I open one eye. It takes a while to open the other and I use the time to enjoy breathing... just being. How quickly I get to take this 'waking up in the morning' thing for granted - now that I'm physically in this really good patch.
I roll out of bed into a standing position. I learned this back at the rehab unit (donkeys years ago) after my op, it puts less pressure on the spine.
Gulp! Overwhelmed with giddiness I roll back down onto my bed. Standing is out. This might be a good time to acknowledge the pinchy feeling in my gut, that nasty nauseous sensation and my awareness of the stomach bug going around among friends and colleagues.
I have an iron gut, but the giddiness is really bad; enough to confine me to bed, except...
Oh yes, I am a swan! Oops I mean I'm not such an ugly duckling...no, no, not that. Not such a scrounging drain on this country's severely limited resources; not such a waste of space; not so stubby and brown, I'm one of the super heroes!
I look, I see...wheels. Wow! Wheeee! Oh yes, I am a swan/supercrip! How good it feels to roll back out of bed and into my chair - with a head so noble and high; ok, so today I take some shortcuts with the prep...less stretches, no adherence to my morning routine, but what the heck. I am a swan.
I roll. Life rocks, I roll on out into my day. Not such an ugly ducking...not I!
And still working in the arts...deaf, well almost, to the bird who passes me in the street, rolls her eyes, contorts her face in disgust and spits 'get that ...thing... (that's me); get that thing out of my way.'
Making future out of hope for tomorrow;
unpicking the past in an evolution of
revolution. The surprise weight of manners;
of universal co-existence; of care. The surprise
power of human-kind offering
choices. Leaving the old guard to its war games
while unobtrusively tucking them safely into
care homes where first do no harm gets
real meaning - learns to be trusted.
Bring on the new swans,
a lovin' those stubby and browns...
I say this.
Enough with the ducklings.
You say, you stutter, words
time still waits for - and deaf shapes,
slow thoughts; broken people,
the surprise wholeness where
no one claims the moral high ground
and no one
will be surprised when first
do no harm opens a way
for us all to be trusted.
bring on the new swans...
enough with the ducklings.
Move on back, move on back and
the windscreen wipers go swish
swish swish, move on back, move
on back and the wheels on the
bus go round and round, move
on back, move back on. Round and
round, move on back and the words
in my head go round and round,
move back on, jumbled up.
jumbled up, back on move.
Move back on, move on back,
words in my head are
falling out falling out
out words in my head are
falling out all day long.
I need more words;
words to keep the wolf at bay,
words to create barricades
against the cloaked doom.
Move on back, move back on
the words in my head
are falling out
out. I need more words,
no used words
Words that hold together
fastness to ward off
the grim unspoken;
the feeding wolf
defiant, even unto the dawn.
Falling out, I need more words.
I need hope words, when these
cannot exist it becomes
time to grasp
the knife. Cut
Complicit in the great epodic downfall
of poet writing only for poet? Yet who
else should I write for? If not for me?
I write my way through the confusion
that is the why of my existence,
and I am
the man in the street, the whatever;
the couch potato. The manic and
bedraggled loneliness feeding
stray cats; I am the poet, vicarious
starman climbing my own steep
stairway, mountain of words.
I am the tears that slide unmentioned
through the stubble on your cheek.
I am the mother unmade.
I write for the poet trapped elsewhere
unaware of the proximity of sky;
I am the poet;
the lingering harm.
The mother, the child.
I write from my own dark and growing
ever more uncertain about
the shattering light of day.
Yet do I not owe it to myself, the
enquiry, the possibility,
of change? The price, the privilege of days,
is it not movement? Like the universe,
am I not expanding ever outwards
childlike and yet, pleating in patterns,
folding in long familiar creases
the fabric of me has been pinned and cut
shaped and torn, patched and changed. Temptation
rises to dismiss the offering
of a parachute.
I am the poet, the one I feed,
I could still be, still fly,
do I not owe it to the privilege of days
I listened to the tree breathing.
I listened in the silence of high
white cloud lazing over turquoise
gleam; the firmament listened
as tree-breath settled awesome
round my warm and languid body.
I listened to the tree drinking,
drawing the fallen sky into its
gnarled limbs as my own knotted
and twisted with time. I listened
to the tree singing as my own song
filled and refilled the space
between me and eternity.
I don't have to see through the label
disabled, I can see a fine edited version
unblinkered by cultural expectations;
unfixed by the security of being one
of us. I am always another. Half this
or that opens a vast expanse of
possibility and closes deep and
segregating silence between me
and your comforting certainties.
Disabled is your label
disabled is your view of my world;
disabled by your lack of awareness
your disability to see outside the
parameters of your own locked-in
I am one with the breath of trees
settling molecules and atoms into the earth
as the firmament watches and my own song
fills and refills the space; the spaces
that open like a flower, a lover,
and close on my segregation;
on the passing of time
that joins me to tree-breath
settles me round about myself
inside and outside,
one and another.
