Shambolic as it turned out to be, my London 2012 day was an accidental success, so sitting in the dark with a dubious view of the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage, the edge of my apprehension was blunted by an ok exhaustion.
My first impressions of a group of murderous sticks served to reinforce the stereotypes generated by my crutches Fred and George; I sent frequent glances towards the putative security of the exits.
Nameless as Claire Cunningham's crutches were, they still managed to sign Fred and George menacingly in my direction until the magical moment when Claire deftly dismembered Fred. Secret joy bubbled in my throat, as I went on to see her pulling sticks to pieces, with calculated intensity.
The primitive and Oz-innocent scarecrow she put together with sticky tape could have been delicious revenge, but Claire's poignant, haunting words and powerful dance indicated a totally different relationship.
The joyful bubble burst into metaphorical tears as my heart ached with her exploration of loneliness and isolation.
The happily-ever-after option hinted at by injections of humour, was, like me, left behind by whimsical mood shifts that took me full circle back to my own relationship with those uncomfortable, impersonal objects I name Fred and George.
Nit-picking, I'm going to say that some clever and very beautiful stage design at times outstayed it's welcome; one lengthy, intense background sound bullied it's way forward to painfully dominate my headspace and a too-long age of writhing about on the floor in the semi-dark left me thinking of my missed train.
Apart from these small issues of timing, this was as polished and professional a performance as anyone could have have wished for.
And a magical glimpse into life's lonely-moments that we can all, one way or another, identify with.
I arrive with baggage.
The venue does nothing
to release me into
it's offer of magic.
Servants of archaic
bricks and mortar send me
hither and thither. With
smiles and apologies,
I'm set free in a dark,
steep cavern to await
the Menage a Trois.
So many wheelborne,
give this old edifice
an unexpected weight.
MonoLympic has only one sport, only one category, only one concept: access.
The torch has been lit and you have been chosen to tweet the flame.
Countdown will commence one quantum moment from the designated start, which will inevitably be in advance of the allocation of the first metal (lump).
And the nominations are...
Well, in the spirit of equality and freedom of access, the committee invite you to nominate your all-time, show-stopping, mind-boggling access issue. Under the MonoLympic rules you will need your access issue to have been witnessed by a fully trained MonoLympic access volunteer (please ensure that their certificate states they have satisfactorily completed a 5 minute introduction). Unwitnessed access issues may still be accepted into the MonoLympic, but in the spirit of equality, they will not be judged.
MonoLympic has no connection to any other Lympic activity on the planet.
All MonoLympic lumps are copyright.
Cultural Exhaustion eventually overpowered our group and a relaxing trip down Regent Street was prescribed to restore our energy. Out in the commercial world Chinese texts popped up here and there, 'made in China' clothes and objects brought soothing familiarity and the stress of strangeness receded somewhat.
Unable to help with the search for typically English food, I accompanied my friends into PizzaHut, where we battled our way through the complexities of ordering food we might recognise and possibly enjoy, from an unnecessarily complicated menu and a stressed waiter.
Pizza proved to be remarkably similar to a Chinese dish that is folded and eaten with the fingers, but the cups of tea that accompanied and preceded our meal did cause our frazzled waiter some confusion.
Arriving back at Waterloo we presented me to a man with the label 'assisted travel' on his fluorescent jacket. He accompanied me to our train and instructed the surprised driver/guard to get a ramp and let me on to the train: job done.
The same driver/guard took on the responsibility for getting me off of the train when we arrived at our destination. He did have other duties to perform first, luckily it was the end of the line.
Stuffed crust fingers wave modestly,
not daring to venture far from the plate,
but still adamant in their desire
to be noticed. Their small cheesy
claws protruding from stubby fat digits,
they hesitate, wave from the wedge
that is tidily folded and eaten
I seek Japanese fabric. Something on a roll, where I could ask for a metre or two.
I love the colour aesthetic here, and the use of texture. I feel the need to take some of it home with me.
This fabric lives in the past. It comes in one narrow width, one long length - it comes in a Kimono quantity - a 'tan' - ca 35 cms wide and twelve metres long. Linen or silk, sometimes cotton, each with it's own tradition of weave and colour. And each weave or colour has it's own traditional application: the male Kimono, the female Kimono, the child Kimono, the door curtain - the size and shape of each is defined by the size of the tan.
