Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Twenty Metre Rule

When i moved to the lovely Holy Island of Lindisfarne from the inner city friends and family were, understandably, concerned that i would be cut off and isolated.   logically they were right but the reality was strangely different.

Twice a day the metres high tide  pours over the length of the three mile causeway and forms a separation barrier between nirvana and civilisation.   misread the timetable and it's  "bye bye car, hello North Sea " 

As the water nears, hoards of invading tourists become a wave in retreat.  wall to wall merrymakers weighed down with backpacks, binoculars and walking boots, meander their way to the car park reluctantly leaving this little corner of paradise to the millions of birds and 150 souls who call it "home".

The streets, fields, sea, dunes are enveloped by a cloak of velvet silence, broken only by the cry of gulls and the happy chatter from colonies of sparrows, fattened by the thieving of cake and scone from the plates of unwary patrons in the coffee shop gardens.

I spent many sunny, summer afternoons sitting in a field overlooking the sea with a flask of coffee watching seals slumber in the heat, or through the cold months toast my toes by an open fire, sipping hot chocolate in Pilgrims, the coffee shop at the bottom of my garden, surreptitiously people watching over the top of my Guardian, a carrier bag of birthday or christmas gifts from their craft shop nestled at my feet.

Often people ask "what do you miss most?"   well.......all the above !!   

You see, once all the people had gone i could stop obsessing over the 20 metre rule and venture out.......what? don't know the 20 metre rule?......forgive me if you've heard this before.......if a person can walk 20 metres they are no longer eligible for disabled mobility support.

How far is 20 metres?.....65 foot......approximately 5 cars or two double decker buses......any more than that and kaboom,  you're on your more coffee more craft more more leaving the more anything.

Those of us with broken bodies use that benefit to pay for taxis getting to dentist, doctor, hospital appointments.   i also use it to pay a lovely lady to help me go shopping twice a month......have you ever tried pushing a supermarket trolley when in a wheelchair?   trust me, it's beyond impossible.   some use it towards a motability car or scooter.   sometimes it pays for simply seeing the outside world.....maybe even to see the sea.   

The island village is tiny so i could reach everything easily and, once the tide came in, there was nobody watching and counting.   here,  in civilisation, i'm afraid to breach those 20 metres.    i'm not permitted 30 metres or 50 metres, which is what it used to be,  step over 20 and that's it, penalised.   

So.....yes i miss island, but what i miss most is autonomy, the freedom to put on some shoes, pick up a paper, walk down the garden path and engage with the world.


Friday, 23 October 2015

Sleep Paralysis

You would think that after sixty decades of living in close proximity to my psyche most of it's foibles, be they physical/biological/psychological/neurological, would be good friends by now.   apparently not, and it took a movie for this latest manifestation of jeni weirdness to make itself known.

From childhood sleep has been a land i've struggled to enter, and once passed customs have found myself an illegal alien, always on the cusp of exile.   the slightest unusual sound or scent wakes me, i was even disturbed by a spider walking across the ceiling's polystyrene tiles !!! it was akin to an ogre trampling a giant packet of crisps !!  i kid thee WAS a large spider.

Twice when young i launched myself down the stairs with the intention of flying to the worked so well in the dream. the reality was deeply disappointing......and painful.   i lost the argument with mother over the massive pocket money increase i'd been promised......though i still don't believe i dreamt that, she was covering for her ministerial u-turn.....honestly.    and the sweet shop owner was wise enough not to disturb my somnambulation, he just gently walked me home where i'd climb back into bed totally unaware of any nocturnal adventures.   

House moving was a nightmare......pun intended......i would wake in the morning to find items packed the previous day decanted and put into their usual place, the newspaper used around breakables neatly folded back into a reasonable facsimile of it's original self.


[som-nam-byuh-leyt, suh m-] 
verb (used without object),
somnambulated, somnambulating.
to walk during sleep; sleepwalk

Sleep walking is funny, an entertaining tale to tell the children about their dotty mum.  but the terror of waking unable to move or speak or that's not funny.   not knowing if you are alive or dead or in a coma is very frightening.   the mind saying you are up and walking and talking, only to find.......nooo, i'm not......i'm still lying here.  let's try it again.....yes, this time i AM moving, i'm getting out of bed now.....NOOO, i'm not.....MOVE !! legs MOVE.....arms MOVE......WHY CAN'T I MOVE.......Nightmare...... the movie is accurately named.

Yep, you've got it.......sleep paralysis.   i am blessed to be one of the 10% who regularly half wake totally unable to twitch a muscle. the brain doesn't synch with the body, so for a short while we enter a limbo akin to the living dead.   it only lasts for a few minutes but it feels like hours and  it's absolutely terrifying.