Some years ago, after a chat about 'This is not Disability Art' I started my own 'This never used to be Disability Art' project.
Just me and Photoshop; with no thought or ambition for the work to ever escape the confines of the files on my computer. Then I got a 'Dear All' email from Colin (the Dao Editor), and a future for my time travelling wheelchair suddenly loomed into focus.
Opulent Mobility, and the magnificent A. Laura Brody, were not just calling for submissions to an exhibition reimagining the possibilities for mobility aids and accoutrements, they were based in California USA; a place that (so Google tells me) has its Rules & Regs on satire, irony and copyright well sorted.
'Me and' (somebody famous) might be looking at a break out!
I submitted two pieces, both having a lot more to question about people's preconceptions than about actually redesigning the wheelchair. Although, for time traveling, they do have little gold wings…
To my delight, they were both accepted.
The organisers (Laura in particular) are being really helpful in facilitating the transition from pixel to print in the U.S. - keeping my participation costs to a minimum.
The exhibition runs from 9-19 September 2015, but as I have already organised being in Tokyo during that time (working on other exhibitions); I won't be able to be there.
Very different to anything else I have ever exhibited, I'm finding it hard to imagine my two 'Me ands' let loose on their own. In one sense they are very personal, poking gentle fun at the ‘+wheels = -brains’ guilt-frame I am frequently placed in and at the irritating presumption that, as an artist, a female artist, I dabble, in a genteel manner, with paint.
I find them funny, but then my humour is probably the least British thing about me.
In another sense they are more like my poetry; I get that feeling I'm merely there as the receiver and recorder of something 'in the ether'; that the chair, like a ventrilloquist's puppet, has been planning a life of its own.
How exciting it is to stumble upon someone who speaks like a kindred spirit...hello Twitter and the Internet.
And how galling to discover that this exciting spirit articulates what they do so very much better than I do...
I'm not ignoring the acts of government evil #disabilityconfident is just one more nail...(LinkUpArts 'Worth Fighting For' poetry tonight at www.salisburyarts.co.uk).
I'm doing research for my new website. I don't seem to be able to articulate my design desires to accessible, affordable website designers, nor find a Wordpress theme that fits me like a glove. But together with a programmer who wants to learn website design, I'm working out how to progress.
I want a site that looks calm like swan. And then has access to the feet paddling madly below water level. I want my site to have accessible spaces; room for other imaginations. I want my swan to take wing, even if it does mean we have a messy landing.
And that's where Kelli Anderson came into the picture. Kelli (of Viral Paper record player fame) is looking at design and 'the invisible authority things have over our brains'. This is a kindred spirit moment. I've been trying to articulate it for years.
My interest has been specifically targeted at architecture; in created, constructed geography and yes, the invisible authority it has over the brain. The influence it wields over emotion and action, the subtle and not so subtle way it manipulates how we see ourselves in its space.
But here's the real Eurika bit. She's working on the idea of a website that shows the workings, the exciting messy bits behind the scenes ... yes, me too.
There are stages in my practice where the artwork production can get a little, dare I say it, tedious?
If I were an old master, I would have apprentices, or Damien Hurst and I would have minions - to make dots on the canvas or to take care of the repetitious.
I however, am my own minion and at these times I tend to listen to Ted-talks or a pod-cast, but in the tennis season I turn on the tv.
While taking care of some repetitions in my current figures project, I have half an eye on pyjama-man grunting on the orange clay of Roland Garros.
I mean no disrespect, just love the casual effect of his sponsor's branding and the laid-back look to this grand slam final.
During my coffee break I check out Twitter and discover that I'm not alone in commenting on the PJs; and somehow I find myself reading about Wimbledon Whites. The British dress code is a draconian thing that has me twitching uncomfortably. The figures I'm currently working on are about diversity, not just disability diversity, but differences in the hearts and minds of individual people.
The figures are for Salisbury Arts Centre's annual Homegrown exhibition (June 15 - August 9, 2015 - Free); the subject: 'Worth Fighting For'. I'm just completing the finishing touches to a series of silhouettes that definitely owe something to a Steinbeck quote (possibly from East of Eden), about the freedom and diversity of the human mind being something very much worth fighting for.
Yeh, I used to vote Labour.
I made it through the thatcherites, but I'm not sure I can survive the camerongs.
D'you know something? Why don't they give the tree hugger a chance...I'm not for the monarchy, but he couldn't do any worse could he?
And he's not in it for the money.
OK I'm joking, but you've only got to look at his mother; she's given her whole life to this country. She's allowed to do that.
What if they actually care about real people and not just subjects in the abstract?
Christ, will you listen to me?
I've not met one single person who admits to voting for the election winners...
We're lost aren't we. Bloody hell.
This partly comedic conversation was so surreal. And parallel to my sense of overwhelmingly unreal life in Britain today - a seasonally soggy version of the equally surreal home of the entertainment industry - ideal opportunity to expand on the Con.Text formula. Plus a unique chance to showcase my broke-back brolly with other broken Objects Trouvé
I wait, unclear if I wait in mourning,
confusion, or merely disappointment;
frustration eats at me. I struggle with
impatience and everything is on hold.
