clue. The Police don’t tend to employ Serial Killers or other humans who have a violent nature – and I was looking for a retired Police Inspector.

If I tell you I was pleasantly surprised it would be an understatement. On finally meeting Roger Nield he actually matched the image I had developed of him through our contact via phone and Social Media. The biggest surprise for me was that he was one of those unusual people who when they talk to you face to face they sound exactly like they do on the phone. The best thing though was finding out he is “real”. What I mean is – I had been wondering what sort of reception I would get from both him and Lucy (who was also there). I had honestly prepared myself to be humoured and my presence to be tolerated but not exactly welcomed. I needn’t have worried. They were both very welcoming and both gave me a hug (thus ensuring they stayed on my “Friends” list for life – I love giving and receiving hugs).

When I left them I was sad that we couldn’t have had more time together – they were so nice.

Maybe one day they will come back to the Midlands and we can meet up again. Until then I will continue in my newfound enjoyment of working with two people who I can now honestly say I genuinely like, respect, and admire.

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Why Disability Should Be Taught In Schools

I have been following the debate about whether or not there should be quotas of different groups of people in Public Life (with particular reference to the Media).  However, I feel this is going about the issue of “public perception” the wrong way.

We have had quotas of females on different TV programmes (in fact, I feel “Mock The Week” has been wrecked by the BBC sticking to their idea of having one token woman on a panel regardless of whether or not they are actually appropriate or funny).

Some female newsreaders on the BBC News channel have actually been known to wear glasses as they have read the news.

However – and this is coming from personal experience – the best place to learn about things like Disability is in the society you are currently living in.

We keep hearing that children are our future – yet they would appear to be missing out on a vital part of their education.

You see – unless you are Disabled yourself or you have a teacher (or relatives) with a Disability – how are you going to learn how to interact appropriately with Disabled people?

More to the point – the Disabled child is still going to have to learn how to cope in an able-bodied world.  You probably have no idea how lonely it feels when you are in a class of “normal-sighted” children and a “normal-sighted” teacher when your sight is as bad as mine.  Having to teach yourself to cope with everything on top of trying to learn the subject you are being taught is stressful (at least it was for me).

Even with the current ideas of sending children with “Special Educational Needs” to Mainstream schools you may only get a few in a school.

So – my idea would be to have a group of people with a wide variety of disabilities going into schools to tell the students about their disabilities and how they affect them.  But I wouldn’t just do it as a one off.  I would invite the people in on a regular basis – so the students get used to seeing them and interacting with them.

Surely that would be better than just watching Disabled people on TV and nowhere around them?

The best way to get rid of discrimination is to make it impossible to discriminate against anybody – and nobody discriminates against their friends or loved ones.

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Why Silence Is Not Always Golden

One of my friends put a very interesting status on Facebook today which definitely made a lot of sense to me.

The status was on the subject of how not talking about things can actually do more damage than talking about them.

Funnily enough, at the Social Media Cafe I go to on a Friday, I got talking to another friend of mine and our conversation ended up touching briefly on that subject for a different reason.

Obviously, there is a difference between going down the “woe is me – woe, woe, and thrice woe” route and merely stating the facts as you see them (especially when it comes to something which has a negative effect on you or your friends).

However, I have always been of the opinion that – if nobody knows there is something wrong how are they supposed to fix it???

Humour can be a great tool when it is used appropriately – the same goes for sarcasm.

I must admit that my default setting when it comes to talking about things like the price of my glasses and my sight problems in general can sound like I am turning them into a big joke.  However, as long as I am getting my message across and highlighting issues you may have no experience of, I think it is justified.

The only thing which puzzles me is why some people don’t appear to want to allow people like me the opportunity to educate others by talking about the challenges I, and others, face.

The “in thing” at the moment is Talking Therapy – where you go to speak to someone who is paid to listen to you as you unburden yourself.

How much better it would be if we were all allowed to feel free to speak our mind without the other person being paid to listen to us???

