Loneliness

Yesterday I went to the Learning Disability England conference in Birmingham where the station is extraordinary and the venue more ordinary.
In a vast room, full and crackling with anticipation, there was much laughter, honesty, heckling and a smattering of sadness too.
Donald took to the floor shortly after lunch. He described himself as a man with learning difficulties and then taught us a lesson. He found himself some years ago with no friends and eaten up with loneliness. His fridge was full of milk he didn’t drink and bread he wouldn’t eat. He bought them to make himself feel validated, to prove that he existed. It was the only time in the day someone spoke to him. Things got so bad that the police were called.
He turned things around with support at work where they might just put an arm around him and tell him it will be ok on a bad day. He has also found his tribe at his beloved MK Dons, it is not just the football he loves but the people around him. Unexpectedly, at the old folks home he found a new passion. He was persuaded to join in a pamper session and loved the experience so much he now wants to train as a nail technician. He flashes his shiny black nails. What a man. I can’t help feeling that not only has Donald’s life improved but so has the lives of all the people that know him.
At lunch I met a lovely young woman, long flowing hair, deep eyes, who spent 7 years at college learning administration and volunteers at hospital in Nottingham. She longs for a part-time job as she wants to earn her own money. She is told she is either too over qualified or too under qualified. I would hire her in a flash.
What are we doing when we cannot see the extra stuff that people with learning disabilities bring to the workplace? We miss out not just on their skills but also their humanity, their honesty and their challenge to us to see the world differently. What are we doing when we exclude them from our perfect social circles?
Check out this video from Casa Carlota a Barcelona based design studio and see what might happen if we open our eyes to the possibilities of a good new world.
If you are not in a position to offer someone a job, take a tip from Donald. Say hello to someone you don’t know today. You might be the only person they speak to all day.


Dreamsnatcher

With your expectations and redundant forms

Tight budgets safe from grasping fingers

Systems bound with blood red tape

Sensible shoes and measuring glances

Crazy titles, meek intentions

In censorious sentences you parcel out her life

and say ‘it’s not safe to dream’

 

So I will meet you at the door

One hand raised

 

She is a dancer floating ‘mid meadow flowers

A sweet enchantress of open hearts

A philosopher of unencumbered thoughts

A lover of all good things and cake

A listener to sounds the dark earth makes

A composer of funky flowing rhythms

An enlightened muse to all who know her

 

So I will meet you at the door

One hand raised

 


Spinning a yarn

My daughter takes me to places I would otherwise never go. Last Friday, on a sadly predictable grey and miserable afternoon in North London we arrived, somewhat circuitously, at what looked like an outpost of London zoo, a concrete bunker replete with iron railings, a steep ramp and with a pile of crinkly leaves carpeting the entrance.

Somewhat tentatively we made our way inside. ‘Hi Iona, so you have brought your mother with you today?’. Without a hint of embarrassment Iona grinned widely caring less about her mother, and more about the hour or so ahead. Read More…


Thoughts from the Light Show

Last week I went to an amazing exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, the Light Show.

The first hall hosts what looks like a futuristic elevator, Cylinder 11. I stood mesmerised as the light pulsated. Remember the Weather Project in the Tate modern, it’s creator, Olafur Eliasson, returns with a water garden, strobing lights capture water droplets midflight, reminding me of Japanese gardens amid the volcanic landscape of Iceland. Followed up with a series of rooms all lit with a single colour but combining to produce a rainbow along the back wall. So extraordinary that strangers even start talking to each other. Read More…


I have a dream

Last week sitting in a dreary convent school in Camden, all polished floors, shiny bannisters and labyrinthine corridors, I dreamt.

There is talk of a new further education college in Camden. A place where a daughter like mine might attend. Read More…


New Years resolutions drifting…

13 days gone and slowly the days are drifting, ill kept resolutions falling already by the wayside and endless introspection rising.

However, Iona, my beautiful daughter, will leave her special school in July and at the moment is facing through me, a blank timetable. No job, no college and not even a day centre. Every time I think about it I wince, my shoulders hunch and my wrinkles deepen.

Read More…


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