But here's the thing......i thought it happened to EVERYBODY.   i didn't even know it had a NAME, was a recognised s y n d r o m e.   ooooh i do love a good syndrome.

So....this started me mulling.....ooooh i also love a good mull sprinkled with a syndrome or two....what other pathologies are there in our lives that we assume to be universal?   and.....more pertinently.....isn't it possible that a lot of the fears/weaknesses/abnormalities/eccentricities that we believe are ours alone are actually common traits of humanity?   that phobia you have been too embarrassed to mention, the anxiety that holds you back from living life to the full,   grief or depression that sit on your shoulder like an evil twin,  a physical problem that has shamed you into a mafiosi style omerta, paralysing self doubt hindering your dreams.......wouldn't they be easier to live with if you knew those confident, arrogant, extroverts around you also shared some of your terrors, because i'm sure they do.......they just don't talk about it.   why not ask them?   

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Grammatically Limited

Hello again.....
when i was encouraged to start a blog i wasn't convinced anybody would want to read it, and i certainly didn't think you would come back for more after your first perusal.   so.......hello again......and thank you for your encouragement and kindness to this random's comforting to know there are some humans out there who enjoy my ramblings.
Do you realise how fortunate we are in being able to write and to read what has been written?   Ooohh nooo, don't panic......jeni isn't having delusions of grandeur!  i'm meaning, the ability is a gift not to be under-estimated.   according to the National Literacy Trust around 16% of adults in England have literacy levels below that of an 11 year old.    as someone who is functionally, grammatically limited i have great empathy for those who don't write because they feel they can't.

Our education system has always been myopic in it's quest for "correct" expression, whether that's spelling, structure, grammar,  at the expense of imagination and innovation.    i wonder how many of you who say "i don't know how to write", actually mean, "i don't know how to write in a form that is conventionally acceptable", or "i don't know how to spell" or were solemnly informed at school  "that's all wrong, it's rubbish" after pouring out your thoughts and feelings onto an intimidatingly pristine lined sheet.
As a friendless young teen i would spend long hours alone inhabiting a fantasy world where i would write tales for an imaginary audience, becoming the protagonist in a life i wished were mine.   usually it was a life richer, warmer, funnier and with good company.    socially i was inept but in this dream world i could go wherever i wanted, whenever i wanted, with whoever i age 13 it was Davy Jones of The Monkees.......hey......i was young.....with poor taste..... i saw the error of my ways  !!
From those early escapist adventures grew an intermittent, lifelong love affair with the written word manifesting in long chatty letters, journal keeping, poetry, and now this humble blog.   

When life has thrown it's crap at me i have stayed sane by manic, free association scratchings on any scrap of paper that strayed within pen reach.  during calm, mellow times i have written, and discarded, sentimental musings of saccharine sweetness.   very occasionally there's been a glimpse of literary potential, never followed up.    

Sadly my childhood dream of being a journalist was dunked in cold water and drowned at conception by a careers adviser who "advised" me that i actually wanted to be a shorthand i didn't.....i hated it......dropped out and became a traveller.....didn't re-discover my desired career till becoming a bookseller in my 40's.
So......don't assume you lack the spark of creativity with your words.  it could simply be that you haven't yet started writing for your own, rather than other people's acceptance.  nobody needs to see your jottings.....if they don't see they can't judge.....can they ?   next time you find yourself weighed down with sorrow, anger, regret, or lifted up by joy.....go grab that pencil and make marks on might surprise yourself.......


Saturday, 10 October 2015

Your Gift To The World

One of my beloved teens wrote and expressed her feelings of impotence and despair at so much tragedy all around her every time she picks up a paper, watches  the news  or opens  Facebook.   she feels  overwhelmed by   so  many   issues,  conflicted  countries,  people  in  need   and   her inability to make an identifiable dent in the flood of tragedy. 

In empathy i can totally relate to her frustration and understand how she feels because i feel it too.  Long ago i stopped watching the news and focused on reading a newspaper or  my tablet.    seeing so  much aggression  and destruction,  homes bombed  into rubble graphically playing out on  screen from the comfort of my sofa  seemed to me an obscenity.   it  seemed  callous to watch  filmography  of famine  and hungry children as i tucked into a bowl of thick, hot, chunky soup.   
I would cry myself into a migraine at the futility of politics or protest to stem the flow of suffering playing out inches from my eyes.   moments later the horror would be swept away as though it had never been shown, replaced by a sparkly, glitzy, ditzy advert for luxury, moisturised toilet paper.

