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At last, no housework, just writing (this poem for example).

I'm half way through a six week contemporary poetry course, organised by Readipop. The venue is one of the meeting rooms at the excellent Reading International Solidarity Centre (risc).

Our tutor is the wonderful facilitator of Dreading (Reading Poetry Slam), Michaël Gulliver Vidon.

I enjoy working in groups. We do activities in ‘class’ and Michaël sets us homework, which we share on Dropbox.

As well as meeting interesting and inspirational writers, I'm learning so much!

I've been introduced to Flarf and Found poetry, both of which have helped free up my writing and increased my confidence.

Last week editor and publisher Emma Wright gave each of us feedback on a poem we’d sent her. I found this helpful and encouraging.

Unexpectedly and already, I now can hardly stop writing. Virtually no household chores are getting done and I’m writing into the night and starting again first thing in the morning.

I am not complaining.

My head is crammed with over six decades worth of memories, experiences, ideas, thoughts, issues and stuff. It’s a relief to start feeling able to express some of it.

This poem is based on a real event in 2005. So far there are four iterations, or versions, of this poem. The actual encounter with the subject of the poem is likely to provide inspiration for more poems and, I hope, pictures.

I avoid clichés (like the plague) so I’m not saying there’s more where this came from, or watch this space. But you get the idea.


A missionary's position


her daytime occupation
is to raise the reputation
of a world
class institution
resolutions on wealth
and over-population
drastic solutions
to malnutrition
and preventable death
but this woman's passion
and personal mission
is special
an exciting expedition
to seek out
from the poor and diseased
the seeds
of their survival
and reluctance to die
whatever they're hiding
denying or lying
she's keen on prising
of them
their secrets
peasants and paupers
epileptics or lepers
whatever they suffer
they have stuff
to tell
like that girl
in her wheelchair
is she not
to despair
the sight
of stairs
and the stares
for the blind
in their darkness
the deaf
in their silence
in this instance
is nonsense
about injustice
of course
she's furious
she's just
she's determined
to identify
exactly why
these people are
still alive
to get
the smiles
find out
if they're real
the magic
and mystery
that makes
the frail and afflicted
to fail
not only would she liked to know
she believes
she has the right to know
from where they derive
their desire
their sheer drive
to go on
she's dying
to understand
and above all
hers is a journey
of learning she's compelled
to complete
or else
her life
will be

Deborah Caulfield. November 2014


I've entered the UK Blog Awards 2014 in two categories. Public voting has started.

If you like, you can vote for me in one or both of these two categories:


Arts & Culture

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 13 November 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 13 November 2014

This is my contribution to Remembrance Sunday 2014

War, huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y'all
War, huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

Oh, war, I despise
'Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tears to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

I said
War, huh good God y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, just say it again
War whoa Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain't nothin' but a heartbreak
War, friend only to the undertaker

Oh war, is an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest within the younger generation
Induction, then destruction who wants to die

War, good God, y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it, say it, say it
War, uh huh, yeah, huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain't nothin' but a heartbreaker
War, it's got one friend that's the undertaker

Oh, war has shattered many young man's dreams
Made him disabled bitter and mean
Life is much to short and precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can't give life it can only take it away, ooh

War, huh, good God y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again
War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain't nothin' but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker

Peace love and understanding tell me
Is there no place for them today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there's got to be a better way

War, huh, good God y'all
What is it good for?
You tell 'em, say it, say it, say it, say it
War, good Lord, huh
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it, nothing
War, it ain't nothin' but a heartbreaker

Strong, Barrett / Whitfield, Norman J.

Published by
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

Listen and watch here: MetroLyrics

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 9 November 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 10 November 2014

Disabled people are not worth the minimum wage. How could I forget?

A woman’s blog is never done

My last posting was a catalogue of horrors, a list of the ways in which the past four years have not been a good time to be a disabled person.

Will 2015’s general election bring forth a kinder and more just government? One can only hope. I'm no optimist, yet I heard myself tell a disabled person with learning difficulties today that things can only get better...

In my last blog I forgot to mention David Freud, the man in charge of benefit reform.

What happened

Freud was heard (and secretly recorded) agreeing with a Tory councillor that some disabled workers are not worth the mimimum wage. Freud also suggested their actual market value might be nearer £2 per hour.

This man of compassion said the system should be more elastic and generous, so as to enable more disabled people to work if they want to. Employers should be allowed to pay disabled people as little as they like.

In Parliament, Miliband (smug) and Cameron (haughty) went head to head. Cameron said he didn’t need a lecture on how to look after disabled people, thank you very much. (His disabled son died age six in 2009).