Making is impossible until I
come to terms with my fear and the unrest.
The hunger that drives creativity
gnaws at me and stuff slips out of my hands.
Prototype ghosts emerging unready,
threaten my integrity, mock my lack
of practice. Experience holds me back;
my head will come good, the hands will follow,
the fear will fall silent and the need to
create will rise like a firebird; phoenix
to save me from the masked daemon
and the crocodiles of hypocrisy.
Making is where I belong, where I find
sense and reasons for not letting go. Yet.
Did we what?
Vote Farage of course!
Don't ask. Don't mention politics. Ever.
That was the last time; we are not going to be part of it any more.
But you used to be such staunch Greens...
I mean it. We've had enough. We won't be voting again.
Anyway it was a tactical thing, we've been fed up with the situation for years, but we still had dreams of getting the Conservatives out. We just don't believe in it any more.
And it's quite pointless discussing it.
Actually we are the lucky ones, where we live we get a lot of support. We're grateful, we really are, but then when you look at the rest of the country ... it's heartbreaking.
It's not how I thought life would be - more like being in someone else's B movie. It's wrong, it's embarrassing, it's immoral.
We won't give up fighting for rights and dignity.
We just won't vote.
It's not the same thing.
We used to love this country.
We won't give up on her.
Let me be as urgent as a knife
on those days when I lean into
imagining that there is yet
eternity waiting on the words
that dance across the splendid
array of neurons decaying
unkindly as I dream of line,
of shapes, bodies yet unformed,
sculpture awaiting the birth
that distorts my body, the pain
and urgency at cross purposes
in the making; the realization
of my self escaping while it may;
the knife remembering lives
unspoken. The pain creating
it's own urgent reality.
Reasons for making increasing;
escalating, with the clarity
of the knife; and time like broken glass.
You voted what?
You heard me: Tory.
To fully illustrate my reaction to this I should leave an empty page or two; wordless, utterly wordless.
And when I do gather myself to respond: how could you, it sounds so pathetic. I even followed it up with: "but you're disabled."
Disabled and in his second year awaiting a PIP decision. I flounder.
"I've always voted Conservative", he offers. I'm a fully paid up believer in the Capitalist religion and yes, they axed our arts funding, but with good reason: keeping the elderly clean and fed.
He is also poet.
Brainwashed. We all are.
Throwaway people. Offers on the altar of production; subordinate to money and the accumulation of things in place of creativity; believers in the myth of austerity as a solution rather than the cause of the next financial crisis.
And seemingly at ease with denying true human value.
Maybe it's easier for crips. Our gains were so new, we'd hardly begun to believe in them, but the un-disabled lot? They've had voices for donkey's years and some of them fought really hard...
I'm watching us all step back into history, one step forward two steps back.
Did we think this was supposed to be our time? It is not.
Making, in a time of disappointment
requires finding the sun in my soul;
the undefeated essence of me that is
so much more than I think, therefor I am;
requires communion with the part of me
that listens and therefor seeks connection
with the shadows that shape beauty and the
surviving truth. And making is where I am
still taken by surprise with reasons to smile.
The overwhelming impression I get from the personal stories that accompany Liz Crow's 'Figures' is the shocking lack of humanity, the lack of compassion for vulnerable people.
Some years ago there was a lot of debate about the danger of losing our human values to soulless computers. If ever this was a political concern it has been forgotten or ignored.
People's lives are being reduced to tick-forms that can be processed by computers; empathy, kindness and vulnerability have become foreign concepts.
They are in fact qualities essential for becoming the best human beings we can aspire to be. Vulnerability is a dirty word in politics, but it is essentially the quality that makes us truly human and allows us to offer and accept love.
Devoid of empathy, kindness,
vulnerability; it comes.
The political choice...
and who does not speak out;
like when they came for the Jews.
We might not be literally Jews
but some of us feel the fear.
And all those poppies flooding the stronghold;
what did we learn? Or was that
just emotional manipulation?
Do we look to history with other
than relief? It's over.
How much noise have we made
in the current fight...
when they come for disabled people...
disadvantaged people...when they come
for community, creativity; the superfluous arts?
The stuff that makes life more than mere existence.
So easy to sit like frogs in cold water
not letting the rising temperature
disrupt the hunger for good news,
destroy the hope of arriving somewhere safe.
Forgetting that life is how you live the journey;
safe is dead. Passing illusion. The challenge
is to live your life being the best human being you can possibly be.
doing your bit for the human race. The place
where every life does matter, good or bad,
better or worse, one heartbeat or a century.
Where every single life is needed for one complete race.
Seeing the 25th February news item on Dao, the first thing that struck me was a sense of excitement. The promotional video showed prominent images of Warhorse - actually showing at the New London Theatre. My own experience of just that, was not the best. Maybe things have improved?