Tailors and fabric shops sell tans; tourist shops sell off-cuts and scraps. Somewhere as yet inaccessible to me, I'm convinced there is patchwork. But the idea of cutting into, or defacing, a tan, mystifies and horrifies the traditional tailor. My search exposes the alienness of my thinking.
Wider fabric is western fabric, in western quality and colours; western fabric is cut and sold by the metre. Someone somewhere must surely be creating a bridge, opening up the possibility of buying half a tan, a quarter even, for something Other.
If I lived here, my home would be outrageously furnished in mutilated tans. My wardrobe would be full of corrupted shapes - tans distorted to interpret western convenience clothes. Even on powerwheels I balk at the mobility restrictions the Kimono imposes.
Hamarikyu contains a duck
cenotaph; a mausoleum of
departed souls. Traditional duck
hunting grounds of past emperors
awakened the need to honour
the spirits, if not the consumed
bodies, of ducks who gave their lives
for imperial entertainment
and gastronomic pleasure.
Hamarikyu is a moated garden,
with ponds and islands, a haven
for ducks spared the fate
of their predecessors, to gather
unmolested by hunters past
or present. Forgotten humans
fading in the shadow of
a memorial to ducks.
I've had a disagreement with a woman in an art gallery. We were discussing; I was talking about the visitors to galleries, she was talking about the exhibitors in general and the artist exhibiting there in particular.
I said that Japanese took art very seriously. She declared that he had a free and easy style and Japanese art was very varied.
We politely agreed to disagree when suddenly she realised what I was trying to say, looked discreetly around, and then totally agreed with me. We both laughed, but quite discreetly; the atmosphere was very solemn.
While Japanese people walk around galleries in a state of solemnity, once positioned in front of a piece they are not intimidated by art; everyone seems keen to deliver their personal interpretation and to express an opinion.
Not much of an exchange, yet quite a milestone for me who speaks very little Japanese. There are moments when I feel I understand other people's conversations, but dialogue is much more tricky.
I am frequently approached by strangers keen to try out their language skills and strange meanderings across a variety of European languages result in painfully protracted monologues that have no real content.
I am however left with the impression that the locals have noticed me, like the way I look and enjoy the humorous positioning of chopsticks in my hair.
The chopsticks probably say more than I do, certainly more than I am aware of, and they seem to give the impression that I am accessible.
Wandering out of my comfort zone,
finding less accessible quarters,
I discover galleries. Indeed many,
all with steps enough to keep me out.
And curbs not dropped enough
to let me pass; but then I find
a rush of angels keen
running to open doors;
eager to be
And I start to ponder
the seldom seen
Tokyu Hands (pronounced Tokyo Hanz) was reviewed by the New York Times as 'the' department store for the serious home owner and hobbyist, it has also been described as a 'makers paradise'.
Floors of fascinating items, many only available in Japan, tempt me. Countless arts possibilities reawaken as shelves full of curious and useful items demand attention. I want to take one of the stores home with me.
We visited the flagship store at Shibuya, but at Ikebukuro they also have a cat cafe, with around 20 cats willing to be stroked and petted by customers.
Without my rose tinted specs I have to admit there is one gigantic flaw - the store is devided vertically into three sections, right and left sections have elevators, but access to the middle section is via steps.
The stores have free demonstrations and workshops as well as magazines and areas devoted to inspire and enable the newly creative. Next time I come I will bring an extra suitcase - maybe I said that last time?
Shibuya is a hilly place and getting around on steep slopes and uneven surfaces in amongst dense crowds of people takes patience and determination. It is also quite fun - if you have plenty of time. The famous Shibuya Crossing, where all the lights go red together, has pedestrians streaming in all directions.
We visited a newly opened shopping mall to sample their famous cakes and wasted about an hour waiting for lifts with enough space to fit the wheelchair in. Travellers squeezed themselves together and beckoned helpfully, but I guess most Japanese have a poor sense of spatial awareness.
I needed to lean forward to balance the skinny-wheeled chair in order to negotiate the long, steep hill to the Thai restaurant where we planned to eat our evening meal. But was then disappointed by the flight of steps that greeted us at the entrance. The restaurant has a lift - at the top of the stairs - people without wheels often overlook these little things.
High in the sky
warm and safe
its easy to loose
sight of ground level.
And deep down
layers make up
and down journeys
as necessary as
back and forth
progress. I find
ways to suspend
in favour of
cat cafes and
big city lights.