There is a peculiar schizophrenia that western society has developed to protect ourselves from this dichotomy.   i call it the "blink moment".....starving child.....blink......Big Brother.....blink.....flattened city......blink....flashy advert.....blink.....riots.....blink.....Bake Off....blink.
Whatever happens don't give the suckers T I M E .   it takes time to digest horror, for it to touch the emotions, for us to say "enough already", to propel our  bums out of the chair and actually DO something about it. 

So, what advice did i give the lovely girly?   quite simple really.

1/   choose a cause that touches you deeply and research it.

2/   decide realistically how much time and energy, physical and                    emotional you can give.

3/   support  your chosen cause to  the best of your ability.     sign         on Facebook or Twitter.....join a 
       to  friends and family......donate what you can afford.......keep 
       informed......go on demonstrations.....believe you can make a                  difference......AND.........

.....when the weight of a war weary world becomes too heavy allow yourself some light relief and imagine the fantastical.    what would you do if you were granted the gift of a magic wand,'s use  had a would  work only once,  and your gift to the universe had to be F U N !!!

How would you use your wand ?   what gift would you grant ?   i like this one......

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Disability Hate Speech

Like you i have read about disability hate crime and been outraged, appalled, baffled even.    how could an intelligent being persecute a fellow human, a weaker, broken, vulnerable brother/sister of the human family?     and although i didn't doubt the veracity of people's experience i don't think i truly absorbed it's reality.

As a wheelie of almost 15 years i've experienced a range of reactions from others when out and about, thoughtlessness, exasperation, indifference, annoyance but never discrimination, definitely never hate or abuse.    

I think i have imagination enough to understand how frustrating it must be to find the supermarket shelf blocked by a pink, boa bestrewed chariot with a jeni gazing mindlessly into the void attempting to discern the voice of the universe before making the vital, final, soup decision of the day......tomato or pea and ham.   probably as annoying as finding the last disabled parking spot filled with a 4X4 with no Blue Badge, but i don't use that as an excuse to blade the side of the behemoth........i might want to, but i don't put the thought into action.
So it came as quite a shock when scanning a Facebook page to find some vitriolic views expounded along the usual scroungers, fakers, benefit takers lines.   but what saddened me even more was the tone taken by my disabled brethren, attacking the attacker by rudely and crudely  denigrating her looks, her weight, her intelligence, her motives until it turned into an all out cat fight in which neither could claim the high ground.

How sad that those who are the butt of cruelty and venom should in turn use the weapons of the assailant as a defence.   it isn't edifying and it isn't effective if we are hoping to win a sympathetic audience.   a wise man said "a gentle word turns aside anger" and there was  a lot of anger being spouted.   i wish i had been brave enough to see what effect a  "gentle word" would have.........maybe next time.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Do You Know Where You Are Going?

Do you know where you are going??   my previous blog question was "do you know who you are?"........are these concepts connected do you think?.......if you don't know who you are, how can you know where you are going?......conversely, if you don't know where....... etc etc........and does it even matter?

I've known some who intuited vividly what they wanted from life.  since childhood they had a clear image of their dream career, partner, home, family.......but they didn't appear to to have a plan for how it all ended, at what point success could be claimed.   it seemed to a young jeni a risky mindset fraught with the risk of disappointment and disenchantment.   i often wonder how many of my peers achieved all they hoped, but i suspect there were a lot of compromises essential along the way.
Clarity has never been a gift i could lay claim to.  mostly it seems as though life happens to me by chance rather than choice, a random set of stepping stones that drop me off at interesting points along the way, allowing me to dally for a while before dropping out from under my feet requiring a quick hop to the next one if i'm not to drown. 

Some of those slabs have been slippery and slimy and i struggled simply to keep the feet dry.   some were sprinkled with dreams and star dust and would have been most pleasant a place to tarry, to grow old in but it was not to be.   others were steps to learning and growing, their parameters expanding as each lesson was successfully absorbed before tipping me off ready for the next stride.  sometimes the path was wreathed in mists, swallowed by a corridor  of ambiguity, leading into a darkness so profound that the tunnel itself was unseen let alone a light at the end.

Yet, although i had no overarching plan or blueprint to follow or even goals to aim for, somehow each step seemed to lead logically to the next when viewed in retrospect.  every stop-off seemed to pave the way inexorably onwards principle by principle to  the place in the universe i now inhabit.   

Strangely i don't find this mercurial tendency at all unsettling, to the contrary, it's almost a relief not to feel the necessity to strive to meet self imposed strictures.   call it irresponsibility if you like......but it seems to have worked for me.