A chaos of milling customers had made it difficult to find out exactly how I was to gain access to the New London Theatre. Without ambulant help I might not have discovered that wheelchair access was around the side, or was it the back? I wasn't thrilled to be informed that the first part of my journey would take place in the props lift.
From there I was escorted down an extremely narrow corridor with doors leading off it, I think they were dressing rooms. The next lift was tiny, it required serious manhandling to get my smaller than average size manual chair in - with me in it and feeling less like a theatre goer, more like a shipment.
Inside the entrance to the auditorium they had made it possible to just about accommodate two wheelchair guests; one in front of the other and rather detached from the rest of the audience. For anything less than Warhorse, I might not have stayed.
Accessible London theatre? Tell me this has changed; tell me there are improvements to universal access.
And Covent Garden? Yes the Royal Opera House was accessible, and yes I could sit together with a party of people, but guess what? I thought it would be fine to roll there from Waterloo station, it's a short journey and should have been easy. A lack of matching dropped curbs saw me rolling the streets seeking access to pavements and risking life and limb as well as receiving abuse from impatient taxi drivers.
I enquired at ROH about their policy towards approach access and was informed that I should contact the appropriate London Authority. I tried, I really tried to make the appropriate borough understand the need for matching dropped curbs and the danger of not enabling a person to get back on to the pavement. They insisted that they had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
Accessible London Theatre? Tell me London understands access; tell me there are improvements to universal access.
Our New Year shellfish made disturbing flips and wriggles on its way to the pot. Homemade sushi, slices of raw fish, scallops, sea urchin and salad completed our meal. There was hardly room for the soba just before midnight. We had symbolic portions.
Even so it was hard to think about sleeping. I dozed and woke in time to watch the day dawning.
Actual sunrise is not visible from the apartment, but dawn sky is frequently glorious.
Today's blue sky sinks into clouds of gold that darken behind the white and glass skyscrapers masking the horizon.
Food today is mostly traditional Japanese style which means we cooked the rice-bread New Year 'decorations' for our breakfast.
The weather forecast offers a 50% chance of snow here in Tokyo; elsewhere in Japan snow is already thick and skiable.
We wrap up warmly for an initial attempt to visit the local shrine to make our New Year hopes known beyond the prison of our own human boundaries. The length of the queue puts several people off, us included, and we wander back home through a light sprinkle of snow. The day has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere.
Almost choking on good-luck rice-bread
I ponder my chances of drowning
in luck. The rice bread, cooked, in a sweet
red bean soupiness, begins a slither
down my throat, then comes to a halt
blocking my airways. Momentary
panic, dissipated with eventual
breath, is just the kind of event to
trigger thoughts of time, life and purpose
in keeping with the desire to
be a truer kind of me, riskier;
and maybe I could learn to like it,
to be at some kind of peace
with my own unknown; less influenced
by the experience of being
judged and pushed to margins
I never imagined outside fiction.
End of year day and a holiday. The festive air is infectious. There will be celebration events all over the city. People will be out partying but many families will be staying home to watch the traditional marathon tv singing contest.
As the year changes bells will strike 108 times and at some temples visitors are invited join in with the ringing. Around a million people will pass through the Meji shrine as it is the custom to offer wishes and prayers in the first five days of the New Year.
Themed partying at Disneyland is very popular. These things need booking well in advance. It is also the custom to watch the first dawn of the New Year. There will be a long trek of people climbing a local-ish mountain to view the dawn from its peak, maybe catch a glimpse of Fuji-San if they are lucky, and stopping at the shrine on the way down. Even those who never give it a thought in the daily run of things will visit a shrine to make New Year wishes.
Not much of this makes its way to the national news chanel, it's almost as if, at the last moment, the New Year creeps in by stealth.
Long queues of people patiently waiting their turn to enter snow clad temples; a band of semi-naked men jogging and chanting, also in the snow, a single strike of one giant brass temple bell and reverential views of people praying at warmly lit shrines - these made the news.
Live feeds on our collection of tablets, from countdown parties and the balloon release from Tokyo Tower, blurred our impression of when this New Year actually started.
I fleetingly missed the bongs and paused to wonder if Auld Lang Syne is still played to indicate closing time at the museum.
Positively the day for tapping sticks;
melodious clunking to clear the way
for the pristine year awaiting the bold
brave enough to draw a line under the
demons of twenty-fourteen, to archive
it's treasures, to learn and to grow into
the discoveries and challenges of
the new. Unleashed at the stroke of midnight
I don't know where I'm going, nor who is
going with me, but I will treasure them;
sharing what I need to share,
loving who I need to love,
as I practice being me;
my own unique source for creativity.
Swirls of coloured lights decorate the abundant planting in the streets. Good luck messages flash from the hoardings. The end of the year is fast approaching.
The Wako department store window has the usual crowds standing in admiration, blocking access to the pavement. This New Year's display constists of white sheep, with golden horns, lined up and facing the back of the window. Suddenly one of the sheep swivels around to peer out at the crowd. Passing pedestrians make sudden stop and backtrack to join the watching crowd.