About Freud

David Freud is great grandson of Sigmund Freud, the inventor of masturbation and toilet humour.

He was brought into our midst by Tony Blair, prime minister of the pevious (Labour) government, to review welfare. This despite Freud's lack of experience in these matters, or possibly because of it. This happens in politics a lot, I’ve noticed.

Freud’s background and forte is in the financing of bad deals, money for old rope. Thus he’s uniquely qualified to devise better ways of getting the hard-grafting poor to prop up the idle rich.

A media mini-storm

The row in the House caused a brief but memorable media frenzy, with arguments for (many) and against (few) Freud’s resignation or sacking. Freud apologised and Cameron accepted. Freud stayed.

I tweeted that £2 per hour isn’t a wage, it’s an insult.

On the radio, Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now, said talking about ‘worth’ in terms of so much per hour simply devalues disabled people, which was wrong in itself.

In her blog and on television, Penny Pepper said the government was making it harder for disabled people to work by withholding support, a reference to the ILF closure and restrictions in Access to Work.

I expect this issue will return and bite them all in the bum. But whatever the result for now, disabled people lost again. And we’re angry, again.

Next day, Shape Arts launched their #2fingersto2pounds selfie Twitter campaign and I duly responded, as you can see here.

My fingers are the other way round, the sign of an old hippie and pacifist, for which I make no apology.


Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 29 October 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 13 November 2014

What artists do all day: Scribble while the world burns.

I was growing accustomed to feeling OK about myself, after nearly a lifetime of self-hate, all-purpose anger and general internal mayhem. At last, maybe I CAN be a proper artist, I was thinking.

But look what I'm up against:

  1. Goodbye social welfare

In May 2010 with the arrival of the coalition government, the future for disabled people began to look bleak. The recent past (since 1995) felt like the good old days; the Disability Discrimination Act a fart in the wind.

Bit by bit the entire welfare system was being dismantled. The world had been thrown into reverse gear.

And then the unthinkable, the eradication of the Disability Living Allowance, a non means tested benefit that allowed thousands of disabled people to go to work, raise children, do the shopping, ordinary stuff that non disabled people take for granted.

  1. ATOS and the Paralympics

In 2012 we saw ATOS, the reviled assessor for disability benefits, provide the technology for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Ah yes, the Paralympics. How we cheered. How Jon Snow drooled. Societal attitudes towards disabled people would change, claimed Channel 4, the official Olympics TV station.

  1. KILL! Campaign for assisted suicide

After four years of retrogressive cutbacks designed to hit disabled, sick and poor people the hardest, July 2014 was the perfect time for another attempt to legalise assisted suicide. Lord Joffe vilified opponents and critics (e.g. Baroness Jane Campbell) of Lord Falconer's Bill as homophobic, pro-slavery, religious extremists.

The Bill hasn’t gone away. The right to end a disabled life is higher up the political agenda than the right to supported living.

  1. CUT! ILF

In 2012 the government announced it would close the Independent Living Fund and donate the money to local councils instead. The decision sent shockwaves through the disability community. To date, I have neither read nor heard anything positive about this move.

Closing the ILF is universally condemned as a monumental act of savagery that will have disastrous impact on many, if not all, recipients.

By the government’s own admission, the ILF’s role is to provide an alternative to institutionalisation. So the fear and outrage, as well as legal challenges to closure, are completely justified.

Closure is a direct threat to the fundamental principles of independent living as a human rights issue, about which I have spent 20 years campaigning, working and arguing.

I've experienced institutionalisation. As regular readers of this blog know, I spent 11 years of my childhood, age 5 to 16, in a residential school and hospital for disabled children.

Many friends and contemporaries left Chailey and went straight into another form of segregated provision, either ‘sheltered’ employment or residential ‘homes’ such as the anachronistically named British Home for Incurables in Lambeth, where less than half the rooms have private bathrooms.

In May 2014 the Care Quality Commission reported inadequate staffing levels here, returning four months later to check on improvements.

Inspection reports reveal nothing about what it’s like to live in such places, the lack of autonomy, voice, choice and basic freedoms, the sense of separation from ordinary life, the indignity of being ‘cared’ for poorly paid staff, communal living…

Inspections cover only the basics, barely scratching the surface of what goes on.

  1. CUT! Access to work

Access to Work is a government scheme that funds aids, equipment, transport and a whole load of other stuff to level the playing field in the workplace. Without it, many disabled people (including me) would find it harder, in many cases impossible, to do their jobs on equal terms with non-disabled people.

Yet the rules are changing (again), making it impossible for some disabled and Deaf people to get the support they need. The dole once more beckons...

