Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Weaving through town

On my way to therapy I spotted these:

Today's journey into the city centre was an interesting one. I needed to be dropped near the tax office for the purpose of delivering tax return. I always go into town to do this. Yes, I know about post boxes, but it's sort of a tradition. I liken the buzz of a completed tax return handed in at the last minute to the buzz of essays done through the night all those years ago. This year's race to the finish was hampered, or maybe enhanced by new rules prohibiting any taxi but a black cab from dropping people in the city centre. This poses real problems if you can't walk very far. But walk I did and had my camera handy as going into the city is a big event these days. I only had a few minutes to find inspiration but fell upon a flower stall.

I really enjoyed the buzz of being out and about and surrounded by so much subject matter. I forgot about any fatigue or pain grumbling away and finished with the much over used shot of the Rotunda, soon to become an apartment block of entirely circular apartments. Bit like a stack of polo mints perhaps. All looking very vibrant in the sunshine anyway. Then I did feel done in but it was worth it.

This building has proved its worth in my book. I always loved it anyway, especially in the 70s when it was emblazoned with an illuminated coca cola sign all around its top. That, along with the time display winking from the roof of the newspaper offices, proved a real landmark for a city somewhat lacking in positive landmarks. Spaghetti Junction is Spaghetti Junction, and you should see the Star City entertainment complex nearby. Now that really is a monstrosity. But I think there's a lot of good stuff going on here in Birmingham too. We just need more variety. There can be too many apartments, too many shops. Are we supplying a demand or trying to create it?

Monday, 29 January 2007

How fragile we are

The wind blows and we dance. The wind blows harder and we are shaken. Why is there so much sadness in life? Grief seems to have such a hold on me, I feel I will be blown away. I sometimes fear I have no say in whether I will keep clinging to my branch, so whipped about am I by the careless caprice of the wind. I really am at the mercy of a force stronger than myself. Self pity will only weaken my hold, I know, but I need to get this out of my system. Maybe tomorrow will be better and I won't feel so pathetic.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Grey grey red

Searching out something to photograph in the park proved a challenge today. It was so grey and dull. This can work if you tinker with things afterwards, altering vivid settings and generally jazzing things up. Fortunately I found the only splash of colour around for a good half a mile and have posted it in its natural state.
Hobbled back and spent lots of today resting. Bad physically at the mo. Pain on increase, getting about difficult. But it really is good to find a few red berries before the birds do. There's not a lot about, but a trip to our local garden collective may bear fruit. They have more interesting plants than the park. I ramble. Am off to bed. Will surface post tax return. Sigh.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Wow what an afternoon

It's been great seeing the scope and talent out there in the 8th disability blog carnival on Disability in history and the arts.
I particularly enjoyed Thirza on the evils of the psychiatric profession, as viewed in response to Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper. It's so true that if you let them get a hold of you, you can really lose all sense of your Self, and that's with a capital S. Labels and pills can rob you of your identity, and yes, as Thirza observes, the journey back can be a long and complicated one. Gilman's own experience was to be so reduced by her doctors that they deprived her of her creativity, until she realised she needed it to fight back.
Kristina reflects on how much worse mental illness is perceived these days and how much more excluded people with mental illness are than they were even 20 or 50 years ago. This is certainly true in my experience. I reckon people got much better therapeutic interventions in the 70s than I have received in the last couple of years of the 'mental' side of my illness.
Community care has collapsed into a disjointed succession of largely ill-trained juniors with the occasional beacon, whether it be a therapist, art class, whatever. The good stuff generally has to be fought for, and hard. And yes, people with mental illness are still massively stigmatised, despite the odd good representation in the media.
One such example is recalled by Tikvahgirl, who watched a TV drama with a sensitive portrayal of postnatal depression. If only there was more stuff like that out there, more regularly. Maybe then some positive messages would get through.
ImFunnyToo recalls a personal triumph on the stage, moving for the sense of drama within the drama, the drama of challenging negative perceptions of a person's ability. She did it in style!
ArthriticYoungThing, Wheelchair Dancer and Troy all reflect on exclusion and insensitivity they have encountered in society. They write with anger, but also dignity and perception.
Disgruntled Ladye has a smile at finding an unlikely source of help for her problems tackling the multitudinous stairs at her place (sympathies).
Wheelchair Dancer ponders our view of being seated, and how it leads those without mobility problems to see sitting as immobile, therefore someone in a wheelchair as restricted. Far from it she argues.
There are loads more posts of interest. I've really enjoyed reading this carnival, being massively into the arts, but I am now massively hungry and I have a spanish ommelette to cook, even if I'm not sure I can spell it. Cognitive impairment lets through the most random errors. Never mind. I'll let my mind settle over some cooking. More later.