Fearing last minute crowds we decided to fetch our end of year fish from Tsukiji today. This meant heading out long before the crack of dawn, but did result in the successful acquisition of three different types of crab and various prawns.
The day developes bright and warm and we take morning tea on the sunny, sheltered balcony.
Much later it sounds as if the nightly tapping has been joined by softly ringing bells, we are being well prepared for the year change.
2014 is being well rounded off, closed down; finished. A sort of 'spring cleaning' prepares us for the letting go.
Without really trying, two thousand and eight was the year
I left behind a whole back-pack of old pain, put it down,
and wandered away, reveling in a brand-new lightness;
discovering energy and inner fire, a weightless
intoxication for the New Year and a clearer mind
from which to grow and practice being artist, being me.
A hesitant twenty-fourteen opens my eye to the
need to shed psychic-spanx, the mental corsetry holding
too much of me in conformity, imaginary
restrictions, like cracks in a pavement I fear to tread on,
warping the shape of my artist for nothing other than
superstition, and a crazy idea of who I aught to be.
One of our Christmas day deliveries was the bunch of New Year flowers. An assortment of yellow blooms with greenery, including the all important branch of a pine tree. Traditional beliefs held that the gods visited the earth at this important time and lived in the pines trees until the New Year.
Good wishes for the New Year arrive frequently and include plaited rice stalks or straw, rather like a corn dolly, with good luck messages and prayers, which we hang on the front door.
Big businesses have their pairs of Kadomatsu, pine branches (gathered on or after 13 December), with three lengths of bamboo, bound with tree bark or straw and tied with decorative straw plaits. These year-end, New Year 'welcomes' to the gods seem also to function as status symbols prominently placed at the front entrances. Kadomatsu are traditionally taken to the temples to be burnt around the 15th of January, thus releasing the gods back to their own environment.
Department stores are also full of imaginative displays in their windows and inside, usually including elaborate versions of the rice 'corn dollys' and the colors red and white.
Decorated figures representing the 12 animal zodiac signs are prominent, the outgoing Horse being replaced by the wood Sheep, the third of the three fire cycle animals. The sheep is a lucky animal.
Taking care of the mystery,
shaping the unknown to fit in the
palm of my hand: offering rice
pudding and cinnamon to the
Julenisser, respecting the
pine branches of Toshigami-sama;
attempting to manipulate
fortune in my favour; watching
sunrise on auspicious mornings.
Keeping a wide eye on my world,
reminding myself of whimsy;
as good as marking crosses on
strips of paper placed in secret
boxes subject to rituals
of counting and a fickle lack
of human kindness. No better,
no worse, but much more satisfying.
Today is the last day that I could consider beginning Tokyo New Year celebration blogging. The 29th is out - any number that includes a nine is bad luck and the 30th is just too late for showing any proper respect.
Preparations are already well underway; anytime after 13th December it is ok to start gathering pine branches.
Most firms have already held their End-of-Year staff parties and people are taking holiday and beginning to gather as families in festive mode.
Free End-of-Year concerts abound. I don't recognize any of the music I've heard so far, but I'm told that Beethoven's 9th is the New Year music of choice.
We have begun planning our End-of-Year menu, online research has revealed some shockingly expensive food box selections, but we are planning something simpler fetched from the world famous Tsukiji fish market. (I'm rather pleased about that as it is reminiscent of the Danish tradition of buying a New Year's Eve cod at the harbour market).
We will of course be eating soba (buckwheat noodles) in the run-up to midnight and not to bring back luck, or carry any over from 2014, we will be taking care not to still be eating them after the hour has struck and the year changes.
I've not been able to get to the source of this ritual, but the tapping has already started. Nightly, groups of men wander the area tapping two wooden blocks or sticks together to ward off demons and bad luck. Our street has been cleansed most evenings. According to local custom, every street in Tokyo should be treated.
The New Year needs a clean start and no demons or old-year bad luck should be allowed to cross over.
Is it me, wheeled demon,
mowing down innocents,
stealing the price of a
decent champagne from the
gods of Westminster?
is it me, wheeled demon,
'ware, 'ware, wheeled chair; rolling
at you, stealing your space,
and always in your way?
Is it me, wheeled demon,
using your taxes on
and luxury access,
or stealing your healthcare?
Is it me, wheeled demon,
symbolic scapegoat of
all that is wrong in
your life, your world, your hope
of streets paved in gold?
Back to work for most people, the day starts with the delivery of some internet purchases; a modern version of Santa? Merry Christmas.
The light here is amazing! I have a suddenly refreshed insight into the utter necessity of Nordic Juletide festivities. Enduring the darkness of winter, the reemergence of the sun needs celebrating and the possibility of new light-provoked shoots and leaves needs every encouragement it can get.
Here in Tokyo it might be cold, but light-dependant life continues undisturbed. Plants that would otherwise shrivel and die in the cold, seem unaffected. Red pointsetias, Christmas stars, have decorated the windy streets of a shopping complex, spider plants dangle their offspring over chilly pavements and walkways and long green leaves of narcissus flicker in the wind. Camellias blossom red and white in generous profusion.