  1. CUT! Disabled students allowance

DSAs are grants that assist with the extra costs a disabled student faces during higher education study.

In June 2014 Disability News Service reported on government plans to restrict eligibility for computing equipment, while non-medical support like note-taking will no longer be covered under DSA, shifting greater responsibility onto institutions.

See what I mean?

I haven’t even mentioned hate crime, funding cuts for disability arts organisations and cuts in front line social care.

Indeed, it wouldn't be an over-statement to say that disabled people have been under sustained attack, from our own government, since the 2010 General Election. It feels like war.

So what’s the answer?

Keep scribbling!

And keep blogging.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 27 October 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 3 November 2014

If you're disabled, smile! You're on television.

BBC Three is casting for actors for a new laughter-filled fantasy entertainment series featuring a couple of young disabled parents.

As in real life, the characters are lovely, full of fun, and in complete denial. They watch too much television. Life is but a dream.

As a full-time paid-up member of the disability rights movement, I've known and knocked around with hundreds of disabled people, not all of whom would subscribe to that label, which isn't the issue, here. Ask me about that another day.

Today we're concerned with smiling.

Indeed, when are we not? For if ever there was a definitive test for the genuine disabled article, it is the capacity to emit sunbeams whatever the weather, to exude jolity and upbeatness in all circumstances.

I know what I'm talking about. I have the badge, the tee-shirt and every conceivable credential. I come from a long and distinguished line of grinning crips.

As a Girl Guide I learned to smile and sing under all difficulties. Easy.

Easy as acting. Put on a mask. Pretend.

Make believe. You want happy? I'll give you happy: "Cheese!"

You want grateful? For what, exactly?

In 1962, when I was resident at Chailey Heritage, a BBC radio crew came to record our happiness. By the time the technicians arrived we were pitch and word perfect. We'd rehearsed for weeks, over and over, every nursery rhyme known to every man, woman and postwar snotty-nosed kid with a basin haircut.

Songs by Elvis, Cliff and Marty were, of course, off-limits.

As instructed, we bellowed forth in tuneful unison about Contrary Mary and her bleating (expletive deleted) sheep. Our joyfulness knew no bounds.

Shortly after, I went down with TB menengitis. This would have wiped the smile off many a non-disabled face. Fortunately, I was true crip, through and through.

Six months in a side-ward and I was sorted. Come September, back into the fray I was sent, happier than ever. Because I wasn't dead. Unlike my best friend, Kathy, who'd bought it, under the knife, on the table; at the front, as it were, at RNOH Stanmore.

We never said goodbye.

You couldn't make it up.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 10 October 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 10 October 2014

A poem for National Poetry Day 2014: Fragmented conversation reconstructed.

Fragmented conversation reconstructed


They are not the problem.

He died alone, a monologue.



Your proximity matters.

Surrounded by statues, so close.



Our distance fills the spaces.

Creeps up, screaming.



Words under lines.

A statement, misguided.



National Poetry Day 2nd October 2014 website

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 2 October 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 3 October 2014

Mind mapping: How to see a mess in a mass of stuff.

I've had a(nother) clear-out. Open University B789 course notes have long gathered dust upon the at-risk register.

I took the chunky file ino the garden to read. Result? Too interesting to throw away.

For example, this diagram is a mind map I made at the beginning of the course. The diagram says as much about the state of my mind as the subject I was studying (voluntary sector management).

Mind mapping is a way to organise one's thoughts, to help write essays and speeches, or exam revision, and so on.

Instead of linear list-making, you write the key subject in the centre of the paper or screen, adding thoughts, as they occur, linking them with lines that radiate outwards as branches and sub branches.

Mind mapping uses both left and right sides of the brain. The right side (cortex) deals with images and rhythm. The left cortex does words and numbers.

Once out there, it's easier to give the mass of ideas and thoughts a structure, to see what goes together, to form a coherent whole.

One of the two central themes in this mind map is meetings. Sub issues are culture and style, problems and anxiety, function and purpose. My conclusion, as I recall, was that the organisation that I was involved in had a great many problems, about which I could nothing.

According to this diagram, the purpose of meetings was unclear, giving rise to anxiety and confusion about what the hell we were there for.

The organisation's structure was so loose that everything was everyone's responsibility, and no one was responsibe for anything in particular. People with ideas and skills felt under-valued. Obtaining everyone's views (including those not present) was more important (for historical reasons) than anyone being alowed to make a decision.

Leadership was banned. Management was a dirty word.


It was a mess, as this diagram illustrates.

Nowadays everything is wonderfully clear. Thus: The world is in a mess; so our organisations are in a mess; therefore I am in a mess.