Keeping things bottled up inside you will just end up making you ill.

Silence can actually be a killer.

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Advantage Nobody (Or – Why Bullying And Discrimination Don’t Even Help The People Doing Them)

There are two issues which I have no problems getting on my soapbox about at all.  This is because I am a survivor of one of them and a continual victim of the other.

Everyone can say how bad Bullying and Discrimination are.  Correction – most people do say how bad Bullying and Discrimination are.  But sometimes I wonder if they are just paying lipservice to the idea.

If you think of them as interchangeable (which they are) you might start to see where I am coming from.  Bullying is Discrimination in its most basic (and sometimes physically and mentally violent) form.  To me – Discrimination is Bullying in a “corporate” format with hidden undercurrents.

You don’t have to be disabled to be a victim of Bullying – you just need to be different.  Or rather, you just need to be seen as being different – having ginger hair, having an unusual name, being of a different race, speaking a different language, etc.

The funny thing about Bullying and Discrimination is that the victims of both of them are the people who (if the situation was different) could actually improve the situation for the perpetrators.  Not just by giving the perpetrators a true reason to feel good about themselves either.

Allow me to attempt to explain what I mean by that.

Having been a victim of Bullying both at school and in my last job I have come to a rather startling conclusion – Bullies have no idea about how to improve the situation they find themselves in (especially the adult Bullies).  This means they go for the people they perceive to be the weakest.

Now – the people who Bullies traditionally see as weaker than them could actually be the people who could end up helping them get out of their situation.  The only trouble is – that would require the Bullies to learn from their (potential) victims.

I could talk about things like “strength of character” and “resilience” but that would be missing the point.

Have you ever noticed that – whenever someone does something to make their own life easier – the rest of the population jumps on the bandwagon.  They use the idea, etc, and try to claim the glory – forgetting to spare a thought for the poor person whose idea or problem sparked the whole thing off.

I have a kind of saying “if you go for the worst case scenario you will be prepared for all eventualities”.  On the flip side to that – if you let the people with the most experience of the situation you are trying to improve help you you will get on so much better.  You will also have a higher chance of success.

(This explains why I always tell people that if they want me to cooperate with their wishes they should start worrying if I stop speaking.  As long as I am asking you questions you still have a chance to convince me.  If I shut up and stop asking questions you have lost both me and the argument.  Not only that but the chances are that my next move will either be to argue with you or just walk away.)

Before you start humming the tune of “I’d like to teach the world to sing (in perfect harmony)” and accuse me of being some kind of “throwback Hippie” – I just wish we lived in a society where everyone was considered able to make a valuable contribution to the benefit of everybody.
I may be a “sideways” thinker but sometimes people like me are the ones who come up with ideas which can be useful to everyone (but nobody had thought of them before).

Bullying and Discrimination serve no useful purpose.  It would be far better if we learned from each other.

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Sometimes The Most Powerful Stories Are The Ones Which Use The Least Words To Tell

Over the past couple of days I have had the pleasure of speaking to three different people who all managed to educate me in very unexpected ways.

I offered to help one of them to write their life story so they can pass a record on to their family when they die.  This is one of those elderly ladies who doesn’t appear “elderly”, they just appear to be a bit frail physically but their mind is as sharp as a steak knife, and they think “young”.  (Let’s just say that I got a shock when she told me she is 85 this year.)

The second person is almost at the opposite end of the scale.  When I first saw this person I wondered what a 19 year old was doing applying for his current job.  Turned out they are only a few years younger than me (oops).

The last person is a very good friend of mine who I have known for approximately ten years (it doesn’t seem anywhere near that long).  This lady is full of interesting stories and information – as well as being the kind of humans who automatically cheers me up whenever I see her.

All three of the above-mentioned people are inspirational to me in different ways.

The funny thing is that they each appeal to a completely different side of my character – whilst at the same time all appealling to the same side.

They have all managed to educate me without realising it.  However, it wasn’t something they did – or even something they said.  Instead – it was the way they said it.

