A tough-as-old-boots veteran of the Bosnian wars, he had lost a leg, and crushed his spine so badly that he wore a permanent corset. It made sitting in a wheelchair unbearable for him, and walking without one almost impossible.
He taught me a lot of what it meant to be dependant on carers. Broadened my education in a lot of ways.
When he was ready to come out of rehab, the social worker visited. The check sheet she had didn’t allow for a lot of detail, so he went down as ‘wheelchair dependant’. He was Welsh, that helped, spoke Welsh too, even better; the new assembly was just flexing its muscles, they had a fancy new apartment block for ‘the disabled’ – an amphorphous job lot as anyone who is not disabled knows. The boxes started to fill up merrily.
The check sheet went off to the Assembly and came back with an offer of a brand new apartment. Independance loomed once more. The ambulance delivered him to a concrete wasteland in South Wales. 4th floor to be precise. Ground floor was reserved for ‘the ambulatory’.
He had spent months relearning how to make a cup of tea, and care for himself, so no carers. Just a lady who cleaned and shopped for him. Kindly soul, he told me, bit of a busybody, but ‘there you go’.
‘Would I like a cup of tea’?, he enquired. If I would, could I be so kind as to plug in the kettle for him? Mystified, I stared round the kitchen looking for the plug socket. Nowhere in sight. He giggled, and explained why he had asked me to do it – you had to be in a wheelchair to even see the socket. Perfectly designed for someone in a wheelchair – but hopeless for someone who wanted to walk as much as possible and couldn’t ‘bend in the middle’.
He showed me round the apartment, it took all of six seconds, you couldn’t swing a rat in there. A huge metal contraption loomed over the single bed, a hoist for carers who needed to turn someone in the night. Perfect for someone to lumber into who wasn’t too steady on their determined feet. Single bed too – the disabled never share their bed of course. Everyone knows that.
There was a TV, and a phone – on the wall, by the door……..
I asked what he did all day, and the reply has stuck with me to this day – ‘I watch the clouds’……….
Some charity, I forget which, turned up every alternate Thursday, and took him out for the day. It was the time of the demise of the Millennium Dome, and he had me rolling on the floor laughing at his description of the job lot of tickets ‘for the disabled’ that had been given to the charity in order to ‘up’ the attendance figure at the Dome. some of the recipients were so powerfully disabled, that it had taken until 4pm to get everybody and their carers ‘loaded up’ and down to London – by which time there was only time to have a quick cup of foul tea, and a wheelie round the entrance lobby and it was time to return to Wales….for the carers went off duty at 10pm. On balance, he preferred the fortnightly trip to the local Garden Centre, at least he had time to drink his coffee whilst the carers bought their gardening supplies.
He may be reading this, my friend, ‘the man in the clouds’, for I made sure that he had a computer delivered, so he could at least ‘talk’ to the rest of the world. Perhaps it was to save my own embarassemnt – for he had had one more task to ask of me – all I can say is, if you haven’t gone shopping for ‘Gay’ Porn around the late night garages of South Wales as a middle aged woman, then you really haven’t lived – seems the busy body cleaner had thrown his ‘collection’ out!
I was thinking of him this morning, when I read of this campaign.
A disabled punk band has launched a campaign to fight for the rights of disabled people to be able to party late. Their campaign, “Stay Up Late,” encourages carers to support disabled people who want to stay out past 10pm. “We started the campaign because we’d be playing a gig and something strange happens at 9pm when people would start to go home. We were also frustrated with asking to go on earlier in the evening so that our fans would still be there. It’s not very punk to go on at 8.30pm.”
As Libertarians, we rant and rave about petty legal restrictions on our lives. It is easy to forget that some people live with the most minute control of their lives – those who cannot vote with their feet, cannot do anything that their ‘person in charge’ doesn’t want to do.
Please support this campaign. ‘Heavy Load’, the rock group involved, have a web page HERE – and they have also set up a seperate web site for the campaign – HERE. Or you can join their facebook group HERE.