Or is it the other way round?

I give up.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 29 September 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 29 September 2014

Lazy Sunday: A patchwork of possibilities. TB or not TB. No question.

I have a problem.

I can’t (as in it’s not happening) draw, paint, write or otherwise create. Cook, even.


These days.

Apart from Tzatzki, which doesn’t involve heat, so strictly speaking isn’t cooking.


Nor can I read. I finished a book two weeks ago and since then I haven’t managed to start another.



I’m surrounded by stimuli, natural as well as the other kind.

So last Sunday I took photographs of some of the things around me; in my flat; where I live; in my life; here and now.

Next, I did the usual techie stuff e.g. bluetoothing, cropping and editing etc. Then I assembled them, as you do.

And here’s the result.

Follow that.

This is a verse from a song written by a fourteen year old. It somehow seemed apt, given my mood of listless melancholy.

Suicide is Painless

A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied 'oh why ask me?'

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 23 September 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 26 September 2014

Sometimes I look up. Words and a picture.

Sometimes. Words.

Trees and grass


clouds and birds


togetherness, yes

loneliness, yes

nothingness, yes

hopelessness, yes

hopefulness, yes

colour and light


curiosity and wonder


holidays and alcohol


happiness and freedom


cat and mouse


hat and coat


girl and boy


sock and shoe


laugh and cry


hi and bye



Sometimes. A picture.

Two months ago, when I took this photograph (on my phone) I was doing a lot of lying down (for medicinal purposes). Lying down inevitably means looking upwards.

At the time I was very preoccupied with skeletons and was seeing them everywhere, including in the sky.

My own skeleton, the one inside me, was troubling me. I longed to look inside, to assess the damage. I went shopping for one online.  It's in my wishlist.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 11 September 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 12 September 2014

Wine, women and song: Dinner parties and midnight feasts.

On 2nd September 2014 I watched the YouTube live streamed performance of Katherine Araniello’s The Dinner Party on my tablet. I thoroughly enjoyed it for all the reasons Sophie Partridge gives in her review.

Originally I thought the work was inspired by The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago. But no.

Its inspiration was the 1920s German comedy, Dinner for One, where the butler stands in (and drinks) for all the distinguished yet absent/non-existent guests. Drunkenness and mayhem ensue.

Nevertheless, I do see connections between Katherine’s Dinner Party and Judy Chicago’s. The former has an all female cast and all the guests are female. While Chicago's dinner party explicitly celebrates female power and achievement, Araniello’s simply doesn’t feel the need to include men.

For me, the all women aspect of Araniello’s Dinner Party evokes strong resonance with boarding school.  It was co-ed, but my best memories of Chailey are the goings on in the dorm, and the stuff the girls got up to: crowding into the loo at break times; messing about in domestic science class, table tennis, midnight feasts… laughing.

Laughing till someone wet their knickers. One of us always did; that was the rule. Our rule.

Another reason it chimed was the resigned acceptance of the wrongness and utter silliness of the situation, knowing it's crazy and that this includes the staff who are especially mad and stupid.

Araniello’s guests were pathetic. She made them cute and funny, while in real life these people can seriously ruin your day, if not your life. They will not go away. Even if they did, they would be replaced by others just as bad. Or worse.

The bizarreness of The Dinner Party, the slowed-down pace, also reminded me of my own performances as a wayward and clock-hating teenager at Chailey Heritage, leaping around the dorm after lights out, holding a torch above my head for a spotlight. And entertaining a friend between breakfast and by-your-bed inspection (which I invariably failed) with made-up songs and whirling dances around the marble pillars.

I love the free-wheeling anarchy of Katherine's art, but it also troubles me. I worry that the thoughtfulness and seriousness might be lost on people who are less 'in the know'. There's no escaping the fact that disability is a world (or two) apart.

Look back through my blog postings for other references to Chailey, eg 20th August 2012.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 9 September 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 11 September 2014

This blog is a work in progress: notes on The Dinner Party Revisited

I’m not in London. I’m at home, making the best of it, imagining the world outside and what it’s like at Unlimited at the Southbank Centre. (I was there in 2012).

Not that I’m not busy. I’ve been tweeting and facebooking; screenshotting, hashtagging, linking and uploading about last night’s live screening of Katherine Araniello’s Unlimited performance.

I’ll write a blog, because The Dinner Party Revisited is interesting and important.

Here’s a scanned picture of my handwritten notes, to be getting on with.


My review of Katherine Araniello's Screw the Taboo.

SickBitchCrip on Facebook.


Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 3 September 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 4 September 2014

Everything is alright, upright, not out of sight.

