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Showing posts from January, 2014

I saw a kangaroo

I remember, years ago, walking into the bush on a Scout camp and coming face to face with a startled kangaroo. It turned its head and regarded me, and I looked back. I held my breath. One of those frozen moments in time. I saw that its eyelashes were impossibly long, that the sun caught its fur and struck reddish embers in it. It kept its bright eye on me, and the long muscles in its thigh tensed, ready to bound. A minute, two minutes, five – and eventually it turned away and hopped casually into the bush. I went back to camp, beaming. Years later, I remembered this moment when a small Scout walked out of the bush, face lit up, eyes shining. ‘I saw a kangaroo,’ he said.

In my Shoes

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Walk a mile in my shoes, they say. Many years ago, when I still walked, I went to a shop to buy a pair of Converse sneakers. "Would you like these ones, or the pre-grunged version?" asked the shop girl helpfully. Pre-grunged? She pulled out a pair of Converse and sure enough, they looked grubby. Fake dirt, you see - the Kurt Cobain Converse line. I was relieved to see that they didn't have any fake blood spatter. Pre-grunged, grubby - and an outrageous ten dollars more. "I'll grunge them up soon enough," I told her cheerfully, and paid for my (non Cobain) Converse. Grunge them up I did, through paddocks and beaches and miles of bitumen and life. But then I started using a wheelchair. I've been wearing my battered Converse ever since. As a mark of pride, because my world, constricted by access barriers, has now narrowed. My Connies said, I thought - 'Look, I have walked 500 miles. I have hiked and run and walked and skipped. I have *lived…

Our Promise to You - Apartheid

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I went to McDonalds this morning. I could have gone to an upmarket restaurant – but Maccas is cheap, convenient, and I really like their bacon and egg McMuffins. So I went to the door and there was a prominent sign on it – ‘Sorry. If you use a wheelchair, we can’t serve you – unless you come in with another paying guest.’ What? I rang McDonalds to ask what the hell they were talking about. The receptionist wasn’t even apologetic. ‘Didn’t you read the sign?’ she said. ‘I’m sure it’s a mistake,’ I answered timidly. ‘You weren’t actually saying that I couldn’t eat here unless I was here with another person, were you? Because I don’t have a friend with me today – and besides, most of my friends don’t like Maccas.’ ‘Yes, that is what we are saying,’ the receptionist said. ‘We keep our prices down because we have limited staff – and when you come in, one of our staff members will have to move a chair. You will have to bring a paying guest with you to move your chair, or you can’t e…

Choose Life - or the Alternative

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'Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons?' - TrainspottingThe …

What Katy Did - To All Of Us

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I have been sick in bed for some days now. I fell asleep and woke in a sweat, and it had nothing to do with the forty degree heat. Let me explain. I am forty six years old, and a casualty of the years of death-by-Enid-Blyton - Secret Seven and the Famous Five, the Folk of the Far Away Tree, a bunch of stories created in the sixties and seventies that no doubt shaped my viewpoint and imagination into whatever it is today. But until I slept, I had almost forgotten this book - What Katy Did. I don't think I dreamed - I just remembered. Katy, inspired by Cousin Helen - poor brave Cousin Helen - suffering patiently through three books. Katy the invalid. Katy, who I had not realised until now, was disabled. Disclaimer: What Katy Did was written in 1872. It was full of outdated ideas about disability and sickness and bravery and women's place in society. Why, then, was I reading it? Because in the 1970s, it was badged as a 'children's classic'. I think I may jus…

A Gentle Slap in the Face

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I haven’t always used a wheelchair. I remember listening to a disabled friend who told me, with a smile, that her most hated experience was being asked ‘how she ended up a wheelchair’. What a princess, man. Seriously. It’s curiosity, right? Surely people have the right to ask ‘the question’, and the right to know. Just natural curiosity about a condition that is unlike your own. Now I know differently.It’s a hard thing to explain, the effect of those subtle microaggressions of phrase that cause you to wince over and over and over again. And I’m hyper-aware of the differences in myself since becoming a wheelchair user – I think it’s important to write them down. It's a hard thing to describe, but I'll try.It feels like this. One day, a man came up in a shopping centre, apropos of nothing, and slapped me gently in the face. It didn’t hurt, and I laughed. On the following day, another man came over and slapped me gently in the face. I laughed, but there was an edge to my l…

Make it Count

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Like most people who resolved not to make New Year's resolutions, I have made a bunch, mostly inside my head. They probably sound like everyone else's.The one thought that stuck with me, though, was a long-ago conversation I had with one young man, Jason Dale, who was my work experience student. Jason had Duchenne's muscular dystrophy and was only fifteen when we had this conversation, which turned into a violent argument (about why I should care if he was late or not).Ten minutes into the conversation, he blurted out 'but I'm going to DIE!' - Duchenne's is a condition which results in a shortened life expectancy for most young men.I gave him some kind of sanctimonious lecture about how everyone was going to die and 'the point' of existence, and used an analogy about money and life - if you only had three dollars left til the rest of the week, would you spend it wisely, or fritter it away, saying 'What's the point?' He looked at me in fr…