Things I think I know about plants now sprout question marks. Things I think I know about equality, about living, shift subtly like the colours in a kaleidoscope, make new patterns. The burden of disability that in my daily life I unquestioningly take on my shoulders, melts away.
In holiday mode I no longer suffer society's pressures and condemnations. In gaijin mode there is such freedom to be me.
Sumida shimmers fathomless
blue-gold reflections, shivers
in her reptile skin as sky fades
and night blackens her winter green.
Still pockets of ginkgo gold float
undecided hearts on backwater
eddies; skyscraper twins ripple
in her tidal patterns as Tokyo
lights adore mirrored images
born to and from the sea in the
of water. Has she forgotten
the dreams I whisper over her
restlessness? Does she remember
the hope I carry across the world?
Christmas Eve day, so light and bright, even if there are clouds in a less than perfectly blue sky. The klejner (Christmas biscuit) dough has rested in the fridge overnight, to be rolled out, cut, twisted and deep fried at this very late stage in the proceedings.
Everybody warns me that already tomorrow evening, latest the 26th, all signs of Christmas will be gone. New Year is the big unmissable event and preparations are already underway.
Chinese New Year celebrations involve families all getting together, cooking and eating as they go on the night, so here in Japan they might just be SinoScandiBrit biscuits...
Modern technology fills the apartment with almost familiar Christmas music. Our festive food seems strangely complicated in a kitchen designed for Japanese cooking, but it is recognisable and differently delicious.
Today we celebrate, we feast upon the harvest, the bounty of 2014, we rejoice that the dark days give way to lighter brighter moments and ponder the mystery that makes people more than what the eye can see or the hands can grasp.
How you live it, what you make of it,
where you leave your mark;
life unfolds challenges, scarily big and
The paths we choose to take,
the memories we make are who we
choose to be; people
we become, the content, DNA
Each one of us unique,
elemental moments in the grand,
the bigger, picture.
Today is the Japanese Emporer's birthday, a public holiday, and for us, Little Christmas Eve. It is also light, bright and full of sunshine.
Our Christmas cake has come together well, looks right and fills the apartment with just the right aromas, in spite of some interesting dried fruit substitutions. The final verdict will of course have to wait until 25th.
Potato and butter shortages threaten to scupper the traditional ScandiBrit Christmas my family is accustomed to. The butter shortage, with subsequent rationing to 200 gms per person, also threatens the newer Japanese Christmas tradition of a fresh cream and strawberries sponge cake.
Serious hunting has tracked down a potato variety which looks like it will survive the necessary toffeeing process and careful butter buying has given us enough to bake klejner and pebernødder.
Wrapping paper has also been a conundrum. Japanese do make wonderful paper, but don't sell it in sheets big enough for wrapping gifts and of course the glorious little pieces don't look at all like Christmas. Tokyo Hands, my favourite craft, DIY, hobby, altogether lifestyle store, came to the rescue with metre squares of Christmassy wrapping.
I've never seen the shops so crowded, or people so very laden with bags. I'm told that Christmas is a little similar to Valentines day, with particularly romantic couples giving each other gifts. There are so many wheelchairs and buggies queuing for lifts, the day requires much patience.
I so much enjoy not being given a wide birth,
being allowed to squeeze my way through, like anyone
else; being recognised as a person, not trafik.
And no trace of the ubiquitous speeding jokes,
what bliss! Above all, the mentality that sees
the possibility of offering service
as a human delight, no chore, just a pleasure;
common courtesy that does not single me out
with a tedious sigh and a fed-up facial
expression. And no pressure to be super-crip;
or the continuous burden of proof to find
evidence of not being a scrounger, a cheat;
a drain on the physical, financial, and yes,
the emotional framework of what passes for
enlightenment, or civilised society.
I've been on a most unJapanese mission to acquire the ingredients for an English Christmas cake.
Not far from Tokyo station there is a shopping complex/department store with a baking/cooking ingredients and implements section on the first basement floor. Heading out into glorious sunshine and a bitingly cold wind, I'm surprised to pass incredibly long queues of Japanese people at bus stops and at, possibly, a lucky lottery ticket seller. There is a familiarity in the sight of winter-clad humans. Cold weather gear unites the winter world; these people could be anywhere.
Near the Kabuki theatre a solitary kimono-clad female, wrapped in a woollen shawl and scurrying small steps, is looking desperately cold.
I pass a shoe shop with 'a holy Christmas selection' and a shopping mall playing the slowest, most mournful version of 'White Christmas' you could ever not wish to hear. Various little decorations proclaim Christmas is here; Scandinavian Juletide is popular.
Arriving at 10.30 I am dismayed to discover that nothing opens before 11.00; there are people queuing outside. In spite of the cold wind, sunshine, blue sky and the wonderful clear light lift my spirits, but I'm not as hardy as the queue. I wait inside the neighbouring mall and get a hot fruit drink from a vending machine.