A couple of months ago I started noticing that my back was hurting to the point of feeling I couldn’t sit or stand a moment longer. This was ugly, vile and monstrous pain you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Except Hitler, maybe.

So I took my body to see the GP and she sent me first for an Xray and blood test (in case TB had returned, but it hadn’t, thankfully) and then to the hospital, where I saw an orthopaedic chap, who said I was interesting and that it was fantastic that I could lift up my arms and bend sideways. A walking, talking miracle, no less ( I made up that last bit).

Now I’m waiting for an MRI scan. You get the picture?

Meanwhile, I take things easier(ish) and the pain is less/more manageable. Here’s how:

I lie down a lot. I eat lying down; I read lying down; I listen to the radio lying down; I watch TV lying down; I talk on the phone lying down; I Skype lying down. I type lying down (on the tablet).

I sit when I must, supported by cushions, pillows and alcohol. Feet up.


At me.
Here I am
Looking alright.         
Upright I am not.
Important I am not.
Enjoying my life, still.
Floating on cushions.
Patched by my hand.
Stitched in place.
In peace.

Here's how it happened:

  1. Watched BBC Four programme, King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons, presented by Michael Woods.
  2. Found an image of  Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians here.
  3. Layered this with photos of cushions and selfie.
  4. Cropped, erased and adjusted (colours and tones).
  5. Signed it.
  6. Framed it.
  7. Sent it by Bluetooth from tablet to PC.
  8. The rest is history.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 21 August 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 22 August 2014

Being alive - a creative act.

The GP said I probably have a fractured vertebra.

After getting an X-ray (result pending at time of writing) I did the following in this order:

  1. Had a lie down (because it hurt).
  2. Bought a portable DAB radio (in case I have to go into hospital).
  3. Went for a swim (to relieve the pressure of gravity and to exercise the bits that aren’t broken).

What’s this got to do with art?

Everything. My life is a work of art in itself, or so it seems to me right now. Being alive is my best work to date.

I'm an artist, damn it!

As I sit here and write this, my fingers dance over the keyboard.

As I sit here and write this, every breath is a celebratory song.

As I sit here and write this, I reflect on how much I would miss this if I could no longer do this (but there is Dragon!). So I will do as much of this as I can while I can.

Another time I had a fracture my mother put me in the sea, stood beside me with her hands under my torso and taught me the breast-stroke. I was five years old, a spindly twig, unable to walk; yet I could float and move.

Whatever goes on in my body, I will always swim.

Whatever goes on in my mind, I will always write.

Wherever my body and mind go, I will always be in the world.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 14 July 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 14 July 2014

London: Maybe it's because I love freedom and Art

I'm a Londoner, born in East Ham, where my dad grew up.

In the mid 1950s my parents relocated to Basildon in Essex, one of several post-war New Towns, where a job in a factory came with a council house and an indoor toilet.

Three years after leaving Chailey Heritage my dad was dead and I couIdn't take any more of my mother's narcisism and random sex life. I took a green bus to London, leaving no forwarding address.

I had my A-Z. I was free.

London was exciting: The busyness and bustle; the buses and tubes; the big buildings and black cabs. Best of all was knowing that no one was bothered who or where I was or what time I'd be back. I was away from all the barking, the bickering and being bossed about.

With ten pounds in the post office, I was practically penniless, yet I felt neither poor nor pesimestic.

After three days pounding the streets I found a job in a tiny fabric and haberdashery shop off Oxford Street. This meant I could pay the next week's rent on my smelly bedsit in Harringey.

Time passed: College, psychotherapy, and Art. I had a drawing in the 1978 RA Summer Exhibition.

Seven years later I moved to Morden, which is technically London, but with a Surrey address.

Seven years after that I went west, to Berkshire.

Twenty years on I found myself in London again for another seven years. Then, back to Berkshire.

I've just returned from a two-day trip to London to see and write about some arts events, all with a disability connection.

First stop, the Henri Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition at Tate Modern. It was wonderful; interesting, joyful and life-affirming. My review for DAO is coming soon.

Next, the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadlers Wells for a performance by Stopgap, a dance company that 'seamlessly integrates dancers with and without disabilities'. It was surpising and challenging, in a good way. I hope to blog about it once I've worked out what I think.

I ducked out of going to Chickenshed near Cockfosters yesterday. I'd cocked up on accommodation and couldn't face the treck from my South London digs. Another time, I hope.

Last night I drove to The Yard near Hackney Wick to catch Katherine Araniello's Screw the Taboo in The Moviers & Shakers Club. It's ages since I saw her perform live; I wasn't disappointed. As ever, she was thought-provoking and funny. Again, a blog coming soon.