Disability Carnival

The latest extravaganza can be found here and there's a huge range of perspectives on disability history and disability in the arts. I'm going to get reading.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

In hibernation

Hibernating does have its merits. But you do feel as though a whole day has passed you by. Today was beautiful and sunny. Each month I know I am going to lose the use of my legs for a couple of days or so. So I'm pretty much in bed admiring the weather (lots of wind last month I recall).
I love the crisp sunshine at this time of year. It is also possible to find plantlife that will photograph pretty well even when at its most dried up and, well, dead. Here's one I took when I did manage to get out and about.

I need to clear a couple of things up. At first I was a little disappointed to find myself alone in cyberspace. I thought people would just find this, and get what it was all about. Now I am a little wiser and know it will take time. Also, taking part in things should help. Just because you've read excellent blogs and feel you know people, it doesn't mean they know anything about you. Which is weird. Guess I need to try and be a bit more forthcoming. But is there etiquette to follow? Boundaries that could be unwittingly crossed? Am I allowed, for example, to congratulate the goldfish on her recent wonderful news? I feel, having read her blog for a year, as if I know so much about her. Her life, views, marvellous attitude to coping with illness. A major voice in disability blogging circles, she has taught me so much in terms of accepting my current state. So I am delighted she and AJ look so happy. And even though she doesn't know me, I do want to congratulate her.
And then there's all the technology, but I find the google bloggers group a great instant 'How do I?' resource.
Tired, achey. Going to bed.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Cat wars

Something very beautiful has recently entered my life. Through the cat flap. All cat detesters look away now.
Ralph was knocking around two years ago when we first moved. He and our cat had a brief acquaintance until our cat disappeared. He was gone for three months, during which time my health worsened (not in direct relation to Oscar's departure but he didn't help). It was actually whilst in hospital that I discovered the new owners of Oscar had taken him into the vet and his chip revealed his true identity, thus enabling him to return home. Oh happy days, I wish. Oscar came down with a bladder infection, needed long, expensive treatment and died a year later. In fact his care probably cost more than the NHS eeks out on me.
Ralph has, similarly, done a ruuner, found us, moved in and boy do I feel guilty. He is beautiful, very quirky and skittish and quite happy. But not ours. We found the owners and contacted them. They were concerned about him but explained he had probably done it because they got a new kitten, and sometimes this upsets existing resident cats. After agreeing no feeding for a while, to try and get him to go home, Ralph was looking distinctly hungry. (They said better to feed him elsewhere than not at all when he's refusing to go home). He kept coming to see us regardless of food so we were given the go ahead to feed him. And he has been here ever since. Texted owners to say he's okay. No reply. Do we formally ask to adopt him? Go round? Or just let Ralph run the show? Cats eh?

Tuesday, 23 January 2007


Ok, so it's not all about flowers. Not every day anyway but I do love them. And their presence on the internet adds an instant burst of sunshine and colour. Tomorrow I am hoping to post some snowy scene pictures. Saw a fox in the back garden today and it was beautiful in the crisp winter sun but gone too quickly. Will he return? Will I be in? In the meantime, disseminating beauty can be done in written form too. Blogging being the mode du jour. But what about letter writing? Is it too odd these days to have a letter from a friend drop through the door? I believe in reviving the art of letter writing. It makes people feel good. It can reach parts no email or blog can, and it is a craft, especially when you add a good ink pen and purple (yes ok a bit pretentious but it looks ace) ink.
So, writing letters, scribbling thoughts, sending funny things to people. It all puts back a lot of good karma. Which is much needed in rebalancing things, both from my own perspective and from what is suggested to me when I meet people. We're lacking some of the good solid means of communication. Like letters, and talking.

