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London 2012: 3

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

with gusto.

 

 

 

Posted by Gini, 23 July 2012

Last modified by Gini, 23 July 2012

London 2012: 2

Via Westminster Bridge and a complex of old buildings with a clock tower, we attempted to reach Trafalgar Square. Olympic Detours and fenced off areas took us through Whitehall and a photo opportunity with some gentle, patient horses standing beside a big label warning that they might kick or bite.

Along our route, a long, long queue of London taxis, progressing slowly and very noisily with much horn honking, was the cause of much laughter.

The prominent Olympic Countdown caused mild amusement, but the young people drawing flags on the paving, and the 'would-be' statues standing motionless on soap boxes, attracted the most attention.

With a passing nod to the lions in the Square, we made our way into the National Gallery.

Secretly hoping to steer the party towards the Sainsbury Wing and Metamorphosis, I nevertheless resisted the urge to cheat and followed my guests on their whimsical travels through the complicated unsignposted space. Looked at through Asian eyes not much of it seemed to make sense, but the individual talents of the classical European artists on display, were much appreciated.

 

 

Do you have a guide?

Oh no, we have far too many rooms for that.

Well some way of finding our way around?

We are a very big place, we get many visitors

we could not possibly afford to do that.

Perhaps just a map of the layout?

There is a Plan. At the entrance. And her tone speaks:

idiot; but maybe she didn't know

they don't have one in Chinese.

And maybe she is unaware

of cultural diversity.

 

 

Posted by Gini, 22 July 2012

Last modified by Gini, 22 July 2012

London 2012 warts and all: 1

Visiting London with Chinese friends seemed like the perfect opportunity to see the place as a visitor with almost no English; apparently it's supposed to be especially well geared-up for visitors right now.

Approaching the Capital by train, I was a little shocked to discover that my ticket was the most expensive of our party since I did not seem eligible for any of the offers available to the ambulant travellers.

Buying a ticket for a wheelborne traveller, did not alert station staff to the need for assistance or a ramp. No-one noticed me or my access problem. We were in real danger of missing the train, until hurried enquiries, in English, led us to the correct person to handle a ramp.

My arrival in London was totally unexpected; UK train staff might not have any means of communicating between staff, trains or stations?

I was stuck on the train until somewhere on Waterloo station the correct person was found to produce a ramp, and she appeared to be unfamiliar the item.

From Waterloo we wandered towards the festive atmosphere of the Southbank, and chuckled about two gigantic figures, one leaning over from a roof and one climbing up or down the wall of the building. Maybe they were robots? The building was decorated with columns of strange, green plastic bowls and didn't seem to have a main entrance.

Alongside the famous river we saw a lot of word-boards strapped to the railings. And some large empty crates that it was possible to roll through in my chair, amusing my friends. On one of the crates was a picture of brides in White Wedding gowns - one of the brides was a man with a beard and this caused prolonged laughter.

Keeping our eyes open for street art and entertainment, we were aware of posters advertising an evening dance event somewhere in the vicinity.

The multicoloured 'rainbow sandpit' where children were playing, was a curiosity that awakened some concern. Was it natural? Was it safe?

Pretty-girl crocodile, weaving through the crowd;

pointing toes, high then low and counting spaces,

snaking, swaying, dipping rhythms; curls of spine.

Supple bodies, sensuous arms, splaying fingers;

dragon-cousin crocodile: breathless, chanting.

Happy laughter woven into swirls and leaps,

arabesques, pirouettes, and smiling faces.

No special dress, no explanation, dancing

all we need to know.

Posted by Gini, 21 July 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 July 2012

Tweet failure; 'Headlining' disconnection.

Gini blogs about the Headlining Disability Shape event at Southbank Centre.

Has anyone else compared twitter to a glass of wine?

Wheelborne, a glass in hand stops me in my tracks; wheeling requires both hands. So does tweeting.

Even when I'm in the powerchair one hand is occupied with the controls and moving around  requires constant re-evaluation of the geography.

So I have to stop still to drink or tweet. Wheelless seem to stop anywhere, not even bothering to tuck themselves into considerate spaces. That doesn't really work for wheelborne, so how, I wonder, do others manage?

Yesterday I made my first solo trip to London since I acquired wheels. After looking 'death by pavement' in the eye and being forced to abandon a previous local journey, I was somewhat anxious.

Part of my journey to the station needs to be in the road as the pavement surface is unsuitable for wheels. The slopes that facilitate access to the station platforms are dauntingly steep and long. Just getting onto the train was an achievement.

I should of course have tweeted.

And maybe I will learn to do that, once I feel safe enough with my skinny-wheels and spare battery, to risk getting low on phone power. Or maybe I invest in a portable recharger for the phone. Having the phone means I cope if, for example, I get a puncture.

Wheelless don't have to worry that one leg might fall of somewhere far from home...

Waterloo was a rounder, getting to the Royal Festival Hall wholly rolly;  

Headlining Disability a whole other story.


Cliquey, clumpy bodies reminiscent

of any Arts Council gathering

played out the usual overlooking

wheels scenario. I lack proaction

strategies, or the required strength

to tackle the same old, same old, same old.

And the same, same old repeated itself

mercilessly through part one of the day.

The shine on my solo achievement paled.

My bum ached, my eyes itched, my throat got dry.

 

I was cut up in the coffee queue

by a wheelless who peered down on me

as he did so;  then had the cheek to ask:

Do you take sugar, as he walked away.

 

Part two and the day caught fire. Lifted by

wit and repartee, the event took off

like a hot air balloon: bold, big and bright.

But someone forgot to untether the

same old, same old strings that tie us all down

in a past whose departure we have yet

to come to terms with; maybe we still need it?

Challenged to imagine a world without

difference prejudice, we had not one

serious response to take us onward.

 

I lost the urge to tweet, and the guilt of

not ever having got around to it.

My day, that triumph of independence;

Crouching time-bomb, Hidden challenge. 

 

 

Posted by Gini, 21 June 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 25 June 2012