Getting around London is exhausting. But I'll be be back, very soon. I can't keep away.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 16 May 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 16 May 2014

A necessary poem about death and survival - inspired by Virginia Woolf.

In the poem: 'He' is my dad. He died March 1st 1968, age 42. He'd had multiple sclerosis for seven years. He was a smiley man with a temper as sharp as his wit.

'She' is my mother. She was, for the whole of her long life, a sad and lonely bully, a narcisist who disliked almost everyone, including herself.

In the 5th verse, 'they' are my siblings. They were not allowed to go to our dad's funeral.

This is not a clever poem, but a necessary one. It just happened. I was reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and was struck by the line 'there she was'. I immediately thought of my mother; her survival and my father's death felt to me at the time like a 'monstrous injustice'.

The photograph (printed on Kodalith) was taken by me in Holland Park, London, one cold bright morning in March 1974.


That day
There she was
Smiling, survived
A hideous curse
A monstrous injustice
One of God’s least funny jokes.

That day
There he was
No questions asked
Pain free, unshaven
A lifeform retreating
Laughing no more in the dark.

That day
There I was
Baffled, blighted
Beside his coffin
Already missing his
Kitchen sink philosophy.

That day
There they were
Hooded and cloaked
Toothless torturers
A gang with no leader
Eager to mess with my head.

That day
They were gone
Future removed
By gold-clad demons
And big-booted heathens
Caps peaked and fingers pointing.

That day
Earth still cold
All roots busy
In earth-bound silence
And old-world trickery
Promising nothing again.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 7 May 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 8 May 2014

If you're looking for inspiration, you came to the wrong place.

I read this: Driving Inspiration: teams up disabled artists and Paralympians with disabled and non-disabled young people.

Then I wrote this in the comments box underneath the article:

I see a big problem with disabled people having to be inspirational in order to improve other people's attitudes towards them. Talk about being set up to fail.

Then I wrote this on Twitter:

#disabledpeople Arts funders expect our work to be #inspirational to improve other people's attaitudes towards us #setuptofail #fedup.

Then I wrote this blog.

Then I attached the picture opposite. It is most uninspirational.

It is a self portrait, a mirror reflection drawn quickly in black marker pen on acetate (I don't know why) in March 2011 when I was beginning to feel less suicidal and depressed than I had been for almost a year.

So I did this picture.

Occasionally I draw for no good reason other than it's what I tend to do, being a creative type who loves to doodle and scribble. Who loves pictures (who doesn't?).

I also go for weeks without drawing because I'm attending to important matters.

So this picture is a scribbly one. Wiggly, black lines zig-zag over the surface to form an impression of my face. I look rather sombre. My right cheek is a bit podgy (I don't know why). The left side of my mouth is pulled slightly downwards, as if I'd had a stroke (of genius perhaps). Above my right eye is a short, quite heavy, diagonal line.

On top of my head is a haystack. No, this is the wrong description. Haystacks are orderly and tidy.

I like this picture. It's interesting (to me).

That's all.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 22 March 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 12 September 2014

Thank You Shirley Williams - Plasticine Role Model

I created this the other day. I used modelling clay (similar to Plasticine), pipe cleaners, wooden spoons, lolly sticks, bendy wire and wrapping paper.

I was at an event for women arts practitioners and such like.

In the warm up session we were asked to pick a woman who we admired and/or inspired us. My first choice was my daughter, Katherine, who is a brilliant musician, dancer and linguist, and experimental cook. She runs her own arts agency, Kaia Arts.

My second choice for inspirational woman was Baroness Williams of Crosby, otherwise known as Shirley Williams, LibDem Peer, ex Gang of Four, daughter of the feminist and pacifist writer Vera Brittain, and probably the best Labour Party leader we never had, or so I used to think in the days when I cared about such matters.

Baroness Shirley was once told by some bloke that she would never get far in politics because she was too disorganised. As if all 'successful' chaps do their own laundry, buy their own knickers, cook their own breakfast, clean the toilet, hoover the stairs, remember birthdays, buy the cake/candles, book the magician, fill the party bags, clean up afterwards, take the kids to school/dentist/shoe-shop/gym class/etc/etc, do Open University degrees...

Throughout her career Shirley was continually subjected to criticism about her hair. Her hair!!

Whenever I hear Shirley Williams on radio, or see her on TV (less often), I'm always impressed. She's bright, well informed, polite, insightful and often drolly and dryly funny.

What strikes me most, however, is that she is always affirming and supportive towards other women, espcially young women. I heard her say, in a radio interview, that lack of self confdence was mostly what held women back.