As you might know by now – I love words and language (as well as accents).  However, there are some stories which don’t need a lot of words to tell.  Especially if you choose the correct ones.

Some of the most powerful stories I have ever heard were told in relatively few words but the words used were the most impactful ones for the job.

We are becoming so used to having silence filled with noise and news items not saying very much but seemingly using a dictionaryful of words to say it – that some of us seem to have lost the ability to appreciate the quality of a well-crafted statement of very few words.

I really think we need to relearn the true power of words.

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When A Way To Connect With People Becomes Soured By Public Perceptions Of It (Or – Not Everyone Uses Everything In The Same Way)

If you ask people about Facebook (as well as – to a lesser extent – other forms of Social Media) they may say that it is merely a way of people who use it making themselves feel important by posting about every little detail of their life and chasing “Likes” as though they are some kind of valuable object.

It is not only people who have never been on Facebook who say it.  On Friday I was complimented in person by one of my

 friends, who is on Facebook, when they said they like reading my statuses because I write well and don’t go for the lowest common denominator.

I cannot argue with the fact that there are some people on there whose sole purpose seems to be to do exactly that.  (And I honestly hope that it makes them happy.). However, saying that about every user of Facebook is doing some of us a great disservice.

For some of us Facebook is a great way of connecting with friends and family who we don’t see very often (I haven’t seen some of my Facebook friends in person for over a year – and I may never get another chance to do so because they live in other countries).

I also use Facebook as an extension of my blogging activities.  This really helped me feel supported when I was in hospital going through a very tough time a couple of months ago.  Writing is my way of emptying my brain – so it was natural for me to share what was happening via Facebook (it also took some of the pressure off my Dad because he didn’t have to field questions about me from humans he didn’t know).  It continued after I came out of hospital – I do try to mix the serious stuff with some more quirky stuff.

The funny thing is – I keep wanting to get my amount of posting on Facebook back to the level it was before I went into hospital.  However, other people tell me they like my output too much to allow me to stop.

Chasing Likes is a lot different from posting about something serious because you hope that there are people somewhere in the world who want to support you through it.

In the same way that there are people who would call 999 because they broke a fingernail (or even get plastic surgery for a minor imperfection – but that is a topic for another blog post) there are people who abuse Facebook.

The problem starts when – on being told that I am on Facebook – people assume I am just on there to chase Likes.  I haven’t got the brain-space for that any more (nor did I ever chase Likes in the first place).

In my experience – Facebook is a great way to connect with people, to educate and be educated.  You just have to know how to use it sensibly.

Even I get put off by people chasing Likes for the sake of it.

I hope this has gone some way to convince you that not everyone uses Facebook for the same reason.

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Money, Money, Money (Or – Why Cash Might Not Be As Good As You Thought It Was)

We have all used cash to pay for things but do you realise that some of us find cash more difficult to use than others???

For example – can someone please explain the difference between, say, a £5 note and a £20 note??? Especially in dim lighting conditions???

As for the current 5p coins and the new £1 coins – did anyone bother to run the design past someone with visual difficulties???  I very much doubt it.

Let’s start with the notes.  You can design them so they are rainbow-patterned for all I care.  Keeping the £5 note the same size as the £20 note is absolutely pointless.  Even the Euro currency has notes of slightly different sizes depending on the denomination.

As for the coins – I can recognise the 1p coin by touch, same with the 2p, 10p, 20p, 50p, and £2 coins.

The current 5p coins are really too small to be of any remote use to me.  Bring back the old 5p coins which were recognisable as being smaller than a 10p coin but actually felt like money instead of the kind of scraps of plastic you might end up with when you have punched holes in plastic wallets.

As for the idea of the new £1 being easily recognisable???  It theoretically has 12 edges to it.  I say “theoretically” because I cannot feel the edges.  Compared to a 20p coin or a 50p coin the £1 is circular.

I wish the designers of cash would test it out on people like me before they let it loose on the rest of the population. 

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