Monday, 22 January 2007

B******s to January

This is what Beauty Offensive is all about. If I could afford to I would place images like the one above (taken in August last year) on advertising hoardings in the ugliest locations across the land. Not out of arrogance, but a sheer wilfullness to jolt us out of our environment. Also, it being January, I felt a reminder of summer may provide a boost to anyone who needs it.
Why am I doing this? What's it all about? I'm actually quite sure of the motives but only just starting to articulate them. It's been brewing for about a year. Going out (or even staying in) and seeking beauty is particularly necessary if you don't get much pleasure from your surroundings, or if you feel stuck indoors. I cannot travel far, and often not at all. But when I do manage to get out and about I like to take photos. I also paint, but not very well.
I became ill two years ago and have only just started to accept the limitations I am under. In the eyes of the benefits system, my local travel operator and a few assorted health professionals I am longterm disabled. But I want to enable my mind to challenge what my body is telling me every day. And a big natural antidote to feeling down about it all has been to wake up to what is beautiful out there. Even if I can't go out on a sunny day, the sun is still shining. Having emerged from a very serious depression I find that putting beauty in the way of ugliness, whether it be thoughts, surroundings or situations can really help. Also, as I get better at this, I want to challenge our perceptions of beauty.
Blogging all seems very strange and new, which is ironic considering I read such a lot of blogs. It's a bit like watching professional skaters and then having a go yourself and falling flat on your arse. Not that I have yet, but it all feels a bit wobbly not least because I have yet to harness the full potential of the technology at my fingertips. Perhaps settling into a new computer, hooking up a photo printer and starting a blog all in three days has been a bit much for my tiny, faltering mind.
And yet suddenly I am achieving a longed-for goal.
My concentration is shot to bits, by fatigue, medication, difficult circumstances. But I wanted to start a blog. I wanted a photo printer so I can stick my favourite pictures around the walls in the corner where my computer sits. And so I can produce watercolours of long-gone summer flowers.
And I really want to get my head around this and be able to post meaningful contributions to the great beyond. Why? Because I have 'restricted mobility' and need to communicate with people. Because I admire many other blogs out there, particularly Diary of a Goldfish and her many esteemed friends. Lady Bracknell, Marmite Boy, Unreliable Witness, all have links from her site. I haven't worked out how to set up a links list yet. I wish Goldfish could be beside me now, guiding me through the great step into the blogosphere. But never mind. I can do this, and it will start to make sense.

Promised land

This is a campaign, albeit a very small one. It may just affect me, but I hope it will go beyond my bubble of existence and create good feelings or thoughtful responses in anyone who reads it.
Sometimes I may not be feeling so good, but will still endeavour to stick to the plan. A Beauty Offensive is long overdue in my opinion. Beauty is all around us. It is everywhere in fact. Blink and you can miss it. Spend years blinkered by stress and you may, as in my case, have beauty returned to your life through illness. Is such a thing possible? Most definitely.
Illness, in my case a disabling chronic illness, makes you slow down. And in slowing down, once you get over the shock, which in my case took more than a year, you see things around you in a different way. And once you can train your mind's eye to pick out things of beauty, it goes from there.
So this blog is a Beauty Offensive. Why so military? Because I am combating not only ugly environs, but ugly attitudes (to life in general, or issues in specific like disablism). I am combating my own negativity, which has become entrenched but is being coaxed out of the trench and sent packing by embarking on what may be a very satisfying way of fighting back. Ugliness is everywhere if you let it in. This is about counter attack. Putting something else in place.