In the model I tried to convey a strong, grounded woman.

I gave her three sets of arms made from wooden spoons, to represent givingness. The hair is made from bits of curled bendy wire. Atop her head are two gold bottle tops, like a crown.

The solidity of the body contrasts with the flimsy, randomness of the hair. Her round face and breasts are made from soft fluffy pipe cleaners.

Crinkly green tissue paper, reinforced by bendy wire, forms an umbrella or parachute-like backdrop. Two lolly sticks act like skis, sideways on, to give her extra stability.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 23 February 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 27 February 2014

Sick child. Scene One. Seen them all.

Imaginary interview taking place sometime around now.

Interviewer: Doreen, tell us about this picture.

Doreen: Hang on, I’ll just get a fag.

Interviewer: Take your time. No rush. Make yourself comfortable.

Doreen: Right, monkey. Now then. When we took photographs, back then, in the 1950s we used to pose people and make them stand properly. We’d tell them to watch the birdie.

Interviewer: Is that what you did? Why was that, I wonder.

Doreen: Well dear, the birdie was the camera shutter. You know, the little opening and closing thing. It lets the light in.

Interviewer: Oh, yes. I see. I think…

Doreen: Yes, you know. You’d say ‘watch the birdie’ cos the shutter opening and closing looked like a bird flapping its wings.  It got people to look straight into the camera and not off to the side somewhere.

Interviewer: That sounds absolutely marvellous. Do go on.

Doreen: We’d all shout ‘c-h-e-e-s-e’, you see, and it made everyone laugh, which was the whole point. Who wants to see photographs of miserable-looking sods?

Interviewer: Who indeed…

Doreen: Don’t you be so cheeky, you.

Interviewer: Sorry.

Doreen: Right. Well. Think on, lad.

Interviewer: Indeed… Please continue.

Doreen: Oh I shall, lad. (coughs) Well, we’d all say C-H-E-E-S-E and it’d make your mouth wide so it looked like you were smiling even if you weren’t. Try it yourself. Say C-H-E-E-S-E. Go on.

Interviewer: … I don’t like to … I feel … silly.

Doreen: Don’t be so bloody stupid. Say cheese.

Interviewer: Cheese.

Doreen: Better than nothing, I suppose. Can we hurry up, dear? Only I need another fag. I’m dying here.

Interviewer: Yes. Well. Tell me about this picture. Not everyone looks happy, do they? The two women on each side… They look fairly pleased with themselves. They’re… who are they?

Doreen: They’re nurses, dear. You can see that. I can’t remember their names, obviously.

Interviewer: Ah, this was taken in a hospital, was it?

Doreen: It was, lad, more’s the pity.

Interviewer: And the little chap in the middle, he doesn’t look too happy. Not smiling. Not saying cheese.

Doreen:That he is, or was, a she. My daughter. Silly bitch.

Interviewer: You sound rather annoyed, if I may say so.

Doreen: Annoyed? I’m not now but at the time I were bloody fuming! Ungrateful little bugger, after all we did for her.

Interviewer: Really? I’m not sure I quite understand…

Doreen: What’s not to understand? That little sod wouldn’t stop bloody crying and moaning. Wah wah wah. I’d smack her and tell her. I’d say, I’m warning you,  if you don’t shut your noise, stop showing me up, I’ll tell your father and he’ll have something to say to his daddy’s little girl, won’t he, eh?

Interviewer: Did she stop crying?

Doreen: Did she heck as like.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 21 January 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 21 January 2014

Cheer up! It's only death.

I probably shouldn't be here. 

The world is a mess, despicable things are happening and people are dying sadly, horribly and needlessly. It seems likely to me that these deaths are being deliberately caused in order to reduce the population.

Floods and storms are caused by nature and are beyond human control (though I wouldn't put it past them to manipulate the weather).

On the other hand, taking benefits from disabled and sick people, making them destitute and suicidal, is deliberate cruelty.

And this is not even the half of it.

I'm doing what I can to resist and challenge. I manage an organisation of disabled people, enabling people to have their say and get the support they need. I network, tweet, sign petitions and occasionally email my MP.

But art... For me this is pleasure and escapism. I enjoy making pictures, even when the subject or content are rooted in sad experiences.

Making pictures is fun. I can't help it.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 5 January 2014

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 6 January 2014

Pain body... a brief refrain

A beast with no brain.
For a start, it has no heart

This ....
Ranting and raging
Wreaking havoc 
With my days and plans
With my colour
With my sensibilities
With my senses
With my sense of self.

It is nonsense.
I don't care.
Get me?
I mean it.