The Aladdin's cave of baking/ cooking supplies could have entertained me for hours; it stocked interesting takes on all of the ingredients I needed for my traditional family cake and Scandinavian Julekiks (biscuits), plus all sorts of tempting side steps into intreguing meal options for fusion foods.
The rise of the down jacket,
one design to rule the world,
takes me by surprise. The world
being winter wrapped, feather clad
in warm, universal down,
packaged in the shiny wind-
proof black of polyester;
and who knows the down is
probably poly too.
One idea to warm the race
one design to rule the world;
the rise of the down jacket.
Here I am in Tokyo again and feeling lucky to be here. Each time I take to the skies there are obstacles to overcome. Every single time they are different; somebody somewhere has fun shaking up T&C's for the ideal knife edge experience every traveller longs for.
The first thrill was that my ebooking was invisible to the airline flying the aircraft. Three companies were using this plane, each with their own system. I was advised to contact the plane owners 48 hours before the flight when all bookings became visible. But I could order a vegan meal.
48 hours before my flight the Special Assistance desk is closed; Special Assistance booking is not catered for on the weekends (the IDS effect? Or do disabled people just not travel on Mondays and Tuesdays?). Some handy techno-wizardry with 3-way IM and a telephone (thanks guys), left me reassured that Special Assistance was booked.
Trafik accident and resulting road closure delayed my actual arrival at the Special Assistance check-in where I discovered that Special Assistance hadn't actually been requested. But they had managed to order me additional vegan meals, since the original order (lacto-vegetarian apparantly) was faulty, but couldn't be corrected.
Avoiding Special Assistance was a treat. Airline staff escorted me like I was a real sentient human being. Must remember that!
At the door to the aircraft there was a dramatic last minute attempt to turn me away by questioning the on-board safety of my wheelchair batteries. Someone had the bright idea that dry cell batteries were hazardous on board, his opinion carried weight and was hard to shake.
My batteries travel with me regularly. They have their own little safety covers to travel in. I handed one over to a Japanese-reading crew member who declared it to be a nickel battery (which is what rechargeable dry cell batteries are). No-one at the barricades had any knowledge of nickel batteries so after a silent stand-off, a sudden 'what the hell' and I was allowed through.
Onboard, I was looked after very well, a small crew skuffle about which of the two meal options to feed me was made up for by 4 extra blankets and a frequently refilled hot-water-bottle.
At Narita airport I was recognised by 'my' regular special assistance lady who was happy to welcome my unexpected (unbooked) arrival and swap her other duties to make sure I was safely collected by my very own personal assistance for the Skyliner train journey into Tokyo.
Special Assistance at Heathrow
degenerates to that Special
understanding that interprets
people as baggage items to
be taken from A to B
with little regard for dignity.
Being human, requires being
alert to the perils of Special.
Living human is no rose garden;
though fertiliser is the dung
we share, it does more for roses.
Special roses like a good mulch.
Special human thrives without the
application of manure.
The more complex a society becomes, the more fully the law must take into account the diversity of the people who live in it...
One day in the future we will construct the laws and the institutions of a modern, humane society that will take real account of the people who make, or potentially make, the communities within it.
Right now we live in a dark age every bit as horrific as past barbarics. The current 'one size fits all' mentality is penalising and punishing people for whom our current social frame is a painful misfit.
One day in the future our descendants will look back in shame and embarrassment at our barbarism; the horror of our current practices may well bring tears of remorse to their eyes. Because we will learn, we will grow and we will act.
Right now we have the knowledge, the tools and the capacity to change. We just haven't elected the people with the insight, the humanity or the imagination and certainly not the loyalty, to us or to each other, to make those changes happen.
But one day has to start somewhere.
We have no race, no state,
we are not We, but each one
of us knows the safety of
belonging with each other.
holding each other's lives
in respect, we keep life
sacrosanct. We are a people
oppressed, but together;
holding together, refusing
to be shut away like our
ancestors, holding each other's
lives in our hearts, in our history,
telling it out, working it out,
we stand metaphorically
together, singing freedom,
singing equality, holding
together the right to smile; the right
to more than mere existence.
The right, each one of us, to
our individual normality.
We have no race, no state,
but history and legacy,
of life, of hope and promise.
We are a perseverant people
and we too shall overcome;
this day, everyday, someday.
Life: you do not have to be optimistic, just present.
Raise your voice.
Make art, support art.
Support artist/activist Liz Crow's Figures.
To find out more about the project and to make a donation, please go towww.zequs.com/campaign/figures#.VGPUgCinPw4
I wish to state, on oath, that the firm in question had no knowledge of any illegality. The documentation I produced was entirely fake. Similarly, Arts Council England are totally innocent of any wrong-doing - I was never awarded a grant for the repurposing of a London Landmark.
I chose the firm because they are experienced in delivering, placing and removing statuary for temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent placement of public art. They were completely convinced by the volumes of fake documents I created and obtained, authorising the removal of the statue and it's temporary repositioning.