Ok, stay, if you insist.
I'm nothing, clearly.
A no-thing.
Be there. I don't care.
Hate me.
Hurt me.
Though you'll never destroy me.
I'm here to stay.
To win.

Watch me. 

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 20 September 2013

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 24 September 2013

No inspiration? Try growing your own.

I intended to draw a mandala on the computer but I couldn't be bothered to learn how. And I must have been yearning to make marks.

Out came the pencil, pad and compasses. An hour and a half later, this.

As mandalas go, it is pretty basic, I know. I’m certainly not making any claims for its art worthiness, or any religious or peace-making powers. It’s an organised doodle, that’s all.

Yet there was something rather organic and transformative in the making of it. Spiritual, possibly. Meditative, slightly. Hypnotic, fairly. Restful, definitely.

I began with concentric circles, then drew arcs across. Working outwards from the centre, I randomly drew and erased, gradually adding detail.

There was no pre-conception, no plan, no thinking, no idea involved in the making of this.

The drawing seemed to emerge, to grow, from and by itself.

The energy (inspiration?) appeared to come from inside the circle, from within the drawing, not from me.

The sense of freedom was quietly liberating and calming. This derived, perhaps, from the simplicity of the medium used, and the drawing’s geometric abstractness, the absence of likeness to object or person.

It just is.

Line; pattern; symmetry.

I shall do more ...


The Mandala Project. Promoting peace through art and education.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 25 August 2013

Last modified by Deborah Caulfield, 25 August 2013

Disability. Arts. Symposium. What's not to like?

Symposium is Greek for partying and plotting with one’s chums and cohorts. Lying was the norm, as in cushions, couches and comfort. Food, wine and entertainment were laid on too.

From the Personal to the Universal Symposium on Disability Arts, Diversity and Activism (Salisbury Arts Centre, 10 April 2013) wasn’t anything like this.

What else wasn’t it like?
It wasn’t like, political.
It wasn’t like, rights-based.
It wasn’t like, about barriers, exclusion and oppression, the removal of.

Do disabled artists think that merely by being artists, by doing art, that this makes them activists? It would seem so, if one is in the business of ticking the diversity box.

Jo Verrent said "difference is delicious". Excuse me?

Vodka and tonic is delicious. Chocolate; oral sex; toothpaste. Difference is sheer shit if you’re the one who’s not the same and is constantly reminded of the fact in no uncertain terms. For example, hate crime.

Ten pounds they charged people for attending that gig including light lunch with all the crisps you could eat, armless chairs and wall to wall speeches. (I got in for free – thanks DAO).

Who dreamed this one up as a perfect day out? Purgatory, more like; suffering for one’s art.

Not that I’m against a bit of discomfort. Not that I have a choice, you know, as a disabled person with kyphoscoliosis, osteoperosis, chronic pain, blah-blah. Yeah, baby! Bring on the impairment-specific. What else can you do if you have a ‘hidden disability’?

But I digress. Possibly.

Diversity is bland, colourless, clean, cuddly and totally unobjectionable. Not like politics (yuk!).

Then again, Hassan Mahamdallie highlighted a contradiction – conflict even – between the universal and diversity. He was right to bring this to our attention. Was anyone listening?

Gini reminded us that at the level of stardust we’re united, one and the same. True. But we don’t live our lives out there in outerspaceland. Down here on planet global elite and rampant no-holds-barred capitalism, it’s them and us; them against us.

In the 1980s Micheal Heseletine said the market has no morality.

So, in a market-led economic world system, the only restriction on base attitudes is… there is no restriction.

Back in the symposium, contemplating the way forward, Mahamdallie calls for dissonance.

I’ll give you dissonance! I’m dissonance personified and a fat lot of good it has done me. People want harmony and fusion, not conflict.

Who can blame them?

People don’t have the knowledge and know-how for dealing with discord and disagreement. The marginalised and oppressed give in to the powers that be. What choice do they have?

Me? I’m either a change-maker or an artist; I’m neither sufficiently talented nor well enough resourced to have it both ways.

Not that I’m not trying.
More pics here.


Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 11 April 2013

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 20 November 2013

Stupid Comments Made About Me By Teachers - No 2

Here am I. Where were you? There: Child and adult. I did my bit perfectly. All my own work. Pretty as a picture. You: Hierarchically hidden; protected.

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 26 February 2013

Last modified by Daniel McLoughlin, 27 February 2013

Stupid Comments Made About Me By Teachers - No 1

I was five years old.

I was extremely ill with TB.

I couldn't walk.

I couldn't move from my bed.

What did they expect?

Posted by Deborah Caulfield, 25 February 2013

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 27 February 2013