I'd been planning and re planning the project without a definite artwork in mind, ever since the Paralympics when Central Government finally outed itself and its attitude to disabled people; revealing overconfidence in their power and in their control over the great British public.
The Freudian £lip was the tipping point and the proximity of Poppy Day the deciding factor.
Churchill, the public face of Victory over the nazi, became the obvious choice. I fondly imagined the old man turning in his grave with the realisation that his efforts had been in vain. The nazi, like all true horror, had resurrected.
Churchill, the National Hero, would no doubt have stood silent and bronze through much political furore, but Churchill the creative dabbler? Churchill, the soul haunted by the black dog of depression? That Churchill might just approve a clandestine manoeuvre that would draw attention to this threat to the nation. He would surely be proud to be the figurehead of a public protest by the very victims of these reincarnated nazis; he might even be bold and brave enough to stand up and be counted among the people most at risk from this insidious threat to freedom and equality.
The empty plinth is drawing crowds of people. The candles and simple offerings of white flowers piled against its base and lining the surrounding streets; the media attention uniting the voice of Britain; they speak volumes for the gathering strength of public opinion.
The great man's absence during this time of remembrance, is possibly doing as much for humanity and freedom as his presence did all those years ago.
I stress, the statue has been temporarily repurposed. I would never advocate or condone theft. I am unrepentant about my action and remain hopeful that when Churchill is returned to his plinth, the fuller symbolism of his battle, this nation's battle, against the nazi will not be taken for granted. This war is not over. There are still battles being waged. Churchill's repurposing is just a symbol of the ongoing struggle.
May he serve the people as a rallying point for decency; a clarion call to that innate sense of fairness that nestles in the white meat of all people with any measure of honour left in them.
"I am now nearing the end of my journey. ... I hope I still have some service to render."
Winston Churchill, 1954.
I am now nearing the end of my journey,
and yet, there is still work to do.
Like all true horror, the resurrection
looms over its intended prey;
white poppies, a minority vote
against war, will not stem the advance.
Soldier, soldier won't you fight for me,
with your missing legs; and some.
You've been to war for your queen and country
but the battle is not won.
Soldier, soldier won't you fight for me,
with your cruelly messed up head,
I've been abused by vicarious queens
but as yet I'm not that dead.
with unkind intent
are sapping life from our souls;
lies of the victor
already are spread,
doors are being closed.
But don't give up now
don't give in,
add your voice
your right to rights;
join the fight
of us all.
Of course I'm not a real person, I wouldn't want us to get off on the wrong footing. I'm not exactly a fictional character either, at least not a complete one. I realise that sounds a little fantastical, but I'm keen to explain. I'm more like a shadow, nothing sinister; I'm certainly nothing like a ghost, I wouldn't want you thinking shades or other figments of creepiness.
I was created on paper, painstakingly written out as one whole, if somewhat bewildered, personality. I lived in the manuscript. Existing in this state of collapsed time; knowing and unknowing who I was and what would become of me.
And then life got strange, you see, we got published. I say we, but by now of course you must be suspecting the truth.
Published and exposed to living, breathing imaginations; seduced off of the page, we acquired the ability to evolve. They, me, but not me; and not really we, because somehow I was still here in the manuscript, locked away, frozen in this 'outside of time' state. Josef K. (for that was me) went into the world, while I (and who was I? What was left of me?) petrified, static, mesmerised, became increasingly separate from the evolution catalysed in the hearts and minds of the life support that analysed, dissected and critiqued Josef K.
And maybe, who knows, maybe I should have been consumed by fire. Instead I somehow found myself falling, like something concocted by Dali under the influence of Magritte, falling, like smoke through a keyhole. Falling and floating, my prison of collapsed time expanding from the chaos inside the creators head, through the manuscripted maze, spiralling down from symbolic flight between Germany and Israel, to embrace a world where Josef K was no longer merely a character in a novel. Joseph K's predicament had become something universally acknowledged. The world envisaged by our creator lurked in the sub-consciousness of humanity, this eponymous state was embraced by the seeds of his creation with the same ineffectual resistance and resignation as by the original, innocent Josef K.
I emerged yet again into this world, protesting like any newly emerged infant; protesting and somehow still innocent; unsophisticated and unready to accept the knife in my heart.
I am a population; a disabled population lost in the labyrinths, the incidental cruelty of a mindless bureaucracy; threatened, lured, twisted and misled, tortured and finally marked out for disposal.
i think i could cope with the right kind
of job. 'You can stack shelves at Tesco'.
It wasn't what i had in mind, shelf stacking;
it isn't really possible
from a wheelchair. i argued my case
on deaf ears but in order to live
was forced to choose the benefit option.
And the process; humiliation,
the sense of persecution, wore me out;
broke my spirit. Groomed me to be
afraid. Victim of £he System.
And now, now that accounting for me
needs statistical adjustment, my
presence unwelcome on this
'overburdened' list, i must be
removed and i must be guilty
of something. How else did i get here?